Art That Heals: A Manifesto

Download this 7-page, gorgeous, inspiring manifesto for free.

No email address required. Just click the download button and enjoy!

This is my gift to you and to our world. Please share it with others in the spirit of generosity and love in which it was created.

May it inspire a wave of art and healing that we need so much in our world today.

Love, Maxima

2018 Year In Review

2018 Year In Review

This past year, I gave myself a huge gift. I cut back my teaching hours by half and poured myself into my writing life. Here’s what I learned, what I did and didn’t accomplish, and where I’m setting my sights now.
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Validate Yourself: Why Every Artist Needs to Learn This

Validate Yourself: Why Every Artist Needs to Learn This

“For writers and artists, the ability to self-reinforce is more important than talent.” – Steven Pressfield

Being able to validate yourself as an artist is so important to your ability to keep creating and enjoying it—and so up for me lately—that I just had to write about it when I read Steven Pressfield’s excellent post on the subject this past week. (https://stevenpressfield.com/2018/11/reinforcement-and-self-reinforcement/)

With Our Thoughts We Make the World

I have been watching my mind more closely lately, because my moods have been wavering too often between “the dumps” and “OK.”

And it’s largely because of what I think in my head.

Yes, there’s been really hard stuff happening in our world. From the rise of fascism in America to the fires ravaging California. There’s climate change and economic oppression, racism and greed run rampant in many parts of the world.

And then there’s my personal situation—the stress of ongoing economic uncertainty combined with the agonizingly slow path to recognition for my writing, despite all the hours and loving attention I pour into it.

This is hard!

But what makes it hard most of all is what I think about it.

The Point of Power Is Within

Man giving himself a thumbs up

Photo by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash

This is very good news because it means we aren’t helpless. We aren’t victims.

The point of power is within us, in our thoughts and feelings. And we can change that.

So, I have been paying close attention to the tiny thoughts that slip by unheard but create a sinking feeling in my chest, as if all the air had gone out of the balloon.

I am noticing the stories I make up about the world’s future, my future. And the stories I make up about myself: that I’m not good enough, feeling like a failure, like I’m unloved and unwanted.

It’s the thoughts that determine my reality, because they dictate how I feel.

And, how we feel is the whole game!

Anything we desire for ourselves or our world, we desire for how we believe we will feel. Whether it’s world peace or a new home.

Your Feelings Are Like Magnets

Our thoughts and feelings create powerful filters for how we perceive reality and what we attract.

We filter out whatever contradicts our beliefs, even when those beliefs create the very things we don’t want.

When I dwell in negative thoughts, not only my mood takes a hit, my life does too.

When I am feeling bad about myself, my life and my world, I am not magnetic to my heart’s desires. I am not attractive to experiences that would counter these false beliefs. It doesn’t mean these experiences can’t happen, but when I feel bad, they are less likely to happen, and I’m less likely to notice them.

So, I’m watching closely. I’m noticing when my mood sinks and inquiring:  What is it I’m thinking? What am I telling myself? What am I believing?

Bring it to the Light

I’m making those thoughts conscious, because when we bring anything into the light of awareness, it dissolves in the Truth of who we are.

I am telling a new story about myself, my future prospects, even about where our world is headed.

I’m choosing a brighter future.

And I have to do it again and again. Because I have practiced so long these negative habits of thought and feeling. So it requires care and patience and reinforcement to pave new neural pathways, create new habits of thought, feeling and action.

But isn’t it worth it?

Isn’t it better to bring attention and loving care to the stories we are telling ourselves, even if we have to do it again and again, than to let those false beliefs and limiting views run our lives and our world?

It’s Time to Validate Yourself

As artists, most of us long for validation. For the praise, awards, sales, shows, applause that would tell us that what we are creating is good.

I long for this validation, and I have my whole life.

And it’s a deadly poison to depend on this.

It puts my value, my worth, my quality as an artist in the hands of others. And threatens to steal the joy, delight and innocence of the creative act.

Because I am sending my writings out for publication every week, I receive a lot of rejections. These can really dampen my spirits and discourage me. But only if I let it. Only if I make it mean something bad about me and my art.

This is where self-reinforcement, self-validation comes in. Why we must get very, very good at it, and practice it constantly.

Be Your Biggest Fan

You Are Worthy Of Love

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Tell yourself every little thing you’ve done well. Approve of your efforts wildly. Appreciate yourself and every positive action you take, every step towards your dreams, regardless of the results.

Be the most loving, encouraging friend you can be to yourself and your creativity.

Make this a habit throughout your day. Make it a habit in your life.

If you don’t love yourself and your creations, if you don’t take the time to appreciate yourself, how can you expect others to?

I write acknowledgments and celebrations daily in my journal (though I often neglect this practice too).

I make a list of weekly celebrations as part of Vision-Mapping my week, a practice of sacred time management that I teach.

But most important of all is what I think moment to moment, what I tell myself inside, how I encourage myself, as an artist and as a human being.

Pay attention to your thoughts. Pay attention to your feelings as indicators of your thoughts.

Make a new choice. Encourage yourself. Approve of yourself. Praise yourself. Validate yourself. You are worth it.

You are good. You are whole. You are valuable. You are needed here. Your gifts are unique. You are a blessing to our world.

Love, maxima

How To Discover Your Heart’s Desires

How To Discover Your Heart’s Desires

To follow your heart’s desires, you first have to know what they are.

This can be hard for many people.

Today I share some practices and questions (as well as pitfalls to watch for) to help you walk your heart path.

Open the Door

To discover our heart’s desires, we have to develop the ability to hear and trust our hearts. We need to quiet our anxious minds, tune out the distractions of daily life, silence the clamoring voices of others.

We have to make sacred space to listen to the longings, the callings, the singing of our hearts and souls. To open the door to believe in ourselves and our dreams. Begin to know ourselves deeply, trust ourselves. And trust life.

None of that comes easily for most of us.

Many of us have been taught to deny our hearts, our longings and feelings. We are encouraged to listen to our heads, to society and other people’s needs above our own heart wisdom and knowing.

I have been struggling with this lately, as the compulsion of the computer and busyness grabs me. And my fear wants to keep me from getting quiet or doing anything that doesn’t look directly like work.

Taking a walk, journaling, prayer and meditation, being in nature, dream journeying, guided meditations and/or guided inquiry can all help us to go within.

Some of these are part of my morning routine, but I’m finding I need more of them now to guide me through these tumultuous times.

Whether you are seeking guidance through a challenging transition, wanting more fulfillment, joy or connection, or to discover your life path, I encourage you to make time for practices that help you listen to your heart.

Some Questions to Help You Uncover Your Heart’s Desires

If you are unsure what your heart’s dreams are, try asking yourself one or more of the questions below. Choose the ones you are drawn to and/or the ones you are afraid of.

Be patient with the answers. Ask more than once. Ask on different days.

Write the answers in your journal.

I encourage you to use the practice of freewriting for this. Give yourself a time frame, perhaps 10 minutes per question. Keep the pen moving, allow any and all responses to come, even if they don’t make sense or seem untrue. Write whatever comes without pausing to think or edit.

Or ask the questions with a trusted friend, asking each other back and forth, repeating the same question over and over, allowing any and all answers. This is a powerful, deep practice.

See which answers have the most resonance and power for you, the most emotion. Let yourself be surprised. None of this is carved in stone. Take it lightly.

  1. What is my heart’s deepest desire?
  2. What’s missing or lacking in my life?
  3. What would make my heart sing to be, do or have?
  4. What do I secretly long to be, do or have?
  5. Wouldn’t it be nice/fabulous/amazing if _________?
  6. If I truly let myself dream, I would ________________.

What Gets In the Way of Dreaming

Often we don’t know what our dreams are because we have been discouraged from dreaming long ago. We were discouraged by our parents or other adults when we were young, by life circumstances or others close to us.

We have been ridiculed for our dreams, told to get our heads out of the clouds and our feet on the ground. We were told our dreams are impossible, absurd, unrealistic. Or that we should be content with what we’ve got. Or that we can’t have what we want.

We may have been crushed by disappointments in the past and don’t want to get our hopes up again. We’ve been hurt or scared by humiliations, by trials and tribulations.

We want to play safe. That’s understandable.

Building Your Dreaming Muscles

One way to deal with this is to start by dreaming small, yet still connected to your heart.

Choose something small that you really desire, that lights you up.

Commit to that dream. To plant a garden or take a day-long solo retreat or read a book a month or start learning kung fu.

As you allow yourself to desire and dream and to go for your dreams, you create small successes in your life. In this way, you build your dreaming muscles. You’ll develop courage, connection with your heart, and confidence.

Then you can begin to hear and follow larger dreams.

Identify the Dream Killers

5 Dream KillersThere are many ways we stop ourselves from dreaming, from hearing the desires of our hearts.

In my work helping others to live their dreams and helping myself to live mine, I have discovered five dream killers that often stop us from hearing, believing and living our dreams.

My students have found these to be illuminating, helping them to open the doors to new dreaming.

I’ve made a beautiful, little e-book of these that includes some encouragement, guidance and inspiration to find and follow your dreams. It is my gift to you.

Click here to download Five Tragically Common Ways We Kill Our Dreams.

5 Tragically Common Ways We Kill Our Dreams

5 Tragically Common Ways We Kill Our Dreams

What Do You Dream Of?

Do you dream of being an accomplished writer, dancer, healer, scientist? Of travelling the world or cultivating inner peace?

Do you long for a loving relationship, vibrant health, meaningful work, to make a difference in our world?

Each of these is a dream you carry in your heart.

Your Dreams Are Important

Your dreams matter. They point you towards a fulfilling, joyful, magical life. They point you towards your soul’s growth and your contribution to our world.

Yet so often we kill our dreams before they even get off the ground. And most of us don’t even realize it. So, we wonder why we lack passion, inspiration or fulfillment, why we feel frustrated, stuck or lost.

5 Dream KillersOver the years of guiding creative people to uncover and actualize their heart’s dreams, I have discovered five tragically common ways that we stop ourselves from dreaming and living the lives we long for.

The good news is: Once you know these Five Dream Killers, you can begin to make new choices. You can begin to hear your heart and live your dreams.

In this 10-page e-book, I outline the top 5 Dream Killers and what to do about them, so you don’t get stopped from following your heart’s true dreams.

Download your copy by filling in the form below. You’ll also receive our Creative Sparks newsletter about once a week or so.

Lean In: What To Do When You Get Stuck

Lean In: What To Do When You Get Stuck

I had a beautiful aha moment while dancing the other night.

I’ve been in a challenging time lately. (Who hasn’t?) There has been a pause in the usual flow of my work and creativity. The gods or my own spirit have conspired to create a reset for me. It’s uncomfortable, confusing and scary.

I believe it’s also necessary and ultimately highly beneficial. But some days I have to hold onto that belief like a rope flung out onto dark waters where I am struggling to stay afloat.

I’ve been doing my best to go with it, to not rush to answers and leap into hasty action. I’m practicing resting in the gap, allowing what’s transforming in me and my life to take its time and reveal itself. I want to make space for the caterpillar of the old way that’s now turned to goo inside the chrysalis to emerge eventually with wings.

Sometimes it feels great, a relief and an intriguing adventure. Sometimes not at all.

My old habit is to try to figure things out and then work harder to make stuff happen. But I’m doing my best instead to listen for my true heart’s desires, see where my energy wants to flow, what wisdom is emerging, what gifts are coming.

And not panic.

Last Thursday I went to the weekly Contact Improvisation jam here in our town. Contact Improvisation is a dance-art form I have loved passionately for over 25 years and have also taught for years. But I haven’t been doing enough of it lately.

There I was, dancing with inexperienced dancers, which can make for awkward, difficult dances. So I went very slowly. I paid close attention through my body. I leaned into the point of contact. If I got to a place where it felt difficult to move, I paused, patiently listened to the sensations, leaned in to the moment and the contact. And always, a way to move opened effortlessly.

Then, it hit me. That’s all I ever have to do!

If I’m stuck in a situation in my life where I feel paralyzed, confused, where I don’t know the way forward, all I have to do is slow down, listen deeply, lean in.

Wow.

That’s it. I don’t need to puzzle it out, rush to a remedy, freak out. Just pause, listen, lean in. And the way opens.

Years ago, when I was writing my first novel, I got stuck because I needed to create a crisis scene to move the plot forward and reveal something about a key character. But I couldn’t figure out what or how and had been stalled for weeks.

Confessing this to a friend on the phone, he gave me the assignment to write the scene three different ways in the next week, to come up with three totally different solutions to the plot problem I was needing to solve. And then choose the best one.

This freed me. Instead of trying to find one perfect answer, I could experiment. Also, coming up with three totally different ideas for this major turning point in the book, writing three big crisis scenes in one week, was such a tall order, that it paradoxically re-opened my creative flow.

It worked! Because I leaned into the problem.

So, if you find yourself stuck in some area of your life—in the midst of an art project, a relationship, or work, or an old pattern—try it.

Slow down, instead of hurrying to solutions. Lean in to all of the uncomfortable feelings, to all that’s arising within and without.

Listen, pay attention to your heart, soul, to the signs, the natural flow and wisdom of Life. It’s always there. Just waiting for us to get quiet enough to hear and follow.

Be patient. A way will open, a natural movement forward. Then, go with that.

Let me know how it goes for you. I’d love to hear. And let me know what opened up for you in reading this by commenting below. Thanks!

To your flowing life,

Maxima

Wanting to Willing: A Powerful Secret to Manifest Your Dreams

Wanting to Willing: A Powerful Secret to Manifest Your Dreams

Today I am going to share with you a simple, yet magical tool for shifting your energy to align with your heart’s desires.

This tool works with the law of attraction in a specific and gentle way that you may never have heard. Plus, you’ll learn some fun things about words!

If you feel unable to manifest what you long for in your life, this little secret may be the key.

Just like anyone, I often get frustrated on the path to my heart’s dreams, wondering why some areas of my life don’t seem to budge. This little tool helps to shift my energy with positive results.

The Power of Words

Our words affect us and others often at a deep level. Each word carries an energetic imprint. Therefore, it is wise to be aware of the power of the words we use, and to choose carefully, especially when it comes to our heart’s dreams.

Just look at the word “spell”. It means both to spell the letters of a word but also to cast a magic spell. This is no coincidence. The word “spell” recognizes the magic power in language.

So let’s look at a few words that relate to our heart’s desires and learn how to use the magic power of words to bring in more of what we truly love and stop unconsciously creating lack.

Wanting Leaves Us in Lack

The word “want” comes from root words meaning lack, to be lacking or deficient.

Wanting equals lacking, a feeling of scarcity, of not having. There can be a feeling of “poor me” in it, even hopelessness, a sense of “I want it, but I don’t believe I can have it” or at least, “I don’t have it”.

This state of lack is neither uplifting nor co-creative.

Energetically and emotionally, wanting leaves us wanting. If I want more love or money or fame, I am dwelling on the lack of it in my life.

As we know from the law of attraction: What we dwell on, and give our emotional energy to, increases. So, when we dwell on the lack, the want, we get more wanting, more lack.

Desire Opens Us to Gifts From the Heavens

The word “desire,” on the other hand, comes from root words meaning “to await what the stars will bring”. I love that! There is a quality of joyful expectation and peaceful surrender in it.

Of course we can have healthy and unhealthy desires, as well as healthy and unhealthy ways to relate to our desires. To be driven by desires that come from a feeling of being lacking in ourselves only leads to suffering, as the Buddha wisely taught.

But to follow a true heart’s desire, a longing that was given to us “by the stars”—implanted in our hearts to call us to our greatness, our gifts, to deeper participation with all of Life, and to our fullest, richest, most alive Being—that is a blessed and profoundly courageous act. That is a willingness to be fully present, vulnerable, to share ourselves with the world.

So, it is far more energetically inspiring and beneficial to say “I desire to be a great painter” than “I want to be a great painter”. When I catch myself using “want” in my journal, I often switch it to “desire” or better yet. . .

Willingness Is Magically Co-Creative

The word “willing” comes from “will,” which means “to be going to, be determined to” and also “the power to choose.” It comes from roots for wish, desire, choose and also command.

Willingness has freedom, power and choice in it. It carries intention as well as desire. Willingness is a powerful co-creative stance from which to realize our heart’s desires.

Because words have power, what we say, write and think matters. What we hear ourselves say reflects and influences how we relate to our desires. It also influences how those desires relate to us or manifest in our lives.

If I say, “I want to be a great artist,” I am reinforcing a sense of lack toward my dream. If I say “I am willing to be a great artist,” the whole energetic changes.

Willingness puts me in a state of allowing, openness, grace. There is a feeling of joyful expectancy and participation. I am declaring my intention. I am making a conscious choice and opening to the support of the Universe and the fulfillment of my dream.

The Shift From Wanting to Willing

The shift from wanting to willing is huge. From powerlessness to choice. From lack to opening to receive. From scarcity to courageousness.

Willingness is soft, open, cooperative with Life, attractive. Instead of trying to force something to happen on my own, I am in partnership with Life to realize the dreams of my heart or be shown a better path.

Wanting is lack, poor me, separated from my desires, grasping, clinging.

Willingness is openness, heart, hope, intention. Willingness says yes.

Willingness is the path of the spiritual warrior, combining curiosity and surrender with vision and intention. Willingness is charmed.

Make the Shift and Start Seeing Your Desires Come True

I invite you to speak of your heart’s desires in sentences that begin with “I am willing…”.

  • I am willing to be healthy.
  • I am willing to co-create a world of peace.
  • I am willing to have wonderful, fulfilling work.
  • I am willing for my novel to be published by a great press.

To be willing to co-create your heart’s dreams, to participate in their fulfillment but not force them, to open to receive the help of the Universe, this is magnetic.

There is beauty and love, space and invitation in willingness. This is attractive to your desires, instead of repelling them with wanting or grasping.

I learned this tool from Gay and Katie Hendricks, who teach conscious loving. One affirmative statement they use is “I am willing to enjoy lasting love and I am willing for it to be easy.” See how that feels in your body.

A Simple 3-Step Process to Engage the Art of Allowing

1. Create your own affirmations around your heart’s deepest desires and soul’s dreams. Start with the words: “I am willing…”. Notice how these statements feel. Unlike traditional affirmations that proclaim you are or have something already that you don’t, these statements of willingness don’t create conflict within. Or if they do, you discover where you have some work to do.

2. Repeat the statements in the morning when you wake and at night before you fall asleep. Say them right before or after meditation or prayer, and anytime you think of them throughout the day. Write them in your journal daily. Write them on index cards and put them where you will see them. For extra power, put an image on one side of the index card that represents the fulfillment of your heart’s desire. Our subconscious responds more powerfully to images than words.

3. If you find yourself feeling or speaking of want, shift to willingness. Or, if it’s more appropriate in the moment, try “desire” instead of “want”. See how it opens you, softens you and changes your life through gradual but potent influence.

Willingness will carry you a long way.

Share your reflections in the comments below. For extra potency, share a new statement of willingness toward your dream here. Declare our dreams in this way is powerful.

If you enjoyed this post, you might like Enthusiasm vs. Willpower: Surprising New Discoveries   and The 5 Helpful Spirits to Co-Create Our Dreams.

How I Got Past Fear and Started to Write a Book

How I Got Past Fear and Started to Write a Book

Do you have any projects in the closet waiting to be born?

I have set out to write a book that I have been wanting to write for a few years. And, I am running into a lot of fear and diversionary tactics. Sound familiar?

Here’s what I’m doing to get myself started (and keep going!). I hope you may find it helpful in jump-starting your own scary, wonderful, creative projects.

First, a little background.

My New Book Project

My new book is based on my years of teaching. It is to be a book about how to ignite and sustain the fires of a creative life, what you need to know, be and do in order to thrive as an artist.

I don’t mean thrive financially, because I don’t know diddly about that. I mean thrive internally, have a joyful, inspired, sustainable, healthy creative life, which I know a great deal about.

This book will debunk the lies, myths and mistaken approaches we are taught about artists and creativity, and replaces them with powerful truths that work. It comes from my own hard-won experiences as a creative person, from my struggles, painful crashes, lost chances and also my healing, successes and growth.

I aim to share my story and my discoveries, my knowledge and wisdom, and also inspiration and encouragement. I aim to share practical, vital tools and perspectives, as well as a kind of magical potion for those who are called to the creative life.

But where and how do I begin? Ack!

The First Hurdle: Which Project Do I Choose?

When I finally finished the umpteenth edit of my manuscript of poems last Autumn, I kept waffling about which book to write next.

I wanted to dive into a new collection of poems. And I want to write an inspiring primer on writing poetry. I also have a neglected novel I cannot face.

But this Creative Sparks book has been knocking at my door, and I have had a few encouraging signs that it is the one to start now.

I pay attention to signs in my creative life. I recommend that you do too.

We are not alone in the creative projects that are ours to birth. They come through us. And they bring with them all manner of support and guidance, if we pay attention.

I’ve been terrified to start this book. I feel overwhelmed by the project, totally unsure how to do it, inadequate to the undertaking.

Fear is one sign you are on the right track. That kind of fear often signals that we are onto something big and meaningful for us.

Choose the project you are most scared to begin.

Step Two: Research and Planning

Next, I began by researching.

I am re-reading and analyzing the structure of several classics in the creativity world. If you want to know some of what I think are classic creativity guides, read my post: Five Fantastic Books to Foster Your Creativity.

Each of the books I admire in this arena are completely different, completely one-of-a-kind, in structure, form, style, approach. That is encouraging and scary too.

I have been binge-reading posts on The Story Grid, particularly on “Big Idea” non-fiction, which may be the genre of this book. I’ve been making notes about the “obligatory scenes and conventions” of both Big Idea non-fiction and How To. And then making notes about how I might fulfill those.

I have been writing the answers to a host of questions about my book to help me understand it better.

I have made multiple possible outlines.

In other words, I have been stalling.

The Hardest Part: Time To Dive In

All of this research and thinking and structuring and note-taking has been helpful and important, especially for a non-fiction book. I continue to do it.

But at the same time, I saw that I was terrified to begin. I had no idea how to begin or what voice to write this book in, or what it really should be, even after all this note-taking and thinking.

The only antidote to this kind of fear and stalling is to dive in. No more excuses. No more wading in the shallow end.

Once I saw these diversionary tactics for what they were, I made myself start writing.

Set Clear, Do-Able Goals

I set myself a firm goal, a task: 500 words a day or more on my four writing days. For me, this is a very do-able goal.

Do-able goals are a good way to get started. We can wrap our brains around them a whole lot better than trying to write a whole book.

Because I am a fluid writer, it doesn’t usually take me long to write 500 words. I sit down and just begin anywhere. That might be where I left off the day before or somewhere unrelated. Usually I go for a lot longer than 500 words.

Create a (Very) Rough Draft

My job right now is to get the pen moving, get past the paralyzing fear and indecision, get into the water. My job is to generate a “shitty first draft,” as Anne Lamott calls it in her brilliant book on writing, Bird by Bird.

The voice is all over the place. The subject matter is all over the place. Some of the writing is good. Some is not. It doesn’t matter.

This is a rough draft. I need to have words on the page in order to have something to work with, to have any idea what this book actually wants to be.

The book will show me the way, but only once I am well in it.

So, I write.

And I keep gathering inspiration, ideas, reading other books, making notes.

So far, I am still uncertain and nervous.

But I am also immensely relieved to be actually writing. I always feel better when I am writing than not writing, creating than not creating. This is the unswerving law of my being, my inner directive, as the I Ching calls it. So I write.

What project have you been putting off, that you are truly scared to begin?

What mentorship, support, guidance or clear goals do you need to begin?

When will you start?


I am sharing my artistic process and journey on Patreon. If you want more posts like this, please join me on Patreon.

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