Tag Archives: creativity

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=”; rel=”attachment wp-att-5925″><img class=”aligncenter wp-image-5925 size-medium” src=”; alt=”” width=”300″ height=”295″ /></a>
<h4>Coming Soon! Buddha Cat: my first book!</h4>
<a href=”; rel=”attachment wp-att-5902″><img class=”aligncenter size-thumbnail wp-image-5902″ src=”; alt=”” width=”150″ height=”150″ /></a>

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 and sign up to be a Buddha Cat Backer! You’ll get updates, insights, goodies and discounts! Can’t wait to do this together.

be inspired 110915

Art in Action is a weekly post: a short, practical guide to applying the ideas and principles in the Focus Pocus posts to your body and life. As always, I love to hear from you about how you use them and how you translate the ideas into action.

Creativity isn’t something that some people have and some people don’t. Creativity is a way of moving through the world, a way of approaching life. Creativity is a choice. And while we have no control over how and why we get inspiration (or don’t), we do have the ability to put ourselves in a receptive position to receive it. Get curious about the circumstances in which you are inspired.

Here are 4 Ws for intentionally seeking inspiration; four ways to increase your chances of being there when the light bulb comes on.

1. Who – Ever spend time with someone and walk away with your heart humming and your spirit tingling? Some people are just inspiring to be with. Notice how you feel when you hang out with different people and make a point to spend time with at least one inspiring person every day. It might be your child or your writer friend or it might be watching Oprah or reading Brené Brown. Whoever it is, make time to be with them today.

2. What – Notice what you’re doing when you have even the smallest feeling of – Ah! Cool! That’s it! Knowing what activities inspire you can be huge in creating a creative life – and what you notice may surprise you. I get great ideas when I’m weeding. A friend gets her writing inspirations in the shower. Another person I know gets insights while driving. Yet another when swimming laps. Meditation and prayer are a common time to have flashes of insight. Be aware of what you’re doing when the lightning bolts (or the tiny sparks) hit … then do those things often and with a notebook handy.

3. Where – There are places that open us up and light us up. Where are you when you feel the breath of inspiration? Walking in nature? Sitting in a chapel? Lying in the grass? Swinging on a swing? Working in your office? Going to those places doesn’t guarantee that inspiration will be there, but it’s like watching for shooting stars: it’s not a sure thing you’ll see them as you gaze at the night sky but you can be absolutely positive you won’t see them while watching Survivor.

4. When – Some times of the day are more fertile for creativity. For some people, it’s late at night. Or maybe after the kids have left for school. Some get great ideas when they are tired and others when they are well-rested. For me, I get all kinds of inspiration in that slippery sliver of time when I’m not really sleeping and not really awake. Over time, I’ve learned to take those little early morning bubbles of creativity seriously. They are ideas worth pursuing. Which leads to…

BONUS W – Work it. Once you’ve gotten a hit of inspiration, act on it. If you have an idea about a story to write or a way to solve a problem at work, use it, act on it, do it. If you get a flash that you should give someone that book you love or take your kiddo to a concert or plant 600 daffodils in your yard, go do it. You might come up against resistance (in yourself or in others). Check that. You definitely will come up against resistance. When you do, rather than giving up on the idea, get curious about what’s stopping you. It might be a valid issue (you live in an apartment with three flower pots – no room for 600 bulbs). And the resistance might be (it probably is) fear wanting to keep you from stepping outside doing things as usual. As Seth Godin says, resistance is great. It means you’re on the right track and onto something big. So instead of giving up, work it.

Inspiration feels great. It’s a worthy endeavor to pursue situations that inspire you. And once you get the spark … act on it. Follow through. See what happens. The outcome isn’t your business, your job is to show up and allow what comes through to actually come through you.

inspired 110415

Creativity is everywhere and in everything. Every book, movie, painting, dance, poem, song, play, sculpture is the result of someone’s creative act. Cool, but no big shock since we think of art as creativity. Beyond the expected works of art, everything that’s ever been made — buildings, cars, furniture, city designs, gardens, relationships, people!, everything!! — is a result of someone’s creativity. Wherever you are right now, look around. You are sitting in a sea of creativity.

I’m fascinated by what inspires us, what comes through us, how art of all kinds comes into being. I read about it, teach about it, listen to what all sorts of people have to say about it.* I observe my own creative process as I teach, dance, write, draw, cook, and live.

Even so, creativity is an utter mystery to me.

It’s no coincidence that in English the word inspiration means both to receive breath and to receive an idea. No coincidence either that there are direct etymological connections between the words inspiration and spirit, the breath of the divine. Creativity is the very essence of life.

When we breathe in, we are taking something that is not us, the atmosphere, which allows us to live on Earth. When we receive inspiration, it, too, comes from outside of us to animate our time on the planet. But where does it come from?

One philosophy is that inspiration comes from each other. Kirby Ferguson, the creator of the brilliant short films, Everything’s a Remix, and Austin Kleon, author of Steal Like An Artist, agree that creativity is a process of copying what is already in the world, combining what exists in new ways and then transforming it into something new.

True enough: it’s all been done before. But really, this just begs the question of where the idea to copy this thing, to combine these things in this way come from? Where do we get the vision to transform something into something new? Where does that come from?

Stephen Cope, author of The Great Work of Your Life, teaches that creative outcomes are not our business. All we can do, he says, is to show up to plant the seed. In a 2012 workshop at Kripalu, he said,

Your job is to show up in great shape. Give it your very best. Show up well-nourished and well-rested. Give yourself recovery time. Prepare the soil then let it flow.

Well, thank goodness. Thank goodness I don’t have to sit down at my computer, or my drawing table, or the dance studio and think, Okay, Susan. Create. Go. To be inspired is to be touched by something other than us when we create something. My job is do my best, show up, be open, present, and willing to receive the mysterious gift of whatever comes through.

Elizabeth Gilbert, talks brilliantly about the mysterious entity of creativity in her 2009 TED Talk, Your Elusive Creative Genius. She tells the story of being completely stuck and in despair while writing her book, Eat Pray Love. She says,

I lifted my face up from the manuscript and I directed my comments to an empty corner of the room and I said aloud, “Listen, you, thing. You and I both know that if this book isn’t brilliant that it isn’t entirely my fault. Right? Because you can see I am putting everything I have into this. I don’t have any more than this. So if you want it to be better, you have to show up and do your part of the deal, okay? But if you don’t do that, you know what, the hell with it, I’m going to keep writing anyway because that’s my job. And I would please like the record to reflect today that I showed up for my part of the job.”

When I create a routine or an essay or a drawing, I usually start with a vision or little spark of an idea and steer it, think it, follow it through. For my latest routine, Inspired, it went a little differently. My friend asked me to teach a class at her church. One night, without thinking about it, I sat down and drew an image and wrote a description for the class, Breathing in Spirit. Huh. Okay.

102315 breathing in spirit

As I put together the class, I kept stumbling across music that inspired me or was about breath or inspiration. Halfway through teaching the class, I had the feeling that a routine wanted to come from what I’d begun. So I kept following inspiration: a song my yoga teacher played in class that made me cry, another suggested by a friend, another I’ve wanted to use in a routine but never have. I didn’t even really feel like I was doing it so much as I was letting it be done.

This is the invitation of Inspired and the invitation whether you’re dancing with us or not. The invitation is to show up, do your best, and see what comes through. Pay attention to the times and places and people and circumstances that inspire you. Spend time there.

Prepare the soil and let it flow. Be inspired.

* Want to explore deeper? In addition to the books and talk mentioned above, here are some of my favorite sources of inspiration about our sources of inspiration:

In February, meditation teacher and author, Sharon Salzberg sponsors a 28-Day Meditation Challenge. Everybody is invited to commit to meditating every day for the month and join the mindfulness community. As part of the challenge, I’ll be blogging throughout the month (along with other meditator/bloggers) about the experience. You can find the posts on Sharon’s site and I’ll share mine on Focus Pocus.

28-Day Meditation Challenge ~ Day 1
Sunday, February 1, 2015

28 Day Challenge aspen leaf pub dom

First day, first thing.
Get up and go. Brush things. Then sit.

What an excellent start I’m making.

I’m breathing and spacious and focused annnnd…

What shall I write about today and I must remember to email Nancy and I’d like to go for a walk but not if it’s raining and I need to make a playlist for Monday but I can rework the one from last week for Tuesday and I really must do some laundry and take out the trash and maybe this meditation would go better if I just did all those things first and then sat.

Breathing in. Breathing out.

I did manage not to get up and do the laundry. As best I could kept coming back when my mind wanted to tackle my To Do list. This is not unfamiliar territory. My mind loves to plan and organize and figure out what needs doing when. There is comfort in doing the little things that I know how to do rather than to face the space and whatever is happening in my body, mind, and emotions.

My dance of resistance and my mind machinations remind me of a talk John Cleese gave about creativity in which he describes creativity not as a talent but as a way of operating. He describes setting aside time for creative work: closing the door and setting a timer. And then a flood of minutia descends, begging to be cleaned up and sorted out before attempting the unknown of the creative project.

An interesting connection ~ meditation and creativity ~ neither of them talents but rather ways of operating. In both we intentionally set aside time to make space for whatever is arising, feel the pull of comfortable and familiar distractions. In both meditation and creative work, we never know what will happen. The practice is to be present for whatever comes up.

Sohpia FloatiesA Focus Pocus guest post by Sara Marks

This week’s Focus Pocus post is by my friend and Nia student, Sara Marks. She’d told me about her “floaties” and I loved the image. I knew she was a writer, so I asked her to guest post. The first part (posted yesterday), I love as as an awesome depiction of recent posts: Rush the Resistance and Structure, Expression & Wasabi Peas. The second part, below, I just love. I hope you do, too. Thank you, Sara, for sharing your art. ~ Susan

Floaties, floaties, floaties. I just like saying it, so I do — again and again. If I close my eyes I can see her. My daughter, my beautiful, curly-topped Sophia. Her bright eyes are all intensity, intelligence, and strength. I’m amazed at her will and tenacity and filled with wonder how I could have even partially created that. I see her bobbing around the water in her purple Nike floaties. She looks like a red and white fishing bobber, bobbling along in the Coralla pool.

She lifts her arms when her head gets too hot (much to the dismay of the lifeguard who now thinks for the third time today that she is drowning) and dunks herself under the cool water. She pops right back up and smiles, amused with her little game with the unsuspecting lifeguard.

We had argued earlier. I knew she could swim. I made sure before we went on vacation that she could swim. I had watched her in her swimming lessons and I knew she was a good swimmer. She knew, I knew. Somehow however, in a hastily packed pool bag, her floaties made it in. At four, I think she’s too old for floaties. They are for babies I told her, not for big girls. “Are you a baby?” My words sound harsh as I remember them now, but frustration and expectation had pushed me to the edge.

I couldn’t see it yet. I couldn’t see what was right in front of my face, smiling at me. “Look at me! Take my picture! Look at me here in my floaties.”

I use floaties. I use them all the time. Not actual floaties, of course, because ( A) they don’t make purple Nike floaties in my size and (B) people might think I’m odd. I don’t want to be odd, I want to be the normal, well, normal like the cool people. That’s why I’m afraid of writing. I’m certain that if someone read anything I wrote, they would think I was a fake. Or odd. And not in a cool way. I’m not enlightened or brilliant or anything, because if I were, then naturally, by now, I would be a writer.

My secure, safe, spectacular floaties carry me through my day. Effortlessly, I drift along, and I miss things. I miss connections, relationships, and joy. Real joy takes energy…and risk. “I’m sorry, I can’t play now. I have to clean this, bake this, do this, avoid that. I’m sorry, I can’t engage in conversation about politics, it’s too hard, I feel too strongly. How many children were killed? Where? I used to live near there. I’m so tired.” It’s scary, so my floaties are on.

“Slip sliding away.” I nap. I daydream. I read rubbish and trashy magazines about reality TV stars. I give in to fantasy and block out anything I deem too hard. I do everything I can to not engage in reality, to not be actively involved in my own space. This was my life. “A good day ain’t got no rain.” Everyone knows the song, and I am sure that if I asked Paul Simon what he wrote this song about, he would answer, “Floaties. I wrote it about floaties and I wrote it for you.”

But, after years of floatie-wearing, something is happening. I am happening. I’m not really sure when it started, how it started, or why it started. I started. I’m starting.

Whatever the reason, I began to see. I go to Nia as always, though now I raise my eyes in class. I used to tell myself that I needed to look down at my feet so as not to fall. Raising my eyes requires effort, and it is startling, strange, and surreal. The faces I was so apprehensive about are reassuring, smiling, comforting, and inviting. I doubt at first that the smiles are directed at me, the awkward tall woman who can’t keep on beat to save her life, stumbling around aimless, alone, and afraid. I’d tell myself, “just go dance in your little corner of the room, they’re not smiling at you.” But they are.

I am dancing my own dance to my own beat. All I need to do is show up, really show up. I was looking at my joy all along — my rhythm is mine and I am the one who needs to be happy and at ease with it. I smile back. I begin to raise my eyes in other places, too, and see more smiles and feel myself smiling back.

For some reason, I reach out to Susan while she’s on sabbatical. A radical act of bravery and courage that led to more. A domino effect. Susan, my friend and my teacher, is one of my hero-ific friends. The friends and the people who inspire me to aspire. It occurs to me that we all affect each other in ways that we might not realize. So I wonder: what affect do I have with my floaties on … and with them off?

I begin to spend less time in the floaties and more time on my real legs. Treadmills give way to long, quiet walks in the woods where I really look at what was blooming and growing and really listen to all the buzzing and chirping. I walk with my family, and my dogs too. Board games and UNO take the place of the trashy magazines. Daydreams become more embedded in reality. When I engage, I became more engaging. My conversations become richer. I talk with strangers, who then are no longer strangers. My wit becomes less snarky and my relationships blossom.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love my floaties, but I use them differently now. Floaties are part of being human. I use them for fun and rest as long as I put my feet down more than up. My floaties now have a surgeon general’s warning imbedded on them. “Use when necessary, DO NOT OVERUSE.”

If I close my eyes, I can see her again: my bright, bobbing Sophia. Maybe she was tired that day and her little legs and arms didn’t want to swim. After all, she was on vacation, too, right? Maybe she wanted to float for a bit, her big brown eyes facing up to the sun and dream big and fantastic and unflawed dreams.

She was right. Everyone deserves to use floaties once in a while. Occasional floaties give us a respite from bills, stress, and troubles until courage to deal presents itself. I’ve learned to recognize when I need them and when I don’t. I see how useful they are, but how tight and restrictive they can be. Mine help me stay on my rocker until I can get a firmer grip, but then off they come and out I go on my long, strong legs.

%d bloggers like this: