A chance encounter in May 2017 has played an integral role in the existence of Humanitou. It started with my playing hooky from work on a Friday to go soak in the mineral waters at SunWater Spa in Manitou Springs, Colo.
I was looking to clear space in my mind. I was wrestling with the feeling that it was time for a new life chapter. I did not go looking for answers. But I left with the excited energy of a conversation with a stranger, an energy that hasn’t quit 18 months later.
The conversation and a suggestion to read a book, The Artist’s Way, has led me to follow my heart in developing Humanitou, to teach yoga, to reignite my creativity with photography projects and writing poetry. I left a full-time career to follow my heart.
What follows here is my conversation with artist Laurel Astor, more than a year after our serendipitous encounter, about that chance meeting.
Adam: As I recall, you asked to share the big cedar tub I was in because it was the only one in the shade.
Laurel: What I remember is it felt like the conversation was so out of reality, just such a flowing, amazing conversation. I really feel that where you were in your life, at that point, was asking for something.
When I was speaking, it didn’t feel like me. It felt like it was whatever you were wanting to hear. Those (kinds of) conversations to me, which are always so amazing and I love ’em, I can’t remember them very well.
Adam: I don’t remember the start. I’ve never been one for small talk, so I think it probably got to other things that were more important pretty quickly.
I recall it as a really amazing, serendipitous conversation. Then, when you turned me on to The Artist’s Way — and serendipity is a key idea in that book — through that 12-week self-guided thing, I really started tuning into serendipity.
Maybe you don’t have the answer to this, but I’m curious why you felt compelled to share The Artist’s Way with me and shared your experience of it.
This field that we live in is full of possibilities. But you can’t access it when you’ve got all this stuff going on in your mind. You have to free yourself.
Laurel: I really think it was your asking that did it. I don’t share that with everybody. I think you were in a place where you had a lot of asking going on, a lot of wanting answers for your life.
I honestly think that’s where it came from. When I started talking, it was, like, where is this coming from? You were asking and it was just flowing through me. I was the vehicle for whatever it is you were wanting to know about your life.
And you came there kind of wanting to get clear and figure out what you wanted in your life. You had that serious asking for your life.
So whatever needed to come about, that’s what came about. I was just kind of a vessel for that.
Adam: I think I even might have gone there explicitly telling myself, “Don’t go looking for answers.”
Laurel: Oh, perfect!
Adam: “Just go for the purpose of clearing space to allow things to come in the days or weeks or whatever time is needed for them to come.”
I was trying to clear the slate in my mind. I was going there to clear the anxieties, clear the slate for the purpose of whatever the journey of learning where I needed to go would be.
I completely did not expect to walk away with the conversation we had and feeling that energy and excitement.
I went home and told my wife, Becca, about it. And I told you at the time, “She would love to be here for this conversation.”
But you reminded me that had she been, the meeting and conversation probably wouldn’t have happened, or it would have been a very different experience. So, it happened the way it needed to.
When I told Becca about our conversation, she immediately ordered two copies of The Artist’s Way, knowing that we each would want to have our own experience with it and be able to dog-ear and mark-up the book however we each wanted.
I do think the book has served more purpose for me, so far. I think Becca thought it was a good thing too. We both still write morning pages, by the way. But I think I trace events in my life that have happened since more clearly back to my experience with the book, and then further back to my conversation with you that started it all.
Laurel: I think maybe you were more in the asking, more in the readiness for that to happen. What I think is really valuable is you went (to SunWater Spa) without any expectations. You just wanted to clear your mind.
That’s the trick. Just keep clearing your mind and opening up. That’s when the answers come, not when you’re focused on, “How do I do this, in order to do this?” Just being open to new possibilities.
This field that we live in is full of possibilities. Everything that’s ever been created or ever will be is in this field of possibilities. But you can’t access it when you’ve got all this stuff going on in your mind. You have to free yourself.
That’s why meditation is so important. It frees your mind to allow possibilities to come in. You were in total possibility when you went to SunWater. You were in this very open, receptive space with no expectations.
Adam: You know, the tougher trick with that was at the time I had a full salary. I try to remind myself that these things that I wanted — purpose, meaning, creativity as a constant in my daily life — I don’t have to wonder, “Is it going to happen? How is it going to happen?”
I can look at it as it is happening. I don’t know how it’s going to continue to develop. Knowing that I left full-time work to pursue these possibilities means, “OK, there’s a whole lot more faith that has to go in this to keep up that positive energy.”
Laurel: The energy of survival and not having enough is not the kind of energy that creates. It’s the opposite of that. So, somehow you have to get into this trusting, “It’s all going to work out.”
For me, those thoughts come and I get my mind neutral. I don’t even try to get positive, sometimes, I get neutral. That helps me get out of that patterned thinking. Scarcity and survival is an uncreative energy.
Practice just getting out of that survival energy. “Everything is going to be OK. Always is. Always works out.”
Just keep that thought and expand it.
Adam: I’ve wondered before why do things always work out? Why do I always have food and a roof? It would be harder had I come from utter poverty or if I was part of a population that has life stacked all the more against it.
Laurel: Right. You are coming from a good place. I call it the jumping-off place. So, from here, you just want to create more of that trust in “everything’s going to work out.” It’s practice.
Adam: How connected are you with The Artist’s Way now. It helped you connect with your current path as a working artist and that has carried forward for nearly 20 years now?
Are there other ways you still connect with the book? Do you still write morning pages or face the creative U-turn Julia Cameron refers to about when we’re afraid to keep stepping forward with an idea or creative path?
Laurel: It’s been 18 years, and that is still very present in my mind. I go through periods where I do morning pages. I love it when I do, but sometimes I get out of the habit. So, I’ll do that off and on.
I’ve read it so much. I’ve probably got five copies in different places. I keep one by my bed. I’ve read it so much it’s just part of how I think now.
And I still do artist’s dates. I don’t do them every week, but I’ll think, “I should do something special for myself today.”
Adam: OK, so you’re still very connected to this book, and have been for a long time. How do you describe The Artist’s Way to someone?
Laurel: Well, usually, when I share The Artist’s Way, it’s about: It changed my life. Totally. It got me started on a creative path I didn’t even know existed.
I mean, I did the paint-by-numbers when I was little, but I never drew or did anything like that. I didn’t even know it existed in me. So, for me, it was life changing.
Saying, “Is this true for me?” When it’s true for you, it’s true. It always works.
My life, literally, changed after I read The Artist’s Way, in so many ways. For me, the most important chapter was on the creative U-turn. And not just for art, but for anything, any time we’re going toward something new.
Any new endeavor you start, you could use The Artist’s Way, not just creating. So, yeah, when I share it, I share that it’s amazing, mostly.
Adam: That day we met at SunWater, I didn’t have my phone with me at the tub, so I didn’t get your contact information.
As time went on, what I sort of kept in the back of my mind as I was doing what I was doing with Humanitou was that one day, if you didn’t just find it on your own, I hoped that we’d be able to reconnect.
I wanted to be able to share with you about these things that are so important that you really helped to ignite for me.
Laurel: I so appreciate that.
Adam: I’d been thinking about starting a blog, a website, at the time we met. But I still consider our meeting to be integral to the shape it took, to its focus and heart-centered purpose.
Who knows what Humanitou would have been or if it even still would exist?
Laurel: Interesting. I had your number for a long time. And I would look at it off and on, and I would think, “OK, does this feel right?” Because what I noticed in our conversation was it was so just about flow and Source. It was just your asking …
I would think, “Would it be appropriate to call?” Everytime I would get a “No.”
It wouldn’t feel flowing to me. I thought, “If he wants to get in touch with me … ” I thought I had given you my number, but maybe I didn’t. Because then it would be your asking. It wouldn’t be me telling.
I thought about you a lot after that, “I wonder what happened?” Then, when you found me, it was just so cool. I felt that was how it was supposed to work.
Adam: I appreciate that, you asking yourself the question and then following the feeling. In recent months a line has come to me and I’m trying to practice getting more in line with it, which is: The feeling is the meaning.
Instead of thinking of old habits or this is what people tell us is how we should handle things, to try to truly sync up with what my heart is telling me about things. I would love for that to become an automatic for me. With practice, I’m sure it can.
I was so glad I was able to find a way to reach you online. I wasn’t sure if it would work, if my email would actually reach you. And I heard from you right away!
Laurel: I think it was just meant to be.
Really going inside and saying, “Is this true for me?” Always, when it’s true for you, it’s true. It always works.
I think one of the things you may not know about you is you have a really amazing ability to connect. That, to me, is a gift alone. People who are able to just be with people and connect, that’s a total gift.
Your ability to share your life and the things that are important to you just makes me so happy. Like your coming here and thanking me, and I’m thinking, “No. I’m thanking you.” Just the ability to connect and share your life, and write your poetry. It’s pretty cool.
Adam: I appreciate that.
Are you familiar with the line that goes: I would never want to be a member of a club that would have me as a member? I guess you could call it impostor syndrome.
I find it to be a difficult dance within myself to take in such a heartfelt compliment and think, “You know, Adam, you do have something special to offer people.” And then also maintain humility and not just buy into it.
At the same time, I think I need to not dismiss such kind sentiments. That denies you or whoever is trying to give them.
Laurel: I think you need to practice that! (smiling)
That’s not arrogant. That’s coming from a space that you know who you are and that you have special things to offer, because you do. As long as you’re thinking that you don’t, it’s hard to take in.
I remember thinking when I started painting, “When do I call myself an artist? Is that OK to even say? Who am I?”
But the more you live who you are, then it becomes natural, you just know it. It’s not like you need to even say it, it’s just who you are.
And who you are is always amazing. If we’re truly being who we are at our soul level, it’s great.
Adam: I thank you so much, Laurel, for being part of Humanitou and my journey. You always will have a special place in this work of mine and whatever is to come. Thank you.