A what point do we say, “Yes I am that”

 

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“Life is a lively process of becoming” Douglas Macarthur

Recently, I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen for some time, at a small local art show where she was displaying her beautiful ceramic work. I was in awe of her skill and courage to purse a more challenging vocation in the arts, rather than her formerly safe job as a teacher. As I excitedly embraced her, I said, “I didn’t know you’d be here today.” To which she replied, “It’s good to see you too, and you should be here too.”

In a rather diminished and child-like voice I said, “I’d love to…maybe…one day.” The rather different response inside my head instead was “Um, duh, No. Why would I be here. I don’t have anything to offer. I’m not a bona fide artist. I’m not formally trained in any medium, why would I be here?”

But then I thought, hang on a minute, over the past few years haven’t I’ve tried my hand at ceramics, photography, sewing and print making and writing. Surely this counts for something, and isn’t there a clue here as to what my passion might be?

While I hadn’t been prepared to call myself anything remotely “arty”, I have been in exploration mode, looking for a new world in which I want my future self to inhabit. The journey into creativity isn’t an easy one for people with low self-belief. Criticism is rife in our world at the best of times, sadly, it is deeply intrenched in the world of creativity. I was beginning to tire of pretending that I wasn’t creative so, I’ve decided I am going to give myself permission to…

  1. Mess around and waste time, paint and/or fabric or whatever other materials, as I practice, practice, practice
  2. Try different creative pursuits, mediums, techniques
  3. And EXPLORE!

Explore! Remember that thing we used to do as kids. Get dirty, climb things, cut and paste anything we could get our hands on, and sticking them to anything and everything we could find.  We’d try this with a dash of that and then asked, what if I turn it upside down, or inside out, add a little salt, or soil or a beautiful leaf that’s just been offered to us by the autumnal apple tree in our backyard? “What if?”, is what we constantly asked. We didn’t look for outcomes. We looked for solutions in the process itself. Creativity in childhood is a vibrant, courageous and brilliant time. But sadly, as we get older, some of us can lose this precious skill, this gift.

As soon as I had a quiet moment I explored my ideas around how I saw myself in relation to creativity. I realised that when I got my ego out of the way, and it’s demands for impossible standards of skill and qualifications, that I was slowly growing a nice little body of creative work that wouldn’t look out of place at a small local art show.  Importantly, despite not having a Doctorate in creativity, I can at least call myself an Artist-in-training and heaven forbid, even display some of my work!

So far there have been a few wins in the photography stakes, particular success with one of my favourite subjects, flowers. That’s one of my babies at the top of this post. And with each blog I write, there is often a “like” here or there, so my writing can’t be too bad either.

Then I thought I’d try my hand at a long burning desire to screen print on fabric. While these first attempts are quite simple, I just fell in love with the vibrancy and joy that comes from even the simplest of designs. I also love the tactile nature of this process and you get to see the results immediately. This simple leaf design has become one of my favourites and as it’s printed on a tea towel, it makes drying the dishes just that little bit more pleasurable. I did say a little bit!

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The print below was made by creating simple butterfly cut outs from the cheapest of cheap materials, newspaper! I started with orange on one side and blue on the other and then one of those happy accidents happened, and the two colours began to blend, creating a beautiful purple in the middle. Who would have thought!

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The person who couldn’t call herself creative or artistic also made quilts, various other funky bags and soft toys. The list seems to grow the more I look!

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She who has struggled to call herself creative also crocheted these baskets and then as I looked at what else I’ve crocheted, the list grows here too.

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It’s so easy to forget what we have achieved over time, to dismiss the many things we have tried or created simply because we don’t consider ourselves “qualified”. If you grew up with little emotional support, or for whatever reason suffer with low self esteem, you too might also be very hard on yourself and think that what you achieve is never enough. I know that my crochet basket photo is not perfect, and that I’ve probably made a few mistakes in writing this post, but I’ve decided to leave a few flaws here and there. There is no longer room in my life for perfectionism because it affected my health, and I’m certainly not wasting any more time waiting for the day when I’m supremely qualified or perfect. It might matter if you’re a brain surgeon but I’m not a surgeon who works on bodies, my work is in the mind and why we think what we think. Which is why I’m exploring an old/new passion, exploring vulnerability by exposing my work and my journey, and learning to be brave through creativity and seeing where it takes me.

So when someone asks me what I’m “doing with myself these days”, I’ll bravely reply that I’m a CREATIVE-IN-TRAINING. I will no longer skirt around the issue or make excuses for what I do. With my brave boots on, I step forward into my ever evolving life.

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I invite you to join me in declaring what it is that you love, and finding ways that you can become at one with that thing that you love.

Don’t waste another day not living as a whole person.

It’s your life. Live it wholly and fully.

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Don’t ignore that tap on the shoulder

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Image: canyon-news.com

There is a voice that doesn’t use words. Listen. – Rumi

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had something tugging at my sleeve for many years now. It feels like a pestering tug that won’t let up, that keeps stubbornly trying to get my attention and just won’t go away. I knew that I had to acknowledge that ‘unseen’ part of me, that deep presence, the place of knowing that can only be felt and not reasoned. I didn’t want to acknowledge it because I knew that it was coaxing me into action. It would push me into that super uncomfortable zone, the place where all shields are down and you go out, fully exposed. But the time had come. I had to listen.

That “thing” that was desperately trying to get my attention was my soul’s yearning, it was calling, begging me to follow a hunch, with no details, instructions or landing sight. And I’m not talking about “purpose” here, I’m talking about something that needs to be  undertaken, for it’s own purpose. I was being called to open myself up to a mystery, to tune in to a desire, a yearning buried so deep, that I was no longer completely sure what IT was. What did it look like, feel like, taste like? Is it something that excited me? We are so good at cutting ourselves off from our deepest passions that a mere spider’s thread connects us to our golden orb, our soul. That orb is like the light that shines from our heart when we are totally immersed in our pleasure, in the “thing” that makes us unique, in the thing that takes us out of time and space, and drops us into the timeless dimension.

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But why, oh why, do we allow the very thing that excites us, that sustains our souls to perish, little by little, like a neglected toy, gathering dust and mould in a darkened corner? We neglect our “joy generators” at our peril because in today’s detached world, we need something to anchor us, to help us connect to our authentic selves and to the infinite and creative source of all existence.

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Image: Highheelrunner.wordpress.com

Tofu-man takes control

I was one such person. Many years ago my love of music saw me performing in very small venues with a band of wannabes and even after a long day at the office, performing had me on such a high that I thought I would burst. Every cell in my body began to shimmer with joy and satisfaction, with no agenda other than being in love with the act of creation, but then, my mind took control. It told me that I could never make it to the top because of a lack of talent, looks, connections, the X factor, you name it, the excuses came thick and fast. And so, because of a bunch of dialogue made up by a lump of tofu like mass inside my skull, I gave it away. Years later, my creative soul tried tapping me on the shoulder again, but this time enticing me with art, then ceramics, but each time, tofu-man stood like judge and jury and began to pronounce my ideas as being guilty of a crime against my ego, that following such silly creative pursuits was wasteful of time and money, contributed nothing to the world economy, would not keep the insatiable machine of industry fed and was about as useful as concrete wings on a bird. So again, I gave up. Not realising that I had just replaced my own wings with concrete ones.

Fast forward many years and I learnt to ignore my creativity, and instead adopted a “normal life”, pursuing the nice house, car, balancing career, family, friends, pets etc., leaving me no time for anything else. Phew! It meant tofu-man would be happy, at least for a while, but then slowly but surely, my body began to crumble. You see egos don’t have the brains to understand that suppressing one’s ‘soul-vocation’ in favour of following social dictators would eventually hurt my body, my soul, and ultimately, all of me.

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Hundreds of hours of self-analysis made me realise that Tofu-man was not me, he is just a bunch of programs that were passed on from other tofu brains whose initial intention was to keep us safe, but sadly, this kind of thinking is based on fear.  Over time, this fear was used to keep us all under control, to make us conform so that we remain on the economic treadmill, earn money, spend money and keep a few individuals in the monetarily rich life they had become accustomed to. To control the masses, there is absolutely no room for individuation, for soul expression or living a passionate life. We are told that creativity doesn’t pay the bills. No, it doesn’t always produce monetary results, but it does nourish our hearts and souls and helps pave the way to better health and a more satisfied life. Creativity calls for chaos, for challenging the social norms, for expressing beauty for the sake of it, for shaking people out of their stupor and saying, “Hey you? Look at this amazing photo of the soon to be extinct white tiger.” It triggers us into creating music that soothes our frazzled nerves one minute and then propels us into social action the next. Creativity provides solutions to problems, it is meditative and healing. I’m guessing if creativity was at the top of our priority lists, that we’d reduce our hospital admissions by 80%.

For me, a sick body forced me to see for the first time that tofu-man had been running my life. He’s not just my judge and jury, but also my jailer. He’d kept me from the things I truly loved but was afraid to follow. So, despite being around the “middle” age of my life, I say to my tofu-man, no more. I’m taking back control. Last week I took my first guitar lesson in years and wow did it feel good!  The next day I purchased some watercolour paints and coloured pencils. Just looking at the beautiful colours sets my heart a racing.

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And to my tofu-man I say thanks for trying to protect me, but your kind of protection is like spraying weed killer on a plant that’s about to blossom. We often do this to our children too. Just as they’re about to open their buds and burst into the world in a blaze of colour, we pass on tofu-man’s fears and shut them down. Well, it’s never too late to make scrambled tofu with your ego, instead of letting it run your life. If you can relate to this but don’t know how to move forward, then here’s a suggestion.

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Find your silly happy

Find a quiet place and put on some music that calms and soothes you. Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and time travel to happy childhood moments when you were doing something that made you silly happy. If like me, you buried your silly happy moments deep in your memory banks, don’t worry, be patient and just sit with it. You may have to try this a few times.

If that doesn’t work, then you get to play, to experiment and try a whole host of creative things to see if you can reconnect with that deep joyful love that you once had for a particular activity. Take photos, join a choir, learn an instrument, take up sewing, restore furniture, gardening and so on.  Counselling, Hypnotherapy or Art therapy might help too. Whatever you do, don’t give up, keep looking. Your health, wellbeing and full expression of your life depend on it.

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What’s your meaning of success?

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“Sometimes, in order to move forward, you need to stop moving, be still, and feel for the wind. Then allow it to blow you in the right direction.” Silvana Nagl

 

I don’t know about you, but I’m glad to have many beautiful friends, all steaming ahead in their respective careers. They are producing wonderful websites, podcasts, luscious logos, growing practices and an ever growing army of followers and clients. And then there’s me.  You see I too had tried to hitch a ride on the “you can have anything”, affirmation-manifestation train with my own practice, but each time we left the station, the train broke down. Being a slow learner, I kept pushing, despite my body hinting that I should stop.

I thought I wanted that highly visible kind of success, but the harder I tried, the more the brakes were put on. Perhaps I was heading in the wrong direction?

Occasionally I would listen to my body, rest, feel a bit better and then I’d go, full steam ahead again, trying to design a new logo, wasting precious hours on my website and all the while, ignoring that niggling, subterranean voice that says, “something’s not right here lady”. Like anyone who feels their self-worth is measured by their work, I ignored it, and ignored it, until, down came the curtains to my much anticipated return to the stage, yet again.  For someone who has ‘wisdom’ in her business name, I was pretty good at ignoring my own intuitive guidance and ‘wisdom’.

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The crunch came last week, when my body crashed and I was again forced back to bed. I was angry, sad, frustrated, confused. Why was it, that just as I seemed close to taking my business to another level I was waylaid again? Well, I wasn’t checking in to see which direction the wind was blowing.  Clearly, I was constantly running against the wind and I didn’t realise that the mini tornadoes called health issues, were trying to turn me around, and point me in a different direction. Slow learner I know!

Doing the work I’m known for and good at, this time, I booked in for an appointment with myself, the wise counsellor, and not the ego maniac. I took myself deep into the murky depths to look at what was going on. What I found wasn’t pretty, but I knew from experience that I could make it nice again. What I found was the perfectionist trait, again, dangling in the dark cavern of my mind, but attached to this thought was my old nemesis, the self-worth monster. Despite years of coaxing and trying to appease this insatiable beast, and its perfectionist side-kick, they remained wedged between old, rock-hard beliefs and thoughts, fighting many attempts at eviction.

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The way I, and my clients find these blocks is through awareness. Are you able to be still long enough to observe your own thoughts, watch your own behaviours? These provide much needed clues and a pathway to transforming ugly monsters into soft fluffy toys.  My  “aha” moment came during the seemingly innocuous activity of sewing. Yep sewing. It’s one of those activities that requires focus, is almost meditative and usually doesn’t allow for distractions.  Last year I attended a beginners sewing class and instantly fell in love with the process of creation and playing with funky fabrics. I rushed out, bought a sewing machine, yards of adorable material but then was stopped in my tracks again. The problem was, the fabrics were too beautiful. “What?” I hear you ask. Yep, tragic right? As a perfectionist, I didn’t want to learn to sew using beautiful fabrics, nor could I work with old cheap and cheesy Christmas fabric either. Now these fabrics are simple cottons, not silk or organza, but they have pretty designs on them and I didn’t want to waste them. Yep, I grew up with a scarcity mentality and this kills creativity. Of course, there is the possibility that I wouldn’t mess things up and make something lovely, but I only thought of the possibility of failure and loss, not ‘success’. Eeek! Some serious work needs to be done here.

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So what does perfectionism, sewing and fabrics have to do with running a business? Everything! You see I’m a good counsellor and I help people, but I don’t need wicked websites and extraordinary e-books, or punchy podcasts to be a ‘success’. Tackling my monster, I’ve learnt to be ok with doing ‘my thing’, ‘my way’.  When I stopped long enough, I noticed that the weather vane directed me towards helping people from community agencies like those who help victims of domestic violence, and providing phone support, rather than working form a clinic. And I realise that it has to be this way because I also need to honour and feed my creative side, to sink my face into a bundle of beautiful cotton material and whiz up a gift for a friend, or for a sick child. Running a busy practice is all consuming and while I love my work, I am also more than my work. Of course my writing, sewing and soon to add fabric design doesn’t pay the bills, so in terms of the materialist view of success, it’s an outright failure. But measured in terms of personal value, satisfaction and joy, the success that comes from pursuing heartfelt interests, is off the scale.

 

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Can you find a place in your life where you can let go of the flagpole and fly with the wind?

 

Passion, Focus and Courage

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“Passion is one great force that unleashes creativity, because if you’re passionate about something, then you’re more willing to take risks.” – Yo-Yo Ma

Some time ago, I was grappling with focus, as in trying to focus on one thing I loved, instead of many. You see I have many “loves” or passions, that all pull me in their own respective directions. Unlike my neighbour who says she has no interests outside family and work, I have an encyclopaedia of delicious creative underlings all vying for my attention, from counselling and mentoring to writing, sewing, photography, gardening, the list goes on and on.

So how to focus and do “that one thing”?  I recalled some advice from a clever coach who asked his students to try and identify what I call the “time munchers”.  He used sensible words like, “identify those activities , those pursuits, where time seems to stand still and yet so much time has passed without you realising it”. I have to admit that all my interests are time munchers but there is one that seems to call more loudly than the rest and it is writing.

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When I’m doing the dishes and staring blankly at the foaming water, dialogue forms in my head, as though a secret little stash of ideas just sits, waiting to hitch a ride on a soapy bubble and float it up into my “head-o-sphere”. Or when I’m making soup, in a queue at the supermarket, or sweeping a floor. Ideas emerge from the ether with little effort or even a request on my part. And so, many hours are happily munched away as my fingers transmit the offerings into shapely things on a screen. And then they wait, and wait, and wait in cyber-land until I channel a brave archetype, and realise that it’s ok to share these musings. You see I, like many writers I suffer with the “good enough syndrome” – that debilitating state of mind that judges and critiques and compares and never seems to be satisfied.

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So, to cure this syndrome, I had to remind myself that anyone can call themselves a writer, there aren’t any prerequisites, no forms to fill in, no DNA checks required – you call yourself a writer because you love to write. I’m also a photographer and a crocheter because these are the things I do. I may not have a PhD in any of my interests but I make no claims to be an expert, simply a lover of creative pursuits. Creativity is like manna from heaven, a golden faucet allowing inspiration to flow and inspire, a poultice for a wounded heart or a frazzled mind.

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Twice today I’ve munched away my time doing something I love, and I sincerely hope you will too. Take courage and take the first step towards doing something that helps you jump on that space-time continuum, where you disappear into the “time munching” field of creation. Taking the bold step to follow creative urges, particularly when we are newbies, does take courage but each time you make a new beginning, you will strengthen your courage to step into the unknown, after all, despite all our cleverness, no one knows what tomorrow holds.

So to help you make a start in following your passion, I shall leave you with these beautiful words, from a truly expert wordsmith, the late and great mystic John O’Donahue, from his book “Benedictus”. John truly understood the divine act of creation and that we have to simply trust our own hearts and intuition, make a start and follow that which is already here.

“Indeed, our very life here depends directly on continuous acts of beginning; but these beginnings are out of our hands; they decided themselves. Beginning precedes us, creates us and constantly takes us to new levels and places and people. There is nothing to fear in the act of beginning. More often than not, it knows the journey ahead better than we ever could.”

So what is your passion?  Why not take one small step towards it today.

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