Saturday, July 31, 2021

Dog Days of Summer

I always thought the expression Dog Days of Summer referred to those days we'd get in August that were so hot and humid, even the dogs just wanted to lay around and do nothing. 

But the saying actually comes from the bright star, Sirius, which in late July into mid-August, aligns with the sun. Sirius is the brightest star seen anywhere from earth and is part of the constellation, Canis Major, or, The Greater Dog. Who knew?

In New England, where I grew up, we moaned about those hot, humid, dog days. There, August is like the end of summer. Things start to wind down with Labor Day, and you know you can expect September to bring cooler nights and days with delightful temps. 

Now I live in Florida, where August is more like mid-summer, with a lot more hot, humid weather to come, and no real relief until late October or even November. The idea of it can really drag you down if you let it....

So, how does that relate to our summer creativity class? Well, we're two months into it now, and our last meeting is at the end of the month. Right about now, you might be running out of steam and it can be hard to keep the momentum going, especially if you are feeling any sort of dog-day-drag. Time for a little re-boot coming into the home stretch.

My suggestion for August is to set some small, achieveable goals to keep you motivated. This could be just one small thing each week that stirs your creative soul or moves you forward. It could be as simple as reading a book that inspires you, taking walks in nature or meditating. Dreaming and planning are creative endeavors too....

Or, you can set some goals that really challenge you! The main thing is that by setting some kind of goals, and particularly, writing them down - you hold yourself accountable - for listening to and nurturing that creative flame inside you - the one we reignited in our first class. 

These are the goals I'm setting for August:
  • By month-end, have completed the final versions of the sketches to go with the first poem in my collection of poetry for kids.
  • Spend time quietly revisiting the notes from my David Whyte seminars, and see what inspiration arises
  • Write a rough draft of the next chapter in my book. It can be a messy first draft, but that's okay.

Since our last class focused on overcoming obstacles that can block our creative paths, I'll end with this quote from dancer Martha Graham, who reminds us how important every individual's creative contributions are:

"There 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 of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost. The world will not have it."

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Breathing is an Art Form

 I'll start this post by letting my creativity workshop group know that I realize I forgot to do the "What is it?" exercise I had in mind, so we'll start with that when we meet next month! 

As a creative exercise in between now and then, I invite you to try drawing the negative space. This is an approach that artists use  - they draw the part that isn't there! Even if drawing isn't your creative realm, it can be a valuable exercise for stimulating the imagination, seeing beyond the obvious, and loosening the constraints of perfectionism. 

Try it with something that has simple lines and shape, like this jar. Just start sketching in the space around the jar....

Our class this month focused on identifying the blockages that arose for us as we tried to move forward with creative pursuits. Our yoga practices focused on reinvigorating our voices - literal and figurative voices - with confidence and authenticity, through physical movement, breath, and chant.

I think we tend to think that famous creative people are different from us - that they don't experience the same obstacles we do. So I was blown away by this quote from Georgia O'Keefe. Turns out that she experienced having her voice shut down in a variety of ways, but ultimately used that frustration to fuel the fire of her authentic artistic voice:

"I found myself saying to myself...I can't live where I want to...I can't go where I want to...I can't do what I want to. I can't even say what I wanted to. I decided I was a very stupid fool not to at least paint as I wanted to...that seemed to be the only thing I could do that didn't concern anybody but myself."                                                                                                     ~Georgia O'Keefe

With regard to ways of dealing with barriers that arose, a wealth of helpful insight and wisdom was shared by students. Here are just two examples, with thanks to all participants for their courage and honesty in sharing their experiences and learnings:.

"Breathing is an art form. Give yourself the time and space for what you need." 

"This pandemic has caused me to realize that I need to redesign a whole new way of living, which reminded me that life itself is a creative process."

Here's a list of the common obstacles to creativity that we identified. Feel free to add your own!

  • Time (lack of)
  • Energy (lack of)
  • Difficulty balancing responsibilities with creative pursuits
  • Too many good ideas! In ability to focus in on one thing.
  • Fear of being judged
  • Fear of being silenced
  • Fear of success
  • Fear of failure
  • Perfectionism
  • Forgetting that everything we do can be a creative endeavor!
  • The tyranny of "should" and "ought to"
  • Getting started

And some of our practices to move past, through, over, under and around those obstacles!

  • Find even just a little bit of quiet time to just let things be
  • Try mind quieting techniques like meditation and focusing on the breath
  • Distract yourself - do something else for a while
  • Do what you're afraid to do (like getting feedback! Like sitting down at the desk or easel!)
  • Do something creative that has nothing to do with your primary creative goals. Try a new recipe, dance, draw if you write, write if you draw, rearrange the pillows!
  • Give yourself credit for being creative with the small things of daily life
It helps to remember that creativity doesn't have to be BIG and that sometimes it's okay (and necessary) not to be creative at all! I'll end with this quote that speaks to just that:

"One must also accept that one has "uncreative" moments. The more honestly one can accept that, the quicker these moments will pass." ~ Etty Hillesum

So, to reiterate the wisdom of one of our participants: Breathing is an art form. Give yourself the space you need.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Open and Listen

For this week's inspiration and encouragement, Open and Listen, I'm sharing another excerpt from Jack Kornfield's book, No Time Like the Present. These thoughts pick up where we left off last week, with the idea of trusting the process.

From No Time Like the Present, by Jack Kornfield:

"Creativity is a way of allowing the ever-renewing energies of life to move through you....

"When you open yourself to creativity, faith in life's wellspring grows. This trust allows you to listen, collaborate, fail, discover, explore and see anew. As you open and listen, something new will be born.

"Creativity needs letting go, an attentive releasing to allow something new to be born. Follow your instincts, your feelings, your senses, your body. let a small feeling of irritation become a rivulet that leads to a poem...Let a jiggling foot or a tense shoulder make a movement that grows into dance....

"Initiate wildly, break up, build up, try deliberate errors, circle, get down, get over your ideas, get over yourself, and above all, trust..."

Here's a photo of my husband, Dick, breaking into spontaneous dance while packing up our house in Santa Fe, NM. It's an old photo, but it always cracks me up. Be like Dick!

We talked a lot about intuition, listening to and trusting our inner voice, during our first class in June. In fact, the whole class focused on this idea of bringing our intuitive feelings and our emotional feelings into alignment, so that when we express our creativity - in whatever form - it will reflect our own authentic voices, unaffected and uncensored by the ideas, opinions or voices of others.

As we move through July, I invite you to continue listening - not just with your ears, but with your inner ears - your intuitive, emotional and physical senses. What feels right to you?

I like these suggestions from Kornfield for activities to help us on this journey:

  • Take walks, without friend or phone. Look at the sky, the trees, nature with all its subtleties. Listen.
  • Imagine that you are starring in the movie of your life. See your role, your part in the story. Much of it is already written, but you choose what happens next, and how to play your part.
  • Envision your whole life as a work of art. What might you add to make it more interesting, more stylish, more beautiful, more fun? 
In our July class, we'll be talking about obstacles that get in the way of expressing our creativity. I suspect that one we might all share is one that Kornfield mentions above - getting over ourselves! I experienced this very thing last week, and I'll share more about that when we meet. 

Our inspiration for this coming week is Open and Listen...and I also love Kornfield's suggestion of making deliberate errors, so I think I'll give that a try!

Friday, July 9, 2021

Trust the Process

This summer I'm leading an online workshop series called Live Your Creative Life: A Yoga Workshop to Help Your Creativity Blossom and Grow. Our class meets once a month in June, July, and August to explore yoga practices and fun exercises geared toward re-igniting and nurturing the flame of creativity that lives inside us all. 

Between monthly classes, we'll use this blog to stay connected and motivated. On a weekly basis, I'll share ideas, quotes, tips, and anything else that I come across or experience that might help keep that flame lit, especially as the journey proceeds and inevitable obstacles emerge. 

Of course, anyone who happens to stop by here is welcome to make use of what is shared too!

This week, I offer an excerpt called Crafting Your Life, from No Time Like the Present by Jack Kornfield:

"You may think, I'm not an artist or even a creative person. But you are, and the canvas is your life.

Your life is a creation, whether wild or small, whether limited to a chair in the corner of a room or to a hostpial bed, whether traveling to Timbuku, having a fabulous family, or six generations of family dysfunction....

Every life is a visionary journey, a creative palette. Wherever you are, step back and reflect. What is the most beautiful vision you have for your life's canvas, starting just where you are?"

As you consider these words, which might present a different view of creativity from how you've thought about it in the past, reflect on these questions Kornfield offers:

  • What is the vision of your life?
  • What limits your imagination?
  • What is your style?
  • What kind of "art" do you want to make?
Perhaps choose just one question, sit with paper and pen, and freely write down anything that comes to mind. Try not to think too much, just let words flow onto paper. You may be surprised at what reveals itself!

My own AHA Moment from this past week:

My creativity goal this week was to start sketching scenes to illustrate some children's poems I've written. I envision the result as being a picture book of read-aloud poems for young children. There are four poems, each quite different from the others.

Got my coffee. Got my colored pencils. Got my blank sketch book. Got my candle.

I played around with scenes for the first poem, and couldn't believe how gleeful - almost giddy - I felt as I remembered how much fun it is to draw! I gave myself permission to scribble and play and let it all be messy and amateurish. To just let the ideas come through the pencils and not worry if the drawings were "good."

Scribbles and sketches

But my Big AHA Moment actually had nothing to do with the drawings themselves! 

The drawings for the first poem use a girl and boy as characters. As I re-read the other poems and began thinking about the images that might accompany them, I realized that, for kids, it would probably be most enjoyable to have the same two characters be the "stars" of all four poems. 

An idea emerges...

It's one of those situations where, once the AHA comes, it seems so obvious that you wonder why you didn't think of it before! For me, it's a great reminder of how the creative process works - by simply engaging in it, the door opens for new ideas to present themselves - or ideas that have been there all along and just needed to be invited to speak up! 

I suddenly feel like this little book idea has a direction, a cohesion, that wasn't there before, and which makes me much more excited about it!

So my own tip for you this week is: Trust the Process! Trust that if you do even just a little something toward your goal, there will be a shift and something new will be revealed!