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Creative Expression and What We Ache For

Creative Expression Brings Us To What We Ache For

Over the years, I have personally experienced how creative expression opens us up to the liberation found in discovering and following our truest yearnings. A recent article led me down a train of thought that brought this home to me again.

It was an article by Jaleh Bisharat, Co-founder/CEO at Naked Poppy, called “10 Books That Changed the Way I Think About Business”.

First, I chuckled as I am reminded of the magic in numbering. This many life hacks… days to…, habits… and yes, so many books.

But then I gave thought to the books that have had a meaningful impact on my life. There’ve been many. But one stood out. It was one that opened me up to the creative being that I am and became part of my own journey to finding what was truly meaningful for me.

The one that floated to the top

Oriah Mountain Dreamer’s What We Ache For fills the bill on so many levels. (Hey, why knock myself out to come up with a compelling “number”, I thought.  One is good.)

Dreamer’s book is chock-full of beautiful prose. It offers reflections and exercises that deepen the reading experience. And it goes to the heart of what I believe to be the most important mission in the second half of life. That is, liberating ourselves to tend to those things that are truly important and using our innate creativity, our own creative expression, to weave them into a Multidimensional life.

While I won’t say that reading this book was a triggering event in my life, it was definitely a spurring one.

A well worn and loved book

I read it approximately 10 years ago and I’ve picked it up many times since then. For coaching program or writing workshop ideas. For my own writing inspiration. It is a book that I need to have in hard cover, that I can rub my finger along the rough paper as I read. I highlight and underline and put notes and exclamation marks in the margins. I engage with it as I read it or skim through it or open it up at random to see what wants to be seen. It has post-its and random pieces of paper to hold a place and the end flaps tuck in between pages to remind me where I want to go next. It’s the whole enchilada!

Doing creative work allows us to follow the thread of what we ache for into a deeper life, offering us a way to cultivate a life of making love to the world.

– Oriah Mountain Dreamer

Yes! Following that thread is my mission in my second half of life. Cultivating a deeper, more meaningful (to me) life and honoring the tug in my gut, the quiet voice in my heart. Having the spiritual courage to do all this while living in my world and doing my own work.

This is what I want for myself and, if this resonates with you, it’s what I want for you.

What do you ache for?

Have you also felt that ache, that tugging? This is what my 6-week program, You Are The Artist of Your Life is about. It will ease that ache, gentle that tug and begin your journey into a more integrated, Multidimensional life that is unique to you alone.

Want to learn more? Join me Thursday, August 29th at 6:30 pm ET on Zoom for my free monthly call. This month a I’ll be talking about my upcoming workshop You Are the Artist of Your Life. We’ll get to meet; you’ll get a taste of what the longer program will be like. One person will have a chance for a mini coaching session.

Begin your own journey to a deeper life!

Find the Thread

Creativity is not the finding of a thing, but the making something out of it after it is found.  – James Russell Lowell

What do we do with an idea?

I am rising out of sleep, not quite awake. It’s 4 AM. Half in/half out of a dream. Seemingly disparate photos slipping away. They get fainter and fainter. Just the sentence “Find the thread and follow it in” remains.

I grasp for the images. But they will not be caught. Pfft! Gone. The who, what, where and why go with them. Just the one line remains.

Find the thread and follow it in.

Writing in my head

I often wake to words that stay with me. I start writing in my head.

While I sometimes reach for something to write on, more often I don’t want to disturb the flow that runs so easily in the quiet dark. In the relaxed body state where I’m melted into the bedding, where my body hasn’t awakened but my mind is gearing up. Many of my blog posts start there.

How about you?

Where do things start for you? What quickens your imagination and shifts your thoughts to possibilities? Opportunities? A project in the studio or around the house, a job or life change?

What do you do with the idea once it arrives? Dismiss it or explore it?  How would it feel to grab that thread and see where it takes you? Recognizing where it starts and allowing your process to take over can be the difference between a dream realized and a dream deferred.

Once the idea is allowed to live, what is your process to get started?

Do you feed it with small questions? Talk it over with a supportive friend or coach? Do you allow yourself to daydream? (Yes, daydreaming is a productive activity!) Do you make a list? Do you sketch it out, mind map it, doodle it? Do you look around at what’s out there to find what you like and, sometimes more importantly, what you don’t like.

Most importantly, do you let it emerge in its time, like a butterfly out of its chrysalis?

For me, with writing, it is often starts in that half asleep state. Rather than dismiss it I let it take its own course. It could be hours or days before anything gets onto the page. That’s okay. I find that the theme will linger for a few days in my waking-up time and show me more. I also find that it will spark other ideas. Those spark more and so on.

Intentional Creativity

This is intentional creativity and it is available to us 24/7. In our dreaming and in our waking. When you’re aware of how ideas take hold – when you’re able to recognize your thread – you become aware of your creative process. This will take so much of the struggle out. Your awareness will provide a magic carpet that you can ride into anything. Your process is as unique as you. Go with it.

If you’d like to explore how a creativity coach (that would be me!) could help you with your process schedule a free discovery session. I’m a very good thread detective.

Kaizen: A Kinder and Smarter Way

Years ago, when my commute was almost an hour, I worked with a woman who lived nearby. What a happy coincidence! As a result, we began to carpool. She was the epitome of “all or nothing”. Even with her car’s heater. She would constantly turn it on and off. Too cold, too hot. (Hey, there’s a built in thermostat for a reason! I’d tell her)

She would make pronouncements about how she was going to quit smoking, lose weight and start working out – all beginning that day. I understood her “why”, however, I instinctively knew this wouldn’t work. I would ask her why she didn’t just start with one of those things and then add the others over time. Nope! Not a big enough gesture. Subsequently, within a few days, all those big plans would fade. A month or two later she’d drag them out again.

I hadn’t learned about Kaizen at that point.

Too bad.

When people ask me what Kaizen means I tell them it’s “a Japanese philosophy that means continuous improvement though small steps.” Sometimes I’ll add “small questions, small thoughts and small rewards.” That’s a quick and easy explanation.

However, nothing can be further from the truth. I just haven’t come up with a quick sound bite to explain the magnitude of Kaizen.

Kaizen is huge!

Ironic, huh?

Kaizen is about gradual, lasting change without fear, resistance, overwhelm or procrastination. Can you feel something start to unwind in you as you read the word without? (Oh, and there’s my sound bite!)

How does it work?

With Kaizen, change or goal achievement happens through the accumulation of small steps, questions and thoughts. Kaizen bypasses that part of the brain that throws us into the fight or flight mode, the mode that made my friend give up before she even started. It is intuitive and gentle but it is very powerful. It builds sustainable momentum. When you add principles of creative thinking that momentum becomes an evolving process that reflects who you are, feels more natural and is easier to continue. In Kaizen, small thoughts and questions allow you to act with wisdom as you build new habits.

Why do we need it?

There is such a pandemic of overwhelm, perfectionism, fear and resistance in today’s world! Everything needs to be bigger, faster, done overnight. Reactive, as opposed to proactive. Just writing this I can feel prickles of anxiety. Corporations want to do more with less and they want it faster; workers compete to come up with big ideas, big solutions, big innovations. They want home runs not singles. They don’t want to see that the more batters that get on base the better the odds of the win.

Looking for the big innovation overlooks the importance of the smaller steps, the building blocks, and the creative process of trial and error – all the things I use in my coaching.

Stop and think for a moment. How do you bring change into your life? How do you work toward goals? Have you, like so many, fallen victim to the fairy tale of overnight whopping success?

Would you like to experience this for yourself? Contact me for a 30 minute discovery call.

There’s a kinder and smarter way. It’s called Kaizen.

 

Happy Cats

Happiness is like a cat. If you try to coax it or call it, it will avoid you… But if you pay no attention to it and go about your business, you’ll find it rubbing up against your legs and jumping into your lap.”

~ Dr. William J. Bennett, American author and educator

This post isn’t specifically about happiness or cats. However, if you can imagine being in a situation where a contented cat (literally or figuratively) is purring on your lap… was that a smile?

The real reason for this blog is to pose a question and invite you into a conversation.

The question:  Are you at a point in life where you’re not sure what’s next? Not in the sense of “should I do the dishes or watch the news”. But rather, a wondering about what is next for you in the bigger scope of life, pondering who you were meant to be, wondering how your next chapter will read. You’re not miserable, but just not particularly a contented cat.

According to Carl Jung this, along with some other deep questions, is our job in the second half of life.

Perhaps you’ve been in a certain career, on a particular path, or in a role for a while now. It no longer lights you up. Something is off but you can’t quite put your finger on it. You could stay the course, coast along, but that doesn’t feel good.

Is there another “gig” in my future, you ponder? If so, what is it? Or, you might wonder, Is it too late for something new? Can there be a “what’s next” for me? What could it be?

What if I told you that it’s really none of your business?

You’d probably sputter, roll your eyes, snicker.

I’ll say it again. What’s next for you in this beautiful journey of life is none of your business.

(Let’s qualify this with the assumption that your basic needs – physiological and safety – are being met. If so, we can continue this conversation.)

Paying attention is your business.

Awareness is always a good place to start.

Years ago, I worked with a great lady who used to start her daily huddles with the reminder “Radar on, Antenna Up!” I quote her frequently. This is such a great call to attention and a way to monitor and refocus that attention.

Because, when we sit and stew about what’s next, we create walls of worry.

But, when we ratchet up our awareness and curiosity, we create paths.

When we fixate on only one possible solution, we miss out on possibilities we may never have considered.

When we don’t believe there are possibilities, we shut them out. When we believe they’re there, we let them in.

When we look ahead with anticipation and trust toward what seems to be a hazy destination, the journey is a joyful one.

This is not hocus-pocus or Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz clicking her heels and chanting “I do believe.” This is about implementing awareness and curiosity and paying attention to what shows up.

Let go of the struggle

Does this sound anti-goal or plan? Its not. I love purpose and aspiration.  It’s just that I have come to see the value in letting go of the struggle. That is what impedes the creative process. And, make no mistake, it is your creative process that leads to the next best stage.

So, this is our business: Awareness, curiosity, anticipation and trust. Living in an open-ended question that guides us in the direction of our highest good. Taking the small steps, listening with our ears and body, adjusting our course and taking more steps. Knowing instinctively when you’ve arrived at the next place.

And then it’s about the happy cat leaping onto your lap.

I’d love to hear how this lands for you. Please leave a comment below.

Begin

 

“What you can do, or dream you can do, begin it; boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”

– Johann von Goethe

Welcome to a beginning.

While some may want to craft elaborate resolutions, I prefer a different approach to this fresh new year. I would like to begin by recommitting to my journey of becoming, a journey of awareness and constant beginnings as I move through midlife and beyond toward my truest self.

So, while a new year or a new week – hey, there’s nothing like Monday morning to get us motivated whether it’s with a carrot or a stick! –  feels like a great place to begin, I would suggest that any time is a perfect time to do that. Any time can be the time to restart the journey.

After all, we are always somewhere on the journey even if we’ve paused or gone into the ditch.

Therefore, any time is a good time to get quiet and listen to the inner navigator who will show us where to resume the voyage/passage; to point us in the right direction to begin again.

Any time is a good time to pause and dream and wonder about the possibilities in a new beginning.

And beginning again – and, again – is essential to a meaningful rich life.

What I believe

Every dream deserves to be unpacked and explored. As I do, I will remember to bring along my compassion and curiosity and ditch the judging critic.

Every moment – not day or month or year – is an opportunity to begin again. It’s a chance to course-correct and feel into a better direction.

I don’t need to know the entire itinerary. The best trip is that which unfolds with imagination and inspiration and trust.

When it feels hard to continue with only the immediate path visible, I can choose to continue “just for today.” My commitment can be in very small steps.

The journey is the goal

So, as I move through life, I will begin and begin again.

Can You See the Possibilities?

“If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of the potential, for the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible. Pleasure disappoints, possibility never.”  Soren Kierkegaard, Danish philosopher

The world wants to put us in boxes by life stages. Marketers, social policy wonks, demographers, politicians. We get categorized, labeled and put on the shelf. We become a bland avatar and a statistic. While you and I may have things in common, we are each unique in a very special way.

Life stages have been invented and reinvented for centuries. Aristotle had thoughts on this as did Shakespeare. As demographics and economies shift and life expectancy increases, so do the definitions of the phases of our lives. Marketing and social policy also have a lot to do with this.

Consider the Baby Boomers (another life stage category) with our health and longevity, and how this has made an impact on society. (Yes, I’m a boomer.) We continue to influence social policies, the medical and pharmaceutical world and even the beauty industry. Our buying power speaks loudly.

Or, take the category of middle age. Now, if I am “middle aged”, then I guess I’m living to at least 120. Not sure that’s in the cards, or if I want to!

However, if I really need to be categorized, I’d prefer to put myself in the Third Age which encompasses midlife and beyond.

Oh, what a juicy and spacious place this is!

What is the Third Age?

In his book, A Fresh Map of Life – The Emergence of the Third Age, a British historian, Peter Laslett, posited that life is comprised of four ages. (Another opinion, yes, I know.) These ages don’t correspond to our chronological age, but rather to our roles in life. In our first age, he says, we are dependent. We are still immature; we may be students. The second age is the time for independence, maturity, working, career building and children rearing. The third age is an era for personal achievement and fulfillment after retirement, and the fourth age is a final dependence, infirmity and death.

Laslett suggests that the Third Age can be the culmination of our life. While he also says that typically it is the time after retirement (and before the Fourth Age), I think it starts sooner than that. Or, perhaps, that it should start sooner. Or, really, that we should consider the journey leading up to retirement as part of the Third Age. At a minimum, there is overlap.

The Harvard University Press, in their description of his book, says something similar to what I’m thinking: The prospect of spending long years in reasonable health and scarcely impaired activity, far beyond the convenient landmark of retirement, has already become the norm—without anybody really noticing it, let alone appreciating the implications. In this highly original and perhaps controversial book, Peter Laslett urges us to plan ahead for personal enrichment—before retirement and before the children leave home—before we reach the Third Age.

That Third Age can span decades

It becomes a time of great possibility. It becomes our Creativity Age. We have the opportunity to reawaken. We can begin to focus more of our time on those areas that are personally important and meaningful, those things that feed our hearts instead of just our mouths. (Can you articulate what that is for you?) We can start a second career or become an entrepreneur. We can take all of our life experiences, our self-knowledge, all that has become most meaningful, and turn these decades into a time to blossom in new and deeper ways.

At a certain point in my life, I intuitively moved into preparing for my Third Age. I realized that I had expended a lot of energy adapting to a corporate life. It became necessary for me to unravel that thinking, to detox from that mindset and learn to open myself up to those things that would feed me on a soul level. I began to declare and explore how I wanted my life to look. (I will retire at 55 and do something with writing, I said out loud, without any idea of what that would look like.) What began instinctively (or maybe out of desperation) became a journey of awareness, curiosity, trusting, and discovery. It’s also been a time of trial and error, with each round strengthening skills and self-awareness and bringing me closer to who I am at my deepest level. Chipping away the old, revealing the new. It continues and, I hope, will continue for many more years.

I would never have gotten this far, however, if I had not begun the journey, if I hadn’t heeded the quiet voice inside me. That inner wisdom suggested that there might be a way to live differently, appreciate life in new ways. Without this I might have missed out on the feeling of joy I now experience each day. I would have been staring at walls instead of seeing possibilities.

My Third Age is evolving in new and exciting ways. What would it make feel the same for you?

Some people need a nudge, some a guide. Some just need a witness. What do you need as you navigate your Third Age?

On Being and Beaning

“Stop a minute, right where you are. Relax your shoulders, shake your head and spine like a dog shaking off cold water. Tell that imperious voice in your head to be still.”

~ Barbara Kingsolver

Just be.

Oh, boy. That’s a hard one for me. How about you?

When I was first confronted with the challenge of “just being” I was very apprehensive. I was going off on a weekend retreat at the beach with two writing buddies. We were going to write and be quiet and “just be.”

“I don’t know if I can do that”, I told my friends. “It feels really hard to not be doing.” A weekend that should have been the ultimate in relaxation was becoming fraught with anxiety.

Being, Beaning, Beaners

They indulged me. You see, they were a lot further along in their being-ness. An ad for a local coffee shop lightened things up by inspiring the alternative of just “beaning”. That, in turn, christened us “Beaners.” Ahh, okay, much easier. I could work with that.

Years later we continue to riff on that moniker and have fun with it. I, in turn, am much more in tune with the need to “just be”. I’m not great at it, but my anxiety has almost disappeared.

The Myth of Productivity

My discomfort stemmed from a belief that I needed to be productive. Constantly. I know how unrealistic this is. At least my head does. However, somewhere in my vast unconscious, this idea has taken up residence and thrived.

I have also come to understand that my idea of productivity might be a little skewed. Multitasking and buzzing around is not always the best use of my time. Ping-ponging between different to-dos in different categories leaves me exhausted and feeling that I’ve haven’t gotten enough done. I have given this mistaken belief of how to be productive its eviction notice.

That space is now occupied by the gentle understanding that being on a walk or being with a thought or being fully with my husband or family gifts me with spaciousness. Ideas arrive, as if on wings. Thoughts are completed. The creative process flows with ease. That is a style of productivity that, while initially counter-intuitive to me, is much more desirable.

I love this quote by Kafka:

“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” – Franz Kafka

What would you have “rolling in ecstasy at your feet?”

“Do not even listen”, he advises. He, too, is saying ignore the imperious voice. When we do that we move out of our head and into our bodies.

How can I do this, you ask, in this fast-paced crazy world we live in? I don’t have time to just sit and wait.

I hear ya!

Here is what I have discovered:
  • Just being aware of the fact that it was difficult to sit quietly and be still created a shift for me. I was no longer on auto-pilot. I realized that there could be a different way of being.
  • Daydreaming is productive. Who knew! What I like to call wool-gathering was actually a moment of quiet discovery. I began to notice where I was going. The next time you find yourself staring into that mid-distance, allow it. At the same time, be curious about what’s going through your mind. Listen. (Apologies to Kafka)
  • Just 3 minutes of meditation is super beneficial. Just one example of the benefits: I had never quite grasped just how impatient I was. Meditation showed me. It also lowered it. When I return to meditation after a lapse, I see it again. I know now that it will dissipate. And, yes, 3 minutes is a reasonable way to start. How long does it take a kettle to boil or a pot of coffee to brew? There you go!
  • Practicing quiet opens up a portal from which my inner wisdom flows. Now, if you’re anything like me, your head is a veritable circus. Sometimes, it’s a great place to be with thoughts and ideas careening about. But, that’s not where our true wisdom resides. It lives in the space between the thoughts. For that we need quiet.
  • Finally, I have found that curiosity is an important quality. While that might put us back into our heads, it carries no judgement. It provides an opening to what your true self needs at that moment.
And, here’s the challenge:

Where can you claim small moments of just being?

Can you tell that imperious voice in your head to be quiet? Over and over again?

How would it feel to accept without judgement the offerings of world? Be curious about what shows up? Watch them “roll in ecstasy at your feet”?

All of this has a story to tell you. Is it the one you want to carry forward??

3 Things You Can Expect from a Coaching Call

First of all, there are lots more than these three but let’s start here. Let’s pull back the curtain and take any mystery away. And, yes, I am a creativity coach but don’t get hung up on the “creativity” part. It doesn’t mean you need to be working on something in the arts. It means you will tap into your creativity – yes, you are a creative soul – and use creative thinking and creative tools to get where you want to go. The creativity part is not as much about your goal in coaching as it is about how you will get there.

And, we will do all this in a rich space that is confidential, safe and accepting.

So, where do we start?

First, I ask a lot of questions.

Especially in the beginning. I ask you what brings you to coaching. People hire a coach to help them reach a goal. That goal can be a myriad of things. For my clients, it usually focuses on figuring out who you’ll be in the second half of life; wanting more joy in life; wanting to find “you 2.0”; looking to get back some of who you used to be and yes, it could be that there’s a book inside you screaming to get out or you’re not getting to your ______ (you fill in the blank).

I ask you what gets in the way. Often, it’s those old gremlins of procrastination, fear, self-sabotage, feeling overwhelmed or not enough time. Sometimes it may just be that you need the catalyst of coaching: the accountability, the appointment, the saying it out loud to someone else. Getting your dreams out of your head and into the world can be a gigantic jump start!

Second, you talk, I listen.

My ears are scrunched. I listen very hard to hear what you’re saying and what might be between the lines. After reflecting back what I’m hearing, I ask you to tell me more. One of my goals is that you feel heard and witnessed because sometimes a coaching session is the only place this will happen for you.  Listening might prompt some more questions and I will continue to listen. All of this gives you an opportunity to claim a dream, to begin to articulate your ideas and, thereby, see them become more tangible.

I don’t tell you what to do. The best solutions come from you. Those are the solutions that are the most resonant and make the most sense for you. In that way, they become much more do-able. I’m the one holding the light so you can see them.

Third, I get you to your next small step.

Part of my role as your coach is to familiarize you with the philosophy of Kaizen. We will work with small steps, small questions, small thoughts and small rewards. This builds sustainable momentum while engaging the thinking part of the brain as opposed to expecting big steps that engage the fight or flight response and get us nowhere. We don’t stop at a small step; the small step gives us a success moment that makes us feel like continuing. Which we do. One small step at a time.

A small step could look like asking yourself a small question over the next few days and seeing what comes to mind. It could be five minutes (or even 1 minute) of doing something you’ve been wanting to do. If, after five minutes, you want to continue, great! If not, you’ve kept your commitment, done what you said you would do and that’s success.

What if you don’t get to your small step?

Having said all that, a really important part of my coaching is that if you don’t get to your small step, I still want you to show up next time. The step may not have been small enough. It may not have been the best step. Come back and we’ll explore it and tweak it. Or you may have made a creative detour which is normal and very okay. Sometimes you’ve done many other things for which you need to give yourself credit. We’ll do that, too.

(All first-time clients who sign up for the minimum of 4 coaching sessions receive a gift of the book One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way by Dr. Robert Maurer, Ph.D.)

Onward!

As we move forward, I will continue to listen intently and ask you more questions. You will sense the next best step for you. And, step by step, you’ll move toward your goal with joy and wonder and ease.

Would you like to experience a coaching call and see what it would be like for you? Contact me to schedule a 30 minute discovery call. No cost, no pressure, no obligation. Just a gentle exploration of how your creative juices can be a source of fuel for the next leg of your journey.

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