Engaging creativity

Eastlake, Charles Lock, 1793-1865; Boaz and Ruth

Boaz and Ruth . . .  Charles Lock Eastlake (1793–1865) . . . Shipley Art Gallery

There’s this great story in the Old Testament in the book of Ruth. Ruth was a young woman from the nation of Moab who married into a Hebrew family who lived in her area. All of the men in the family died; Ruth and her sister-in-law had to decide whether or not they would stay in the community they had always known or go back to Israel with their mother-in-law Naomi. Ruth chose to leave the home she had always known to stay stay with Naomi. We aren’t told why: maybe it was the only family she had left. Maybe Moab had never been kind to her. Maybe she simply didn’t want her mother-in-law to travel by herself.

Life had not been kind to the women. When they arrived in Naomi’s home community, Ruth provided food for them by gleaning the fields after the harvesters had reaped the best of the crops. Her devotion caught the eye of the property owner Boaz, and he instructed the workers to leave some extra wheat behind when they gathered the crops. He also encouraged Ruth to keep coming back to his field.

This is where the story gets interesting, especially in terms of ancient customs that make no sense to our contemporary, Western minds. When Naomi learned of his kindness, she informed Ruth that Boaz was a distant relative and that under Hebrew law, he could claim Ruth as a bride in stead of her husband who was deceased. Yes. Men had rights to women, which sounds odd, but in their culture it was primarily about protection and provision. Women didn’t have a lot of options.

How would a woman in ancient culture let a man know she was available for him? Here’s what Naomi advised:

“My daughter, I must find a home[a] for you, where you will be well provided for.  Now Boaz, with whose women you have worked, is a relative of ours. Tonight he will be winnowing barley on the threshing floor.  Wash, put on perfume, and get dressed in your best clothes. Then go down to the threshing floor, but don’t let him know you are there until he has finished eating and drinking.  When he lies down, note the place where he is lying. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down. He will tell you what to do.”

Yep.  Dress up. Wait until he has a happy tummy and then go uncover his feet and lie down in front of him.

I don’t understand why this was necessary, but it did the trick.

What does this have to do with creativity? Well, here is this week’s journaling question: Have you been neglecting your creativity? In what ways can you seduce it to reignite the flame? Or in Liz’s words, “take the scrunchy out of your hair, take a shower, and put some lipstick on?”

I’ve been using the concept of creativity to challenge me in my home yoga practice. I am good at following directions in a yoga class, but to become a teacher, I need to be able to create my own yoga flows and come up with the words to guide other people through them. I have days that I feel beyond challenged with this and I wind up playing mind games with myself. So how can I make myself available to my creativity? Ruth is my inspiration.

  1. Wash, put on perfume, and get dressed in your best clothes.” I can dress for yoga. When I get home, I can put on leggings and a shirt that makes doing yoga easy and comfortable.
  2. go down to the threshing floor” I can keep my yoga mat handy and sit on it when I’m reading, meditating, or doing my yoga homework. I can keep a printed copy of my permission slip on hand to head off the mind games.
  3. “. . .lie down. He will tell you what to do.”  I can trust the process. I can trust that I know enough yoga to do this and I can trust that the words will come with the movements. 

It doesn’t have to be perfect; it simply needs to be. What about you? How can you make yourself more available to your creative self? What concrete actions can you take to engage with the processes that make your heart sing?

 

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More on creativity

PrintWhat limiting beliefs are keeping me from engaging with creativity? How can I change my inner dialog and embrace my right to be creative? 

Which ones do you want? Let’s start with the obvious one and go from there.

I’m not creative. I’m not artistic. I know what I like when I see it, but I don’t have creative ideas on my own. I don’t have time. My brain doesn’t work that way.  Why do it if I’m not very good at it? ____________________________ is better at that than I am. I don’t want to make a mess.

I’m sure there are others, but that’s what comes to mind right now.

Write a permission slip.  It’s time to get myself out of the way and get on with being creative.

Dear Lisa,
It’s OK.  It’s OK if you aren’t the best writer or singer or knitter. You can still write and sing and knit. It’s OK if you don’t have intricate amazing ideas; you still have ideas. It’s OK if you aren’t creative in every possible way — painting may not be your thing.  Shoot, even coloring may not be your thing. Your creativity may come in your ability to problem solve, recommend books to other people, and show up on the mat every day. You don’t have to be the most creative to be creative. You don’t have to be the best at anything to show up and do what you can.

You have my total permission to be mediocre if you want to be. Just don’t be nothing, because you are worth much more than that. When words come to you, it’s because they have chosen you. There’s no supposed to in creativity. Your life will not end and no one will be homeless if you don’t turn out vast amounts of inspiring words or learn to knit socks. You can keep churning out scarves, blankets, and dishcloths all you want to.

It’s OK not to be the best. Just be.

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More big magic

Reading Big Magic with a group means that we have journal prompts for different sections.

Reflect on an idea that ran away from you. Why did you dismiss it?  I don’t know that I dismiss ideas as much as I start them and then get stalled. For example:

  1. Last year I wanted to make homemade knitted items for all of my daughters. They’re about 90% done (sorry girls!) and still sitting. And I’ve started another knitting project since then.
  2. I bought a lot of painting supplies after going to a few painting group events. I don’t think I’ve gotten them out since then.
  3. You don’t even want to know how many journals I own that have some writing in them but that are not complete.

So I don’t know that any ideas run away from me.  I think I run away from them.  Or meander away from them. Running sounds like there is intention involved and if anything, this is from lack of intention and lack of focus.

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It’s time to make amends. Moving forward, how can you honor your inspiration and bring your ideas to life? For starters, I can stop and think before I bring another one into the world. I can ask myself if I have the time and desire to nurture it or if this is an idea that can just as easily belong to someone else. Is this something that will absolutely make my heart sing or is it simply a nice idea? Something that may work well in general but not necessarily needed in my life? And when I do bring an idea into the world, I need to commit to spend time with it regularly — maybe daily — maybe weekly — but regularly. I value creativity and purpose and intention and want my life to reflect those ideals.

Facing fear

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I would be lying if I said I lived without fear. Brave and courageous are two words I would never use to describe myself. Many times, my internal dialog sounds something like this: what will “they” think? what if i fail? what if i fall? what if my body gets hurt or won’t do the right thing or looks weird? what if everyone thinks i’m too fat or too old or too conservative or too liberal or too poor or too smart or not smart enough? what if they think i’m too granola? 

There were many fearful voices in my childhood and I internalized a lot of them.  Don’t hurt yourself. Protect your back. Don’t eat that; it will make you fat. What will _____ think? 

I’m reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic and her earliest chapters are about the relationship between fear and creativity. By the way, she uses the word creativity to mean living a full life; a life with purpose. For some people, this means artistic creativity; for others, it could be entrepreneurship or — oh, I don’t know — becoming a counselor and yoga teacher at 50.

I’m sharing this picture because it has significance for me. Several years ago — almost 20 — my family full of little children went to spend a day at a park. There was a playground that had a balance beam on it. I spent my childhood walking on balance beams at recess and this one called my name. Surely, I could still do that, right? I wanted to be the mom who did things with her children and who showed them what was possible, so on the balance beam I went.

I got about 3/4 the way across and then I fell.  My right leg landed soundly on the beam. For several days, I couldn’t bend my knee and I had a huge bruise up and down my lower leg.

I thought about that day last week as we were hiking through the trails of Pickwick Landing State Park, our location for Thanksgiving 2017. In more than one location, a fallen log lay on the ground, pretending to be a balance beam. I wondered if the results would be the same. While I didn’t find one to walk the length of, I did stop and do tree on a tree. It took focus (I can see it on my face — can you?), and I had to stop and start over a couple of times before I found my focus point, but then I did it.

Tree.  On a tree.

And then I posted the picture even though my first thought was “I look fat. And my I love Jesus and naps shirt might offend somebody.”  I posted it. And now I’m posting it again and I’m sharing my victory even though my current thought is, don’t brag on yourself. they make think you’re bragging.  pride goes before destruction and haughty spirit before downfall.

I don’t know if this is Big Magic or not, but it’s facing fears.

And that has its own very special kind of magic.

Post Yoga Thoughts

This past Saturday and Sunday, I attended my first yoga teacher training sessions. I am part of a group of 12 people who will journey through this together. We will meet monthly through April and at the end of it, we will be Registered  Yoga Teachers with 200 hours of education and practice.  In yoga world, that’s known as R-YT 200.

I didn’t know what to expect before I drove to Little Rock on Saturday.  Would we spend the whole time in yoga practice, perfecting physical technique? Would it be like a classroom with lectures and handouts and quizzes?  I had no idea.

It’s hard to explain exactly what it was.  We shared our yoga stories.  Why this mattered.  We learned about the history of its development and how it came to the West and has been modified over the years. Yes, there were handouts, in fact there’s a HUGE binder FULL of resources and reading material and forms to help plan classes and there is homework to complete each month between our meetings. And yes, there was yoga practice. We will have a guest teacher each month and we will also teach each other.

And it was amazing.

Have you ever been in a situation that you knew would push your limits but you also knew was exactly where you needed to be? I don’t know how to explain it; I’m not sure I’ve ever had this experience before. I love school and school has always worked well for me, but it’s something I do. This spoke to me at the level of who I am, not of what I do.

Throughout my life, I’ve been a pretty open book. I may have even been accused of oversharing a time or two. 🙂 What many don’t know is that when something is deeply important to me, I keep it close to my heart and I don’t talk about it a lot. Yoga teacher training feels that way to me. I’m not sure how to talk about it. I’m not sure that I want to talk about it. I think I just want to experience it.

I kind of feel that way about life in general these days, too. I love my life.  Each day has beauty and joy. I still see the problems in the world and I still ache for those who are hurting. I still see my own shortcomings, yet I am no longer willing to allow those to define me.

So I don’t know if this blog will see more use or not. Possibly. But I can’t promise. I can promise, however, that I will be living life fully, soaking up the things that happen to me and cherishing each moment that I can. big_thumb

Yoga

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This weekend, I start yoga teacher training.

This is surreal to me. I am thrilled. Scared. Excited. Terrified.

I am all of those things, yet also certain. Certain this is the path that I am to walk right now. Certain that this is part of my story for this time in my life. Certain that it will be a ministry and an avenue for peace in my life and the life of others.

I don’t know how to explain the experience of yoga. Of course people can go to classes and learn the postures (or asanas) or yoga, but there is more to its effect than the stretching of muscles.

Yoga teacher training has reading and writing assignments and I will be sharing some of those here in case you’re interested in my journey.  Our first reading assignment was a short book about the ethics of yoga and we were to write a one paragraph response to the ethical practice that appealed to us the most.

After reading The Yamas and Niyamas, I am drawn to the idea of Nonviolence or Ahimsa. I have always considered myself a pacifist; I want there to be peace in the world.  I want people to learn how to respect and communicate with one another rather than resorting to violence. I grew up in a home that was full of yelling and hitting and did not want to repeat that in my own parenting. As an adult, I have learned that lack of violence was one thing, but promoting a peaceful home was much more than that. It also meant acknowledging the internal critic that drove so much of my decision-making. I was plagued by repeating the same hateful words to myself that I heard from my mom while I was growing up. In order to address my own internal critic, I had to make peace with my body and mind.  Yoga helped me do that. It was fascinating to read that one of the bedrocks of yoga is the idea of Ahimsa, or nonviolence, to both self and others, and that it begins with ourselves. We can only be as kind to others as we are to ourselves. That is my challenge: to do no harm to myself in thought, word, or deed and to extend that same nonviolence to others. Yoga is a powerful practice in learning to be kind and respectful to ourselves first and then to others.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the chapter on Ahimsa:

Our ability to be nonviolent to others is directly related to our ability to be nonviolent within ourselves. 

One of the biggest challenges to maintaining balance is feeling powerless. Nonviolence invites us to question the feeling of powerlessness rather than accept it.

I have come to believe that any sense of powerlessness we are feeling can be traced back to the story we are telling ourselves in the moment about the situation. 

I cannot say  this enough times: Our inability to love and accept all the pieces of ourselves creates ripples — tiny acts of violence — that have huge and lasting impacts on others. 

 Thinking we know what is better for others becomes a subtle way we do violence. When we take it upon ourselves to “help” the other we whittle away at their autonomy. Nonviolence asks us to trust the others’ ability to find the answer they are seeking. 

When love became the Lord of my life, I became fearless.

Nonviolence is woven with love, and love of other is woven with love of self; these cannot be separated. 

I did a thing

Sometimes, I do things that surprise me. Isn’t it interesting that we can surprise our very own selves?

And yet we can.

Over the last couple of years I’ve surprised myself by realizing that I enjoy physical activity. Not all of it, mind you, but there are things I enjoy enough that I will make room for them in my busy life. It isn’t a have to thing, it’s a want to thing.

because you love

And that’s another thing that surprises me.  Not that I love activity, but that I have learned to appreciate my body as-is. Is it perfect? No, but neither is anyone else’s.  That doesn’t change the fact that our bodies are capable of remarkable things. My body grew human beings, for Pete’s sake. It — no, she — my body is female — grew them, birthed them, and nourished them. That by itself is pretty remarkable.

So what is this other thing I did that surprised me?  Well, I was recently reminded of how much courage it takes to show up in a new place with people you don’t know and do an activity you’ve never done before when your body doesn’t fit the mold of who should be in that space. I mean, activity classes are for fit people, right? And yoga?  We all know what a yoga body is “supposed to” look like and let’s face it: not many of us look like that. I know I don’t.

I want to create safe spaces for people who show that courage. For people who have no idea what they’ll be doing or how it will work for them, but who show up anyway. Earlier this week I filled out an application for a weekend training for people who want to teach yoga for people with large bodies. Although I haven’t done my full certification yet, this is a good first step toward that.  I found out late last night that I WAS ACCEPTED and next January, I will fly to California for a weekend of onsite training.

There are not words to share how thankful I am. This is holy ground, y’all. Helping people learn to love and honor this amazing body that God has given us is holy, holy ground.

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Day 8. Or maybe 60 or 83. So . . Prompt 8.

Describe the last time that you had the type of fun that made you smile for a few days.

I’m not exactly sure what “fun” is so I’ll talk about the last time I laughed so hard I couldn’t stop.

I’m known for my laugh. My children told me that they can find me in a store because they hear me laugh.

I love laughing.  Laughing’s my favorite, but I’ve never been big about constructing a situation to intentionally have fun. I love life and believe in living it fully and more often than not, that means laughing throughout the day.

The other day Jason and I were talking. I don’t remember what it was about, but we both got tickled and started laughing. One of us said something else that struck us as funny so we laughed even more. The next thing said was also funny and it was late at night and we were tired so the laughter just keep going.

I don’t remember the details because this happens regularly. We laugh. We laugh at ourselves and each other and life and it is so good to have this.

If the people in your life aren’t helping you laugh like this, stop and ponder. How can you bring more joy into life? How can you find ways to add laughter into every day? Laughter is a good, good thing and it’s free. Absolutely, positively free.

I dare you to laugh out loud today.  Find the humor and the joy and share it with others.

These are not my words

Isabel Foxen Duke works extensively in the field of body acceptance and writes regularly about diet culture. In an email I received today, she included these words.  They are powerful and deserve to be shared.

I can think of fewer drugs (and I’ve tried some) quite as intoxicating as the pursuit of weight loss.

Planning a new diet used to literally soothe me of my greatest feelings of anxiety and hopelessness.

Whenever I believed I was ‘on my way’ to weight loss,
or perceived myself to be ‘winning’ at its pursuit,
I felt safe
like I could finally get some ground under my feet,
like everything was going to be okay;
I felt powerful
like I was gonna be someone,
like life was gonna do my bidding.

For all the hullabaloo about emotional eating (my thoughts on this here), emotional eating doesn’t even compare to how mind-altering, and ultimately habit-forming, the pursuit of thinness really is.

And if you don’t believe me—I dare you to give it up.

Stop trying to make yourself thinner…stop trying to make your body look a certain way…and then tell me how dependent you really are on this drug called “weight control.”

The highs, and the come-downs, are intense;

lest we forget about the come-downs…

the painful rebounds,
the excruciating feelings of failure,
the anxiety of needing to ‘keep it up,’
of slipping, of hanging on by our fingernails,
and the increasing and progressive hopelessness
we feel with every spin round the cycle.

Like most addicts…we too often forget about the come-downs when in the grips of a trigger.

Those are powerful words.  It’s easy to think of being addicted to food.  It happens. Even if it’s a behavioral addiction and not to a mind-altering substance, there’s something calming about sitting and eating at the end of a stressful day.

But have you ever considered that thinness could be an addiction? That the idea of having a smaller, more acceptable body could be an unhealthy thing?

Ask yourself: what would you do if you weren’t focused on losing weight and being thin?

Why aren’t you doing that now?

What would your thought processes be if you weren’t thinking about what to eat and when to eat and what other people think about when they see you?

If you can’t imagine a life without without thinking about food and weight, I completely understand. When I was asked that question a couple of years ago, I couldn’t answer it.

I want to encourage you to think about those things now. Today.  Think about how amazing you are. Think about how beautiful the flowers are today. Think about how much you love spending time with your friends and, yes, about how good that pizza tastes when you eat it. Enjoy it.

It’s OK to enjoy your food.

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