Big Magic

I can always be distracted

by love, but eventually

I get horny for my creativity.

Gilda Radner


I must have dozed off reading “Eat, Pray…” because I never did find out what happened in the “Love” part of Elizabeth Gilbert’s runaway bestseller. Her  “Big Magic” book, however, captivated me to the very end.

Watch this TED talk on Your Elusive Creative Genius for an excerpt on the wisdom of recognizing that we are not necessarily the source, but mere channels of genius. By finding the discipline to consistently set aside time to show up for our work or art, we give ourselves the best chance of catching our genius or muse when it is in the mood to play.

To have a successful and lasting relationship with our creativity, Elizabeth explains how we must give up requiring it to pay the bills (and soon,) that we should always find whatever work is necessary to support it, and consistently make time to attend to it–if only to help us keep our sanity and zest for living. A bit more “Big Magic” excerpt:

Fierce trust demands that you put forth the work anyhow. Fierce trust knows that the outcome does not matter.

The outcome cannot matter.

Fierce trust asks you to stand strong within this truth:

You are worthy, dear one, regardless of the outcome. You will keep making your work regardless of the outcome. You will keep sharing your work, regardless of the outcome. You were born to create, regardless of the outcome. You will never lose trust in the creative process, even when you don’t understand the outcome.

There is a famous question that shows up, it seems, in every single self-help book ever written: What would you do if you knew that you could not fail?

But I’ve always seen it differently. I think the fiercest question of all is this: What would you do even if you knew that you might very well fail?

Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to share what you love doing so much that the words failure and success essentially are irrelevant.


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© Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

A Fork In The Road

If you are

going through hell,

keep going.

Winston Churchill


The other day, a woman asked me what I thought she should do about her marriage. She has felt sexually numb the last few years to the point of nausea when her husband is in the house–a bit of an inconvenience when two people have to work from home.  He thinks a trip to a sex therapist will “fix” her, for it is obvious to him that she is the problem. What man in his righteous mind will admit the possibility that his wife’s coldness, illness, or depression might be self-protection, the fruit of anger and built-up resentments?

But I’m getting carried away…

To be fair, who knows what really goes on behind closed doors? Does she really want to do something about her situation or does she just need to be heard? Is the problem she identifies the root of it all or a symptom of something else?

Discussing a problem with others helps us deal with it (eventually.) As consultant, it is tempting to say, “If I were you…” though much as we try, we can never really be them. While it’s easy to find similarities with our own experiences, any resemblance may be superficial and an analogy may not have legs.

Providing a range of scenarios and possible outcomes may be more useful than definitives that begin with “Do this” or “Don’t do that.” Time and thought are needed to weigh decisions against several dimensions and the personalities involved.

The first step in giving good advice is:

Do not give advice. Just listen.

Giving good advice need not necessarily mean solving a problem. It could be about making the situation easier to understand, shedding light and encouraging the exploration of different points of view.

Trust that they will arrive at the best answer for themselves in their own good time. Be comfortable with the silence and the not knowing. Affirm them with, “I can’t wait to find out what you decide!”

Every success and every failure changes states when perceived in the short versus the long term. While we might wish someone would simply rescue us when we’re feeling lost in the forest, this is the process we need to grow spine and courage, to find the light within us to illuminate the path, to make our own choice which fork in the road to take. No matter the journey, one great comfort is the certainty that all paths always, always lead us home to ourselves.

Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to share how indecision eventually led you to clarity.







Give the women you love the most unique gift of elegant and timeless portraits

with a Powerful Goddess portrait session Gift Certificate:

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© Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

Keira Knightley on Broadway

To be well dressed

you must be

well naked.

Oscar de la Renta


In Pride and Prejudice

I have a weakness for costume–the more romantic and dramatic, the better. Double that weakness when it’s combined with beauty and triple the fascination when there’s courage to do without it.

Keira Knightley, whose coming of age has been sumptuously chronicled in movies like Jane Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice and the tragic Anna Karenina, now dares herself to grow further by facing her fear of live theater. On October 1st, 2015, Keira debuts on Broadway in Roundabout’s Theater Company’s Therese Raquin

With exemplary fearlessness for a photo shoot with Patrick Demarchelier for Interview Magazine, Keira agreed to pose topless under one condition:  the image could not be altered or edited in any way.  She said, “I’m fine doing the topless shot so long as you don’t make them any bigger or retouch. Because it does feel important to say it really doesn’t matter what shape you are,'” the actress said. What greater romance can there be than loving what you’ve got?

Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to share the courage of a woman you admire.



In Pride and Prejudice


As Anna Karenina

Keira Knightley stars as Anna

As Anna Karenina


by Patrick Demarchelier


Give the women you love the most unique gift of elegant and timeless portraits

with a Powerful Goddess portrait session Gift Certificate:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

 Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

Thinner Peace

I want to weigh less,

not by diet and exercise,

but by acquiring a faulty scale.

Jarod Kintz


Now that both men and women (and, by osmosis, our children) stand firmly united in obsessing about weight, how about a new way of thinking to start the schoolyear? A visualization from Martha Beck on how to keep that weight off for good:

Hold out both your palms. Imagine on one hand a mini-version of your Dictator, that part of you that insists on losing weight, screaming insults that make you feel fat.  On the other hand, see a mini-version of your Wild Child, the kid who’s tired, afraid and frightened from being continually assaulted by the Dictator’s attacks and privations. Notice that both mini-yous are essentially good. The Dictators get frantic when you gain weight just as you would if you saw a toddler wandering into traffic. It screams and yells, pushes and forces, because it’s trying to save you from a terrible, fat fate.  And your Wild child isn’t remotely malicious, just devastated, confused, and afraid.

Realize that both the Wild Child and the Dictator deserve compassion. Offer it to them by saying this:

You are well.

You are blessed.

You are free.

The wisdom traditions of every culture teach techniques (meditation, prayer) for aligning with this compassionate, observing self.

The antidote to obesity is not starvation, it’s compassion.  The opposite of being out of control isn’t being in control, but being in love–not in romance, but as in compassion.

Don’t feel compelled to replace overeating with virtuous work or exercise; instead, make a list of things you love, from watching TV to hanging out with favorite people. Nurturing touch (a pedicure, a massage, sex) is especially effective, since it triggers production of the same opioid hormones as eating.

Stop taking undue responsibility for your spouse’s and children’s feelings.

Become the Watcher.  Be kind toward your anxious self. The body is a persistent teacher, always trying to teach us acceptance:  of our bodies, our emotions, our situations. Love, in the form of kindness to ourselves, is what never fails.

Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to share how you show compassion towards yourself no matter what.







Give the women you love the most unique gift of elegant and timeless portraits

with a Powerful Goddess portrait session Gift Certificate:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

 © Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

China at the Met

Be not afraid of growing slowly.

Be afraid only 

of standing still.

Chinese proverb


Couture inspired by Anna May Wong’s costumes in her Hollywood classics. Among my favorite pieces is this very easy to wear hot number with seductive tassels as shoulder straps and as a dramatic train sweeping the floor.

If you’re near Manhattan this weekend, get to the Metropolitan Museum early (or very late to avoid the crowds) and catch the end of their hit exhibit China: Through The Looking Glass.  Attracting more foot traffic that the Alexander McQueen exhibit a couple of years ago and even more than their King Tut exhibit in 1979, this latest feature of the Anna Wintour Costume Institute is a collection of haute couture influences flowing East to West and vice versa.

China as a collective fantasy began when it was still beyond the reach of most Western travelers. Chinoiserie by the best artisans, creatives and film makers have since perpetuated the myth of this land as one of wealth. elegance, mystery and romance. Sample the best of the best at the Met on its last weekend of display.  Museum hours extend until midnight this Friday and Saturday (September 4 and 5, 2015) and this exhibit closes on Monday, September 7th.

Dragon dress inspired by an imperial robe, John Galliano for the House of Dior


Intricate embroidery and silk are among my favorite things!


In the China Pavilion, a collection of John Galliano pieces for the House of Dior


Haute couture in a forest reminiscent of the bamboo scene of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon


A lotus flower ballgown by a Chinese designer


Mao and Chinese calligraphy as design elements


The Weight of the Millennium artwork made of porcelain shards by Li Xiaofeng 2015


Glamour couture inspired by designs on Manchu robes


Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to share what country captivates you best.


Give the women you love the most unique gift of elegant and timeless portraits

with a Powerful Goddess portrait session Gift Certificate:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

 Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

Taking Chances

To keep your marriage brimming with love,

whenever you’re wrong, admit it;

whenever you’re right, shut up.

Ogden Nash


Honey and I just got back from our very first honeymoon A.C. (after children) in Puerto Rico–sandy beaches, salsa dancing, and casinos that remind us of how lucky we’ve been betting on each other a lifetime ago and luckier still that we have learned to reshuffle our hand to make the most of the cards life dealt us since.

Like this Powerful Goddess, I did wear white. Not so much to conjure the days of innocence, but for the simple reason that white complements a good tan best. ;)

Lucky we did not swear NOT to talk about the kids during our time alone–impossible with Puerto Ricans who are big on family culture. Seeing young couples with toddlers and their oversized strollers did make us sigh with relief that we can travel far lighter lately.

We flew home in time for the second marriage of my husband’s college buddy. Having witnessed the dissolution of his first, we were thrilled to see him taking another chance with a woman who brings out his playful side. We sat among the witnesses, silently thankful that our own marriage has endured, shuddering at the thought of possibly having uttered the word “obey” at my own wedding?!!!

Esther Perel says all of us do marry a second or third time, though some of us do so with the same person in our personal evolutions. Her TED Talk on The Secret to Desire in a Long-term Relationship asks “Can we want what we already have (for toooo long)?” Now there’s a question where “I do” is a most meaningful answer.

Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to share how you have been lucky to bet on the same person a second or third time. A toast to the courageous!







Give the women you love the most unique gift of elegant and timeless portraits

with a Powerful Goddess portrait session Gift Certificate:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

 Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

Myanmar Meander (Part II: Mandalay, Kalaw and Inle Lake)

Travel far enough,

you meet yourself.

David Mitchell

Too many fun things keep popping up that kept me from getting to this sequel sooner.  I’m off on another trip this week, always compelled to follow where joy leads me.  This summer has been particularly full of fun firsts. This year literally started on the right elephant’s foot!


In the mountains of Kalaw, all is green, peace and quiet except for my occasional shrieks while on a  bareback elephant ride at Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp. Green Hill is a sanctuary for retired elephants (even their vet is a retiree) that also promotes reforestation with its tourism program. You get to feed and pet the elephants at their hut then scrub their thick hide as they soak in the river. And don’t you worry, riding them bareback is optional–only for the brave or the reckless. ;)

Selfie or not? Even the monks do it. At the U-Bein Bridge, the longest teakwood bridge in the world built in 1850 and still holding up to foot traffic.


Mandalay, the last royal capital of the former Burma, has a romantic name that sounds infinitely more beautiful than its downtown area. The best parts of it are the hills dotted with stupas and temples and the sight of monks–men in burgundy robes, women in pink, all with shaved heads.

Mandalay is known as Motorcycle City among locals. I’ll remember it more for vans with passenger doors that open to oncoming traffic.


The Shwenandaw Monastery, a glorious example of traditional 19th century wooden monasteries, is made of intricately carved teak.  Originally part of the Royal Palace in Amarapura, this building is also a fine example of recycling, dismantled and transported to Mandalay as the King’s living quarters when the capital city was moved in 1857, then moved a second time outside the Royal Palace grounds when his son succeeded the throne.


In remote villages, life seems to have gone on largely unchanged for the past 2,500 years: peasants, oxcarts, the same kinds of food and clothes. The same pagodas covered in gold in the richer towns or merely painted in the poor ones. Cellphones are quickly becoming ubiquitous though.


I bought a farmer’s umbrella not quite the size of this red giant, but ingeniously made completely of handmade paper and bamboo moving parts.


There are 500,000 monks and 150,000 nuns in Myanmar—which is to say that a significant percent of the country aspire to follow the Buddha’s path. Most boys spend some years as monks before returning to their families. I met a couple of women who chose to join an order after they had already finished college and had worked on a career.

Busloads of tourists certainly don’t make studying easy for this little monk.


As a tourist, you pick up some Buddhism along the way, getting a better understanding of the variety in religious structures. The pagoda or stupa (or zedi) is a solid structure with no interior that often contains a relic. A temple is a hollow square building. A cave serves as a meditation center for monks. The ordination hall is for exactly that. The monastery is the monks’ residence. The library is where scriptures of the Buddha are kept.


Mornings in Myanmar often find bewitching mists hovering in the valleys and lakes.


Inle Lake, in central Myanmar, is the region where locals  live on wooden houses on stilts, farm on floating patches of soil, bathe, brush their teeth,, do their laundry, commute, etc… all in the same water.  My fellow travelers asked our guide, “Where does the sewage go?” She doesn’t look us in the eye when she answered, “Septic tanks.”


Aside from farming on floating patches of muck that are held in place by bamboo poles, industry in the lake includes boat making, weaving silk and lotus fiber, tobacco rolling, silver making, iron work, religious traffic, etc. A big gash in the mountainsides for new hotels represents the government’s ambition for a stronger surge of tourism. How will the lake’s ecosystem support such deluge? Beats me!




Stay at a lake front room of the Inle Resort or catch the sunset from their boat landing. The spa is absolutely stunning here!


Inle Lake fishermen are an iconic sight standing at one end of their boats, gracefully paddling with just one leg to keep one hand free for the net and the other for the spear.


The beauty of Myanmar is in considerable part a consequence of its inaccessibility. Get there before it becomes more mainstream and lose its unique charms. Best month to catch a tour group is February.

Moi in their traditional wrap.


Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to add your exotic travel tips.


Give the women you love the most unique gift of elegant and timeless portraits

with a Powerful Goddess portrait session Gift Certificate:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

 Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

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