Years ago, I read a quote by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn – “Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains … an unuprooted small corner of evil.” This quote came to mind as I was reading Debbie Ford’s book, The Dark Side of the Light Chasers. In it, she talks about the importance of accepting our dark sides and finding the good in those aspects of ourselves that we hate. This has been one of the greatest lessons I have learned as a coach.
What are the “don’t be(s)” that you tell yourself? Don’t be mean? Don’t be selfish? Don’t be unkind? That’s just the beginning of my list, it can go on for pages. The fact is, there are times that I am mean, I am selfish, and I am unkind. And, there are times those behaviors serve me and/or serve those around me. When we begin to accept the fact that everyone, myself included, have both good and bad within us, we can begin to see that there is less that divides us than unites us. When you find yourself locking in on a judgment about someone else, take a moment to think about what circumstances could have caused you to take the same action or stance. Give yourself the same gift and see how it changes how you view the world and yourself. In the end, we are all too human.
I turned on the radio yesterday and landed on the tail end of an interview on On Being with Ellen Langer, a professor of psychology at Harvard University. She was talking about losing 80% of her things in a house fire and calling the insurance company to report it. “…this was the first call he ever had where the damage was worse than the call and …I thought ‘Gee, it’s already taken my stuff…why give it my soul? Why pay twice? Which is so often what people do. Something happens, you have that loss, and now you are going to throw all your emotional energy at it…doubling up on the negativity.'” Her words caught my attention. Certainly, I have been known to do that — live through the “tragedy” and continue to go back to the event and relive all the angst that went with it. She continued the story with her memory of the fire and it was the kindness of the hotel employees she met while waiting for her house to be rebuilt –they filled her room with gifts while she was walking her dogs on Christmas Eve — that remains in her memory, not what she lost in the fire. What a wonderful reminder to move forward and open the space for something else to unfold. I definitely am going to pick up some of Ellen Langer’s books to learn more.
Are you able to look back on a “tragedy” now and see what transpired from it? My first heartbreak came to mind. The aftermath taught me so much about who I was, what I was capable of, and opened my world to possibilities I hadn’t considered. It was a gift…and it took me two years to figure out that it was a good thing that it happened. I’m glad to say that the time cycle for recognizing the positive outcomes has shortened considerably. This week, why don’t you give it some thought? Looking back, are you able to find the positive outcome or growth in something “bad” that happened to you? I’m planning to take up the mantra “Why pay twice?” and see what happens. We have such a short time on this earth, let’s make the most of it.
In the midst of the move, things have been dropping off my radar. I’ve lost track of days of the week and to do lists. That wouldn’t necessarily be bad except that when things have dropped off my radar, my mind is apparently checking them off as “done”. A good example would be last week’s exercise. I can’t imagine that I didn’t write it but there is no trace of it on the computer or web. How can that be? I haven’t missed a week in over a year. The answer turns out to be a simple one. I’ve lost my routines in the chaos and in doing so I’ve lost a bit of myself. A lesson re-learned and soon to be implemented – mindfully start each day, schedule time for the things that will nurture my inner source, and do something each day that I enjoy.
I was reminded of this yesterday when reading a note from my Mastermind group. A good friend is experiencing her own chaos in preparing to sell her house. She wrote “I also have a new passion that gave me a lot of comfort as an only child and that is coloring. ME wrote about coloring in a blog and I had such great memories of doing so as a child…It’s a total stress reducer, creative and fun. I recommend everyone try it and try not to be concerned with the time you spend doing it.” Bingo. One of my own favorite things to do and I just unpacked a box of crayons! Thank you.
Here’s the exercise for this week. Re-read all the exercises I’ve written so far and pick one to actually do. No, not really. That was just for another friend who commented how much she enjoyed reading my blog and had yet to actually do an exercise. What I would like to suggest is to stop for 15 minutes, take three deep breaths, and then think about what recharges you. Coloring? Meditating? Walking? Reading? Writing? Take out your calendar and schedule doing whatever it is for at least 15 minutes a day. Treat this time the same way you would a doctor or hair appointment. Show up for it and do it. Create a ritual that nurtures you, your creativity, and your inner source. You’ll be glad you did.
I’ve been thinking a lot about Labor Day as a theme for today’s blog. Per the Department of Labor, Labor Day ” is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.” I’ve decided that this is a day to celebrate you! Open your arms wide, swing them around yourself, and give yourself a giant hug. Look back and see how much you have accomplished, see the lives you have changed (including your own), see how much better the world is because you are here. It is. A smile given, a kind word, a small act — they all ripple out and affect the world in ways that we can’t even fathom. Know that you are making a difference and I, for one, appreciate you.
Now, turn off the computer and get outside. Do something you love. Laugh. Be in the moment. Celebrate that you are here and we are glad of it! See you on Wednesday.
What do you value? I came across this picture today at the bottom of one of the bins I was sorting through and it summed up what I was feeling. I have a lot of stuff and I have a few treasures. Interestingly enough, those treasures aren’t necessarily valuable but they connect me to memories which are priceless. Over the past couple of days, we’ve given away “free to good homes” a lot of items I valued but there was no angst involved because the people dropping by to pick them up clearly appreciated having them. That is a treasure in itself.
We hang onto things out of habit — projects which we are never going to finish, items given to us by people whose names we can’t remember, things that we paid a lot of money to have — keeping them long after they’ve served their purpose. Perhaps, it is time to evaluate our “stuff.” Does it lighten our load or does it weigh us down? Is there so much of it that we can’t imagine starting anything new? Is there space to do the things we want to do? Is its time with us done and will it serve someone else better? If you are having trouble deciding, have a friend come in and help you. Be prepared. They may ask you hard questions like when was the last time you used it? How long has it been in the box? What does it do? It’s okay to let go. As you create more space, you will feel better. Let the things that surround you be things you actually value, which bring you joy. Life’s short. Enjoy it.
Dispatch called Monday to let us know that our household goods would be arriving from Hawaii this weekend. Combining two households is chaotic at best as difficult decisions must be made about what to keep and what to let go of. As I’ve been going through boxes in the basement that had not been touched since my last move, I’ve come across childhood treasures that I had long since forgotten. Isn’t it amazing how certain objects can immediately bring back memories…and how difficult it is to part with them? I’m thinking the solution may be to make a photo collage as a touchstone which I can place in my studio. We’ll see.
Letting go of “stuff” we’ve accumulated over the years can be hard — whether it be childhood treasures, past grievances, or inbred beliefs. But, there is a lightness of spirit that comes with the clearing. An open space that can be filled with something new and wonderful — an opening to possibilities. Give it a try. This week, find something every day to let go of. Is it that vase that you received as a gift but never really liked? A teacher’s voice that told you that you can’t sing? A belief that you are not enough? You are so let that one go immediately. You get the idea. Make room in your life for the something new. It will be transforming.
A good friend introduced me to “Letters from the Farm: A Simple Path for a Deeper Spiritual Life” by Becca Stevens. I was immediately drawn in when I read: “We can cut deep furrows and create rich beds for growing when we are not blinded by the bright lights of ego, sidetracked by the illusion of power, and stuck in in the mud of inaction, feeling defeated or overwhelmed. We all have stepped in unseen holes, and found ourselves digging on hard, rocky ground.” It pulled to me because I have been digging on hard, rocky ground for the past couple weeks. What do you do when you find yourself at bottom? Today, I prayed and asked for a sign.
This is how I found myself sitting on the deck this morning with a cup of coffee. I began with thank you, followed with a conversation about what was going on, and asked for a sign that things were going to be okay. The butterfly landed beside us and I was reminded of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s statement: “Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” A sign, indeed.
This week, open yourself to the possibility of asking and receiving. Look for signs that inspire you. Recognize that even fertile fields must be left alone for some period of time in order to restore their fertility. Give yourself a break – a time to renew and re-energize. Everything will happen in its time.
A good friend’s friend died suddenly over the weekend and I was taken back to my sister, Carol’s, death. At the time, I picked up a book by Steven Levine called “A Year to Live: How to Live This Year as If It Were Your Last” and I had copied the following quote down:
“You have to remember one life, one death–this one! To enter fully the day, the hour, the moment whether it appears as life or death, whether we catch it on the inbreath or outbreath, requires only a moment, this moment. And along with it all the mindfulness we can muster…”
The quote inspires me to be present, to recognize that our time is short and the only moment that is guaranteed is this one. Does remembering that change your perspective today? Are you living full out or are you kicking your dreams down the road — when the kids are out of the house, when the job isn’t all-consuming, when you have more time? This week’s exercise doesn’t involve paper or pen, just your heart and soul. Think about what you would do differently if you only had a year…a month…a day to live. What is truly important to you? Spending more time with the kids, feeding the homeless, writing a novel? Spend some time wherever “there” is this week and see how you might find more room in you life for it in the future. This isn’t a call for a drastic action, rather, carving out 30 minutes or so a day for your moments. Breathe, relax and enjoy.
I was reading Prevention magazine the other day and came across an small blurb on “an all-natural immunity upgrade.” University of California, Berkeley researchers found that a sense of awe may boost our defenses. “Researchers say the necessary boost could come from the simple wonder inspired by a good tune, a poignant picture, or, of course, a vista that leaves you breathless.” My sense of awe today came when I watched my sister complete the Columbia Iron Girl Sprint Triathlon. She decided at 60 to challenge herself and has been running strong ever since. She is my inspiration and even I am toying with the idea of starting my 60th year with a sprint marathon. Of course, I have to get over my fear of drowning first.
Who inspires you? When was the last time you experienced awe? These are important questions. We are so busy hurrying through our days that we forget the wonder and awe that surrounds us. I am a computer scientist and even though I can tell you how a computer works per the book…I still believe in my heart its magic. When a deer passes through the backyard, I go absolutely still and am amazed by her gentle grace. I love watching bumblebees fly knowing that aerodynamically they shouldn’t. What calls to you? This week, cultivate your sense of awe. Pay attention to small things. Pause in that headlong rush to get things done. Wonder how the objects that surround you came into existence and be glad that they did. We take so much for granted. How about a week where we don’t.
This a red-letter day as this post marks a full year of writing this blog. I have to admit that when I started writing I couldn’t envision doing it for a full year. Having done it, I can’t imagine not continuing to write and, in fact, have two books under way along with the blog. I have a ritual that I’ve shared before that is tied to a “year” anniversary. It is writing a letter looking back at the year ahead. The letter I write tonight after finishing this post will be dated 12 August 2016. It will talk about the sense of fulfillment finishing year two of the blog, the completion of both books, and so much more. It is my creative story and journey. That’s why, the passage I read this morning in Jean Houston’s book, “The Wizard of Us” resonated so strongly.
We are all on a Hero’s Journey. We have all experienced a Call to Adventure. We have all lived through a Belly of the Whale experience. You don’t have to be Hercules or Achilles, Odysseus or Perseus to be a hero. Consider the power you exercise right here, right now. You have the capacity to do some good in the world, to do brilliant, beautiful things. However, you may not know this, or you may forget what you are capable of during the stress of the everyday world. Any one of us born in this scientific age of quantum realities recognizes that we are all every part of the story. You may realize that you are both the storyteller and the story itself. So, what story you are telling? What story are you being?
Do you know? For your exercise this week, I’d like you to look out three to five years. As you look, do you hear whispers urging you to go in a different direction? Where are they leading you? How does it feel to think about stepping off the known path? I can just about guarantee that once you take a step forward, your world will change and you will discover talents and strengths that you were unaware of. Play with this. Let your imagination soar and your story begin again.
We celebrated my mother’s 95th birthday on Friday. A lot happened in those ninety-five years: women got the vote; Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic; the Great Depression and World War II occurred; the A bomb was dropped; segregation was declared illegal; Alaska and Hawaii joined the Union; the first American went into space; JFK and Martin Luther King were killed; the Civil Rights Act was passed; the Cold War ended; and, the Berlin Wall came down. This barely scratches the surface. Then, when you look at what science created: penicillin, movies and television, scotch tape, frozen foods, radios, telephones, computers, airplanes, antibiotics, aspirin … everything we now take for granted. While writing this, I was taken back to when I first learned to program computers and how I had to punch hundreds of cards to create a small program and how it only took dropping the box of cards once to learn to number them. Now I can create apps with the stroke of a few buttons. Amazing.
What has happened in your lifetime? This week take some time to think about it . We live so much in the present and future that we don’t appreciate what got us here. We are so busy seeking out the latest technology that we ignore the basics. Take a break and take time to marvel (per Merriam-Webster to become filled with surprise, wonder, or amazed curiosity.) Everything that has happened to date began with a thought. Appreciate yours.
When you stopped and listened to yourself when you encountered a problem, did you discover anything new about about yourself? This week has been a week of dealing with a lot of unexpected issues beyond my control and it has resulted in moments of absolute despair and feeling completely overwhelmed. I found I generally respond with a flash of anger and then regroup and barrel through the problem. Sometimes the resolution is understanding that its not something I can fix…which is probably one of my hardest things to accept. It reminded me of a self portrait I painted once which had a “work in progress” sign smack dab in the middle. We are all works in progress doing the best we can in the moment we are in.
What I find helps me when I am in “the depths” is to work on my grateful list. Sometimes it is a verbal litany of “I am grateful for …” or getting outside and looking for signs of nature like singing birds, blooming flowers, and thunderstorms. I recently saw I an image* on Instagram that I really liked. To me, it looked like a gratitude sunflower. I love sunflowers — they make me happy — so it was a double bonus for me — combining sunflowers with gratitude. That’s going to be the exercise this week. Grab a blank sheet of paper, colored pens or pencils and create your own gratitude flower. I’ve pulled out my Crayola Big Box and some Sharpies and I am going to do some gratitude flower creating of my own which I’ll share at a later date. I’d love to see your creations too.
*I apologize to the creator of the image. I searched, unsuccessfully, to find you. I did find the image again on the website Trans4Mind.com which I am going to go back and visit. It looks like an interesting website but there was no attribution for the image in the article.
Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner wrote in “Think Like a Freak” that “all of us face barriers – physical, financial, temporal – every day. Some are unquestionably real. But others are plainly artificial – expectations about how well a given system can function, or how much change is too much, or what kinds of behaviors are acceptable. The next time you encounter such a barrier, imposed by people who lack your imagination and drive and creativity, think hard about ignoring it. Solving a problem is hard enough, it gets that much harder if you’ve decided it can’t be done.”
I know this to be true from personal experience. A few years back, I got to attend Space Camp as part of my leadership training. It was a blast and I highly recommend it to everyone – even though I had to roll up the bottom of my astronaut uniform and may have looked more like a kid playing astronaut. At one point, we were taken out to “Area 51” where, as a team, we had to solve puzzles left by aliens. Midway through the course, we were told by our instructor that no team had ever solved the puzzle in less than two minutes. We looked at each other and agreed that we would…and we did. What was really neat is that every team that followed us, when they heard what we accomplished, did the same. As one of my favorite Hawaiian sayings go – if you can, can…if you can’t, can’t.
This week, listen to yourself when you encounter a problem. How do you react? Do you believe you can solve it? Are you willing to view it differently? Try something new? If you find yourself floundering, repeat the following words – “I have more imagination and drive and creativity than anyone else and I’m going to use all of these to solve the problem.” Say it again. “I am imaginative. I have drive. I am creative. I am capable of solving anything I put my mind to.” Now, go out and do it. You are going to accomplish amazing things this week.
Fifty is a special number to me. It is the age when I finally realized that there was more to life than working 9-12 hours a day; that while I had accomplished “great” things, I was not personally satisfied; and that I had the power to change and grow in unexpected ways. Sophia Loren’s words resonated with me. “There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.” Fifty truly is the new thirty.
This week, set twenty minutes aside. Put on music that uplifts you. Find a comfortable spot to write and sit down with pen and paper. Write Sophia Loren’s quote at the top, then write “I want.” Now continue. Don’t worry if there are pauses — you may not be used to thinking about what you want at core level. Don’t edit what you’ve written. Just let the thoughts flow. You aren’t being graded. This is all about you. When you are done, put what you’ve written in a special place. I want you to make a point of taking it out and reading it each morning. Feel free to add to it– you might even realize that some of the things you’ve written aren’t what “you” want. That’s part of the discovery process. When you are clearer about what you really want at your soul level, you will find opportunities will open up which will move you towards fulfilling your dreams. Trust in the process and have fun with this.
I’m working on a theory. What’s your all-time favorite movie(s)? Mine are “Sound of Music” and “Mary Poppins.” If I had to pick a line that stands out for me, it would be Julie Andrews saying, “Reverend Mother always says when the Lord closes a door, somewhere he opens a window.” It’s a toss up whether my favorite image is Julie Andrews running through the mountains with her arms wide or Dick Van Dyke dancing with the penguins. I’m still collecting images of penguins and my one of my very favorite children’s books was “Tacky,” the story of a penguin who was an odd bird but a very nice bird to be around. I asked my partner what her favorite movie was and she said, “Fiddler on the Roof.” That answer fit her — a film where the main character questioned everything and thought through the answers…and loved to sing and dance. So back to my theory — if we pay attention to the ordinary things that have stood the test of time with us, we can uncover clues to what feeds our souls. We don’t always have to dig deep for answers, they are often placed right in our path.
The connection with my movies is that I am fully invested in the idea that “a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down” and things are “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” I’m ready to “climb every mountain and ford every stream” and in my heart I still “am sixteen going on seventeen.” What about you? It’s a fun experiment once you get into it. This week, I’m going to suggest you give it a try. Think about your favorite movies and books. Are there common themes? Anything special that calls out to you? There are clues in the things that we take for granted. Look for them and see what aspects of your younger self you may have forgotten…then ask them to come out and play.
When common themes start appearing in your life, you need to listen. This past week, mine (and I suspect many of you will have the same one) has been “balance.” I know that when I am out of balance — when I’ve over-committed, slept too few hours, run full-tilt for too long — my body lets me know. But, the other thing that happens is the messages around me start getting really loud. The sermons at Unity become about balance, our Mastermind Group talks about the spiral of people-pleasing, posts on Facebook point to letting go, and I’m compelled to re-read my own blog posts.
In light of all this, I’m going to share Cheryl Richardson’s Absolute Yes List as the exercise this week. “Put your self-care above anything else—say no unless it’s an absolute yes. Choose to spend your time and energy on things that bring you joy and make decisions based on what you want instead of what others want. If you don’t set boundaries and take care of yourself, your health and well-being are at stake. And, if you are neglecting yourself, you aren’t helping your family and others around you.”
This may be one of the harder exercises to implement. Saying “yes” is often automatic. Pausing and checking in with yourself and asking if you are 100% in favor of saying yes is difficult. The fear of disappointing others makes it even more so. I’ll let you in on a secret, it gets easier with practice and you’ll discover that absolute yeses mean that you will find the time to do the things that matter most to you. If this seems a bridge too far, choose one day this week to do focus on absolute yeses. Next week, make it two days. Keep it up until it feels comfortable. I’m going to end this by reaching back to a favorite poem I introduced in one of my earlier posts – God Says Yes to Me by Kaylin Haught. Enjoy!
I recently came across a handwritten note that I wrote ten years ago. It was a passage from Jon Kabat-Zinn’s “Coming to Our Senses” and I had read it shortly before deciding to hire a life coach.
“This is a journey that we are all on, everybody on the planet, whether we like it or not; whether we know it our not; whether it is unfolding according to plan or not. Life is what it is about, and the challenge of living it as if it really mattered. Being human, we always have a choice in this regard. We can either be passively carried along by forces and habits that remain stubbornly unexamined and which imprison us in distorting dreams and potential nightmares, or we can engage in our lives by waking up to them and participating in their unfolding, whether we “like” what is happening in any moment or not.”
All too often we get caught up in the day-to-day living, meeting our responsibilities, moving away from our core values and passions, becoming quite successful but not necessarily fulfilled, discovering that our original path was lost and wondering how to get back on tract. This is where I was when a life coach was suggested to me.
Looking back, I’m not sure I would have signed on to coaching if I had realized how much it takes to re-vector one’s professional and personal life. For me, where the external took precedence over the internal, it required a lot of work to reconnect with my core values and passions. Laying bare one’s own vulnerabilities requires a trusted relationship and this is what you must find with a coach — someone who is able to listen, question, reflect, encourage, guide and occasionally “nudge.” It was worth it for me, I initiated long-needed changes to my life’s path. If you are looking to make some positive changes in your life this route might be the one you are looking for too.
Have you noticed that there is a time of day when ideas come popping into your head? When words flow smoothly onto the page? Recently, I was struggling with writing a story. The main body was done but the first paragraph just didn’t work and no matter how many times I rewrote it, I just couldn’t get it to be any better. So, I finally gave up. At 3:30 in the morning, I woke up and the first line came into my head. I loved it and thought, “I’ll remember that.” Closed my eyes and the next line came into my head. “Yeah, that was good, I’ll remember that too.” Ideas kept flowing in and I finally gave in and got up. Within five minutes, I had written the paragraph that I had been struggling with for three hours the previous day.
Words I heard, years ago, came back to mind and I found them again when I googled Dr. Wayne Dyer and Rumi. In an interview with Mark Victor Hanson, Dr. Dyer stated, “Rumi, the Persian poet said, ‘The morning breeze has secrets to tell you. Do not go back to sleep.’ Between 3 and 4 in the morning, you are closest to god. This is when you can get the greatest inspiration.” I noted it then, I’m living it now.
This week, take note of when “inspiration” comes to you. If it is in the early dawn hours, put a notebook beside your bed and take the time to write down your thoughts. If it is the golden hour before sunset, use the voice recorder on your phone. The point is, whatever the time, be aware, have tools in place and capture what inspires you. You may not use it right away but it will be a seed you can grow at a later time. The world is waiting to be inspired by you. Don’t keep it waiting too long.
What’s your favorite thing to do when traveling? Mine is to stop at local craft shows. I always find something that fascinates me. Running the Washington Coast, we came across a show in Ocean Shores. There was an artist using rubbing alcohol and ink to create beautiful abstracts on tile, another who created realistic cupcakes of bubble bath and soap (fortunately, I realized it in time) and my favorite – a craftsman who created musical instruments from recycled materials. The ukulele will be returning with us to Hawaii.
The reason I love these outings is because I invariably come across someone who takes something ordinary and makes it extraordinary. That’s going to be your challenge for this week. Imagine a new use for something you routinely use or see. What might you have done with an old animal crackers box? Plant a terrarium? Create a shadow box? Make a drum? Stop now. Look around you. Pick an item and…go! Forget about its current use. What else could it be? You don’t have to follow through with the idea. Just let your imagination run rampant. Keep doing this through the week. I’m betting you’ll find that other great ideas appear in other areas of your life. Have fun!
When I’m not feeling well, I go radically out of balance. My positive outlook takes a nosedive and instead of being grateful I am damning everything that doesn’t go exactly how I want it to. This is where I was when I was struggling to get my luggage into the car trunk, damning the suitcases for not fitting easily. My partner looked at me and suggested that perhaps I should be saying “God help me” instead. Ouch. Later that afternoon, I stood up from the couch and slammed my knee in the corner of the coffee table. I paused…and said “God help me” and started laughing. It completely reframed the situation for me.
Most of us aren’t good at asking for and/or accepting help…especially when pursuing our dreams. We feel that we have to do it on our own or it doesn’t count somehow. That isn’t true. As Mendability by Austism posts, “Having someone help you doesn’t mean you failed, it just means you are not alone.” There is power in finding like-minded people to join you in your journey. It’s the reason we created Ignite Your Creative Passion. To foster a safe and nurturing environment, for women by women, to create the life that they desire. We have one life to live. Whatever path you choose, know that asking for and accepting help make the process richer. Find your muses and be one to someone else. Marvelous things will appear.
THE POWER OF POETRY
When we were growing up, our father had us memorize poems. To this day, I can start any number of poems – “The White Cliffs of Dover”, ” The Face on the Barroom Floor”, ” St. Peter Stood Guard at the Golden Gate” – and my siblings will finish them. I expect it was a survival mechanism by my parents to keep us occupied on the many cross-country driving trips to see the grandparents. What it did for me was to give me, as a child, a love and appreciation for poetry. I haven’t thought about this for a long time but today I came across an old, worn copy of Best Loved Poems of the American People in the church library. This was our book and as I reread the familiar poems, I was transported back to the joy of learning and reciting poetry.
When was the last time you read a poem out loud? There is a great website called Poetry 180 created for high school students “to hear or read a poem on each of the 180 days of the school year.” One of my favorites is Poem 126, “God Says Yes To Me” by Kaylin Haught. I encourage you to look it up (www.loc.gov/poetry/180/126.html). It’s a great one to read out loud. End it with a resounding “Yes! Yes! Yes!” Yes, you are creative! Yes, you are amazing! Yes, you can if you want to! Take the challenge this week to revisit poetry if you haven’t for a while. Go to the Poetry 180 website, google Maya Angelou, Billy Collins or another poet that you remember. Read the poems aloud, full voice. Let their creativity wash over and immerse you. In short, take time to enjoy poetry once again and let me know how it feels.
On my creative journey, I’ve been searching for a definition of creativity that resonates. I recently found it in an Internet writing course I’m taking called “Writeriffic: Creativity Training for Writers.” Eva Shaw wrote that “Creativity is the way you translate what you hear or feel or see inside into a format that you share with the reader.” I love it but would also expand it to fit my thinking. Creativity is the way you translate what you hear, see, smell, taste, and/or touch (or in other words what you think, feel and sense) into a format that you share with others. The format can be anything – a recipe, a drawing, an invention, a story, a conversation, a problem solved. You get the point. Creativity is integral to who we are and what we do as human beings.
For all those who say, “I don’t have a creative bone in my body,” it is time to recast the statement. How can you not have a creative bone? From the moment that you wake you are making decisions and taking actions that fit the definition. What I’m suggesting is that you acknowledge that you are indeed creative and consider stepping a bit outside your normal routine. I challenge you this week to look at an Internet learning site – ed2go.com (continuing education), Lynda.com (technology), kelby.com (photography) are just a few – or page through a college catalogue. Browse the subjects. Which ones spark your interest? Any surprises? You don’t have to take a course right now but do note which ones captured your attention. Write them down. It’s a first step towards finding your inner fire.
I was out weeding this morning at 630 AM and the chorus of a song most of you wouldn’t recognize popped in my head. It goes:
“Good living is a habit. Live it while you can. Soft sable fur not rabbit, and superfast cars on Mercantile credit. And why worry if the money isn’t really real. You’re as rich as you feel.”
It came from an album titled “A Friend of Mine is Going Blind” by Johnathan Dawson Read which will be a subject for another time. The point is, I was outside with my hands in the earth, cool tradewinds blowing, clear blue skies and ocean in the distance and I felt good. The only sounds were the birds chattering, an occasional purr from the cats, and dogs randomly barking. I was connected mind, body, soul with nature.
We seem to have fewer and fewer moments such as these. It’s much too easy to connect to the world via technology – watching Animal Planet on TV and cute cat and dog videos on Facebook. What I rediscovered this morning was the importance of connecting with nature to nurture creativity. The pause, as I sat to take in the view, jumpstarted ideas for writing and painting. The energy has stayed with me through the day and I resolve to make sure that I continue to find time each day to disconnect from technology and reconnect with nature.
I challenge you this week to find ways to reconnect with nature. Turn off the radio and roll down the windows to hear and feel the wind, watch a sunrise or sunset in silence, hug a tree…the list of possibilities is endless. See how it makes you feel and if you are so inclined, please share it with me.
You can hear Good Living at http://www.johndawsonread.com/music.php
I read a story once that went something like this: “A researcher went into a kindergarten class and asked ‘Who can draw? Who can paint? Who can dance?’ Every child raised their hand. He then went to a college class and asked them the same questions. Very few hands went up.” What happens to us as we grow up? When do we lose our knowledge of how creative and powerful we are? How do we regain our creative zest and the joy we felt?
These are questions I’ve been thinking about for the last couple of months and just recently I found a quote by Pablo Picasso which points to the same questions. “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” I had become a very responsible adult and never noticed that I no longer played my guitar, drew with abandon, or even colored in a coloring book (one of my all-time favorite pastimes as a child…I would use every color in the box).
I immediately went out and bought a coloring book and the largest box of crayons I could find. I admit it. I still love it. Now, when I’m having a mental block, I sit down and pick up a crayon. There is something about holding a crayon and applying color to a space that frees my mind from its challenges and allows creative thought to flow.
I challenge you this week to think about your favorite childhood pastimes. Pick one and revisit it and let me know how it feels. Also, if anyone can point me to the source of the researcher story, I would love to hear that too.
So how did the time mantra work out for you? If you haven’t tried it yet, give it a shot. I’ve received feedback from others that it is working for them. Today, I’d like you to take some of the time you’ve saved and spend it. Take out a pen and some paper, find a quiet spot, and write down a list of things you enjoy. The list may be long or it may be short. It doesn’t matter. What’s important is that you allow the items to flow from your heart onto the paper, again without judgment. How’d it feel?
Now is the time for action. Take one item from your list and plan a play date for yourself. If others are involved, fine, but don’t let it change what you have chosen to do…and only include those who will whole-heartedly support your enjoyment of what you’ve chosen. This exercise is totally about you and your joy. In the words of Pablo Coehlo, “One day you will wake up and there won’t be any more time to do the things you’ve always wanted. Do it now.” I’ve got to go, I’ve got a date with a sunset but I’d love to hear how this exercise worked for you later.
Do you feel like there just isn’t enough time to fit “play” into your life? The To Do List is overflowing, deadlines loom, and friends and family clamor for attention. I was feeling that way when I read a quote by H. Jackson Brown, Jr. “Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Louis Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson and Albert Einstein.” Wow! What would I do if I had exactly the amount of time I needed? Then and there I decided to try an experiment. I switched my language from “I don’t have enough time” to “I have exactly the time I need.”
Living in Hawaii, I also decided to embrace “Hawaiian Time.” For those unfamiliar with Hawaiian Time, I’ll share my favorite description found in A Little Book of Aloha. Clifford Nae’ole defined it as “the ability to simply be still and listen to your heartbeat, to stop and observe a beautiful rainbow or to watch the dolphins dance with the ocean. I would make this a priority over getting to a destination on time – the ability of observation, appreciation, and relaxation.” It’s true. I now make a point of watching sunsets, looking for turtles, listening to the birds and I say to myself, “I have exactly the time I need.”
My lesson learned? When I’m feeling behind, I repeat my time mantra – “I have exactly the time I need” and I find that even with late starts, I arrive on time; projects are completed; friends and family are accounted for; AND, I have time to stop, relax and spend time in ways that engage and re-energize me. Take the challenge this week to change the way you think about time. Try out my time mantra and let me know what happens for you.
Earlier in the week, I suggested that you identify an activity which called to your imagination and do more of it. Did you? If you did – Great! Keep at it!. If not, what stopped you? Again, no judgement, just be aware of whatever blocked you and file it away to be examined at a later time.
For this week’s exercise, I’m borrowing a page from Patty Digh. Patty Digh is one of my favorite writers. I was first hooked with her book Life is a Verb: 37 Days to Wake Up, Be Mindful, and Live Intentionally then I read Four-Word Self-Help: Simple Wisdom for Complex Lives. It’s a wonderful book of four word advice. She inspired me to start my own list which hangs on the wall of my studio and is still being added to. Here are a few entries:
Only Hear the Positive
Defy All the Critics
Live in the Moment
Laugh from the Belly
I love the energy I get when I create a new phrase…it never fails to bring a smile. This week I’d like you to start your own list of four word phrases which inspire you. Keep the list where you can see it and make sure that there are no negatives in the stream, e.g. “Don’t.” If you’d like to share some of your favorite phrases, I’d love to see them.
My niece recently sent me this photo of “How To Be An Artist” which is making it way around Facebook (I would love to give a shout out to whoever created it but I could only find re-posts with no attribution). Not only is it true for artists, it is true for life. Good or bad, beautiful or ugly, tall or short (pick your own adjectives)…we are creating in every moment. Would we view our actions differently if we thought of them as art?
Out of curiosity, I looked up artistic in the dictionary. Artistic is defined by Merriam – Webster as “showing imaginative skill in arrangement or execution.” Personally, just getting out of bed some mornings fits the bill for me. The challenge for us this week is to silence our inner (and outer critics, if necessary) and “make more art.” Whatever your artistic talent — painting, cooking, gardening, playing, selling — pick whatever activity calls to your imagination and do more of it. Do so much of it that you are filled to the brim with the energy that comes from engaging your mind and body to complete the task. We are all artists and the world calls on us to make more art!
I would love to hear your thoughts and if anyone knows who created “How To Be An Artist,” please let me know.
Welcome back! As I thought about where to start with our creative exercises, I looked up and saw this photograph looking down on me from my bulletin board. “Get Your Happy On! “* It is one of the first images I see when I sit down to work and I posted it on my wall shortly after it appeared randomly one day on my Facebook page. Of course, how random is random? That’s a great blog for another day. The point is, that if you really want to open your creative channels, you need to “Get Your Happy On!”
This week, I’d like you make a “Bliss List” — a list of 100+ things that, when you think about them, make you feel good. When you need to feel the happy, pull out the list and read it. I started one over two years ago and I’m still adding to it! It doesn’t have to be done in one sitting. You’ll find that at certain times a smile will come over your face and a new item will appear for the list. Be conscious of what causes the smile. Have fun with this — I’m wishing you a week full of happy. Let me know how it goes.
*Source: I searched the Internet and finally found this photo and other great quotes on www.picturequotes.com.
Aloha and welcome to my blog on the creative life. If you’ve discovered this blog, I hope you will continue the journey with me and share your thoughts as we go along. At heart, I am a student. In my transition from a 9 to 5 (on a good day) job to the life of an artist, I found that there were many lessons to learn and habits to break. Fortunately, I have met many wonderful teachers along the way who have helped me grow and I feel called to do the same for you. At the beginning of each week, I will write about something that has inspired me, challenged me, or forced an “aha” moment in my creative journey. If you are interested in going a bit farther and stretching your creative muscles, I will also provide, later in the week, an exercise to try out. I hope to see and hear from you in the weeks to come. As Karen Drucker wrote in one of my favorite songs: “We are all angels -who only have one wing. All angels – searching for each other. All angels who cannot reach the sky cause we need each other to fly.”