The Mantra Project

Last August, when I was exactly six months sober,  I was sitting down with my morning coffee and scrolling through my phone.  I came across a quote that a new friend had shared on her Instagram feed and it screamed at me from my iPhone screen - READ ME! THIS IS FOR YOU!  I'M TALKING TO YOU!  I paused, read it and then read it again to really let it sink in.  Who was this wise woman? And, how did she know so much?  I grabbed my pens and pencils and started thinking about sobriety, art, love, choice and my own goals.

Artwork by me.  Wise words from Holly - check out her  Instagram feed (@hipsobriety)  

Artwork by me.  Wise words from Holly - check out her Instagram feed (@hipsobriety) 

I shared what I made on Instagram, as I often do, and moved on with my day.  I think Holly commented and we started following each other on this social media platform.  It felt good to know I had made her words even more beautiful and that she liked what I had done.  Never underestimate the value of being both seen and heard.

Fast forward to October.  I had an annual pumpkin carving party on the calendar and I did not want to attend.  I had just started AA and felt raw and vulnerable.  I was dreading the holidays and this event would kick off the season of socializing, small talk and boozy events.  I begrudgingly went.

2015: This is how my family represented.  I'm fake smiling on the far left.

2015: This is how my family represented.  I'm fake smiling on the far left.

There was another woman at this gathering that I was drawn to.  I had been watching her throughout the course of the evening and noticed the absence of a wine glass from her hands.  She had on a black t-shirt with gold lettering that said YOU BE YOU.  I finally got the nerve to talk to her and tell her I liked her shirt.  She shared she was a yoga instructor and asked if I had a yoga practice.  I told her no and that I lived in a small, rural community about 20 minutes from the nearest studio.  She asked if I did any online yoga classes.  I told her no and explained that in my rural community we did not have high speed internet, but told her that a new friend of mine raved about online yoga.  She asked my friend's name and I said Holly Whitaker.  She lit up, clapped her hands together and said I know Holly!  I was her teacher!  She looked at me intently and said I'm going to give you my phone number.  I teach classes in the city (San Francisco) and you can always come to one in person.

When I got home from that night, I opened my computer and saw that I had an email from Holly, the friend I had just been talking about to this yoga lady.  This was my first communication from Holly, other than Instagram comments.  Holly complimented my artwork and asked if I was open to meet in the near future to talk about a project.  I shared with her that I had just met her yoga teacher, Stephanie Snyder, at this pumpkin carving thing I was at.  Holly quickly wrote back and told me to immediately go and look up Stephanie's TEDx Talk.  I did and was gobsmacked.  What were the odds of meeting this woman?  What were the odds of hearing from Holly on the same night?  This was the beginning of me listening to the Universe.

I scheduled to meet with Holly the next time I would be in the city, which just so happened to be in a few weeks on November 11th.  11/11.  Holly was pleased with this numerology and we made a date.  

Fast forward to today - 11/11/16.

Today we are releasing The Mantra Project: 40 Days of Sobriety.  We collaborated on this project over the last year and it has finally morphed into this first offering.  I was nervous to embark on illustrating the project, but Holly's confidence and belief in me really pulled me through the process.

Originally, we set out to make a book of 111 mantras.  I went home and got to work.  Holly mentioned that she loved the eclectic nature of my work, the colors my style.  It was really hard to take these words and receive them as compliments.  I don't know why, but it just was.

Over the last year, I've gone through fits and starts with this project.  Inspiration would hit for weeks at a time and I'd produce a ton of work and then...NOTHING.  The fact that inspiration could just abandon me and leave me devoid of ideas and even the energy to create felt like a betrayal.  The more I pushed myself to make marks on paper during this time, the more my creative block grew.  I was worried that I wouldn't get my artistic groove back.  

Around this time, I went to France with my family and thought I'll have so much time to make art and gather up so much inspiration for this project.  Well, I ended up having major anxiety attacks during my two weeks in Paris and the French countryside.  Late one night, I almost guzzled an entire glass of white burgundy while my husband was in the other room of our Paris apartment.  I reached out to another sober friend and made it through the night.  Crippling anxiety, fighting the urge to drink and feeling full of fear for this project stopped me dead in my tracks.  I stopped making art for Holly.  I tucked it away and took a break.  Holly was in Rome until the end of Summer and I told myself I had plenty of time to get my act together.

Holly came home from Rome with a new mission for this project.  We temporarily set aside the 111 mantras project and, instead, focused on an e-course that would consist of 40 daily mantras for sobriety paired with Holly's writing.  This felt doable.  This felt within my comfort zone.  This was IT.  Now it was time to get to work.

This was late August.  The fall semester had just started for me and I was taking a drawing and composition class at the local junior college.  I still lacked the confidence to call myself an artist, but I did so anyway.  I ordered business cards, worked for hours on end in my studio, styled and photographed hundreds and hundreds of incarnations of my work and downloaded only a select few for Holly to weigh-in on.

Around the end of September, I needed to spend 11 days in Los Angeles being of service to my best friend as she underwent chemo and radiation for her cancers.  I lugged the project along with me and spend 10 hours a day making marks, taking pictures and absorbing all of the mantras that I was hand-lettering.  My best friend would wake up in between my creative stints and I would stop to care for her.  The synergy of this project and the opportunity to be of service to Kacy was healing to me in a way I never expected.  Repeating these mantras over and over and over again as I was making them was like a salve to my soul during this emotionally draining time.  They saved me.

After I submitted all of the artwork for Holly to review, crippling self-doubt set in.  I worried my work looked too wonky and that it wasn't good enough or I wasn't good enough.  I worried Holly had made a big mistake in picking me to execute her vision.  At every turn, Holly applauded my work and was my biggest cheerleader.  She loved what I was doing and I needed to start believing her because this girl does not lie or do anything halfway.  She is genuine and generous; motivated and motivating; she is real and raw; and she does not fuck around.

With the help of her assistant, Megan, these two paired my images with Holly's amazing words and ended up creating a 40 day email campaign called The Mantra Project: 40 Days of Sobriety.  You can buy it by clicking here.

I'm so proud of us.  

I'm so proud of this project.

I’m so proud to be sober and know people who live life like Holly does - with passion, intention, honesty and purpose.  I’m so glad I took a chance last year, got over myself and my anxiety to travel into the city and have coffee with this powerhouse of a woman.

This project released exactly one year to the day since we met.  I love the evolution of our friendship, our collaboration, our journey and our stories.  I love the 11/11 release date and the power of truth-tellers and artists.  If you want to receive daily inspiration in your inbox for 40 consecutive days (approx. 6 weeks), with a daily mantra and a story to accompany it, along with my artwork - please consider supporting our project.  

Use the discount code 40days1111 to purchase for just $11 (reg. $34) through the weekend (ending at midnight on 11/13).