Tag Archives: acknowledgment

Creative Conversations 2014

Creative Conversations

Join in the dialog!

The Creative Conversations series in 2014 will be a *FREE* monthly gathering place to dialog about living creatively and awakening to your own creative potential…one moment at a time.

Whether or not we openly acknowledge it, we each live within a creative process that is constantly in motion. We may alternate between wanting to “stop time” and wanting to “get it all over with as quickly as possible”. Within that turmoil is a space of observation, acceptance, and mindful movement within the eternal present moment.

Each of these one-hour conversations will begin with a space of silence, a moment to experience yourself in creative process right now. Call it “meditation” if you like.

From that space, we invite what wants to blossom.

Bring your questions, your own adventures in creative process, your requests for encouragement, your works in progress. There may be guest interviews, webinars….who knows what the harvest will bring?

This is a virtual meeting on the path we are all on….let’s take a moment to walk together!

Wednesdays at 10am PT/1pm ET

Dial-in: (605) 477-2100

Access Code: 958748#

Can’t make it live? Register to receive the recording by e-mail.

Dates for 2014 Creative Conversations:

April 30

May 28

June 25

July 30

August 27

September 24

October 29

November 19

December 17

Precision, Gentleness, and Letting Go

Braid closeup

In The Wisdom of No Escape, there’s a chapter where Pema Chodron talks about three useful qualities for life and for meditation: precision, gentleness, and letting go.

I’ve been consciously living with the nine principles of Breema lately, and I’ve noticed how precision, gentleness, and letting go are a useful way to greet any practice, old or new.

For example, one of the Breema principles is “No Judgment.”

When you begin to study and practice “No Judgment”, the first thing you notice is how much judgment is in your mind already.

“No Judgment” brings your attention first to the judgment that’s there. Which means, you begin to identify judgment as judgment. That’s precision. You may notice as a new student of something, you like to be very precise. So every time you see your mind judging, you say to yourself, “Damn it, I’m judging again! Why am I so judgmental? I need to stop judging so much.” And you feel the assault on yourself beginning to happen.

This is the moment when gentleness can enter in. You have an opportunity to practice gentleness, or to continue the assault. Gentleness gives you the opportunity to take a different attitude toward yourself, even as you see, with precision, what is going on. Gentleness encourages you to just see, without extra attacks or criticism or labeling. In other words, no need to judge your judgment. Be gentle with yourself as you begin to see clearly. Just see what is, with no extra.

Letting go is the final practice, and it is the result of practicing both precision and gentleness. Letting go is not something to achieve or do, but is a natural unfolding of both precision and gentleness practiced together. When you play with these qualities of precision and gentleness, dance with them back and forth, and then gradually see that they are both happening all at once, there is a feeling of letting go. Neither precision nor gentleness has to “win”. There is no final state to achieve. There is no superior way to be.

Letting go is a sensation of relief. That it’s not all such a big deal. That we definitely need to practice, but part of the practice is also to let it all go. Letting go is not a “Forget about trying, I’ll just give up” kind of feeling, but rather a smiling recognition that no one needs to win or lose, not even the more or less enlightened parts of your own mind. It’s a kind of relaxation into the present, a return to what is, and a feeling that our attached thoughts are not who we are. A knowing that our true essence is something much lighter, and also more timeless than any thought or practice.

Living With A Perfectionist In Your House

I am a recovering perfectionist.

I’ve been practicing various antidotes to perfectionism quite consciously for about three years now. That makes me – the real me, the innocently imperfect me – about three years old. I’m walking, I’m talking, I’m eating with my plastic miniature utensils, insisting that I’m a big girl now. But the real big girl in the house – the house of my mind, my body, and my soul – is Miss Perfectionist. She is the one who grew up inside my house, the house of me. She became the big one without my knowing it. She got all the praise, all the money, all the polite smiling conversations at cocktail parties, all the “wow”s and “ooh”s and “aah”s, all the framed diplomas and plaques on the wall. She was surrounded by people she kept at an arm’s length distance, so they wouldn’t touch anything close to her.

She thought she liked it that way. She thought she preferred it that way, because her attention could be focused on making her hair perfect, her face perfect, her nails perfect, her shoes perfect, her outfits perfect, anything that would attract the attention of perfection praisers, which seemed to be everywhere.

Miss Perfectionist was so busy doing the things she defined as perfection – which always involved something other than the way things were – that she ignored the real me, who by the way, happened to own the house the whole time. Continue reading

What the Bike Taught Me

About two weeks ago I bought a bike. Brand new, cute as can be, even with a name, “Fiona”. I also got the cutest panier ever, with a lime green flower and orange straps.

On my very first ride, I got a flat tire. A complete blow out, requiring me to walk it home for about two miles. Luckily it was a particularly beautiful sunset on the ocean, and I got to look up, twisting my head slowly to savor the powder blue sky and cotton candy pink clouds spreading in all directions around me.

Still, I was a little shaken by the fact that the road looked so innocent – no broken glass or bed of nails in sight. Just smooth blacktop for as far as the eye could see. Except for whatever jumped into my back tire that evening.

It turned into a perfect opportunity to have one of my coworkers show me how to change a flat. Somewhere around step 9 of the process, my eyes started to glaze over, but I kept taking notes as he explained and demonstrated patiently. He taught me about tire protectors and now I own some. If you don’t have them, go get some!

I’ve been riding almost every day since. On the sunny ones, I’m riding chin up, smiling from ear to ear, and taking in the sounds of the rolling waves and the expansiveness of the ocean stretching out to the horizon. I note the particular shade of blue in the sky and on the water each day, because they are never repeated exactly.

Riding my bike has transformed a routine errand – hopping in my car to drive two miles to the local market for food each day – into a celebration of life. I breathe in the scent of cypress, I feel the warm sunshine on my cheeks, and I experience my own body propelling this amazing machine beneath me.

I wonder, “How the bicycle must have transformed human experience when it first appeared on this planet!”

And then I think, “What made us dream of a bigger machine that would multiply our speed of transit even more, but not require us to move our bodies at all?”

When I’m sitting on my bike, gliding along the paved path near the ocean, I think about these things. I am relaxed and confident, because this is a bike’s territory. Pedestrians and dogs must yield.

A different story begins the minute I cross from the path to the road. The very last stretch of ride between my house and the market involves crossing a major intersection with a stoplight. Four lanes of traffic, three strip malls, a gas station, a high school, all converge at one point. I have two streets to cross each time I reach this intersection. I walk across one way, and ride across the other, my body often tense with resolve to “get through” without any close encounters with cars or mishaps with my own machine beneath me.

One day last week, I was feeling particularly vulnerable. It was drizzling lightly. I liked being alone on the path, feeling the cool breeze in my ears, and the tiny fuzzy droplets of mist gathering on my eyelashes. I was cautious, using the brakes a bit more on the turns, controlling my speed, as I had no idea how Fiona would respond in wet conditions. Continue reading

How to Kill Your Creativity…And Bring It Back To Life

Is your creativity dead?

I honestly believe that few of us – regardless of whether we work as “creatives” or not – intentionally set out to kill our own creativity.

We may just gently turn our backs on it, dismissing it as something reserved for children, or as something only “irresponsible” adults indulge in, or as a waste of time that could never serve a purpose in society (ie, getting paid money for it), or as something only “talented people” get to do.

I’m here to say that none of those is absolutely true.

Creativity is not limited to art…

So, let’s say you’re longing for a more creative life. That could mean anything from having more freedom and flexibility in your current job, to finding a way to support yourself while expressing your own creativity.

I don’t define creativity as being limited to “artistic” activities like painting, dancing, singing, or sculpting pottery. I define creativity as our innate human ability to connect with the unseen. By this definition, I see every human being as creative, by virtue of our brain’s ability to spontaneously form images that are only seen in our mind’s eye.

How you choose to use your creativity is a different story.

And this is where many of us have killed our own creativity, or least left it for dead. Continue reading

What I just won’t buy anymore

I was reading the website of a prominent life coach the other day, and was feeling myself getting seduced by the promise of change. For me, this feeling is a little tug in my chest, accompanied by a little voice that says, “You could be like her! Why don’t you just try harder? You could be successful like that! You can have everything you want in your life! Just try harder!”

I was getting pulled in by her clarity, and her certainty, and her artfully written course descriptions and “How I Work With You” page. I was dreaming of what my life would like if only I were “as on top of things as she was”. I was reading through her punchy blog posts, which boiled everything down into three simple categories, a numerical scale, and a “toolkit” for achieving the state of bliss that she has apparently created for herself.

In her “About” page, where she introduces herself and tells her story of why she became a coach, she talks about “having been there”. Having been broke, miserable, in a rocky marriage, and not living her best life. Continue reading

How To Be Exactly Where You Are

I love blog posts that start with “How To…”. They are always so promising, and hold the anticipation of a wrapped present under the Christmas tree, or a package arriving on your doorstep after your recent online purchase.

“Oh I can’t wait to open this! And finally SEE what’s inside!”

And, just like Christmas, just like opening that package that you ordered online, there’s that moment of not knowing, the moment of unveiling, the moment where your expectation rises to greet the present moment unfolding.

When it’s unveiled, we deal with the match between our heart’s desire – the image of what we hoped to see in that opening – and the reality right before our eyes. Is it everything you imagined? Is it “perfect” (meaning, does it match your idea of what you wanted)?

Or is it a letdown? An unfulfilled promise? A shattered dream? Continue reading

Are you fighting with reality or appreciating it?

I  recently noticed that I’ve been fighting against a lot lately. Fighting against complaining, fighting against frustration, fighting against fear.

How’s that been workin’ for me? Not so great.

Today I went on a hike and happened upon a field of daffodils…in February! Now isn’t that amazing?

I stopped to appreciate the surprise of unexpected beauty. And I realized that by sending out the energy of “fighting against”, I am actually becoming the very thing I wish to avoid or resist. Continue reading

A Story of Two Hikes

Lately I have found that the best “medicine” I can give myself during the course of a day is to get out of my chair and go on a hike. I am fortunate to live within a few minutes’ drive of several open space preserves, so there are no excuses! Except the voices in my head saying that I “should” be “working”…a very narrowly defined version of working indeed.

I’ve found that every time I actually take the action of going on the hike – against the more prudent advice of the thoughts in my heads saying things like, “Breaks are for the weak“, and, “Working hard is the only way to survive in life” – I experience a burst of creative ideas and energetic opening, which makes me grateful for every breath and every step I can take. It’s not like “working out” at the gym, which I did for many years and with much gusto.

Recently I took a hike and recorded two videos – one before and one afterwards. I set an intention (or actually a “goal”) of practicing self-acknowledgment during the hike, since I had spent the better part of the day flogging myself to work harder, falling into the old thought pattern of, “It’s never enough.

About halfway through the hike, I realized that in the effort and concentration of pursuing my goal of self-acknowledgment, I had not acknowledged anything that was going on in my immediate surroundings! I had not taken in the particular sights, sounds, and other physical sensations of being on a walk outdoors surrounded by open space and natural vistas. My head was down for most of the first half of the hike. But once I realized this halfway through, and opened myself to experience the present moment, I softened my gaze. I was not working so hard to be on this hike and accomplish rejuvenation as if it were another homework assignment by a teacher. I was shifting into receptivity and noticing everything gently, in real time. I started to look UP at the sky, notice the sounds of the birds, appreciate how the outline of the mountains against the sky, on this particular day, were barely visible because of the misty haze. I started to listen to the sound of my own footsteps on the trail, and how they provided a steady, soft rhythm over which the birds occasionally improvised their solos.

During the second half of my hike, there was a shift into musicality from what had started out mechanically.

This was my experience of coming into the present moment. You hear Eckhart Tolle and Oprah and other teachers talking about “being in the present moment”, but what is your own experience of it, in your own body?

I post this as a reminder that we may spend lots of time trying to learn something, or pay someone to teach us “how to” do something, or read blog after blog in search of the answer to the questions in our heart. I believe that learning and growth are the ultimate purpose of our lives here on earth. However, keep in mind that the most important thing to do while learning is to notice yourself as you learn. By developing the ability to notice what is going on inside you, how you are applying the lessons specifically in your life, and honoring your experience as you respond to being taught, you are giving yourself the true gift of learning…and healing.

I encourage you to find the energy of openness and receptivity in your daily life through your own practice….maybe it’s a hike, or maybe it’s something else. Discover what restores YOU!

Video before the hike (where I set my intention):

Video after the hike (which felt like two different hikes based on a mind shift halfway through):

Wake-Up Call From Jay-Z And A Chinese Mother: You Have The Choice To Be Victim Or Master Of Your Life

I happened to be awake and watching television last night when the hip-hop artist and entrepreneur Jay-Z appeared on the new Oprah Winfrey Network show, “Master Class.”

He was speaking about everything he had learned so far in his life. His childhood roots of living in urban housing projects, and having a father who abandoned the family when Jay-Z was 11 years old, were completely foreign to me, as a child of married, Chinese immigrant, PhD-educated parents in the upper middle-class suburbs of the Midwest.

He told the story of a typical day, being on the playground with friends, and having to run and take cover whenever gang members would drive by, shooting automatic weapons at random. After fifteen minutes or so, he and his friends would re-emerge and start playing again.

As I held my breath and imagined a story of how “horrible” it must have been to grow up under such dangerous and uncertain conditions, I heard Jay-Z say this: “It was truly a remarkable upbringing.” Continue reading