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

Advertisements

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?

 

Happiness is a sunny day

1378212298-488   Spring has sprung at last! We sun-starved northern Europeans are coming out in droves. You seriously see people just standing on the sidewalkes, faces turned towards the sun, worshipping our hot, bright star. What would be considered mildly deranged behaviour at any other time of year is completely acceptable now.

I was thinking how odd it is, that the Sun – something so constant and so simple – is experienced like a revelation again and again, every year of our lives. Just stepping outside on the first sunny day of the year makes me feel instantly happy. Nothing in my life has changed of course. Intellectually I’m still fully aware of the worries that I wallowed in just yesterday. But today I just don’t FEEL them anymore. I feel nature’s warmth and light and amazingly, in this moment that is all it takes to be happy.

Which leads me to two questions:

1. Is it OK to just be happy? Just like that? For no intellectually or emotionally “profound” reason?

I recently had a conversation pertaining to this with a fellow member of an NGO I volunteer with: We have educated ourselves about so much that is troubling about this world, and we’re volunteering our time and energy to engage with all this negativity – albeit to make a tiny contribution to ameliorating it. But heck, do we sometimes envy ignorant people who don’t watch the news, who don’t inform them selves about other’s suffering, who know so little and apparently care even less.

Like my superior at work the other day: He obviously isn’t ignorant, he’s just disinterested. Talking about my wish to move out of his project – which essentially helps companies use their relatively limited CSR efforts to promote themselves – and into a project that deals with the potentially life-threatening conflicts that are resulting from the scramble for scarce resources in developing countries – he said “I’m just NOT AT ALL interested in that”. Wow.

But the other extreme are those of us who are so caught up in their own or others’ suffering that (subconsciously) they rarely permit themselves to be happy, secretely asking themselves whether that wouldn’t be naive or even irresponsable.

Happiness is full of strife.

2. Or is “simple” happiness actually absolutely NECESSARY?

Philosophies such as Buddhism would affirm that, holding that happiness is fundamentally simple, though certainly not easy to achieve. At it’s core it is precisely about choosing to focus on what is enjoyable right here, right now – no matter how small or ordinary it may be. Happiness certainly can take on many shapes and can exist simultaneously with worries and woes. Life is often about the melancholy, the bitter-sweet. And it’s good to embrace that.

But I think it’s very important to also allow ourselves to experience the “fun in the sun” kind of simple, child-like, pure happiness. Without intellectualising, without critiquing. As grown-ups most of us have forgotten how to just “be”. One of my yoga teachers likes to remind her students:

Retain an element of playfulness in everything you do.

Which brings me back to my topic of creativity/inspiration. Is it happiness that gives access to inspiration, or an experience of inspiration which brings about happiness? Obviously it works both ways. Having ANY source of joy will give you the strength you need to seek out inspiration and to change your and others’ lives for the better. But engaging in a worth-while cause or interesting activity will also make you happy.

The question is: Which is more difficult to access? Joy or inspiration?

I recently read an apt quote that was quite thought-provoking for me*:

You don’t need to wait for something ‘meaningful’ to come into your life so that you can finally enjoy what you’re doing. There is more meaning in joy itself than you will ever need.

The same author goes on to say that a confluence of inspiration and enthusiasm in what you do brings about “creative empowerment”, makes you experience yourself and your tasks as in alignment with your true nature, in connection with a greater Whole.

So I’m vowing to start with what is accessibly to me right here and now. I’m going to have fun in the sun. I’m going to say “It’s OK to be happy” and hope that that will thaw the grounds of my being so that inspiration can take root and creativity can grow.

*It’s by Eckhardt Tolle. This was the first book I’ve read by him, without being aware of what a following he has. He’s not saying anything new, IMO, but I like the concepts that he has developed to provide a fresh, more personal access to Buddhist teachings.