What fears have you encountered and how have you faced them?
I think the biggest fear I have experienced is self-doubt. I also encountered the fear of being seen, the fear of being a powerful woman, and the fear of not being liked, or the fear of people not liking the music, or not liking me, or the way I am giving it.
To a big degree, with so many years of creating and sharing the music, those fears are not there anymore, but there are times they creep in, so it really takes practice. A really simple way of undoing the fear is with prayer.
“May I step out of the way, May I receive what wants to come through, May I stand in gratitude that I get to do this.”
So much of working through the fear is just showing up on stage and being with it, show after show after show after show. And then being humbled by it and learning something from it and applying it at the next show. Then doing that over and over for years... Like anything else, practice.
What was it like playing your first concert?
My first concert was thrilling and terrifying.
I definitely stepped up to it in stages. I started around a campfire, then a few songs to friends at dinner parties, then my first official show was at Stanford, where I went to college. I just remember being kind of awkward and super nervous, and yet all my friends were there, cheering me on and supporting me so much and calling in people’s attention because I didn’t have the presence of holding attention yet as an artist. And so, they really helped do that, hollering and clapping and getting the whole crowd into it, and it ended up being really fun. Support was a key piece.
What is performing like for you now?
It’s so different. I’d say I used to get nervous with butterflies, even to the point where at one time I decided I didn’t want to be a performing artist because it was too nerve-wracking. I even said, “I will probably never tour.” And really, through practice, I learned performance is all about vibration.
I learned the vibration I stand in when I perform the song is literally the vibration the song would go out on.
If I am worried about what other people think or caught up in this or that fear, then that’s the vibration the music comes out on. If I’m really grateful, happy, intentional, and surrendered, then that’s the vibration the music comes out on.
Now I don’t get nervous, it’s more about remembering what I am there to do, it is not about me, and when I remind myself that, the show is better. If I treat it like it’s me, Ayla getting up on stage sharing with everyone, it’s a lot of pressure to try and create the best outcome for everyone from one human being.
If I let all of that go, and just remind myself that I’m not trying to do anything here, I’m just trying to receive as well as possible, then the best possible outcome that I can’t even create or conceive of by myself happens.
What does courage mean to you?
There’s a quote I remember reading once, “Courage isn’t the absence of fear, but rather the directing of one’s attention to something else.” It’s not about battling fear or winning over fear, but it’s tending to what is important. When that attention is so strong and direct, there is not room for fear.
We show our courage when the attention of what we do want is stronger than the fear of what we don’t want.
How do you think vulnerability fits in?
I see vulnerability as a form of courage because it’s a form of transparency and really showing ourselves. It’s opening ourselves to others, it’s a softening, and a letting in. I think vulnerability has been one of the ways I have began to understand courage, power, and strength. Vulnerability is the feminine power. It’s the ability to receive, and there’s a grace in that.
It’s definitely been one of the more humbling and beautiful teachers in my work, especially in performance, showing up in front of people on stage and letting myself be vulnerable. To not create an appearance of who I am and how I want people to see me as, but rather just show up in the beautiful simplicity of this human being, who I am. When I can really do that, it is incredibly empowering. When I embrace vulnerability, I feel my strongest.
What advice do you have to someone who has a dream but is stuck, afraid or doesn’t know how to take the next step?
I would say trust life. But first, make your prayer really, really clear. As clear as you can make it in this moment. Ask yourself, "What do I really want? What is my passion? and What do I desire above all else? " And, not just the external things, (and actually it’s probably best to leave those up to spirit to decide), but the internal state of what you want to experience. I ask myself, "How do I want to feel everyday waking up? Do I want to feel really grateful? Really in love with my life? Am I so grateful that I have the best possible life I could have? "
Those are the things that I pray for and ask for. The external will create the best possible outcome to make me feel that way. So make those prayers really, really clear and then trust that every single thing that follows is helping that prayer, even if it appears like it is taking too long, or is not a blessing. Trust, and clarify the prayer.
The other big piece is to move towards it in any way you possibly can. If you want to meet the universe halfway, then you have to go halfway, and often, it’s a lot farther than you think. If you want to sing music to people, then you need to start singing music to people and organize your own house concert. Ask someone if you can play music at their party, or if you want to teach workshops, just start teaching to friends.
It’s about how you are showing the universe you are committed, you really want it, and you are going to do whatever you can in this moment to move towards it.