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March 21, 2014
Artist Robbi Firestone and the Power of Saying Yes
Portrait artist Robbi Firestone recently sat down with Law of Attraction Life Coach and Parenting Coach Sharon Balantine for a TV interview about what inspires her and her creative process. During the conservation, Firestone revealed how learning to say “yes” became a profoundly positive mantra, one that opens her heart, and releases creative energies. This was true both in her studio and in her life as a whole.
It’s a simple concept, but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy to apply when times are tough. However, reading these 10 ways Firestone says yes will remind and encourage you to shift into a more positive space.
1. Say Yes to Saying Yes
“I like to think of it as the culture of yes. Literally, that I am acculturating myself with yes because many, many, many, many years of my life, I was creative a culture of NO. No I’m scared, no I can’t, no I’m not good enough, no I’m not worthy, no I’m not smart enough, who do I think I am?”
Every year, instead of making a New Year’s resolution, Firestone makes a New Year’s theme. “I look at all of my life as a pie chart and say, ‘Which facet of my life is not supporting me or can be stronger?’ One year it was a girlfriends, so I focused entirely on relationships with girlfriends.” When a new acquaintance asked her to go out for coffee, “The culture of yes is saying, ‘Hmmm…do I want to go out to coffee with her, or, having a moment of fear, like she is a stranger, which I don’t really have any more, but yes, let’s go to coffee with her, she looks interesting. It’s believe that if the world is giving me the opportunity then I can say yes to it instead of no.”
Another year, the theme was cash flow, and yet another was physical well-being. That doesn’t mean that “no” is off the table. “There are certain things that you just should not do: you don’t have time, you can’t do it with integrity, or you don’t want to.”
2. Say Yes to Changing Your Beliefs
Firestone remembers that she was raised to believe that life has to be hard. “My father, who is an incredible man, was born in 1932, but he was an orphan, was raised in the Depression, and he lived in a slatted wooden house with a dirt floor. He has it really hard. And he did his best to prepare us for life being hard so we could be strong, and so it was my internal monologue.”
The particular Catholic parish in which Firestone grew up taught that followers are supposed to sacrifice to earn God’s love. “I needed to create new monologues in my head.” How? Notice the monologues that are currently running, and investigate where they came from. Construct some new sentences that reflect who you are today and what you want to manifest.
3. Say Yes to Grace
“I was raised in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, this small farm community in the middle of nowhere at the time. I had a full-ride scholarship to a liberal arts college. And I just has this profound need to move to New Yorks City to be an actress, so I moved to New York and ended up being an actress and going to design school at Parsons. I just didn’t understand that life could be grace. I thought that it had to be a fight. And so by eliminating this great opportunity for myself and moving to New York prematurely I threw myself into some profoundly difficult situations.” Instead of rejecting the gifts that the universe gives you, because them seem too easily granted, consider accepting them.
4. Say Yes to Cutting Your Losses
“I lived in New York City for 13 years, and I lived in some really dreadful situations, and then I ended up getting married. That didn’t work out so well. And I remember thinking, ‘I am frozen, I am frozen inside, I am dead. There is nothing left of this life.’ The question was, do I really want to take literally this ‘Til death do us part’ vow or do I want to know that I am spiritually dead and move on? That was a huge realization. I hopped on a plane with nothing and moved to Los Angeles. I found Agape International Spiritual Center led my Michael Beckwith, and he became my new great teacher. That spiritual community was so full of different viewpoints and ideas. It gave me options.”
5. Say Yes to Support (and Say No to Naysayers)
“The two things that I find that have always been my teachers are nature and other people. When it comes to my relationships, I ask myself, ‘Is this person enriching my life? Is this person supporting my vision? Is this person believing in what I truly want?’ and if they are, then I spend more time with them, and I ask them about their philosophies. If they don’t, I love them and I keep my innermost thoughts to myself.”
She refers to the Biblical passage, “Don’t throw your pearls before swine,” which has guided her. “I don’t think it is about pearls or swine necessarily, but we are all these incredibly beautiful, fragile pearls, and we shouldn’t give ourselves to people who are going to toss us in the mud and trample us. I’m going to hold myself genuinely as precious and give myself to people who support visions for others.”
6. Say Yes to Asking Question
Firestone’s portrait process is entwined with the practice of asking questions of her subject. “I really get to know someone. Generally I do a sitting for about a day. I ask her or him to bring a sacred object. I ask why it is really important to them, why it is sacred and that opens a conversation. And I ask them about their highest passions and their obstacles. I ask them about their possibilities and what their vision for their life is, and I paint from that place. I am not painting the person who is sitting in front of me at the moment in time; I am painting from this place of vision where I really believe in the divinity of each human.” It takes diligence to manifest such intensity and deep questioning on canvas. “It generally takes me six months to a year to finish a piece and present it.”
7. Say Yes to Expressing Love
With each portrait she paints, Firestone incorporates a heartfelt letter to her sitter. “I write it in one sitting at some point during the painting process. There is just this intuitive hit that comes through me. I just start writing and I don’t redo, I don’t cross out, I don’t edit.” Firestone laments, “One of the things I realized early on is that we don’t complement each other enough, we con’t love each other enough with our words. As a culture, at least where I grew up, people are very open about criticizing one another, but don’t just turn to one another and say, “You are beautiful. I love you so much.”
8. Say Yes to Ambition (But Be Patient)
Firestone’s latest project is 12 Global Visionaries in 12 Months, a concept to paint 12 of her most admired figures in 12 months’ time—a nearly impossible feat. But Firestone believes strongly in the potential power to visualize positive change. “I have my heroes and heroines, people who have used their lives as a tool to make the world a better place.” As examples, Firestone cites Deepak Chopra, Marianne Williamson, Don Miguel Ruiz, and the late Nelson Mandela. She intends to show the work at the United Nations and prominent venues around the world, and eventually auction off the pieces to benefit the respective philanthropic causes of her subjects. She doesn’t let the thorny logistics of the task deter her, thought, and is waiting patiently for the right moment to present itself. “When the mused visits, I will abide.”
9. Say Yes to Giving
One of Firestone’s most notable traits is her commitment to philanthropy. “I grew up in a very giving family. We had six foster children living with us over the course of about eight years. We didn’t have money to give, but we took care of abused and neglected babies.” Now, Firestone asks herself, “How can I make the best good happen?” For her recent gallery show, The Spirit of Santa Fe, she committed to donating 3% of the proceeds to The Food Depot, an organization that feeds needy families in New Mexico.
Hunger-alleviating charities are especially dear to Firestone. “There is no room for self-fulfillment or self-actualization when you are hungry or when you don’t have a roof over your head or you are worried about your children’s safety, or a medical problem. And so I feel like feeding people; I am very passionate about that.”
10. Say Yes to Being Unstoppable
Firestone’s tenaciously conscious approach to living her life has been cultivated through hard work and tough lessons, along with the influence of her father. “I have a warrior-like commitment to a really, really awesome life. My dad is a 30-year Marine—he did Korea and Vietnam—and he always says I have Marine blood. And I have rhino skin from living in New York City. So I think no matter what slings and arrows come, I just have to go towards that white light of my dream life.”
Article by Candace Walsh. Candace Walsh (candacewalsh.com) is a writer and editor living in Santa Fe.