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Art


At various times in the past week, my art room spilled from my office into the living room and occasionally onto the kitchen table. I’ve had watercolors drying on one table with pens and pencils scattered around on the floor and paper, notes, and quotes interspersed in all of it. At any given time, there were at least two pairs of glasses in the mix, a couple of rulers, scissors, and some glue.

After art-ing for a while, I take some time to go through what I’ve made and decide which pieces I might use and how. But then I pop up from my art bubble, survey the mess with uneasiness. Even if I know I’m going to make art again in the not-too-distant future, I’ll clean it all up and put everything away.

It’s the process of creating — whether it’s in an art studio, a kitchen, on a construction site, or in a relationship. We messy things up, get out all the tools, the paint, the ladders and then we chop, draw, sauté, talk. Then, we pause and evaluate where we are and clear things up before creating some more.

I know builders who leave the site a jumble of scraps and tools and sawdust throughout a project. I know artists whose studios are in a constant state of disarray. I’ve had times in my life when relationships resided permanently in tangle of unresolved conversations and issues. I’ve heard it said that it’s all a work in progress so why put everything away if you’re just going to get it out again tomorrow?

But when I do that, I can’t find what I’m looking for, I forget what I’m doing, and I get easily distracted from what’s important. Art gets damaged or lost. Time and energy and food gets wasted. People don’t feel heard or seen.

I know people with woodworking shops that are so meticulously organized that they rarely use them. I’ve seen gleaming kitchens of granite and steel that never have sauce on the counter or a pile of pots in the sink. I’ve known relationships that stay neat and tidy and polite and don’t get much below the surface.

When I over-focus on the tidy, creativity and exploration rarely happen. I stay in safer waters, where growth and possibility (and awkward feelings) don’t come into play.

For me, the best is a mix of the messy and the clean. In order to be more centered, clear, creative and adventurous, I have to messy it up, then clean it up, then do it again. Play around. Experiment. Muck about. Then clean it up. From there I can figure out where all my tools are, what the next step might be, and what I needfor the next round of creating.

It’s a cycle of chaos and order, over and over again that moves us forward and keeps us growing. It’s the back and forth from mess to clean that keeps us from getting mired in the clutter or hamstrung by the neatness.

Whatever you’re doing, messy it up, then clean it up, then do it again.

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Embrace Form…

No matter what you’re doing, form is essential. Structure and boundaries make space for possibility.

but Soften around Form…

Give up getting it right. Nobody is getting it right. Get too tight around form leaves you rigid and unavailable.

Embrace Freedom…

Freedom is the opportunity to go in new directions, experience new things, create what hasn’t been created.

Soften around Freedom…

No matter what you do, habit and auto-pilot will wend their way into freedom. Originality is a myth. Relentless focus on freedom leads to chaos.

Grayson Perry is a fascinating modern artist with boat tons of wisdom about creativity…and some of the craziest outfits you ever saw. He has so many talks and videos and lectures that I really just recommend mucking about and see what you find. AND, I like this piece and this video and this series of lectures (especially the last one).

Every endeavor needs both form and freedom. Embrace them both without a strangle hold. Allow things to be messy and imperfect. Mistakes aren’t the problem. Soften around form and freedom to uncover creative possibility.

For months now, I’ve been noticing the connection between healing and creativity. As I pay deep attention, as I find the willingness to step into whatever is happening (in my body, my heart, my mind, my spirit, the world), creative energy becomes available — energy for expression, for insight, for solutions, for presence.

When Mary Linn and I decided to focus on this connection in our classes this week (we’re teaching together on July 4! Do join us at acac albemarle square 11am-1215pm!), we didn’t really know what we were doing.

She mentioned Elizabeth Gilbert…that’s where I found the quote for the art piece above.

Then I read this genius blog post from Lisa Jakub, called Can You Make Art During a Crisis? (Spoiler Alert: YES. Hell YES you can and must and YES please. But read her post since she says it better than I did.)

And then this from Graeme Seabrook came up on my Facebook feed:

All around me I hear artists, writers, musicians, coaches, healers – all kinds of creators – questioning themselves and their work in the world.
Should they stop writing jokes, or painting, or making t-shirts, or candles, or poetry, or, or, or? Shouldn’t they put away these frivolous things and fight?
At the same time I see people all over social media thirsty for good news, for inspiration, for joy. I see my friends and family in my offline community searching for peace, for some comfort.
To the creators, to the makers, to the healers and the coaches, the writers and all the bringers of light I beg you: PLEASE KEEP CREATING.
We need to be reminded of what life can be.
We need to be shown our highest selves.
We need to remember what we are fighting FOR and not only what we are fighting against.
We need hope.
So please keep creating. We need you now more than ever.

And then Mary Linn and I kept finding music that we wanted to create new choreography for and there it was, flowing through me, the energy that is released when I have the courage to heal.

Step into this with us. Dance in it — however you do. What we create out of our healing is what makes all the difference.


<a href=”https://focuspocusnow.com/2018/06/23/showing-up/the-power-of-showing-up-v1-062318/&#8221; rel=”attachment wp-att-5925″><img class=”aligncenter wp-image-5925 size-medium” src=”https://focuspocusnow.files.wordpress.com/2018/06/the-power-of-showing-up-v1-062318.jpg?w=300&#8243; alt=”” width=”300″ height=”295″ /></a>
<h4>Coming Soon! Buddha Cat: my first book!</h4>
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I’ve finalized the pages and the cover mechanical is done (doesn’t that sound official and cool? I have no real idea what it means). Please join me in the adventure of the publication of my first book. Go to http://www.susanmcculley.com and sign up to be a Buddha Cat Backer! You’ll get updates, insights, goodies and discounts! Can’t wait to do this together.

It happens a lot while I’m driving.
It happens when I’m chopping vegetables.
It happens often in the shower, on the dance floor and on the yoga mat.

And while I get a TON of things done in my office, those things are almost never inspired.

Creativity and inspiration, as Elizabeth Gilbert writes about in her book Big Magic, arrives under particular circumstances.
Creativity doesn’t come when we force it.
Inspiration doesn’t come when we are under stress.
Chic Thompson could have said, “Nobody ever got a good idea while being chased by a tiger or having a fight with their kid or fretting about the doom of the planet.”

We can only invite inspiration, and in order to do that, we have to give it space. We can’t make creativity happen but we can create conditions that make it more likely.

One way to start practicing making inspiration space is to notice when your insights and genius shows up. What were you doing? What state of mind and body and heart were you in? Once I notice when creativity shows up, I can start to intentionally create those situations more often. (Perhaps this is why I make so many chopped salads.)

This is one of the reasons that I’m teaching on just Monday (1045am at acac albemarle square) and Tuesday (840am at acac downtown) this week. I’m taking a couple of days away to mark the Solstice, visit my friend Zan in the mountains of West Virginia, and allow in some inspiration. Kate (Wednesday at 11am) and Jeanne (Thursday at 840am) will be dancing with you while I’m away.

And speaking of inspiration, if you missed my extra post yesterday about my first book, Buddha Cat: Learning Awareness, Presence & Self-Care from a Teacher Who Sometimes Barfs on the Bed, check it out here!

Making a book has been a life-long dream and I’m excited about sharing the adventure with you. I would love it if you would help spread the insight and delight of the project. Would you please go to http://www.susanmcculley.com and sign up to become a Buddha Cat Backer? It’s free, of course, and I’ll send you updates, information, discounts and some special goodies that only Buddha Cat Backers will get. Thank you for being one of my sources of inspiration!

PS Here is Buddha Cat herself meditating on her favorite cushion.

Exciting news! I’m going on an adventure and I want you to come.

I’m delighted to announce the upcoming publication of my first book:
Buddha Cat: Learning Awareness, Presence, and Self-Care from a Teacher Who Sometimes Barfs on the Bed

This is the cover:

Since I was little, I’ve wanted to be an artist. As I got older, I realized I didn’t just want to make lovely or amusing things but rather to offer both delight and insight. I do my best to offer both in my classes and workshops, my essays and illustrations, even these blog posts.

Now I’m making a book.

Right now, I have exactly one copy.

I’m working on changing that.

This is absolutely an adventure of I-don’t-know-what-I’m-doing-and-figuring-it-out-as-I-go-along-one-step-at-a-time-and-who-knows-what-will-happen-next-but-it-is-something-I-want-to-share.

That’s where you come in.

Please join me in helping to spread insight and delight in the world. Heaven knows we need it these days. C’mon, we’ll do it together. It will be fun!

Just go to www.susanmcculley.com and sign up to be a Buddha Cat Backer.

Buddha Cat Backers get updates and information about publication, discounts and special offers, and an inside look into the process of making the book. So please go to www.susanmcculley.com now and sign up. It’s totally free, of course, and as soon as you do, I’ll send you a sneak preview of one of the illustrations that you can print, enjoy…

…and SHARE! It would be great if you would. Will you please spread the word?

Do you know someone who loves a cat? who practices meditation and mindfulness (or wants to)? who could use some reminders to find wisdom in unlikely places? Please invite them to go to www.susanmcculley.com and become a Buddha Cat Backer, too.

Phoenix and I would be so grateful.

Last week I took a break from teaching in order to put my attention on some creative and healing projects. I had this idea that in this week, I’d be able to clean up the corners, tuck in the edges, and close the files on these things I wanted to do.

The week was full of everything. I did much of the art and health work that I’d intended. I worked on my book and made some real strides. I did yoga every day, danced at home, played with new music, and listened deeply to what my body is telling me. I also met with a couple of friends, got distracted, did a bunch of cooking, got stuck in my head, felt discouraged and spun my wheels.

It might sound like the latter things were a pull away from my intention. It might sound like in those times I wasn’t doing what I’d promised myself I’d do. As it turns out, all of those things contributed to a really wonderful, surprising, and productive week.

I needed to do it all.

I went into my time away with this piece of art

I come back from the week realizing that there are many nouns that I need to remember are actually verbs. Balance, health, and life aren’t destinations, they aren’t a place to land and stop. They are all processes and ways of approaching the flow of our days.

This week, if you find yourself thinking there is some place you’re supposed to be, some state you think you ought to end up in, play with making whatever that word is into a verb.

I am taking next week away from teaching classes to focus on healing and creative projects. I’m not leaving town or going to work with a teacher. Honestly, I’m not exactly sure what I’m doing. Which maybe is fine and perfect since neither “healing” nor “art” are nouns.

They are both verbs.

They are processes.

They are ways of being and living.

So that’s what I’ll be doing next week. Healing. Arting.

Many thanks to the acac Nia team who are graciously sharing their gifts and teaching my classes.

I’ll be back teaching and posting here the week of May 27.
Until then,
Dance on. Shine on.

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