Fiercely being

Do things that light you up with people who light you up for people you love to serve.

Thanks Jonathan Fields for this inspiring thought on fiercely being, every day, instead of only focusing on what you want to become in the future.

Aiming for this state of being will automatically lead to becoming fulfilled, connected, giving and effective in our work.

Creativity bucket list

oprah

So here it is, my creativity to-do list. (Almost) all of the stuff that I’ve wanted to do for a long time. And now I’m GOING TO:

1. sing

every day, self-taught voice lessons, then join a choir

2. dance

whenever I feel like it, take a class

3. collage

make use of the scraps and images I have collected and left idle for years

4. crafts

make more postcards and presents for friends

5. gardening

help out at the community garden at least once a week

6. cooking

learn some new recipes

7. ritual

establish daily rituals to bring attention and intention everyday life

8. meditative state of mind

be more present, focused and accepting of what is – in everything I do

9. connection

take simple steps to connect, especially with strangers

As I said before, how can you find inspiration without interaction? And reaching out is also a matter of practice. Here’s one easy measure to take (you’re going to laugh,  but it’s really that simple): Lately, when I need to research a problem I’m having with a service provider (insurance, cell phone company, the airline that lost my bag…) instead of wasting time clicking through pages of FAQ online, I call the help line and speak to an actual human being. And guess what, I’ve had some surprisingly warm conversations with call centre staff! (Who are probably desperate for a friendly word themselves…)

10. oh yeah, and blogging 🙂

I’ll keep you posted on how all that goes!

This is a reminder of some of my sources of joy, not a must-do list. It’s about experimenting and having fun, not achievement. To sum it up with the eternal wisdom of Oprah 🙂 :

Do one thing

When I first conceived the idea for this blog I thought I’d set myself a challenge: Engage in one creative activity every day. 

Now I’m realizing that a possible danger with that project is that I might end up turning creative experiences into just another source of pressure, something that has to be done. Those of us prone to achievement-addiction can easily trick ourselves into making even our leisure activities all about performance and ticking off to-do lists.

On the other hand, if you want to establish a positive habit it does take an initial effort and laying out some sort of plan to guide you in that process is usually helpful, even necessary. I recently read the following definition of “willpower” which I think is really helpful. It demonstrates how we can utilize the concept in a positive way on the path of self-development (this is from Charles Eisenstein’s The Yoga of Eating where he presents his approach to establishing healthy eating habits by trusting your body’s own messages instead of clinging to diet dogmas…):

The proper function of willpower and self-discipline is to extend wisdom and insight into times of imperfect clarity; to remember and apply the messages of one’s inner voice. For example, if you are engaged in joyful work, when distractions come you may need to remind yourself of what you really want to be doing….True discipline is really just self-remembering; no forcing or fighting is necessary.

And that’s really how most of us feel about bringing more creativity into our lives, right? It’s what we truly long for but there just never seems to be enough time to write, draw, practice the guitar etc. on a daily basis. I’m already finding this “not enough time” syndrome creeping back into my life although I’m currently unemployed and haven’t even spent any time job-hunting thus far! I have been spending my days doing things I enjoy and find meaningful – what a joy and relief compared to the days waisted sitting in an office! – but I can see I need to establish somewhat of a routine to not let any one of my priorities fall by the wayside.

So establishing routines is one side of making time for what’s important to you. (I’ll give you the scoop on what my routine is going to consist of in the next post – I’m getting busy…!)

But when it comes to being “creative”, I think it’s also valuable to examine what that really means, i.e. aren’t we actually creative in many more ways than those conventionally subsumed under that headline, which tend to focus on strictly artistic activities? Being creative doesn’t always have to be about specific designated activities. Feeling creative I’ve come to think is primarily about expressing / exploring my own true self. In everyday situations that can mean simply not blocking my full potential which naturally wants to flow and manifest itself. I intend to be in visceral connection with my intuition, my physical and emotional state at every moment. That awareness can tell me what it really is that I need or that I am capable of in any given situation. THE most effective way to tune into that intuition is conscious, deep breathing. And that’s something we can all do, all the time.

 

relax

Be courageous and enjoy it!

I saw a young woman on the train a while ago, reading a book with this title. I don’t know the book, but I decided right there and then that I wanted to quote the title one day 🙂 And it happens to perfectly describe the gist of a documentary I saw last night that I found truly inspiring!

“Thoth” by Sarah Kernochan portraits the NYC-based street artist who goes by this name. He’s invented a persona and performance like none you’ve ever seen! That’s all I’m going to say, you need to see it for yourself. Highly recommended if you need some inspiration on how to

embrace your own self and start to act originally, i.e. authentically and with your own style.

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

…said Jack London.
I’m back from my 3 month trip in search of inspiration (check the photography section for some impressions from California and NYC) and now it’s time to take action!
I just glanced at a few notes I had made prior to the journey, outlining the creative challenge I was hoping to tackle:

I have this fear, this nagging doubt – that everything’s been done already. Art, creative projects, business ideas. But when I see some of my friends’ or strangers’ creative output, I’m envious! I instantly get the urge to do something myself! So what is at the root of this lack of faith that my creative ideas / creations could be original or their quality “good enough”?

Maybe this trip will help: Before diving in without fully trusting my creativity, I’ll step back first, calm down, focus, gather strength, most of all: INSPIRATION and CONNECTION with myself and my relation to the world. If I fully felt that personal connection, I suppose it would be that which I’d express in my art or job pursuits. So hopefully I’ll come back with vigour and able to be more within doing – give my projects a purpose within themselves, for me personally. Then they will be original. Or the question of whether they can speak to others too will become secondary to me. (And besides, do they even need to be “original”? Doesn’t art keep repeating the same age-old human themes?)

Co-incidentally Austin Kleon’s book Steal Like An Artist that’s being featured all over the place right now addresses my questions exactly. And his answers are wonderfully reassuring:

These ideas apply to anyone who’s trying to inject some creativity into their life and their work. (That should describe all of us.) … Every artist gets asked the question, “Where do you get your ideas?” The honest artist answers, “I steal them.” … stop worrying about what’s “good” and what’s “bad” – there’s only stuff worth stealing, and stuff that’s not worth stealing… What a good artist understands is that nothing comes from nowhere… Nothing is completely original.

Kleon’s advice: “Don’t wait until you know who your are to get started.”

Right on. That’s exactly the attitude I feel taking root inside me now. I experienced inspiration and connection during my time away and now it’s a matter of continual PRACTICE. Just doing it! And remaining wary: not letting those self-defeating patterns of self-doubt and self-isolation and plain laziness creep back into my life.  I met people who are consciously trying to be creative and true to themselves in their thoughts and actions every day. People who open up and reach out to strangers – something that many people in my city seem to deny themselves, despite the apparently wide-spread longing for more connection. How can people have inspiring encounters and transform these into confident creativity if they don’t open up to the world, every day?

So here goes: Let’s remind ourselves to consciously reach out and reach within, to explore our full potential every single day! Let’s grab that club and hunt down inspiration!

Travel updates!

Yo, check the “West Coast & NYC” pages for tales of indulgence and adventure in Big Sur, Yosemite and San Francisco – and a photographic addition to each of the previously published pages. The next two weeks are devoted to resting and family time in Oregon before the grand urban finale of my trip in New York City!

What I learned in gospel class

As mentioned in my previous post, I recently attended an inspiring introductory workshop to singing gospel songs. Apart from the joy of singing as such, I also took away a number of valuable reminders, aphorisms and new tips on how to foster and sustain a creative way of being, be it expressed through singing or any other form of creativity.

Following, I’ve tried to just summarize my “lessons learnt” succinctly. A list of inspirations so to speak. I will keep coming back to these little bits of wisdom and try applying them in new situations every day.

  1. If you can talk, you can sing. Sing anytime.
  2. Breath – it’s the most important thing.
  3. Be fully present, always.
  4. Make every song your own. Find your own unique voice.
  5. Make it urgent. Artistic expression flows from feeling you must tell this story that is important to you in a personal way.
  6. Imagine your artistic expression as a conversation with one person. Real conversations are about showing emotions, not perfection.
  7. To find your own interpretation of a subject (song/character etc.)
    • engage sense memories  to discover associations that are meaningful to you in a personal way.
    • be precise in finding the exact nuance of the emotion you want to express.
    • keep repeating the song until you get its exact meaning  for you. (Rephrase sentences to mean more to you.)
  8. Experiment with your voice, your creative expression without judgement. Rather focus on the fundamental human experience of expression, connection, comfort and the own particular harmony that is created each time people sing together.
  9. Be spontaneous. Just sing the way you want to sing.
  10. Cry if you need to cry. Wailing is our first song. Release the painful energy through movement, clapping and song.
  11. If you are unwell, ask yourself: When did I stop singing?

 

Update from across the Pond

I’m sorry I’ve been so bad about keeping this blog up to date. Being mostly off the grid, traveling these past two weeks and being so full up with impressions that I don’t even know how to start writing about them do not combine in favour of this blog. In short, I spent a highly inspiring, joyful and deeply touching week at the Esalen Institute on Big Sur taking a singing class with the wonderful Vernon Bush. I will eventually try to distill all of the wisdom that was imparted there concerning creativity and inspiration into a blog post here.

My stay at Esalen was followed up with a road trip back up and down Hw 1, really getting to know that overwhelmingly beautiful stretch of the coast until I felt it was “my Big Sur” :). And then heading on to Yosemite for four nights. Truly a “temple of nature” as John Muir called it. And it does look just like in Ansel Adam’s photos! Especially when the sun breaks through the clouds after a spell of rain. “Epic” seems an appropriate term to describe it. I will try to finally get some photos uploaded to the “West Coast” page and / or photography page ASAP. I’ll have more time now that I’m back at my dear Ojai Foundation for another 3 week volunteer stint. I am happy to be back here. For the first time in my life, I feel I couldn’t go on traveling just now. I am so overflowing with impressions and emotions from these past weeks, I need this quiet, familiar place now to process it all and let the beautiful seed that was sown grow roots in my heart.

Leaving / re-entering

As announced in the ‘About’ section, I’m about to go on a journey. I’m leaving Germany in a week to travel, volunteer and visit family in California, Oregon and New York City.

I’ve traveled  quite a bit and lived abroad before, and after the mandatory excitement, anticipation, last-minute hustle and also melancholy at the thought of leaving friends and places dear to me – suddenly today a feeling of near-comfort and contentment set in.  I know this about-to-go-on-a-journey state of being so well, it actually feels more like I’m re-entering a space that is familiar to me than leaving for the unfamiliar.

These past weeks, I had several random encounters and conversations with strangers and superficial acquaintances – they came to me in defiance of own social withdrawal. I have to admit that I usually try to avoid getting on the same train home with colleagues whom I don’t know well because I dread the tedium of forced small talk. But lately it was as if people were coming after me to refute my prejudices about them! And what do you know: They all had inspiring stories to tell about their own journeys and each one of them admired and encouraged my plans to leave me job in search of something “better”…

Fate giving me some support at last? The unconscious mind opening up to the world now that it’s “safer” because I’m about to leave? My conscious perception of self and world might refuse to agree to either of those propositions. Experience might tell me otherwise.

Be that as it may, my past travels have always led me to a happier and richer (inner and outer) place. I can’t wait to go out and broaden my horizon, and I wish that I’ll be able to transform that outer space into a spaciousness within which will be with me, be me, always, no matter what the circumstances.

I was recently introduced to the marvelous poetry and philosophy of David Whyte and the following poem could not be more appropriate to the beginning of my journey*:

 

Everything is Waiting for You

Your great mistake is to act the drama

as if you were alone. As if life

were a progressive and cunning crime

with no witness to the tiny hidden

transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny

the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,

even you, at times, have felt the grand array;

the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding

out your solo voice You must note

the way the soap dish enables you,

or the window latch grants you freedom.

Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.

The stairs are your mentor of things

to come, the doors have always been there

to frighten you and invite you,

and the tiny speaker in the phone

is your dream-ladder to divinity.

Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into

the conversation. The kettle is singing

even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots

have left their arrogant aloofness and

seen the good in you at last. All the birds

and creatures of the world are unutterably

themselves. Everything is waiting for you.

 — David Whyte

 

*See David Whyte recite the poem at TED: http://youtu.be/5Ss1HuA1hIk