The Season of Joy

It is the first mild day of March.
Each minute sweeter than before …
There is a blessing in the air …
— William Wordsworth

Spring is springing here, and I’m especially happy about it this year. This winter wasn’t severely cold, but it did seem very gray and wet. I have really missed the sunshine. I find myself lingering outside in the morning as I drink my coffee, watching the squirrels scamper about and listening to what sounds like hundreds of birds chattering away. On Saturday I spent hours in the backyard, and even made a little picnic lunch of bread, apples, and cheese. It was delightful. And the scents—all sorts of glorious plants are blooming, like sweet olive and wisteria, and it smells delicious! The breeze seems like it’s been perfumed.

Spring is my favorite season for several reasons. First, it’s wonderful to be able to feel comfortable outdoors—neither too cold nor too hot. (Yesterday I was able to go for a morning walk without a jacket, and yet I didn’t sweat, either. Bliss!)

Second, to watch everything come alive after being dormant in the winter makes me feel more alive. I feel like a flower blooming—unfurling slowly under the warmth of the sun, stretching out, expansive, opening. I’m free and easy (or at least, free-er and easier!) and my mind feels lighter. I’m inspired and energized.

And third, it just seems to me to be the most joyful of seasons. Sunshine quite literally makes me happy (it does this to everyone—sunlight increases our levels of serotonin). And each new flower I spot, each delicious scent I smell, each warm breeze I feel gives me a quick burst of joy.

In the spring I feel like anything is possible. It’s the very essence of hope and faith: simply pay attention to the bare branches of the trees. They literally transform overnight. One day they appear barren, and the next they’re covered in tiny green leaves. It’s incredible, and it always makes me feel awed and grateful.

And the spring cleaning! I must admit, I love a good spring cleaning. A few weekends ago I woke up raring to go, and finally tackled our garage. I went through boxes of memorabilia that had been moved from house to house, and consolidated about twelve boxes down to two. (And that was just one wall!) I made so much space, and threw away so many things that should never have been kept, and donated so many things that could be useful to others. It felt fantastic!

Is spring happening where you live? Here are some ways to truly immerse yourself in the season and its joys, courtesy of Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy.

 ·         If you don’t have them growing in your garden, bring home a bouquet of daffodils (or any other spring flower you love) to brighten your space.

·         Plant a living Easter basket. Find a pretty basket, line it with pebbles or a plastic liner, and add two inches of potting soil. Sprinkle fast-growing rye grass seed on top of the soil and then cover with another quarter inch of soil. Water well and cover with a brown paper sack for a few days until the seeds germinate. When the grass sprouts, place the basket in a warm sunny window and continue to water. In a couple of weeks you’ll have a basket of living grass!

·         Search out a new “sacred space” in the world. A shady grove of trees, a beautiful public garden that’s new to you, a museum gallery, the stacks of an old library, even an outdoor café where you can sit basking in the sunshine can help you realize the boundless treasure and spiritual replenishment of a perfect solitary hour.

And a few of my favorites:

·         Go for a slow walk outside, looking for evidence of spring. Delight in the blue sky, warm sunshine, beautiful blooms, and the scents and sounds of nature coming to life. Keep an eye out for butterflies!

·         Once the danger of freezing is past, start gardening! I love to put in plants that are already blooming, so I can enjoy the color instantly.

·         Enjoy a picnic—even if it’s just in your backyard, eating al fresco elevates an ordinary meal and feels fun and festive.

·         Wash your windows and be amazed at how much light pours in!

·         Dive into some spring cleaning. It may not sound fun, but the satisfied feeling afterward (and the space you’ll create!) is worth it!

I’ll leave you with a poem that perfectly captures how I feel about spring.

Today

--Billy Collins

If ever there were a spring day so perfect,

so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze

 

that it made you want to throw

open all the windows in the house

 

and unlatch the door to the canary's cage,

indeed, rip the little door from its jamb,

 

a day when the cool brick paths

and the garden bursting with peonies

 

seemed so etched in sunlight

that you felt like taking

 

a hammer to the glass paperweight

on the living room end table,

 

releasing the inhabitants

from their snow-covered cottage

 

so they could walk out,

holding hands and squinting

 

into this larger dome of blue and white,

well, today is just that kind of day.

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Being Kind to Yourself

I’ve been thinking about self-compassion lately, and was reminded of this post I wrote in 2017 about this topic. As I re-read it, I realized that (once again!) I have failed to follow my own advice. I’m still beating myself up for mistakes and being critical of most of my efforts. So I’m sharing this post again to help me remember (and help you too, if you need it) to treat myself more kindly.

I recently took Session 1 of Write into Light, an amazing teleclass by Martha Beck (a new session starts in May 2019; check it out here). In the second call, she was outlining a writing exercise where we visualize our home and pick our least favorite spot, then see what it has to tell us. She did the exercise herself as she was describing it; she picked her master bedroom closet because it was filled with stuff she didn’t know what to do with. She described it as cluttered and disorganized, then asked what its message was for her. In the pause before she conveyed the message, I was anticipating something like “you have too much useless junk in your life and you need to clear it out”—something that would point out a problem and how she should fix it. But what she actually said flabbergasted me. She said, in the softest, kindest voice: “Oh, go easy on yourself, please. Let the clutter be today … Everybody’s got clutter, sweetheart. Let it go.”

I sat there with my mouth open, astonished. A message of pure compassion? It was the exact opposite of what I expected. We’re always told clutter is bad and we should clear it, and yet here was this world-famous life coach saying it was OK—because she was speaking from love. And love never criticizes. Real love is unconditional; you are loved no matter what. No. Matter. What.

How often do we truly experience that? How often are we able to truly give that? It’s extraordinarily hard to practice—but it’s essential that we learn how. We can’t possibly experience any kind of lasting happiness or joy if we don’t give ourselves a break. And we can’t offer others unconditional love if we don’t give it to ourselves first.

At the root of unconditional love is compassion. Understand, and forgive, like Martha Beck’s closet. “It’s OK, sweetheart. Everyone has clutter.” Not, “You are so lazy, why haven’t you cleaned me up already? What a loser. You can’t even keep this tiny space straight; how will you ever be a success?” No. Acceptance and love. Try alternating those statements to yourself—first the kind one, then the negative one. Isn’t it incredible how different they make you feel? An imaginary statement from a room can make you feel loved or ashamed. If you are gentle and compassionate with yourself, it completely changes everything. It feels like sinking into a bubble bath of peace. Imagine being as kind to yourself as you’d be to your dearest friend. When our best friend screws up, we’re always quick to tell her it’s OK. But when we screw up, oh boy! Bring on the banshees!

Most of us have that voice in our head that criticizes almost everything we do and constantly judges situations. Often, it’s not even our own voice, but one we absorbed from a parent or teacher. We don’t even notice most of the time, but it’s always carping at us. Never satisfied, always complaining. Start listening; it goes on and on. How can we expect to feel good with that constant barrage of criticism?

I recently began re-reading “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron (an excellent book which I highly recommend), and one of the first activities is to write a positive statement about yourself several times (like “I am genuinely talented”) and then note all the criticisms and objections that surface in your head. She calls those blurts, and she recommends writing them down, then reframing them as positive affirmations. This was so difficult for me. I felt silly saying nice things about myself, but I had felt totally normal saying mean things! That is messed up. But I think that’s how most of us are. Cameron points out that this inner critic is precisely why so many people don’t pursue their dreams. They self-sabotage before they even start. It is essential to quiet that inner judge if we want to accomplish anything, and I think it’s necessary in order to find true joy.

It’s important to realize that the critic inside you is not you. It is a separate voice that you can politely—or not so politely—tell to shut up. You can even give it a name, like Mr. Judgypants or Bossy Bee, to help you take it a little less seriously. When Bossy Bee starts bitching, say, “Hey, Bossy Bee. I know you want to help, but I’ve got this. Goodbye now.” (Or “Buzz off,” lol.)

When you screw up, instead of letting Bossy Bee berate you, consider what love would say. I don’t know, maybe give love a name too. Lucy Lovebug? Love understands, love accepts, love encourages. Lucy Lovebug would say, “It’s OK sweetheart; I’m here for you no matter what.” Treat yourself like you would a wounded child. Because that’s what we all are inside, really. Even those with “good” childhoods picked up some scars along the way. We need comfort and cuddling, not criticism and cruelty. We need forgiveness and kisses and treats.

A simple way to get into that mindset is lovingkindess meditation. Close your eyes and silently say, “May I be well. May I be loved.  May I be free from all suffering. (Or, May I be filled with peace.)” Repeat three times (or as much as you need). That’s it! If you’re like me, even doing this will make you uncomfortable at first; but try doing it every day, maybe first thing in the morning or last thing at night. Over time, it will help you be more gentle and loving with yourself—and others.

We are not perfect. No one is. I repeat—no one is perfect, no matter how they seem from the outside. Everybody messes up. That’s part of being human. And when we mess up, compassion feels a lot better than anger, and helps us recover better too.

The next time you make a mistake, laugh. Feel solidarity with the billions of other people who are probably making a mistake at that exact same moment. No judgment, no self-flagellation. Look for the positive:  Well, I wrecked the car, but no one got hurt. If I hadn’t gotten lost, I would never have met my new best friend. Sometimes what looks like a disaster turns out to be a blessing in disguise. Give yourself a break. I will be right there with you, trying to remember to choose kindness.

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Approaching Your Life as a Work of Art

Each one of us is an artist. An artist is merely someone with good listening skills who accesses the creative energy of the Universe to bring forth something on the material plane that wasn’t here before. … So it is with creating an authentic life. With every choice, every day, you are creating a unique work of art.
— Sarah Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy

I’m continuing to read Simple Abundance—at 700+ pages, I’ll be at it for a while!—and I’m continuing to find all sorts of interesting insights. (See first post here.) Something that has really struck me is this concept of creating our daily lives as works of art.  Breathnach recommends to “start thinking of your life as a work-in-progress. Works-in-progress are never perfect. But changes can be made to the rough draft during rewrites. Another color can be added to the canvas. The film can be tightened during editing. Art evolves. So does life. Art is never stagnant. Neither is life. The beautiful, authentic life you are creating for yourself and those you love is your art. It’s the highest art.”

Wow. Thinking of my life as a work-in-progress is a simple concept, but it feels radically freeing to me. It essentially takes the pressure off.  And approaching each day as if it is art I am creating—rather than just a to-do list I have to get through—really elevates everything.

Breathnach also talks about how to make our lives more nourishing by scattering moments of joy throughout. She says, “What is missing from many of our days is a true sense that we are enjoying the lives we are living. It is difficult to experience moments of happiness if we are not aware of what it is we genuinely love. We must learn to savor small, authentic moments that bring us contentment.”

Of course, as a “joy detective,” I love this idea. Something you can do, which I have done before, is to make a Bliss List: a list of simple pleasures that bring you joy. Then do at least one thing from it every day. Here are some of the items on my list:

·         Reading

·         Sitting in the sun

·         Savoring a cup of tea

·         Watching classic movies

·         Fresh flowers

·         Listening to jazz

·         Hugging

·         Toast with butter

·         Chocolate

·         Sitting and doing nothing (especially on a rainy day)

Breathnach also suggests trying to do daily tasks mindfully to “restore serenity to your daily endeavors.” She says, “Serene women do not get sidetracked. Sidetracked women, who scatter their energies to the four winds, never achieve serenity. … Concentrate slowly on completing one task at a time, each hour of the day, until the day is over.”

She says that we will wonder how we’ll manage to get everything done this way, but “I assure you that you will accomplish all you set out to do and need to do with much more ease, efficiency, pleasure, and satisfaction.” In fact, studies are now proving that multitasking actually makes us less efficient. Plus, this approach just feels better to me.

What do you think about these concepts? Do you also find them comforting and supportive? I’d love to hear. You can let me know by replying to this email, or in the comments below.

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Will You Be Your Valentine?

It’s Valentine’s Day, which encourages us to show our love for our romantic partner. Where is the holiday that encourages us to show our love for ourselves?

Truly, this is so important that we should be reminded every day, not just one day a year. We can’t fully love others if we don’t fully love ourselves. And yet we often treat ourselves terribly. Our needs are always last on the list. “Oh, I don’t have time to _______, I have to work/take care of my children/clean the house/go to the store/cook dinner/do laundry, etc. etc.”

However, as many of us have found out, if we focus solely on taking care of others and neglect ourselves for too long, it will eventually have a negative impact. We get sick, or are constantly tired or irritable (or are sick, tired, AND irritable). Often when this happens, our instinct is to push through, because we are needed. We’re not making it up—we do have tons of obligations and people who depend on us—bosses, coworkers, children, spouses, parents, friends. But our first obligation should be to ourselves. I know it sounds radical. But it’s true.

It’s important to note that we’re worthy of love, just as we are. We don’t have to be constantly productive to prove our worth. We are each born a magnificent soul, deserving of unconditional love. When we give ourselves that love—not demanding anything in return, not trying to “be better,” just appreciating ourselves as is—it makes a huge difference in our lives.

I’ll admit, showing myself unconditional love is something I struggle with daily. I’m a perfectionist and highly self-critical, and as I’ve discussed before, I have the urge to always be doing something to “earn my keep.” But running around like a hamster on a wheel all the time doesn’t feel good. No matter how hard I work, I never cross everything off the list (gah, how I hate that fact!). I never reach that mark of “enough.”

I always feel like I come up short when I tie my value to what I’m accomplishing. If I can wrap my head around the idea that I’m inherently worthy—that I was born enough, and don’t have anything to prove—that feels SO much better. I feel open rather than constricted. Relaxed instead of clenched. Happy instead of apprehensive.

There’s a common saying: When Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. The converse is absolutely true: when I’m happy, I can spread that happiness. I’m more likely to be kind and patient with those I love—and even with strangers. So when you tend to your own happiness, you’re really doing others a service.

What if we all devoted time every day just to showing ourselves some love? Paying attention to our needs and our wants; taking a moment to sit and listen to our inner voice, which often gets drowned out in the cacophony of modern life. I’m not talking about hours each day—just as much time as you can comfortably fit into your schedule. Maybe five minutes, sitting outside while you watch the clouds float by, or fifteen minutes of meditation or yoga or reading—whatever lights you up and makes you feel whole.

Today, take a moment to show yourself some love. Do something you enjoy, or give yourself a treat that that makes you feel amazing. Book that massage! Steal away and read that book! Savor the chocolate! Do it just because—because you are a miraculous, incredible, gorgeous soul who deserves all the love in the world. XXXOOO! 

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Weaving a "Tapestry of Contentment"

I finally got a book I’d been hearing about for a while, Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy by Sarah Ban Breathnach, and it’s lovely! I’m finding it enormously comforting, like a cup of cocoa on a cold winter's day. It’s beautifully written and immensely inspiring.

I've been feeling frazzled, and so was Breathnach when she began writing the book.  She says in the preface, "I shared the revelations that came while trying to reconcile my deepest spiritual and creative longings with often overwhelming commitments to family and work."

I'm underlining all over the place as I read, and I wanted to share some of the insights that have particularly resonated with me so far.

She talks about six threads that, woven together, create a “tapestry of contentment.” Isn’t that a beautiful image? The full quote reads: “There are six threads of abundant living which, when woven together, produce a tapestry of contentment that wraps us in inner peace, well-being, happiness, and a sense of security.” Who wouldn’t want that? I’m in!

The threads are gratitude, simplicity, order, harmony, beauty, and joy.  The book is organized by date, with one entry per day; she focuses on each thread for two months, so I’m currently reading about gratitude. Breathnach recommends counting your blessings, and says, “See if you can’t get to one hundred. So much good happens to us but in the rush of daily life we fail even to notice or acknowledge it.”

This really struck me. It’s so true, and it’s something I’ve talked about here before. But I continue to find it difficult to be grateful consistently. One of the tools she suggests is a daily gratitude journal, to help us maintain that focus. I’ve started one, and am trying to be more aware of all the little things there are to appreciate—even on off days. My life is so rich and full of goodness. It's a shame to pay more attention to the minor irritations or parts that are not going well and miss the greater good.

Something else that really struck me was this: “much of my struggle to be content … has arisen when I stubbornly resisted what was actually happening in my life at the present moment.” Oh, that is so me. I resist reality all the time—how about you? I’m always thinking about how to improve things, remove things, or attract new things, so I often go about in a haze of vague dissatisfaction.

Breathnach talks about the importance of accepting what is. She explains that when you surrender to reality, a softening occurs. “Suddenly I am able to open up to receive all the goodness and abundance available to me because acceptance brings with it so much relief and release. It’s as if the steam of struggle has been allowed to escape from life’s pressure cooker.” That sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? And it makes complete sense to me.

Further, she adds, "blessing whatever vexes us is the spiritual surrender that can change even troublesome situations for the better. … If you're sick and tired of learning life's lessons through pain and struggle, blessing your difficulties will show you there's a better way."

I was thrilled to see that another tool she recommends is a morning ritual! She says, "give yourself the gift of one hour a day to journey within. You need enough breathing space to allow your heart to ponder what is precious. Or perhaps you can let your imagination soar to the twilight where dreams first dwell. … This much I know: if you go deep enough, often enough, something good is bound to come back to you." And this: “Stressed souls need the reassuring rhythm of self-nurturing rituals.” Yes!

I’m going to enjoy savoring this book each day for the rest of the year. I’m sure there will be plenty more insights and ideas to share with y’all! Meanwhile, I’ve got some creative projects brewing, including a big one that launches in April, so for the next few months I’ll be posting here every other week instead of weekly. Talk to you in mid-February!

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“A Bride Married to Amazement”

Recently the extraordinary poet Mary Oliver passed away. Her poetry spoke to me so deeply, as it did to millions. Her words were a beacon of light, shining the way forward to a richer existence. My friend Carla Robertson is a life coach and the name of her business, Living Wild and Precious, was inspired by the famous line from Oliver’s poem “The Summer Day”: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?”  

That question just grabs you by the throat, doesn’t it? That’s what I love about her work—the images are breathtakingly beautiful, which is wonderful in itself … but then comes an observation or question that stops you in your tracks and makes you think, long and hard. Like this, from “Moments,” which gave me courage when I needed it:

Your heart is beating, isn’t it?

You’re not in chains, are you?


There is nothing more pathetic than caution

when headlong might save a life,

even, possibly, your own.

 

And this, from “Wild Geese”:

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.


When I first encountered these lines, I cried. I felt such enormous relief. I should re-read them every morning to remind myself of this vital truth. And the way she expresses the idea is so much more powerful than saying, hey, don’t be hard on yourself. She puts it so brilliantly; she was a virtuoso of phrasing.

Here is another of my favorites, which I discovered last year:

“Magellan”

Like Magellan, let us find our islands
To die in, far from home, from anywhere
Familiar. Let us risk the wildest places,
Lest we go down in comfort, and despair.

For years we have labored over common roads,
Dreaming of ships that sail into the night.
Let us be heroes, or, if that's not in us,
Let us find men to follow, honor-bright.

For what is life but reaching for an answer?
And what is death but a refusal to grow?
Magellan had a dream he had to follow.
The sea was big, his ships were awkward, slow.

And when the fever would not set him free,
To his thin crew, “Sail on, sail on!” he cried.
And so they did, carried the frail dream homeward.
And thus Magellan lives, although he died.

Wow. It’s amazing, her ability to move, to encourage, to inspire. I’d love to know how many lives have been changed by her work. And that won’t stop with her passing. She may be gone, but her words will touch people for generations to come. She lived the vivid, all-in life that she wanted to—the life she wrote about below—and what more could any of us want? It’s certainly what I want. I’m enormously grateful that she shared her gifts with us.

From “When Death Comes”:

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life

I was a bride married to amazement.

I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.


When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder

if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,

or full of argument.

 

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

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On Community, Creating, and Pushing Past the Fear

This past weekend I was reminded—again—of the essential nature of community, and the vital importance of sharing our true selves. We are wired to seek out others with whom we feel like we “belong.” As Brené Brown says in Braving the Wilderness, “Belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us.”

Even those of us who are introverts want to feel that connection with others who get us and support us. Brown also says, “Never underestimate the power of being seen.” And yet, in order to truly feel like we belong, we have to show up as our authentic selves.

In a creative setting, where we’re putting out something we made, it can feel like we’re offering up a piece of our soul. I find that to be so risky emotionally. Brown agrees: “True belonging is not passive. It's not the belonging that comes with just joining a group. It's not fitting in or pretending or selling out because it's safer. It's a practice that requires us to be vulnerable, get uncomfortable, and learn how to be present with people without sacrificing who we are. We want true belonging, but it takes tremendous courage to knowingly walk into hard moments.”

But the rewards for that risk are great—when you’re accepted for who you are, or your work touches others, it’s deeply satisfying. I work at home and really miss the camaraderie of coworkers. Online groups fill part of the gap, but I also crave personal connection.

Last weekend I had the chance to go to the opening of an exhibit featuring a painting that includes one of my poems. And although it meant driving eight hours to Houston over on Friday and back again on Sunday—and I was nervous because I’d also have to read my poem aloud at the event (risk!)—I grabbed that chance. What made it even better was that I’d get to stay with one of my dearest friends, whom I hadn’t seen in over a year. To be able to spend uninterrupted time catching up with her is a rare treat, and immensely nourishing. (More connection!)

The exhibit was called Color:Story 2019, by amazing artists Leslie Gaworecki and Marlo Saucedo. I met Leslie at Lucky Star Art Camp. Last year she put out a request for words to feature in a collaborative work with Marlo, so I submitted my poem “What If.” I was thrilled when they chose it, and even more so when I saw the finished piece (pic below, and more on my Facebook page).

It felt amazing to be part of a collaboration like that. Then they decided to create more pieces along those lines, and were approved to exhibit them in a show. I figured the opening would be fun, and I knew it would meet my desire for connection, but I didn’t anticipate how very much it would fill my soul.

Their space is a huge warehouse subdivided into studios, and before the opening we were able to wander around and see all the other artists. Being in a place dedicated solely to creativity, I felt a special kind of energy that was inspiring and rejuvenating. (It also made my hands itch with the desire to grab a brush and start painting!!)

It was incredible to see my piece in person, and all the other beautiful pieces in the show. The other writers’ work was amazing. And then hearing that work read aloud, and feeling the appreciation of the crowd, brought a whole new level of energy.

It wasn’t quite enough energy to keep me from being increasingly nervous about my turn. But since my poem actually talks about feeling the fear and doing it anyway, I couldn’t possibly back down! I managed to read it all without losing my place or misspeaking—or tripping on the way up—and afterward, several people told me how much they liked it. That meant the world to me. Writers so often send our word babies out into the universe and don’t hear anything back…to get affirmation that our words touched someone makes all the effort, uncertainty, and fear worthwhile.

Seeing such a large group gathered to support the writers and artists was fantastic. It was like getting an infusion of love and appreciation. And seeing all of the artists gathered in that studio space, inspiring and encouraging each other, really brought home to me how important it is for creatives to have a community. Whether it’s “in real life” or virtual, having others who understand the challenges you face and can cheer you on is invaluable.

Especially when we’re starting out, that inner critic can really be loud, and can stop us before we have a chance to get going. Sharing with others who have been there before, who struggle with their own inner critics, really helps us keep going.

And then having others appreciate your work when it’s out there in the world—wow. We create because we have to—because there’s something inside of us that wants to be born, and if we don’t let it out, part of us withers away. We also create to bring joy, or solace, or inspiration to others. Our own pain or happiness, while personal in detail, is universal in feeling. Sharing it heals both the creator and the viewer. Everyone is lifted up. It’s magic, and I’m grateful to have finally gotten to a place in my life where I can experience it for myself.

If you’re feeling that urge to put something out there, remember this. If even one person is touched, it’s worth the vulnerability and the risk. The world needs your voice. Each of us has something unique to share, and someone else needs to hear it because it will benefit them. Don’t let fear keep your voice bottled up inside. Something that can really help you push past fear and doubt is the book The Artist’s Way. Read that, and find your community, and as Rumi says, “Be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder. Help someone’s soul heal.” The risk is great, but the reward is enormous.

What If


Let's Get Creative

I’ve talked before about how vital creativity is, no matter what form it takes for you. Today I wanted to share two poems that speak to that, by my friend Mary Walker. She is an amazing writer and inspiring person; I met her during the Write into Light class I took, and now she is leading her own online course, “Meet Your Creative Self,” which I am eagerly looking forward to! (It starts in February.) I thought I’d also share that info here, in case it interests you. You’ll find her description of it below the poems. Here’s to a beautifully creative 2019!

 THRIVE

by Mary Walker

Pasture covered slopes
will slip;
shallow rooted grass
cannot hold the hill
on its own.

A life stripped of riches,
a self swept aside
for sameness,
for blending in,
barely holds itself together.

You are a forest.
Recolonise your life.
Let new ideas take seed,
colours bloom,
let the strange and exotic
spring up.
Trust your wild diversity.
Thrive.

***

PERMISSION

by Mary Walker

I see you at the fence
watching everybody play,
waiting to be invited, or discovered,
or allowed.
There is no benevolent guide to open the gate;
no old hand will usher you in.
No encouragement is hearty enough
to fill that hollow doubt. If there was,
you’d be in there already.
No one will announce your arrival,
but no one will bar your way.
Take a ball or a hoop,
find a slide or a swing,
laugh, kick, cry, dig,
burrow, build, or sing.
Life is a playground,
and you,
one of its children.

***

“Meet Your Creative Self” online course led by Mary Walker:

This is for any creative, not just writers. It's even for people who think they aren't creative (but secretly suspect they might be), for the start-stop creators; for those who create but are too scared to share; for those who create but think there's really no point in doing anything with it.

This is for you if you wonder what you might be capable of if you finally let it flow out...

It's all about learning that our creative self is always speaking to us, offering us creative urges and ideas. It's about learning to trust the creative process and being willing to create without seeing what might lay ahead - knowing that the next step will ALWAYS present itself to us.

Working with your creative self is a joy. Our creativity is alive, vibrant and life-giving when we know how to work with it.

Working WITH your creative self feels like the opposite of effort. Instead, it is about allowing.

Less thinking, more quiet.
Less trying, more doing what you love.
Less strategizing, more trusting.
Less about the things ‘out there’, more about what’s ‘in here’.
Less ‘building ourselves up’, more ‘knowing we already are’.
Less ‘getting there’, more ‘already here’.

In February, I'm leading a 10 week immersion called 'Meet Your Creative Self'.

We are focusing on our relationship with our creative self, trusting our creative urges (including the urge to share our creative work in the world), and tuning in to our unique creative needs and practices.

What are you being asked to create? What are you being asked to share in the world? And where and how do you do that?

If you can sense YOU already have the answers, and are ready to tap into your innate creative wisdom, this might be for you.
• Private Facebook group
• 10 live sessions (February 3 – April 10)
• Group Messenger chat
• Three 1:1 private calls (20 mins each)
• Cost: 3 x monthly payments of $140
• No payments until 1 February

REGISTER: https://gum.co/meetyourcreativeself

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Take It Easy and Make It Easy (on Yourself)

Happy New Year! Do you make New Year’s resolutions? I have in the past, and I’ve rarely been able to keep them. I always tend to try to make a huge change or set a lofty goal, and it usually just leads to tears, cursing, and self-recrimination. This year, I’m going to apply a suggestion from several of the women I interviewed for my book on morning rituals. I’m going to START SMALL.

To quote from chapter 22:  “Keep it simple and achievable. To help with consistency, attach it to an existing habit. … Take it easy and make it easy. Start with tiny changes (i.e., I will take ten slow breaths in bed each morning this week), then add on as those become routine.”

In 2019, two of the main areas I want to focus on are physical fitness and creativity. So I've committed to doing one plank and writing one page a day, every day. (And from past experience, even this may not be a small enough start for me!) But it's achievable with just a bit of discipline--and infinitely easier than my previous goals have been, especially where exercise is concerned.

So if you are making any resolutions for this year, I encourage you to go gentle on yourself. Take teeny tiny baby steps. Make it virtually impossible to fail rather than virtually impossible to succeed. You can always ramp it up later. But don't underestimate the power of small. A single drop of water repeated constantly can wear away stone.

I wish you the best of luck and a healthy, abundant, joy-filled 2019!

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Make 2019 the Best Year Yet

I can’t believe it’s already December! The holiday merry-go-round is spinning in full force here, so I’m going to take a break from posting for the rest of the month. But first, I want to share with you an article I recently wrote for Hers Magazine titled “Do’s and Don’ts to Make 2019 Incredible.” If you can, try some of these ideas this month. Taking a few moments for ourselves each day can really help keep us calm and centered amidst all the hustle and bustle

I hope you have a happy, magical holiday filled with love and light. See you next year!

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The morning sets the tone for the rest of the day, and each morning is an opportunity for a fresh start. It’s like pressing the reset button—and you get that chance every twenty-four hours.

A morning ritual enables you to make the most of every day. Here are some “do’s and don’ts” that will help you master your mornings and steer your life with purpose toward a clear vision of what you want.

Don’t put yourself last. This is especially important for women. We tend to get up and immediately start handling external obligations, whether it’s for family or work. If we take a moment to care for ourselves first, we fill our own well and have more to give.

A morning ritual is one of the highest forms of self-care. We’re literally putting ourselves first. When we do this each morning, it helps train us to put ourselves first throughout our life. This is not selfish, it’s necessary. If we keep putting others’ needs ahead of our own, never taking the time to replenish our reserves, we will eventually run out. A morning ritual refuels us every day, keeping our life running smoothly.

“Having a morning ritual, I believe, is the key to stepping up to the starting line of a new adventure. Every day is full of possibility. [Mine] gives me the ability to meet the day’s activities in the best possible way.”—Char Cooper, business owner and marathon runner

Don’t use an alarm clock. Try training yourself to wake up without one; this allows your body’s circadian rhythm to wake you up when you’re naturally ready so you feel alert instead of groggy (as can happen when your alarm goes off during deep sleep). In order for this to be possible, you need to get enough sleep; make sure you go to bed early enough the night before.

If you want to keep using an alarm, don’t hit the snooze button—it only makes you sluggish. And once you’re awake, don’t get up immediately. First, take a few deep, slow breaths; doing this will calm and center you.

Don’t check social media or email first thing. Feed your mind with positive input and determine your priorities for the day first, instead of distracting yourself or getting waylaid by others’ needs.

“If I wake up and look at the phone right away, my whole day is wrecked. I have to meditate first. Meditation needs to happen before anything else; that’s my time.”—Jeanne Geier Lewis, start-up entrepreneur and co-founder of Capsure and Creativebug

Don't multitask.

It’s tempting on busy mornings to juggle three things at once, but resist. It might feel like you're getting more done, but studies show that we’re less efficient when we multitask, and it will scatter your energy. Strengthen your ability to focus by putting your full attention on each activity in turn. This also makes your morning feel much more peaceful, and you can carry that feeling of peace with you throughout your day.

Do go outside.

Getting sunlight first thing makes you more alert and spurs production of the mood-booster serotonin; it also helps regulate your sleep cycles. Take your morning coffee or tea out with you and enjoy.

Do what makes you happy and fills you up.

Ask yourself, “What do I need today?” Not “What do I have to do” or “What do others want me to do?” but “What do I need to do for me?” Whatever works for you is right for you.

Do try something creative.

Starting the day by “playing” may seem like slacking off, but it can actually boost your productivity. Ideas include meditative drawing, painting, knitting, writing, and singing. Or, have a short dance party—it’s more fun than exercising, easy to fit into a busy morning, and will rev up your energy while putting you in a good mood.

Do take the time to listen to your inner voice.

Overall, I think the most vital thing is taking quiet time for yourself. That’s when you hear your own voice and find your own truth.”—Tonya Lewis Lee, women’s wellness advocate, entrepreneur, filmmaker, and author

Women often have difficulty achieving the lives of our dreams. In fact, we often have difficulty even knowing what our dreams are. Centering ourselves with a morning ritual helps us access that inner knowing. By connecting to our core self, the one who is often drowned out by the world, we are able to know ourselves better and see clearly what it is that we want, then map out how to achieve it. And when you create the space for inspiration to come to you, you can realize solutions to problems and receive insights that will make life easier.

You don’t need to meditate for an hour—simply sitting in silence for a few minutes can be transformational. Journaling is also an excellent way to get in touch with yourself. If you find it difficult to be still, try a moving meditation with walking, Qi Gong, or yoga.

Creating a morning ritual is about taking charge of your day from the very beginning, gently, with purpose. When you start the day on your own terms, you are better prepared to live your life that way. You are mindful and calm. You can see more clearly the path that you genuinely desire to take—the path that leads to your happiest, most fulfilled life.

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