Posts Tagged ‘Creativity’

Wisdom in Pencil Shavings

03/08/2018
colored pencil shavings

The main character in this story


On this hot NYC summer day, I’m recalling a time earlier this year when winter was dragging its feet and holding spring hostage. People started to wonder if they had unknowingly fallen asleep, missed summer and woke up in winter again. As you might imagine, after months of cold, wet and dreariness, a person’s spirits need a good lift – especially when the snow starts falling from the sky when the calendar clearly says it’s time for spring… The good news is that this type of heaviness can be countered by pure nourishment, which I personally find in arts and crafts. Sketching, making a collage, even coloring – these all transport me back to childhood when we did things purely for exploration and play.

On one of these long winter nights, I rolled out my yoga mat to set up my arts and craft station. (Yes, I use my mat for practicing poses and crafting – it’s all yoga to me.) I pulled out my pencil sharpeners and emptied them out on the hardwood floor. As I looked down at this dusty little pile, it occurred to me that these messy, colorful shavings looked pretty cool sitting there. At that moment I decided I could probably transform this perceived pile of junk into something fun so I gathered some rubber glue and a piece of durable black construction paper then began to slather rubber glue across the page while sprinkling the spirals of shavings all over. One harvest wasn’t enough to complete the project so I would need to carve all of my pencils to an articulate, sharp point. As I continued to sharpen and glue layers of colored pencil dust to the page, I had a couple of thoughts about creativity and nourishment:

  • This thing that I made isn’t really a good piece of art at all – not in a consumer sense, anyway. But, what’s affirming about the process is simply the joy and lightness of creativity. The result doesn’t always need to become a money maker nor does anyone even need to see it. Something can be made strictly for nourishment – a valuable outcome, too. This nourishment is important to seek, identify and keep close, especially when life begins to feel heavy, grey and dull. We can’t change the fact that we’re experiencing this third winter nor can we mute the grind and noise of the city. We can only take care of ourselves with the tools we have at hand. This feels like true, authentic self-care – which we are all worthy of.
  • The other thing I contemplated was the literal messiness of this project: the glue, scraps of paper and in this case, pencil shavings. Initially, I approached the project with a careful and clean manner, gingerly patting down the shavings to the glue. Then I realized the actual messiness is a big part of the fun and reason for collecting pencil shavings in the first place. So, with gleeful abandon and hands covered in glue and colorful dust, I felt the joy, peace, magic, and nourishment that creating – for the pure sake of creating – reveals in and for me.

All of that. From a humble pile of colored pencil shavings. We all have projects that give us this pure sense of nourishment – our own version of some glue and colored pencil shavings. What’s yours?

mvimg_20180725_200112

My crafting station/yoga mat and art project

 

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Unravel

20/07/2018
Photo by Terra Evans on Unsplash

Photo by Terra Evans on Unsplash

A little while ago I was speaking to one of my dear friends in Australia. She is what I would describe as a touchstone, term for someone who restores faith in the goodness of humanity. This person helps unwrap and untangle any knots around my heart and mind, and I always walk away from our conversations feeling lighter and inspired. Every time I speak to her, I can’t help but feel like I’ve shifted and grown in some way.

During one of our phone calls, we spoke of our current events and news in our respective corners of the earth. In this conversation, I shared that I recently felt a sense of ‘unraveling’ happening within me. This sensation is exciting, yet a bit unsettling. As I explained, this internal unraveling made me feel like I was on the cusp of some change or realization. I rambled for a bit about this feeling and of course, didn’t really think I made much sense at all. But that’s the great thing about this friend; she’s patient and a champion listener. (Like, if listening were an Olympic sport, she’d most certainly qualify and probably get to stand on the podium). Once I had finished spilling fragments of thoughts, there was a pause. I could hear my friend contemplating from 10,000 miles away. Then she mused, “When you were using the word unraveling, I couldn’t help but think about a thread when you’re knitting. When a thread unravels, you use that bit to create something new.”

Wow. Once again my touchstone leaves me with such a simple image but one that I keep returning to on days when I feel like I’m coming undone. Sometimes this feeling of coming undone is exciting because something is about to change. Just like it can be unsettling because something is about to change. Unsettling or exciting, the unraveled thread can be used to create something new and beautiful. One of my yoga teachers, Matthew Sanford, once told me that unraveling is part of the process of realization and growth but warned that the trick is to not become too attached or concerned with the feeling of unraveling; allow it to be part of the experience without it becoming the focus. So, therein lies the practice. We’re all going to experience a sense of coming apart as we grow. The practice is to remain aware and even grateful for the unraveling but to stay loose because if you pull or hold too tight, you might unravel the whole sweater.

Improvasana

18/07/2018

yes and improv

Once upon a time I was inspired to step out of my comfort zone and try something completely different. So I said YES to Improv! Not only was I looking for a different extra-curricular activity than what I would normally sign up for, I also hoped to cultivate more confidence with speaking in front of others and thinking on the spot. As the weeks went on I began to realize that what we were learning in improv isn’t far off from what I’ve learned in yoga and meditation practices…

– In Improv, they encourage you to pause before you respond to a prompt. So if someone says, ‘What’s in the box?’ rather than panic and react (which can lead to funny outcomes), they advise to take a breath and respond. This sounds suspiciously like something I’ve learnt in my meditation practice. We learn to sit with whatever comes up, including difficult feelings or emotions. We learn to lean into these feelings, get comfortable and maybe even become friends with them. This skill that we learn in improv and in yoga can help us respond more thoughtfully to the ebbs and flows of life.

– Sometimes in improv you just can’t think what to say next… so you just say something. Anything. Then later on you say to yourself ‘Oh man! Why didn’t I say *this*. That would have been so good. But no, I’m terrible at improv.’ (Or was this just my thought process?). This cycle of negativity and self-criticism isn’t great for us. Besides, wasn’t the whole point of taking improv to have fun, do something different and learn a few things? Let go of the negative self-talk and be kind to yourself. Hmm… I feel like this has come up in yoga classes for me. “Handstand? Man, I won’t ever be able to do that. I suck at life because I can’t pop up into a handstand.” Wait? Why am I practicing yoga again? Oh, that’s right. Because it’s fun and I learn things. Sounds like improv.”

Breathing. As mentioned before, when it’s your turn to talk in improv, take a breath. In yoga if you’re in a challenging posture, take a breath. In meditation, when the mind starts to wander, re-align your focus and take a breath. Actually, if you’re doing anything, take a breath.

– As one of my peers so wisely observed in the final class, improv is really more than just thinking of the right thing to say. It’s important to actually bring your mind AND body into the experience. When we become more mindful of our body and how we’re holding it in space, we tend to feel more connected to ourselves, those around us and heck, even the world. When the link between our mind and body is awakened in such a way, we’ll bring more of ourselves into the improv scene/yoga class/meditation session. And maybe, just maybe this will teach us to include more of ourselves into the world. Whether that’s to be brave and try something new or to stand up for something you believe in. Or perhaps it helps you cultivate compassion for yourself and others. As a yoga student and teacher, I have long reflected on what it means to have an active connection between mind and body and will continue to ask the question.

So, it would seem that improv is actually meditation and yoga in disguise. Who would have thought? (By the way, I took the Improv series at Brave New Workshop. They’re awesome. Check them out if you’re in the Twin Cities.)

 

Joy in the Mess

17/07/2018

Friday night in New York City. My husband and I are kindly invited by my dear friend, David, and new friend, Cassandra, to a dinner party at their home. All day I was overcome with anxiety – both the good, excited kind but also the “I won’t be good enough” kind. David and Cassandra are insightful, well-traveled, and quite successful at what they do. As my mind tends to do in times like these, it reminds me that my accomplishments don’t stack up to theirs or those of their guests. Yeah, my brain can be a real jerk.

Fortunately, when we arrive my nerves quickly subside and I feel more at ease as we are warmly greeted and led inside. Everyone who is there already is kind and immediately welcoming. Introductions are made. Drinks are poured. Laughs are had. Then, it’s time for dinner.

Conversation is flowing as we’re lapping up our soup, sucking on the hearts of artichokes, pouring more wine, and then the main course is served. We’re enjoying this stunning feast when the generous and warm-hearted hostess asks for everyone’s attention as she has an idea.

With a mere 14 of us gathered around the table, she suggests that the group is intimate enough that we could go around to talk about and share our passions. In the middle of a bite of chicken, I immediately feel my hands go clammy, my skin flush, my stomach clamp up… Oh no… That dreaded question.

Before I go further, let me clarify that there is absolutely nothing wrong with this question. In fact, I love this question. I love listening to what other people have to say. But, you see, when asked to talk about what I’m passionate about, I get overwhelmed. All at once, my mind somehow shuts down and goes into overdrive. I can’t really easily explain what it is that I’m passionate about. There are things I care deeply about and for. I have plenty of hobbies and interests, I could tell you about. But ask me about my passion and I get all like…

giphy-downsized

I’m not sure why this question triggers such anxiety for me. I suspect part of it is that my passion is a moving target. I have a habit of quickly and easily becoming enthralled by new ideas and topics – which I seem to encounter all the time, especially living in NYC! As I listen with admiration to everyone’s stories, passions, and achievements, I experience simultaneous sensations of hope and connection… and kind of needing to vomit. I have issues, man.

Eventually, I have to speak. Cassandra, who I’ve met only twice, turns towards me and gives an insightful and warm introduction. One I wish I had recorded because she pretty much hit the nail on the head, describing how I seemed to be seeking my place and there’s a sense of discomfort – which pretty much confirms what I’ve always feared to be true… I am awkward. Anyway, I barely remember what I cobbled together for my response. I quickly and nervously said something about how everything I do seems to go back to stories  – which I absolutely believe to be true. Stories matter. Everyone was perfectly kind and supportive of what I had to say. Then, the spotlight went onto the next guest. Relief. Phew.

While I can’t say with any confidence that I intrigued anyone that evening, I am thankful for the night, the company and this question. It prompted me to reflect. Since that dinner, I have come to a conclusion (for now) that I am passionate about three things: stories, creativity, and humanity. The hobbies and interests I collect like Pokemon (is that even a relevant reference anymore?) like yoga, hand lettering, reading, tech, and so on, are vehicles to help me study stories, the creative process, and the connection of humanity. And, the vehicles will likely change over time. Maybe even tomorrow. And, I’m OK with that… like the perfect comeback or quip, it’s too bad I didn’t think to say all of this around the table – but I am grateful to at least recognize and become content with the joy that is found in the mess of figuring this all out.

“How To Be Everything” is Everything

17/07/2018

Cover of "How To Be Everything"For as long as I can remember, I have been curious and interested in a lot of different things. Some that are related; others, seemingly random and out in left field. I took up lots of different extra-curriculars in high school, went on to explore a variety of subjects during undergraduate (it’s actually remarkable I graduated in four years and stuck with my majors in Journalism and Film Studies the whole time – the prospect of deep financial debt was enough to keep me on track, I guess) and have had jobs in recruiting, nonprofit, and wellness – to name a few.

As I began creeping towards my mid-thirties, I was beginning to grow increasingly frustrated and slightly embarrassed by my seemingly lack of career direction. It’s not that I don’t have the drive – it’s just that I tend to get really into one thing then grow bored and pursue the next subject or job. And, then I came across a TED Talk that would give people like me a name – I am a multipotentialite! As Emilie Wapnick describes in her talk, a multipotentialite is someone who has many different passions, skills, and interests. Finally! Someone who gets me and this segment of people who don’t jive with one, single career or focus.
Much to my delight, Wapnick released a book and guide called “How To Be Everything.” To my knowledge, there aren’t many career books that help people like me organize their various ideas and skills. While this is certainly beginning to change these days, it’s still seen to be the norm to choose one area of vocation to pursue. But this refreshing handbook debunks all of that and offers practical advice on how to organize, prioritize, and work with your various streams of ideas and interests. Wapnick’s voice is also incredibly lighthearted and encouraging which makes it extra enjoyable to read. In addition to clear tips and steps for taking action, I found excellent value in the exercises. My favorite one was writing down all of my projects, including hobbies that fuel my creativity and placed them in one of three categories: Priority Projects, In the Wings, and Tinker Time.

  • Priority Projects, as you may discern from the name, are projects that are on the top of my list. These are my money makers (or, I hope to be so am investing time into it). Right now I want to focus on my nonprofit work, learning how to code, and building my tech writing chops.
  • In The Wings are ideas that excite me but either require further resources and time to build skills in order to make them happen. Or, it might be a project that is meaningful but not of priority because I’m not expecting to monetize it. Projects on this list include writing a book and creating an app.
  • Tinker Time is reserved for anything that fuels my creativity and gives me fulfillment. It is stuff that I – well – tinker with. These projects and activities are what I turn to when I need a break from my Priorirty Projects, or need some self-care. I also don’t plan to monetize them but might be weaved into my Priority or In The Wings projects (For example, yoga is on this list. I don’t have much desire to teach yoga full-time right now but I still love yoga and love teaching adaptive yoga classes – actually, you can learn more about that right here on this website).

I highly recommend “How To Be Everything” if you feel stuck (Not for ideas because you probably have plenty of those!) and need some practical steps for how to thrive as a multipotentialite!

Take a look at http://puttylike.com/ for more info on Emilie Wapnick, multipotentialites and to pick up this awesome book!