Bringing Your Gifts to the World

It is our duty as men and women to proceed as though the limits of our abilities do not exist. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

I just watched the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions for this year. The most surprising was Joan Baez, Folk music icon from the 1960s whose career began in coffeehouses in Cambridge Massachusetts where her extraordinary voice quickly launched her to prominence. She sang Bob Dylan’s early songs helping give him an audience. He thought her voice stunning.

In her acceptance of the award Baez said early on she realized that the uniqueness of her voice was a gift from Spirit and that she was responsible for using it. With the heart of a social activist and at the behest of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr she brought her voice to the civil rights movement.

We all have gifts, some may be obvious and some may catch us by surprise. Just out of college I got a job teaching environmental education for Yosemite Institute. Much to my amazement it turned out I had a real gift for teaching, something that has enriched my life in countless ways and followed me through different interests over the years.

I have also followed the threads of my creative gifts as a writer and photographer which have brought a real sense of joy and expansion to my life. Anytime we embrace our gifts we feel more alive and find ourselves capable of more than we thought possible. We are also able to touch and influence others in ways that we may never know.

Jackson Browne who inducted Baez said that when he as 14 the first album he ever bought with his own money was Baez’s second album. As he listened to her ethereal voice he realized that so much could be drawn from voice and acoustic guitar. This became the foundation of his own musical career.

One of the things I really love about working as a creativity coach is watching people come alive to their gifts and the enthusiasm for life it brings. Take a moment and think of the gifts that you already bring to the world. Are there any gifts that you would like to further develop. One small step a day will carry you in that direction. I tell my clients to start with ten minutes a day on any new activity. This limits the resistance we tend to feel whenever we do something new or expand on something we are already working with.

The world needs our gifts now more than ever. How can we each bring forward our gifts to take care of ourselves, each other and the world in these challenging times. Focusing on our gifts and the beauty and love we bring to expressing them can help change the world.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free monthly newsletter and I’ll send you a copy of my ebooklet Setting Your Creativity Free. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on your left and enter your email. Thanks.

Creating with All Your Heart

If I create from the heart, nearly everything works; if from the head, almost nothing. – Marc Chagall

Love is a sacred reserve of energy; it is like the blood of spiritual evolution. – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

I recently saw a short film tribute to Chuck Berry, the undisputed father of rock and roll, with comments from John Lennon of the Beatles and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones both saying how much they admired Berry and tried to emulate his guitar work. Berry himself said that his secret was that he felt the music. Berry played with all his heart.

In my own creative work, especially with my writing, I have long been aware of the importance of connecting to the heart; both in the context of finding subjects and themes that make our hearts sing but also creating from the feeling place of the heart, from what we love and care about.

As Robert Frost said, “No tears for the writer, no tears for the reader.” I always know that if I am moved in my own heart by a piece of my writing then it will genuinely touch other people.

For whatever you want to create, imagine dropping down into your heart and drawing on that feeling place for your inspiration and guidance. One of my clients envisions a wooden staircase leading from her mind to her heart and sees herself walking down them and when she reaches the bottom she immediately feels the clarity and expansiveness her heart has to offer.

Centering in our heart gives us access to our connection to all of creation which inspires and informs the highest expression of our creative self. It allows us to live and create from the place of expanded possibilities.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free monthly newsletter and I’ll send you a copy of my ebooklet Setting Your Creativity Free. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on your left and enter your email. Thanks.

How Ireland Supports Creativity

I’m in the West of Ireland where in a few days I will meet a small group of travelers as we explore the music, myths, magic and mystery of the place, the people and the culture.

I am always struck for the support for the arts in Ireland and just discovered a poetry walking tour in Galway City that honors a couple of dozen prominent Irish poets.

One of my favorite stories about the support for creativity in Ireland comes from an experience I had in the village of Doolin, County Clare which has been the epicenter for Celtic music revival in Ireland. Some of the best musicians in the country live there and play in the pubs.

One evening I went up to McGann’s pub to listen in. At one point a young boy about ten years old joined the group with his tin whistle. I learned that his parents brought him now and then, a two hour drive from their home, to encourage his desire to make music.

As he began to play the entire pub went quiet and as he continued one of the experienced musicians picked up his own tin whistle to support the lad through the places he couldn’t quite carry the notes on his own. At the end of the song the entire pub erupted into wild applause.

What if we all got that kind of support for our creative urges? What difference would it make? In Ireland with this kind of encouragement people come together in pubs all over the country to make music. It is a vibrant part of the culture. Three years after first hearing the boy with the tin whistle I was back in Doolin in a different pub and the same boy stepped up to play with a great deal more skill than before.

It’s not just music that is supported. In Ireland up until recently writers didn’t pay income tax and still artists don’t pay tax on what they make on the sale of their work. This honoring of the writers and poets has produced per capita more Nobel prize winning writers than any other country. With a population of 4 million, Ireland claims four Nobel laureates in literature along with a number of other writers of great stature.

How can we find ways to support our children, our grandchildren and ourselves in this vital part of being human. How can we honor the creative gifts that each of us hold in our own way and the world so deeply needs now. 

What if it was as simple as a willingness to open up and play with however the creative process calls to us. Can we honor these creative yearnings and find community that supports our explorations. What would this look like for you? How would it feel?

Can you sense of joy fluttering in your heart at your willingness to play and create for no reason and see where the process leads. That will help you unplug from the pressure of feeling like you have to produce something. Rather being creative feeds our spirit and inspiration and support can show up for us in wonderful ways.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free monthly newsletter and I’ll send you a copy of my ebooklet Setting Your Creativity Free. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on your left and enter your email. Thanks.

Why Is Relaxing So Important, How Does Creativity Help

We all know that relaxation makes us and our bodies feel good whereas stress causes us to tense up and feel less that optimum. New scientific research shows just how important relaxing our bodies and minds is.

The emerging science of epigenetics shows that our genetic expression is not permanently fixed at birth, but actually evolves as we grow and learn. Environmental factors including nutrition, stress and our emotional responses can effect how our genes express themselves without changing the basic blueprint of our DNA. the genetic material in our cells.

When we are stressed our genes produce hormones associated with fight or flight like adrenalin and cortisol that are associated with aging and making us more susceptible to disease. When we are relaxed and feeling good our genes produce chemistry that boosts our immune system and helps with cellular repair and growth. 

A study looking at mindfulness practices like meditation, yoga, breath work, and other relaxation techniques, showed that we can actually “turn on” disease-preventing genes “turn-off” disease-causing genes through relaxing. Research on the energy psychology modality EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques), an easy to use self help strategy that combines western psychology with Chinese acupressure, found that an hour session of EFT lowered cortisol levels by 24 percent.

I’d like to add creativity to ways we can relax as well as develop more of our potential. Creativity is really a form of mindfulness since it puts us in the flow of the moment and feels good. Adult coloring books have been shown to reduce stress. I like doodling or free writing where you just let the words flow out of the the pen with no thought to what you are writing. Bringing play to whatever process you are working with and letting go of attachment to outcome is important.

Stress so often stems from the fact that our mind has leapt ahead with worry about the future or is chewing over something that happened in the past. When we do things that bring us into the moment we naturally relax. Find what works for you. Play with it and see if you don’t feel better.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free monthly newsletter and I’ll send you a copy of my ebooklet Setting Your Creativity Free. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on your left and enter your email. Thanks.

Nature the Greatest Inspiration

Among my favorite nature writers are Thomas Hardy and John Steinbeck. Best known as literary giants, they brought an extraordinary sense of the natural world to their work. In the first chapter of Hardy’s Return of the Native no humans are introduced. Rather, a place, Egdon Heath takes center stage in all its wonder and personality.

Nature is really the greatest source of inspiration for creativity and innovation. The original artist and inventor has mentored so many. Writers, poets, painters, photographers, dancers, musicians and gardeners among them.

Even new heating and air conditioning systems have drawn from the design of termite towers that maintain a steady 86 degrees F year round. The cells in our body act very much like the semiconductor chips in our computer.

Consider all the ways nature has already inspired you and your life. The beauty and peace she holds for our world. The way she can nurture our creative yearnings.

April 22, 2017 marks the forty-seventh Earth Day, an event that sprang out of the environmental movement in 1970. Now more that ever the earth needs our help. How can we celebrate her. How creative can we be in our support. How can we give back.

This year on that day, for those of you in the San Francisco Bay Area, I am offering a one day workshop Writing and Creating in Nature, http://creativitygoeswild.com/writing-in-nature/, where we play with our creative potential letting nature be our guide, and take home tools to add to our own creative explorations and expand our capacity for innovation.

For those of you not able to attend, begin thinking about how will you engage nature on that day and everyday beyond. Irish poet and philosopher, John O’Donohue talks about how in the Irish language there are words for when you love a place it loves you back. I have certainly felt this. One way we all can express our love for nature is through our creativity. Then open up to the sense that she is indeed there to inspire and love us back.

How Is Surrender Essential to Being Creative?

We can’t force creativity. We know this intuitively. If we told a painter that we wanted a masterpiece by five o’clock tomorrow, they would look at us like we were crazy, that we clearly didn’t understand what being creative was all about.

An important part of being creative is learning to surrender to the flow of the universe, allowing something greater than our everyday self to move through us. It’s not something we can figure out with our linear mind.

Of course, if we want to paint we need to learn how to work with our chosen medium and studying the work of the masters can help. If we want to write it’s really valuable to read widely and deeply, to show up daily to put pen to paper and perhaps take a workshop on the form we want to work with.

Yet at the heart of being creative is letting go and allowing the ideas, the inspiration to move through us. This is where practice comes in. As Flannery O’Connor said of her writing experience, “I show up at my office everyday between 8 am and noon. I’m not sure that anything is going to happen but I want to be there if it does.”

I recently sat next to a young man in Starbucks who had a set of watercolors laid out and quickly produced a couple of small paintings that were quite lovely. We spoke of creativity and how so many people think you either have it or you don’t. “Yeah,” he said, “really it’s a muscle, you’ve got to use.” He went on to say “No mater how lousy I feel, if I do even a couple of little paintings I instantly feel better.”

I feel the same way about writing, even if it’s just a page of free writing where I let the words flow out of the pen. Being creative feels good and lightens our mood because we become more present to the moment, quiet our chattering minds, and allow for the awareness of our heart and knowing to do the work. In the surrender we find ourselves in an expanded state of consciousness were we can do things we didn’t think we could.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free monthly newsletter and I’ll send you a copy of my ebooklet Setting Your Creativity Free. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on your left and enter your email. Thanks.

How Can Nature Help Us?

Nature is not what you think! … She has a soul, she has freedom, she has love, and she can speak. – Fyodor Tyuchev

In challenging times such as these, nature can be a great source of solace and support. Simply being in nature slows down our brain waves from everyday busy beta waves to the meditative state of alpha waves where we actually have increased access to higher brain function and can make better more creative decisions.

Beyond that, nature feels good. Nature allows us to be part of a bigger world, to sense the Oneness of all beings. As Irish poet and philosopher John O’Donohue said, “Part of the reason we are so lonesome in our modern world is that we have lost the sense of belonging to the earth.”  Reclaiming our connection can help us feel more peaceful and whole. 

With deep ties to nature going back to childhood, I know what a source of inspiration it can be. In recent years I have felt a growing awareness of the consciousness present in the trees, the animals, the rocks and how they long for us to awaken to their presence and support. I feel the healing energy when I sit with my back against a tree and animals come to me in ways that feel magical as if delivering a message from the universe.

Play with this yourself. You don’t have to go to wilderness. Your backyard or city park will do just fine. Open your awareness to what gifts nature wants to bring to you. 

Here’s a favorite poem by Wendell Berry that can help you capture the spirit of what nature offers at this time.

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Wendell Berry

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free monthly newsletter and I’ll send you a copy of my ebooklet Setting Your Creativity Free. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on your left and enter your email. Thanks.

Creating the World from Love

You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the old model obsolete. R. Buckminster Fuller

I am a citizen of a country that does not yet exist. Dr. Vincent Harding

I suspect most of us are feeling challenged by the large scale of change taking place in America and around the world. Those very challenges offer us an opportunity to get clearer on what is not working in our lives and the world and focus on what we really want from the place of our heart and soul. We have the chance to became more aligned with the inner power of who we really are.

Rather than acting from resistance, we can stand for and create what we do want from a place of unity and strength. At the heart of every transformative moment, no matter how chaotic, there is an opportunity to grow and expand. In opening up to the new possibilities we find that we are far from helpless in the face of the changes.

We may feel uncomfortable, perhaps even frightened by what we see in the world or the uncertainty in our own lives. Yet if we honor those feelings we can become aware of the presence of a deeper sense of self and the peace that holds. Remember to keep breathing and relaxing through the feelings that arise.

Ask yourself what new possibilities do I want to create in my life and the world.? What contribution can I be at this pivotal time in human history? What brings me the greatest happiness and joy? What gift can I bring forward that no one else can? Open to the answers that come as an intuition, a chance encounter or a creative inspiration. Now is the time to begin to create a world from the light and love in our hearts and the miracles that can come from that place.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free monthly newsletter and I’ll send you a copy of my ebooklet Setting Your Creativity Free. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on your left and enter your email. Thanks.

Are You Adrift in a Sea of Distractions?

I started writing before the development of the personal computer, when cut and paste meant I was down on the floor with a pair of scissors and a jar of that thick white glue that smelled vaguely of peppermint. It was in many ways a simpler time with far less pulling on my attention.

Every morning upon rising I would make my single cup of French roast coffee, dripped through a Melitta, and then sit down to write. There weren’t any thoughts like I’ve got to check my email or Twitter feed to interfere with putting words on the page.

If I needed to do research, I went to the library, the sacred hall of actual books. I would flip through the cards in the small wooden drawers of the card catalog to find the book I needed, check it out and carry it home.

Now I love my laptop. It make revision including cut and paste so much easier. It connects me to a larger world. I can Skype my friend in Australia and feel like I’m sitting in her living room talking. I can connect to the web to find wealth of information I need for my work.

Yet lately I’ve been thinking about the issue of distractions. The fast pace of our times pulls us in so many different directions at the same time. We can lose ourselves in the swarm of emails, the compulsion to engage social media, surf the web or check the notifications coming in on our phones. 

I’m not suggesting that we need to give those things up. Rather what if we brought more awareness to what we really want to be doing with our time in each moment. What is we asked ourself the question “What would bring me the most happiness and joy right now.”  If the answer is to post something on Facebook, great.

Bringing consciousness to our lives on a regular basis helps us chose the activity that feeds us and helps us create more of what we really want in our lives. Asking “what would bring me the most happiness at this time, can help us overcome procrastination and the distractions that can get in the way of our creating.

When I asked myself that question this morning I got that I wanted to write a blog about distractions. Writing is one of the things that always brings me a satisfaction as I tend to be more present and lose myself in flow.

What does this for you. Start being more mindful of what really brings you happiness. Maybe set an alarm on your phone to go off every hour to remind yourself to stop and ask the question and be more conscious of your choices. Play with it. See what shifts for you.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free monthly newsletter and I’ll send you a copy of my ebooklet Setting Your Creativity Free. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on your left and enter your email. Thanks.

Creating Your Best Year Ever

Amid what seems like a world gone mad, can you relax, take a deep breath and consider the possibility that all that is happening around us, that seems so disturbing, is really an opportunity for so many to awaken to the divine spark within each of us. The place that holds the light and the creative solutions our world so very much needs.

This, I suspect, is what Albert Einstein meant when he said that the problems we face won’t be solved by the same level of thinking that created them. We need instead to approach the monumental challenges we face in our lives and the world from the level of our heart, soul and spirit. We need to work with our creative imagination which is really our hotline to the divine. From here we can respond to situations from a place of love that we are rather than the grip of fear that events can trigger.

The start of a new year fully invites us to consider new possibilities. Like the blank slate, the blank page, the blank canvas of our lives we can ask what do we want to create for ourselves and the world. We have the opportunity to let go of the idea that what has happened yesterday determines our today. We can break out of our habit patterns that feel safe, if not satisfying, and open to a sense of wonder at what we could choose to create. One way to get started is to practice being more present in each moment. Release regrets that keep us stuck in the past and let go of our worries that launch us into a future that doesn’t exist. The Now moment is really the place of creation where miracles can occur. It is also a place of real peace. To spend time in the present we have to let go of relying on our minds and the urge to try and figure everything out.

When we focus on the moment we more readily find ourselves in the flow of the universe. As we relax and allow the answers and solutions will come in wondrous ways. A flash of inspiration, an unexpected gift or a chance meeting with someone who can help us. We learn to tap the deep intelligence of our heart that speaks to us in the form of intuition, that felt sense of what to do now, now and now. We follow it like a breadcrumb trail home to our true selves and the inspired life that helps heal our world.

We may need to heal the repressed feelings and emotions that we hold in our bodies and energy fields that can cloud our clarity and keep us from easily accessing these deeper ways of knowing. Yet the development over the past twenty years of many different energy psychologies like EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques), that I have had such wonderful success with, make this emotional housecleaning so much easier and graceful, allowing us to open to more of who we really are and step out of our comfort zone to create the new.

Everywhere I go I meet people tapping into their creative impulses and their spiritual spark to help build a new world, in small and large ways, from this inspired place. This is the great possibility of 2017. What if as you live more from your heart and knowing and use your creative imagination this new year can be your best year ever? What new you are you now ready to be and embrace.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free monthly newsletter and I’ll send you a copy of my ebooklet Setting Your Creativity Free. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on your left and enter your email. Thanks.

The Invisible That Supports the Visible

I just listened to an interview with the late Irish poet John O’Donohue where he tells a wonderful story from Africa that he got from poet Robert Bly’s book The Soul Is Here For It’s Own Joy. As it goes, there is a man with a herd of cows who notices that they are not giving as much milk as usual. So he stays up one night to see if anyone is coming to steal the milk. As he kept watch, he noticed a star overhead and then a beam of light shining down to the ground from which a beautiful woman emerged. The man asked her “are you the one stealing my milk?” “Yes” she answered, “my sisters and I just love your milk.” The man then said “you are so beautiful will you stay and marry me.” She said “yes on one condition, I’ll be bring a basket with me that you can never open.” He agreed and for six months they are very happy.

Then one day when he was alone in the house, he thought since they were married and it was his house he should be able to see what was in the basket. He opened it and then started dancing around the house whooping and saying there’s nothing there. His wife, from down in the fields, heard the commotion and came up to the house. She saw her husband waves his arms around proclaiming, there’s nothing there. She told him, I have to leave now. He says please don’t go. She responds the basket contained spirit. The problem with you humans is that you think spirit is nothing, that it’s not real, and then she was gone.

In the modern world especially the West we tend to believe in only what we can experience with our five senses and what we can measure and understand with our mind. One of the things I love about Ireland is the implicit support for the invisible realms. There is a sense that the ancestors haven’t gone far at all and are available for help. To the Celts nature and the earth was a great presence and source of support. They also believed that the visible was only one little edge of things, like the shore is to the ocean. Old time fiddlers are said to have gotten a tune or two from the faeries.

When we rely solely on our thinking mind we cut ourselves off from all the ways the universe might support us. We have a hard time listening to our heart and hearing our intuition which connects us to expanded awareness and ways of knowing. Creativity comes to us as a gift from beyond the mind. If we trust that invisible forces are there to help if only we would relax and receive then magic and miracles can unfold in our lives

What can we do to celebrate the presence of Spirit and invite it into our lives. How about writing a poem or a prayer. Or dance it. Sing it. Cook it. Bake it. Build it. Grow it. Or we can use our imagination to have a conversation with our ancestors, an angel, our favorite writer asking for advice. What beauty and wonder can we create in our lives and the world from this source of inspiration.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free monthly newsletter and I’ll send you a copy of my ebooklet Setting Your Creativity Free. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on your left and enter your email. Thanks.

Dancing with the Unknown

river-flow-sunsetThe scope of change we are experiencing in the world, especially the recent election in the United States, has us feeling as if we are sailing uncharted waters. A large number of the Americans said no to the old ways of doing business. Yet it’s not clear what people are for and what exactly they think the new should look like.

This can leave us feeling rattled especially if we are uncomfortable stepping into the unknown. Yet the unknown is really the only place of any new creation. How do we work with it without feeling overwhelmed by our fear of uncertainty? Trusting that something larger than our everyday selves is available to support and guide us is essential. Creativity, our ability to come us with new ideas and solutions in every area, is impossible without a willingness to be open and surrender to the inspiration that wants to come through us.

Creativity is all about working with the unknown. Whenever I start a piece of writing I rarely have more than a vague idea of where to even begin. Yet as I show up inspiration arrives to guide me as I go. I may ask a creative question, like what is this newsletter about, then let it go. This month the words dancing with the unknown popped into my mind and I could feel the importance of the subject at this time. As I sat down to write it came to me in pieces that I could weave together from my intuitive knowing. That’s how we can create anything, even our lives and our world.

Visionary creative Jan Phillips suggests “once we begin to see ourselves as creators of our lives, we can start to see ourselves as makers of the culture. And from there, we can weave our personal hopes and commitments into the social fabric around us . . . No political leader has the power to override or diminish the public imagination.”

We often resist playing with our imagination and opening to create new possibilities because some part of us considers the unknown to be unsafe. We can experience a physical sense of discomfort in our body that can keep us from even trying something new.

Try this: Close your eyes and take a few slow deep breaths relaxing your body on the exhale. Relaxing your body can make it easier to access your imagination. See your mind a blank slate as you continue to breathe. Focusing internally in a meditative way actually slows our brain waves down from everyday beta waves of the analytical mind to alpha waves of the intuitive mind. This doesn’t need to take a lot of time. In ten minutes we can feel more peaceful, centered and open to our creative imagination and the flow of new ideas and new stories for our lives and our world.

When we get a new idea that feels inspired we can act on it. Step by step we can create new ways of being in the world and navigate these uncertain times with grace and empowerment seeing the changes as an opportunity.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free monthly newsletter and I’ll send you a copy of my ebooklet Setting Your Creativity Free. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on your left and enter your email. Thanks.

“We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For”

A friend recently commented on how much power the entire world has invested in the presidency of the United States. On some basic level we perhaps are hoping that he alone can make the world a better place, that he can somehow save us. President Obama tried to point us in a different direction at the start of his first term when he insisted he couldn’t do it alone and he suggested that every American was needed to build the new world from the ground up rather than government doing it from the top down. He struck a chord when he used the line “we are the ones we have been waiting for.”

It’s a great line, but it didn’t originate with Obama. While it’s been attributed to a Hopi Indian prophecy, according to pulitzer prize winning writer Alice Walker who has used the phrase as the title for one of her books, “It was poet June Jordan who wrote “We are the ones we have been waiting for.” Sweet Honey in the Rock turned those words into a song.” Walker goes on to say “Hearing this song, I have witnessed thousands of people rise to their feet in joyful recognition and affirmation.”

We can feel the empowerment and freedom in knowing that we don’t need to wait for anyone. Each of us can step forward to be the gift we truly are, to find small and large way to make the world a better place for all. The truth is people are already doing this. Everywhere I go I meet talented, creative people, actively engaged at a grassroots level, making a positive difference. You just don’t hear about them on the nightly news.

Recently I read about a man, a native of Syria living for more than twenty five years in Finland who five years ago made a commitment to help Syrian children in whatever way he could. He has gained the name The Toy Smuggler of Aleppo for his effort to supply toys to Syrian children in the refugee camps and in his war racked homeland. He started out using his own savings. He set up a GoFundMe campaign to buy supplies and help build schools away from the bombed areas in Syria. One man making a big difference.

“We are the ones we have been waiting for.” We are the ones. How can we get creative in our lives, our communities and our world? Creativity is really the key. Looking at the world from a sense of infinite possibilities and asking what difference do we want make, what difference do we want to be? Ask that question and then let the inspiration find you. Take a tiny step in that direction. Breathe through any resistance. Let your heart lead you and see if support doesn’t show up in surprising ways.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free monthly newsletter and I’ll send you a copy of my ebooklet Setting Your Creativity Free. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on your left and enter your email. Thanks.

Creativity Comes From Beyond the Mind

spinner-dolphinsAll the things that truly matter – beauty, love , creativity, joy, inner peace – arise from beyond the mind. – Eckhart Tolle

Once years ago when someone asked me what we did in my writing workshop I laughingly responded, “I’ll teach you to lose your mind”. I was delighted when they signed up on the spot. One of the reasons most people don’t think they are creative is that the mind doesn’t understand how creativity works.

I remember early in my writing life when one of my personal essays won a significant award, including a grant to support my work, I went into a bit of a panic because I wasn’t completely sure how I had written the piece. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to do it again and they would find out I was a fraud.

As I continued to write I realized that I had actually been practicing the craft of writing for years by showing up to write at least a page of some kind everyday, reading the kind of writing I drawn to write, playing with revision and evolving my own voice and style all from the place of the intuitive mind. I had a felt sense of how a piece wanted to come together and just keep playing with the weaving of words.

I eventually understood that this was how the creative process worked. If I kept showing up the inspiration would continue to meet me and I would have a sense of what to do with it. I also learned that not everything I started wanted to be finished. Sometimes it was part of the learning process that took me to the next step or the next level.

With more than twenty years experience of teaching the writing process and working as a creativity coach, I’ve seen the importance of actually giving people the experience of being creative. Helping them move beyond the mind so that they learn to let go and allow their hearts and the fires of imagination take them into the creative flow. That’s where the joy is, which provides the motivation to keep going. We discover that the act of being creative is it’s own reward.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free monthly newsletter and I’ll send you a copy of my ebooklet Setting Your Creativity Free. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on your left and enter your email. Thanks.

Chaos As An Invitation to Creativity

butterfly-2Creativity is bound up in our ability to find new ways around old problems. – Martin Seligman

What if the chaos we experience in the world today and in our lives is actually an invitation to let go of the old ways and create something new. What if in letting go in the face of fear of the unknown we actually make room for the new to enter. Often when we give up trying we find a sort of magic can bring unexpected opportunities beyond what we thought possible.

We tend to resist chaos. We associate it with war or natural disasters or with the unraveling of the structures that we have always thought of as solid. We cling to what feels comfortable. Chaos can rattle our bodies and emotions leaving us feeling overwhelmed. It can trigger a reaction of fight or flight which puts us in our reptilian brain which is incapable of creative problem solving.

What we call chaos can actually be part of the process of creativity and renewal. Look at nature. Fire recycles nutrients and restores certain species of trees like Lodgepole Pine that require the heat to release seeds from their cones. Immediately after a fire nature gets to work restoring a new kind of order.

In her book Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature, Janine Benyus explains, “The new sciences of chaos and complexity tell us that a system that is far from stable is a system ripe for change. Evolution itself is believed to have occurred in fits and starts, plateauing for millions of years and then leaping to a whole new level of creativity after crisis.”

Then there is the chaos in our individual lives. We lose our job, a relationship ends, we are diagnosed with an illness or a loved one dies. Such changes can leave us feeling disappointed or sometimes even devastated. Yet often out of such chaos it’s possible that we get a better job, we met the love of our life, we develop increased kindness and compassion or we deepen our spiritual life.

Allowing for chaos can open up new doors. I know a woman whose house burned down. At the time she didn’t see it as a gift. Yet a year later she is living in the house of her dreams paid for by her insurance. She is laughing as she tells me it’s the best thing that ever happened to her. In my own life it was the disturbing loss of job that prompted me to become self employed combining my love of writing, creativity and nature.

Chaos is at the heart of being creative. Creativity begins from a place of swirling possibilities. It can be messy. On the creative journey we often feel like we don’t know what we’re doing or where exactly it’s going. Yet as we take it step by step following the threads of intuition and inspiration, and showing up for the work we are guided to do, we discover the process itself to be deeply rewarding and satisfying.

We find that we are okay when something doesn’t work out the way we want. We let go of wanting to control everything and learn to let ourselves be surprised by what unfolds. We let ourselves be like a child with finger paints, who isn’t the least bit concerned about the mess. We learn to trust something greater than ourselves is working on our behalf.

By bringing creativity into every area of our live it can help us transcend the chaos by reordering the world and our lives in new and inspired ways. Take a minute consider a place in your life that feel chaotic and ask “what newness wants to be born in my life?” Don’t think about it, just allow an idea to pop in, follow your heart. Then see what one small act that you can take to start creating from this inspiration. What if we could help change the world that way?

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free monthly newsletter and I’ll send you a copy of my ebooklet Setting Your Creativity Free. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on your left and enter your email. Thanks.

The Profound Beauty of John O’Donohue

ireland-valley-sligoWe can slip into the Beautiful with the same ease as we slip into the seamless embrace of water; something ancient within us already trusts that this embrace will hold us. – John O’Donohue

Beauty brings us alive. As we focus our attention on the beautiful we are immersed in the here and now. Whether as music or poetry or a dramatic sunset or the scent of a rose, or the aspen in autumn turning the hillside gold, beauty touches us at our core asking us to be fully present.

Irish poet and philosopher John O’Donohue (1956 to 2008), called engaging with beauty “a homecoming of the human spirit.” I love all his writings, yet his book Beauty: The Invisible Embrace holds the deepest resonance for me. In it he invites us to open our senses and our hearts and souls to a celebration of beauty.

I was born and raised in San Francisco within sight of the Golden Gate. The natural beauty of the city itself, the rolling hills to the north and the turbulent waters of the straits, combined with a family appreciation for nature and the arts, must have worked their magic on me because beauty has always been important in my life and has certainly fed my creativity.

I love the way in Beauty, John lends a palpable presence to beauty. It’s something we can feel in our bodies and spirits as we stop to witness the brilliant reds of sunrise or a child’s smile or really listen to a Mozart concerto or Beatles tune. It does feel like an embrace; our soul seems to sigh as if fed by whatever we find beautiful. Cultivating an awareness of the beauty can also inspire and fuel our creativity.

Stopping to be aware of the beauty around us can become a sort of meditation. We can find it in the flower growing up through the cracks in the sidewalk or the trees turning red with fall outside our window. When we really notice it we experience as John so eloquently put it “something ancient within us already trusts that this embrace will hold us.”

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free monthly newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I send you a free ebooklet Setting Your Creativity Free.

William Butler Yeats – The Second Coming

stone cottage thatch irelandI saw an article in a recent Wall Street Journal about Nobel Prize winning poet William Butler Yeats’ poem The Second Coming. He wrote the poem in 1919 in the aftermath of World War I, when there was darkness and chaos in the world and concern for what the future held.

Apparently his words hold deep resonance for people today as we face uncertainty and global crises. Different lines from this poem are being quoted frequently in news media and on social media. Analysis of Factivia, a media database, shows that lines have been used in news sources more in the first seven months of 2016 than in any other year in the past three decades.

I have long loved this poem for the master word crafting that marked Yeats’ great gift. While it certainly captures the darkness and fear of chaos we face in our own times, for me the last two lines hint at the possibility of something new being born out of it all. It reminds me of the analogy of the caterpillar dissolving into a black ooze before something called imaginal cells reorganize the cells into the butterfly. That things need to “fall apart” in order to be restructured into something new and beautiful, that we are the imaginal cells of the world that can reorder the world.

Here’s the whole poem for you to consider.

THE SECOND COMING

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free monthly newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I send you a free ebooklet Setting Your Creativity Free.

Being Here Now and Paying Attention

Snowy OwlDecades ago I read Aldous Huxley’s novel Island set in a utopian society on a fictional island in the South Pacific. One image from the book has kept returning to me over the years as if nagging for my attention. There were mynah birds that flew around the island shouting out “here and now, attention.”

I was once walking through downtown San Francisco with a friend, who had also read the book, joking about standing on a street corner yelling, “here, now, pay attention”, when a flock of pigeons launched themselves at us, one sailing so close I could feel the wind of her wings on my face. It was as if they were agreeing. Einstein once said that “coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.”

This incident seemed to be reenforcing the importance of this idea for me. I keep coming back to this image or it to me because being present in the moment and paying attention are key to creativity and living an inspired life.

Most of us have very active minds that keep us riding repetitive loops of past events or future worries that may never happen. This keeps us everywhere but present and locked into a life that is less than we truly desire.

Yet when we are really present in the moment we open up space for expanded ways of knowing, where inspired ideas or solutions can find us. You can’t think up a great ideas or creative solution. You receive them from a place beyond the mind. This requires that we spend time simply being where we let go of trying to figure something out or make it happen.

Being present allows us to enjoy our lives more. We can savor each sip of our morning coffee. It can help us to really listen to our partner or child. It can help us access our heart’s knowing the truest guide for the best path to follow.

The two best tools I know that can help us be present and receptive are our breath and our ability to consciously relax our bodies. When we breath deeply and relax we naturally become more present to the creative impulses that live in us all. In these time of increased chaos in the world, this can also help us find an inner peace that allows us to weather the changes with more grace.

Try this: Set an alarm on your phone to go off each hour. Check in with your breathing and how relaxed you are. Then breathe more deeply and relax more fully. Take this moment to see if any new idea or creative inspiration wants your attention. Play with it and be open to what comes to you.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free monthly newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send you a pdf copy of my ebooklet Setting Your Creativity Free.

Connecting to Nature and Creativity Can Help in These Troubling Times

butterfly-swallowtailThe earth has music for those who listen. – George Santayana

Nature and creativity are doorways to the sacred. They can help us connect to the deeper parts of ourselves, the knowing of our hearts and souls. They can assist us in being more present in the moment and give us access to expanded capacities of intuition, inspiration and imagination. Connecting to the natural world, which is inherently creative, opens us to our own creative gifts, which allows us to bring forth new possibilities and solutions for our own lives and our troubled world.

The ongoing tragedies in the world combined with instant access to these events through the news and social media can leave us feeling helpless and hopeless. Our psyches and nervous systems overwhelmed.

Spending time in nature as well as creative play can be a balm for heart and soul and help us ground our lives in an expanded sense of self. They relax our body, bring us more into the moment where we can breathe more deeply and release our worry about the future. They can increase our sense of well being allowing us to connect to a sense of peace.

Here’s a bit of inspiration from Pulitzer Prize winning poet Mary Oliver from her poem Praying from her book Thirst. She explains how to connect to nature and creativity wherever your are and how the deeper threads of knowing can find you in the process.

It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak. . .

It doesn’t have to be a poem or even words. You can draw or doodle or dance or sing or cook what comes to you. The key is to reclaim your child-like sense of wonder where you are playing with creation free of any expectations. Relax and have fun. Who knows what inspiration might come.

If you enjoyed this article please subscribe to my free monthly newsletter. Just click on the mail list subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send you a copy of my eBooklet Setting Your Creativity Free.

Being Creative Satisfies Our Soul

When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy. ― Rumi

One of my all time favorite quotes on creativity comes from Irene Claremont de Castillejo who said “Nothing is more satisfying to the human soul than creating something new. . .” I love it because it feels so true: the kind of true you know in your bones, in your soul. It also widens the field on what creativity is including big and small acts of creation that satisfy us. We can play with a new dessert recipe, figure out a more efficient way to water our garden, or write a draft of a poem and feel the satisfaction of being creative.

I just spent a few days in Reno, Nevada where every July since 1996 has been devoted to Artown, a month long arts festival. I stumbled on one of the events while on a morning walk on the path along the Truckee River which flows through the middle of the city. Bordered by grass and shade trees it’s a lovely oasis in the high sagebrush desert. As I walked I noticed what appeared to be stone shapes of human figures either sitting up or lying down on the grass. Next to each sculpture was a hand written sign saying: Hobo Art, balanced rocks, do not touch, created by Reno Hobo Cyrus.

I was amazed that these wonderful works, that looked so life like, were made by balancing river rocks together. As I continued along the walk I noticed other pieces including ducks sitting on rocks, the way they do on the river. Then I came upon a table with a placard saying Hobo Art Walk with a donation box and a man emptying out a bucket of rocks.

He turned to me saying “Good morning”. I returned the greeting and asked “are you the creator?” “Yes ma’am” he answered. “They are wonderful” I exclaimed, as a smile grew on his face and a “thank you” escaped his lips. I looked more closely at his face framed by longish dark blond hair and a baseball cap, I could see the weathered lines suggesting a life lived rough. But what struck me was the sparkle and aliveness in his eyes.

As I continue walking the awareness came to me that aliveness is one of the great gifts of creativity. It doesn’t necessarily matter if anyone else likes what we do or even if it’s seen by the world. Whether writing a poem or an article for my blog or teaching a class or taking a photograph, for me working with the creative impulse is very much it’s own reward. It brings me more into the moment feeling the flow of the universe moving with me, which is deeply satisfying.

Hobo Cyrus in Reno reminded me of all the possible ways to be creative, that our willingness to play with an inspiration or develop our creative abilities can bring us more joy and aliveness. What creative urge would you like to start playing with? Ten minutes a day can get you moving down the path, following the flow of inspiration and bring more satisfaction.

If you enjoyed this article please subscribe to my free monthly newsletter. Just click on the mail list subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send you a copy of my eBooklet Setting Your Creativity Free.

Doing the Dishes Can Help Your Creativity?

creative flowerCreative thinking is not a talent, it is a skill that can be learnt. It empowers people by adding strength to their natural abilities which improves teamwork, productivity and where appropriate profits. – Edward de Bono

Everyone is creative. It is a natural gift we are all born with that we actually have to be schooled out of. Watch young children at play and see how they naturally use their imagination. Consider their willingness to draw outside the lines and the way they don’t judge what they are doing. They are just playing, having fun, trying different possibilities.

Play is a large part of what creativity is all about. Once we start playing with an idea or any creative form we then need to be open to the inspiration that will come through when our everyday mind is quiet or distracted by routine tasks like doing the dishes, driving our car, going for a walk, or taking a shower. At that point the bright idea or solution rises up out of the subconscious almost like something out of a dream and we need to write it down or intentionally remember it or like a dream image we will not be able to recall it later on.

One way to claim your creativity is to begin asking questions like “what would it take to solve this problem” and then don’t try to figure out the answer or solution with your rational mind. Rather let it go and then just notice the thoughts or ideas that pop into your head during the day. This can include the urge to turn on the radio where you hear a song or program that provides you with an ah. ha moment. Or you pull a book from the shelf and open it at random and a bookmark falls out with a quote that gives you another idea. Or we wake up in the middle of the night compelled to start writing. We are all different and creativity speaks to each of us in different ways. Part of being creative is learning what works best for you.

Another benefit from learning to work with your creativity is that we naturally experience a sense of joy and excitement since we are operating in an expanded state that feels really good. Start playing with this process and see for yourself.

If you enjoyed this article please subscribe to my free monthly newsletter. Just click on the mail list subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send you a copy of my eBooklet Setting Your Creativity Free.

Reclaiming a Sense of Enchantment

Find your wayFor a while now I’ve been interested in the idea of re-enchanting the world, returning to a sense of wonder and delight in the workings of the universe as more miraculous than we think or can capture with our linear minds. So recently while reading a book about the Celtic spirit, I was intrigued by the fact that the English word enchantment is often found in Celtic faery lore. It derives from the word chant with Latin origins meaning to sing. For the Celts an encounter with the Faerie people was often heralded by beautiful ethereal music.

One of the things I love about spending time in Ireland is the way music, myth and the Celtic spirit infuse the place lending a sense of enchantment that is missing in much of Western culture. The wealth of sacred sites, holy wells and musicians playing the pubs all over the country delight me. The subtle awareness that the invisible realms are at work, that the ancestors are nearer than we think and ready to help us, opens me up to looking at the world in a more expanded way.

Nature is another place I find full of enchantment. Yesterday a young red-tailed hawk circled overhead emitting shrill cries as it curved through the air. I had the distinct sense that this was a bird not long from the nest enjoying trying out its wings and the freedom of soaring. Last week I was having my oil changed at a place that had small outdoor courtyard with planters of tall blue flowers. I sat quietly in a metal chair next to the plants and within a few minutes became aware of a hummingbird buzzing within inches of me, dipping her needle bill into the throat of the flowers to sip the sweet nectar. I was filled with wonder. Who would expect enchantment while waiting for your car to be repaired. Yet the more I consider this subject it seems that magic is everywhere if we are willing to open to it.

We can experience wonder looking in the eyes of our children or our lover. In the things that make us laugh. In the music that makes us tap our feet and want to get up and dance. In whatever makes our hearts sing. We only need to look at our world with fresh eyes wiped clean of our habitual ways. Spending time in nature can help. So can reading poetry especially by the poets like the Sufi mystic poets Rumi and Hafiz or by Mary Oliver who expresses constant state of wonder in the natural world.

Mindfulness is important. We can use our breath to bring us into the moment. Our minds can get in the way of seeing and sensing the wonder around us. The more we can be present and paying attention with open curiosity the more likely we will have awareness of the miraculous. Adopt a child-like sense of the wonder by looking at something we think of as ordinary as if we are seeing it for the first time. This can shift our perspective. Exercising our creative muscles in what ever ways that call to us opens the door to making our hearts and souls sing which may actually be the most important ingredient in reclaiming enchantment in our world.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free monthly newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send a my Creativity eBooklet for inspiration and guidance.

Walking Can Really Enhance Your Creativity

mist walkwayAll truly great thoughts are conceived by walking. – Frederick Nietzsche

Me thinks that the moment my legs being to move, my thoughts begin to flow. – Henry David Thoreau

When you are engaged in a project and feel the creative inspiration has dried up, take a break. Anything that occupies the consciousness mind in a physical way can open you to the flow of fresh ideas and insights. Doing the dishes or taking a shower are good ways. One of my favorites is taking a walk. You could simply stroll around the block or walk deep into nature.

I have not been alone in my awareness that walking opens creative channels. There is a long list of well known creatives who walked to allow ideas and connections to flow . Charles Darwin, Virginia Woolf, William Wordsworth, Nikola Tesla, Aristotle, Sigmund Freud, Thomas Jefferson, Ernest Hemingway, Charles Dickens, Beethoven to name but a few.

Scientific studies have now found that creative problems can indeed be solved by walking, especially in nature. While walking the brain undergoes physiological changes that lower frustration and stress, increase your awareness and engagement with the world, allow for a natural meditative state and improve your mood. All of this helps you to experience more creative connections and flow.

Walking also allows you to balance two states that enhance creativity. Mindfulness, where you are present in the moment, and mind wandering or daydreaming, where you allow ideas, connections, dreams and visions for the future to come to us from the deeper realms of consciousness.

Try it. Next time you are looking for some creative inspiration take a walk. If you aren’t used to walking or don’t have a lot of time, simply start with a walk around the block. Find a park or a trail in nature and see how your muse opens up for you. Your body and health will love it too.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send you a copy of my Creativity eBooklet for guidance and inspiration.

Ready to Embrace More Play and Joy in Your Life?

I just watched a YouTube of a woman, a mother of two children, sitting in her car in a shopping mall parking lot. She must have had her phone propped up on the dashboard as she shot the video. She had just been to Kohl’s department store to buy herself a birthday present. As she unpacked it to show viewers, she insisted it was for her and her alone. Yes, she would let her children use it, but at the end of the day it would return to her room.

When she finally managed to free it from the packaging and put it on, I was looking at a woman wearing a Wookie mask. You know the big hairy character from Star Wars, first mate and companion to Hans Solo. As she moved her mouth up and down the mask made that soft rumbling roar familiar to anyone who has watched the movies. On top of that she couldn’t stop laughing, a wild uncontrollable laughter, the kind that is contagious. As I watched I started laughing too. Then she had me thinking.

When was the last time you did something so playful? When did you last allow yourself to get really goofy? When did you last laugh with total abandon? As we “grow up” we think we have to be serious. Yet it’s been shown that play expands our capacities to learn, do new things and come up with creative solutions.

Play has more to do with attitude than a particular activity. Pure play is more the domain of children. As adults, we tend to blend play with our responsibilities, and refer to it as bringing a playful spirit to what we are doing. As I am writing this article, I am playing with the flow of ideas and the sense of what to do with them so it feels fun. Play is an important part of being creative. It puts you in an imaginative, active, and alert, but relaxed, frame of mind that opens you to new possibilities.

So what could you do today to bring more play into your life? It can be a quiet sense of satisfaction as well as wild with laughter. You could go to a toy store, buy one of those small bottles of bubbles with the wand inside or a pack of crayons or anything that calls to your playful spirit. They now make adult coloring books designed for play and stress relief. You could go to a playground. Try the swing set or better yet the slide. You could take off your shoes and dance across the grass in your backyard or neighborhood park.

Play is very much self directed and personal. Find what makes your playful spirit come alive. Play is also at the heart of creativity and good for your heart, soul and health. It increases your sense of joy. It’s easy to be swept away in the role of responsible adult but really aren’t you ready to break loose and have more fun.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free monthly newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send you a copy of my Creativity eBooklet for guidance and inspiration in creating.

The Gifts of Nature: Healing and Inspiration

squirrel closeupWe still do not know one thousandth of one percent of what nature has revealed to us. – Albert Einstein

I’ve been going into nature since I was a small child and have long been aware of the healing qualities that time in nature lend to mind, body and soul as well as the deep inspiration it lends my creativity. I am also increasingly aware of the sense that there is more going on in the natural world than our minds can comprehend.

In the 1920s nature writer Henry Beston wrote a beautiful book titled the Outermost House about a year he spent in a remote cabin on Cape Cod. It’s a classic. The following passage from that book captures the most profound awareness of animals, wild and domestic, that I have ever seen.

We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate for having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein do we err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with the extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings: they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth.

We could say something similar about the plant kingdom and the Earth herself. All of nature has a presence that our minds can’t grasp. Yet our hearts have a knowing of a deeper connection. It may explain why simply looking at beautiful photographs of animals and nature scenes lifts our spirits. On some level it feels good to feel a kinship with the other than human realms on Earth.

Cutting edge neuroscience has shown that simply spending time in nature slows our brain waves down to alpha which is the state for meditation. Being in nature calms our body, lowers our blood pressure and just plane feels good. Medical doctors have begun prescribing time in nature for some of their patients. In San Francisco’s Golden Gate National Recreation Area, there’s a one mile trail along the bay called the Prescription Trail. This alpha state we experience in nature also occurs when we engage our creativity, so nature can actually gives us a jumpstart on our creative expression.

I invite you to try it. Spend time in nature and open your awareness to the presence of the trees and the animals. You can play with your imagination and talk to them in your mind’s eye. Ask a question about something you are concerned about. What quietly for an answer. It could come as imagination or just an intuitive sense of what to do. Play with this or simply take off your shoes and feel the pleasure and comfort of the moist grass under your feet.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click the mail list subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send you a copy of my Creativity eBooklet for guidance and inspiration. Thanks.

Do You Want to Live More in Flow?

Well, you’re right in the work, you lose your sense of time, you’re completely enraptured, you’re completely caught up in what you’re doing, and you’re sort of swayed by the possibilities you see in this work. . . – Mark Strand, poet

Water garden MGD©What lights you up? What experiences take you out of yourself and leave you feeling profoundly inspired? When we engage in these experiences or activities our mind chatter quiets and we find ourselves capable of so much more that we thought. We find ourselves in the expanded state of flow.

Flow is most often associated with top athletes or perhaps jazz musicians. There is a tendency to think of it as the domain of a select few rather than an experience accessible to all.

I recently listened to a talk by Jamie Wheal, Co-Founder of the Flow Genome Project, which is devoted to studying the different ways we can experience flow, that optimal state of consciousness or peak state where we both feel our best and perform our best. So far they have identified four main categories for ways individuals find their flow.

The first group they call The Hard Chargers are those adrenaline junkies who seek challenging physical adventures like running, rock climbing, surfing or hang gliding. Then there are the Deep Thinkers, those given to solitude, reflection, and working with creativity where they enjoy being deeply absorbed in making something whether a poem, a rocking chair or a garden. The third group they call Flow Goers who engage activities like meditation, yoga, or tai chi to find flow. Last are the Crowd Pleasers, the extroverts and social butterflies who enjoy being in the thick of social activity. I love this work since it expands our awareness on the possibilities for living in flow and we can see more easily the ways we are already tapping this state.

Wheal also spoke of our present time in the world, that in spite of the conflicts and problems, as being the most peaceful and prosperous period in world history. Yet people are experiencing high levels of stress, apathy, depression and anxiety. He suggested that this may be the result of the fast pace of our lives and information overload being too much for the current operating system of who we think we are. He suggested that our ego based, mind oriented self simply can’t handle the challenges We feel overwhelmed and incapable of affecting change.

The capacities we experience in flow states give us access to expanded abilities of problem solving and accelerated learning that allow us to move through the world and our challenges with grace and new levels resourcefulness.

I identify most with the Deep Thinker group where spending quiet, reflective time in nature and my pleasure in being creative regularly put me in flow. Although I’d more likely call it Deep Feeler since my heart is more involved than my mind and I am able to do things my mind doesn’t think it can do. These practices I regularly engage in put me in flow and allow me to be more peaceful and objective about the great challenges we face in the world today and consider creative solutions.

Take a minute and consider which category you relate to the most and the ways you are already accessing flow. I think categories can overlap. You may be a Deep Thinker who enjoys doing yoga. Being mindful of how you can work with flow states can really expand your possibilities and sense of well being. To start pick one activity that calls to you and play with it. See if you don’t feel more expansion, clarity and joy from the experience.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send you my Creativity eBooklet for guidance and inspiration. Thanks!

Plan a Trip You Don’t Intend to Take

ireland dolmenI recently saw a list of ten ways to increase your happiness. The one that really stood out was to plan a trip you don’t intend to take. I love the idea. As a creativity and life coach, I saw the ways this exercise could really open us up in new ways. It helps to break the pattern of our everyday life. It allows us to exercise our imagination and sense of curiosity. It opens us to the field of infinite possibilities since we aren’t constrained by concerns like finances, health, physical capacities, cultural differences, vacation time or jet lag.

As an avid traveler it made me eager to explore places that I’m not sure I’ll ever get to. I’ve always wanted to go to Iceland and have a friend in Australia I’d love to visit. I’ve long been intrigued by the sacred site of Angkor Wat in Cambodia and Machu Picchu in the Andes in Peru. Then of course there’s the wildlife in Africa. I may end up planning a trip around the world. I’m already feeling happier and I haven’t even cracked a guidebook.

Playing with this idea can open us up to seeing new possibilities in every area of our lives. So often we close ourselves off by thinking, we are too old, don’t have enough time, don’t have enough money or our health isn’t good enough. It allows us to get creative and opens us to enjoying a wider world without leaving the comfort of our armchair.

And who knows quantum physics suggests that the universe is responsive to where we put our focus. If there’s a place we really do want to go, planning and taking the trip in our imagination just might allow it to happen. Either way you’ve increases your happiness and sense of excitement and understanding about the world.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free monthly newsletter and I’ll send you a copy of my ebooklet Setting Your Creativity Free. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on your left and enter your email. Thanks.

Nourishing Our Creative Gifts

butterfly pink flowersEveryone is born with creative gifts. Everyone. It is unfortunate that our natural creative abilities and curiosity are rarely encouraged. As children we are taught to stop daydreaming, which is actually a high level brain function that gives us access to our imagination and expanded ways to knowing and perceiving. We are taught that we have to draw within the lines, that the sky has to be blue and trees green. There is no room to expand into new ways of seeing the world, new ways of problem solving, or new possibilities for creation.

The creative part of us is tender and vulnerable. It is easily discouraged by a careless comment or the insistent that there is a right way to do a creative project. I know one woman whose eighth grade teacher used her poem as an example of how not to write a poem. She didn’t write again for thirty years. We can be equally inhibited by a parent’s preoccupation with perfectionism.

Creativity is messy. I’m not just talking about art and things like working with paint or clay. I’m talking about the entire process. We try one thing, then another. The process appears to be chaotic and out of control. Yet there is a larger organizing principle is at work in our creative expressions. This expanded knowing that draws on the invisible forces of the spirit to dance things into being. There is both a conscious and unconscious celebration going on. We are generally not encouraged to be creative because we are raised by parents and schooled by teachers shoe had their own creative impulses crushed.

There are some places where the arts are valued and supported that can provide an inspiration. In Ireland if you are an artist, a writer, a painter, a musician you do not pay income tax on the sale of your work. The Irish language is part of the Gaelic family, the ancient language of the Celts who had an oral tradition that relied on storytelling, poetry and song as the way to passing down culture and tradition. So there is a natural reverence for story and music.

I was privileged to witness the high level of support available in Ireland one evening in a pub in the village of Doolin, County Clare, a place known as the epicenter for Celtic music revival in Ireland. A number of top musicians live there and play in the pubs. A ten year old boy had traveled some miles with this parents to listen to the music and have a chance to sit in on a session. The boy played the tin whistle and as he played a solo one of the experienced musicians picked up his tin whistle to support the boy through the places he couldn’t quite carry the tune. As he began to play the entire pub went silent and everyone focused on listening. When he finished the entire place erupted in boisterous applause. Is it surprising that music is one of Ireland’s greatest exports?

Most of us haven’t received that kind of encouragement and support. Yet we can learn to give it to ourselves through classes and coaching, creative communities and friends as well as nourishing our creative self through play and exploration. This includes awakening our awareness of our natural gifts and the pleasure reclaiming them can bring. Start today. Look for even small ways to support your creative self.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left and enter your email. I’ll send you a free Creativity eBooklet as a thank you.

Ready to Embrace Creative Juices of Spring?

Hummingbird Ruby ThroatedSpring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party!’ – Robin Williams

The days are getting noticeably longer. We experience the return of the light. Here in California the flowers are exploding after the blessed winter rains. Yellow mustard colors the lush green fields. The blue flags of wild iris have unfurled under the oaks trees. Birds are beginning to sing as if to encourage the world to awaken. Red-tail hawks swirl in their mating dance overhead their shrill cries falling to earth.

Can you feel the possibilities in all that? We so often limit ourselves to the same old, same old. We create our future from the reference points of the past. Even when we are actively engaged in a form of creativity we may resist doing it in a new and different that may feel more vital. In this season of the world being born anew what wants to be born in you?

Stop right now. Take a few slow deep breaths all the way down into your belly, relax your body with each breath, relax your neck and shoulders, quiet your mind. Invite your higher Self in. Check in with that place were you just know things. We often call it our gut or you could feel into your heart. Allow an answer to come through. It could come through as words in your mind or a feeling in your body or just a sense of knowing.

If you don’t get anything right away that’s okay. Let it go. As you go about your day pay attention to any ideas that pop into your mind while you are driving, doing the dishes or taking a shower. Look for synchronicities. Be open, be curious, be courageous. It could be anything wanting to emerge. You could feel inspired to: Start a garden for the first time; go somewhere you have never been before; write your first poem; get a pack of crayons and start drawing; or spend more time in Nature. What do you love? What brings you alive? Where do you find your joy? Look there for what wants to be born anew.

At the same time spring is a time to clean out. What are you ready to let go of? Stuff in your closet and garage or old habits that no longer serve your highest good? What could you get rid of that would lighten your load and open you to new possibilities? If you feel resistance breath into it and relax. Keep breathing.

Go out into nature watch the way the plants break ground, rise up, spread out and flower. What we plant in the spring grows through the summer and comes to harvest in autumn. What wants to grow from your heart and your spirit? What is budding in your imagination? What do you want to create in this season of flowering? What tiny step will you take today?

Play with all this and most important have fun.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free monthly newsletter and I’ll send you a copy of my ebooklet Setting Your Creativity Free. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on your left and enter your email. Thanks.

The Love and Grace of Animals

horse whiteWe still do not know one thousandth of one percent of what nature has revealed to us. – Albert Einstein

I have a friend who does coaching that involves horses as an active partner in the client’s process around whatever issue is being addressed. I visited her recently and she took me to visit the two horses and the four miniature donkeys she works with.

Horses have an exceptional awareness of energy. On meeting my friends horses I immediately had the sense they are really interested in helping us if we are open and allow it. One of the horses, a two year old mare that my friend keeps for riding rather than for her coaching work, began to gently mouth my right shoulder a place where I tend to carry tension.

Later we went to see the four miniature female donkeys, who stand about two feet at the shoulder. I had the intuition to squat down as they approached. The first came around to my right side and wrapped herself around me in what felt like a hug. Then she too mouthed my right shoulder. Another donkey come to my left side and nuzzled up under my left arm in the area of my heart. Yet another came around and nuzzled my lower back. When it was time for us to leave the donkey who had been at my heart very purposely escorted me to the gate. It was so clear that these lovely little ones were very intentionally doing healing work on an energetic level, even though I wasn’t actively engaged in coaching work with my friend.

My friend had noticed the same pattern the donkeys use to surround a person with her coaching clients. She also noted that most people just see them as cute and fail the grasp the powerful healers and acknowledge that she can’t really explain what these beautiful sweet being are doing. It’s not something you can understand with your mind but you can have awareness of, a knowing.

More and more I have the awareness that the animals, wild and domestic, are masters of unconditional love if only we are open to receive.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free monthly newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send you a free pdf copy of Setting Your Creativity Free.

Do You Give Yourself a Safe Place to Fail?

Find your way Life is “trying things to see if they work.” – Ray Bradbury

I recently met a man in line for coffee who works for a company that offers technology for grade schools that allows learning to be personalized to the level of the individual student so each can get the specific support they need. I love hearing about such innovative practices.

As we talked he mentioned a report about why gaming is so popular among the young. Even though they experience an 85 to 90% failure rate as they play, they learn from their mistakes and get better in the process. “It gives them a safe place to fail” he said.

I love that idea. “That’s exactly like the creativity”, I responded. It’s why as a creativity coach I encourage people to fall in love with the process. Just like the experience of gamers when we relax and play with the process we learn and grow and that feels really good. It’s also the only way we can create something new, original and authentic.

Our culture and educational systems teach us that mistakes aren’t okay; that there are real negative consequences to making mistakes; that we actually can fail. Yet the only way we learn is by our willingness to fail, and discover what works and what doesn’t.

So how do we give ourselves a safe place to fail, when the world around us doesn’t support that. What if our heart and soul know the value of failure. What is the safe place to fail is the love, kindness and encouragement we can extend ourselves from that deeper place of knowing regardless of how the world see it?

From my own years of writing I have had countless pages of stories and poems that never really took off and were never finished. I always instinctively knew that this was part of the learning process of being a writer. Enjoying the process without being attached to a particular outcome gave me a safe place to learn and grow. This allowed me to finish pieces that gave me a deep sense of satisfaction.

I love the story of Steve Jobs, who after being fired from Apple, went to work for Pixar films and entered into one of the most creative times in his life. Rather than seeing it as a failure he saw it as an opportunity. Can we learn to do that for ourselves? What does our safe place to fail look like? How can we create that to ourselves?

Doing New Things Helps Your Creativity & Life

Hummingbird Feeding on a Delicate FlowerI like to challenge myself. I like to learn – so I like to try new things and try to keep growing. – David Schwimmer

When did you last do something for the first time? I recently saw that question posted on Twitter. I retweeted it with a caption saying “good question”. I tend to be a rather adventurous, open to doing new things and enjoying new experiences. Yet the question made me realize all the ways I do things out of habit, on autopilot, because it’s what I’m used to. It made me look at all the ways I keep to my comfort zone.

If we are really going to change our lives and the world we live in we have to be willing to feel uncomfortable. Yet there is an almond shapes organ in our brain called the amygdala designed to be on the look out for situations that are unsafe based on our past experiences. The amygdala works hard to keep us safe and feeling comfortable but ends up limiting us. All this is going on at the level of the subconscious mind which is why we think we want to do this new things but for some reason we can’t consciously understand, we can’t make ourselves do them.

It helps to acknowledge the feelings of fear and discomfort that arise when we step out of the comfort zone. Rather than trying to power through or push down the feelings if we simply allow ourselves to feel them, breathe into the place in our body where the feelings arise, we can release them through our breath it. When we no longer feel fear or anxiety in our body it’s easier to make that first step forward.

Connecting to our heart can also help. The origins of the word heart comes from the French word le coeur meaning courage. Our heart will help to empower and guide us through intuition to the new things that will nourish us.

One of the assignments I give my coaching clients is to shake things up by trying new things. This helps us open us to new ways of seeing and experiencing the world which can expand our awareness of new ideas and inspiration. From this place we can come up with more creative, new solutions to difficulties we face in our lives and the world.

Play with this: Do one new thing a day for a week. Large or small. Eat something new for breakfast, go to a new restaurant for lunch, buy a pack of crayons draw the way you did as a child, wear a piece of clothing that feels out of character for you or plan to trip to somewhere you have never been. See if every time you do something new you don’t feel just a bit more expanded and alive.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free monthly newsletter and I’ll send you a copy of my ebooklet Setting Your Creativity Free. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on your left and enter your email. Thanks.

Living in the Moment, Creating from Love

I’ve lived through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened. Mark Twain

Believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact. – William James

rock archA recent Harvard study showed that the average person spends 50% of their time either focused on regretting the past or worrying about the future. This habit can really get in the way of having a life we would really enjoy and doing what we love.

Unless we have a time machine there is no way we can go back and change what happened in our past. By holding on to the old we carry it with us into the present moment where it interferes with what is really possible for us. When we dwell on past regrets we tend to repeat them. The people and situations may change but we play out the similar stories with them. This creates a great deal of stress and frustration in our lives. We wonder what we are doing wrong, why things don’t work the way we want them to.

Worrying about the future is equally stressful and problematic. Whoever worried themselves into a wonderful life? Constantly projecting ourselves into the future takes us out of the moment, the only place where we can really create. Most of what we worry about never actually happens, yet the this habit really drains our energy and makes it difficult to plug into our higher guidance. If we catastrophe about the future we can often feel too overwhelmed to take any action to move forward.

If we truly live in the present moment we have an opportunity to connect with the deeper knowing our heart which will guide us to create from love which allows our lives and creativity to flow. When we focus on the the moment we realize that everything is essentially okay. Life can be challenging but if we take it moment by moment we begin to the see that we can handle whatever we are faced with.

Learning to live in the moment and listening to our higher knowing is a lot like learning to meditate. It takes practice. Every time we find ourselves chewing on our past or worrying about how we are going afford a new car next year, if we can use our breath to bring ourselves back to the now. Breath is such a wonderful tool because we can only breathe now and now and now. On top of that it relaxes our body, quiets our mind and helps dissipate the buried feelings that can arise as we become more present our true selves. I know that I have certainly noticed the difference in my life from this practice.

With an increased sense of being present we can create the new year by diving into what we love. Be willing to be surprised. Be willing to be inspired. As we flow more in the moment and take action from the soft voice of our knowing more wonders than we believed possible can begin to show up. If we feel uncomfortable opening up to more of who we really are, keep breathing and consciously relax. You can’t be relaxed and tense at the same time. What do you want create from the relaxed place of knowing, from the center of your heart?

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column to the left, enter your email and I’ll send you a copy of my Creativity eBooklet to inspire and guide.

The Wonder of Clouds and Imagination

ocean rainbowI recently listened to an interview on public radio with Gavin Pretor-Pinney who is fascinated by clouds. As an amateur enthusiast he decided some years ago to give a program on clouds but didn’t think anyone would show up for a mere talk, so he called it the first meeting of the Cloud Appreciation Society. To his surprise a good number of people showed up and at the end of his presentation they wanted to know how they could join. That was the beginning of the formal group that now exceeds 37,000 members in almost 100 countries around the world.

Pretor-Pinney has since given a TEDx talk on the subject where with fine British humor he extolls the virtues of cloud spotting. He insists that clouds are a remarkable phenomena taking many forms yet because they are so commonplace we often ignore them. Plus because they cover the sun and bring rain they can be seen as an inconvenience. In his enthusiasm Pretor-Pinney asks us to take a fresh look at clouds and all that appreciating them can add to our lives.

As children we understood the wonder of clouds especially cumulus, the puffy white ones that form any number of shapes. Do you remember as a child when you were a master of imagination and saw in the clouds an animal or a fire engine or a person’s face or a tree.

As adults it usually doesn’t occur to us to let our minds drift with the clouds and allow our imagination to dance with the images. Yet watching clouds can exercise the imagination, relax our mind and bodies and bring us into the present moment. It becomes an everyday way to appreciate the beauty of the world around us which nourishes our heart and feeds our soul.

It can also help with creative flow. Albert Einstein when he was working on a problem would row a boat out into Lake Geneva, lie down in the bottom and watch the clouds. Taking a break from focusing on an issue and doing something relaxing activates the creative parts of our brain allowing us to have those ah..ha moments where the solution seems to arrive out of nowhere.

In our busy lives where we feel we have to be constantly doing, cloud watching “legitimizes doing nothing” and allows us to experience the benefits of simply being. Since listening to the talk on clouds I certainly have been taking a new look at them and enjoying the way they help me to be more present. Give it a try. Start paying closer attention to what the clouds are doing and just notice if you don’t start having some fun with it.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send you a copy of my Creativity eBooklet for guidance and inspiration.

The Gift of Your Breath

dolphin closeupRecently I have become increasingly aware of how important it is to pay attention and use our breath on every level, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. For a few years now whenever I check in with my inner knowing or higher guidance, the thing that first pops into my mind again and again is breathe. Our breathe can do so much for us. It came relax and heal our bodies and emotions. It certainly reduces feelings of fear, anxiety and stress.

When I lived in Ireland for a time I spent time with a bottle nosed dolphin who frequented the harbor the my village. I would go down the concrete steps from the pier that lead down to the deeper water and she would come close to greet me. Sometimes when I leaned over she would pop air out of her blow hole into my face.

I had the intuition that she was trying to convey to me the importance of breathing. Whales and dolphins are conscious breather, it’s not automatic the way it is with us. They have to be aware of every breath they take, so I had the feeling my dolphin friend wanted me to know what she knew about breathing.

It’s taken me years to really get on a deeper level why being aware of breathing on a conscious level is so important. Our breath connects us to our Spirit, the sacred presence that lives in each one of us. As French philosopher Teilhard de Chardin insisted “we are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

Using our breath to relax our minds and bodies allows more of our Spirit into our lives. As we bring the presence of who we really are into our bodies and emotions through our breath, we begin to unravel things, we have been holding on to or repressing, that don’t serve us. We don’t even need to know exactly what they are. We can just let them go through our breath.

As we breathe deeply into those places in our bodies where we are holding tension and continue to breath we can feel the energies dissipate. This will likely feel uncomfortable, even painful, at first as most of us are in resistance to those feelings. Yet breathing takes us out of resistance into allowing. If you practice breathing deeply and relaxing your body you will feel things shifting in beautiful ways. I know I have.

Try this now. Take a deep breath and relax your body. Do it again. Notice where you are holding tension. Breathe into that place and just let everything go. Relax your entire body. You can do this throughout the day whenever you feel stress or find yourself worrying about your life or the state of the world.

Give yourself the gift of your breath. Notice the ways you feel more open to the support of Spirit and the miraculous when you do.

If you enjoyed this article please subscribe to my free monthly newsletter. Just click on the mail list subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send you a copy of my eBooklet Setting Your Creativity Free.

Poems of Gratitude

fall colors lakeBelow I’ve shared three poems of gratitude. One by Gary Synder for the earth, elements and all beings that sustain us, one by W. S. Merwin who is offering thanks for all the things in the world, including those that we wouldn’t normally think of giving thanks for. He is inviting us to embrace everything which can have transformative power. The last poem by Mary Oliver who asks us to pay close attention to the natural world and be grateful and in wonder for everything.

Prayer For The Great Family by Gary Synder

Gratitude to Mother Earth, sailing through night and day
and to her soil: rich, rare and sweet
in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to Plants, the sun-facing light-changing leaf
and fine root-hairs; standing still through the wind
and rain; their dance is in the flowing spiral grain
in our mind so be it.

Gratitude to Air, bearing the soaring Swift and the silent
Owl at dawn. Breath of our song
clear spirit breeze
in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to Wild Beings, our brothers, teaching secrets,
freedoms, and ways; who share with us their milk;
self-complete, brave, and aware
in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to Water: clouds, lakes, rivers, glaciers;
holding or releasing; streaming through all
our bodies salty seas
in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to the Sun: blinding pulsing light through
trunks of trees, through mists, warming caves where
bears and snakessleep he who wakes us
in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to the Great Sky
who holds billions of stars and goes yet beyond that
beyond all powers, and thoughts
and yet is within us
Grandfather Space.
The Mind is his Wife.

so be it.

Thanks by W.S. Merwin

Listen
with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water thanking it
standing by the windows looking out
in our directions

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you

over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks we are saying thank you
in the faces of the officials and the rich
and of all who will never change
we go on saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us
taking our feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
thank you we are saying and waving
dark though it is

Gratitude by Mary Oliver

What did you notice?

The dew snail;
the low-flying sparrow;
the bat, on the wind, in the dark;
big-chested geese, in the V of sleekest performance;
the soft toad, patient in the hot sand;
the sweet-hungry ants;
the uproar of mice in the empty house;
the tin music of the cricket’s body;
the blouse of the goldenrod.

What did you hear?

The thrush greeting the morning;
the little bluebirds in their hot box;
the salty talk of the wren,
then the deep cup of the hour of silence.

What did you admire?

The oaks, letting down their dark and hairy fruit;
the carrot, rising in its elongated waist;
the onion, sheet after sheet, curved inward to the
pale green wand;
at the end of summer the brassy dust, the almost liquid
beauty of the flowers;
then the ferns, scrawned black by the frost.

What astonished you?

The swallows making their dip and turn over the water.

What would you like to see again?

My dog: her energy and exuberance, her willingness,
her language beyond all nimbleness of tongue, her
recklessness, her loyalty, her sweetness, her
sturdy legs, her curled black lip, her snap.

What was most tender?

Queen Anne’s lace, with its parsnip root;
the everlasting in its bonnets of wool;
the kinks and turns of the tupelo’s body;
the tall, blank banks of sand;
the clam, clamped down.

What was most wonderful?

The sea, and its wide shoulders;
the sea and its triangles;
the sea lying back on its long athlete’s spine.

What did you think was happening?

The green breast of the hummingbird;
the eye of the pond;
the wet face of the lily;
the bright, puckered knee of the broken oak;
the red tulip of the fox’s mouth;
the up-swing, the down-pour, the frayed sleeve
of the first snow

so the gods shake us from our sleep.

If you enjoyed this article please subscribe to my free monthly newsletter. Just click on the mail list subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send you a copy of my eBooklet Setting Your Creativity Free.

Are You Ready to Create Miracles

Orange ButterflyWe have to create miracles. A miracle is not the intersession of an external divine agency in violation of the laws of physics. A miracle is simply something that is impossible from an old story but possible from within a new one. It is an expansion of what is possible. – Charles Eisenstein

Recently I was camped in Yosemite Valley and in the middle of the day four deer came to the edge of my campsite and bedded down near where I was sitting. I had the intuition that they were there for me. Four is the number I associate with angels. Later in the day I listened to an animal communicator talk about deer representing the importance of being gentle with yourself. It was just the message I needed at that moment.

This is one of the ways the universe offers the miraculous to us. An animal visits us and we have a sense that it wants us to know something, or we open a book to a random page and read the exact words we need, or we have a hunch to go to coffee somewhere we have never been and someone in line who tells us about a job opportunity, or we see a billboard with a message that speaks to us on a deeper level. The more we honor our intuitive ways of knowing and pay attention to these kind of synchronicities, the more we experience these sorts of magical moments.

As Jean Houston, pioneer in the expansion of human consciousness, insists “we are more than an encapsulated bag of bones dragging around a dreary little ego.” We are hearts able to connect to the essence of love. We are souls who know the taste of eternity. We are spirit knowing that we live in the universe and the universe lives in us. Or in the words of Joni Mitchell “we are stardust, we are golden and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.”

What keeps the miraculous from informing our lives is often our habit of wanting to control and figure everything out with our minds and stay within our comfort zone. We’ve been taught to ignore or deny our intuition, the knowing we feel in our gut or whole body that can open us to new ways of perceiving. Issues around feeling worthy of receiving the miraculous can interfere.

Yet the monumental scope of changes in the world today are insisting that we awaken to possibilities we have yet to consider, that we create a new story for ourselves and the world. To do this, we need learn to listen to the intuition which connects us to expanded ways of knowing and being where the miraculous can actually find us. This takes awareness, practice and a willingness to leave old ways that no longer serve behind.

Practice unplugging from the habitual. Unplug for a bit each day from the constant distractions of media and internet. Practice quieting your mind so that you can hear the still small voice within. Accessing the wisdom held in our hearts with help us weather the sea of changes. Intuition the language of our heart.

It’s been scientifically shown, including work done by NASA, that what we hold in our hearts radiates out to the whole world from the magnetic field of our hearts to that of the earth. Our hearts in turn receive information back in this expanded way.

The miraculous is at the heart of creativity whether you are writing a novel, composing a symphony, designing a garden or creating your life. Whenever I find myself in the flow of creativity I know that I am accessing something greater than myself. I can feel the magic happening. It always feels wonderful. Deer show up with a message, an inspiration pops into my head while taking a shower and a stranger buys my coffee when I forget my wallet and need a renewal of faith that I am indeed supported by the universe. I am aware of the world at work on my behalf.

These experiences are available to us all. Start looking for miracles small and large, then acknowledge and celebrate them when they show up. What we appreciate increases in our lives. Expand on what you see as possible. Have fun with it. Experience the joy of this kind of conversation with the universe.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free monthly newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send you a copy of my Creativity eBooklet for guidance and inspiration in creating.

In Creativity & Life Taking One Small Step A Day Can Do It

People get so focused on the big dream that they forget about the process. – Julia Cameron

Action is the foundational key to all success. – Pablo Picasso

hawk moonThere is a tendency to think that when we have a dream or an inspiration that we are excited about creating, that it should somehow miraculously manifest without our doing the necessary work in the physical world. This point of view is encouraged by a culture that doesn’t favor delayed gratification as well as confusion around what’s really involved in working with the Law of Attraction.

If what we want doesn’t happen easily we often give up. We can think we are doing something wrong. What if we understood that creating our desire is a process. What if the miracle of creation is found in taking inspired action? What if taking one small step a day can create wondrous results?

Making a commitment to small daily action helps build momentum and can open doors that you didn’t know were there. Want to write a book or a blog? Thinking of starting a business or a garden? Whatever it is that you want to create, commit to showing up a minimum of 15 minutes a day. Promise yourself that you will do this no matter what. Taking small steps allows us to bypass the fear and resistance that comes with having dreams and desires that take us beyond our comfort zone.

We can still work with raising our vibration and using our imagination to help create on an energetic level. We can ask for assistance from both the visible and invisible realms. As Julia Cameron, author of The Artist Way once said, “When I ask for help with my creativity, I get it.”

Asking questions, like “what would love do now?” or simply saying to the universe “show me my next step,” they letting go and allowing the answer to come in it’s own way and time, acts as an invitation to our higher self and subconscious mind to focus our attention on creating what we want. From that place the steps to take can become more obvious.

Know that the universe is there supporting you in creating your true heart’s desire. Help can arrive in unexpected ways. Now more than ever we are being asked to raise the bar on what we believe is possible for our own lives and the world. Anything you can imagine can be created one small step at a time. Go ahead. Take the first step today.

Being Creative Makes Us Happy

Happy child with painted handsYears ago I heard Nobel Prize winning Irish poet Seamus Heaney give a lecture at the University of Washington. In the middle of this very academic speech, he paused, threw up both his hands and said, “oh, just write for the joy of it” and then dipped back into the lecture. I don’t remember anything else from the talk but Heaney’s sudden burst of inspiration stayed with me because I think it really captured an essential element to being creative.

Whether you are cooking a great meal, growing a beautiful garden, writing a poem or singing in the community choir, you likely feel a deep sense of satisfaction and a joyfulness that comes with being creative. Creativity draws on the best of human nature: perception, imagination, intellect, inspiration, courage, intuition, and empathy. The urge to create asks us to bask in the experience of the world, to see, feel, taste, hear, and smell the magnificence around us.  It allows us to celebrate, with a spirit of gratefulness, every aspect of our lives and the beauty and complexity the world offers. It can help us make meaning from our sufferings.

Being creative also breaks us free from our ruts and habits allowing us to look at the world anew. We are able to tell a story that touches others, envision a unique way of solving a problem or offer counsel with fresh clarity, even if we have struggled with the same material or ideas a hundred times before. Embracing our creativity allows us to tap a deeper more insightful way of knowing beyond our conscious mind and thoughts.

I think being creative feels so good because it connects us to divine imagination and when we actively participate in developing and fulfilling our gifts it feels like a mystical experience. We intuit that we are connected to something larger than ourselves which is perhaps the greatest gift that comes from following our creative urges. Early in my work as a writer when I became aware that I was writing from an inspired sense of flow, I would get this urge to look around the room to see where is was coming from because I sensed it was exactly coming from me. Now I am just always deeply grateful when I tap fully into that vein and welcome it with a sense of grace.

In looking for your own ways of being creative you can start by celebrating your uniqueness. There never was, nor ever will be, anyone exactly like you. In exploring your uniqueness there is often a central preoccupation, an interest or passion that runs through your life? There can also be more than one.

If you can’t name it right now, think of something that you are fascinated by again and again. The possibilities are infinite; from needlework to rock climbing, from bird watching to playing the piano, from English country dancing to writing haiku, from gardening to giving foot massages. Look for what brings you joy and then begin taking actions to embrace your creativity and enjoy the process. One small step a day will set you down the creative path to increased happiness and fulfillment.

If you enjoyed this article please subscribe to my free newsletter and I’ll send you a free eBooklet Embracing Your Creativity: Essential Elements for Engaging Your Natural Gifts. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left. Thanks.

Want to Know How to Use Your Imagination?

dream_a_zImagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions. – Albert Einstein

Most of us have never been encouraged to use our imagination. In fact we have often been discouraged with comments like stop that daydreaming or why are you doing wasting time staring out the window. When we are engaged in these activities we are letting our subconscious/unconscious mind run free to make new connections and give birth to new ideas. Rather than being encouraged to dream big, to ask questions or expand our awareness beyond the domain of our linear rational mind, we have been consistently schooled in restricting this wonderful potential.

Our imagination is like a muscle. The more it is used the stronger it gets. As we start to exercise our imaginations we actually form new neural connections in our brain. To start we need to relax the constant mental chatter that has us focused on the past or future and allow ourselves to be present in the moment. Our imagination gives us access to so much more of who we really are, what we know from expanded ways being.

“Just pretend” is another way of saying” imagine”, because when we use our imagination we feel we are just making it up and that it has little to do with “what is real”. But what if imagination is more than that. What if imagination actually shapes the energy of the universe, giving us the capacity to be the creator of our life and our world. What if now is the time. What do you want to create for yourself, your community and the world at large. You can start with “just pretend” to begin to access your imagination and deeper knowing.

Start to see what you want in your mind’s eye or feel it in your body. It can be as simple as I am the experience of joy, love, and freedom. What would that look like for you? What is calling to you from that place of your heart and your joy. What do your want to choose. What we put our focus on is what we create. Intentionally using your imagination for creation helps you focus on what you want and bring it into being. Imagine we can all be the agents of transformation in the world. What would that look like?

Try this. Take three deep breaths all the way down into your belly and with each exhalation let everything go and let the peace of simply being present in the moment enter you. Then imagine being in a favorite place. What do you see. If you are not visual, don’t worry about it. Instead focus on what it feels like to be there. What sounds, scents, tastes are involved. Use all your senses. The body can’t distinguish between a real experience and something that is imagined so this is a great way to give yourself a mini vacation without leaving home.

Then expand this. Try using your imagination to talk to a tree, a squirrel or a stone. See what they have to say to you. What advice do they have to offer about your life? Just pretend. ..

If you enjoyed this article please subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left and enter your email. Thanks.

Challenging Times and Living In the Flow

waterfall wideIn these times of great change and economic and global uncertainty what if we knew that the universe always had our back, that there is enough, that we are safe? What if these challenging times were asking us to live from our hearts, from a deeper way of knowing and being? What if we knew how to really go with the flow of universal energies and support?

In talking about flow, we often use the metaphor of riding a river where we let ourselves follow the currents rather than resisting or struggling against where it wants to take us. If we watch a river we notice how it can split into two forks or rush down over rocks or swirl as a back eddy into a calm pool before the water flows on. All these images and more can apply to living in the flow of universal currents.

Going with the flow doesn’t mean that we don’t have some sense of where we’re going. It means that we are open to more than one way of getting there. We are also open to going in a different direction from what we had planned. We hold more to the essence of our goal than to the particulars, knowing that letting go and making adjustments are part of the process. An awareness of being part of an energy that is larger than our small selves comes into play and we are open to working with it. In the flow we are essentially co-creating with the universe.

We may be afraid to go with the flow because we don’t trust that the universe really wants to support us. Our mind tells us that we have to control everything. It wants to keep us small and safe. We tend to cling to plans that aren’t working, keep doing the same things even though they are not working, and stay in relationships that aren’t fulfilling.

When you find yourself stuck in these kinds of patterns, stop, take a deep breath and drop your attention down into your heart and gut. From this place knowing we can access the currents of universal flow where a sense of magic and synchronicities abide. Our heart will always steer us toward what we love which is key to living in the flow.

It doesn’t mean that we sit back and do nothing or stay home and meditate hoping for a miracle. Rather it means listen to our intuition or gut sense moment by moment and take inspired action from a sense of knowing. Sychronicities or chance encounters will unfold. We start having more ah..has. We don’t necessarily need to take broad, sweeping action. One small step a day can do it. As we take those small step the path becomes clearer.

Going with the flow doesn’t mean we just let the currents of life take us. Rather it means we let go of our individual agenda and notice the possibilities all around us. We tap into that energy and flow with it. We open to new levels of awareness, presence, and the ability to follow the energy that feels light and good, where we feel more expanded.

Trust that the river of the universe and your soul or higher self are here to help. If you knew that was true or even just hoped it was, what would you want to create. What one small step would you take today and then tomorrow. Try it. Be open to being surprised that what happens. Let go of the doubt that is dragging you down. Imagine yourself floating in that river buoyed up by a loving universe. What would you do? What life would you choose? What world would you create?

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send you a copy of my Creativity eBooklet for guidance and inspiration.

Why Is Having Fun So Important?

friends coffeeWe don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing. – George Bernard Shaw

In our hectic, modern lives, many of us focus so heavily on work and commitments that we never seem to have time for pure fun. Somewhere between childhood and adulthood, we stopped playing. At some point we internalized the collective belief that play is only for children as well as the tendency to disapprove of adults who are having too much fun.

When we do make leisure time, we’re more likely to zone out in front of the TV or computer than engage in fun, rejuvenating play like we did as children. But just because we are adults, that doesn’t mean we have to take ourselves so seriously and make life all about work.

Play is actually essential to our health and wellbeing in numerous ways. An importance source for both relaxation and stimulation for adults, it’s also a great way to feed your imagination, creativity, problem-solving abilities, and improve your mental health. If you are a parent playing with your kids will not only improve your own mood and well-being, it will make your children smarter, better adjusted, and less stressed.

When you take time to play, let go of all care about work and other commitments. Spend the time either on your own or with others in an unstructured, creative way. The focus is on being present to the experience of having fun and enjoying yourself. There is no goal, nothing to accomplish. You could simply have fun with friends, share jokes with a coworker, draw with crayons, put on some lively music and dance around the living room, go to a playground and swing, build a snowman in the yard, play fetch with a dog, or go for a bike ride with your partner with no destination in mind.

By giving yourself permission to play with the joyful abandon of childhood, you can reap many health benefits throughout your life. Playing can boost your energy, vitality and immune system helping you feel an increased sense of wellness and youthfulness. Play is also at the heart of being creative. It opens you to be more receptive to new ideas and those ah..ha moments.

What would it look like for you to bring more play to your daily routine, to the things you “have to do”, and to your job. What if you brought the joy of the fun of being alive to work. Try it for one day. Focus on bringing more play and fun to your life. Focus on enjoyment, amusement, lighthearted pleasure or playful behavior. Focus on having FUN.

Even if you do this for just a short while it can lift you to new ways of being. See if you don’t feel better. See if you don’t feel more creative and inspired. Then follow those threads of inspiration to expand your creative life.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free monthly newsletter and I’ll send you a copy of my ebooklet Setting Your Creativity Free. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on your left and enter your email. Thanks.

Creativity and Failure

colored booksThere is no innovation and creativity without failure. Period. – Brene Brown

The artist never entirely knows. We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark. Agnes de Mille

If you’ve been resistant to engage your creativity because you are afraid of failing, I’d like to share my experience to illustrate that when you are really playing with the creativity process nothing really feels like failure. You value everything as part of the experience. It’s more like spiritual practice where you learn, grow and expand.

I’ve been playing with creativity for a long time. Starting with modern dance and art design in high school, then moving to black and white photography in college and then embracing writing as my primary form, first essays then later adding poetry.

In my years doing photography, I had my own darkroom and rolled my own film in bulk. Even after I became skilled in both the art and the craft, I understood, as did my fellow photographers, that I’d be lucky to get one good image from a roll of 36 exposures. I was always grateful and excited for that one and instinctively saw the others as something to learn from.

In developing as a writer, I had countless notebooks filled with writing practice exercises and pieces of writing that never went anywhere. Yet I somehow understood as Nobel Prize winning Canadian short story writer Alice Munro said of her own experience, “I threw away all my early work, and it wasn’t because I was the mother of three small children, it was because I was learning my craft and it took a long time.”

I experienced my early writing as a process that I enjoyed playing with. It helped that I worked as a biologist and environmental educator so that I wasn’t seriously identified with being a writer or expecting to make a living from it.

When engaged in the creative process, I feel like the act itself is its own reward. I am certainly aware of all the things I try that don’t work, but that’s just part of the dance. In experiencing the intrinsic sense of satisfaction from the work I’m not really attached to the outcome.

In essence it’s about reclaiming our childlike sense of joy and pleasure that comes from creating and understanding that it’s a process, a journey that leads you to surprising and expected places. So give it a try and discover all that being creative, in whatever form calls to you, can add to your life. Don’t worry if it doesn’t work out the way you think you would like. Just keep going.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on your left and enter your email. Thanks

The Beauty of Beginner’s Mind

I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative. – Steve Jobs

Happy child with painted handsIn Zen Buddhism there is a word Shoshin meaning “beginner’s mind”. It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying or working with a subject, even at an advanced level. Regardless of how much experience we have we repeatedly engage our subject as a beginner would.

In the twenty years I have taught The Heart of Writing classes where students of different levels of experience, myself included, come together to do timed writings in class and share the raw work, I have noticed again and again that the people who saw themselves as beginners brought a real freshness to the work and the class.

While they would consistently apologize for it not being very good, the rest of us would delight in the vulnerability, openness and originality they so often expressed. Their work was free of the self consciousness that comes from thinking you have to do something good or in a particular way.

This is one of the reasons travel can be so enriching and invigorating. Each moment is full of newness that breaks us out of the conditions of our habit and expectations.

We can bring this sense of beginner’s mind to everything, seeing ourselves, the people and world around us as if for the first time. When we bring it to our creativity we feels a renewed sense of excitement and possibility.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free monthly newsletter and I’ll send you a copy of my ebooklet Setting Your Creativity Free. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on your left and enter your email. Thanks.

Haiku and the Japanese Master Basho

Water garden MGD©Matsuo Basho, who lived in Japan from 1644 – 1694, was the most famous poet of the Edo period. During his lifetime, Basho was recognized for his works; and today, after centuries of commentary, he is often considered to be the greatest master of haiku. His poetry is internationally renowned; and, in Japan, many of his poems are reproduced on monuments and traditional sites.

If you are interest in writing haiku reading Basho is a good place to start, especially since he was known to really play with the form and bend the rules. Rather than sticking to the formula of traditional haiku poems that involves focus on a season, Basho was more interested in reflecting his real environment and emotions in his haiku.

While the structure of haiku calls for three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five syllables, Basho often broke this rule too, saying “If you have three or four, even five or seven extra syllables but the poem sounds good, don’t worry about it. But if one syllable stops the tongue, look at it hard.” I find that to be extraordinarily good advice.

Here are a few example to get you started. Play with the possibilities. Have fun with it.

A snowy morning–
by myself,
chewing on dried salmon.

furu ike ya / kawazu tobikomu / mizu no oto
an ancient pond / a frog jumps in / the splash of water

A bee
staggers out
of the peony.

A caterpillar,
this deep in fall–
still not a butterfly.

What If Your Life Were A Work of Art?

paint feetWhat if you saw your life as a work of art? What if you really knew that you were the creator of everything in your life then what would you create, what would you choose, what would you want your life to be?

With a deepening understanding of the quantum field, science has confirmed what spiritual traditions have suggested for thousands of years, that our consciousness is in communication with the fabric of the universe. The observer of the world affects what is happening in the world.

We are constantly creating with the field through our thoughts, feelings and beliefs. Since this is most often going on at the level of the subconscious, we don’t realize that we are creating everything. We tend instead to feel like we are being tossed about on the currents of life.

Yet we do have a choice. We can either create unconsciously, usually repeating the same patterns over and over. Or we can become conscious creators developing new ways of being. Being a conscious creator involves work. We learn to work with tools and methods to clean out the old and use vision and imagination to create the new.

When we think of our whole life as a creative act we begin to take responsibility for it. It doesn’t matter how difficult our childhood was or how much we have struggled up to this point or how locked into family and culture constraints we feel. We have the capacities to consciously create a new story for ourselves. One that reflect our deepest desires and happiness.

When we treat our life as a blank page, listen to the direction of our heart and soul, and create from inspired action, we become co-creators with the universe. The dictum ask and you will receive comes into play. We are asking consciously through thought and words. We are also asking energetically by feeling the qualities of spirit, like happiness, joy or security, that you want to create. What we focus on grows. What we appreciate, appreciates.

Developing practices that help focus on what we want rather than what we don’t want are critical to make the shift from a life of struggle to one of grace and ease. When we know we are creating our life and we create something you don’t want you can pause the movie of our life and choose again. In the past decade there have been a wealth of new resources in energy psychology, spiritual awareness and creativity available to help us make the shift. Let yourself be drawn intuitively to what will work for you.

Play with these. Being the creator of our life is like working a muscle. It gets stronger the more we use it. Exercise this gift and see what wonders you can create.

If you liked this article please subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on your left and enter your email. Thanks.

Celebrate Yourself with Gratitude

friends coffeeFalse modesty will get you nowhere — nor will
genuine modesty when it is not required.

Modesty is rarely required by Life, did you know that?
It’s true. People are more self-deprecating than they
ever need to be. God says it’s okay to celebrate
your self. Honor the self, and delight in expressing
your talents and your gifts.

– Neale Donald Walsch

We have been taught not to “strut our stuff”, not to “be too big for our britches” and not to brag. It’s certainly not okay for us to start talking about all the wonderful things we’ve done. So we tend to dismiss our gifts and accomplishment. We tend instead to focus on what is wrong and what’s not working in our lives. We don’t acknowledge all that we bring to the world.

What if it were time to focus on what’s right about you and your life rather than what’s wrong. What would it take for you to see all the good you contribute to the world, what a gift you truly are. What if spirit or the universe loved us more that we can imagine and really wanted us to celebration ourselves and our lives.

I’d like to invite you to keep a new kind of gratitude journal. Rather than focusing on what you are grateful for in your world, turn your attention to all the ways you are grateful for you. It’s a place where you celebrate you. Where you record all the ways you feel good about yourself. You take a moment to honor everything you’ve been or done that you are proud of.

It could includes traits like I am generous and kind. I’m a good parent. I have a great sense of humor. I made my daughter feel good about herself today. I remained peaceful in the long line at the supermarket. I listened to my friend when she needed a sounding board. I had the courage to quit the job I didn’t like. You get the idea.

You can also use it to celebrate your creative self. I worked on a poem today. I finished a painting. I took a photo. I played with doodling. I read on article on innovation.

Then any time you find yourself judging yourself or not feeling good about yourself and your life, pull it out and start reading. Reclaim the good feeling you have for you. Celebrate you and all the ways you are a gift to this world. The more you do this, the more this will become your default setting and your energy will shift in positive directions and so will your life. This is one of the greatest gifts we can be to thoses we love, the world and ourselves.

ALSO TRY THIS: Spend the week bragging to yourself about yourself. Tell yourself all the ways you are so amazing. You can do this in a journal with writing or out loud in the car or in front of the bathroom mirror. Even if you are uncomfortable about first keep at it until you feel genuine appreciation for the gift you are.

When you find and hold appreciation for yourself you honor your soul. ~Linayah

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free monthly newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I send you a free ebooklet Setting Your Creativity Free.

Travel Enhances Your Creativity and Your Life?

ireland view from gateI travel a lot; I hate having my life disrupted by routine. Caskie Stinnett

Recently I tweeted a quote by the Dalai Lama where he advised, “Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before”. One person responded with a wistful, “Someday. . .” I suspect more that one person had that reaction believing that he meant we needed to travel somewhere far and away.

Yet what I sense His Holiness meant was that it’s good meet new people and experience how others live. This creates an awareness that it spite of living in different cultures we are all human and have much in common. It helps us celebrate our differences and develop our sense of compassion.

Going somewhere new also helps to shake things up and gain a fresh perspective of the world and our lives. I actually give similar advice to my life and creativity coaching clients since it helps break out of routines and to see and perceive new possibilities.

We don’t have to travel half way around the world to have a new experience. If you live in the city visit a neighborhood you have never explored. Or travel to a nearby town. If you want to visit to India and can’t make that long a journey go to an Indian restaurant. Interested in Ireland, visit an Irish Pub and sip a pint of Guinness while tapping your foot to the Celtic music that is likely playing.

Travel opens our hearts and minds. We discover there is more than one way to embrace life and live upon the earth. It deepens our understanding of other people and ways of being. And as Aldous Huxley said so well “To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries”. It gives us a fresh perspective on the beautiful diversity on planet Earth.

If you enjoyed this article please subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left and enter your email. Thanks.

What To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do

trees denseWhen we have a decision to make we have a tendency to want an answer right away and feel compelled push our way forward. Yet in the moments when we feel most lost sometimes standing still is the best course of action. When we are calm and still within ourselves our higher self and higher inner guidance is able to reach us in a way it can’t when we are filled with the mental and emotional static of reacting to our situation. Here’s a poem that holds the wisdom of waiting from a place of knowing the best answer come to us if we let it.

Poet David Wagoner, who lives in the Pacific Northwest, has taken some of the stories the Native people tell and turned them into poems. One of my all time favorites, titled Lost, is based on what the elders of the village would tell the children to do if they were lost in the forest. In the Northwest, the dense forest grow right down to the sea’s edge so that it can be difficult to find your way through. I use this poem all the time when I realize that I trying to force things and really need to allow things to unfold in their natural way and timing. As all poetry does it speaks to our soul and deeper knowing.

Lost

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

-David Wagoner

from Collected Poems 1956-1976
Indiana University Press.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free monthly newsletter and I’ll send you a copy of my ebooklet Setting Your Creativity Free. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on your left and enter your email. Thanks.

Do You Let Negative Self Talk Stop You?

Put your thoughts to sleep,
do not let them
cast a shadow,
over the moon
of your heart.
Let go of thinking

– Rumi

Painted Background 260Do you let the voices in your head stop you from creating? You know the ones I mean. The ones that say, “I’m not good enough”, “I’m too old”, “I don’t have the time”, “It’s already been done”, or “Someone else will do it better”.

We all have some variation of this naysayer whose intention and sense of purpose is to keep us safe, small and in our comfort zone. A lot of the time this voice is running under the radar of conscious awareness. We sit down to write or we pick up a paintbrush or we begin to strum our guitar and find ourselves instead checking email or posting on Twitter, something we are comfortable with. When we realize that an hour has past we decide with will start the project tomorrow instead.

This resistance feels like an invisible force field holding us back. Until we become aware of it, we feel stuck. We can’t seem to move forward. Becoming conscious of the voice is the first step. Then try asking that part of yourself what does she need. Reassure her that she is safe. Often this is a tender part of ourselves who has experienced some trauma or disappointment around really expressing herself. You can acknowledge the fearful part of you, say I do hear you and I’m going to create anyway.

In my early days as a writer I used to tell my inner critic who would insist I’d never be another John Steinbeck, “thank you for sharing, I don’t need you input right now, I’ll talk t o you later, we’ll do lunch.” This helped defuse the voice so I could keep writing.

If you want to create anything new in your life you need to work with these voices in your head. You need to say yeah, I hear you and I’m going to take a step toward what I want anyway. Taking one small step a day can carry you a long way with freaking out the part of you that is trying to protect you from your fears.

Play with having a conversation with these parts of you. Find what works for you, so that every time you feel the resistance rise up you have a way to diffuse it and move on with the joy and satisfaction that creating brings.

If you enjoyed this article consider subscribing to my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab and enter your email. Thanks.

Creativity Is For Everyone, Really?

New CrayonsI really believe that everyone is creative, but it does need to be cultivated. It needs to be honored and nourished. You need to practice and play with it, the way you do with anything you want to learn and get good at.

It doesn’t need to take a lot of time or money. Buy a cheap spiral bound notebook. Personalize it. Make a collage on the cover or do a drawing. Sit down at your coffee break and write what’s on your mind for five or ten minutes. Or try doodling for one minute letting your pen really move on it’s own. Then look at the doodle as you would clouds in the sky and see what comes to you.

Resist the urge to judge anything you’ve done. Don’t make it serious. Think of how a young child plays. Buy a pack of crayons. Sing in the shower. Look at actual clouds in the sky, what animals do you see. Play with your imagination. See what happens.

Pay attention to any flashes of insight or inspiration and follow it where it takes you. Creativity is a dance between the conscious mind, the subconscious and the superconscious. It feels more expanded that our mind and thought process are capable of. It gives us access to new ways of seeing and perceiving. It feels good.

You can work creatively with everything: problem solving, parenting, gardening, cooking, design, decorating, arts and crafts, writing, computers, teaching, public speaking. Stop for a moment and make a list of all the ways you are already using creativity in your life. Honor yourself for it and look for ways to expand your capacity to be creative.

If you enjoy this article please subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left and enter your email. Thanks.

Letting Yourself Be Satisfied

Sharing their lives with each otherThe world is really a beautiful amazing place and our lives are actually filled with moments and experiences of fulfillment and satisfaction. Yet we hardly ever allow ourselves to feel them. Our minds push us ever onward to the next thing never stopping to savior the moment.

What does it take for us to be satisfied? Where does the constant restlessness and striving come from? Certainly we live in a culture that asks us to keep wanting: the bigger house, the newer car and so much more. Perhaps some of the lack of satisfaction stems from our soul’s longing for a more authentic life, one that honors and allows for the expression of our uniqueness.

Still we can learn a lot from being satisfied in each moment and that can help us identify what brings us happiness and joy on a deeper level. Take a deep breath and notice everything about this moment. No matter what is going on in our lives in each moment everything is usually okay. It’s when we run ahead of ourselves and anticipate a future based on our past that anxiety and doubt creep in.

Being satisfied is especially important when it comes to engaging our creativity. We need to learn that it’s enough that we show up during the day to play with a creative project or idea even if only for fifteen or twenty minutes rather than thinking we should have worked for two hours. Then be satisfied by what you learned from whatever time you spent. Young children are good reminders of how to do this. They are just happy to be absorbed in the play and hold no attached to outcome. Adopting this attitude during the process of creating can really help our creativity flourish and allow us to feel more satisfied with our lives as a whole.

I’ve begun a daily practice of noticing moments of satisfaction. It can be eating an artichoke which is one of my favorite food experiences. It can be looking out the window and catching the streaks of pink, orange and red in the sunset sky and stopping to breath the beauty in. It can be working on a draft of a poem with gratitude that the muse joined me in the work. As we cultivate a sense of fulfillment we actually find more to be satisfied by.

If you enjoyed this article please subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column to the left and enter you email. Thanks.

Think Creativity Should Be Easy?

writing-centerThere is a growing awareness that creativity is a capacity that everyone has, though they may not understand what is involved in accessing it. One of the main things that gets in the way of people embracing their creative gifts is a belief that creativity should be easy; that it should just flow out. They think they should be good at it immediately. If they are not and it’s not easy, there is a tendency to think there is something wrong with them and it’s never going to work.

Yet creativity in whatever form you choose to pursue is a complex process that actually asks a lot of us. This is why is feels so good to engage since it helps us discover that we are capable of more that we thought possible including working from expanded abilities. It is a muscle that we need to work with to develop, just like if we decided to run a marathon we would understand we needed to run daily for shorter periods to build up to the full distance.

Creativity is a practice that you have to stay with even when doubts arise. It tends to progress in a stair step fashion. We spend time showing up to the work each day for weeks, maybe months and we don’t seem to be getting any better. Then one day we have crossed a threshold to a new level where we can do things we have been unable to. We will need to work on that plateau for a while before being boosted to the next level.

Being creative also involves studying our chosen form of expression. Long before I wrote my first personal essay, the writing form that almost seemed to choose me, every time I went into a bookstore I was drawn to the essay section. Those were the only books I read. I was learning to write in that form by reading it. So when I started to write, my creative mind already had a sense of what to do. Sort of.

I then had to practice, writing pages and pages that never went anywhere but taught me a lot. I learned to trust that things were cooking on the level of my subconscious and super conscious minds. The more I showed up to practice, the more I had a sense of what to do and how to work with the material on a conscious level. The more I stayed with it, the more the wonderful, magical state of flow would occur where I was definitely operating in an expanded state.

Being creative feels like a beautiful dance. Engaging in the process feels good, so I never really thought about all the time and work I had to put in to become an accomplished writer. For me the act of creativity has always been it’s own reward. That has allowed me to stay with it through the doubts and slow going.

Now more than ever we need to resist the distractions like social media and the internet that give us a sense of instant gratification, making it more difficult to go the distance with our creativity. Keep in mind that you can make great progress with small steps taken day after day.

Try it: Pick a creative project. Then show up ten minutes a day to play with it. I did this recently in a form new to me, nature collage. I asked a painter friend about the best materials to use. Then with acrylic paint, glue and objects from nature, I let myself be intuitively guided in what to do. It took a bit before any of them turned out in a way pleasing to me. Yet each one taught me something.

As you play with your project resist the urge to judge. Put it away and look at a few days later when the critic has quieted down. Keep showing up, ten minutes day after day and see if you don’t feel the deep satisfaction that comes with opening to your creativity.

If you enjoy this article please subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left and enter your email. Thanks.

The Power of Taking a Soul Name

Desert A number of years ago I did a soul based backpacking journey into a Utah desert with Bill Plotkin, author of Soulcraft and Nature and the Human Soul. The trip, titled Falling into the Center of Your Longing, was a magical ten days in a remote red rock canyon in Utah full of flowers blooming and birds singing. The place held a sacred quality where I felt the support of Nature as I opened to listen to my soul’s longing.

The first day we were asked to take a name for ourselves that captured the essence of who we really are. My soul piped up without hesitation with the words World Lover echoing in my mind. I knew right away, that was it.

Since that time I have used that name as a focus for all that I create. In truth I was already doing that before the words came through. As a teacher, creativity coach, life coach, writer, healer, traveler, naturalist I have long had a sense that I am here to express the love I feel for the beauty and wonder of the world. Sharing my love with others gives me a sense of purpose and satisfaction as I act from this soulful core.

Since that journey the awareness that I was here to love the world in all that I do deepened that connection. The trip was a commitment to connect with the guidance and longing of my soul which naturally moved me into a deeper sense of purpose and celebration of the world every area of my life.

You can try this for yourself without necessarily going on a vision quest. Simply ask your soul for a name that holds the essence of what you long to be or bring to this world. Then let go. See what pops into your head when you least expect it and your mind is occupied with a mundane task, like when you are doing the dishes, in the shower, taking a walk or driving your car. When a name pops up don’t try to grasp it with your mind, Rather sit with and see if after a while whether it resonates for you. If it does let the name sink in and begin to inform your life in new ways and help you bring your gifts forward in unexpected ways. Play with it.

If you enjoyed this article please subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left and enter your email. Thanks.

Creativity and Consciousness

Silhouette of girl and doveConsider consciousness providing a connection to the field of infinite possibilities and creativity as one way to access that place. Anytime you begin to play with the creative process, whether through art or gardening or cooking or tinkering in your garage or problem solving at work, you open up to accessing expanded capacities and more of who you truly are. You tap into the field of Oneness, the domain of the infinite. It feels good. You have a heightened sense of awareness. Time seems to stop and you lose awareness of the world around you. You are very much in the Now.

You don’t have to be doing anything big or dramatic. It can start as simply as writing the draft of a poem or preparing a new dish without a recipe. Creativity happens when intuition, inspiration and attention intersect. We invite the mysterious process in when we start playing with a poem, a painting, an idea and allow it to be born from a deeper knowing. Our cognitive mind moves out of the way as if it grasps that it is over its head. It feels nervous at no longer being in control. At this point if you really let go, suddenly you find yourself in the creative dance where time stops and inspiration and an awareness of what step to take next is obvious.

We were meant to live this way. Sailing the seas of imagination. Asking what else is possible. Creativity is literally a gift we are all born with. It’s about more than arts and crafts. It expresses itself in a myriad of ways, in the unique form calls to us. It is also a capacity we use for everyday problem solving and creating our lives. It’s about being connected to Spirit and the invisible realms that are eager to support us. It is a doorway into higher consciousness. It is the place we will find the solutions needed to create positive change in our lives and the world.

If you enjoyed this please subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left and enter your email. Thanks.

Did School Kill Your Creativity?

painting colorsI believe this passionately: that we don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Or rather, we get educated out if it. – Ken Robinson

The most watched TED talk ever with 32 million views is by acclaimed educator and visionary Sir Ken Robinson. It is titled How schools kill creativity. Schools teach us that it’s not okay to think outside the box or draw outside the lines. From an early age we are taught to conform to a set norm which offers little room for being creative.

Long after we leave school we continue to repress our creative self. We have often decided that we just aren’t creative. Robinson insists that when people tell him they aren’t creative he assumes that they don’t understand what is involved. Creativity is actually a process that can be learned. New advancements in neuroscience have shown that it’s not a matter of right brain/left brain but rather that different networks of brain regions are enlisted during different stage of creativity. We all have the capacity to access these parts of our brain.

In the past several years top CEOs and educators around the world are insisting that creativity is the top trait needed to do well in the twenty first century. Creativity has so much to add to our lives. It gives us a deeper understand of ourselves and the world around us. It can improve our performance at work and our pleasure in our daily life.

In working as a creativity coach where I essentially act as a midwife to help others reawaken and reclaim the creativity that is their natural birthright, I have found that it is always alive and well just below the surface waiting for a bit of encouragement and nurturing to come forth.

To begin to do this for yourself, stop telling yourself that you are not creative and start looking for all the ways you already engage your creative capacities. Any time you come up with a solution to a problem you are being creative. Since creativity has a strong subconscious element, exercising our intuition, intention and focus as well as an awareness of those flashes of inspiration are key element in building our creative muscles and experiencing how the process works.

To nurture your creativity play with it. Let yourself be pleasantly surprised. Have fun. Resist the urge to take it seriously or feel you have to do it right or perfectly. The only way to be creative is to try something and see what works and what doesn’t, then play with it some more.

If you enjoyed this article please subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column to the left and enter your email. I’ll send you

The Flow of the Heart

sunflowersWe think we need to control everything. Our mind spins it’s wheels round and round reacting to the past, chewing on the seeds of separation. If left to run wild, the mind rarely say anything good about others or ourselves.

Mindfulness helps to quiet the mind so that we can hear the voices of heart and soul which only know love and Oneness.

The mind thinks it is keeping us safe, that it’s looking out for us. At best it keeps us distracted from our fear by focusing outside ourselves. At worst it is creating the situations in the holographic universe of our lives that we fear most.

Lately, I’ve been working with a new practice for quieting the mind. It involves bringing the mind down into the sacred chamber of the heart. Not the human heart that can have its own wounds but the part of our heart that connects us to the unconditional love at he heart of the universe; a unity consciousness or sense of Oneness.

Try it: Use your imagination to bring your mind down into the center of your heart or wherever in your heart area you feel guided. Have your heart welcome your mind home. From the place of love and connection to the Infinite, the mind will quiet down because it will feel safe. It will work with the heart to take inspired action and create more love and possibility in your life.

This is a practice, like meditation. Your mind may resist. It will likely want to pop back out of the heart and continue spinning stories of the danger and separation it perceives.

Lovingly bringing it back to the heart. See if your world doesn’t begin to soften as you go off autopilot and relax into the flow of the universe. This can really help your creativity since it will help connect your to the zone of inspiration and guidance.

If you enjoyed this article please subscribe to my newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left and enter your email. Thanks.

Traveling in the Flow

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn my first trip to Ireland I didn’t book anything ahead. I had the sense that it was important to let my heart and inner knowing guide me. I had studied the Lonely Planet Guide to Ireland and carried it with me so I understood the geography and the options for places to stay and sights to see. In reading the guide I let my intuition lead me through the pages using a feeling sense for where I should go. The West of Ireland, the land of my grandfather, especially the limestone region of The Burren including the Aran Islands, called to me most.

On landing at the Shannon airport I caught the bus to the town of Ennis where I planned to spend the first night at the Rowan Tree Hostel listed in the guide. On arriving I hoisted my backpack and headed toward the hostel. As I walked by the Grey Gables Bed and Breakfast, I felt tugged in that direction. I knocked on the door, which was opened a minute later by the woman of the house. When I asked about a room, she looked at me reluctantly since B and B’s don’t favor single travelers, but invited me in and offered me an nice attic room at a fair price. It was the perfect place to recover from jet lag and get my bearings. That evening I wandered the narrow streets of the town center and found the hostel closed for renovations.

The next day I traveled to the village of Doolin with four hostels to choose from. The bus driver suggested The Rainbow Hostel and my instincts agreed. In the evening the owner Mattie Shannon, who had a wealth of knowledge about the area, lead us on a walking tour of a nearby part of The Burren where he pointed out 1000 year old stone walls and a largely grown overgrown ring fort. On return he asked me and one other guests if we wanted to go to Poulnabrone dolmen, a stone age portal tomb dating back to around 3500 BC. Mattie wanted to photograph it at full moon rise. I had no idea the it was one of the main archeological sites in the area. Without a car I would have never been able to see it. In letting myself follow an inner knowing I was lead from one magical encounter to another for the entire three week trip.

I’ve done the same thing in traveling closer to home. On returning to California from visiting friends in eastern Washington State, I needed to find a campground amid the desert for the night. I asked my guidance to show me the best option among the several I saw on the map. The first two I passed, I sense a no in my body. At the entrance of the third I got a big yes and turned down the road going about a quarter of a mile to where I could see a lake and a grove of cottonwood shading the campsites. Because of the nearness to water the place was alive with birds including a nesting pair of bald eagles. Literally, it was an oasis in the desert.

Part of traveling in flow is a willingness to set the intention, ask for guidance and follow the subtle signals that often come as a felt sense in the body or a quiet internal knowing. The more you practice doing this the more you will learn exact how your intuition talks to you. It makes for magical travel.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free monthly newsletter, just click on the mail list subscribe tab in the column on the left and enter your email. Or consider joining me on a Journey to the West of Ireland. For more information on the next trip visit http://creativitygoeswild.com/west-of-ireland/

The Art of Working with Flow

yosemite_fallsWell, you’re right in the work, you lose your sense of time, you’re completely enraptured, you’re completely caught up in what you’re doing, and you’re sort of swayed by the possibilities you see in this work. . . – Mark Strand, poet

I’ve been reading Steven Kotler’s The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Performance. The book focuses on the state of flow where the miraculous and seemingly impossible can happen. Kotler defines flow as “an optimal state of consciousness, a peak state where we both feel our best and perform our best.” It is a state that anyone can access under the right conditions.

Creatives and innovators are quite familiar with this capacity. As a writing teacher and creativity coach, I have long worked with ways to help my clients access flow states and help them grasp that flow is at the heart of being creative. When working on a creative project, I will often feel like I don’t have any idea what I am doing or how I am going to accomplish the task. Yet if I just start and keep going, I move into a state of flow where I suddenly know what to do and I am excitedly dancing with the work. This is a common experience in finding and working with flow.

While creatives have long had an awareness of flow, the group of individuals who have pushed the boundaries of human potential most dramatically in the past decade have been action and adventure sports athletes. People, like Laird Hamilton, surfing one hundred foot waves, snowboarders and skateboarders making impossible jumps and rock climbers constantly expanding what they believed to be possible. The only reason extreme athletes are surviving pushing the boundaries is because they are in flow so they provide incredibly valuable insights into how flow works.

At the same time there have been extraordinary advancements in neuroscience including the development of small, portable instrumentation for studying what is going on in the brain in states of flow, for both creativity and these extreme athletes. We now know what part of the brains are being activated and the brain chemistry involved.

I felt incredibly energized as I read Kotler’s book, the way one does when your higher self is nudging you, saying yes pay attention to this, it’s important. In the middle of reading, I went for a walk and encountered a red-tailed hawk sitting atop a twenty foot pine just to the side of the path. I stood in wonder and asked the hawk what it wanted me to know. I have a long history of visitations from hawks, so I suspected she had a message for me.

She then launched into the air glided down to the grass next to a small creek with water trickling through, then walked down into the creek bed. I had never seen a hawk do anything like that. As I stood awestruck she leapt into the air, flashing her rufous red tail, as she sailed across the meadow and out of sight.

As I turned to continue up the path, an awareness flooded my mind that the hawk had been affirming my interest in flow. The hawk and the running water, metaphors for aligning with cosmic forces, with the flow. This encounter felt as the universe itself was conspiring to affirm the importance of my interest in flow.

These kinds of synchronicities are common occurrences in flow. One of the things that all the adventure athletes talked about was their experience of a connection to the Oneness with all things or something greater than themselves when they are in the flow.

We can learn to access this power of flow in any area of our lives including business and problem solving. From this expanded way of knowing we can bring the constructive changes so needed in our lives and the world at this time.

If you enjoyed this article please subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left and enter your email. Thanks.

Working With An Imaginary Mentor

creative flowerImagination is everything. It is the preview to life’s coming attractions. – Albert Einstein

I’ve been asking myself, how can I best help empower others at this time of great global change. The first answer that came in the flash of inspiration was the word imagination. Einstein regularly insisted that imagination is more important than knowledge. But the thing is, it’s not just for geniuses. It’s for everyone. We have just be taught to favor the rational mind at the expenses of capacities that actually can help us in amazing ways. It’s easy to reclaim.

Years ago I learned an exercise from Jean Houston, noted author, visionary and one of the founders of the human consciousness movement. It involves working with an imaginary mentor to get advice on any question that we have for any area of our life. Using our imagination and intuitive mind give us access to a deeper wisdom and way of knowing beyond the capabilities of our linear mind.

I have used this exercise for years in teaching writing and with creativity coaching. I have been amazed and delighted that my students get much better advice than I could have ever given with all my years of experience. Everyone in class could hear the wisdom coming through as we shared our answers. Most remarkable is that the answers actually sounded like they were coming from the individual asked. If someone asked Mark Twain, the response would sound like something Mark Twain would write. Tapping your imagination and writing in flow can give you access to expanded awareness and better answers you could think up.

TRY THIS: Pick someone you think would give good advice. It could be Einstein, Plato or your grandmother. Imagine you have written him or her a letter asking a question you have about anything in your life. It helps to be specific. Then using the technique of free writing (writing as fast you can without censoring) you write the response to you as if it is coming from your imaginary mentor. Really let go on this one. Don’t think. Just let the answer flow out of the pen or the keyboard for at least ten minutes. Then read the answer with an open curiosity as if you really have just received this letter in the mail. Be open, be objective. The more you play with this, the stronger the muscle of your imagination grows.

OR TRY THIS: You can also go for a walk with your imaginary mentor and have a conversation with them in your imagination. The key is to play and be open. Let go of thinking that you have to figure out everything with your mind.

Taking Note – Playing in the Field of Curiosity

blank pageFor any writer who wants to keep a journal, be alive to everything, not just to what you’re feeling, but also to your pets, to flowers, to what you’re reading. – May Sarton

Keeping a journal or notebook to record not only your inner landscape but you observations of the world around you can make your life much more vibrant and alive. There is a long list of famous people who kept journals or notebooks. Anthropologist Margaret Mead, Charles Darwin, Thomas Jefferson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Winston Churchill, Franz Kafka and Virginia Wolfe are just a few. The great geniuses and innovators kept their child-like sense of wonder and curiosity alive. Keeping a journal can help.

It’s easy to start. Get a bound blank book, or you can start with a cheap spiral notebook. Date your entries. Begin by describing your surroundings, the current state of your life as well as your hopes, dreams, desires or questions. Put down anything you are curious about or whatever wants to spill out on to the page. If you are a writer, this is a good way to loosen up.

Leonardo Da Vinci actually carried a notebook attached to his belt and recorded anything he was curious about, any image he saw that drew him, any ideas that popped into his head or any questions that came to him. He insisted that passionate curiosity about all of life was one of the keys to his genius and remarkable accomplishments.

Short-term memory only retains information for three minutes. Unless committed to paper, an inspired idea forever can be lost forever. You can use your journal to record all the ideas and inspirations that flash into your mind. Plus paying close attention to the world and asking questions actually invites the subconscious mind into play increasing your creative and mental capacities.

So try what Leonardo did. Keep a notebook with you at all times. It could simply be a small spiral bound one that fits in your back pocket. Do it for a week and see if it doesn’t awaken your sense of amazement for the beauty and complexity of the world.

I’ve started doing this, making note of the reflection of trees on the surface of a pond, the hawks crying out as they circle overhead, the newborn baby asleep in a stroller rocking back and forth with the motion, and the power of horses racing across a field.

I’ve kept a journal for over 40 years. It’s added so much to my life and my writing. Carrying one with me everywhere has me opening to appreciating the world around me on a whole new level and making connections I would have missed otherwise.

If you enjoyed this article consider subscribing to my free monthly newsletter. Just click on the mail list subscribe in the column on the left. Thanks.

Curiosity Cultivates Creativity

baldeagle_head1I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious. – Albert Einstein

Curiosity about life in all of its aspects, I think, is still the secret of great creative people. – Leo Burnett

Leonardo da Vinci, one of the most diversely talented individuals ever, was infinitely curious. He carried a notebook with him wherever he went and wrote down or sketched anything that aroused his curiosity. While best known for his paintings, the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, he was also a sculptor, architect, musician, mathematician, engineer and inventor.

Being curious is a way of inviting creativity and can open us up to our unique genius. It opens our mind to make new connections and consider new possibilities. Albert Einstein attributed his brilliance to being passionately curious. Writer Henry James suggested to help your writing, Try to be someone on whom nothing is lost. With my writing students and coaching clients, I ask them to shake things up and do new things or visit a place they have never been before. Without curiosity, without “I wonder what would happen if I tried. . .”, we would never create anything new.

Between my own creative work as a writer and my interest in nature, my curiosity about the world is finely honed. I love to eavesdrop on conversations or watch people in cafes, not out of noisiness, but a real interest in other people’s lives and the wonderful range of possibilities for being human. I often get ideas for my writing that way. I’ll make up stories about people to exercise my imagination.

Paying attention and being curious as I walk in Nature is a great way to practice mindfulness and live in the moment. It also allows me to feel connected to and nourished by a larger world. Observing Nature’s great capacity as an artist also provides inspiration for my own creative work.

One of the things that ages us is doing the same old, same old over and over again. We do the same thing everyday, drive the same way to work, eat the same foods. The neural nets in our brain actually get rutted by our habits. Developing a habit of being curious and trying new things can keep us open to new possibilities and help keep us young as well as increasing our ability to be more creative.

TRY THIS: What are you curious about? It could be about trying a new recipe or visiting a new store that just opened. It could involve exploring a new place to walk or reading a book about a field you don’t know anything about but feel a pull toward. What can you do today to start building the muscle of your curiosity?

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free monthly newsletter. Just click the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column to the left, enter your email and I’ll send you my free Creativity eBooklet for inspiration and guidance. Thanks

Ireland and the Power of Story and Imagination

cashelOn my first visit to Ireland, I went to Matt Molloy’s pub in Westport, County Mayo and had the delight of hearing a traditional storyteller. I could feel the enchantment woven through this oral tradition. The same way I have witnessed people’s attention held in a wondrous way from my own involvement with spoken word poetry in my community in northern California. There is something in the human psyche that is brought to life by stories.

Ireland has produced per capita more Nobel prize winning writers than any other country. With a population of 4 million, Ireland claims four Nobel laureates in literature: William Butler Yeats, Seamus Heaney, Samuel Beckett and George Bernard Shaw along with other writers of great stature like James Joyce, Jonathan Swift and Oscar Wilde.

The reverence for words, stories and poetry runs deep in Ireland tied to the oral tradition of the Celts who had no written language. For centuries in Ireland, the itinerant Seanchai,the Storyteller”was the person who kept the legends, the history, the traditions of the people alive. Up until the 1950s there were still storytellers traveling from village to village housed and fed along the way. This oral tradition was especially important in holding on to Irish culture during the eight hundred years of British occupation. Writers and storytellers are revered. Poet, William Butler Yeats, was instrumental in helping to spark the rebellion that lead to Irish independence in 1923.

My father, son of two emigrants from Ireland who settled in San Francisco, came home every evening and read the great works of literature. Shakespeare, Thomas Hardy and W.B.Yeats were among his favorite. So I was raised with this love of words and stories that runs deep in my bones and I suspect is part of why I became a writer and why Ireland has such a strong pull on my heart.

While the storytelling tradition isn’t so obviously present in modern Ireland, support for writing and the arts is strong. Ireland actually gives a tax exemption to writers, composers, visual artists and sculptors for income made from the sale of their work. Traditional Irish music has remained vibrant through the 20th, and into the 21st century, despite globalization. Musicians gather nightly in pubs all over Ireland to play together.

I have long felt that Ireland hold something for the world. There is an ancient wisdom that run deep in the land, the feel of magic and mystery present especially in the West where the Irish language is still spoken. It holds a reminder that a love for words and stories can bring the world alive. You don’t have to be Irish or travel to Ireland to experience this. You can embrace it wherever you are.

. . .to understand the Irish, mere facts can never be enough; this is a country that reprocesses itself through the mills of its imagination. – Frank Delaney

Consider joining me on a Journey to the West of Ireland. For more information on the next trip visit http://creativitygoeswild.com/west-of-ireland/

The Mystery and the Irish Language

boyle abbey roscommonOne of the things I really value about spending time in Ireland is the implicit acceptance of the mystery, the way the mythic is at play in the world. You see it in the mural in the Dublin airport honoring the druidic connection to the oak trees and the magnificent sculpture in the Park of Remembrance in downtown Dublin depicting the ancient myth of Lir where the wicked stepmother turned the king’s four daughters into swans.

I have an friend in San Francisco who has spent years studying the Irish language. She told me once that she had a sense that when native Irish speakers spoke of the mystery, there was no way to translate it into English. There were no words that held the same depth of meaning.

Irish is part of the Gaelic family of languages, the ancient language of the Celts who had no written language so information was passed down as story or verse. The Celts who had deep ties to the natural world saw no separation between the day world and the dream or spirit world. They had no sense of duality. In the Irish language there are no words for yes and no. You can decline an invitation by saying I’d rather not have lunch with you but you would not just say no.

Another acknowledgement of the mystery in the Irish language, there is no word for hello. When you greet someone you say Dia huit which means God with you. It’s a blessing. Anthropologist have long known that language defines a culture. While almost all Irish people today speak English, the result of 800 years of British occupation, there are places, especially in the west, where Irish survived and remains alive. There are still regions of Ireland where Irish is the dominant language.

I feel a sense of the mystery most in the west of Ireland where Irish is still spoken as the daily language. I’ve had many experiences there that can only be called magical or miraculous. Once I traveled to Inishmann the middle of the Aran Islands for the day and forgot my water bottle. It was April and the store wasn’t open until later. As my thirst grew I decided to go down and walk along the beach. On one of the stone walls I found an unopened bottle of water. It felt like magic, like a gift from beyond the veil.

Consider joining me on a Journey to the West of Ireland. For more information on the next trip visit http://creativitygoeswild.com/west-of-ireland/

The Answers Are Within You

writing2We are constantly looking for answers outside ourselves, hoping to find them in a book or a workshop or maybe a psychic. I’ve certainly done my share of chasing after answers from outside sources until I finally realized that my own heart and soul was the only sure source of the highest answers for me, for what my life is meant to be, what I am here to express.

Quieting the mind gives you greater access to the clear guidance that is available to us every moment of every day. Meditation or walking in Nature can help. One the best way to by pass the mind and dip into our deeper knowing that I have found is stream of consciousness writing. Sometimes called free writing or automatic writing, it can really help you connect to the deeper wisdom that lives within you. Call it your Higher Self, your Divine Self or your Intuitive Knowing – it’s the connection to a larger awareness that your linear mind can access.

If you write a tad faster than you can think, you out run the rational mind and open the doors to this deeper way of knowing and receiving help from your heart and soul that is much more expansive and creative than anything you could have conceived with your mind.

Try This: Think of a question you have about anything or a problem you need help with. Then address your Higher Self as if you were having a conversation. Write down the question or concern then write as if your Higher Self is answering you, just let the words flow out of your pen or the keys if you are typing. Don’t think. Write as fast as you can. Really let go and allow. You can set a timer for ten minutes if you want. That’s often long enough to get to the heart of things.

When you read what you have written suspend judgment. Try to read it as if someone else has written it. Be objective. Be curious. Your mind will often call it nonsense. Your mind doesn’t like letting go of control even though it can’t really provide your highest answer. Then too the answer you get may take you out of your comfort zone which your mind tries to keep you in.

We are so used to looking to our minds to help us solve problems. But your mind is like a computer program with limited information based on what you have put into it. While your heart, soul and imagination has access to a much bigger field. What place do you want to be living from?

Ready to Create Your Life, Your World?

Silhouette of girl and doveHave the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary – Steve Jobs

It’s hard to describe the creative process with words and rational thought. It’s really a dance, a song, music in the blood, rising on the breath of inspiration. It’s a flow of energy that connects you to the heart of the universe. When you enter that river it feels really good. You are alive in the moment, expressing the uniqueness of you.

You can create anything from this place: a poem, a song, a garden, a solution to a problem or a new story for your life. Take a dash of inspiration, a flood of ideas, woven into a images in the mind’s eye by your imagination. Your heart and intuition play a key role, too.

What if you really knew that you could create anything from this place? What if you understood that you could rearrange the creation of your life by what you imagine, what you pay attention to, and what you choose to focus on.

Begin by relaxing your hold on whatever you think of as your story now. Suspend disbelief and imagine that you can change the story of your life more easily than you think. Consider that you have an opportunity for rebirth. What would that look like if you had a magic wand that allow you to access infinite possibilities?

TRY THIS: Take a moment and consider the life you desire for yourself. What do you feel called to create? What areas aren’t working the way you would like? Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths. and drop your attention down into your heart. Then imagine yourself journeying to a place where anything and everything is possible. As you leave your old story behind feel the creative excitement and energy of the new life that wants to be born. Invite your soul to participate and ask the universe to help.

Imagine the elements of your new life coming toward you. What do you see, hear, smell, feel, and taste. Using your senses makes the experience feel much more real. Know that whatever you can imagine is possible. In your mind’s eye try on whatever comes to you. How does it feel? Do you feel expanded? Does it feel good? If so, this helps you discern what is for your highest good. The more you play with this exercise on a daily basis the more you are energizing the potential for what you want to create.

To help your creativity along begin to break out of habitual patterns. Find new ways to creatively engage even the most ordinary aspects of your daily life. Put your clothes on in new order. Eat new foods. Find meaningful and inspiring challenges. Explore new possibilities for interacting with your inner and outer worlds. This generates new opportunities that will lead you to the future you feel called to create.

You can use this exercise for anything you want to create whether it’s engaging with a new art form or creating a whole new life. In the changing world we live in using our expanded capacities of imagination and intuition can open you up to things happening in magical and unexpected ways, that our mind would never have considered. Living from this place allows you to tap the creative flow in every area of our lives. It leads to our greatest happiness and fulfillment.

If you enjoyed this article consider subscribing to my monthly newsletter. I’ll send you a free copy of my creativity ebooklet Embracing Your Creativity. Just click on the mail list subscribe tab in the column to your left. Thanks

What Children Can Teach Us About Creativity

Happy child with painted handsIt took me four years to learn to paint like Raphael and a lifetime to learn to paint like a child. – Pablo Picasso

Children naturally express their creativity up until about the time they start school. That is the beginning of the end for most people’s imagination. Schools, committed to conformity and standardization. leave little room for the freedom of spirit and unique expression that is key to creativity.

Reclaiming our child like sense of innocence, play, curiosity and wonder is a good place to begin exercising our creative muscle. Watching children is a great way to grasp these basics at the heart of being creative. Consider the power of doing things children do naturally, like asking questions, creative play, daydreaming, fearlessly engaging a project and using the imagination.

Curiosity is an essential element. Children ask questions about everything and they tend to question everything. Being curious opens us to possibilities rather than operating from preconceived ideas about what is possible and what’s not. Asking questions also invites our subconscious mind to play increasing our creative capacity and ability to problem solve.

Play is another way to enhance our creativity and learning. Lightning up and not taking things so seriously can increase the flow of ideas. A willingness to play with the process is critical since this is the only way we can learn what works and what doesn’t. This is how children learn.

Closely linked to play is engaging a project without fear or concern for outcome. Young children live very much in the moment and they experience the joy to diving into something with no concern for how it’s going to turn out. If we are concerned with doing it right or trying to control the outcome we kill the creative flow.

Letting our mind wander or daydreaming has actually be scientifically shown to be a high level brain function that expands the mind and relaxed the body. When we do this our minds are in a relax, receptive state that allow for inspiration to flow. Children often drift off as if lost in a meditative trance. Giving ourselves permission to daydream can feed our creativity.

Children are masters at using imagination or playing “just pretend”. When we use our creative abilities we tap into an expanded way of knowing and being. Imagination is clearly one of the ways we do this and the more we exercise it, the stronger the connection becomes. We have been taught to dismiss our imagination as if we are “making it up” and it has no consequence or importance. Yet Albert Einstein insisted that “imagination is more important than knowledge” and people using their creativity know the power of using this natural gift.

The challenge to reclaiming our creative gifts that we have been largely schooled out of, is the lack of cultural support and permission. In order for all of us to engage our creativity there needs to be an atmosphere where it’s okay for everyone to be creative rather than holding the assumption that it’s the domain of a select few. We also need to understand that it is a process that can be learned and that as children we naturally played in this realm. Some part of us knows how.

If you enjoyed this article consider subscribing to my monthly newsletter and I will send you are free eBooklet Embracing Your Creativity. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left. Thanks.

The Call of Ireland

Springtime in Connemara

Some years ago in answer to a deep inner calling I began studying all things Irish; the history, mythology, culture and language. I went on my own journey to the West of Ireland where my grandfather came from. On approach to the Shannon Airport the plane passed low over the end of the runway where I saw a lone sheep in a small stone paddock grazing on bright green grass. The word home echoed in my mind as tears trickled down my cheeks catching me by surprise.

I told an Irish woman I know of this experience and she responded, “well now that would be the ancestors welcoming you home.” In the Irish language (Gaelic) there is no word for emigrant, the closest they come is the word for exile. Now whenever I am in Ireland and people learn that I am of Irish ancestry they say, welcome home. Whether you are of Irish ancestry or not, the Irish people are incredibly warm and welcoming and ready to talk with you. In the ancient Celtic tradition generosity was a heroic act and the Irish embody that tendency still.

The West of Ireland, a place of great scenic beauty, offers a sense of stepping out of time and the chaos of the modern world. The land herself feels old and mystical. In the Neolithic Era , about 8000 year ago, people lived in Ireland who worshipped the Great Mother Goddess which included the land. The Celts who came later also revered the land and celebrated a rich culture. The long monastic tradition in the west of Ireland adds to the feel.

ireland dolmenIn Ireland the land and the people are very much entwined. The Irish reverence for music, dance, storytelling and poetry is still very much alive. West County Clare and the Aran Islands have a unique biological makeup. The white limestone region has plants from both the Arctic and the Mediterranean; orchids, gentians and wild primrose amid bronze-age ring forts and burial dolmens that are older than the pyramids.

Since that initial call and journey I have returned to Ireland again and again steeping myself in her magic. It feels like a land out of time where I am surprised and enchanted by what I discover.

If you feel the call too join me on my next trip to Ireland. For more information visit http://creativitygoeswild.com/west-of-ireland/

The Importance of Daydreaming

dream_a_zI’m not much of a math and science guy. I spent most of my time in school daydreaming and managed to turn it into a living. – George Lucas

Do you remember all the times you were told as a child to stop daydreaming and all the times you got in trouble in school for staring out the window? We are routinely judged for daydreaming, the implication being that we are wasting time or being unproductive. Yet, daydreaming is actually a very high-level brain function that has many uses and benefits.

Scientists have found that daydreaming actually exercises your brain’s ability to handle multiple thoughts at the same time. This can definitely enhance creative abilities. You may have noticed that your most brilliant ideas come while you are washing dishes, going for a walk or taking a shower. When you are occupied with an simple task your brain is free to process complicated thoughts and problems drawing on the depths of the subconscious.

People who are actively creative likely have an increased capacity to stay focused on a task at hand while letting their mind wander at the same time. Your mind can drive your car or clean the house while also working on a poem or coming up with a solution a problem at work.

Once you let your mind wander without trying to control it, you allow your brain to explore ideas and solutions to problems that you might not have thought about before when you were actively concentrating on the problem.

Allowing your mind to drift without censoring or judging provides space new ideas or perspectives to show up. When you are daydreaming, anything is possible. This allows you to imagine things working in a new and better way. You can use this for creating anything including your life.

Often while daydreaming you will find that the answer to a problem seems to just pop into your mind, even when consciously you thought there was no possible solution. Many of the greatest minds in history claim that they came up with their best ideas while daydreaming. So the next time you find your mind wandering let it go, knowing something important and productive is going on.

If you enjoyed this article consider subscribing to my monthly newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column to the left and enter your email. Thanks

What Exactly is Creativity?

paintbrushesFor much of my life I’ve engaged creativity in a variety of ways including modern dance, design, photography, teaching, creative writing, creativity coaching and creative problem solving. Until I started teaching creative writing and working as a creativity coach, I had never given much thought to what exactly creativity is and how it works.

For me it’s largely a process that seems to have a life of it’s own. It’s the evolution of an idea that proceeds mostly below the level of conscious awareness with moments of clarity and realization rising to the surface that give direction on what to do next in the physical world.

I sense that some variation of this process applies for everyone whether we are working in the arts, science, business or technology. Work is coupled with inspiration and imagination. The work is part of the pleasure of the experience. It feels good, expansive and energizing.

We start with imagination, our ability to generate a new idea or see something in our mind’s eye that extends beyond our five senses. It can feel like we are making it up or that it comes out of nowhere. We have an intuition, a sense of something wanting to be born.

We remain open to what else pops into our head, especially in moments when our rational mind is busy with other things, like washing the dishes, taking a shower, going for a walk or driving the car.

We can think of creativity itself as the act of expressing the idea. We do something with it. We begin to work on a poem, draw a picture, start a business or tinker with a solar panel in the garage. Continuing to dance with the process, we grow a piece remaining open to inspired guidance on what to do next. The process of creativity involves working on something for a while then letting it go or putting it away for a bit and allowing inspiration for the next step to come in.

Innovation can be thought of as the process of creating something new or doing something in a new way. It’s a cousin of creativity. The boundaries blur a bit. The elements overlap.

We all have this ability. We just need to be willing to claim it and play with it. The more we do this, the more our capacity to be creative grows. You can begin by doodling. You could write in the stream of consciousness for ten minutes. Start by asking the question, how can I express my creativity. Or just ask that question of your subconscious mind, then let it go and see what comes to your as you go about your day.

If you enjoyed this article please subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe in the column on the left and enter your email. Thanks.

The Problem with Ignoring Our Creativity

creative flowerI believe this passionately: that we don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Or rather, we get educated out if it. – Ken Robinson

I’ve been reading a brilliant book by Ken Robinson called Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative. The title springs from Robinson’s belief that at this time in human history if we fail to promote and support the vast reserves of latent creativity and innovation living within every person, then we must be “out of our minds”.

He insists and I agree “that everyone has a huge creative capacity as a natural result of being a human being.” The challenge is the lack of cultural support and permission for reclaiming the creative gifts that we have been largely schooled out of. There needs to be an atmosphere where it’s okay for everyone to be creative rather than holding the assumption that it’s the domain of a select few.

On a global level, we are in the midst of a major paradigm shift where old structures unravel because they no longer really serve the greater good. Humanity is in the process of evolving from a world based on competition to one where cooperation and co-creation holds the key to our well being and survival. As entirely new ways to doing things need to be developed, engaging and expanding our creativity and innovation are absolutely critical. Creativity is where our intuitive and imaginative minds play with the field of infinite possibilities.

Since most of us have had our creative efforts discouraged at an early age, we have a hard time wanting to re-open that door. Start with this. Look at all the ways you are already creative in your life. This includes creative problem solving. Many years ago at a wilderness trailhead miles from help I fixed the broken cable to my gas pedal using a paper clip and rubber band so we were able to drive home.

I suspect that if you look at your creative self in this new light you will come up with a long list of all the ways you are already creative. Then ask yourself, “how can I expand my creative capacity?” and “how can I support others in being more creative?”

Along with helping the world, on a personal level being creative feeds our own heart and soul. When we fail to use our creative capacity we limit our experience of the joy and presence that being absorbed in the creative moment brings.

As we approach the new year be open to the ways you want to bring more creativity into your life. Once you ask yourself the question, “how can I bring more creativity into my life and the world”, let it go and just see what pops into your mind when you aren’t thinking about it.

Pay attention to synchronicities, those chance occurrences that hold meaning. I’ve had books I’ve needed to read literally fall off the bookstore shelf at my feet. I tend to get goosebumps at such moments as if my body recognizes the communication from a higher source at work. That’s part of how creativity works.

Opening more fully to our intuition, imagination and creativity can be key in navigating the rapid pace of change in the world. Accessing the expanded way of knowing, at the heart of being creative, can keep us from feeling overwhelmed by our sense of uncertainty.

The more complex the world becomes, the more creative we need to be to meet its challenges. – Ken Robinson

If you enjoyed this article consider subscribing to my monthly newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column to the left. Thanks.

The Force of the Imagination

IMG_0291I believe in nothing but the holiness of the heart’s affection and the truth of the imagination. – John Keats

A hundred years ago, Ireland gained independence from Britain through a bloody revolution. A year ago the people of Scotland were allowed to vote on whether or not they wanted sovereign rule or remain part of the UK. I was very much heartened by this evidence of dramatic change for the good.

While it tempting to focus on the all the discord and war in the world today, I think it’s important to turn our attention on what is working and look at how we can peacefully transform systems that really are not working for the good of the whole.

I have been thinking about how important it is to combine this effort with the use of the expanded awareness of the imagination to envision what we desire the changes to look like. Imagination after all is a force that can take us places we have never been before.

Barbara Marx Hubbard, the 84 years young founder of the Foundation for Conscious Evolution, thinks groups like the Occupy movement and the Umbrella movement calling for change in Hong Kong, “are planting seeds of the evolution of democracy itself, a democracy that expresses the hopes and aspirations of the people, for the common good.” These grassroots movements are questioning the existing structures that are all top down hierarchies: like corporations, organized religions, and nations states. It’s obvious that these systems are in need to repair and restructuring, the question is do we want to allow the changes to occur by default or do we want to hold a vision for the new earth and create from there.

In her recent newsletter Barbara Marx Hubbard, quoted Buckminster Fuller, the great “design science” evolutionary and futurist as saying that “we have the technology, resources and know-how to make of this world a 100% physical success for all people, without destroying our environment.” We need to come up with better designs for social systems, governing, economics, health care, transportation. How do we create better designs.

This leads me back to the imagination; this incredible ability we all have to be alchemists, to create something from apparently nothing. We start playing around with an idea and let our subconscious mind or imagination run and different possibilities come to us after we have let it go and are out for a walk, in the shower, washing the dishes, driving to the store or staring out the window. From this place we can come up with creative solutions and new structures that are inaccessible to the rational mind. As Einstein said, “Logic will get you from A to B and imagination will take you everywhere.” Use of our imagination fuels innovation.

Each one of us can contribute our unique gifts to this visioning and help to create the world we really would like to live in. To begin we start holding an image of what we want that world to look like. For a bit of inspiration I’ve included the lyrics to the John Lennon song Imagine, which I think carries the Spirit of the changes that the heart of the movements calling for positive change are asking for.

Imagine there’s no Heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world

You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

– John Lennon

If you enjoyed this article consider subscribing to my monthly newsletter and I’ll send you a free ebooklet Setting Your Creativity Free. Just click the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left. Thanks

Creativity: It’s a Process

writingashealing_writingA popular misconception about creativity is that you are either born with it or not. Many think that it’s a gift that hits you like a lightning bolt in a blaze of inspiration and that’s the only way you can access your creativity. While on rare occasions for some people creativity may comes that way, for most it’s a process that involves studying the form, practice, incubation and perseverance. In essence it’s a gift we are all born with that needs to be nurtured with time and patience. In truth it is a process that required commitment and perseverance.

Most of us understand that in the first year that we start playing the oboe that we will not find ourselves as the first chair in the New York Philharmonic. With a musically instrument that is difficult to play, we would naturally understand that it would take time and practice to get good. Accomplished musicians do indeed practice hours each day, everyday for years to achieve a high level of play. Pulitzer prize winning poet Mary Oliver revises her poems up to 60 times.

This is also true for anyone who has gained a level of skill in their chosen form of creative expression. Being creative is a process, it’s a journey. This is why I am a proponent of falling in love with the process and finding joy in the journey. The act of being creative really is it’s own reward. There is tremendous satisfaction with playing ideas and techniques to create something new whether it’s a poem, a song a recipe for a dessert or a business.

Once it is understood that it is a process then it becomes obvious that anyone can indeed be creative. All you have to do it be willing to play with the process, build up the muscle of the imagination and see where is takes you. Let yourself be surprised. That’s part of the joy and excitement of being creative.

If you enjoyed this article please subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left and enter your email. Thanks.

Think You Have to Be Original to Be Creative?

hummingbirdYou don’t have to reinvent the wheel. . .just steal the hubcaps. – Michael P. Naughton

One of the misunderstanding around creativity is that you have to be utterly original to do it. Yet the truth is all creative people stand on the shoulders of those who came before. Writers learn to write by reading, painting students are sent to museums to copy the masters, while great chefs learn the already tested basics of cooking in order to create some new dish.

Pulitzer prize winning poet Mary Oliver in her poem titled Stanley Kunitz, honoring one of her mentors, has a great line that describes this, “like the human child I am/I rush to imitate.” We play with the work of others as we develop the sense of how it works and then how we can make the form our own. Ultimately our own unique creative expression is a remix of all our influences. Most of this is going on at the level of the subconscious and comes out when we get to work.

Innovation stands on a platform that already exists. Yes inspiration is involved, those flashes of insight, the ah…ha moments. Yet you start with something that already exists and take it to another level. So relax. Let go of thinking you have to do something original. Take the pressure off. Celebrate that there is all this help available.

One the best exercises I use as a writing and creativity coach, is having people ask advice of an imaginary mentor. I teach this as a stream of consciousness writing exercise, where you ask a question of someone you admire, like Einstein or Emily Bronte. Then writing faster than you can think, you write the answer as if it is coming from them. Ten minutes is usually enough time to get good advice.

Try this now. See if you don’t feel the support of those you have come before you in what creative form that calls to you.

Is Resistance Stopping You?

IMG_0321Resistance is an energy that keeps us from moving forward in ways we would really like to. It stems from focusing on what we don’t like about a situation and usually this is all going on at a subconscious level. We just know something’s not right. We feel a heaviness or discomfort in our bodies. Resistance definitely doesn’t feel good. If things aren’t working in your life the way you would like, you may be deep in resistance without even realizing it.

Resistance arises when we have subconscious beliefs or feelings that conflict with what we consciously desire. Say you sit down, excited to write an essay about your experience with dogs, yet once you begin to move the pen across the page it feels like someone is holding up a stop sign in front of you. Your subconscious has pulled up a memory of when your fourth grade teacher ridiculed you for a report you wrote on your beloved pet Beagle, Molly. You probably aren’t even consciously aware of the memory but all of a sudden you can’t make yourself write, on some level it doesn’t feel safe. An internal struggle is going on between the part of you that really wants to express yourself creatively and the part that wants to keep you safe, all below the level of conscious awareness. This tug of war can keep you stuck.

The first thing you can do is to become aware of when you are in resistance and simply acknowledge it. Say hello to it. Invite it to leave. Resisting the resistance will only make it worse. Let go of pushing down on it. Honor it as a protective mechanism and you can let it know that you no longer need protection. Using your breath can really help. Bring yourself into the present moment. Notice that you are safe and all is well. Keep breathing. This helps to relax your body which helps you feel safe, allowing you to move forward. I also work with EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) aka Tapping in order to shift resistance. It helps to address the subconscious mind and break up the pattern held in the body.

Now that you have a better understanding of the power and source of resistance you can use your awareness to shift you from feeling stuck to moving forward. Play with this awareness. It can take time to consistently recognize when resistance has taken hold and move beyond it.

If you enjoyed this article consider subscribing to my free newsletter, just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left and enter your email. Thanks.

Celebrating Common Things Through Creativity

Raspberries_(Rubus_Idaeus)Pablo Neruda, Nobel prize winning Chilean poet, early in his writing life wrote serious political poems which actually got him exiled from Chile for a time. One line from his poem I’m Explaining a Few Things written in 1935 during the Spanish Civil War has long stayed with me capturing the intensity of Neruda’s work, …and the blood of children ran through the streets/without fuss, like children’s blood…

Later in his life, as if weary of the burden of protesting atrocities and political corruption, he began to write Odes about everyday things: salt, cat, dog, dictionary, tomato, to name a few. His Odes celebrate the ordinary in an extraordinary way. I have a hard bound collection of Odes to Common Things, the original Spanish facing the English translation. I cherish this book because, beyond the fact that the poems are an exquisite, playful honoring of the everyday, those things we take for granted, the things we no longer really see; they remind us to pay attention and look at common things with new eyes and imagination.

You could do this too in whatever form your creativity takes. Play with it and see if it doesn’t brighten and expand your world.

Here’s one of my favorites by Neruda:

Ode to the Artichoke

The artichoke
With a tender heart
Dressed up like a warrior,
Standing at attention, it built
A small helmet
Under its scales
It remained
Unshakeable,
By its side
The crazy vegetables
Uncurled
Their tendrils and leaf-crowns,
Throbbing bulbs,
In the sub-soil
The carrot
With its red mustaches
Was sleeping,
The grapevine
Hung out to dry its branches
Through which the wine will rise,
The cabbage
Dedicated itself
To trying on skirts,
The oregano
To perfuming the world,
And the sweet
Artichoke
There in the garden,
Dressed like a warrior,
Burnished
Like a proud
Pomegrante.
And one day
Side by side
In big wicker baskets
Walking through the market
To realize their dream
The artichoke army
In formation.
Never was it so military
Like on parade.
The men
In their white shirts
Among the vegetables
Were
The Marshals
Of the artichokes
Lines in close order
Command voices,
And the bang
Of a falling box.

But
Then
Maria
Comes
With her basket
She chooses
An artichoke,
She’s not afraid of it.
She examines it, she observes it
Up against the light like it was an egg,
She buys it,
She mixes it up
In her handbag
With a pair of shoes
With a cabbage head and a
Bottle
Of vinegar
Until
She enters the kitchen
And submerges it in a pot.

Thus ends
In peace
This career
Of the armed vegetable
Which is called an artichoke,
Then
Scale by scale,
We strip off
The delicacy
And eat
The peaceful mush
Of its green heart.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free monthly newsletter and I’ll send you a copy of my ebooklet Setting Your Creativity Free. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on your left and enter your email. Thanks.

Ready to Set Your Creativity Free?

Silhouette of girl and doveDoes it feel like your creativity is locked up tight in a box you are afraid to open? You put it in there long ago when your third grade teacher didn’t like your drawing or your father disapproved of you wasting your time writing poems or your grandmother told you that you didn’t have as good a singing voice as your sister.

It happened to me in junior high school when my in my design class the teacher exclaimed about a drawing I actually really liked, “Suzanne, you can do better than that”. Decades later I’ve yet to pick up another drawing pencil. The creative self is a tender and vulnerable part of us, so it doesn’t take much to discourage it.

I could have left the creative urge locked up with my drawing pad but fortunately I found other outlets. In college I developed a passion for black and white photography for creative expression. It was a fine replacement for drawing. Eventually creative writing became my main form.

I was lucky enough to grow up in a city, San Francisco, and with a parent, my father, who valued the arts so I wasn’t weighed down by the general cultural beliefs that the arts and creativity are frivolous. I had implicit permission to play with creativity from early on and it informs my life in countless ways.

Back before I started my own writing and creativity coaching business and needed a resume to apply for work, the line that got me the most interviews was “creative problem solver”. My relationship to creativity allows me to use the process to access the field of all possibilities so that I can come up with new ways of looking a situation and new solutions.

We all have this capacity. I just was lucky enough to grow up in an environment that age me permission to play with it. Whether you know it or not you probably are using this ability to some degree on a regular basis. You’ve all had the experience of trying to solve a problem at work using your rational, linear mind. Frustrated to give up and let it go, you drive home and as you pull up to the house the solution pops into your head. That’s one way the creative process works. You learn to trust that if you give a problem over to your subconscious the answer will show up.

So to reclaim your creativity, to set it free, consider the ways you are already creativity in every area of your life and the benefits it brings. How have you been discouraged over the years from being creative and what action could you take today to begin to reclaim those gifts. Play with the idea. Have fun. That’s the heart of the creative process. Joy and a deep sense of satisfaction.

If you enjoyed this article consider subscribing to my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column to the left and enter your email. Thanks.

Being a Co-Creator with Creation

Creative concept pages of book Sunrise landscape in Summer lookiIt is art that makes life, makes interest, makes importance .. I know of no substitute whatever for the force and beauty of its process. – Henry James

There is nothing more satisfying to the human spirit, the human soul than being creative. You don’t have to write the great American novel to qualify. A woman in one of my creativity coaching classes decided that she wanted to tile her bathroom. She took great delight in the entire process of researching the method, planning the tile pattern and executing the project. Now every time she uses her bathroom she feels a real sense of satisfaction.

That the spirit of creativity, whether we are writing a poem, painting a watercolor, planning and planting a flower garden or developing a new recipe in the kitchen. Our willingness to engage in making something new brings a quality of joy to the process regardless of where it flows easily or not.

Theologian Matthew Fox, in his brilliant book, Creativity: Where the Divine and Human Meet insists that when we are creativity we become co-creators with creation. I agree. I think that why when we are being creative it feels divine.

I want to stress that everyone is creative – it’s our birthright. So many of us had it thwarted at an early age. Our creative self is a tender and vulnerable aspect, so she needs to be encouraged. It doesn’t take much to send her into hiding.The good news is that you can bring her back out by a willingness to play in whatever way calls to you. A willingness to be messy, to draw outside the lines, to think outside the box.

Take a moment. Take a breath. What does your creativity look like? What would bring you joy and satisfaction? Suspend the critic and be willing to play with the idea. What contribution can your unique expression of creativity make to the world? It is through our creative imagination and abilities that we have the capacity to make the changes the world need at this important time in human history.

If you enjoyed this article consider subscribing to my monthly newsletter and I send you a free ebooklet Setting Your Creativity Free: Essential Elements to Embracing Your Natural Gifts. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe in the column to your left. Thanks.

Falling in Love with the Creative Process

writingashealing_writingA lot of people think that when it comes to creativity, inspiration is the key. Yet those moments of insight or revelation never occur without the willingness to commit to the work and continue to show up. This perseverance is just as important. You get a creative flash. You show up to the work and what wants to be born becomes more clear.

Nobel prize winning Canadian short story writer Alice Munro once said, “I threw away all my early writings and it wasn’t because I was the mother of three small children. It was because I was learning my craft and it took a long time.”

It was the same with David Guterson who wrote the award winning novel Snow Falling on Cedars. When critics acclaimed that a brilliant new writer had just come out of the Pacific Northwest as if he and his book had arrived by magic, he responded “excuse me but I’ve written in the early morning hours for 25 years before going to my job.” It took him ten years to write the novel.

Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winning poet, Mary Oliver wrote for twenty five years before putting her work out into the world. She refused to take an interesting job because she didn’t want to be distracted from her work. It was only a few years after she started publishing her work that she won the Pulitzer. Her perseverance clearly paid off.

One of the favorite essays I’ve ever written is 13 pages and it took five years to write. I started from a clear place of inspiration but then I had to do the work. I needed to do research. I needed to continue my writing practice. I had to put the draft away for a couple of years while I developed my skill as a writer because this essay was very complex and when I started it I didn’t have the level of ability to finish it.

This is why as a writing teacher and creativity coach I teach people to fall in love with the process. It is true for any form of creativity. You show up, you start playing around and you find yourself in the flow where time stops and you taste of the joy of being creative. This allows you to persevere. Even when things aren’t going well, you can find pleasure in showing up and being willing to play with what wants to be born out of your effort. This provides its own sense of satisfaction.

If you want to know more about the creative process and be inspired to work with it sign up for my free newsletter and I’ll send you a free Creativity eBooklet: Setting Your Creativity Free. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left and enter you email. Thanks.

How could EFT help with Emotional Issues

Sharing their lives with each otherIt makes sense that EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques), aka Tapping, could work on physical symptoms like headaches and pain since it involves tapping on the main acupuncture points for stress reduction. But how could it possibly work on emotional concerns or things like abundance and money issues.

When we have a thought like l’m not good enough or I’m not ready or I’ll never get out of debt we have corresponding feeling in our body that reinforces the thought. When a thought is accompanied by a strong sense of physical discomfort, we naturally assume it has to be true. We don’t stop ourselves and say “hey, it’s just a thought, it’s just a feeling.” Instead we automatically believe the thought and let it stop us or have a reaction to it.

We don’t have to let our thoughts and emotional triggers run away with us. The simple act of tapping through nine acupressure points while focusing on the sense of distress very quickly calms the physical sensation attached to the thought. When our body feels calm and safe we are able to be more discerning as to whether we want to react to the thought or if we want to make another choice. We have access to more of who we really are, are open to more possibilities and naturally make more life affirming decisions.

Whether you are familiar with EFT and the tapping points or not you probably already have some experience of the calming affect of touch the top of your head, the bridge of your nose, the side of your face or putting your hands to your chest, all areas involved in tapping. If you don’t know the specific points for EFT you might want to consider learning them. It only take a few minutes to get the very basics and it gives you a powerful tool for self empowerment.

What if Imagination were Real?

Dolphins jumpingWhat if when you imagine that your are talking to the trees, the birds, the whales, the dolphins, the angels or any member of the unseen realms like fairies, unicorns or elementals, that you actually are. What if even though it feels like you are making it up, something else is going on.

We have been taught to dismiss our imagination as “just pretend” as if it was of no consequence or importance. Yet Albert Einstein, perhaps the greatest geniuses of the 20th century, insisted that “imagination is more important than knowledge.” What did he mean? Perhaps he saw knowledge as a tool that relies on what we already know where as imagination which expands infinite in all directions takes to place we have yet to consider.

How does this apply to the ways humans can work with imagination. Consider the parts of our brain/mind that we don’t consciously use and the strands of DNA that scientists have labeled junk because they don’t understand it functions or what it does. That’s a lot of latent capacity. What if it plays a role in our imagination helping us connect to the larger universe behind the confines of everyday conscious reality, to the field of the infinite possibilities.

What if imagination is a like a muscle that has atrophied from lack to use. When we use our creative abilities we tap into an expanded way of knowing and being. We become co creators with creation. Imagination is clearly one of the ways we do this and the more we exercise it the stronger the connection becomes.

I recently took a class in animal communication where the instructor explained early on that at first when you talk to animals it will feel like you are making it up. That’s when I realized that I was already talking to them with my imagination, I just doubted that it was that easy and that imagination was the key.

Doubt may be the biggest stumbling block to being creativity. We doubt the flashes of inspiration that come to up in the shower. We doubt we can write the book that keeps wanting to bubble up from the essence of who we really are. We doubt that imagination is real. We think we have to figure everything out with our rational mind, that we have to understand something in order to be able to use it and trust it.

Yet imagination connects us to a realm beyond what the mind can comprehend. To use imagination we need to move into our knowing and being, that part of us that has always been connected to the Oneness. We need to play with the imagination, dance with it, learn to trust it and all that it can add to our lives.

If you enjoyed this article consider subscribing to my monthly newsletter and I will send you a free ebooklet Setting Your Creativity Free. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left. Thanks.

Living Like Poetry

IMG_0070I recently found this wonderful poem by noted American poet William Stafford where he captures, as poetry does, the essence of what it means to be authentically alive. We live soulfully from a place of spontaneity and presence. We are aware of greater happiness and joy and celebration in each moment. We are less concerned with the confines of social norms.

I’ve always thought of poetry as being written by the soul for the soul. From this place we have access to expanded ways of knowing and being. We connect with what we really value in our hearts and can make choices from a place of greater clarity. Poetry can open us to new ways of seeing ourselves and the world.

Read Stafford’s poem below. Drink it in. Dance with it. Let it play in your imagination. Then ask yourself, “What would it look like, feel like for me to live like poetry?” What traits of spirit do I want to embody? Freedom, peace, joy, happiness? Pick one and play with experiencing it in your daily life. See if you don’t feel lighter and more open to new possibilities. Consider reading a poem a day for inspiration. Most of all poetry would ask you to have fun with this.

Poetry

Its door opens near. It’s a shrine
by the road, it’s a flower in the parking lot
of The Pentagon, it says, “Look around,
listen. Feel the air.” It interrupts
international telephone lines with a tune.
When traffic lines jam, it gets out
and dances on the bridge. If great people
get distracted by fame they forget
this essential kind of breathing
and they die inside their gold shell.
When caravans cross deserts
It is the secret treasure hidden under the jewels.

Sometimes commanders take us over, and they
try to impose their whole universe,
how to succeed by daily calculation:
I can’t eat that bread.

– William Stafford

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free monthly newsletter and I’ll send you a copy of my ebooklet Setting Your Creativity Free. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on your left and enter your email. Thanks.

Why is this Important?

blank pageWhy is this important may be the most valuable question you can ask when it comes to making a decision about anything in your life. Say you are thinking of moving to Hawaii. When you ask why is this important you get that it’s really about being close to whales and dolphins. This awareness opens up other possibilities, since you know there are other ways to satisfy this desire.

In teaching writing for more than twenty years, I discovered that answering the question, “Why I want to write” was the best way to help individuals find their subject and voice as well as the motivation to show up.

Recently it occurred to me that focusing on why something is important to you can really help you clarify your intention and support your ability to take action on what you want to create and accomplish.

I did this myself for my work as creativity coach. I realized that my primary interest is tied to helping others develop their imagination and open up to their creative expression to experience the joy and satisfaction that comes from being creative in any area of your life. Working with imagination empowers my clients to find their own answers and expand their lives.

Imagination is a natural human capacity. Now more than ever at this time in Earth’s history, it is important for everyone to activate capability. It is a creative force and allows us to come up with truly new ideas and solutions to the problems we face both on an individual level and globally.

When I understood the why behind my work as a creativity coach, it was much easier to effectively direct my energy and efforts in working with others. You can do this yourself, for absolutely everything in your life from taking a trip to Hawaii to creating a home for yourself to deciding what form your artist expression wants to take.

If you enjoyed this article consider signing up for my monthly newsletter. Just click the tab Mail List Subscribe in the column on the left. Thanks

New Earth Rising

Humpback Whale Jumping Out Of The WaterFor the summer solstice I was intuitively pulled to go to Mt Shasta in northern California to attend a Whale and Dolphin Medicine Retreat with Laura Reyon and Master Cat Puddah. Laura is an animal communicator who channels Master Cat Puddah and works with Whale and Dolphin energy in powerful ways.

I could feel the whales really insisting I go. I have a long standing relationship with whales having spent time with them on and off for 37 years. Several years ago I could really sense them wanting my attention in a deeper way. I was also then spending time with a wild Bottlenose dolphin in the west of Ireland and it was clear to me that dolphins are healers and emissaries of light and joy for the Earth and humanity. It is clear that the whales and dolphins want to help us.

It has also become clear to me that we do not need to be physically present with whales and dolphin to benefit from a relationship with them. They are present for us in ways our minds can’t understand but our hearts and souls can sense if we open up to them and call on them for help. Just imagine they hear you and imagine the answer.

Here’s a poem that came to me from the retreat that I hope distills a sense the presence of the whales and dolphins.

New Earth Rising

The whales and dolphins
want us to know
they are with us.
Swimming the seas
of our hearts,

taking us deeper
into the pure pools
of love and wonder,
for the Earth,
for the Cosmos,
for our own magnificence.

Offering oceans of opportunities
to live in each moment,
the brilliance of joy
the sweet wine of happiness
the soothing presence of beauty.

Peace rising
on their every breath,
bringing our soul home
to this place
of awakening,

creating
paradise on Earth.

– Suzanne Murray

Whales Are Calling

Humpback MotherIn 1977 I did a three week sea kayak trip in southeast Alaska’s Glacier Bay. I was 25 years old and went with my boyfriend at the time. The first night we pitched our tent in the small campground near park headquarters nestled in the dense forest of Sitka Spruce that grow right to the edge of the sea.

The next morning I woke to the sound of breathing. The deep exhalation of whales blowing in the cove. I had never heard that sounds before but I knew in my heart what it was. I wiggled out of my sleeping bag and into my clothes, slipped on my shoes, loosely tied the laces and ran down the path to the beach.

There, I stood mesmerized as two great beings, Humpback Whales, crisscrossed the small lagoon, watched the geyser of mist formed by their breath as they rolled to surface, arching their massive black backs before slipping back below. They did this several time before raising their tail flukes, sounding down deeper, disappearing for ten or twenty minutes.

With a sense of urgency, we assembled our two person collapsible kayak consisting of a wooden frame with a gray rubberized hull and blue canvas top. I worked with speed. I wanted to get out on the water. For reasons I didn’t really understand I wanted to be as close as I could. I could feel the pull of their presence.

Now 37 years later, I realize that was the beginning. On that same trip I sat on a rocky point just above the water where the Bay splits into two arms and watched with awe as a Humpback swam immediately beneath me and had the sense it was there for me. It’s taken me all these years and many more encounters with whales to realize that they really are calling me. I feel the pull in my heart. Now at this pivotal time in Earth’s history and the evolution of humanity they want to help and they want our help. They are asking receptive humans to listen with our inner knowing to what they have to say and the guidance they offer. I am listening more and more deeply in the depths of my heart and imagination, feeling that same delight I felt all those years ago when I first engaged with the whales.

Try it if you feel at all called. You don’t need to be in the actual physical presence of a whale for this to work. Use your imagination and have a conversation. Your imagination is an amazing capacity that most of us haven’t been taught to use properly or have been discouraged from developing. Play with it the way you did as a child. Just pretend. What would the whales or dolphins want to say to you if you were “actually” talking with them. What would you like to say to them. Trust that what you get is real. Trust that the whales and dolphins really want to connect and help us shift our consciousness to live from love and happiness and joy as they do.

Creative Play

Happy child with painted handsLately I’ve been writing at least one haiku poem a day – the Japanese form of three lines of 5/7/5 syllables. I’ve been doing it first thing and then posting it on Twitter, not waiting to revise or get it exactly right. I’ve just been playing with putting it out there and having fun. With more than thirty years of writing experience with essays and poetry I’ve always been exacting in crafting my work. There is great satisfaction in getting a piece exactly the way it wants to take shape. Yet I am also now enjoying relaxing and finding a sense of play with the quick word sketches.

Our brains, our soul, and our inner child need creative play time. Whether we consider ourselves to be creative we are all hungry to express ourselves in this way. It’s a deep human need on the level of our heart and soul. Creative play is one of the ways we can reclaim our joy and nurture not only ourselves but the world. It opens up more of our brains and capacities and exercises our imagination.

Whether it’s trying a haiku poem or picking up an instrument we may or may not know how to play and exploring the sounds we can make or getting messy with an art project like finger painting or working with clay, the child that we once were still lives inside us and remembers how to play in this way if we let her.

Even if you don’t think of yourself as creative that’s just a story that you bought into somewhere along the way. Everyone is creative in their own unique way. Playing can help you find and express it. So go buy a pack of crayons or watercolors. Sing in the shower or the car. Suspend the voice of the inner critic. Feel the joy that lives at the heart of creative play.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free newsletter and I’ll send you a free Creativity eBoolket that will help you to play more with your creativity. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab on the left and enter your enmail. Thanks.

Playing with Haiku

IMG_0136Lately, I’ve been playing with Haiku; a form of poetry originating in Japan in the 16th century. A traditional Japanese haiku is a three-line poem with seventeen syllables, written in a 5/7/5 syllable count. It often focuses on images from nature and emphasizes simplicity, intensity, and directness of expression.

The form was mastered in the 17th century by Matsuo Basho. Here are two of his I particularly enjoy:

A wild sea-
In the distance over Sado
The Milky Way.

Wrapping dumplings in
bamboo leaves, with one finger
she tidies her hair.

Over time the form has evolved and the rules — including the 5/7/5 syllable structure — have often been broken. Yet the essence of haiku remains the same. The focus is on a brief moment in time; offering vivid, colorful images and a sense of expansion, insight or illumination.

I’ve always felt, as Shakespeare so brilliantly said, that “brevity is the soul of wit”. Writing Haiku gives you a chance to really distill the essence of a moment in time and how it touches you on the deeper level of your heart and soul.

Plus if you want to try instant publication – it’s perfectly suited to the 140 character limits of Twitter. I’m having fun with this.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free monthly newsletter and I’ll send you a copy of my ebooklet Setting Your Creativity Free. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on your left and enter your email. Thanks.

The Power of a Practice

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness concerning all acts of initiative and creation. There is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans; that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen events, meetings and material assistance which no one could have dreamed would have come their way. I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets: “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now!” – W.H. Murray The Scottish Himalayan Expedition

blank pageWhether its for writing, meditation, or exercise, establishing a practice can help you move forward in magical ways. Having a practice means that you show up every day, no matter what. You are going to want to release all expectations of outcome or where you think you want things to go. It doesn’t matter how good you are or what you accomplish or what happens with the practice. You sit down to meditate and your mind goes wild with chatter the entire time, that’s fine. You show up to write and find yourself whining on the page, that’s okay. The point is to show up and practice.

A lot of things are happening when you show up consistently to something. You begin to forge the neural nets in your brain needed for the task and strengthen them so that whatever you are committed to actually becomes easier to do and you are able to increase our level of skill. In writing your subconscious mind is working 24/7 on whatever you give it to focus on, so showing up everyday allows you to access new insights and ideas arising from your expanded mind.

You commit and take the action. The universe responds in kind to the power of your willingness and the force your commitment. Free from expecting that you need to accomplish something, you relax and open up to allowing. In this receptive state, the your subconscious mind aligns with the workings of the Universe and you find support, synchronicities and inspired ideas coming to you.

Establishing a practice helps you move beyond any resistance that has been in the way. When you release the need for instant gratification you slip into a sense of satisfaction from the simple act of showing up for yourself. You learn to find joy in the practice itself and this allows you to expand your creative capacity.

To begin, start small. When I coach writers who are having a hard time showing up, I ask them at first to commit to writing ten minutes a day. This helps you cross the threshold of resistance and move past the associated voice that tells you that you don’t have enough time. Once you have established the habit of showing up you will find things flowing with greater ease.

Taking Inspired Action

creative flowerI taught the Heart of Writing classes for more than twenty years. When people ask me about the main focus, I will sometimes laughingly respond, “I teach people to loose their minds.”

If we are going to really engage our creativity and expand our possibilities, we need to let go of the rational mind’s need to figure things out, and allow inspiration, imagination and intuition to inform our decisions and guide our actions.

Much of the time, we try to figure things out with our minds, hoping we will be able to find a way to make the changes we desire. We make up a daily to-do-list based on what we think we should do to make things happen. Yet things often don’t work as well as we would like. Our rational, linear thinking minds can only draw on past experience, so it leads us to repeat variations of the same pattern. We feel frustrated because we “think” we should be able to figure out how to change our situation.

Yet, the linear mind really can’t create anything new. It’s not designed to comprehend spiritual or creative matters. That’s the domain of our imagination and intuition which connects us to expanded ways of knowing and being. Our being is connected to the field of Oneness or all possibilities, so it can guide us to situations we would never have considered from the limits of our thinking mind. This is the place creativity comes from. This is the domain of inspiration. If you want create newness in your life you need to access this deeper way of knowing.

Intuition and inspiration usually come as a soft whisper or a felt sense of lightness in our bodies. If our mind is busy chattering, we can’t pick up these signals. When we do pick up on the guidance, we often feel fear because we are being asked to step out of our comfort zone. Our mind tells us that fear is protecting us, keeping us safe. Our mind wants us to believe that worrying is productive. Yet, have we ever solved a problem with worry or have we just dug ourselves in deeper?

If we really want to live a life of peace, happiness, freedom and creativity we have to learn to quiet our minds. Meditation can help. So can yoga or a walk in Nature. Using our breath to be more present in our bodies can bring us into the moment and the awareness that wants to be revealed. We have to learn a new language. One that involves a felt sense of knowing, an openness to being pleasantly surprised, and an awareness of synchronicities, the way the universe supports us and reassures us we are on the right track.

If I need to make a decision and find myself stuck running a mental loop, I use the technique of free-writing or stream-of-consciousness writing to gain clarity. I will often start with the question, “What do I need to know right now?” Then I’ll write the answer as fast as I can. If you write fast, your rational mind can’t keep up and you tap a deeper knowing. I always get much better advice this way than if I tried to “figure it out”.

From this place of knowing rather than thinking we are able to take inspired action that supports our deeper desires and goals and we can experience miracles as we open to the help of the universe.

If you enjoyed this blog please subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left and enter your email. Thanks

Writing a Poem

cliffs of moher sunset istockIt all begins in the miracle of the moment, a sunset, a bird in flight, the song of a river, each giving birth to the poem that winds a thread deep into the subconscious, weaving unexpected images tied neatly together tugging the heart strings of the reader. That is the magic and music of verse.

I start out with a flock of snow geese on a cold morning and my mind goes super nova, expanding like the universe, the awareness of the Oneness of all things undeniable. The dreamer, dreaming the dream. The scene finds its way to a satisfying conclusion. To write a poem you have to trust what wants to be born, you have to let spirit move through you, you have to surrender, in the words of Nobel prize winning poet Seamus Heaney, to “a moment of lift, of joy, of unexpected reward”.

Here’s a poem that came to me that way.

Snow Geese

Rising before dawn, we wait
in winter’s sharp cold
for the sun to climb crimson
out of the valley floor, stirring

a white froth of feathers. Ascending
in waves, one hundred thousand
lift from the marshes, their warbling
and wings a roaring ocean of sound.

Flying in long loops, they vibrate
like excited electrons spun off
the first explosion
that sent planet, asteroid, stardust

swirling in an expanding spiral.
We stand fourteen billion years later,
amid an orbiting flurry of life,
aware of this wonder of Being.

– Suzanne Murray

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free monthly newsletter and I’ll send you a copy of my ebooklet Setting Your Creativity Free. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on your left and enter your email. Thanks.

Poetry: The Unsayable Said

hummingbirdI was accomplished at writing essays before I started to write poems. As I ventured into writing in a new form it took me a while to figure out that poems were more than very short essays. I had to learn the rules of punctuation and line breaks and the music the words could make. It wasn’t until I read poet Donald Hall’s essay on writing poetry titled Poetry: The Unsayable Said that I really got the power of poetry. His advice was “if you can say it any other way, don’t write poetry.”

As my own experience of writing poetry deepened I began to grasp that poetry was the numinous expressing itself through words. More than in any other written form the poet has to surrender to what wants wants to come through. Poetry gives voice to the ineffable, that which is difficult to describe. Poems capture the feeling or soul of the experience. Once I really understood that my poems got a lot better.

Here’s a poem of mine I wanted to share to celebrate the coming of spring. It was inspired by an awareness that kept tugging at my imagination. I then had to let myself be surprised by where the spirit of the poem wanted to take me. This is part of the magic and joy of writing poetry.

Spring

Loons drift across the bay
slowly dressing for summer, turning
winter’s drab gray into the elegant
black and white of attraction.

Oaks unfurl their green brilliance,
and the melodies of warblers
crisscross the branches
coloring the forest with song.

Still, it is only when the swallows
suddenly appear, looping wildly in a clear sky,
that spring finally opens within me,
as if they have carried the season north.

– Suzanne Murray

If you enjoyed this blog subscribe to my free newsletter and I’ll send you a free Creativity eBooklet to inspire you in working with the creative process. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab on the left and enter your email. Thanks.

Inviting Inspiration

young man splashingI often invite inspiration by asking my creative spirit or muse for help. Whenever I teach a class or get ready to write my monthly newsletter I always ask in advance, What’s the theme for this one? or What do I need to know for this?. I say it silently to myself, directing the question to the part of me that knows what would be of highest value or support to my students or readers. Then I let it go. I don’t think about it or try to figure it out. The answer always comes to me. It can be hours or days later, but I always get the answer in time. It comes as an idea that flashes into my mind or something someone says to me in conversation or the title of a book I see in the library. I’ll have an ah ha moment, where I just know, that’s it.

This works a lot better than trying to figure it out. When it comes to creativity and inspiration the mind really doesn’t know. It’s not capable of knowing in expanded ways. In fact you mind will usually start to tell you all the reason what you are wanting to create won’t work. Trying to figure anything out generally leaves you feeling like a hamster on a wheel, exhausted and not really getting anywhere.

To be inspired the answer has to come from our Being or expanded Self. You can call it your subconscious mind or imagination. We all have access to this capacity. Yet since we have learned to glorify the mind and rational. linear thinking we are in the habit of looking there for answers. This limits what is possible. Our mind is like a computer, it can only draw from existing data banks. It isn’t capable to coming up with something new. That comes from our imagination.

When we invite inspiration our subconscious or expanded Self goes to work on the question or problem. It will silently work on it 24/7 until the solution rises to the surface. It can come as an ah..ha or a whisper. We have to practice asking and trusting that it will come. We also need to pay attention to the world as the solution can also come as a synchronicity that speaks to our knowing.

This works when you stuck in your writing or other creative acts. It works if you are having a problem at work or in your relationships and more. Play with this and see how your answers arrive.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free newsletter and I’ll send you a free Creativity eBooklet to help you inspire your creativity. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column to the left and enter your email. Thanks.

Waiting for Inspiration

You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club. – Jack London

abandoned houseRecently a new writing coaching client emailed me to say, “I haven’t been writing. I just don’t feel inspired.” I immediately shot a message back explaining that “You can”t wait for inspiration. If you get nothing else out of our coaching together beyond this awareness it will make a huge difference in your creative life.”

No writer or other artist waits for inspiration before showing up. Painter Chuck Close said, “inspiration is for amateurs – the rest of us just show up and get to work.” Flannery O’Connor, the noted Southern writer, described her habit of going to her office everyday from 8am to noon, “she wasn’t sure if anything was going to happen but she wanted to be there if it did.”

Most writers just start writing and find inspiration along the way. John Steinbeck would always end one day’s writing in the middle of the page, so he could pick up the thread the next day. He insisted that “In writing, habit seems to be a much stronger force than either willpower or inspiration.”

Current research in the neuroscience of the brain shows that creativity is activated when we are in the brain wave states of alpha and theta which are associated with meditation, intuition and information beyond our conscious awareness. This is why a writer often needs to write a page of what feels uninspired in order slow the mind down and hit the zone.

This is true of all acts of creativity. We have to show up and begin to play with the process to access the place of inspiration. The more we commit to our creativity through our intentions and actions the more our creativity flows and the more juiced, excited and inspired we feel.

If you enjoyed this blog subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click the Mail List Subscribe tab at in the column on your left and enter your email address. And I’ll send you a free pdf download of my Creativity eBooklet: Ready to Set Your Creativity Free? Thanks

The Magic of Ireland

Whenever I mention the name Ireland people get a wistful, distant gaze in their eyes and breathe out a sigh of longing as if on some barely conscious level they feel the beauty and soul of the place. Inevitably they say, “Oh, I’ve always wanted to go there.”

More than one friend of mine, with keen intuitive gifts, have said me they sense that Ireland herself is a being with an identity and presence separate from her people. It’s hard to explain but I can always feel the ancient presence of Ireland when I am there and I miss her when I am gone as if she were a friend. I tell people who journey with me to Ireland that they have to be open to the feeling of the place. If they metaphorically at least allow the place speak to their heart and soul they begin to feel the magic, the undercurrents of realms beyond the everyday.

In the West of Ireland on the edge of the open Atlantic one gets a sense what is referred to as the thinness of the veil, where things unexpected and unexplainable by conventional means happen. Once on Inis Oirr, the smallest of the Aran Islands, I lost three euros in the hotel pay phone. On the walk back to the place I was staying I found three euros worth of coins scattered along the path. I was both amazed and reassured by the awareness that I was being supported by an invisible presence.

I have had other such experiences in Ireland and it makes me wonder about all the ways we have taken magic out of the world. The ways we have lost our sense of living in a world that supports us; one that is more marvelous than we allow ourselves to think. I wonder what would it take for us to reclaim a sense of magic, whether we are in Ireland or wherever we live.

It’s really the greatest gift I’ve gotten from spending a good amount of time there. This awareness that the world is a more magical place than our minds want us to think, that we are supported in amazing ways if we open up and allow it to flow in.

Consider joining me on a Journey to the West of Ireland. For more information on the next trip visit http://creativitygoeswild.com/west-of-ireland/

Create, Create, Create

When I asked my inner knowing and wisdom for guidance on moving forward in the new year all she keeps saying to me was create, create, create. I got the image of confetti being thrown into the air in celebration of the creative potential of us all. I got it’s time to leave behind the beliefs that limit us and embrace the creative beings we truly are in whatever form that calls to us.

So I asked my muse for specifics. What should I create? The answers didn’t come all at once. Generally they came as flashes of insight while I was out on my daily walk that puts me in a meditative state where an idea arrives that excites and energizes me. Then I know I’m on to something. One idea involved putting together an ebook for my writing students and clients based on my workshops to support them in engaging the process on their own. I also got the idea for doing the same for creativity coaching and to do more focusing on Nature and Creativity in Yosemite and other places I am exploring.

Beyond that I got that we all need to be willing to be surprised. That we need to open up in new ways. We tend to limit our creations, whether in the realm of creative expression or in creating our lives, to what we already know or to a variation on what we have already done. We also limit ourselves by thinking we need to figure out “the how” of whatever we are inspired to create rather than trusting and allowing the universe to support and guide up step by step.

At this pivotal time in human history opening up to truly new ideas and possibilities is essential. As Einstein noted, “We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” So here are some questions to ask. Can we allow ourselves new thoughts? Can we start to see ourselves differently? Can we see ourselves as capable of more than we have imagined up until this point?

I am asking myself these same questions aware that there is a seed within me and all of us wanting to emerge. We don’t have to go looking for our creations, they live inside us in the dark womb of our soul and imagination. We have to learn to let them grow, leaf out and blossom.

If you enjoyed this blog subscribe to my free newsletter and I’ll send you a free Creativity eBooklet to inspire you. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe in the column on the left and enter your email. Thanks.

A Place to Write

You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quite 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

While having, as Virginia Woolf coined the term, A Room of One’s Own, free of every day distractions and the commotion of life, might be ideal, most writers have to make do with smaller arrangements. If you don’t have a room maybe you can use the kitchen table or a desk in your bedroom or in a corner of the living room.

Consider that if you have a bed, you have an office. Since writing is about thinking, feeling, imagining, practice and playing with words, it can easily be done lying down. Colette, Proust, Mark Twain, Edith Wharton, James Joyce, and countless other writers have preferred to write in bed. If you start writing when you first awaken you are already in that semi conscious state, with the echoes of dream time, so conducive to slipping into the creative flow. It also affords a relaxed atmosphere where we are less likely to take ourselves seriously which allows the creative spirit to play.

Or you may like to leave the house and go to a coffeehouse. I really like writing in cafes because I feel part of the world even as I engage the solitary task of writing. Also my rational mind gets distracted by all the activity around me allowing my creative mind to slip more easily into the writing.

You can also write just about anywhere and make progress with your work by grabbing stray moments while you are in the doctor’s waiting room or getting your oil changed. I will sit in my car and write or work on revision when I am early for an appointment. Robert Olen Butler, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his collection of short stories A Good Scent from A Strange Mountain commuted by train from Long Island into New York City. This was the only time he had to write so he got in the habit of writing a certain number of words on the way in and the same number going home. He wrote entire novels this way.

Ask yourself, “where is the best place for me to write?”, then see what comes to you as you go about your day then try it out. Knowing the places that work best for you are part of honoring yourself as a writer.

If you enjoyed this article you might want to subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left and enter your email. Thanks!

Are You Feeling Resistance to Expressing Your Creativity?

writing-centerRecently I got a note from one of my writing students saying that she was really enjoying writing when she managed to find the time. The three top reasons that people give for not being able to fully show up, move forward or change some area of their life are, “I don’t have enough time, I don’t have enough money or My health isn’t good enough.”

On the surface these excuses appear valid and hard to argue with. In truth they always cover up some deeper resistance. When we really want to do something and commit to it we can always manage to find the time, the resources and a way to work around any physical limitations.

Robert Olen Butler who won the Pulitzer Prize for his collection of short stories A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain worked full time and had a difficult home life so he wrote everyday on the train computing into New York City. J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, was a single mother struggling on state aid in Edinburgh Scotland where she sat everyday in a local cafe writing the first book in the series that would turn her into a multi-millionaire. These stories point to the reality that you don’t have to have everything together or know exactly what you are doing or how you are going to make something work to begin whatever it is you want to create. Beginning opens you up to new possibilities.

With my writing coaching clients I start them out with a commitment to write a minimum of ten minutes a day. It would seem like everyone could find ten minutes, but if there are some unconscious beliefs and fears around expressing yourself or being creative then you will put it off until the end of the day and then say you are too tired. This is what resistance looks like.

If you are having trouble showing up to your writing, painting, music or exploring your creativity in some way, stop and get quiet. Take some deep breaths. Ask your deeper or higher self what’s in the way. Then just see what comes to you. It may be a memory of your third grade teacher humiliating you in front of the class by criticizing a drawing you did or your father’s refusal to let you take the dance class you so much wanted.

Such events really can impact the tender, vulnerable, innocent part of us that is our creative self and years later have us not wanting to risk being creative. If something comes up for you honor your feelings around it. If you feel sad or angry feel those feelings as a way of allowing them to shift and release their hold on you. Then send love to that part of you. Becoming aware of what’s in the way of your desire to create and being mindful and patience and kind with your self will help you cross new thresholds into being creative and finding time to show up.

If you enjoyed this blog you might want to subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left and enter your email. Thanks

The Grace of Poetry

It’s difficult to get the news from poems, yet men die miserably each day for want of what is found there. – William Carlos Williams

You can’t really read a poem with your head, your rational mind. You have to drop down into your heart and let the poem work it’s magic and grace on your soul. Don’t try to understand a poem but rather feel into it’s rhythms and wisdom. I think of a poem as written by the soul for the soul. It touches something deep within us if we let it and open to it.

Besides reading and writing poems myself. I also memorize poetry by heart and participate in the recitation of it in the oral tradition both in the writing and creativity classes I teach and in performances with others. I am always amazed by the way people tend to be touched and transfixed when they hear poetry spoken by heart as if it speaks for the deep human need for stories can connect us to a deeper meaning in life. For me reading and memorizing poetry is a meditative practice that both focuses me in the moment and carries me to the amazing places of imagination, beauty and grace. I also will read a poem as a way from primping the creative pump and put me in the flow.

I’ve included here a spectacular poems below to share. Earth by Nobel Prize winning poet Derek Walcott who comes from the West Indies. I hope it touches you as it does me.

Earth

Let the day grow on you upward
through your feet,
the vegetal knuckles,

to your knees of stone,
until by evening you are a black tree;
feel, with evening,

the swifts thicken your hair,
the new moon rising out of your forehead,
and the moonlit veins of silver

running from your armpits
like rivulets under white leaves.
Sleep, as ants

cross over your eyelids.
You have never possessed anything
as deeply as this.

This is all you have owned
from the first outcry
through forever;

you can never be dispossessed.

If you enjoyed this blog subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left and enter your email. As a thank you I’ll send you a free Creativity eBooklet.

A Brief History of Ancient Ireland

One thing I love about spending time in Ireland is the strong sense of history one feels in the place. Ireland is loaded with ancient sites. There are over 1,200 huge stone tombs, dating back to at least the Neolithic period (Stone Age) as well as numerous smaller passage tombs, court tombs, wedge tombs, and portal tombs. On any ramble through the countryside you are likely to encounter an ancient site. So I thought I’d share a brief history of prehistoric Ireland to give a feel for how ancient the history of Ireland really is.

Ireland emerged from the Ice Age sometime between 12,000 BC and 8,000 BC and plants and animals colonized via the land bridge that connected Ireland and Great Britain before sea level rose making Ireland an island surrounded by stormy seas. The first people probably arrived in Ireland around 7,000 BC.  As hunters and gatherers they didn’t leave much evidence of their presence beyond the remnants of campsites and round huts woven from branches. We do know that they chose to live where food was easily found including fish, berries, wild pig, salmon, trout, pigeons and ducks, and hazelnuts.

By 5,000 BC the hunter-gatherers developed farming communities with walls and fences enclosing people and their livestock. This made their existence easier and allowed the development of religion, art and myths. Around 4,000 BC, it appears farming people came by boat from the mainland bringing livestock, seeds and the tools needed to build more extensive communities. Using Neolithic axes, they gradually turned land that had been thick with oak forests into pastures and fields for crops.

These people were not only good farmers with highly organized communities but they were also extraordinary stone masons. They built Megalithic monuments that are a thousand years older than the Egyptian Pyramids and a thousand years older than Stonehenge. By the time work was actually begun on the Pyramids these Irish sites had already been abandoned.

The grandest achievement by these Neolithic builders is found in the Boyne River Valley, north of Dublin. Called the Valley of the Kings, it is home to Newgrange, the largest and best preserved of the monuments. Covering about an acre the entrance to the circular tomb is perfectly aligned so that at sunrise on Winter Solstice, around December 21, sunlight reaches all the way into the center. So we know that they had knowledge of the movements of the planets and stars.

Over thousands of years, legends, tales, stories, and religions have been passed down to explain the meanings of the Megaliths and the ceremonies held within. These ancient sites speak of power, respect for life death, and honoring the land. Yet no one knows for sure who they were and what there lives were like. Still I think the land of Ireland herself holds the memory of this. If you are open you can feel it when you spend time in these places.

If you enjoyed this blog subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left and just enter your email or if you are interested in the trips I lead to to Ireland check out the Ireland Journeys tab.

The Magic of Active Imagination

Nature is an incomparable guide if you know how to follow her. She is like the needle of the compass pointing to the North, which is most useful . . . when you know how to navigate. – Carl Jung

water and iceI recently read an article that cited CarlJung explaining the power of using our active imagination to gain insights from dream images especially animals that show up in our dreams. Rather than trying to understand, with our rational mind, the meaning of being chased by a bear or swimming with a sea turtle means, Jung recommends actively using our imagination to ask the animal what message it holds for you. We can actually have a conversation with the bear or turtle that can lead to valuable insights and revelations for our life.

As a writing and creativity coach, I’ve worked for years with a variation of this idea where I have a client ask advice of their muse or an imaginary mentor – someone they admire who they feel would give good advice. I offer it as a writing exercise where we imagine that we have sent a letter to this person asking a particular question about our writing or creativity then using a technique known as free writing, where we write quickly without thinking, we write our own response. This allows us to tap our subconscious mind and deeper knowing. My clients and students always get the most amazing and valuable advice this way.

More recently I’ve been using active imagination to communication with Nature and wild animals and plants, especially when I have what feels like a significant encounter with an animal that I sense has a message for me. I will ask silently in my mind, “what do you want me to know or what are you trying to tell me?” Then I suspend judgment and allow thoughts and ideas to come to me trusting that it’s real and true even if it feels like I am “making it up.”

We have been so schooled out of the use of our imagination that we often have a hard time trusting what we get when we do play with accessing this expanded way of knowing. That’s why doing it as a writing exercise can really help us sidestep the judge, the critic, the doubter within us that limits our access to wisdom and guidance that can really enhance and enrich our lives.

If you enjoyed this blog subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column to the left and enter your email and I’ll send you a free Creativity eBooklet to help you play with creativity and imagination. Thanks.

Nature and Creativity

When I received the inspiration for the name of my business Creativity Goes Wild I was on a modern day vision quest with Bill Plotkin in an extraordinary canyon in southern Utah that allowed me to really open to the flow of new ideas. Along with the name, I also got that the essence of the work included three different elements: Nature, creativity and the soul which are aspects we can connect to that can really help us live full and authentic lives.

I have long thought of nature as the original artist. If you spend any time in nature and pay close attention, you become aware of the beauty and design and patterns in both small things like the symmetry in pine cones and snowflakes or on a grander scale the patterns in the erosion of mountains or the movement of clouds across the sky.

At first glance nature might look chaotic or random or disordered but the more you observe and learn about the natural world the more you become aware of the elegance of design in every creation. We can draw inspiration for our own creativity from spending time in Nature, the same way we feel inspired by visiting an art exhibit, going to a play or watching a good movie.

Spending time in nature actually slows down our brain waves, taking us from the beta waves where our mind attends to daily activities into alpha waves which offer a naturally meditative state where we access the part of our mind that has new thoughts and ideas, flashes of insight, and more readily makes connections. This can help us with the essence of the creative impulse and process.

Whenever I find myself stuck on a creative project I will go for a walk in nature and it always opens me back up to the flow. Or if I am looking for a place to begin a creative work I will plant the seed in my subconscious mind and then go to nature, not to think about it, but to allow the inspiration to rise to the surface of my mind.

Try it. Whether you like to sit in the garden or go for a walk among the trees, see if you don’t find that connecting to nature doesn’t open you up to new ideas and possibilities.

If you enjoyed this blog subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send you a free Creativity eBooklet to help you open more to your creativity.

Art of EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques)

Since Gary Craig developed EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) in the late 1990s and trained a number of EFT Masters, the work has really blossomed. In the spirit of Craig’s motto “try it on everything” the various Masters applied the technique to a wide range of specialties from pain relief to phobias to stress reduction to financial problems to improving your sports performance to the law of attraction.

As Gary Craig insisted, EFT is more an art than a science so many practitioners have gotten creative and expanded its use. Since it works with tapping the acupressure meridians used in Chinese medicine for stress relief working with EFT can help clear your energy field and raise your vibration allowing you to be more clear headed and access ideas and inspiration at a higher level than when you are feeling discouraged or depressed.

EFT works in part by following the subconscious threads of an issue that are often linked to beliefs formed in childhood before our conscious mind develops. Use of intuition plays a key role in the effective use of EFT since the beliefs that keep us stuck in patterns of poor health or financial difficulties can to our adult mind seem highly irrational.

Our conscious mind tends to want to dismiss the actual root of the problem. Whereas our intuition or inner sense of knowing can make connections that at first may not be obviously but can really help lead to the emotional and energetic release of an issue. After unearthing the core of the issue EFT can actually remove the emotional charge around even traumatic events. You still have the memory but no longer feel emotionally triggered by it.

Besides trying EFT on everything as Craig suggested I also recommend that you play with it. Since it is more an art than a science you really can’t do it wrong and the benefits can truly be substantial. You can learn the basics of EFT to use on yourself in around 15 minutes. Then with a few minutes of tapping can lessen your back pain or grief or anxiety or writer’s block or anything else that’s up for you see if you don’t experience a bit of relief.

If you enjoyed this blog you might want to subscribe to my free newsletter. Just send an email to creativitygoeswild@gmail.com with the word newsletter in the subject line and I’ll add you to the list

The Power of Dolphin Breathing

I spent time with a wild Bottlenose Dolphin who frequented the harbor of a small village in the West of Ireland. She would sometimes come close to the concrete steps that lead from the pier straight down into the sea. On days when the splash of the swell coming in from the Atlantic wasn’t too rough I would take off my shoes, roll up my pant legs and wade into the very cold water for a chance to connect with her.

As she got to know me she would swing in close to the sea wall and I would lean down over the water holding on to the handrail. For a time she was in the habit of exhaling loudly, forcing air from her blowhole while still on the surface when she was directly in front of me. Once she blew air out straight into my face. I kept having the intuition that she was trying to teach me about the importance of breathing.

Almost every spiritual teacher throughout time has pointed to the breath as a way to connect more fully with Source or the Oneness. It’s also thought that our breath carries the animating force of life, known by different names as spirit, chi, prana or energy. There is substantial evidence that we can use our breath to improve our physical and emotional health. Harvard trained medical doctor Andrew Weil states that “practicing regular, mindful breathing can be calming and energizing and can even help with stress-related health problems ranging from panic attacks to digestive disorders.”

Dolphins and whales are conscious breathers, they make the decision to take each and every breath. The ability to breathe isn’t an automatic function the way it is in humans. Dolphins and whale don’t go unconscious when they sleep. They shut down half of their brain at a time so that they are still able to breathe when they need to..

My dolphin friend certainly made me more aware of the power of breathing to relax and center myself in my body and be more present in the moment. Try it now. Take a deep breath all the way down into your belly and force the air out with a deep sigh. See if your body isn’t more relaxed after that one deep breath. Try it again. Do this before you start work on a creative project, have to make an important decision, need to feel more peace or just want to be more present for yourself and others. Play with it. Imagine you have a dolphin as your breath coach.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I send you a free Creativity eBooklet to inspire you to expanding possibilities. Thanks

A Brief History of EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques)

I’ve been an EFT practitioner using this technique for years both personally and with clients to effectively treat a wide array of issues, from insomnia to fear of heights to back problems to writer’s block to creative anxiety to financial issues. I wanted to share a brief history of the evolution of this remarkable healing modality that combines western psychology with the principles of Chinese acupuncture. I love that in a short amount of time you can learn to do it for yourself making it very self empowering.

About thirty years ago, Dr. Roger Callahan, a clinical psychologist practicing in southern California had been working with a client who suffered from a severe phobia of water, so much so taking a shower gave her a headache. At the same time Callahan had been reading about the subtle energy flows in the body described in Chinese acupressure.

One day in a session she complained of a knot in her stomach when she thought of water. Frustrated by the lack of any real progress with helping this client relieve the phobia through conventional therapy, Callahan had the intuition to tap lightly with his fingers on the acupressure point for the stomach meridian. After a couple of minutes of tapping, the client got a surprised look on her face and said, “it’s gone” and went racing out to the swimming pool that was part of the office complex and Callahan went after her asking, “the knot is your stomach is gone?” No the client replied, the fear of water is gone as she bent down to splash water on her face much to Callahan’s amazement.

That experience gave rise to Thought Field Therapy (TFT) which works to provide information in the form of a healing code that balances the body’s energy system allowing the quick release of negative emotions and promotes the body’s own healing ability.

Gary Craig, who trained as an engineer and had a passion for personal development, studied with Dr. Callahan and greatly simplified the process. He realized that you didn’t need to figure out the exact meridian to tap on. Tapping on the twelve main acupressure meridians for stress relief while focusing on the feeling of the problem in your body would provide the relief. He called his process EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques).

Craig trained a number of EFT Masters and was very generously provided free and low cost training materials that really helped spread the word about this simple yet powerful technique. The free access combined with the ease with which you can learn EFT has lead to a tremendous amount to anecdotal evidence from thousands of people around the world about its effectiveness in a wide range of concerns from phobias to physical health to finances to sports performance. Craig’s motto was “try it on everything” and he considered EFT to be more an art than a science in that the use of intuition really helps it’s effectiveness.

More recently there have been over 20 clinical trials published in peer-reviewed medical and psychology journals have demonstrated that EFT is effective for phobias, anxiety, depression, post traumatic stress disorder, pain, and other problems. There is evidence to suggest that use of EFT actually rewires our brain to allow fast and lasting relief.

If you have any questions about EFT please feel free to contact me at creativitygoeswild@gmail.com.

And if you enjoyed this blog you might want to subscribe to my free newsletter. Just send an email to creativitygoeswild@gmail.com with the word newsletter in the subject line and I’ll add you to the list

The Power of Choice and Knowing

iStock_000003652954XSmall

The most powerful claim you can make in the creation of any area of your life is “I know”. Saying I know activates your internal guidance system, the part of you that has access to the next best step for you to take, the part of you that is aware of what you really want. Claiming I choose to know enhances that awareness. Knowing that we have choice takes us out of feeling like a victim of circumstances of our lives and the world and puts us in a place of empowerment.

Choice is a powerful aspect of the creation process. In fact, choice has to come first. You can’t wait to figure everything out before you choose. Instead you choose what you want to create and then the way to create it becomes apparent. You receive a phone call from an old friend telling you about an opportunity or you feel pulling to a book that gives you a new idea and perspective or you have the urge to stop for coffee in a place you never go to and strike up a conversation in line with someone who works in the area of your interest or you go for a walk and experience a flash of inspiration about what step to take.

This is how the universe talks to us after we have made the choice form our knowing. Even if you think you “don’t know” what you want or what to do, claiming I know and holding your focus on knowing you know increases your clarity. Dropping down into your heart for the answer also helps. Your heart and your gut are the places of your knowing.

Try this : Every time you find yourself saying or thinking I don’t know. Stop yourself. Take a deep breath and claim “I do know”. You will feel resistance to shifting the old pattern at first. Think of it as building a muscle. You work at developing a sense of “I know” and before long it becomes natural. Feel the empowerment of living in your knowing and watch your life open up in new and miraculous ways.

Our minds like to try to talk us out of what we know. This happens all the time. How many times have your said to yourself “I knew I shouldn’t have done that”. Be mindful of the difference between what we know deep in our heart and bones versus what the mind thinks is a good idea. This will help you to act from your knowing with more confidence.

If you enjoyed this blog subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe in the column on your left, enter your email and I’ll send to a thank you gift of a free Creativity eBooklet.

Ready to Experience the Joy of Loving Yourself

friends coffeeImagine your life as a blank page, a white canvas. What if you could create anything you wanted? What would you create? What if the power to do so is already within you? What if how your focus your thoughts and feelings and use your imagination are the keys. What if love, self love, is the answer?

I recently listened to a talk by Story Waters author of You are God, Get Over It. He’s has a wonderfully irreverent sense of humor while at the same time channels a deep and reverent wisdom. He suggests that you can’t be the creator of your life if you don’t love yourself. A lot of the leaders in the shift in consciousness movement have been saying the same thing, that loving ourselves is critical to making the change to living from an expanded state of being.

Recently I’ve really been focusing on Self love and the key elements of self-acceptance, self-worth, self-trust. When we love ourselves, we naturally live from our heart and have greater access to our knowing, our internal guidance. This allows us to act from that place of clarity around what we really want and trust that we can allow ourselves to have our good. It’s really expanded the good in my life and my joy.

So would you like to start today? Make the commitment, the choice to love yourself. Hold your focus on that. Sometimes in this process aspects of your self that are not self love come to the surface to be released. So don’t think you are doing it wrong if this happens. It’s like building a muscle. Keep returning to being kind and accepting of all of you. What if we all loved ourselves? What would the world look like then?

If you enjoyed this blog you might want to subscribe to my free newsletter. Just send an email to creativitygoeswild@gmail.com with the word newsletter in the subject line and I’ll add you to the list.

Your Heart Knows the Answer

I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the heart’s affections and the truth of imagination. What the imagination seizes as beauty must be truth whether it existed before or not. – John Keats

“I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the heart’s affections and the truth of the imagination.” English Romantic poet John Keats wrote that line in a letter to a friend over 200 years ago. It’s one of my favorite quotes of all time as it has always resonated with my deeper of knowing truth. I share it now because I sense it conveys an important wisdom for our time.

Living from our heart expands us into more of who we really are. We more readily tap into our love, compassion and joy when we live from our heart. Joy is a key element in guiding us along our life path, in knowing what brings us alive, and in expressing ourselves creatively so connecting with our heart helps with all that.

Our heart holds our soul’s compass. Our feelings, whether something expands us or contracts us, provides direction. Whether something makes us feel lighter or heavier helps us to know our truth. I find that staying in my heart keeps me out of fear and in the present moment allowing me make the best decision around what actions to take.

Even science supports the importance of the heart’s affections. Our heart produces the strongest electromagnetic field in our body extending out well beyond our body and is aware of information about people and situations before our mind is. We’ve all had the experience of walking into a room and picking up on the energy or vibes and have a feeling about it before we thought about the experience.

In fact our heart sends more information to our brain than our brain sends to our heart. Also when we focus on experiencing positive emotions that’s what our heart radiates out into our environment and we are more likely to have a positive experience of life in return.

Try it. Drop your attention down into your heart. Focus your attention or imagination on something that opens your heart, a memory of beloved pet, a beautiful sunset or anything that expands you. Send that energy to every cell of your body and radiate it out into the world. Practice dropping down into your heart throughout the day and see if you don’t feel better and have greater clarity.

If you enjoyed this blog you might want to subscribe to my free newsletter. Just send click on the mail list subscribe tab in the column on the left and enter your email. I’ll send you a free pdf download of my Creativity eBooklet to inspire you.

Why Spend Time in Nature?

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul. – John Muir

Every culture on earth has nature based rituals from vision quests to pilgrimages to walkabouts to retreats that allow access to our deeper Self or the essence of who we are. The great mystics and sages throughout time all sought a connection to nature to deepen their own sense of the Divine. For Jesus it was forty day and nights in the wilderness, for Moses a conversation with the Burning Bush, for Buddha is was sitting under a fig tree, the Bodhi tree and for Mohammad a cave in the mountains that lead to revelations. Ancient Chinese mysticism is full of references to nature.

Some years ago, an Alaskan fisherman friend of mine, a man who lived and worked on the sea in sight of magnificent mountains and glaciers, surprised me by saying, “you know I think it’s impossible to spend a lot of time in nature without believing in something greater than yourself”. I too have spent much of my life close to the natural world so knew immediately what he was talking about. We naturally get a sense of the Oneness of all things when we develop a relationship with nature. We feel connected to the larger world, which to me has always felt like both a great comfort and a great gift.

When we spend time in Nature we begin to vibrate at the same frequency as the Earth which produces an alpha state in our brain. It’s a relaxed, calm, meditative state where we are more receptive to the larger energetic field of universal wisdom and we can experience ah…ha moments, flashes of inspiration and reach mind/body/spirit integration. Alpha waves are also associated with people’s ability to heal themselves and increased creativity. Places with high levels of negative ions like the ocean or waterfalls or flowing rivers and creeks or walking in the rain or fog especially promote alpha brain waves.

We don’t need to go into the wilderness to experience the benefits. Sitting in the garden or a walk in the park will do. Studies published in mainstream medical journals that suggest that nature of any kind makes people feel better and can minimize the effects of disease.

If you enjoyed this blog you might want to subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left and enter your email. Thanks.

Nature, Creativity and Health

I have been reading a fascinating book titled The Nature Principle: Reconnecting to Life in a Virtual Age by Richard Louv. In his book Last Child in the Woods he coined the term Nature Deficit Disorder about the negative impact that spending less and less time in nature has on children. In this more recent book Louv tells the story of how after a lecture on the impact of nature deficit on the young, a woman came up, grabbed the labels of his suit jacket and exclaimed, “adults suffer from Nature Deficit Disorder too you know.” So Louv wrote this book to address that concern.

Beyond a discussion of the negative impacts, Louv elaborates on the many benefits that spending time in nature brings including improved physical and mental health, enhance creativity and a greater sense of connection and belonging. He highlights actual medical research on the value of time in nature for patients suffering from conditions such as Alzheimer’s, depression and stress. Some mainstream medical doctors have begun prescribing Vitamin N (time in nature). Agencies like the National Park Service, in their urban parks, have set up prescription trails to support people in spending this healing time outdoors. Nature therapy is a growing field.

Having grown up camping all over the American West, nature got into my blood and has been a lifelong love. I attribute my connection to nature with helping me to age gracefully and maintain a youthful body and spirit. Other people I know who have a strong bond to nature and spend a lot of time outdoors are also blessed with good health and a greater aliveness. I am grateful for the deep sense of connection and kinship I feel with the Earth and her other than human inhabitants. I started looking at birds when I was 16 and their beautiful presence and song fills my life wherever I go.

I have found, too, in my own work as a writing teacher and life and creativity coach that in the workshops and retreats I offer in nature that people have more profound insights and shifts than when we work solely indoors. People relax and open up more readily in peace and beauty of the natural world. The use of their senses as well as being more present in the moment expands, which is a key element in opening more fully to creative expression.

The Nature Principle is an inspiring, hopeful and empowering book. In it Louv invites us to consider balancing our relationship with technology with time unplugged in nature. He suggests that the more high tech we become the more nature we need. He also sees a new nature movement afoot that goes beyond environmentalism: One that’s “about maximizing the potential of nature to enhance our health, our minds, our societal vibrancy”.

It can start as simply as going outside finding a patch of grass and taking off your shoes. Feel the moist earth under your feet and relax into it. Go sit in a garden. Simply looking out the window at nature has been shown to help. Grow lettuce in a planter on your patio. Go for a walk in nature and see if you don’t feel some of the tension of daily life dropping away. And use your imagination. How can you connect to nature, how can you help her?

If you enjoyed this blog subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send you a free copy of my Creativity eBooklet for guidance and inspiration. Thanks

The Blank Page

People who lean on logic and philosophy and rational exposition end by starving the best part of the mind. – William Butler Yeats

Every time we sit down to write a first draft we face the blank page with some trepidation because our mind generally hasn’t a clue about where to begin or what is wanting to be born or what story really wants to be told so we feel a physical sense of nervousness or anxiety. This is true for all forms of creativity including the creation of our lives.

With world changes happening so quickly I’ve been feeling a sense of my life as the blank page, that things that used to really interest or excite me no longer have the same allure. I am neutral or uninterested about the things I thought would be of interest “forever”. My head wants to tell me that there is something wrong, while my heart and deeper knowing senses that something new wants to be born and letting go is part of the process.

Recently in reference to trying to figure out what’s next a friend me asked the question “is it enough that we live in our hearts?” The immediate answer that came from my sense of knowing was yes. I got that if we live from our hearts consistently our deepest joys will find us, that new gifts will emerge, that we will spark old interests in new ways. It’s in surrender to the heart’s knowing and guidance that we naturally flow along our highest, most joyous way. And from the perspective of the heart simple pleasures like having tea with a friend is part of that.

Then this morning in what felt like a synchronicity someone commented on a blog post from my website on a poem by Irish philosopher and poet John O’Donohue I hadn’t remembered I posted. It fit perfectly with the spirit of releasing what no longer brings us alive so we can live in ever expanding ways.

For The Time Of Necessary Decision

The mind of time is hard to read.
We can never predict what it will bring,
Nor even from all that is already gone
Can we say what form it finally takes;
For time gathers its moments secretly.
Often we only know it’s time to change
When a force has built inside the heart
That leaves us uneasy as we are.

Perhaps the work we do has lost its soul
Or the love where we once belonged
Calls nothing alive in us anymore.
We drift through this gray, increasing
nowhere
Until we stand before a threshold we know
We have to cross to come alive once more.

May we have the courage to take the step
Into the unknown that beckons us;
Trust that a richer life awaits us there,
That we will lose nothing
But what has already died;
Feel the deeper knowing in us sure
Of all that is about to be born beyond
The pale frames where we stayed confined,
Not realizing how such vacant endurance
Was bleaching our soul’s desire.

– John O’Donohue

What do you want to let go of so that your heart and soul can create a greater sense of joy?

If you enjoyed this blog subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on your left, enter your email and I’ll send you a free Creativity eBooklet.

Have You Given Yourself Permission to Be Creative?

Silhouette of girl and doveI was lucky enough to be raised by a father who valued the arts. The son of two Irish emigrants he inherited the Irish love of story and valued the magic of words. He would come home in the evening and read the plays of Shakespeare, the novels of Thomas Hardy and the poems of William Butler Yeats to name a few. He would put the black vinyl disks on our small record player spinning out the music of Beethoven, Berlioz and Mozart. When in high school I showed interest in drawing he would bring home books from the library for me.

It wasn’t until decades later when I started working as a creativity coach and I discovered that few of my clients had ever been given permission to embrace their creative gifts that I realized just what a wonderful gift my father had given me. The fact that he valued the arts showed me by example that they were important and to be valued. He implicitly gave me permission to be creative and to follow those impulses.

I also have found even with my clients who are already expressing themselves creatively that if their parents thought art or other forms of creativity were frivolous then while they may be expressing themselves creatively they make it their lowest priority; it’s last thing they do with their day, so they end up not having as much time as they want for their creativity. They also feel a lot more resistance to showing up in the first place.

So what would it take for you to give yourself permission to embrace and value your creativity in whatever form you choose to express it? What would it take for you to see your creativity as important and make it a priority? Make the choice to do that and pay attention to the creative urges and ideas that arise.

And be aware of any old subconscious patterns that continue to keep you from showing up creatively. Notice what your beliefs are about being creative like thinking: I’m not creative or I can never make any money with it so what good is it.

Some years ago I heard Seamus Heaney, the noble prize winning Irish poet, give a very academic lecture at the University of Washington. Half way through the talk he tossed his hands in the air and said, “oh just write for the joy of it” and then went back to the lecture. So how about it. Even if it feels a little scary to step out of your comfort zone on this. Can you give yourself permission to create just for the joy it brings to your life?

If you enjoyed this blog please subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send you a pdf of my free Creativity eBooklet to inspire you. Thanks

The Neuroscience of Approaching Your Creativity

IMG_0069I’ve been reading an interesting book titled Your Creative Brain: Seven Steps of Maximize Imagination, Productivity and Innovation in Your Life by Shelley Carson, a teacher and researcher in psychology and creativity at Harvard University. Drawing on the latest findings in neuroscience she weaves an understanding of how the brain works when it is engaged in the creative process. I was particularly interested in her explanation of the two pathways to creativity: deliberate and spontaneous.

In the deliberate pathway, you deliberately and consciously move step by step towards a creative solution. Your conscious mind controls the process. She used the example of Bach, who in the creation of his Brandenburg Concertos used “mathematical constructs, purposeful inversions of basic themes and counterpoint that were carefully thought out and arranged”. She compared him to Mozart who used the spontaneous pathway where the conscious mind gives up control allowing ideas and insights that would normally be blocked from awareness to come to the surface. She quotes Mozart as saying about the flow of the ideas “when and how they come, I know not; nor can I force them.”

Essentially it appears that different parts of the brain are engaged for each pathway. With the deliberate pathway as you approach a creative insight there is an awareness of getting closer and closer to the solution though there is still a sense of engaging the mystery. With the spontaneous pathway creative solutions are derived from information being processed below the level of conscious awareness and eventually pop into our minds as a flash of insight or an aha moment, the idea or solution arises fully formed.

This all made me ponder my own creative style. As a writer I definitely favor the spontaneous pathway for the first draft where I allow whatever is stewing in the subconscious to burst on to the page often having little conscious awareness of exactly what I have written. But as I read the description of the deliberate pathway I realized that fits with the process of revision, where I am piecing together an essay or growing a poem with more conscious awareness feeling that sense of getting closer or warmer that Carson uses to describe the deliberate pathway. Although even with revision I find that spontaneous revelation of how best to do something often pops in along the way.

The book also describes other ways our brains work with creativity and Carson suggests that while most of us are stronger in certain ways we can actively strengthen our capacities in all the aspects thus expanding our creative potential. I love that science is affirming what I have long sensed intuitively that creativity is a process and it can be learned.

If you enjoyed this blog please subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left and enter your email and I’ll send you a free Creativity eBooklet to inspire. Thanks.

Cultivating Your Creativity

creative flowerThe ability to live in the question long enough for genius to emerge is a touchstone of creative success. – Jonathan Fields

Think of your creativity as if it were your garden. If you want it to flourish what needs to be done? How would you tend it? What do you need to do to gets things growing? What would it look like to reap the harvest? To start the soil needs tilling, fertilizing and the seeds need to be planted and watered. You may need to read some gardening books or take a gardening class. You need to put in the time and some care.

What does this metaphor for our creativity look like in practice. To begin know that you are creative; that is a gift inherent to all human beings. Know that creativity is something you can grow. As John Updike so beautifully as “Creativity is merely a plus name for regular activity. Any activity becomes creative when the doer cares about doing it right, or better.” And in the words of Ken Robinson in his book Out of Our Minds: Learning to Be Creative “When people find their medium, they discover their real creative strengths and come into their own.”

As a creativity coach, I have seen this over and over again in the workshops and individual work I do. People’s creativity is lying just below the surface just waiting for a bit of encouragement to burst to the surface, often to their surprise and delight. So to start cultivating your creativity accept that in your own unique way you are already creative and your job is to be open to what that looks like and explore the possibilities.

How can you nurture your creative self? Understand that your creative self is a tender, vulnerable authentic part of you that likely wasn’t encouraged at home or in school. She needs a safe and sacred space in which to emerge. Cultivate radical self acceptance for the part of you that is original and able to think outside the box. Entertain new ideas and possibilities. Experiment. Play. Let go of judging the new ideas, just be open and curious. Start asking questions. What are my creative gifts? What creative endeavors would bring me most alive? What do I need to do to awaken my creativity?

Practice, patience, faith and a willingness to be surprised are important elements. Once you have begun to take action there is also the element of allowing that needs to be considered. And understand that like a garden creativity moves through different phases and trying to produce a finished product in one step is usually impossible.

You start, you plant the seed and you don’t keep pulling up the seed to see if it’s growing. Know that in the fertile darkness of the subconscious that your creative ideas and project is incubating. Even when you are not consciously working on the problem that your creative mind is, so that when you return consciously to whatever you are working on, new ideas and solutions will rise to the surface. Understand that as John Cleese so eloquently said, “creativity is not a talent. It is a way of operating.” Consider all the ways your are already creative.

If you enjoyed this blog you might want to subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send you a Creativity eBooklet for some inspiration and guidance. Thanks

Shaking Things Up

Orange ButterflyOne of the things I suggest to all my creativity coaching clients is to shake things up. Break out of the routine. I tell them to eat new foods, drive to work a different way, put their clothes on in the morning in a different order and go somewhere they have never been before.

Our thoughts, our linear mind, are tied to the familiar, to what we already know. Yet our brain has the capacity to entertain infinite possibilities. Part of being creative is learning to use more of our brain and access our ability to make connections in new ways.

Yet when we do everything the same way day after day we create habit patterns that build neural ruts in our brains, so those become our default way of being, acting and doing things in the world. We become numb to the possibility of the new and find it difficult to change our ways even when we think we really want to.

One thing that can really open us up is travel, a change of scene. The experience of another culture or even a different region of our own country or state helps us open our minds and create an awareness that there is more than one way of being or doing things, which in turn can open us to a fresh perspective from which we can create something new.

Researchers at the Kellogg School of Management have found that students who lived abroad for an extended period of time were much more likely to solve a difficult creative problem than student who have never been out of their home country.

When we get home from a trip, whether it’s a vacation out of the country or just somewhere different for the weekend, home may still be the same but something within us has shifted leaving us open to new ways of seeing and doing things.

You can also shake things up creatively by working with a new form. If you’re a writer, get a box of crayons and just play with colors and shape. If you’re a painter, read some poetry. If you’re a dance visit an art museum. The more we open to the world of expanded possibilities, the more we awaken to our creative potential.

If you enjoyed this blog you might want to subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send you my free Creativity eBooklet to inspire. Thanks.

Creativity and Relaxing

Redwood forest waterfallWe have to occupy the conscious mind so that we can access the subconscious. It’s like throwing a dog a bone so we can rob the house. – Ezra Pound

I have long advocated to my clients for writing and creativity coaching clients that when they feel stuck with any kind of problem after trying to figure it out with the rational, linear mind, whether it’s dialogue for a character in their novel, a design for their garden or an issue at work, to stop and get up and do something else. Go for a walk, lay down for a nap, do the dishes or go for a drive. Something that occupies the conscious mind so that your subconscious has a chance to bubble up to the surface with the solution.

So I am fascinated by the new neuroscience that supports what I have found to be true from my own experience. A psychologist looking at why interrupting our focus can be so helpful in allowing for the flash of insight that brings the solution to our problem used an Electroencephalography (EEG), which measures the electrical activity of the brain, and noticed that before someone was able to solve an insight puzzle there was a steady stream of alpha waves coming from the right hemisphere of the brain.

Alpha waves are associated with a relaxed state of mind. That’s why when we’ve been working on a problem for a while answers so often pop into our mind while we are taking a warm shower. The study also found that people with an absence of alpha wave activity were not able to solve any of the insight puzzles.

It’s also been shown that people in a happy, positive frame of mind were 25% more likely to experience a flash of insight than people who were feeling angry or upset.

Research shows that by focusing we actually inhibit the creative connections that lead to breakthroughs. When we keep focusing outside ourselves trying to solve a problem we actually inhibit the flow of alpha waves and our brain’s ability to make the connections that lead to the insight. Also unless we quiet our minds we can’t hear the answer that has been quietly trying to rise to the surface. Our mind chatter masks our ability to tap our deeper ways of knowing.

This is why innovative companies like Google allow employees to spend 15% of the day pursuing new ideas through free time where they do whatever they want. It’s a policy that’s been shown to work in the creation of new ideas and products.

While the insight seems to come out of nowhere research shows that he brain is actually laying the groundwork beforehand. This fits my own awareness of the creative process where I’ve noticed if you give your mind a problem to solve it will work on it 24/7 without your necessarily being aware of it until the resolution pops into your mind. Neuroscience has found that 30 milliseconds before the flash of insight there is a burst of gamma rhythm in the brain. It’s believe gamma rhythm comes from cells distributed across the cortex pull themselves together into the new network that is able to bring the insight to consciousness.

So while spending time focusing on the problem and developing the skill and knowledge in your field is important understanding how the subconscious plays a critical role in creative problem solving supports us in relaxing and playing in the middle of creating.

If you enjoyed this article you might want to subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send you my free Creativity eBooklet to inspire. Thanks.

Letting Go Of Censoring Yourself

I think the best way to perform is when your unconscious is fully available to you, but you’re still a little conscious too. – Yo-Yo Ma

I have taught the creative writing process for more than twenty years, working in part with a technique known as “freewriting” where I encourage participants to “just let it rip”. We don’t worry about punctuation, spelling, grammar or whether it is good. We suspend the censor and let our first thoughts spill out onto the page. People new to the class are always nervous about this kind of letting go. Since I write and share my own raw writing with the group I was rather nervous when I first started teaching the classes but found that by maintaining a safe and sacred atmosphere of unconditional acceptance for whatever wanted to come forth it really calmed the fear for everyone.

We learn quite early to fear making mistakes. We all have a well developed censor that confines us within the limiting parameters of being socially acceptable. Neuroscientists have identified a part of the brain, the dorso lateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) that is closely associated with impulse control. It keeps us from embarrassing ourselves or saying the wrong thing to our boss or spouse.

Young children create so naturally because their censors don’t yet exist. The DLPFC is the last part of the brain to fully develop. Around 4th grade it engages and children lose interest in making art in the classroom. If we are worried about making a mistake, saying the wrong thing or doing something poorly we often end up doing nothing at all. The censor has us holding back our latent talent.

In a study by a neuroscientist looking at brain activity in jazz musicians engaged in improvisation, research subjects showed increased activity in the medial prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain associated with self expression, while at the same time the DLPFC or censor appeared to deactivate. At this point there is a surge of raw material coming forth but rather than being random or chaotic it is organized or structured by the rules of the form. In the case of jazz musicians they naturally improvised in the right key and tempo.

I have noticed this tendency in my freewriting workshops. Students bypass the censor yet they also naturally wrote in the form that seemed to most call or appeal to them. Individuals drawn to poetry and who read a lot of poetry had the raw writing take on a poetic quality. The same was true with fiction, memoir or non-fiction. It’s why I always tell people that reading the kind of writing you want to do is one of the best things you can do to improve your work because when you let go and let the creativity flow, your brain then has a sense of how to organize it. When we let go we have access to the vast storehouse of the unconscious mind.

I really encourage creative play and practice, free from the expectation that we have to produce something, as a way to opening up to our creative gifts and talents. Learning to let go and create an atmosphere of inner permission, acceptance and allowance can really help us more fully express ourselves creatively.

If you enjoyed this article please subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on your left, enter your email and I’ll send you a free Creativity eBooklet to inspire. Thanks.

Good News on Creative Frustration

Silhouette of girl and doveA couple of years ago I read a really interesting book titled Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer. The book explores the neuroscience behind creativity and affirmed what I have long insisted that creativity is capacity we are all born with. It is part of the natural workings of our brains, though it is something we have to learn to use, exercise and work at.

Lehrer tells the fascinating story of Bob Dylan, who in 1965, already a folk music icon with songs like Blowing in the Wind and The Times They Are A Changing to his name, decides after a grueling four month tour that he is done with singing and songwriting. He is sick of his music and the expectations that being in the spotlight have placed on him. He told his manager he was done and meant it. He rode his motorcycle to his cabin in Woodstock, New York and didn’t even bring his guitar.

The book goes on to consider what can happen in the brain when we are faced with creative frustration. We tend to fail to recognize that the frustration that pushes us to stop, let go and feel hopeless can be part of the creative process, can lead to revelation and rebirth. When we are stumped and let go a part of us can be quietly rummaging through the creative part of our mind, our right hemisphere, looking to give birth to something new.

After a few days alone in his cabin, relieved to the need to write another song, thinking he was going to start work on a novel, Dylan felt as Lehrer describes it “the tickle of lyrics that needed to written down”, something that needed to be said. Once he began he wrote a song twenty pages long unlike anything he had ever done and he had the awareness that this is what he needed to being doing. The lyrics didn’t make sense. Dylan said it felt like they were being written by a “ghost” and all he needed to do was get out of the way.

Lehrer suggests based on current scientific awareness of how the brain works that “the ghost” was the right hemisphere of Dylan’s brain pulling together the threads connecting the diversity and richness of all of Dylan’s many influences and weaving them into something new. The song begun in Woodstock and recorded July 15, 1965 was Like A Rolling Stone. It revolutionized rock and roll.

Like A Rolling Stone has always been one of my favorite songs and it moves me still to listen to it, so I was especially intrigued and amazed by Dylan’s story which serves as a fantastic reminder that frustration, hitting the wall and letting go can be an important part of the creative process. It creates an awareness of the importance of listening to the “ticklings” of our heart and soul and right hemisphere of brain after we have let go. It inspires me knowing I can have a new relationship with the times I feel in my own creativity that I am not going anywhere. And I like to think that creativity includes everything including the way we live and create our lives so that I can look at frustration in a whole new way wherever it occurs in my life.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send you my free Creativity eBooklet for some inspiration. Thanks!

Ready to Claim the Joy of Being Creative?

Barred Owl in the RainIt is in awareness that we bring everything to life that lives within us. There is no time like the present to give birth to creativity. – Kathleen Anderson

Learning to live in the present moment is part of the path of joy. – Sarah Ban Breathnach

I call my creativity coaching The Joy of Being Creative because that is exactly what engaging our creativity brings us. When we are really in that flow we are completely in the present moment which gives us a sense of joy and deep satisfaction. We can get this same feeling by really being present when we watch a sunset, play peek-a-boo with a baby or tend the soil in your garden to plant seeds. Anything that consistently brings us into the present moment, the now, allows us to naturally feel a sense of happiness and joy and peace.

If we want to know more abut what it means to live in the moment we only need to watch children. They bring a freshness and innocence to every experience. They find magic and wonder everywhere. A toddler can spent hours playing in a rain puddle, squealing in delight.

What would it look like for us to return to this state where we are free from the accumulations of past experiences and the ways we project them on the future. What would it be like if we didn’t care if anyone thought we were silly or crazy or ridiculous. As adults we spend so much time censoring and judging ourselves, that we have lost our ability to be playful and spontaneous.

Reclaiming our innocence and a sense of wonder for ourselves and the world around us can really aid our creativity. Rather than thinking we already know what the tree in our backyard or the face of our spouse looks like what would it be like to look at them as if seeing them for the first time. What would it be like to come to every experience with a fresh eye and a willingness to really listen and be fully in the moment.

Like any change in our behavior, it takes awareness and practice. It’s a lot like meditation where you have to catch your mind wondering and focus on being present. I’ve been practicing this myself, pulling myself back to the moment and the awareness of the beauty around me. Every time I do this I feel a peaceful and the joy of inspiration that has me sitting down to write a poem which leads me deeper into joy. Try it for yourself and see what ways you might want to express the inspiration that comes to you, creatively.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send you a free Creativity eBooklet to inspire. Thanks.

Imagination and Transformation

Orange ButterflyImagination is more important than knowledge. – Albert Einstein

Our calling is where our deepest gladness meets the world’s hunger. – Frederick Buecher

Consider that your imagination is real. It is a creative force. Our bodies can’t tell the difference between an actual event and one that is imagined. If you have a fear of heights and lean out over the railing to look down on the Grand Canyon your body will begin to feel a sense of panic, dizziness and butterflies in the stomach. Close your eyes and imagine the same scene in detail and you will feel the same visceral reaction to a fear of falling.

With the world in tremendous flux we have an opportunity to create a world of peace and harmony that works for everyone. “Just pretend” that it is possible. “Just pretend” is another way of saying” imagine”, because when we use our imagination we feel we are just making it up and that it has little to do with “what is real”. But what if imagination is more than that. What if through the force of imagination we can be the creator of our lives and our world. What if now is the time. What do you want to create for yourself, your community and the world at large. You can start with “just pretend” to begin to access your imagination and deeper knowing.

Start to see what you want in your mind’s eye or feel it in your body. It can be as simple as I am the experience of joy, love, and freedom. What would that look like for you? What is calling to you from that place of your heart and your joy. What do your want to choose. What we put our focus on is what we create. Intentionally using your imagination for creation helps you focus on what you want and bring it into being. Imagine we can all be the agents of transformation in the world. What would that look like?

Here’s a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke (the great spiritual poet of the early 20th century) that feels to me like it was written for just the time we now find ourselves in.

All will come again into its strength:
the fields undivided, the waters undammed,
the trees towering and the walls built low.
And in the valleys, people as strong and varied as the land.

And no churches where God
is imprisoned and lamented
like a trapped and wounded animal.
The houses welcoming all who knock
and a sense of boundless offering
in all relations, and in you and me.

No yearning for an afterlife, no looking beyond,
no belittling of death,
but only longing for what belongs to us
and serving earth, lest we remain unused.

– Rainier Maria Rilke

Imagine how you want to serve the Earth, how do you want to be used.

If you enjoyed this article please subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send you my Creativity eBooklet to inspire. Thanks

Global Peace and Poetry

rainbowI recently re-read Maya Angelou’s beautiful poem for the Christmas season titled Amazing Peace. As I read I could feel my heart open more fully and tears form in my eyes as I could feel the truth of the words working through me. We can all feel the need for peace in the world and in ourselves. And the poems remind me of the power of poetry and all creative acts to open our hearts and expanded minds to new possibilities and solutions

One of the solutions for world peace is keeping an open heart and sending from your heart compassion and care to areas of the world troubled by storms, war and other crisis. This is exactly what the Global Coherence Initiative organizes people to do. An offshoot of the Institute of Heartmath they are a group of scientists working with the discovery that the magnetic field of the human heart is in direct communication on the energetic level of feelings with the magnetic field of the Earth. (This discover was made by a NASA scientist studying fluctuation in the earth’s magnetic field who on September 11, 2001 noticed an off the charts fluctuation as people around the world poured their heart’s concerns over the events of that day in America.) This lead scientists to the awareness that by sending focused care from our heart’s to areas of trouble we can calm the Earth’s weather and people’s fear and distress during disasters.

The Global Coherence Initiative suggests that by focusing your attention in our hearts and breathing our love and compassion into the planetary field for all those suffering from weather events or conflicts and also send our coherent heart energy to leaders to keep working together to find sustainable solutions for global problem and hold the vision for increased peace on the planet without putting time restrictions on it. Peace will result as we increase our collective ability to get along.

To help with the inspiration I’ve included below two of my favorite peoms on the theme of peace. One is Maya Angelou’s Amazing Peace.

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

— Wendell Berry

Amazing Peace

Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes
And lightning rattles the eaves of our houses.
Flood waters await us in our avenues.

Snow falls upon snow, falls upon snow to
avalanche
Over unprotected villages.
The sky slips low and grey and threatening.

We question ourselves.
What have we done
to so affront nature?
We worry God.
Are you there? Are you there really?
Does the covenant you made with us still hold?

Into this climate of fear and apprehension,
Christmas enters,
Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope
And singing carols of forgiveness
high up in the bright air.
The world is encouraged to come away from rancor,
Come the way of friendship.

It is the Glad Season.
Thunder ebbs to silence
and lightning sleeps quietly in the corner.
Flood waters recede into memory.
Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us
As we make our way to higher ground.

Hope is born again in the faces of children
It rides on the shoulders of our aged
as they walk into their sunsets.
Hope spreads around the earth,
brightening all things,
Even hate which crouches,
breeding in dark corridors.

In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft.
Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.
It is loud now.
It is louder.
Louder than the explosion of bombs.

We tremble at the sound.
We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war.
But true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.

We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas.
We beckon this good season to wait a while with us.
We, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim, say come.
Peace.
Come and fill us and our world with your majesty.
We, the Jew and the Jainist, the Catholic and the Confucian,
Implore you to stay a while with us.
So we may learn by your shimmering light
How to look beyond complexion and see community.

It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.

On this platform of peace, we can create a language
To translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.

At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ
Into the great religions of the world.
We jubilate the precious advent of trust.
We shout with glorious tongues at the coming of hope.
All the earth’s tribes loosen their voices
To celebrate the promise of Peace.

We, Angels and Mortals, Believers and Non-Believers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at our world and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at each other, then into ourselves
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation.

Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul.

– Maya Angelou

Swimming with a Dolphin

dolphin closeupIf someone had told me beforehand that it would be in the cold, murky waters of the Atlantic along the west coast of Ireland that I would going swimming with a wild dolphin, I wouldn’t have believed them. I had spent a good amount of time in Ireland before I learned that the about 100 Bottlenosed Dolphins use the estuary at the mouth of the Shannon River to give birth and shelter their young during the summer months.

A lone female Bottlenosed Dolphin has frequented a 20 mile stretch of coast not far from the Shannon for the past ten years. About ten years ago the singer Dusty Springfield’s ashes were sprinkled off the nearby cliffs and when the dolphin appeared later that year, the locals named her Dusty. For the past three years Dusty has spent much of the year in the harbor where the ferries to the Aran Islands load and unload passengers. I’ve witnessed a hundred people standing on the pier watching the dolphin and each one of them smiling in delight. I could feel their hearts open as mine always did whenever I was near her, whether I was in the water or not.

I called her an emissary of dolphin kind. Other people who spent time with her had that same sense that she had a job to do. She would swim out to greet the incoming ferries and escort the outbound boats to the tip of Crab Island that helped define the harbor. She would swim over to greet anyone who entered the water even if just wading in. Then there were a number of people who came on a regular basis to swim with her who had the skill to play with her underwater. She especially seemed to value that connection. I am a reluctant swimmer so I like it best when I could visit with her from the cement steps that lead down from the pier into the sea. When the water was calm she would come close, tilt her head so that one eye was focused on me and I was always filled with amazement and joy. All I could think of was how beautiful she was. I eventually bought a wetsuit and plunged into the frigid water not so much to swim with her which was beyond my ability but just to be more fully in her presence which always held me in the present moment and expanded me in ways I probably won’t ever fully understand.

I spent several months around her and while I am now back on the other side of world close to the Pacific Ocean of my birth, the presence of dolphin lives in my imagination, swims in my mind’s eye as her joyousness buoys my spirit and expands my awareness even from a distance. She reminds me to play. And I sense the message dolphins bring to us all, whether we have ever seen one or swum with one, is to connect to the playful, expansive being we are here to be; to swim in our creative juices and be more than we think we can be.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free monthly newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send you a free eBooklet Setting Your Creativity Free.

Nature, Creativity & Spirit

Art is not an end in itself. It introduces the soul to a higher spiritual order, which it expresses and in some sense explains. -Thomas Merton

What art offers is space – a certain breathing room for the spirit. ~John Updike

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. – Albert Einstein

Hummingbird Feeding on a Delicate FlowerMany years ago when I lived in Glacier Bay in Southeast Alaska, a salmon fisherman I knew once turned to me and said, “you know, I think it’s impossible to spend a lot of time close to Nature and not believe in something greater than yourself.” While I thought him an unlikely source of such a revelation I was quick to agree.

I have been camping in the wild lands of the American West since I was a baby and all my time spent close to Nature had given me an intuitive, visceral sense of the Oneness of all Beings. Beyond that I have worked professionally as a biologist and naturalist and my knowledge of the plants and animals combined with my familiarity has given me a deep sense of belonging to the world.

I often play with using my imagination to talk to the trees and the birds and Mother Earth. I also work with stream of consciousness writing (aka freewriting) to get advice and wisdom not only from my Higher Self but the Earth. In the Writing in Nature trips I lead I have people ask a question of the Earth and write the answer as if it is coming from her and they always get the best advice.

Not long before he died I had the intuition to visit Irish poet, philosopher and former Catholic priest John O’Donohue’s website and discovered that he would be speaking the following week at the Dominican school just north of San Francisco, about an hour’s drive for me. I immediately booked a ticket. I had long admired O’Donohue’s weave of insights from the western philosophical traditions including Christianity with the wisdom of Earth based traditions of the Celts.

A couple of things struck me from that night. He spoke of the importance of honoring and drawing from traditions like Christianity or Judaism or Buddhism that had a depth to them. I went away with the awareness that while I hadn’t been raise in any religious tradition my father’s love of the world’s great literature including Shakespeare, Thomas Hardy and W.B. Yeats offered a foundation in creative tradition of literature which can open doorways to understanding and knowing the deeper working of the world and creation. Then when I became involved in various forms of creativity including dance, photography, pottery and finally settling into writing as my primary form I became more and more aware that creativity provided an opening to understanding what it means of cocreate with Spirit.

Both my relationship to Nature and engaging creativity have enriched my life in countless ways. Consider that connecting to Nature can be as simple as paying attention to the birds out your window or saying hello to a tree as you walk by and see if it might not have something to say to you. You can just pretend and see what comes to mind.

The same is true with stretching your creativity muscles. Try doodling or drawing a mandala (a circular drawing that in this case represents for you the essence of your creative spirit). Or there is my favorite freewriting where you just write for ten minutes using as a prompt something you see out your window and just let the words flow uncensored out of the pen. Play with both connecting to Nature and your creativity and see if it doesn’t expand your life and your world.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click on the the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send you a copy of my Creativity eBooklet to offer guidance and inspiration. Thanks.

The Wonder of Paying Attention

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is but I do know how to pay attention. – Mary Oliver

I have been spending time in the village of Doolin, County Clare, Ireland. The area is rich in beauty. The pale gray limestone rock slabs of the unique biological area called the Burren comes down into Doolin as a slender finger that runs right along the sea; a wild shore exposed to the full force of the Atlantic. Just to the south the rock turns to dark gray shale and slate that form the Cliffs of Moher, one of Ireland’s scenic wonders. I have been here many times as I have to the spectacular Sonoma Coast near to where I live in California. I am struck by the way these amazingly beautiful places can become so familiar that we loose our sense of wonder for their magnificence. This happens too with the people we love and the world around us.

My first trip to this part of Ireland I gasped as the beauty. It literally took my breath. Now I walked here countless times I find I have to be quite mindful of appreciating where I am and focusing on really looking and seeing it fresh each time rather than letting myself self into the fog of the familiar.

Recently I was walking down the lane on my way to visit a friend who lives here. He saw me approaching with my head down and shouted out to me, “look up, look out to the horizon, it will help you stay in the Now. You look down and that mind of yours takes over taking you out of the moment for sure.” I laughed as he cajoled me into the moment and appreciated the wisdom of the advice. So I started practicing looking ahead and really seeing the beauty anew each time I walk out. The glimmer of light slipping through the clouds sparkling the water, the astonishing green of the hills, the cows so full of curiosity. My friend’s comment reminded me of Aldous Huxley’s futuristic novel Island where parrots flew from tree to tree crying out “Here now, pay attention.” to call the people back into the moment.

Part of the gift of being creative is that it becomes a practice of being present to what is and seeing the world and our creations more fully in the moment and celebrating the world around us. What ways can you find to pay attention and see your everyday world around you as if for the first time.

The Importance of Play

New CrayonsIf you want creative workers, give them enough time to play. – John Cleese

Play is our brain’s favorite way of learning.
– Diane Ackerman

The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct. – Carl Jung

In my recent work with both creativity and writing coaching clients I’ve found that the key element in getting them out of the doldrums or a sense of being stuck or not being sure where to go with their work is play. Play gets us out of the mind’s need for doing and it’s focus on product and puts us in the place of being and enjoying the process.

Since creativity comes out of the alchemy of subconscious working in union with the mysteries, play is essential in accessing expanded states of awareness and putting us back into the flow.

This is true not just for art and creative expression but innovation and discoveries in science and technology. I always really enjoyed the books written for popular audiences by Nobel prize winning physicist Richard Feynman that illuminated the way he thought and made his remarkable discoveries. One of the founders of theory of quantum physics. Feynman had an IQ of around 123 which is above average but not close to the genius he was considered to be.

He described his process that lead to his astonishing discoveries as “noodling around”, his term for play. He was passionate about the subject and he would just play with different ideas and vantage points and let his mind run with the possibilities.

Ultimately when we engage in creative play in any endeavor it feels good.. Bright ideas, insights and inspiration stream in, time slows down so that hours feels like minutes and we are infused with a feeling of well being. On top of that play encourages variation and doing things in new ways actually builds new neural pathways in the brain which expands our ability to be creative.

So ask yourself, what can I do to add more play to my life and see what ideas pop into your mind as you go about your day. And then have fun!

If you enjoyed this article please subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send you my free Creativity eBooklet to offer guidance and inspiration. Thanks.

Creativity As A Mystical Experience

creative flowerI firmly believe that all human beings have access to extraordinary energies and powers. Judging from accounts of mystical experience, heightened creativity, or exceptional performance by athletes and artists, we harbor a greater life than we know. – Jean Houston

Picasso spoke of taking his ego off before entering his painting studio the same way a Muslim takes his shoes off before entering a Mosque. He recognized that it was his connection to Spirit that allowed him to create. This is how he manifested his genius.

The wonderful thing about this is that this connection is available to each one of us. It is a capacity that each of us is born with, yet it is quite common for us to be unaware of our creative capacity and how to access it. We have been taught to deny or diminish it. There is a wildness to our creative self that we have learned to tame.

Anyone who taps into the zone or flow becomes aware that something magical beyond their everyday self is happening. The first time I really hit the flow in my writing and I just knew I was writing sometime good, I paused for a moment to look around the room to see where it was coming from me because I didn’t think it was coming from me. I did know that it felt really good and expansive. It felt divine.

Since then I have come to sense that when I am being creative I am co-creating with creation and that the mysterious forces that bring beauty and order to Nature are at work in me. After all the word muse means to be initiated into the mysteries.

What if this mystical union will help us solve the problems we face in the world today. What if this is the way to step beyond the level of thinking that created the problems and find truly new solutions. What if engaging your creative impulses in even small ways everyday can make a big difference?

If you liked this article sign up for my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send you my Creativity eBooklet for guidance and inspiration. Thanks.

Using Your Imagination

dream_a_zLogic will get you from A to Z, imagination will get you everywhere. – Albert Einstein

Everything you can imagine is real. – Pablo Picasso

Most of us as children were told by adults or even older children when we played pretend or expressed an awareness of something beyond everyday reality like talking to animals or fairies or seeing the colors of a person’s aura, “oh that’s just your imagination” as if it were unimportant or not real. We have been taught to deny or dismiss this wonderful facility that can add so much to our lives.

But what if the imagination was more than we have been lead to “think”. What if our imagination offers us a doorway to an expanded reality. What if our imagination is a powerful tool in creating not only stories or pictures or music but our very lives.

What if when you imagine you are talking to trees and actual answers come as words or pictures in your mind or a feeling in your body that you are not necessarily “making it up”. What if you are actually receiving information and guidance from the trees. Or what if we imagine a conversation with our Higher Self that gives us great advice. Or if you are a writer what if you could ask questions of Mark Twain and get some interesting answers?

Now I know that to the rational, linear mind this sounds crazy. My own mind is telling me at this very moment, “you can’t say that.” We all have a very highly skilled censor that limits not only what we feel we can say but even what we feel we can think. Yet doesn’t playing with the imagination make life more interesting? Doesn’t it open us up to more possibilities?

Also as adults we often define ourselves as not being creative and imaginative. Yet it is a gift we were all born to and something we can easily reclaim by a willingness to play with it. One way to begin to work with this more expanded vantage point start with “just pretend”. Just pretend what you want your life to look like if you had no limits and all was possible. Imagination is the faculty that can take you there.

If you liked this article subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send you a thank you gift of my Creativity eBooklet to guide and inspire.

The Time for Creativity is Now

The only truly happy people are children and the creative minority. — Jean Caldwell

rainbowFor the past couple of months the words “the time is now” have been running through my mind. I think a lot of people are feeling this. The momentum of change in the world nudging us all forward in new ways, asking us how do we want to create our lives moment by moment.

If our lives are the blank page, the white canvas and creativity is an energy that connects us to something beyond our everyday self allowing more of who we really are on the level of our heart and soul, then what do we want to create. This involves bringing creativity into our day to day life.

To start consider all the ways you are already creative in your life including cooking, gardening, decorating, parenting, teaching, work, business and every other area of your life. Often unless we are actively involved in some form of creative or artist expression we tend to dismiss our innate creative tendencies and gifts.

We just automatically think, “oh, I’m not creative”. On top of this we have learned to see creative endeavors as frivolous. I work with a lot of creativity coaching clients who, at first, have a hard time showing up to the work of exploring and supporting their creative self because they have been taught from an early age that creativity isn’t valuable. If you can’t make money at it, it’s a waste of time.

Yet our creativity is our greatest strength and gift in times of change. It gives us an ability to see what is possible and discover new ways of getting there. Daydreaming where we allow our minds to wander becomes a valuable tool when we understand that creativity involves a willingness to receive and be open to new ideas. As the French philosopher Joseph Joubert said, “the thoughts that come to you are more valuable than the ones you seek.”

What would it take for you to develop a new relationship with your creativity. Consider giving your creativity a personality. Talk to your creativity. Ask her what she needs. If you have neglected your creativity for a long time you may need to do some coaxing to get her to talk to you.

I often suggest to people who are looking to reclaim their connection to creativity to get a box of crayons and start doodling and drawing the way you did as a child. You can ask questions like “what do I need to know right now?” and doodle the answer. And look at the doodles the way you ponder your dreams or messages that are wanting to arise from a deeper part of yourself. Most important. Play. Joy lies at the heart of our creative practice.

If you enjoy this article sign up for my free monthly newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send you a free copy of my Creativity eBooklet for guidance and inspiration in opening more fully to your gifts.

The Work of the Poet

American poet William Carlos Williams said It is difficult to get the news from poems yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there. As a poet and someone involved in poetry as the oral tradition I have really seen how poems can really touch our hearts and hold us in the essence of an experience. Here’s a lovely poem from Diane Ackerman who captures the job of the poet.

The Work Of The Poet Is To Name What Is Holy

The work of the poet
is to name what is holy:

the spring snow
that hides unevenness
but also records
a dog walked at lunchtime,
the hieroglyphs of birds,
pawprints of a life
tiny but resolute;

how, like Russian dolls,
we nest in previous selves;

the lustrous itch
that compels an oyster
to forge a pearl,
or a poet a verse;

the drawing on of evening
belted at the waist;

snowfields of diamond dust;

the cozy monotony
of our days, in which
love appears with a holler;

the way a man’s body
has its own geography,
cliffs, aqueducts, pumice fields,
but a woman’s is the jungle,
hot, steamy, full of song;

the brain’s curiosity shop
filled with quaint mementos
and shadow antiques
hidden away in drawers;

the plain geometry
of you, me, and art––
our angles at rest
among shifting forms.

The work of the poet
is to name what is holy,

and not to mind so much
the pinch of words
to cope with memories
weak as falling buildings,

or render loss, love,
and the penitentiary
of worry where we live.

The work of the poet
is to name what is holy,
a task fit for eternity,
or the small Eden of this hour.

– Diane Ackerman

If you liked this post subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send you my free eBooklet: Setting Your Creativity Free for guidance and inspiration.

Extraordinary Times and Creativity

Find your waySomeday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire. – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

All the works of man have their origin in creative fantasy. What right have we then to depreciate imagination. – Carl Jung

We are living at perhaps the most pivotal time in human history where the changes and challenges in the world are vast. Jean Houston, one of the founders of the human consciousness movement who has worked work with over 40 different cultures and in 100 different countries, has found there are “five different, huge shifts in our understanding of our human nature and the story of our time that are affecting everything we do today, and awakening to these shifts will help you cultivate your sense of compassion and of the infinite possibilities of this moment.”

She has identified the five main shifts to include: 1. Our understanding of who and what we are and what we need to become in order to be able to deal with the complexity of our time; 2. Human societies are in the process of re-patterning. Social constructs are dissolving and whole new stories are trying to emerge, such as the rise of women into a full partnership with men across the globe, and many others; 3. The way we conduct business and commerce is shifting and this impacts almost everything in our lives. 4. The rise and fusion of different cultures, moving towards a planetary civilization that values and accentuates the uniqueness of each culture while blending them together. Think of the great fusions of food and of music and of beliefs; 5. Whole new orders of spirituality are emerging that are not about religion. The new cosmologies are giving us a view of ourselves that we never had before. For the first time ever, we find that we don’t live in the universe, but that the universe lives in us.

When I read her five areas of shifts, I started thinking of the important role creativity can play in these shifting times. Everyone has creative abilities and they are not limited to just the arts. The ability to solve problems creatively can help us in every area of our life. And creativity is not the domain of just a few gifted individuals. Everyone is born with the same capacity to be creativity. It just needs to cultivated and encouraged.

Creative thinking and imagination can help us step out of habitual patterns of doing and seeing things and gives us access to new ways of a looking at a problem and finding solutions. It makes us more adaptable. Asking questions can open us to creative solutions.

Questions like “What would it take to change this situation? or What would it take to attract more clients to my business? or What would it take for me to find a new job? or How can I be more creative in my life? Then don’t try to figure out the answer with your conscious mind. Just let the question go and then start to pay attention to any hunches, synchronicities, or bright ideas that pop into your head. That’s part of how creativity works. Play with it and see.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send you a copy of my Creativity eBooklet for guidance and inspiration.

EFT and the Science of Stress Relief

While there has been lots of anecdotal evidence on the effective of EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) on alleviating a wide range of conditions, there is now a growing body of scientific research explaining how and why it works.

EFT combines Eastern medicine, using the main acupuncture points for stress relief, with traditional Western psychotherapy. Rather than needles, in EFT you use your fingertips to tap specific acupuncture points while talking through a range of emotions or traumatic experiences. And science has shown that tapping on the points is as effective as using needles.

Dawson Church, Ph.D., who has been researching the science of EFT since 2002, explains that “tapping on these points sends signals directly to the stress centers of the mid-brain” which are not controlled by our front lobes, the conscious part of our minds we engage in conventional talk therapy. In addition what makes EFT so powerful is that it is able to access the amygdala, an almond-shaped part of our brain that triggers our body’s reaction to fear initiating the “fight, flight or freeze” response.

By reducing stress and reactivity, EFT helps with any problem that is stress related including sports performance, business and finances, as well as most disease.

Church estimates that 10 million people worldwide have used tapping, and what’s so exciting is how incredibly quickly it’s alleviating issues like depression, anxiety, insomnia, physical pain, even serious illness. It has even been shown to be really effective in treating war veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

In a recent study with Dr. David Feinstein, Church has been able to confirm that tapping on specific meridian points has a positive effect on lowering cortisol levels. Known as the “stress hormone,” cortisol is integral to our body’s “fight or flight” response. Originally intended to help early humans survive sudden, short lived danger like an encounter with a lion, regular release of cortisol as we seem to be doing in response to the ongoing stress of modern life is thought have serious impacts on our physical, mental and emotional health and make us more vulnerable to everything from cancer to heart disease.

In the study looking at EFT’s effect on cortisol, 83 participants were separated into three groups. The first group was guided through an hour-long EFT session, the second group received an hour of talk therapy, while the third, the control group, received no treatment. The group that did an hour of EFT demonstrated a 24 percent decrease in cortisol levels, while the other two groups showed no real change. The EFT group also exhibited lower levels of psychological symptoms, including anxiety and depression.

What I especially like about EFT is that it is simple to learn and use on yourself. You can use it immediately in any situation where you feel stressed or anxious to calm yourself and get a clearer perspective on how to best handle the situation that is triggering the stress.

For more information go to http://creativitygoeswild.com/eft/

Creating in the Moment

IMG_0069Be Here Now – Ram Dass

Boredom is a sign that you are not being present. – Eckhart Tolle

I find myself, more and more, really called on a deep level to live in the moment; letting go of all worry about the future or regret about the past and to trust. Mystics have long encouraged us to be present to each moment, each breath. And now quantum physics tells us that in the moment exists all of time: past, present and future. This explains why the moment or the Now is the only place we are able to create anything, a book, a painting, a solar panel, our life. This is where are are able to create a new world for ourselves on both a personal and global level.

The more you practice being in the moment the easier it is to create. Our breath is a greatest tool since it calms our mind and relaxes our body which makes it easier to be present to what is. If we are worried about the future we can take a deep breath and ask is everything okay in the Now. The answer almost always is yes. When we calm our mind we have greater access to the guidance and wisdom of our own deeper knowing and inspiration can flow in.

My two greatest teacher for living in the moment have been creativity and Nature. What I have always loved about being creative is that it automatically makes you present to the moment and something greater than your everyday self. Whether I am dancing, doing photography, singing or writing there is a joy and satisfaction that arises out of showing up and being present to what wants to happen. When you hit the zone or the flow it feels so good. It feels Divine. I have a similar feeling in Nature where everything, rock, plant and animal is clearly in the Now being the essence of what they are meant to be. This helps me to just be.

Like many of you I’ve have done a lot of personal growth and healing work seeking to transform old patterns into new more satisfying and abundant ways of being with myself and the world. Recently I’ve felt a real shift in this and have come to the realization that there is nothing to fix. That nothing is wrong. If I embrace and accept everything in the moment free of judgment then things naturally shift and I am more open to new possibilities. Experiences that I deemed challenging are from the vantage point of the moment the experiences my soul needed in order to reach this point of understanding. When we live in the moment we have access to the wisdom and intuition that comes from our hearts.

A few days ago when my mind started to run away with me and the tools I usually use to calm the flame of worry didn’t seem to be working I was guided to simply stop, take a few deep breathes, drop into my heart, and claim being in the moment. Peace immediately washed over me and clear sense of the next right action to take came to me.

We think we have to think through problems, that we have to figure everything out with our minds. Instead if we connect to our own inspiration and guidance in the moment we allow solutions to come intuitively and we experience synchronicities and miracles, little and big. In truth, the moment is the only place we can connect to higher wisdom and knowing. This is true for our creative projects as well as the course of our lives where we find ourselves living in the flow. This can help us be more actively creative on a daily basis.

If you like this article please sign up for my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send you my Creativity eBooklet for guidance and inspiration. Thanks.

Creating and Anxiety

I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
more accessible:
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance,
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom,
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit.

– Dawna Markova

Find your wayBECOMING AN ANXIETY EXPERT

Anxiety and fear can prevent us from being creative or living a life we love. To live and create fully be must be willing again and again to step out of our old comfortable life and into unknown territory. This always feels scary. Many years ago I read the self-help book Feel the Fear, And Do It Anyway which presents the premise that just because we feel a sense of fear about a project or moving in a new direction in our lives doesn’t mean we are supposed to stop ourselves from proceeding.

More recently I’ve been fine tuning my understanding of what this really means and feels like, how to best use it in my life and creative work, and how it fits the idea of following my internal guidance of my intuition and heart to bring my soul and creative gifts into the world. Any time I stretch in a new direction in my writing or my personal and professional life I have to step out of my comfort zone which gives rise to a feeling of anxiety. I’ve found it’s important to learn to distinguish between the kind of anxiety that represents our bodily intuition signaling a real threat (like don’t walk down that dark alley or that new relationship really isn’t good for you or that’s really not the best art project for you to pursue) versus the kind of anxiety we feel when we step out of our comfort zone in a way that stretches our capacities, capabilities and sense of self. The anxiety that is genuinely trying to warn us off feels heavy with fear whereas the anxiety that simply marks stepping out of our comfort zone has a sense of exhilaration to it.

When I’m at my desk writing and I start to feel a lot of resistance, if I make myself sit in the chair and keep writing, (even when I desperately want to get up and make phone calls or clean the refrigerator), I find that I will usually move through the anxiety into what I really want to say and find myself very excited by the work that results. The same is true every time I do anything new in my life that feels like a stretch. I feel nervous and excited whenever I push past the feeling of fear and take action to make the new idea or vision happen.

When you are trying to decide what the fear or anxiety is trying to tell you, just take some deep breaths and get clear on the exact quality of the feeling in your body: whether you feel contracted or expanded by the thought of what you desire. If you feel expanded then you need to “feel the fear” that comes with it and begin to take action however small toward achieving your desire. Also new neuroscience shows that the simple act of naming or labeling a negative emotion like fear calms the brain which makes it easier to get clear on what to do.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free monthly newsletter. Just go the the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send you a copy of my Creativity eBooklet: Setting Your Creativity Free. Thanks!

Inspired by Beauty

irisThe human soul is hungry for beauty; we seek it everywhere — in landscape, music, art, clothes, furniture, gardening, companionship, love, religion, and in ourselves. . . When we experience the Beautiful, there is a sense of homecoming. We feel most alive in the presence of the Beautiful, for it meets the needs of our soul. . . In the experience of beauty we awaken and surrender in the same act. We find that we slip into the Beautiful with the same ease as we slip into the seamless embrace of water; something ancient within us already trusts that this embrace will hold us. -John O’Donohue (Irish poet, mystic, philosopher 1954-2008)

Beauty arouses our imagination, teaching us to view life poetically: we can see what was previously invisible, the wholeness behind the fragmentation. When we perceive Beauty, our live take on a higher meaning and purpose, for we begin to see a divine order behind our little storylines and dramas; and we start making sense of our lives. – Jacquelyn Small

One spring a few years ago, I was in the middle of reading John O’Donohue’s book Beauty: An Invisible Embrace when I went for a walk out along the bluffs overlooking the ocean near the Russian River in Northern California. The irises were in bloom and O’Donohue’s words inspired me to really look very carefully at the flowers. I wrote the following poem from that experience having found that the question of beauty did indeed speak to my soul.

Beauty

On the bluffs in sight of the Pacific
the first flags of spring rise, startling
blue arching petals patched with white.

I bend down to feel the waxy flowers,
watch the finely etched black veins
spread across a surface dabbed yellow,

and a sigh sweeps through my body
like air exhaled after a deep dive,
opening a door I had forgotten was closed.

By really focusing our full attention on the beauty of a flower, a vista, a waterfall, a child’s face we lift ourselves to a higher level of knowing and open our imagination to expanded ways of being in the world and expressing what we experience. Our creativity becomes a celebration of the Beauty of the world and we intuit a sense of what it means to be in right relationship with the world. It becomes easier to access the sacred powers of the imagination for the purpose of creative problem solving and co-creating new ways of being in the world. It’s also a great ways to practice mindfulness and being in the moment. Try looking for beauty in places you don’t ordinarily think you would find it.

If you like this article please subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe in the column to your left, enter your email and I’ll send you a free copy of my Creativity eBooklet to inspire you. Thanks!

The Problem with Comparisons

friends coffeeSo, is it possible to live without comparison of any kind, never translating yourself in terms of comparison with another or with some idea or with some hero or with some example? Because when you are comparing, when you are measuring yourself with ‘what should be’ or ‘what has been,’ you are not seeing what is. – J. Krishnamurti

Comparisons are odious. – Oscar Wilde

Most of us learned from an early age to compare ourselves to others. Competition and comparison are everywhere, in our schools and colleges, in our neighborhoods, in business and the workplace, in the media, in advertising and even among friends and family. Irish philosopher John O’Donohue called advertising “schooling in false desire”. We start to develop an identity based on outer influences and we feel compelled to gauge ourselves against another. Comparison is really the domain of the mind and ego.

I see it in the writing and creativity coaching workshops I do. It’s quite common in a writing workshop for people to compare their own work to others and they always feel that their work inferior. Then they share a piece that we all enjoy. Our creativity is the unique expression of ourselves and that will always touch others.

As Martha Graham, the mother of modern dance, said, “There is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost.” Have you considered how unique you are? What gifts, talents and abilities lead you to the unique expression of you?

If you tap into the knowing of your heart, you can reacquaint yourself with your uniqueness. Our heart is the seat of our unique expression or gifts that we can offer to this world. Rather than comparison our heart can help us celebrate our uniqueness.

If you liked this article sign up for my free newsletter. Just clikc on the mail list subscribe tab in the column to your right, enter your email and I’ll send you my Creativity eBooklet for guidance and inspiration. Thanks.

Tools for Creative Inspiration & Divine Guidance

Often our rational mind and it’s chatter gets in the way of accessing our inner knowing and wisdom. Here are some different tools that may help. Find the ways that work but for you.

– Oracles: Medicine cards, Tarot, I Ching, Runes, Angel cards, Goddess cards, etc
– Dreams: asking to remember your dreams and keeping a dream journal
– Questions: invite expansion and answers (conclusions limit)
– Knowing your which of your sixth senses is best developed (clairvoyance, clairaudience, clairsentience, claircognizance)
– Meditation
– Yoga
– Stretching (opens you up)
– Walking (especially in Nature)
– Whenever your mind is otherwise occupied (driving, doing the dishes, in the shower)
– Asking and paying attention
– Writing (freewriting, mind mapping, dialogue with the Divine)
– Drawing (freedrawing, mandala making)
– Feed your spirit, (do things that make you happy, bring you joy, raise your vibration)
– Paying attention (to signs, synchronicities, hunches, gut senses felt in your body
– Gratitude
– Connecting to your heart
– Connecting to your body and your gut sense

A Life of the Imagination

IMG_0013Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night. – Edgar Allan Poe

To see the world in a grain of sand
and heaven in a wildflower.
To hold infinite in the palm of your hand
and eternity in an hour.
– William Blake

Often a day or two before I write a blog article or newsletter I will ask the question as I hold the intention of wanting to be the highest contribution to my readers, “what should I write about?” I ask it silently in my mind and then let it go as I go about my day waiting for the answer to come from my imagination. For this article the response came as a line from a favorite poem by Mary Oliver called Spring Azures that ends with the line “a life of the imagination”.

The poem begins with Blue Azures, the small blue butterflies that cluster around mud puddles and ends with William Blake, the 18th century English poet, painter and printmaker. (find full poem below). Considered mad by contemporaries for his idiosyncratic views, Blake has since been held in high regard for his expressiveness, creativity and the mystical undercurrents within his work as well as the way he embraced the imagination as “Divine” or as “Human existence itself”.

Creativity and imagination are something that tends to get stomped out of us at an early age. We are taught to conform. Daydreaming is punished. Drawing within the lines rewarded. Yet without imagination we are cut off from insights and ideas of expanded states of awareness and the higher realms of consciousness. And as Einstein so brilliantly put the levels thinking that created the problems we are experiencing won’t get us out of them. This is true in our personal lives as well as on a global scale. We need the gifts of our own creativity and imagination now more than ever. This is not just for art but for business, technology, our workplace and our homes. Accessing our imagination can assist us in every aspect of our lives.

So try this. Ask the question, “What would it take for me to bring more creativity and imagination into my life?” Then let it go and be open to an answer that comes as a song, or a poem fragment or a book that comes to you or an ah…ha that pops into your mind or however you are able to hear your imagination. Keep asking questions to invite your imagination to emerge to help expand the possibilities in your life.

Spring Azures

In spring the blue azures bow down
at the edges of shallow puddles
to drink the black rain water.
Then they rise and float away into the fields.

Sometimes the great bones of my life feel so heavy,
and all the tricks my body knows,
the opposable thumbs, the kneecaps,
and the mind clicking and clicking,

don’t seem enough to carry me through this world
and I think: how I would like

to have wings
blue ones
ribbons of flame.

How I would like to open them, and rise
from the black rain water.

And then I think of Blake, in the dirt and sweat of London, a boy
staring through the window, when God came
fluttering up.

Of course, he screamed,
and seeing the bobbin of God’s blue body
leaning on the sill,
and the thousand-faceted eyes.

Well, who knows.
Who knows what hung, fluttering, at the window
between him and the darkness.

Anyway, Blake the hosier’s son stood up
and turned away from the sooty sill and the dark city
turned away forever
from the factories, the personal strivings,
to a life of the the imagination.

– Mary Oliver

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free monthly newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send you a copy of my Creativity eBooklet to offer guidance and inspiration.

Claiming Your Creativity

writing-centerCreative thinking is not a talent, it is a skill that can be learnt. It empowers people by adding strength to their natural abilities which improves teamwork, productivity and where appropriate profits. – Edward de Bono

Everyone is creative. It is a natural gift we are all born with that we actually have to be schooled out of. Watch young children at play and see how they naturally use their imagination. Consider their willingness to draw outside the lines and the way they don’t judge what they are doing. They are “just” playing, having fun, trying different possibilities.

Play is a large part of what creativity is all about. Once we start playing with an idea or any creative form we then need to be open to the inspiration that will come through when our everyday mind is quiet or distracted by routine tasks like doing the dishes, driving our car, going for a walk, or taking a shower. At that point the bright idea or solution rises up out of the subconscious almost like something out of a dream and we need to write it down or intentionally remember it or like a dream image we will not be able to recall it later on.

One way to claim your creativity is to begin asking questions like “what would it take to solve this problem” and then don’t try to figure out the answer or solution with your rational mind. Rather let it go and then just notice the thoughts or ideas that pop into your head during the day.

This can include the urge to turn on the radio where you hear a song or program that provides you with an ah. ha moment. Or you pull a book from the shelf and open it at random and a bookmark falls out with a quote that gives you another idea. Or we wake up in the middle of the night compelled to start writing. We are all different and creativity speaks to each of us in different ways. Part of being creative is learning what works best for you.

Another benefit from learning to work with your creativity is that we naturally experience a sense of joy and excitement since we are operating in an expanded state that feels really good. Start playing and see what happens.

If you liked this article subscribe to my free monthly newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send you my Creativity eBooklet for a bit of guidance and inspiration. Thanks.

Coming to Your Senses

Raspberries_(Rubus_Idaeus)The instant trivial as it is
is all we have, unless. . .unless
things the imagination feeds upon
the scent of a rose, startle us anew.

-William Carlos Williams

When I started to work on this article I had originally intended that the title “Coming to Your Senses” would refer to how important actively using all our senses (sight, smell, hearing, touch and taste) is in engaging our creativity and imagination and accessing inspiration for our lives.

Then I flashed on the fact that the phrase is also an idiom that refers to someone who has been doing something that is clearly a mistake and finally realizes it and begins to act more in alignment with what is right for them. This has me wondering about the origins of the expression and the true value of really occupying our senses.

Jean Houston, one of the founders of the human consciousness movement suggests, “that enhanced human capacities begin with what we generally think of as our most concrete reality, our own body.” And opening more fully to experience all our senses can help us inhabit our bodies and the knowing, wisdom and “gut instincts” that it holds for us.

People who are highly creative tend to have a vivid sense memory. Memories of things we delight in can actually help us develop our senses. Remember biting into a ripe, juicy peach with the juices running sticky down your chin. You can do this for all your senses. This exercises your imagination as well.

For many the use of their senses has largely atrophied. Western culture especially values concepts and ideas over direct sensory experience. I was lucky enough to grow up within sight, sound and scent of the sea and throughout my childhood we often went camping so I developed a closeness to the natural world where opening your senses to fully experience the world is a delight.

So spending time in Nature, enjoying a good meal or taking a hot scented bath can really help you more fully embody your senses which in turn gives you access to your creative gifts and more of your full potential.

Here’s a poem that came out of engaging my senses in an experience in the world.

Spiritual Practice

A flock of bluebirds flutter
across a fallow field,

their cheerful chirps
ring the air like a temple bell,

calling me out
of my thought-churned mind,

their azure-blue backs
burnt-orange bellies,

holding me,
in the moment.

– Suzanne Murray

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free newsletter. Just go the tab Mail List Subscribe in the column to the left, enter your email and I’ll send you a copy of my Creativity eBooklet for guidance and inspiration. Thanks.

Exercising Your Imagination

Silhouette of girl and doveMost of us have never been encouraged to use our imagination. In fact we have often been discouraged with comments like “stop that daydreaming or why are you doing wasting time staring out the window.” When we are engaged in these activities we are letting our subconscious/unconscious mind run free to make new connections and give birth to new ideas. Rather than being encouraged to dream big, to ask questions or expand our awareness beyond the domain of our linear rational mind ,we have been consistently schooled in restricting this wonderful potential.

Our imaginations are like muscles. If they haven’t been used they atrophy and we to strengthen them to allow for optimum access. As we start to exercise our imaginations we actually form new neural connections in our brain. To start we need to relax the constant mental chatter that has us focused on the past or future and allow ourselves to be present in the moment.

Our imagination gives us access so much more of who we really are and what we know and the more we learn to use the more we are able to open up to expanded ways of being. Rather than thinking “oh I’m just making this up”, our imagination is one of the ways the universe communicates with us and helps us create in wonderful ways.

Try this. Take three deep breaths all the way down into your belly and with each exhalation let everything go and let the peace of simply being present in the moment enter you. Then imagine being in a favorite place. What do you see. If you are not visual, don’t worry about it. Instead focus on what it feels like to be there. What sounds, scents, tastes are involved. Use all your senses. The body can’t distinguish between a real experience and something that is imagined so this is a great way to give yourself a mini vacation without leaving home.

Then expand this. Try using your imagination to talk to a tree, a squirrel or a stone. See what they have to say to you. Just pretend and play with it.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tap in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send you my free Creativity eBooklet for guidance and inspiration. Thanks.

Amazing Peace – a Maya Angelou Poem

This is one of my favorite poems for the holiday season. It reminds me of how much poetry really illuminates what is essential and true our lives.

Amazing Peace

Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes
And lightning rattles the eaves of our houses.
Flood waters await us in our avenues.

Snow falls upon snow, falls upon snow to
avalanche
Over unprotected villages.
The sky slips low and grey and threatening.

We question ourselves.
What have we done
to so affront nature?
We worry God.
Are you there? Are you there really?
Does the covenant you made with us still hold?

Into this climate of fear and apprehension,
Christmas enters,
Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope
And singing carols of forgiveness
high up in the bright air.
The world is encouraged to come away from rancor,
Come the way of friendship.

It is the Glad Season.
Thunder ebbs to silence
and lightning sleeps quietly in the corner.
Flood waters recede into memory.
Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us
As we make our way to higher ground.

Hope is born again in the faces of children
It rides on the shoulders of our aged
as they walk into their sunsets.
Hope spreads around the earth,
brightening all things,
Even hate which crouches,
breeding in dark corridors.

In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft.
Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.
It is loud now.
It is louder.
Louder than the explosion of bombs.

We tremble at the sound.
We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war.
But true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.

We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas.
We beckon this good season to wait a while with us.
We, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim, say come.
Peace.
Come and fill us and our world with your majesty.
We, the Jew and the Jainist, the Catholic and the Confucian,
Implore you to stay a while with us.
So we may learn by your shimmering light
How to look beyond complexion and see community.

It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.

On this platform of peace, we can create a language
To translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.

At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ
Into the great religions of the world.
We jubilate the precious advent of trust.
We shout with glorious tongues at the coming of hope.
All the earth’s tribes loosen their voices
To celebrate the promise of Peace.

We, Angels and Mortals, Believers and Non-Believers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at our world and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at each other, then into ourselves
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation.

Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul.

– Maya Angelou

Making Meaning of Your Life through Writing

A creative writing class may be one of the last places you can go where your life still matters – Richard Hugo

Poet Richard Hugo, who started the creative writing program at the University of Montana and taught there for 30 years, thought that writing allowed you to more readily make sense of your life and see the value of it. He saw the practice of writing as “a slow cumulative way of accepting your life as valid, of accepting yourself over a lifetime, of realizing that your life is important. And it is. It’s all you’ve got. All you ever had for sure.”

I find that whether I’m writing essays or poems or reflecting in the pages of my journal that I gain increased clarity about who I am, what I value and how I see the world. I tap a deeper thread of meaning in my life that helps me makes sense of everything I have ever done and everything that has ever happened. It helps me put things in perspective and opens me up to new insights.

You don’t have to “be a writer” to benefit. The practice of stream of consciousness writing where you just let the words flow uncensored gives you access to an expanded way to knowing and deeper wisdom. It gives you access to the powerhouse of your subconscious/unconscious (that 93 percent of our mind we are not usually aware of.) It’s a great way to get answers to the questions our heart and soul want to ask like What do I need to know right now?or What is trying to emerge in my life right now? Just play with it and see what happens.

Creativity: Being Part of Creation

hawk moonWell, you’re right in the work, you lose your sense of time, you’re completely enraptured, you’re completely caught up in what you’re doing, and you’re sort of swayed by the possibilities you see in this work. . . .The idea is to be. . .so saturated with it that there’s no future or past, it”s just an extended present in which you’re making meaning. – Mark Strand, poet

The thoughts that come to you are more valuable than the ones you seek. – Joubert

Some years ago I read a wonderful book by Matthew Fox, titled, Creativity: Where the Divine and Human Meet. In this book Fox, a former Catholic priest who had been censured by the Church for putting forth a doctrine of original blessing as opposed to original sin, suggests that when we are creative we become co-creators with creation.

I had been involved in creativity for a long time by I read his book; first with dance and photography and then a couple of decades spent writing so I knew immediately the truth of what he was saying. I remember the first time I really got on a roll with my writing and I knew that something good was coming out of my pen, I actually stopped and looked around the room to see where it was coming from because I knew it wasn’t exactly coming from me. Since then I’ve come to the sense that it’s Spirit or my Higher Self working through me and I’ve been able to integrate working with these mysterious forces as I write.

The word Muse has its origins in being intiated into the mysteries. And its important to understand that this connection is available to everyone not just a select few who are somehow born with this special gift. It is also not restricted to the arts.

The gift of creativity is woven deep into our being. Everytime we solve a problem we didn’t “think” we could solve we are drawing on this invisible resource. We experience it in cooking, gardening, decorating our homes, raising our children, healing, teaching and business when we get the inspiration to do something in a new and expanded way. When we tap into this ability it feels great, it feels divine.

Regardless of where this creative inspiration comes from I’ve found that the more I show up to the practice of writing or anything else, the more I have a feel for working with this creative flow. It’s like a muscle that gets stronger with use.
.
Joan King, a neuroscientist who has studied brain activity describes in her book Cellular Wisdom, “While such brainstorming [found in creative flow] is occurring, more and more neurons and neural pathways are being activated in the neural net. Consciousness acts like a spotlight, shining here and there, making connections, illuminating thought and memories, trying out possible solutions. As the process continues, more and more neurons are recruited, activating more of the great intermediate [neural] net.” The key here is to stop thinking with your linear mind and let the creative imagination really run. Our linear mind has to get out of the way to let our big mind make its leaps and forge its connections.

Consider all the ways you are already being creative and what it feels like. Is there a sense of excitement and expansion when you exercise your creativity?. What would it takes for you to build more muscle in this area? I think the changes and challenges in the world today are actually calling forth this ability in each of us. They are asking us to embody our creativity in every area of our lives and in our contributions to the world. The beauty is that creation is waiting to help. We just need to show up, let go and step into the flow of being a co-creator. Our willingess is our invitation.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send you a free copy of my Creativity eBooklet for guidance and inspiration. Thanks.

Dancing with Your Imagination

butterfly swallowtailThe imagination is not interested in two-dimensional reductionism or naively pitting one side against another, dark against light. It is interested in the place where the two sides meet, and what they give birth to when they cross-fertilize each other. That is the heart of creativity. – John O’Donohue

What is imagination but a reflection of our yearning to belong to eternity as well as to time. – Stanley Kunitz

Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge”. In my writing classes, I say “your imagination is smarter than you are.” Imagination is the way we access our deeper mind; the 95% or so that we don’t use in our ordinary lives. It is the place where you shed your ego, where sparks fly and time stands still. It requires a bit ofsolitude and idleness. It asks that you slow down and sit still with your mind clear and expectant.

Here’s an exercise to play with to help you tap into your imagination. Sit quietly for five minutes following the flow of your breath and calming your mind. Then be open to what your imagination has to say to you. Do a ten minute freewrite as if you were taking dictation from your imagination. Or you could ask what it wants from you and then answer the question yourself in a freewrite where you let your mind run. The more you play with your imagination the easier it is to access it.

If you enjoyed with article subscribe to my free monthly newsletter. Just click the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send you my Creativity eBooklet for guidance and inspiration. Thanks.

What is Innovation?

innovationInnovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity – not a threat. – Steve Jobs

I call innovation one of the “i” words, like imagination, inspiration, intuition and illumination, it is a process that rises from an expanded state of awareness. I’ve long thought these five words should replace the three “r”s as the focus of our schools.

Innovation is defined as introducing something new, be it a new idea, method or device. I remember hearing an interview with Steve Jobs where he described inventing the floppy drive; the way he spoke of trying lots of different strategies before it finally worked.

Malcolm Gladwell, author of the Tipping Point, has identified two types of innovators. The rare conceptual innovators like Picasso who burst on the scene in the early 1900s and revolutionized how we think about art. And the much more prevalent experimental innovators like Cezanne, who worked endlessly by trial and error to find the look that captured his vision.

Picasso dazzled the European art world as a young man with his sudden passion to show a new way to do things; Cezanne’s masterpieces did not come until he was in his 50s and then they came in a rush when 40 of his most famous works were produced in a few years.

I think it helps to understand how innovation works. Like creativity, innovation is usually a process that involves trial and error as well as a learning curve. So many think that this is the domain of a select few rather than a possibility for everyone.

Now more than ever we need people willing to exercise their natural ability to innovate. And it is not restricted to the arts or technology. The development of microlending to help people in the third world to become self reliant is an innovation.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free monthly newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send you my Creativity eBooklet for guidance and inspiration. Thanks.

The Power of Perseverance

writing-centerThere are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, learning from failure. – Colin Powell

My friend Melissa sent me a synopsis that a friend of hers had written after attending a Bank of America forum that featured a conversation with Malcolm Gladwell, author of insightful books about the times we live in including Tipping Point, Brink, and Outreach.

Apparently Gladwell is working on a new book about entrepreneurial success and why so many try to be among the 10% of new ventures that succeed. He described that perseverance and belief are more important than talent or luck. He noted that while most people believe the rock band Fleetwood Mac burst on the seen in the early 70s with two monster-hit albums, he points out that the first of these was actually the 16th the band had recorded. These musicians simply never gave up and kept trying various ideas until they found the sound and rhythms that worked.

As someone who has been a writer and writing teacher as well as a creativity coach for decades, I know that practice and perseverance are equally important in our creative endeavors. It’s an idea that I have to work to get across to students and clients, since especially with creativity people think that the work should come to them by magic and inspiration rather than by showing up to everyday to practice and see what happens. I suggest that they learn to fall in love with the process as I have done so that the act of writing is it’s own reward. Outside recognition in the form of publication or awards offers a momentary thrill, but it is the work itself that provides the deepest source of satisfaction.

Gladwell concluded that entrepreneurial success depends on the perseverance and desire of the contributor and the commitment and patience of sponsors. Unfortunately, Gladwell said, those two commodities are in short supply in today’s market. He expressed concern that the frenetic search for instant rewards is dooming those who seek it as well as the country to future failures.

I think the same impatience and misunderstanding about what it takes to succeed keeps people from really being able to tap their full creative potential. To become an accomplished writer, painter, musician, cook, gardening or anything takes commitment and perseverance. What people don’t seem to realize is that there can be tremendous satisfaction in the practice.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free monthly newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll sent you my Creativity eBooklet for guidance and inspiration.

Embracing Your Inner Weirdo

Creative concept pages of book Sunrise landscape in Summer lookiNormal is not something to aspire to, it’s something to get away from. – Jody Foster

It is never too late to be who you might have been. – George Eliot

The word weird is derived from Old English. Originally spelled wyrd it was a concept in Anglo-Saxon culture roughly corresponding to our fate or personal destiny. In Beowulf, one of the oldest book in the English language, there is a reference to the hero being on his weird way or his destined path. The word weird further evolved over time to refer to that which is strange in a supernatural way.

In contemporary times the original definition and connotation of the word has been lost and we associate it with being odd or strange. Anyone who acts outside the limited parameters of socially acceptable behavior or the boundaries of what we think of as normal we call weird. As social creatures we want to feel that we belong so we often resist expressing our uniqueness since we don’t want to be seen as weird or different.

People have been calling me weird since high school and I remember the first time I said “thank you” when they did. I must have realized even then that there was something good about being weird. The label came largely from the fact that I was being more creative, playful, imaginative and expressing more of my authentic self than we were being schooled to do.

Being creative shakes up the norm. It adds spice, color and joy to the world. I’ve come to feel that that is the job of the artist or those who express their creativity in any way. If each of us is going to bring these unique gifts to the world, we have to be willing to be a little weird. We need to accept and embrace the ways we are different even as we know we are part of the whole. We need to claim our own callings that come as the still small voice within us that may suggest a course of action that our mind and the people around us will think is weird but our spirit knows is the right thing to do.

What if it’s our weirdness the world needs right now. What if you being you is the change you can be that will ripple out to transform the world in positive ways and bring more joy and satisfaction to your own life. What if a willingness to be seen as little weird is what is required to be on your destined path. What if weird could be the new normal?

If you enjoyed this article consider subscribing to my monthly newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column to your left. Thanks.

Making Mistakes

writing-centerLife is “trying things to see if they work. – Ray Bradbury

Mistakes are the portals of discovery.
-James Joyce

Recently I worked with a client who was really blocked in her writing and painting. Through our coaching we were able to discover that the root of the block was a fear of making mistakes. Once she identified that bugaboo her writing and painting started to flow again.

Our culture and educational systems teach us that mistakes aren’t okay; that there are real negative consequences to making mistakes. Yet the only way we learn is by our willingness to make mistakes and see what works and what doesn’t.

From my own years of writing I have had countless pages that were practice that never really took off and I had many scraps of poems that were never finished. I always knew that this was part of the learning process of being a writer. Yet I also found that the stories and poems that really wanted to be completed would stay with me through the process of growing in my craft.

This really helped me to show up and just play with the process and allow what wanted to born come through me. This and just being able to play with the process is really an important part of being creative in any form you work with.

A friend once told me about a book on creating art that was called, One Continuous Mistakes. I never bothered to read it because just hearing the title was all I needed. My creative self immediately intuited the truth of it. I felt could feel that the secret to really being in the creative process is indeed a willingness to make mistakes and see where they lead.

If you enjoyed this article consider subscribing to my monthly newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send you a copy of my Creativity eBooklet. Thanks

Inspiring Quotes on Creativity

Creative activity could be described as a type of learning process where teacher and pupil are located in the same individual. – Arthur Koestler

The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources. – Albert Einstein

Sometimes creativity just means the daily work of helping others to see a problem in a different way. – Joseph Badaracco

Creativity comes from awakening and directing our higher natures, which originate in the primal depths of the Universe. – I Ching

Creativity takes courage. – Henri Matisse

Creativity can solve almost any problem. The creative act, the defeat of habit by originality, overcomes everything. – George Lois

Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way. – Edward de Bono

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. – Scott Adams

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up. Pablo Picasso

Creativity and artistic endeavors have a mission that goes far beyond just making music for the sake of music. – Herbie Hancock

Living Your Creative Potential

Eretmochelys imbricataTwenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. – Mark Twain

What if your life where a blank piece of paper or a bare canvas? What new story would you write for yourself, what picture would you paint? What if each small step you take toward what you really desire is like a brush stroke on the canvas where you are creating that life? What life do you want to create for your self? What creation do you want to live into?

Asking questions can really assist in opening up to all that is possible for us. Questions like: what else is possible, what would it take to change this situation, or if I had a magic wand I would. . . act as an invitation to the bigger part of our mind or perhaps even to universal intelligence.

I recently heard that your eyes/brain process 10 million bits of information a second and our conscious mind is aware of only 40 of those bits. This fits with the research that shows that our subconscious mind represents about 95% of our mind and our conscious mind making up the remaining 5%.

I think being creative in any way is really about learning to work with our bigger, more powerful mind and higher inspiration that is able to draw on all the knowledge and knowing that our subconscious/unconscious mind.

As someone who has worked with various forms of creativity for most of my life I am quite accustomed to giving the seed of an idea over to my subconscious or divine inspiration. I let the part of me that I’m not completely aware of come up with fresh connections and perspectives. That’s how I do all my creative work including writing blog articles.

I’ll work on one for a bit then leave it alone while I work on something else. I will have a vague sense that my bigger mind is weaving the threads of different ideas and images into a coherent whole. Even before I start writing a blog, I ask the question, What’s the subject for the next piece and see what comes to me as I go about my day. I rely on higher inspiration for everything and questions are my point of access.

The key to working with questions is to ask and then let them go, knowing that the answer will show up. Don’t try to figure out it in your head but rather start paying attention to, the bright idea that just pops into your head , the sign, the hunch, the intuition, the sense of what to do that often shows up in a way that surprises us.

I know you have all had the experience of trying to solve a problem with your conscious mind and after a few unsuccessful hours, you get up from your desk, get into your car, drive home and as you are pulling up to your house the solution just comes to you as an ah…ha moment. That’s your bigger mind at work on the problem you asked it to solve and in letting in go on the drive home you gave your subconscious mind the space to deliver the answer.

Often we are so caught up in the busyness of our daily lives that we don’t take the time to imagine what actually might be possible for us. Questions are wonderful tool for expanding your world and helping you to access more of your creative potential in every area of your life.

The more you play with asking questions and looking out for the answers the more you strengthen your ability receive and trust what shows up. Play with it, be curious, have fun. In this changing world we all need to living and working from an expanded sense of who we are. Questions can help.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my monthly newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column to the left, enter your email and I’ll send you a copy of my Creativity eBooklet to help inspire. Thanks.

The Heart of Coherence

butterfly pink flowersJan Phillips in her book The Art of Original Thinking – The Making of a Thought Leader, states that “some of the greatest thinkers today are in agreement about the power of our consciousness to alter our circumstances. From biologists to business leaders, mystics to medical professionals, philosophers to philanthropists, individuals are speaking out about the role of our thoughts in the unfolding of our realities. Simultaneously, the world of quantum physics is seeding our fertile mindscapes with findings that propel us beyond all known imaginings.”

The essence of this idea is that we can affect not only our own personal reality but also the collective reality of the planet by what we think about, focus our attention on, the images with hold in our hearts and minds. I’ve long had this intuition myself but have hesitated to speak of it because the rational mind, my rational mind, thinks it sounds crazy or impossible.

Yet now it’s really clear to me that we need to find new ways of thinking and perceiving that are beyond the rational mind. There are two great quotes from Einstein that really speak to this, the first is “imagination is more important than knowledge” and the second is “Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.”

Some years ago I heard of something called The Maharishi Effect where a group of people went to Washington D.C. in August with the intention to meditate on peace and community coherence while holding the collective intention of lower the crime rate by 25%. The chief of police laughed saying, “it would take 6 feet of snow to lower the crime rate by that much.” By the end of the month the crime rate had dropped 25% and the chief of police was a believer. They have repeated this “experiment” in cities around the world with the same result and found that it only took 1% of the population hold the space and energy for the whole community to shift. When they stopped the meditation the crime rate and tensions went back up.

I’m an active participant in something called The Global Coherence Initiative, which was started by the Institute of Heartmath. It is a science-based, co-creative project that unites people in heart-focused care and intention, to facilitate the shift in global consciousness from instability and discord to balance, cooperation and enduring peace. On their website at www.glcoherence.org, they have a virtual prayer room where people gather at set times to send heart felt energy for a period of up to 15 minutes to places in crisis from natural disasters like Japan or political chaos like the Middle East. Focused care has also been sent to the Earth with the intention of calming the severe weather patterns and allowing for the earth changes to occur more gently.

Part of this project includes a group internationally renowned scientists and engineers who are designing and setting a system with stations around the world that monitors fluctuations in the Earth’s geomagnetic field and pulsations and resonances associated with ionospheric excitations which can allow them to predict major earth events like earthquakes. And one of the ideas is that the collective focused care of higher human consciousness has the capacity to reduce the severity of such events.

This is why I’m so keen on supporting developing the intelligence of our hearts and the expansiveness of the imagination. This is where we will find the new level of thinking to solve the problems we face in the world.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send you a free copy of my Creativity eBooklet to help you work with the imagination and creative process. Thanks.

Letting Yourself Be Surprised by Your Writing

speckled_eagle_owlNo surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader. – Robert Frost

One of the great pleasures of writing is that you learn things about yourself and the way you think that you might not otherwise uncover. Former U.S. Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner, Ted Kooser has a real gift for pulling together really unexpected images and ideas in his poems. His poems are complex and elegant while still being very accessible. Here’s one of his poems that certainly surprised me and probably surprised him as well.

Etude by Ted Kooser

I have been watching a Great Blue Heron
fish in the cattails, easing ahead
with the stealth of a lover composing at letter,
the hungry words looping and blue
as they coil and uncoil, as they kiss and sting.

Let’s say that he holds down an everyday job
in an office. His blue suit blends in.
Long days swim beneath the glass top
of his desk, each one alike. On the lip
of each morning, a bubble trembles.

No one has seen him there, writing a letter
to a woman he loves. His pencil is poised
in the air like the beak of a bird.
He would spear the whole world if he could,
toss it and swallow it whole.

WRITING EXERCISE: Using the poem above as inspiration pick as your writing prompt a scene you see out the window or an event you witnessed or an experience you had during the day. Just start writing about it and see where it leads you. Often we don’t know why a story is really calling to us to write it until we are well into the process. The best writing comes from a willingness to be surprised.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free monthly newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send you a free copy of my Creativity eBooklet. Thanks.

Claiming Your Creativity in a Changing World

butterfly swallowtailI am celebrating at least three major crises in energy, economy and climate now confronting us globally and simultaneously, adding up to the greatest challenge in all human history. That challenge is what, and why, I celebrate. Nothing short of a fundamental review, revisioning and revising of our entire way of life on planet Earth is called for. What an amazing time of opportunity this is! – Elisabeth Sahtouris, evolutionary biologist and futurist

Visionary evolutionary biology Elisabet Sahtouris explains, “We create our own reality and Nature shows the way. Look around you and note that everything human-made in sight originated as an idea in someone’s mind. Isn’t it obvious that we create our reality from our consciousness? Once we acknowledge how fundamental consciousness is to all human experience, including all our creative action, we see that scientific models of nature themselves are created within human consciousness . . .”

I think that our consciousness holds the key to making the changes needed in our world today and that imagination is one of it”s tools. Albert Einstein said that the level of consciousness that caused the problems we face will not be able to solve them. He repeatedly emphasized that “imagination is more important than knowledge”. He also said that “the rational mind with take you from A to B, imagination will take you everywhere.

Creative imagination allows us to see beyond the obvious, to shift our perception and explore new ways of seeing and doing something. The key to engaging the process seems to be staying in the present and being open to what wants to unfold. The moment we begin to evaluate our ideas we short-circuit are ability to be in the present. One of the most important techniques for exploring your creative urges is brainstorming, in which you allow the flow of creative associations to take you in many directions without judging which ideas are valuable and which are dead ends.

When you stay present as an objective observer to the flow of words on the page, the strokes of your paintbrush across the canvas, the thoughts and ideas as you problem solve at work, the sense of the right spices to use when you are cooking, then you keep open the connection to a bigger more expansive part of your mind or the mystery (it’s hard to say what is really being tapped into). When I teach writing I repeatedly remind students that your imagination is smarter than you are.

Neuroscientists have actually shown that when you let the stream of consciousness flow our brain is actually activating more neurons and brain cells. Give it a try the next time you have a problem to solve. Think about some accept of the world today that could use some creative solution and see what you come up with. Creativity is a natural human gift we all have. It just need to be tended in order to be developed.

Here’s one of my favorite poems by Mary Oliver provides beautiful inspiration for embracing our creative imagination.

Spring Azures – Mary Oliver

In spring the blue azures bow again
at the edges of shallow puddles
to drink the black rain water.
Then they rise and float away into the fields.

Sometimes the great bones of my life feel so heavy,
and all the tricks my body knows
the opposable thumbs, the kneecaps,
and the mind clicking and clicking

don’t seem enough to carry me through this world
and I think: how I would like

to have wings
blue ones
ribbons of flame.

How I would like to open them, and rise
from the black rain water.

And then I think of Blake, in the dirt and sweat of London
a boy staring through the window, when God came
fluttering up.

Of course, he screamed,
seeing the bobbin of God’s blue body
leaning on the sill,
and the thousand-faceted eyes.

Well, who knows.
who knows what hung, fluttering, at the window
between him and the darkness.

Anyway, Blake the hosier’s son stood up
and turned away from the sooty sill and the dark city
turned away forever
from the factories, the personal strivings,

to a life of the imagination.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free monthly newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send you a copy of my Creativity eBooklet for guidance and inspiration.

Accessing Creative Inspiration

You do not need to leave your room.
Remain sitting at your table and listen.
Do not even listen, simply wait.
Do not even wait.
Be quite 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

When we stop the chattering of our minds, which is usually busy rehashing the past or worrying about the future, and relax into the silence of the moment we can begin to hear the soft voice of Spirit, the source of our creativity and inspiration.

Picasso said that when he entered his studio to paint he “took off his ego the same way the Muslim takes off his shoes before entering a Mosque”. He understood that in order to create, he needed to get his personality out of the way and let his Higher Self or Spirit work through him.

This is true not only the more obvious forms of creativity, like writing, dance, or music, but for the whole of our lives. We have access through our intuition and our internal knowing to information that can help us to make the best decisions for ourselves and living a more fulfilling life.

Matthew Fox, the former Catholic Priest who was censured for espousing the doctrine of original sin, has written a beautiful book titled, Creativity: Where the Divine and Human Meet, where he suggests that when we are creative we become co-creators with creation. I clearly remember the first time in my writing when I got on a roll and knew I was writing something good. I paused and looked around the room, wondering “where is this coming from” because I knew it wasn’t coming from “me”.

After a while I began to understand that I was tapping into an expanded state that I could access on a regular basis when I stopped thinking and let what wanted to come through me flow into the work.

In order to access our creativity and higher guidance we need to quiet our minds and learn listen to the more subtle messages of our body, heart and knowing that speak to us through intuition, our gut, our hunches that may not make any sense to our minds. As Matthew Fox said, “Creativity and imagination are not frosting on the cake: They are integral to our sustainability. They are survival mechanisms. They are the essence of who we are. They constitute our deepest empowerment.”

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free monthly newsletter. Just click Mail List subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send you a copy of my Creativity eBooklet for inspiration and guidance.

The Heart of Creating

heart in woodI refer to my writing classes and coaching collectively as The Heart of Writing. As a lover of double entendres (a phrase that can be understood in either of two ways), I feel this phrase captures both my intention to provide an experience of the heart or essence of the writing process but also my desire to convey the importance of writing from the heart and tapping its wisdom and depth.

So I find it especially interesting that scientists studying the heart have discovered that our heart (feelings) produces 5000 times more electromagnetic energy than our brain (thoughts). When we focus on our heart with the energy of love we draw on that current for what we want to manifest in our lives since, as physicists tell us, the space between atoms is composed of electromagnetic energy. It seems that the energy of the heart when focused can help us attract what we desire.

The Institute of HeartMath (www.heartmath.org) , a scientific research group studying the intelligence of the heart have discovered that intuition seems to be the language of the heart. Intuitive signals go first to the heart before being relayed to the brain and they have found that the heart senses the nature of particular events ahead of time, before these events actually occur.

Joseph Chilton Pearce in his book subtitled A Return to the Intelligence of the Heart, talks about this in detail. He goes on to discuss that intuition is something we share with other mammals. He tells the story of a group of elephants used for the tourist trade on a Malaysian beach hit by the Tsunami of December 2004. Several minutes before the wave hit the one elephant out with his handler and a tourist went racing away from the beach to the other elephants to help them pull up their tethers and run to high ground. The villagers who followed their loud trumpeting were spared.

When we are really being creative, in either our chosen art form or within our lives as a whole. We tap into a state of Grace, sometimes known as being in the zone or in the flow. I think the heart and intuition are involved in this sort of unconscious competence that the mind doesn’t really understand but is able to appreciate. Through practice and commitment we can learn to listen more carefully to the wisdom and intuitions of our heart and use them to focus in on what we really want to create in our lives and in the world.

If you enjoyed this article please subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left and enter your email. Thanks.

Writing or Creating in the Middle of Things

writing-centerI had the privilege of taking a workshop from noted American poet William Stafford not long before he died. Stafford wrote a poem a day for most of his adult life. He would rise at four in the morning, make his tea and toast, then sit on the sofa in the living room and write a poem. By the time his wife and children were up he felt as if he had done his day’s work.

He would then go off to his job of teaching writing to at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. He would give his students the assignment to write a poem a day. When they began to whine and moan that that was too difficult, he would respond “lower your standards”. By lowering his standards he was awarded the National Book Award; appointed U.S. Poet Laureate and Poet Laureate of Oregon; received a Guggenheim Fellowship; and was a beloved teacher and workshop leader.

Stafford kept a daily journal for 50 years, and composed nearly 22,000 poems, of which roughly 3,000 were published. Of his work he once said in an interview: “I keep following this sort of hidden river of my life, you know, whatever the topic or impulse which comes, I follow it along trustingly. And I don’t have any sense of its coming to a kind of crescendo, or of its petering out either. It is just going steadily along.”

In order to show up for our creativity or the work of our life I think it helps to lower our standards on what we can accomplish on a daily basis while still keeping our focus on what we ultimately desire or want to achieve. Develop the practice of showing up everyday and taking some action, however small, toward your goal. If you are a writer be happy that you have drafted a poem or a page. You can start by showing up for 15 minutes rather than thinking you have to find two hours of free time before you begin.

If you are moving toward a new career or expanding your work be happy that you have made one phone call to connect with someone you might be able to help you. By taking one small step a day you can cover a lot of ground and it has the added advantage of allowing you to sneak in under the radar of the part of you that is resistant to change.

Carve moments out of your day for doing what brings you heart and meaning or gives you a sense of momentum. I carry copies of the poems or essays I am working on revising with me wherever I go and pull them out while I’m waiting to have my car’s oil changed or early for an appointment. By learning to do our creative work in the middle of things we infuse our daily life with the meaning and satisfaction that comes from nourishing our soul.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free monthly newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send you a copy of my Creativity eBooklet for guidance and inspiration. Thanks.

Creating from the Heart

Sharing their lives with each otherSome time ago I listened to noted futurist Barbara Marx Hubbard speak of the changes we are all noticing in our social systems and the Earth as a birth of something new. She went on to say that humans are the first species to be aware of their own potential for evolution and that through the power of human consciousness we have the capacity to influence our evolution.

She thinks that one of the biggest shift we are making is a focus from living in our ego/mind to living from our essence/heart. From this place we can create a new world based on cooperation and work together to find creative solutions to the problems that we face.

The Institute of Heartmath, www.heartmath.org, a research group with affiliations to Stanford University has been studying the intelligence for the human heart for 20 years. They have discovered that focusing our attention in our heart while feeling the sense of appreciation or love actually reduces stress, lowers blood pressure and creates a sense of calm. When a group of people do this together they establish a field of coherence where everyone’s heart begins to beat at the same rate creating an energy of heart resonance that can then be focused from a distance on people and places in need in order to help create a sense of calm and peace.

Members of Heartmath have started The Global Coherence Initiative, “a science-based, project to unite people in heart-focused care and intention, to facilitate the shift in global consciousness from instability and discord to balance, cooperation and enduring peace”. They have a website at www.glcoherence.org that includes virtual care rooms where people gather from all over the world to send heart energy to people and places in crisis.

In my work with writing and creativity I have long been aware of the importance of connecting to the heart as we work. Both in the context of finding subjects and themes that make our heart sing but also creating from the feeling place of the heart. As Robert Frost said, “No tears for the writer, no tears for the reader.” I always know that if I am moved in my own heart by a piece of writing or any other creative effort that the work will genuinely touch other people. All you have to do is center yourself in your heart as you work and listen to where it leads you. I think our heart gives us access to the heart of creation which inspires and informs our highest expressions of our creative self.

Postscript

And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightening of flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully-grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you’ll park or capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.

– Seamus Heaney

If you enjoyed this article please subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send you a free copy of my Creativity eBooklet for a bit of guidance and inspiration.. Thanks.

Visiting John O’Donohue’s Grave

On one visit to Ireland, I was staying in Doolin, County Clare when I had the inspiration to catch a ride up to Fanore a village in the extraordinary limestone region known as the Burren where Irish poet, philosopher, former priest had been born and raised. John did much to awaken an modern interest in Celtic Spirituality and I was lucky enough to attend a workshop with him on the Celtic Imagination many years before.

I had seen on the website devoted to his work www.johnodonohue.com that John was buried in Creggagh graveyard, about two miles south of the village along the coast road, just beyond O’Donohue’s pub. I got out in front of the pub and walked down the road warmed by the rare February sunshine. Stepping into the graveyard I scanned the headstones and caught sight of a handmade wooden slab at the head of what looked like a small garden. It was the only site like that in the cemetery and sensed it must be John’s.

On the front of the wooden headstone was a small handmade stone cross and a picture frame with a photo of John and an inscription that read John O’Donohue 1954 to 2008. . .and beyond. I burst out laughing because it so much caught the spirit of John and my sense that his big presence lives on still in his work and in the heart of all those who he touched. Next to his photo was a poem titled Beannacht (or Blessing) that John had written for his mother. (I’ve included it below.)

Others had obviously visited the grave leaving letters in plastic bags, rosaries and flowers that had been placed amid the bed of living plants including primroses and a small shrub of camillia I left my gratitude for all the ways John has influenced my life. Then walked back to village where I was staying, traveling across the rugged gray limestone of the Burren that John loved so much and worked so hard to preserve.

I later met someone who had attended his funeral who said, “it was as if one of the Kings of Ireland was being laid to rest. There was a very long procession of people who walked from the church to the graveyard. This image mirrors the great Blessing that John and his work has been for so many.

Beannacht/Blessing

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.
And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

– John O’Donohue

Consider joining me on a Journey to the West of Ireland. For more information on the next trip visit http://creativitygoeswild.com/west-of-ireland/

The Transformational Power of Creativity

ocean rainbowThere is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. – Martha Grahman

I think we can all feel the quickening in the world today and the call to awaken to living more fully from our sense of purpose and our unique gifts. I’ve written a lot about the power of creativity to help us learn to access a more expanded way of being in the world. It allows us to draw on our inner wisdom and knowing through inspiration, intuition and imagination to come up with innovative ideas and solutions to problems.

Part of my own deep sense of purpose is to help ignite the creative fire in others not only in service to the world but also because being creative makes us feel alive. I love seeing the excitement my clients experience when they engage the creative process in whatever form calls to them. It’s a high energy state that allows us to think and feel at a higher frequency to access more of our potential. Creative expression can also be healing and help us understand the yearnings of our heart and soul.

I have been working with a creativity coaching client who is a visual artist, encouraging her to feel what wants to be drawn without censoring; to just let the paintbrush have a life of it’s own. This technique of working with the senses and feelings which is the language of the subconscious is useful for all forms of creativity. Using a combination of free drawing and free writing this client is having amazing healing revelations and shifts in her life.

She is gaining personal and spiritual insights into healing a painful divorce and clarity the ways she wants to move forward in her life that feel right and alive. In allowing the creativity to flow she is surprising herself with the depth and quality of drawings that are coming forth. It reminds me of what Hemingway said, “For a long time now I have tried to write the best I can. Sometimes I have good luck and write better than I can.”

Pablo Picasso spoke of talking his ego off at the door of his artist studio the way a Muslim takes his shoes off before entering a Mosque. He understood that in order to be creative he had to let Spirit entering into the process. Just as Michelangelo spoke of the sense of being guided on how to let the statue of David out of the marble.

Creativity transforms us, makes us more of who we really are as we let the spark of divine inspiration guide us as we play with writing, drawing, cooking, designing a solar car or dancing around the living room. Play is a critical ingredient in being creative, it’s how we connect to the flow. There is a great sense of joy and satisfaction that comes from this.

Remember everyone is creative. It’s a part of being human. Since we live in a culture that doesn’t honor creativity and imagination most of us need to reclaim this part of ourselves. Try this. Do a ten minute free write asking your creative spirit what she needs from you right now and you can also write about what you need from your creative spirit.

If you enjoyed this article consider subscribing to my monthly newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send you a copy of my Creativity eBooklet for guidance and inspiration. Thanks.

Mastery of the Creative Process

Creativity coaches Robert & Michelle Colt who specialize in working with actors to achieve success in their careers think of learning and mastery as a four stage process. How quickly you move through this process depends on two key factors: How you focus your mind and trusting your non-conscious mind. I think that this is applicable to all forms of creativity including writing. I’ve summarized the essence of the four stages below:

1) The first stage is called unconscious incompetence. This is the stage where you don’t know that you don’t know. You will often be focused on the reasons things seem like a struggle.

2) The second stage is called conscious incompetence. This is the stage where you know that you don’t know. You will be catch glimpses of problems you are have with your work. This stage is often met with the Ah ha.

3) The third stage is called conscious competence. In this stage you now know that you know. This is the stage of conscious effort where you attempt to find solutions to the problems you recognize. This stage can feel like two steps forward and one step back.

4) The final stage is called unconscious competence. This is the stage of mastery. It is a state of Grace, sometimes known as being in the zone or in the flow. When I tap this place I feel almost like I am taking celestial dictate and the story writes itself. This is where great works of literature come from. All great writers are unconsciously competent in their craft. Getting to this stage involves practice and commitment. Understanding the power of your unconscious mind can certainly help.

Poetic Healing

Several years ago I attended a week long retreat in a canyon on Navajo land in Arizona with poetry therapist John Fox, author of Poetic Medicine and Finding What You Didn’t Lose. The trip was part of a longer personal journey to connect more deeply with the yearnings of my soul and to live and write from a deeper more authentic place. The combination of camping in the desert mixed with gathering in the safe and sacred space of a group using poetry, not in the traditional literary sense, but as a vehicle for healing had a profound effect. Grief I had been holding for decades from the loss of my mother when I was a teenager came to the surface to be healed. The deepest healing came as I wrote the following poem:

Mothered

At sixteen I bought my first bird book,
a small green hardback, whose binding I broke
turning countless times its pages of color,
striking orange and black of oriole,
the azure sea shade of bluebird, red ember
iridescence of hummingbird’s throat,
fluttering in my hands for nearly forty years.

The year birds entered my life was
the same year my mother left it.
The woman who carried my brother and me
deep into Nature. Camping under the sun
drizzled scent of redwoods, wandering
wave tossed tidepools at ocean’s edge.

She’d pack the blue 54 Ford station wagon
every summer, to journey into wildness,
the expanses of the American West
to take in its beauty, as if through skin.
Laying our young and tender bodies
on the land, connecting us thread
by invisible thread to the earth’s intricate web.

So when her heart suddenly stopped
that summer, I was away at biology camp
discovering birds, and she slipped from the world
long before I wanted to let her go. I remained
tethered to the Earth, cradled by the great mother,
and birds became messengers
dropping from the heavens
to lift my spirits on a thousand wings,
embracing me with their songs.

– Suzanne Murray

The first few drafts of the poem I wrote through tears and beyond helping to clear the archival grief I was carrying there was a great healing from being able to honor my mother for the gift she gave me in connecting me to Nature. Everyone on the trip whether they were skilled in the craft of poetry or not had a similar healing as we gathered together to witness each others words and experiences and share poems, both our own and the work of poets like Mary Oliver, Joy Harjo, Wendell Berry, Rumi, Hafiz, Naomi Shihab Nye and William Stafford who touch the human heart.

Like other forms of sacred writings, poetry is the language of the soul interfacing with a greater source of inspiration so that a good poem can stir us in ways our conscious mind may not always be aware of. We can feel the poem in our own body and soul and sense the power of the words taking us deeper into what really matters. Reading and writing poems certainly helps to anchor me in these changing times and it can inspired other forms of creativity as well.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free monthly newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send you a copy of my Creativity eBooklet for guidance and inspiration.

Living the Questions

waterfall wideDo not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is,to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer. — Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to the Young Poet

Years ago I attended a writer’s conference with William Kittridge who had taught creative writing at the University of Montana for thirty years. He spoke of how at the start of his teaching career he focused on working with the elements of craft but as the years progressed he found what was most helpful was to ask his students the question, “why do you want to write?”. I started using this question in my writing class and discovered that it leads people to the essence of their desire to write which provides a lot of energy for engaging the process.

Later I started seeing the power of asking questions in every area of my life. Asking questions invites the subconscious mind, which represents an estimated 93% of your mind, into the game. Once you give your subconscious mind a question to work on or a problem to solve it will work on it 24/7 to come up with a solution.

I’m sure you have all had the experience of sitting at your desk trying to figure something out with your conscious, rational mind. Then you give up, get in your car, drive home and as you are pulling into your driveway the answer pops into your head. With your conscious mind busy driving your subconscious was able to draw on it’s vast tracts of information and insight and reach the surface of your mind with a solution. That’s why we often do our best “thinking” when our conscious mind is occupied with a mundane task: like walking, driving, doing the dishes, or taking a shower.

The beauty of questions is that they open up a world of possibilities. Thinking that there is only one answer or leaping to a conclusion is limiting. In creativity as in life it works best to play in the field of “all is possible” with questions like “What if there was another way to do this?” or “What’s the best way for solve this problem?”.’

When I teach classes or work with coaching clients I’ll ask “What are your questions?, What are the questions you need to ask to understand what wants to born in your writing, in your creativity, in your life?” I often use freewriting, where you write without thinking, as a tool for answering the questions I have for myself. Writing is the best tool I know of getting clear on the questions and then accessing an expanded inner wisdom and knowing. Sometimes when I’m struggling with something, I sit down and write the question, “What do I need to know right now?”. Inviting more questions. Opening to the possibilities.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free monthly newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send you a copy of my Creativity eBooklet for guidance and inspiration. Thanks.

The Hospitality of Ireland

celtic crossOne of the most famous qualities of the Celts was their hospitality. A stranger always received a meal as the first order of business. This level of courtesy and generosity lives on in Ireland today. I have been invited in by strangers for tea when I stopped to ask for directions. Stand on a street corner in the bustling city of Dublin, with a map open in your hands, and no less than five people with stop and ask if you need help.

Once while searching for the train station in Dublin I wandered down a street that was vacant except for one person, young man sporting a mohawk, heavy metal earrings and arms colored with tattoos. Wearing earphones he bopped his way toward me. He seemed an unlikely source of help but when I stopped him to ask directions, he immediately popped his earbuds out and said “oh your American well welcome to Ireland, well Dublin anyway.” He then went blocks out of his way to actually take me where I needed to go.

I have lots more stories like that about my time in Ireland. My favorite comes from the West of Ireland and captures not only the generosity of the Irish people and their openness to help strangers but their keen sense of awareness. I was traveling with a small group. We were waiting to catch the ferry from Doolin out to the Aran Islands. When the boat came into sight I realized that I had left my boots back at the hostel. I checked the ferry schedule and saw that there was another boat in two hours. My companions agreed that it would be okay to wait while I retrieved my shoes. I set off on foot intending to hitchhike the mile back to the hostel if I could. I had walked just a bit beyond the parking lot when a little blue Toyota pulls up beside be and the man driving says, “Get in, we’re going to get your boots, a little birdie told me.”

The others would later explain that the man who ran the little coffee stand we had been sifting in front of and his friend noticed me leave and asked, “where is she going. When they heard, the man in the stand says to his friend, “you watch the stand” and his friend says to my companions, “you watch my dog” handing one of them the leash as he ran to his car. We raced along the narrow lane up through the village, I retrieved by boots and we made it back in time to catch the ferry. As an American I was amazed and expressed great gratitude for the gesture. While the Irishman didn’t think a thing of helping out in that way.

If you would like to taste the hospitality of Ireland join me on one of my trips. For more information visit http://creativitygoeswild.com/west-of-ireland/

Writing for Wisdom & Clarity

writing-centerTalking to paper is talking to the divine. It is talking to an ear that will understand even the most difficult things. Paper is infinitely patient. – Burghild Nina Holzer

Do you feel the call to live more authentically from your deeper yearnings and desires and bring our gifts into the world. I wanted to offer you a tool for gaining clarity and insights from our heart’s deeper way of knowing that is the surest and fastest way I know. It’s faster than meditating, going for a walk to think things through or talking to a friend. It involves using writing as a hotline to your truest knowing.

I first started keeping a journal in college and have maintained that practice for over thirty five years. Later as I became interested in creative writing I learned a technique called freewiting from a book by Peter Elbow called Writing Without Teacher. It involves writing without thinking for a set amount of time where you let the writing take you where it wants to go. This differs from journaling in that it involves an act of surrender and letting go of needing to figure it out with your conscious mind. In allowing words to flow onto paper as they emerge from your inner being in a spontaneous and heartfelt way you access a profound clarity and wisdom.

All you do is simply force yourself to write without stopping for ten minutes. If you get stuck you keep writing “Keep the pen moving” until you break free. To tap your inner knowing you can address your Higher Self or the source of the highest wisdom you can access with a question like “what do I need to know right now?” or “what is my deepest heart’s desire” and then just let the pen take over. If you are really fast on the keyboard you can try it on the computer.

When you are finished read it over as if it is a letter you have gotten in the mail. Pretend someone other than you wrote it. Be open and curious. You may also want to put it away for a couple of days and read it again. This allows you to be much more objective. Be persistent. It can take a while to develop the ability and connection. Keep playing with it. Have fun.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free monthly newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send you a copy of my Creativity eBooklet for guidance and inspiration. Thanks.

Yosemite, Beauty & Inspired by Nature

Irish poet and philosopher John O’Donohue once observed that the Greek word for “beauty” is the same word for “calling”, and that a defining quality of beauty is that we feel more alive in its presence. Yosemite is a place of such power and profound beauty that we can’t help but feel awe and wonder in it’s presence and feel uplifted. Writers, painters and photographers have been drawing on this inspiration for decades.

I have had to good fortune to have a close relationship with Yosemite throughout my life beginning from the time I was a baby and my mother who had a great love of Nature took my brother and me camping there. As a teenager I began backpacking in the high country of Yosemite and then out of college I lived for two years in the Valley where I worked teaching natural science for Yosemite Institute. During my early years in Yosemite I was especially inspired by John Muir, (1838 to 1914), the Scottish born American naturalist, author and early advocate of wilderness preservation, who helped establish Yosemite National Park. His letters, essays, and books telling of his adventures in the Sierra Nevada have touched millions. Here are some of my favorite quotes of his that really convey the sense of aliveness and inspiration that such beauty and connecting to Nature can bring.

As long as I live, I’ll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing. I’ll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche. I’ll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can.

In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks.

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.

The power of imagination makes us infinite.

There is a love of wild nature in everybody, an ancient mother-love showing itself whether recognized or no, and however covered by cares and duties.

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings, Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.

And here’s a poem of mine inspired by both Yosemite and John Muir about birds that dwell along the mountain streams.

Water Ouzels

Lilting voices flood
fast mountain streams.
Fly on furious wings

behind rushing cascades,
below the rippled surface
bobbing for bugs.

John Muir called them
hummingbirds of waterfalls,
they edge his sacred streams,

skimming bubbling waves
of tumbling water,
little gray dancers

haunt river rocks on bending
knees, genuflecting to a God
everywhere and nowhere.

– Suzanne Murray

Exploring Your Irish Ancestry

My father was born in San Francisco two years after my grandparents arrived from Ireland and he grew up in an all Irish neighborhood. Yet I never thought of him as being Irish. He was part of a generation that wanted to be American and assimilate.

It wasn’t until I went to Ireland for the first time and saw my father everywhere that I realized how Irish he really had been and how many Irish traits he passed on to me; the wry sense of humor, the keen sense of irony, the kindness and generosity, the tendancy to come at everything indirectly and the ability to hold a grudge.

I also inherited my father’s love of story and poetry as well as a interest in learning. I have been back many times, stayed in cousins in County Kilkenny and County Mayo, and fallen in love with the place and the people.

Whenever I’m in Ireland I can feel the presence of the ancestors in the land. Especially in the West, in County Mayo where my grandfather came from a deep sense of connection came to me as I visited the place where he had been born. In reclaiming my Irish heritage I feel I have helped in healing my lineage.

There are hundred million people of Irish ancestry living outside Ireland mostly in the U.S. and Australia. Yet in the Irish language there is no word for emigrant. The closest word for leaving the homeland is exile. The songs about Irish who had to leave are filled with a haunting sense of lament. The Irish, who are actually the indigenous people of the island, are said to have an almost umbilical connection to the land. If you have any Irish blood I think you might be interested in exploring your roots and learning about the rich, complex history of the Ireland.

You don’t have actually go to Ireland to learn more about your ancestors. You can learn a lot on line. The Mormon Church maintains a comprehensive geneaology database that is free and not church related at www.familysearch.org. Also most libraries subscribe to online databases that do charge a fee like www.ancestry.com. If your ancestors came through Ellis Island you can find out what ship they sailed on and where it came from at www.ellisisland.org.

Consider joining me on a Journey to the West of Ireland. For more information on the next trip visit http://creativitygoeswild.com/west-of-ireland/

Amazing Peace – a poem by Maya Angelou

Amazing Peace

Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes
And lightning rattles the eaves of our houses.
Flood waters await us in our avenues.

Snow falls upon snow, falls upon snow to
avalanche
Over unprotected villages.
The sky slips low and grey and threatening.

We question ourselves.
What have we done
to so affront nature?
We worry God.
Are you there? Are you there really?
Does the covenant you made with us still hold?

Into this climate of fear and apprehension,
Christmas enters,
Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope
And singing carols of forgiveness
high up in the bright air.
The world is encouraged to come away from rancor,
Come the way of friendship.

It is the Glad Season.
Thunder ebbs to silence
and lightning sleeps quietly in the corner.
Flood waters recede into memory.
Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us
As we make our way to higher ground.

Hope is born again in the faces of children
It rides on the shoulders of our aged
as they walk into their sunsets.
Hope spreads around the earth,
brightening all things,
Even hate which crouches,
breeding in dark corridors.

In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft.
Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.
It is loud now.
It is louder.
Louder than the explosion of bombs.

We tremble at the sound.
We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war.
But true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.

We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas.
We beckon this good season to wait a while with us.
We, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim, say come.
Peace.
Come and fill us and our world with your majesty.
We, the Jew and the Jainist, the Catholic and the Confucian,
Implore you to stay a while with us.
So we may learn by your shimmering light
How to look beyond complexion and see community.

It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.

On this platform of peace, we can create a language
To translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.

At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ
Into the great religions of the world.
We jubilate the precious advent of trust.
We shout with glorious tongues at the coming of hope.
All the earth’s tribes loosen their voices
To celebrate the promise of Peace.

We, Angels and Mortals, Believers and Non-Believers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at our world and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at each other, then into ourselves
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation.

Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul.

– Maya Angelou

If you enjoyed this blog post consider subscribing to my monthly newsletter. As a thank you gift I will send you a free eBooklet Embracing Your Creativity: Essential Elements for Engaging Your Natural Gifts. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left.

Reflections on Pilgrimage to Ireland

Recently Judith Rousseau who came on the West of Ireland trip I lead this past September sent me a card where she so beautiful expressed the power of pilgrimage or traveling with the intention to learn and grow to the deeper rhythms of our soul can effect us in profound ways that we only become conscious of over time. I was deeply touch by her words because they allowed me to understand that what people take home from the experience may be far more than I imagined.

Judith describes the three trips: “the one you plan and dream of; the one you have unfolding in the time it took; and the one you remember. But still, the trip is all three intertwined.” She went on to say “It took about a month but finally memories of little hardships, disappointments, thoughts of what I should have done drained away and the essence of the journey rose up like a face in the water – palimpsest: seeing what’s beneath the mind’s blather. I remember the details of the trip with shocking clarity. I still don’t know what it means – to me – I have a feeling there will be a seeping out for years to come.”

I have been carrying Judith’s card around with me and rereading it over and over because I feel like she really captures the depth and power that pilgrimages to sacred places can bring to our lives. And I feel a sense of awe that I could be part of this process for another. It also reminds me of the way making intentional journeys have changed my life in wonderful ways. The magic live in my heart.

Consider joining me on a Journey to the West of Ireland. For more information on the next trip visit http://creativitygoeswild.com/west-of-ireland/

A Morning Offering – by John O’Donohue

Here’s a deeply moving and inspiring poem by Irish poet and philosopher John O’Donohue (1956 to 2008) who had a great grasp of fertile quality of imagination found in Celtic Wisdom. He wrote so beautifully about in his book Anam Cara.

A Morning Offering

I bless the night that nourished my heart
To set the ghosts of longing free
Into the flow and figure of dream
That went to harvest from the dark
Bread for the hunger no one sees.

All that is eternal in me
Welcome the wonder of this day,
The field of brightness it creates
Offering time for each thing
To arise and illuminate.

I place on the altar of dawn:
The quiet loyalty of breath,
The tent of thought where I shelter,
Wave of desire I am shore to
And all beauty drawn to the eye.

May my mind come alive today
To the invisible geography
That invites me to new frontiers,
To break the dead shell of yesterdays,
To risk being disturbed and changed.

May I have the courage today
To live the life that I would love,
To postpone my dream no longer
But do at last what I came here for
And waste my heart on fear no more.

~ John O’Donohue ~

(From To Bless the Space Between Us)

Consider joining me on a Journey to the West of Ireland to the amazing region of The Burren where John O’Donohue was born and raised. For more information on the next trip visit http://creativitygoeswild.com/west-of-ireland/

The Value of Writing Practice

writing-centerThe act of showing up to writing as a daily practice has enrich my life in countless ways. As Annie Lamott says in the introduction to her book bird by bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, “Writing has so much to give, so much to reach so many surprises. That thing you have to force yourself to do – the actual act of writing – turns out to be the best part.”

I agree completely. Through my writing practice I understand more about how I think and how I see of the world; I more readily see the value and meaning of my life as I gain deeper insight to the stories and ideas that are important to me; and I strengthen my ability to tap the inspiration, intuition and imagination of the creative spirit not only in my writing but the rest of my life.

This awareness and approach has allowed me to fall in love with the process which after three decades remains fresh and in my willingness to play with the process I have been able to finely hone the craft of writing as well.

Prescriptions of Poetry

girls poetrySome years ago I did a workshop with John Fox, author of Finding What You Didn’t Lose and Poetic Medicine, who works with poetry for the purpose of healing. In his groups the focus is on drawing inspiration from poetry and writing poems of self expression and healing without worrying about needing to master the form. In our changing times I have more and more been thinking about the wisdom and healing power contained in poems.

Recently someone I know was getting ready to sell the home and land where she had lived and loved for thirty years. I had suggested that she write about it as a way to express her feelings and come to a sense of peace with the decision. She wrote a beautiful tribute and love poem to the land and gardens she had so carefully tended. I then had the urge to send her Mary Oliver’s In Blackwater Woods which carries in it a powerful message on what it means to let go.

Since then I have found that finding the right poem that speaks to what we are going through can hold us in a place of comfort, healing and deeper understanding of a challenge or difficulty in our life. It can be like writing a prescription for yourself knowing that words can heal.

If you are new to poetry and not accustomed to reading it then start with the highly accessible poets like the Sufi mystic poets like Rumi or Hafiz or best selling contemporary poets like Mary Oliver or Billy Collins. Below is Billy Collins’ poem introducing how to experience a poem and Mary Oliver’s In Blackwater Woods. Or try writing your own poem. Be willing to relax and play with it.

Introduction to Poetry

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means

-Billy Collins

In Blackwater Woods

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattail
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
everything
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

– Mary Oliver

Rainer Maria Rilke Poem

I think German poet Rainer Maria Rilke was probably the greatest spiritual poet of the 20th century. Here’s one of my favorites.

The Man Watching

I can tell by the way the trees beat, after
so many dull days, on my worried windowpanes
that a storm is coming,
and I hear the far-off fields say things
I can’t bear without a friend,
I can’t love without a sister.

The storm, the shifter of shapes, drives on
across the woods and across time,
and the world looks as if it had no age:
the landscape, like a line in the psalm book,
is seriousness and weight and eternity.

What we choose to fight is so tiny!
What fights with us is so great!
If only we would let ourselves be dominated
as things do by some immense storm,
we would become strong too, and not need names.

When we win it’s with small things,
and the triumph itself makes us small.
What is extraordinary and eternal
does not want to be bent by us.
I mean the Angel who appeared
to the wrestlers of the Old Testament:
when the wrestlers’ sinews
grew long like metal strings,
he felt them under his fingers
like chords of deep music.

Whoever was beaten by this Angel
(who often simply declined the fight)
went away proud and strengthened
and great from that harsh hand,
that kneaded him as if to change his shape.
Winning does not tempt that man.
This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively,
by constantly greater beings.

– Rainer Maria Rilke
(Translation by Robert Bly)

John O’Donohue Poem

For The Time Of Necessary Decision

The mind of time is hard to read.
We can never predict what it will bring,
Nor even from all that is already gone
Can we say what form it finally takes;
For time gathers its moments secretly.
Often we only know it’s time to change
When a force has built inside the heart
That leaves us uneasy as we are.

Perhaps the work we do has lost its soul
Or the love where we once belonged
Calls nothing alive in us anymore.
We drift through this gray, increasing
nowhere
Until we stand before a threshold we know
We have to cross to come alive once more.

May we have the courage to take the step
Into the unknown that beckons us;
Trust that a richer life awaits us there,
That we will lose nothing
But what has already died;
Feel the deeper knowing in us sure
Of all that is about to be born beyond
The pale frames where we stayed confined,
Not realizing how such vacant endurance
Was bleaching our soul’s desire.

– John O’Donohue

The Art of Pilgrimage

ireland ruins seaThe difference between a journey and a pilgrimage is that on a pilgrimage every step counts. – Phil Cousineau, The Art of Pilgrimage

Ever since I first felt the pull of my Irish ancestors, my trips to Ireland have always had the quality of a pilgrimage where I let my heart and intuition lead me to visit the places and meet the people that have the ability to expand my sense of myself and my place in the world.

I don’t think we have to travel half way around the world for this experience. I do think we need to slow down and pay closer attention to the world around us and our own inner yearnings and callings. You could do this on a day trip to somewhere you’ve never been before or to a favorite place, while holding the intention of seeing it through new eyes and having new experiences. Our souls love newness and change. It’s why simply going away for the weekend can leave us feeling restored.

Writing, or any practice of creative expression, can be it’s own sort of pilgrimage where we are surprised along the way as we explore our creative imagination and inner realms. I always love it when in my writing something pops out of my pen and I think “wow, that’s really interesting, I didn’t know I thought that.”

I’ve found in writing and traveling it’s best to view the journey itself as it’s own reward and be open to what the world has to say to you through the people you meet, the inspired thoughts you have, and intuitions on where to go and what to do.

Reading a great poem can also provide a sense of pilgrimage as we pay attention to what is invoked in our inner landscape. The following poem by Nobel Prize winning Irish poet Seamus Heaney, which is one of my all time favorites, captures the quality of how an ordinary experience can become extraordinary by looking more carefully at the world and letting our imaginations play.

Postscript

And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightening of flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully-grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you’ll park or capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free monthly newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send you a free copy of my Creativity eBooklet for creative inspiration.

Cashel, County Tipperary

Generally when I travel on my own in Ireland I don’t book ahead. I let my intuition lead me. If it’s a place I’ve never been I will study the guidebook and see what pulls at me. After my first night in Dublin to recover from jet lag. I felt lead to hop the bus to the town of Cashel which is dominated by the Rock of Cashel a monastic site and seat of power for the region dating back a 1000 years. On the tallest hill amid the rocky landscape are a clutter of buildings, including the a round tower, the ruins of an abbey and a beautiful 12th century chapel all surrounded by a stone wall. What amazed me the most was the spectacular view afforded to the mountain to the west in County Kerry.

But as Petrina the woman who runs the Cashel Holiday Hostel said to me when I booked in on arriving, “I tell people who are all concerned with going from site to site, like from the Blarney Stone to the Rock of Cashel here, that when their travles are over it’s the people that they met along the way that they will remember”. And I couldn’t have agreed more. In true Irish fashion, Petrina was happy to talk to have a conversation, to find out more about you, to answer any questions you might have. She sent me to O’Dwyers Butcher Shop for the best Brown Soda Bread in town. She invited me to take her dog, Millie, for a walk if I wanted some company. She came knocking on my door one evening insisting that I join her up at the local church for a free concert of Irish music by a group that was really good. All in all she made me feel wonderfully at home and that is what I will remember most about my time in Cashel.

Creative Flow & Brain Wave States

I’ve been reading an interesting book, titled Writing Down Your Soul: How to Activate and Listen to the Extraordinary Voice Within by Janet Conner. It focuses on how writing can help you access your inner wisdom and deeper ways of knowing. Anyone who establishes a writing practice, whether for creative expression or self discovery, begins to realize they can tap expanded ways of knowing and gain insights beyond the reach of their everyday state of awareness. I found the ideas and wisdom found in the book are very much applicable to creative writing.

In the book the author interviewed creativity consultants Michelle and Robert Colt who have studied what goes on in the brain when we write. They first describe the four types of brain waves, “Beta, the fastest is associated with stress, work and concentration.” Most of us spend the bulk of our waking time here. Alpha waves are a bit slower and are “associated with creativity, calmness, and insight.” This is the brain state of “being in the zone” where your work feels effortless. Theta waves are the next slowest. We experience this state when we first wake up or have an ah..ha moment where you have a really creative idea or the solution to a problem pops into your mind. People who meditate slip into theta quickly and remain there through the period of meditation.. Delta waves, that we experience in deep sleep are the slowest.

When we write we start out in beta, but very quickly move into alpha and eventually theta. The Colts explain that , “any moment of intense creativity is a theta burst. And when you engage in deep dialogue with divine mind, you are having mystical theta bursts” In the state of mystical theta bursts you are surprised by what comes out of your pen (or keyboard). I remember when I had my first experience of this state. I stopped writing to look around the room to see where the words were coming from because they didn’t feel like they were coming from me. It sounds strange but it actually feels delightful and it’s really were the best writing comes from.

I was really excited to read about the brain states because it explained what I have been teaching intuitively for years. I tell my students to never wait for inspiration before sitting down to write because if you do you will likely be waiting a long time. I explain that you often have to write a half a page or a page where not much is happening, where you will feel sluggish and resistant before you start to feel a sense of the creative flow. I now realize that you are actually writing your way out of beta down into the brain states that give you access to the more creative states. It’s why establishing writing as a habit or practice is so important because you never really feel like writing until you slip into the more creative brain states and the best way to get there is to sit down and start writing.

The information about brain states also explains why we have hard time coming up with creative solutions to life’s and the world’s problems when we are in our everyday (beta) mind. This reminds me of what Einstein meant when he said, Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them. Reading about the brain states makes me aware of how important it is when I am faced with a problem to slow down and calm down, knowing this will help me tap the more expanded brain states and allow creative solutions and new ideas to surface.

If you enjoyed this piece sign up for my free monthly newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left.

Why I Write

writing2Years ago I took a workshop from William Kittredge who taught creative writing at the University of Montana for thirty years. He said when he first started out teaching he was concerned with providing his students with information and techniques for writing. As time progressed he found that the most important thing he could do for his students was to help them answer the question of why they wanted to write.

I often use this assignment with my students: Do a ten minute freewrite starting with the prompt Why I write. . . Try it, let your mind run, this can help you tap the energy behind the desire to write. Like Kittredge I have found that it may be the most important question you ask yourself about your writing. Keep in mind that a good questions opens you up to all the possibilities. You can do this assignment more than once. Play with it and see what comes up.

Writing from Raspberries

Earlier I explained you could start with the word kumquats and if you let it, the writing would take you where it really wants to go. Below is a poem of mine that came from starting with the word raspberries and having no idea what I was going to write. This is the final draft of a poem that ended up being about my father.

Raspberries

Sweetness tinged tart, rising
from root stock my father planted
in the fog haunted garden,

hands plunged into black earth
gritty beneath fingernails, on his knees
seeking the salvation nurturing
seeds can bring a burdened soul.

Vines dripped red berries
sprinkled on vanilla ice cream
in the dark kitchen, on the long nights
when dreams would not let him sleep.

The War in the Pacific, an ambush
in a Philippine jungle, flickering
through his mind for fifty years.

This luscious flavor now on my tongue
pulling out thoughts of him,
tossed in the bowl of memories

heavy in my hands
now that he has been released
to the earth, he so carefully tended.

-Suzanne Murray

WRITING EXERCISE TO PLAY WITH: Use different fruit for your writing prompt: oranges, lemon, watermelon, figs, blackberries, . . .or whatever one pops into your head. Have fun.

Writing from Kumquats

Once in one of my writing classes I was explaining if you get your mind out of the way and allow what wants to be written from the place of your deeper wisdom and knowing, call it the intelligence of your heart or your subconscious mind, then you will likely be amazed by what flows out.I exclaimed, “You could write about kumquats and you will end up in the story that wants to be told.”

So I then gave the class the assignment to write from the word kumquats. This worked quite well to stall out the rational mind allowing it more easily to surrender to the creative flow. Everyone wrote from a deeper and more imaginative place.

Here is a poem of mine that came from starting with the word raspberries. I had no idea it would lead me to a poem about my father.

Raspberries

Sweetness tinged tart, rising
from root stock my father planted
in the fog haunted garden,

hands plunged into black earth
gritty beneath fingernails, on his knees
seeking the salvation nurturing
seeds can bring a burdened soul.

Vines dripped red berries
sprinkled on vanilla ice cream
in the dark kitchen, on the long nights
when dreams would not let him sleep.

The War in the Pacific, an ambush
in a Philippine jungle, flickering
through his mind for fifty years.

This luscious flavor now on my tongue
pulling out thoughts of him,
tossed in the bowl of memories

heavy in my hands
now that he has been released
to the earth, he so carefully tended.

-Suzanne Murray

Writing Exercise: Start a ten minute “free write” (where you write faster than you can think just letting the words flow) with the word kumquats. Really let go and let the writing lead. Or you can start with the first fruit that pops into you mind. The purpose is to play and have fun.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free monthly newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column to your left, enter your email and I’ll send you a copy of my Creativity eBooklet for guidance and inspiration.

Playing with Your Imagination

IMG_0403Imagination is more important than knowledge. – Albert Einstein

You must give birth to your images.
They are the future waiting to be born . . .
Fear not the strangeness you feel.
The future must enter you
long before it happens.
Just wait for the birth,
for the hour of new clarity.

– Rainer Maria Rilke

I often say in my writing and creativity coaching classes that your imagination is smarter than you are; like intuition it gives you a deeper, faster, more expanded means of gaining critical insights and making important connections than the more limited workings of your linear, rational mind. Whether you want to write, engage your creativity more fully or develop an ability for creative problem solving, your imagination is an essential tool. To exercise your imagination try the age old favorite of looking for shapes in the clouds; or go sit outside on a bench to watch people go by and make up stories about their lives; or go to a park and lean against a tree and imagine what it would say to you if it could talk; or lay down on the earth and ask her what simple thing you could do to help the planet. Then be open to the ideas, images or thought that arise in your mind.

One exercise I like to work with is asking advice of an imaginary mentor. You think of a question and then write the answer yourself as if you are getting a response from someone you admire. You can ask Einstein, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson or your grandmother. A woman in one of my classes did this exercise and received what was clearly really good advice. Unaccustomed to using her imagination in this way she asked, “how do I know if I am actually channeling this person or if I’m making it up”. It’s a great question because when we use our imagination it will feel and seem like we are making it up. And that’s exactly how the imagination works. We have a hard time trusting the information and ideas we get because we live in a culture that dismisses the power of the imagination but saying, “oh, you’re just making that up” or we tell our children “it’s just your imagination”.  Imagination is a tool of human consciousness that is underdeveloped in the modern world. Yet the more you engage it and play with it the stronger the connection becomes  and you will begin to feel the quiet excitement and joy that comes from expanding this ability, that will give you new ways to looking at problems and solving them.

You can even ask your imagination for suggestions on how best to cultivate it. Sit quietly for five minutes following the flow of your breath and calming your mind. Then be open to what your imagination has to say to you. Try writing without thinking for ten minutes as if you were taking dictation from your imagination. Or you could ask your imagination what it wants from you and then answer the question by writing or drawing or even spontaneous movement where you let the thoughts and feelings flow.

Imagination is one way we access our deeper mind; the estimated 93% that we don’t use in our ordinary lives. It is a place where you shed your ego, where sparks fly and time stands still. It requires a bit of solitude and idleness. It asks that you slow down and sit still with your mind clear and expectant. It asks that you be willing to play.

If you enjoyed this article consider signing up for my monthly newsletter. Just click the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left. As a thank you I’ll send you a free eBooklet – Embracing Your Creativity: Essential Elements to Help You Engage Your Natural Gifts.

Our Winter Writing Journey to Yosemite

My first winter writing journey to Yosemite with a group in mid March was a great success. We stayed at the Yosemite Bug – Rustic Mountain Resort – Cabins, Restaurant, Health Spa, Hostel in Midpines 25 miles outside the Yosemite Valley in a two room cabin to ourselves .  We met up Friday evening for dinner in the on site cafe that offers some really good food, and followed up with an evening of writing. In the morning we took the the bus to the Valley. It was great to be able to move back and forth from side to side to take in the beauty all the way into the Valley. As we got up into the Valley we where greeted by fresh snow all the way down to the floor making the experience even more extraordinary.

After being dropped off at the Yosemite Lodge we walked to the base of Yosemite Falls where we sat in silence taking in the magnificence of the rushing water and then proceeded along a quiet path to the museum devoted to the native people of the area. A man of Miwok descent was on duty and happily answered our questions.

We then wrote and ate lunch sitting in the sun on granite boulders beside the tumbling waters of the Merced River below Vernal Falls.

We walked up to the Mirror Lake area where we were directly under Half Dome where we were greeted by the thundering sound of snow cascading off the face as the sun loosened it’s grip.

We then made our way to the historic Ahwahnee Hotel before returning to Yosemite Falls to catch the bus back to the Yosemite Bug Resort. That evening we enjoyed another fine meal in the cafe and everyone worked on their writing afterward. Sunday morning was devoted to writing and sharing as a group.

I also provided special instruction on to use an acorn cap for a whistle. Two members of our group practiced as we waited for the bus.

We really had a great time and I’m looking forward to bringing more groups to this place of great beauty and spirit during the quieter times of fall, winter and spring.

The Importance of Taking Action

painting colorsIt’s not enough to have a dream or vision for your work, creativity or life and just visualize the intended outcome. You have to take action; and it’s easier to get started and keep going if you take a series of baby steps. Just one small step toward the life you really want will get you there.

My favorite story about the power of taking small daily actions comes from David Whyte, in his book Crossing the Unknown Sea. He tells of working for a nonprofit while holding the vision of making a living from his poetry. Since he wasn’t doing anything to turn the idea into reality, he began to feel exhausted. He asked his friend, Brother David Steindl-Rast to tell him about exhaustion and Brother David responded “the solution to exhaustion is not rest, it is wholeheartedness.

At that point David Whyte began taking one small step a day towards his vision of making a living as a poet. Some days he memorized a poem, other days he made phone calls and he let people know about his dream. By day 273 he got a call from a consciousness raising conference at Asilomar, California, where one of the speakers had canceled and they wanted to know if David could take his place. That launched David Whyte on a career where he uses poetry to talk about the life of the soul. This eventually lead to his being invited to do this work in corporate America and he makes a six figure annual income from his poetry.

Whether you have a creative project in mind or you want to make major changes in your life, break your goals down into small action steps and take one each day. Then with every step congratulate yourself for moving closer toward your dream. If you try to make big leaps toward your goals you usually meet with too much resistance and fear that stops you. Small daily actions allow you to sneak under the radar of your resistance to change and stretch your comfort zone in a manageable way.

The best kind of action is inspired action where you listen to your heart or the still small voice within. You take action not out of the sense that you’ve got to make something happen but out of an inner knowing that this is the right step to take. You may have the intuition to go to a place for coffee that you don’t usually go to but while ordering your latte, you run into someone you haven’t seen in years who has a contact that will help you on your way.

If you enjoyed this article please subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send you a copy of my Creativity eBooklet for guidance and inspiration. Thanks.

The Joy of Being Creative

Happy child with painted handsYears ago I heard Nobel Prize winning Irish poet Seamus Heaney give a lecture at the University of Washington. In the middle of this very academic speech, he paused, threw up both his hands and said, “oh, just write for the joy of it” and then dipped back into the lecture. I don’t remember anything else from the talk but Heaney’s sudden burst of inspiration stayed with me because I think it really captured an essential element to being creative.

Whether you are cooking a great meal, growing a beautiful garden, writing a poem or singing in the community choir, you likely feel a deep sense of satisfaction and a joyfulness that comes with being creative. Creativity draws on the best of human nature: perception, imagination, intellect, inspiration, courage, intuition, and empathy. The urge to create asks us to bask in the experience of the world, to see, feel, taste, hear, and smell the magnificence around us.  It allows us to celebrate, with the spirit of gratefulness for every aspect of our lives, the beauty and complexity the world offers. It can help us make meaning from our sufferings.

Being creative also breaks us free from our ruts and habits allowing us to look at the world anew. We are able to tell a  story that touches others, envision a unique way of solving a problem or offer counsel with fresh  clarity, even if we have struggled with the same material or ideas a hundred times before. Embracing our creativity allows us to tap a deeper more insightful way of knowing that expands beyond our conscious mind.

I think being creative feels so good because it connects us to divine imagination and when we actively participate in developing  and fulfilling our gifts it feels like a mystical experience. We intuit that we are connected to something larger than ourselves which is perhaps the greatest gift that comes from following our creative urges. Early in my work as a writer when I  became aware that I was writing from an inspired sense of flow, I would get this urge to look around the room to see where is was coming from because I sensed it was exactly coming from me. Now I am just always deeply grateful when I tap fully into that vein and welcome it with a sense of grace.

In looking for your own ways of being creative you can start by celebrating your uniqueness. There never was, nor ever will be, anyone exactly like you. In exploring your uniqueness there is often a central preoccupation, an interest or passion that runs through your life? There can also be more than one. If you can’t name it right now, think of something that you are fascinated by again and again. The possibilities are infinite, reaching from needlework to rock climbing, from bird watching to playing the piano, from English country dancing to writing haiku, from gardening to giving foot massages. Look for what brings you joy and then begin taking actions to embrace your creativity and enjoy the process.

If you enjoyed this article consider subscribing to my free newsletter and I’ll send you a free eBooklet Embracing Your Creativity: Essential Elements for Engaging Your Natural Gifts. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left. Thanks.

Ireland & the Celtic Imagination

The blood means nothing;
the spirit, the ghost of the land moves in the blood,
moves the blood
– William Carlos Williams

People have lived in Ireland for about 7000 years settling there after the glaciers retreated at the end of the last ice age. The burial tombs at Newgrange are a thousand years older than the pyramids. On Winter Solstice a single beam of light lasting for seventeen minutes shines into the middle of the tombs. It’s thought that this might be intended to allow the souls to ride the beam to wherever they needed to go.

The Celts arrived in Ireland about 4000 years ago. Since Ireland was never invaded by the Romans the influence of the Celts is most keenly preserved there. The Irish language (one of the forms of Gaelic) is derived from the ancient language of the Celts. Still spoken as the everyday language in parts of Ireland, it is so different from English that translation is difficult.

There are no words for yes and no. There are words to express how when you love a place, the place loves you back. The language is earth-based and sensual, reflecting the fact that the Celts saw no separation between themselves and the land that sustained them. The word for the land and the people is one word, currah.

The Celts had no written language so information was passed on through a rich oral and storytelling tradition which lives on today. The reverence for words is also expressed in the Irish prominence in English literature and the fact that in Ireland books of poetry are bestsellers.

Some years ago Ireland began calling to me. My grandparents came from Ireland and settled in San Francisco where my father was born; part of the generation of Americans who left behind their culture roots in order to assimilate. Yet on my first trip to Ireland as the plane swept low on approach to the Shannon airport and saw at the edge of the runway, a stone paddock holding a lone sheep, tears began to trickle down my cheeks as the word home echoed through my mind.

I told this story to a native Irish speaker I know who lives now in California and she responded, “Well now that would be the ancestors winking in and out welcoming you home.” I found in Ireland not only a feeling of home but a sense of the sacred in the air. Since then I’ve studied the history, the myths and begun to learn the language and continue to feel the pull of the magic and enchantment of the Celtic imagination that lingers in the misty Irish air and moves I think in all who have some Irish blood.

Consider joining me on a Journey to the West of Ireland. For more information on the next trip visit http://creativitygoeswild.com/west-of-ireland/

Tips for Helping You Show Up to Your Writing

In writing, habit seems to be a much stronger force than either willpower or inspiration. Consequently, there must be some little quality of fierceness until the habit pattern of a certain number of words is established. There is not possibility. . .of saying, I’ll do it if I feel like it. – John Steinbeck

Woody Allen said that ninety five percent of life is showing up. This is especially true when it comes to our writing. If you have a hard time showing up as consistently as you would like, give yourself permission to return to picking up the thread of your work just a little bit at a time. Lower your standards on what you think you should be able to accomplish.

Be willing to forgive yourself for all the times you have failed to show up to your work. Honor that there will likely always be a part of you who wants to write and a part of you that is resistant to the letting go that is required to really engage the creative mind. This can be very liberating.

Writing is not unlike training to run a marathon. You start out running a few blocks and you work your way up each day to the full twenty six miles. In your writing this can translate into doing “freewriting” or stream of consciousness writing for ten minutes a day for a month then building up to showing up for longer periods of time where you also play with the art of revision and work on finishing a piece.

In working with my students and coaching clients I focus in part on learning to fall in love with the process and to find joy in simply showing up to the creative work. Then the writing becomes it’s own reward, free of the expectations of what we think it needs to be and we learn to allow what wants to be born out of our creative spirit.

Author Ray Bradbury keeps a file of opening lines and titles of stories yet to be written. Try this. Make a list of all the stories within you that really want to be told. Then pick one and write on the theme for at least ten minutes a day for a week (or better yet for a month) and see how that feels.

Have it be okay that some of what you write may feel uninspired. It all counts as practice that helps you to develop the habit to showing up to your work and evolve your own writing voice and style. The more you show up the more likely you are to hit the zone where your creativity really starts to flow and magic happens.

If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my free monthly newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left, enter your email and I’ll send you a free copy of my Creativity eBooklet for creative inspiration.

Engaging Creativity and Imagination in Changing Times

Living in uncertain times, we need some kind of certain presence which is independent of our outside accomplishments, which is independent of any shallow definitions of what it means to be successful. – David Whyte

Albert Einstein said, The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them. I think that is why now more than ever it’s important for each of us to embrace our creativity in whatever form that calls to us and feels most enlivening. In our schooling we were taught to focus on the left brain activities of the three Rs reading, writing and arithmetic with little attention paid the right brain or whole brain integration.

On my recent trip to Ireland I told an Australian man I met about my commitment to working with people to engage with the I words; imagination, inspiration, innovation and intuition which are right brain activities. He smiled, and responded, you really are from California aren’t you. I laughed and said “yes”. California especially the San Francisco Bay Area has long been fertile ground to new ways of doing things and sharing them with the rest of the world.

An architect I know who was born and raised in the Midwest once shared the idea that all the innovation and openness to change that is a trademark of the Bay Area might be related to the hilly topography. Our minds constantly have to adjust to new perspectives as we move through the landscape.

Current discoveries in neuroscience suggest that you can enhance brain function by looking up from what you are doing and changing your focus during the day. When I work with people to help to engage creatively I recommend that they make changes in habitual behavior like eating different foods, driving a different way home from work, or changing the order that they put their clothes on in the morning.

Any time you do something new and different you begin to build new neural nets in your brain. It’s also why activities like daydreaming or writing from the stream of consciousness where we let our right brain run in seemingly random directions can help us to come up with new ways of looking at a problem.

If you want get more experience connecting to the 95% of our brain/mind that science suggest we don’t use, try the practice of writing a tad faster than you can think to outrun the rational, strategic mind and let the ideas spill out on the page. Or you can try brainstorming on paper by putting the central idea or question in the middle of the page and draw the related ideas that come to you like satellites around the central idea.

Also once you start thinking about a new idea notice the thoughts that pop into your head while you are driving, walking, doing the dishes or otherwise occupying the rational mind. Neuroscientists have actually shown that when you let the stream of consciousness flow our brain is actually activating more neurons and brain cells.

The next time you have a problem to solve try letting your mind run and be open to all the ideas that surface. Think about some aspect of the world today that could use some creative solution and see what you come up with. Creativity and imagination are natural gifts we all have. They just need to be tended and cultivated in order to be developed.

If you enjoyed with article sign up for my free monthly newsletter. Just click on the mail list subscribe tab in the column on your left and enter your email. I’ll send a free Creativity eBooklet to help your understand creativity and have fun engaging the process.

The Pleasure and Power of Poetry

girls poetryThe fate of poetry is to teach us to fall in love with the world inspite of history. – Derek Walcott

New England poet and essayist Donald Hall calls poetry, The Unsayable Said, referring the ineffable quality of poetry; the way it gives voice to experiences that are beyond words. I always think of poetry as something written by the soul for the soul. This is why I find it best to read a poem for the felt sense it offers, allowing the experience of the words to wash over you without necessarily having to understand them with your conscious mind.

Poet Robert Pinsky in his two year term as U.S. Poet Laureate established the Favorite Poem Project. In traveling around the country promoting poetry in town hall style meetings where people came together to share their favorite poems written by someone else he found that everyone, from the members of the corporate board room to the janitorial staff, all had a poem that had really influenced their life.

Poet David Whyte, author of The Heart Aroused: the Preservation of the Soul in Corporation, who uses poetry to talk about the life of the soul in the workplace, has consulted for major corporation including Boeing, Xerox and IBM. The person who invited David to bring his work into the corporation had explained that there was no language in the corporate world for the kind of real changes that need to take place but that he heard that language in David’s use of poetry.

I think in this time of tremendous change in the world today, poetry holds for us a timeless wisdom and language that provides an awareness of what is really important about the essence of the human experience and our connection to something bigger than ourselves. By way of example I’ve included below four of my favorite poems by poets spanning nine centuries and spawned by different parts of the world; beginning with Rumi, the 13th century Persian Sufi mystic, then German poet and philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe who lived 1749 to 1832,  then Nobel Prize winning Spanish poet Juan Ramon Jimenez, 1881 – 1958 and finally Nobel Prize winning Poet Derek Walcott from Saint Lucia in the Caribbean born in 1930. I encourage you to savour each one, let the words enter your heart and feel poetry’s power to transform and inspire.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

-Rumi

The Holy Longing

Tell a wise person, or else keep silent,
Because the massman will mock it right away
I praise what is truly alive,
What longs to be burned to death.

In the calm water of the love-nights,
Where you were begotten, where you have begotten,
A strange feeling comes over you
When you see the silent candle burning.

Now you are no longer caught
In the obsession with darkness,
And a desire for higher love-making
Sweeps you upward.

Distance does not make you falter,
Now, arriving in magic, flying,
And, finally, insane for the light,
You are the butterfly and you are gone.

And so long as you haven’t experienced
This: to die and so to grow,
You are only a troubled guest
On the dark earth.

– Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Oceans

I have a feeling that my boat
has struck, down there in the depths,
against a great thing.
And nothing
happens! Nothing…..silence…..Waves…..
Nothing happens? Or has everything happened,
and are we standing now, quietly, in the new life?

– Juan Ramon Jimenez

Love After Love

The day will come
when with elation you will greet yourself
arriving at your own door
in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
saying, ‘Sit here. Eat. You will love again
the stranger who was yourself.’

Give wine, give bread
give back your heart to itself
to the stranger who has loved you
all your life
whom you ignored for another
who knows you by heart.

Take down the love letters from the bookshelf
the photographs
the desperate notes
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life

-Derek Walcott

If you enjoy this article subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe in the column on the left and enter your email. Thanks.

Writing for Healing and Making Meaning

. . . writing is the slow, cumulative way of accepting your life as valid, of accepting yourself over a lifetime, of realizing that your life is important. And it is. It’s all you’ve got. All you ever had for sure. – Richard Hugo

I first started keeping a journal in college and have maintained that practice for over thirty five years. Expanding into creative writing followed as a natural progression of this practice of putting pen to paper along with a deep love of books and working with words. Besides the experience of deep satisfaction that comes from engaging the creative process, writing has also served my personal growth in profound ways.

Journaling differs from creative writing in that it is more a conversation with yourself. It provides a way of making sense of your life experiences and becomes a form of self analysis. Creative writing allows you to more deeply access the unconscious and the insights of your Self. The benefits of engaging the writing process on these different levels are many.

James W Pennebaker, PhD, who spent years researching the healing effects of writing. describes in his book, Opening Up, what many people who have kept a journal often discover on their own, “that if we can create a cohesive personal narrative of our lives and if we can link up our emotions with specific events, then we have the power to take control of how those emotions and events affect our lives.” As Isak Dinesan, the author of Out of Africa, said “All suffering is bearable if it is seen as part of a story.”

Evidence for the positive effects writing has on our physical health is found in a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that showed, “that merely writing about past stressful life experiences results in symptom reduction among patients with asthma or rheumatoid arthritis.”

Poet May Sarton said that “… the only way through pain … is to go through it, to absorb, probe, understand exactly what it is and what it means …. Nothing that happens to us, even the most terrible shock, is unusable, and everything has somehow to be built into the fabric of the personality ….” Through writing, we can find order and meaning in everything that has happened to us. Whichever form our writing takes: journaling, poetry, memoir, fiction, or essays; it has the power to heal us and to help us grow.

Recently in one of my ongoing writing classes a participant new to the writing process exclaimed with a sense of happy surprise, “I’m learning so much about myself” I know I am always having that experience when I write. Robert Frost said, ” No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.” One of the greatest joys, I get out of writing is when I uncover ways of seeing or perceive that I wasn’t consciously aware of. I’ll stop in the middle of reading over something I had just written and say to myself, “wow I didn’t know I thought that.” It feels good to grasp the deeper threads of meaning in our lives. Writing helps us to form connections with what is going on inside us and with others, allowing us to understand who we are and where and why we do the things we do. It can help us gain a new perspective on habitual behaviors and subconscious patterns that get in the way of living our full potential. Writing can help us to get clear and make the constructive changes in our lives.

There are lots of different ways to use writing for healing and self discovery. You can start by writing about a specific event or situation or relationship. Or begin by writing a letter (that does not get sent) to a person you are having a conflict with in order to more deeply understand what you are really feeling about the situation. Or try writing a dialogue with a pain in your body and ask it what it needs from you as way to tapping the body’s natural ability to heal.

You need to write freely without censoring or worrying about punctuation, spelling or grammar or even how it sounds. Write for ten to twenty minutes without stopping. Don’t edit. Simply write and see what comes out. By allowing what wants to be written without trying to consciously control the flow, you tap into the wisdom of the unconscious and open yourself to the healing power within.

What is Freewriting – And How Do You Use It?

writing penI first encountered the concept of freewriting in 1977 when I found Peter Elbow’s book, Writing without Teachers. Elbow, who had been a professor at MIT, presented this way of working on your writing that is at once simpler and more powerful than any other way I have found.

I’ve come to believe that most writer’s eventually figure out that in order to write well you have to learn to get out of your conscious mind in order to tap the creative flow. Freewriting helps you to do this. I’ve certainly used the technique extensively to evolve my own writing.

All you do is simply force yourself to write without stopping for ten minutes. If you get stuck you keep writing. Keep the pen moving until you break free. Sometimes you will produce good writing, sometimes you will produce garbage. The point is to keep writing. The goal is in the process, not the product.

It is the easiest way to get words on paper and the best all around practice in writing that I know. Freewriting gives practice in focusing, but-not-trying; it helps the conscious self to stand out of the way and let the words be chosen by the sequence of the words themselves or the thought.

The benefits are many: it helps with the existential difficulty of facing the blank piece of paper; it is the best way to learn to separate the creative process from the editorial process; it’s a good warm up; it helps you to learn to write when you don’t feel like writing; it teaches you to write without thinking; it’s a good outlet for clearing away preoccupations; it’s good for brainstorming; and it improves your writing by leading you to tap a true voice.

I started teaching writing workshops more than twenty years ago, where we freewrite for ten minutes and then share what we’ve written in a completely safe and supportive environment. Group members respond to what touches them, what rings true, what they want to hear more about or by parroting back a line that really strike them; all as a way of mirroring the writer’s voice and the potential of the piece

Freewriting allows you to write a tad faster than you can think which gives you access to the unconscious mind. When finished you rarely have any idea what you have written and your conscious mind armed with the critic and censor leads you to believe it’s no good. So receiving the mirroring feedback on what is working in your first draft helps you to learn how to do that for yourself.

I write and share with the group because I feel it only works if I’m willing to feel the same vulnerability as everyone else. I’m amazed year after year at the fine writing that emerges from all the different people who come to the workshops and how I can hear a writer’s voice evolve as they continue to work with this process.

Where the Art of Writing Comes From

Please get out of the habit of saying that you’ve got an idea for a short story. Art does not come from ideas. Art does not come from the mind. Art comes from the place where you dream. Art comes from your unconscious; it comes from the white-hot center of you. – Robert Olen Butler

About twenty years ago while attending the poetry workshop at the writers conference at Port Townsend, Washington, I had a chance to talk to Robert Olen Butler who was teaching the fiction workshop. While sitting on the grassy knoll above the Puget Sound, he spoke of his time in Vietnam, when he served as military attache in Saigon, where he became fluent in the language. He loved the Vietnamese and would sit on a stoop in the middle of the night engaged in conversation.

At the time of the conference, though he had a reputation as a fine writer and a dedicated teacher, all his books were out of print. A few months later, his new collection of short stories, A Good Scent From a Strange Mountain won the Pulitzer Prize. The stories, which all involve characters that are Vietnamese, reflect the importance the people and the culture played in Butler’s life and imagination.

Recently I came upon a book of his, From Where You Dream: The Process of Writing Fiction, in which he really emphasizes the importance of writing from the unconscious, the dream mind. He does a beautiful job of describing the difficulties involved as well as the importance of letting go of your linear mind and engaging your sensory and sensual experiences in order to fully tap the creative process.

In my own writing classes I start with a short meditation designed to quiet the mind and drop us all down into the heart mind, making it easier to access the imagination and creative flow. We then work with exercises to help in letting go, trusting the process and allowing what wants to be born out of the well of the subconscious to flow out on to the page.

Another key element I learned from Butler in a talk he gave at the conference, is that good writing was full of moment by moment sensual detail. Focusing on the felt sense of an experience, learning to let go and then writing about things that are really important to you are key ingredients in developing the art of writing.

If you enjoyed this article consider subscribing to my monthly newsletter. Just click on the mail list subscribe tab in the column to your left. Thanks!

Irish Philosopher & Poet John O’Donohue

The imagination is not interested in two-dimensional reductionism or naively pitting one side against another, dark against light. It is interested in the place where the two sides meet, and what they give birth to when they cross-fertilize each other. That is the heart of creativity. – John O’Donohue

In memory of John O’Donohue, 1954 to 2008

I first met John O’Donohue about 20 years ago when I participated in a workshop he offered with David Whyte in Seattle on the Celtic Imagination. I had signed up because I admired David’s work. I had never heard of John. Yet from the first moment he opened his mouth and words flowed out on the music of his Irish accent, I sensed I was in the presence of someone extraordinary. Wisdom rose on his tongue, causing revelations to flood my mind. He spoke of the lack of soul in contemporary culture, calling advertising “schooling in false desire”. That phrase particularly hung in my mind while my pen scratched out pages of notes attempting to capture everything he said. I kept wondering, who is this man?

Poet and philosopher with a PhD in philosophical theology from the University of Tubingen in Germany. A Catholic priest by vocation, a role he would eventually relinquish after years of consideration because as he put it “the oxygen had become too scarce and found myself diverging from quite a few of the teachings.” Still he continued to praise the power and importance of the essence of the Christian tradition and the legacy of the great Christian mystics like Meister Eckhart, John of the Cross and Hildegard von Bingen.

I waited for several years for the book I knew would come out of him. His first titled Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom, from the Irish words for soul friend was an international bestseller. Followed by Eternal Echoes and Beauty: An Invisible Embrace. I have over the years been repeatedly drawn back to his work. His words slipping under my skin traveling I think from his soul to mine.

Rooted deep in the West of Ireland, he lived in a cottage heated with peat and spoke Irish as his everyday language. He was born in County Clare in the unique limestone region of The Burren, the part of Ireland that always pulls me back. From a grounded sense of belonging his mind rode the seas of imagination as he wrote and traveled to speak and teach to a wider world. Every May John held a a ten day rambling retreat in the West of Ireland. I had very much wanted to go one year. Not this year, I had thought but hopefully the next. And now this man who was so vibrantly alive is gone so unexpectedly at age 53, a keen reminder to me to attend to what calls to me without waiting, to ask the question every day, What do I really want to do with the time I’m given, and to show up fully for my life each day.

David Whyte in this eulogy to John said, “This is a man who could hold the broad spectrum of human experience together in a fierce, intimate and compassionate way, leavened with a humour that defies easy description and that enlivened everyone around him . . .John was a love-letter to humanity from some address in the firmament we have yet to find and locate, though we may wander many a year looking or listening for it. He has gone home to that original address and cannot be spoken with except in the quiet cradle of the imagination that he dared to visit so often himself.”

Exploring Ancient Ireland

On one trip to Ireland, just before the New Year I arrived at the Green Door Hostel in Drogheda, a small city north of Dublin close to the sacred sites in the Boyne River Valley. In true Irish fashion, Norm the manager, made me warmly welcome. When I told him I was I interested in leading a writing journey to the area, he said “well let me call Richard and see if he’ll want to drop by for a cup of coffee, he knows a lot about the sites.”

Richard turned out to be Richard Moore painter and coauthor of Island of the Setting Sun: In Search of Ireland’s Ancient Astronomers a book about the astronomically-aligned giant stone monuments, erected over 5,000 years ago that are older than Stonehenge and the Pyramids. Despite their apparent simplicity, these ancient structures were crafted by a community of farmers who were clearly skilled astronomers, engineers and surveyors who made these shrines to honor their beliefs in an afterlife. On my tour of Newgrange, the best preserved and excavated to the monuments I was intrigued to learn that there is no evidence of slavery so these structures were clearly a community effort.

Richard who lives a few doors down from the hostel arrived shortly after and as the kettle began to steam, he referred to a poster he has created call The High Man that hangs on the hostel kitchen wall. Having lived in the area all his life, he had begun studying a map of the ancient roads and noticed that they formed the shape of a figure of a warrior that seemed to mirror the pattern of the constellation Orion. The key sacred sites in the region are located at the knees, the head, the mouth and other key parts of the body. Richard said that in studying the rich history and mythology of this part of Ireland he found the stories corresponded to different aspects of the figure as well.

Knowing something of Irish history and mythology I was amazed by Richard’s depth of knowledge and insight into the region. I was also struck by the sense that this place where myth and history bleed into one another is really fertile ground for the human imagination. Later in exploring the sites on my own I could feel, as I stood in the icy cold, a deep sense of peace rising from the land and the pull these ancient people have on my own imagination. Back at the Green Door Hostel, I mention to Eamonn, the owner, that so little is known about who these ancients were and how they lived. He looks at me with a lively smile a keen sense of irony in his tone and says, “well, we know they knew the world was round.”

If you are interesting in visiting Ireland consider joining me for a Journey to the West of Ireland. For more information click on the Ireland Journeys tab in the column on the left.

Tools for Your Writing Practice

Since all writers often experience resistance at facing the blank page it helps to find a pattern in the physical world that can assist you in crossing the threshold into the writing mind. Here are some the elements for you to consider.

Implements: People often ask me when they sign up for one of my writing classes, whether it is best to write with a pen or a computer. The answer, of course, is to find what works best for you.. Some people like the feel of the pen moving across the page. Others, who are fast on the keyboard, sense they can keep up with the flow of ideas more easily that way. If you write with a pen chances are you will find a favorite and stick with it. I write all my first drafts with a rolling ball pen with black ink and a good grip and then revise on the computer.

Ritual: Writing calls for us to enter a different state of mind than our everyday way of thinking, so it helps to use some kind of ritual to signal to the muse or the subconscious that a shift is called for. The most elaborate ritual I’ve heard of came from a poet who wrote only in the mid to late afternoon, in an easy chair, in his pajamas with one cat on his lap. Mine is more simple. I write first thing in the morning before I do anything else, except make my ritual single cup of coffee. I then sit down with it along with my favorite pen to see what want my attention.

Location: I used to have to leave the house and go out for coffee in order to write because I found it easier to face the blank page free from the phone calls that needed to be returned or the toilet bowl that called out for cleaning. Writing is an inherently isolated activity and I like to feel of being part of the world when I do it. I find comfort in the bustle of a cafe that seems to keep my more critical mind occupied while I slip beneath the radar into the creative mind. Other people need complete quiet. It can also be help to set up space in your home just for writing. If you don’t have a room, how about a corner of the bedroom or some other room where you are unlikely to interrupted.

Time: A lot of people write first thing in the morning before they do anything else, while their mind is still close to the dream state and can more easily tap the creative flow which has a similar feel. Doing it first thing makes your creativity a priority. It’s easier to show up for it before you get caught up in the events of the day. Still if you are not a morning person, figure out which part of the day works best. I suggest you write the time in your day planner and get in the habit of showing up on a regular basis, even if it’s only for twenty minutes, even on the days you feel resistance or uninspired. Inspiration only arrives after you have started writing.

If you enjoyed this article please subscribe to my free newsletter. Just click on the Mail List Subscribe tab in the column on the left and enter your email. Thanks.

Why Creativity Coaching?

Creative concept pages of book Sunrise landscape in Summer lookiThe creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself. – Alan Alda

Creativity has long been a part of my life. I was fortunate to have had a father who valued the world’s great literature giving me a reverence for books and working with words. I’m sure that’s what allowed me to develop as a writer. I also remember as a teenager when I expressed an interest in drawing and painting he brought books home from the library to encourage me. It wasn’t until I started working as a creativity coach that I fully realized what a gift my father had given me.

I found a lot of people didn’t have that kind of support for being creative when they were younger and unfortunately that can lead to the feeling that we just don’t have what it takes to be creative. Also our school systems with their focus on conformity and standardized testing tend to stifle creativity. As Beatrix Potter said, “Thank goodness I was never sent to school; it would have rubbed off some of the originality.” As a collective society generally views creativity as frivolous rather than the natural human capacity and gift it is.

Psychologist Abraham Maslow said, “The key question isn’t “What fosters creativity?” But it is why in God’s name isn’t everyone creative? Where was the human potential lost? How was it crippled? I think therefore a good question might be not why do people create? But why do people not create or innovate? We have got to abandon that sense of amazement in the face of creativity, as if it were a miracle if anybody created anything.”

The good news is that I found it’s easy to reclaim. As one participant in my Exploring Your Creative Self workshop put it,”it’s amazing that the creativity is right there just below the surface waiting to come alive.” In my twenty years of teaching the writing process and more recently in my work as a creative coach I’ve found that is always true. I’ve never worked with a client where I wondered “what are they doing here”. Instead I wonder, “what took them so long.” Keep in mind that each one of us expresses our unique creative self through a variety of possibilities: writing, painting, dance, music, gardening, cooking, creative problem solving, inventing, mechanics or whatever area we want to bring as expanded way of thinking and being to.

Pablo Picasso said, “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” Part of the secret of reclaiming our creativity is play. Be willing to just explore and experiment without needing it to mean anything or be important. Play is the quickest way to enter the creative flow. Having fun with the process helps you to ignite your creativity and then make certain to nurture the first sparks with curiosity and kindness.

Creativity coaching can offer the support, guidance and a sense of permission that we may have missed when we were younger. It can open to door to the deep sense of satisfaction that comes from expressing ourselves creatively or it can help us get moving if we find ourselves feeling stuck or blocked along our creative path.

Nature and Creativity

Eretmochelys imbricataWhen I received the inspiration for the name of my business Creativity Goes Wild I was on a modern day vision quest in an extraordinary canyon in southern Utah that allowed me to really open to the flow of new ideas. Along with the name, I also got that the essence of the work included three different elements: Nature, creativity and the soul which are aspects we can connect to that can really help us live full and authentic lives.

I have long thought of nature as the original artist. If you spend any time in nature and pay close attention, you become aware of the beauty and design and patterns in both small things like the symmetry in pine cones and snowflakes or on a grander scale the patterns in the erosion of mountains or the movement of clouds across the sky.

At first glance nature might look chaotic or random or disordered but the more you observe and learn about the natural world the more you become aware of the elegance of design in every creation. We can draw inspiration for our own creativity from spending time in Nature, the same way we feel inspired by visiting an art exhibit, going to a play or watching a good movie.

Spending time in nature actually slows down our brain waves, taking us from the beta waves where our mind attends to daily activities into alpha waves which offer a naturally meditative state where we access the part of our mind that has new thoughts and ideas, flashes of insight, and more readily makes connections. This can help us with the essence of the creative impulse and process.

Whenever I find myself stuck on a creative project I will go for a walk in nature and it always opens me back up to the flow. Or if I am looking for a place to begin a creative work I will plant the seed in my subconscious mind and then go to nature, not to think about it, but to allow the inspiration to rise to the surface of my mind.

Try it. Whether you like to sit in the garden or go for a walk among the trees, see if you don’t find that connecting to nature doesn’t open you up to new ideas and possibilities.