A Guided Journey to Your Heart’s Dreams

A Guided Journey to Your Heart’s Dreams

To create the life of your dreams, you first have to know what your heart’s dreams are. You have to grant yourself permission to dream.

In this post I offer you a gentle, guided journey to uncover your heart’s dreams and get connected to a sense of possibility.

You can do this in the comfort of your home (or wherever you are) right now.

To Begin

Take a moment to set aside any distractions. Have a journal or notebook handy.

Get quiet and centered. Connect to your breathing and feel your feet on the ground. Open the top of your head to the sky and the cosmos. Feel the light of your soul pouring more fully into you through the top of your head.

Open to what comes through this process and agree not to judge or question it for now, whether you receive images, sensations, emotions, colors, words, a deep knowing, or a subtle sense. Just open and allow.

Put one hand on your heart and breathe into your heart. Put one hand on your lower belly and breathe into your belly and your whole pelvic bowl. Feel this very alive, grounded, rooted, centered part of your core.

Feel the field of life all around you, supporting you, and streaming through you. Life is already dreaming through you, calling you to your next steps on your path of heart. All the time.

You Are the Artist of Your Life

You are the artist of your life. Your life is your masterpiece. You have mastered what you’ve created so far, for good or bad. And you have the power to create a new masterpiece or to enhance the current one.

What would bring you the greatest joy and fulfillment to create with your life now? What would be absolutely wonderful? Let yourself dream.

Be patient. See what comes. If you think you don’t know, see what you do know. It might just come as whispers, an intimation. A crazy idea. A longing. A felt sense.

Now, in your journal or speaking out loud to yourself or another person, allow yourself to freely describe your ideal life 3-5 years from now. Just play with this. You might wish to dance or sway as you do this to call on your full body wisdom. Go wild, dream big, no holds barred. Set aside any concerns about what’s possible or what you might have to do to have that dream.

Make It Vivid and Embodied

Now, close your eyes. (You can keep cracking them open to read the directions and then closing them again to listen for answers.) Feel, see, hear, and touch that vision that you described. Call in all of your senses. Where are you? What are you doing? Who or what else is there in the picture?

Notice: How does this dream feel in your body and heart? What qualities are you embodying? How are you showing up?

What do these dreams give to your life? How do they benefit you? How are your dreams connected to what you most cherish?

Then, explore in your journal or out loud: What does it cost you not to realize your dreams or reach for them? Get as clear as you can on the actual costs to your emotional, physical, spiritual, and mental well-being, your total prosperity, your relationships, your creativity, your work and play. Getting clear on the costs gives you the necessary fuel to reach for big dreams.

Bow to the dreams, to your heart and soul, in gratitude for the gift of these visions. Take a deep breath. Go back to your day with the knowledge of the dreams in your heart.

Bring Your Dreams to Life

If you’d like to know how to bring these dreams to life through an extraordinary, magical step-by-step process, check out Living Your Dreams.

Transforming Your Relationship with Time, Part 1

Transforming Your Relationship with Time, Part 1

How is your relationship with time? Do you feel you have enough? Do you move through your day with ease and flow? Are you spending your time on what you love most, what nourishes your heart and soul?

Or are you frantic and rushed, or scattered, distracted, unable to use your time well? Are you frustrated at the end of the day with how little got done? Does time feel like it’s slipping away without you getting to what is most meaningful to you?

Does time feel like a friend or an enemy, or like some bewildering alien substance you can never quite get a hold of?

Welcome to Sacred Time Management

Sacred Time Management is such a vital subject that many of my Mentoring clients ask me to help them with it. We devote a whole segment of my Living Your Dreams course to it. Because, in order to live your heart’s dreams, you do so one day at a time. And how you feel about time colors so much of your life.

When you know how to live your time, in a soul-connected, loving, inspired way, life feels radiant and remarkable. When you know how to take a big dream and break it down into do-able steps, how to keep taking those steps in the midst of a full life, and how to make adjustments without losing your way, you get to see your heart’s great dreams come true.

When you know how to prioritize among your many interests and needs, you can create a rich, balanced life that doesn’t neglect any vital part of yourself.

It begins with fundamentally changing your relationship to time, so that it feels spacious, supportive, and magical. So that you and time are allies working and playing together toward the most beautiful life you can create. As one of my students said, “[I] have discovered a more magical way to work with and bend time.”

How I Discovered Sacred Time Management

I used to have an abysmal relationship with time. I put too much on my plate every day and had utterly unrealistic expectations for each week and month. I would end the day exhausted and disappointed about what didn’t get done. Then, start all over again the next day.

Finally, I’d had enough. I decided to transform my relationship with time. I wanted time to feel abundant, and the way I lived to feel beautiful and meaningful. I wanted to feel peace at the end of the day. And at the same time, to accomplish the things that mattered most to me. I wanted to enjoy my down time and not feel guilty that I should be doing something else.

Enter Sacred Time Management. I began to study time management tools, but also a wholly different way of relating to time. Making time an ally, the precious gift and blessing that it is. Disconnecting from toxic ideas about busyness and productivity that are rife in contemporary culture.

Connecting instead to my heart’s deepest desires and dreams, my soul’s longings and needs, my body’s wisdom, and the cycles of nature. Letting these guide how I spend my days, my weeks, my years. So that I’m moving with the flow of life and my own deep Self.

The result has been extraordinary. I’m not completely healed from the dominant paradigm that has most of us wear ourselves out, take on too much at once, ignore and deplete our hearts and bodies. But I do have a much healthier, satisfying experience of time.

I celebrate what I am able to do, but also how I am being, and how I am taking care of myself. I align my days and weeks with what is most important to me, what feeds me. And I make my choices from there. I’m open to the mystery and the way life shows up unexpectedly.

Why Sacred Time Management?

Sacred Time Management is a big subject. And it’s an important one because, as the writer Annie Dillard wisely observed, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” None of us wants to get to the end of our lives, whenever that comes (which could be today), and feel we have wasted our life or missed our calling or not done what we most longed to do.

There’s far more to Sacred Time Management than I can cover in a single blog post. But I will share some of the perspectives and tools I teach over a series of posts. If you wish to go deeper, check out my Creative Life Coaching & Mentoring or join me for Living Your Dreams.

Healing Your Relationship with Time

For today, I invite you to begin to think of Time as a living thing, a being, a friend with whom you wish to be in right relationship. Rather than thinking of it as a commodity or limited resource or frustrating enemy.

I invite you to pay attention to how you relate to time. Notice how you feel about time as you move through your day, when you feel rushed, impatient, relaxed, stressed, or spacious about time. See where healing needs to happen in your relationship with time. Pay attention to when you are trying to do three things at once. Or over-loading your to do list. Or frittering time away on unfulfilling activities. See if you end the day feeling unfulfilled or angry with yourself for not doing more. Simply notice. Bring your compassionate awareness to your relationship with Time. This is the first step.

I encourage you to write in your journal about what you notice. What is your current relationship with time? And what would you love it to feel like, be like? Dream into how you wish it to be. This is powerful.

Please share your questions about time and Sacred Time Management with me here or by email. I’ll do my best to address your questions in my upcoming posts on this subject. Also, please share your revelations and discoveries, so that we can all learn together. Stay tuned for more!

The Magical Child, the Wounded Child, and Your Creative Self

The Magical Child, the Wounded Child, and Your Creative Self

We each have a magical child living in us that is intimately connected to our true self and gifts, what we are uniquely good at, and what fascinates and delights us. The magical child holds the key to your wonder, joy, imagination, curiosity, enthusiasm, and playfulness. You need to cultivate a healthy relationship with this child self in order to have access to these talents and qualities that are so essential to your creativity and to your flourishing as all that you are.

We each also have a wounded child in us, or several, who needs our love, attention, and care, in order for us to grow up out of the sabotaging behaviors and limiting beliefs to which the wounded child is in thrall. The wounded child took on limiting beliefs as a way to make sense of painful experiences early on. She has also practiced limiting behaviors as a way to protect herself from further wounding. But now those same beliefs and behaviors are holding us back from being the fully alive, creatively expressed and fulfilled people we long to be.

In order to heal the wounded child and cultivate healthy relationship with the magical child, you need to be loving, wise, and supportive of the child within, to listen to her feelings and needs, her dreams and desires, to attend to her passions and talents. You also need create good boundaries for her, and a sense of safety and provision for her needs. You need to let her know that there is an adult self within that is taking care of her.

The child self holds a special relationship to your creativity and your life, both in its magical and wounded aspects. If you have suppressed the child self, believing you need to “grow up,” and that being child-like is unseemly, you have probably squashed an essential element of your creative fire, joy, and ability to pursue your dreams.

Your Many Selves

Each of us has many “selves” within that contribute to the unique constellation of us. You may have parts of yourself that are courageous and others that are fearful, parts that are confident and others full of doubt, parts that are skilled at math or sports or painting, a part that is organized, one that is rebellious, and so on.

Each aspect of self brings specific gifts and challenges. By befriending them all, you can call forth their unique gifts and learn to help them through their challenges. You can transform their destructive patterns into helpful ones. In this way, you gain their cooperation and reduce resistance to expressing yourself creatively and following your dreams. You need each of these selves on board in order to live your fullest life. Each one has profound abilities to share, many of which are vital to your creativity.

Re-parenting Your Inner Artist

We need to learn to re-parent our child selves, no matter what kind of parents we actually had or have. When we become adults, it becomes our job to be the loving, nurturing, responsible parent to our inner children, to help them shine in their gifts and grow up out of their limiting beliefs and behaviors or learn to navigate them better. Part of becoming a true adult is letting our parents off the hook of needing to parent us any longer and instead parenting ourselves.

All of this begins with building a relationship with the child self (or selves) within. Through dialogue, awareness, presence, and love. Start by getting to know your inner selves and inviting dialogue. Listen to what the child self within is feeling and needing. When we are angry, hurt, fearful, or resistant toward our creativity, it is usually the child self that is the one who is triggered and often, without our realizing it, is the one who is now in charge of our behavior and beliefs. So, you need to do a little investigative work to uncover the fearful, harmful, limiting stories you are telling yourself about yourself, your creativity, gifts, dreams, the world, and other people.

When you connect with the feelings, fears, and false stories inside, and meet them with compassion, care, wisdom, and love, you can transform them. You can connect with your wise, all-knowing Self, and from that wise Self teach the wounded self the real truth about who they are, their gifts and dreams. This truth comes from the Ground of Awareness or Beingness, which is also the Heart of Love. By speaking to the child from this wise and loving place, we free the extraordinary gifts of the magical child within and gain access to our full radiant aliveness.

Practice: Re-parenting the Child Within

The next time you feel hurt, angry, fearful, doubtful, or resistant toward your creativity (or toward anything in your life), take some time to tune into your child self. Ask what she is feeling and why. Reflect back to her in the same words she used what you heard. Then ask what she is needing and reflect that back, again using the exact words you heard. Show that you truly hear and understand her feelings and needs.

Now, notice the stories she is telling herself, the meaning she is making about “reality.” What is she fearing is true? For example, “My art is terrible.” “Nobody will ever want my art.” “I’ll never make it as an artist.” “The world doesn’t support people like me.” “I’m not good enough.” “People will laugh at me.”

What age is this child self that is triggered? Just take an intuitive guess.

Now from your loving, adult self, speak to that child as a loving, supportive, encouraging parent. What would you say to encourage this child’s unique gifts and passions and help her with her challenges? Tell the child within what’s true and supportive. Encourage their creativity and dreams. But without lying to them. Children know when we are lying. So tell them the truth, but the deep truth. Note: You have to step fully out of the wounded self and into your wise, adult, loving self to do this.

You  might say, “Your art has wonderful, exciting, original things in it, and you are still developing your skills. Be patient. It keeps getting better.” Or you might say, “I don’t know if you will make a living as an artist, but I know you can keep making art and sharing it, and that is a very good life to live.” Or “I know you have something of deep value to share through your art.”

This takes practice and repetition. It’s not something we do once and are done with. But, the time and attention you give to this practice can change your life dramatically.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like Turn Your Self-Doubt Into Generative Questions and The Challenge of Self-Worth for the Artist

A Beautiful Practice to Grow Self-Esteem and Confidence

A Beautiful Practice to Grow Self-Esteem and Confidence

“Cultures of domination attack self-esteem, replacing it with a notion that we derive our sense of being from dominion over another.”

― Bell Hooks, Feminism Is for Everybody: Passionate Politics

I took a brisk walk this morning, down and up a steep hill, a loop walk through the tree-lined streets of my neighborhood. As I walked I engaged in a practice to invite more self-esteem into my body and being. And also more trust and support from the Universe, especially in my work as an artist and teacher. I will share that beautiful, simple practice with you here.

How’s your self-esteem and why does it matter?

I don’t think of myself as having low self-esteem. Yet, I chronically feel like what I do in my art and my teaching is never quite good enough. I push myself to over-achieve, over-effort, over-do. I judge myself and stress myself out. And, out of this pattern, I attract not-enoughness in my life, not enough support, not enough money, not enough recognition.

What is self-esteem and why does it even matter? Merriam-Webster’s dictionary online defines it as: “a confidence and satisfaction in oneself.” Self-esteem is how you or I think of ourselves, how positively or negatively, how we measure our worth or value. Low self-esteem means we don’t think highly of ourselves, our capabilities, our worthiness. And that of course, deeply affects our lives, relationship, work, abundance.

Psychology Today writes: “Confidence in one’s value as a human being is a precious psychological resource and generally a highly positive factor in life; it is correlated with achievement, good relationships, and satisfaction.” VeryWellHealth.com says: “…higher levels of self-esteem translate into improved mental health…” Low self-esteem affects not just our mental health but also our physical health and our total well-being in our lives.

A surprising way to increase self-esteem

I learned these practices from the amazing work of Hiro Boga and then adapted them to what works for me because, by nature, my primary learning styles are auditory and kinesthetic, and Hiro’s practices tend to be more visual. So, here’s how I did it this time.

As I walk, I attune first to the nature spirits all around me and to my relationship of love with them, our mutual partnership. I attune to the support of Earth and the blessings of Sun and the trees and plants and animals and birds and wind and so on. I ask for their support in coming forward in my work in the world.

Next, I hold the shining roadmap I have made for my work for this year in my mind and see myself holding it in the great Flow of Life. I let the Flow of Life wash over and through it, to bring it to fullness in whatever way is in alignment with that Flow, to bless it with the powers of that Flow. You could do this with any heart-felt dream or desire for your life. Inviting the cooperation of Life and aligning with the Flow or Way of Life (also known as the Tao) are steps that make bringing our heartfelt dreams to reality less effortful and more magical.

The seat of self-esteem in the body

As I keep walking, I work with the pattern-holder of my third chakra. The third chakra is about Will, Personal Power, and Self-Esteem or Self-Worth. I have physically felt a painful hole in this chakra for as long as I can remember. So, I don’t expect this process to be a one-time thing. I’m patient and work in layers to release wounding, shame, false beliefs, and old agreements in this chakra into Earth who will compost them. I see these old wounds and agreements flow down into Earth. I keep clearing the third chakra with the help of its pattern-holder. Walking while I do this practice helps me embody the practice and feel the support of the nature spirits.

Next, I invite the soul quality of Self-Esteem to fill my third chakra. My back gets straighter, shoulders drop back, even though I feel my capacity to hold self-esteem is still small. I can feel where my edge is, and I just take in what I can for today.

Who do I need to be to attract more suppoort and attention for my writing and teaching? I need more Confidence, Safety, and strong Grounding. I invite these soul qualities into my body and energy field too. Confidence in the third chakra, and Safety and Grounding in the first.

I feel more aliveness and wholeness in my body as I play with these things. And I keep it light and playful.

The world responds to our self-esteem

As if in confirmation, I pass a man with his adorable little dog. The dog is very eager to meet me. I stop to pet him. I pass a landscaping crew. The young men smile brightly at me. The world feels warm, bright, full of love.

There is peace in the trees, the air, birds, streets, Earth. I move among all these, belonging here, and also feel the edge where old unloved, unwanted feelings still arise.

I let the self-esteem I am inviting flow up into the wounded parts of my heart. This is a process. It will take time to heal.

I let the energy, the soul quality of Self-esteem soften and spread in my body, becoming more integrated. Why is this so unfamiliar to me? When did I lose it? I don’t need to figure that out, but just bring presence to the process.

Practicing in this way, with consciousness, with soul tools that work, with the energy of invitation and love and gentleness and patience, I can change the old patterns, become more of who I truly am. I can free myself and grow into the self I need to be in order to fulfill my dreams.

You can do this too

Start by practicing inviting in those soul qualities you most need now, one by one, with patience, gentleness and faith. Ask yourself which qualities you need to fulfill your dreams for yourself, your life, your world at this time. You might wish to focus on a particular dream, project, or area of your life.

Do you need more Support, Self-Esteem, Confidence, Courage, Abundance? Do you need Clarity, Faith, Vulnerability? Each is a soul quality that you can invite into your body. You don’t need to know about the chakras to do this, though if you do, you may wish to invite these qualities into the chakra that is most associated with that quality. Or, you can simply invite that quality, that essence, into your whole body, your dream, your work, your life.

Each soul quality is like an energetic being. That is why I capitalize their names. Hiro Boga calls them devas, a Sanskrit word meaning “shining ones.” Each one has its own life in the world. Its job is to hold the pattern of that quality. It likes to be invited in, to be welcomed into your body and your life. In that way, it can do its job in the world.

Feel yourself expand to hold more of that quality. Let it move in you, become embodied, a little at a time, as much as you can hold that day. Get familiar with how it feels to hold this quality. You are gently growing your capacity. Come back to it again another day.

Notice how your life shifts as you do this. May miracles unfold for you this day.

If you enjoyed this post, please share it with others. For more on this topic (and related topics), you might enjoy Validate Yourself: Why Every Artist Needs to Learn This and The Challenge of Self-Worth for the Artist

The Gifts (and Perils) of Focus

The Gifts (and Perils) of Focus

This is the beginning of a two-part series on Focus. We’ll look at how you can bless your creativity and your life with its gifts. And, avoid its pitfalls.

Focus is about getting out of overwhelm, over-doing, and the feeling of spinning your wheels. It’s about aligning your life with what matters most to you. It brings fulfillment, clarity, and ease.

What it’s not about is driving yourself with an inner taskmaster or eliminating other delights from your life. It isn’t about having a maniacal single purpose with nothing else going on.

Focus gives you purpose and momentum. Perhaps you feel your primary focus needs to be on your work, or school, or your family right now. Perhaps you decide to put it on finding a partner or learning a new skill.

Once you name your focus and give it your attention, you can fill in around it with other things that bring enjoyment and spice. You’ll also fill in with things that are necessary or important—like care of your finances and your health.

But you know your primary focus. And you understand why you may have to let some things go, some things be dormant or more quiet, why you might need to neglect some things for a period of time. Instead of trying to do it all.

Knowing your focus lets you off the hook of trying to do everything and all at the same level. So you don’t go crazy and exhaust yourself. Or get discouraged and never reach your dreams.

We need focus. In our art and in our lives. And it can feel harder and harder to choose and maintain focus in our “distraction economy.”

When You Have a Lot of Interests

Having focus means we choose where to give our life energy—to which art form, creative project, or aims. Within your creative life (and any area of life), choosing a primary focus can be enormously freeing, helpful, and satisfying.

Choosing a focus doesn’t mean you can’t work in more than one art form, or have more than one interest at a time. I am a writer, dancer, and musician. Each one gives me something different and vital. But I can’t do them all at the same level all the time.

Writing has been my primary focus for many years. Knowing this gives me clarity in how I use my studio time, nourish my muse, and grow as an artist. And I can choose to shift that focus for periods of time.

You can also work on multiple projects at a time. Some artists need this cross-pollination to do their best work. And you may have goals in different areas of your creative life, goals for creating art, learning, and sharing your work, for instance.

But I slow my progress and artistic development when I lack a strong focus, when my priorities aren’t clear, and when I don’t stick to those priorities. Then I feel frustrated and disappointed with how little progress I have made. I need to narrow my focus, know the order of priority of my projects and goals, and have a realistic plan for reaching them. Otherwise, I tend to flail, doing a little of this and a little of that.

The proof is always in the pudding. Are you completing things you are proud of? Creating your best work? Growing as an artist and in your life? Most of all, are you enjoying your life?

Choosing a Primary Focus

Start by choosing a primary focus. This might be a creative project or goal or a focus for your life as a whole right now. What is calling to you? What lights you up? What would feel the best or make the biggest positive difference in your life right now? What is your one thing if you had to choose one thing for a time?

Right now my artistic focus is the book I’m writing on how to live a passionate, inspired creative life. As long as I didn’t get crystal clear that my book was my primary focus, progress was painfully slow. I kept getting distracted and derailed. I had my hand in so many projects. And was also juggling too many small (and large) goals all over my life. I felt overwhelmed and like I was always falling behind. And it felt like nothing was getting done.

Perhaps you don’t yet have a focus or not enough. You go into your creative space and just dabble. You go about your life, answering to whatever is most urgent that day. Or you are overwhelmed with too many projects and directions.

Let Your Heart Be Your Guide

Focus, when chosen well—from your heart’s deepest desires and soul’s needs—gives you excitement, energy, and relief. And both the process and completion brings fulfillment, joy, and a sense of accomplishment.

I invite you to choose a primary focus in your creative life now, and perhaps one in your life as a whole. Here’s how.

Try this: Pour out all the projects, goals, desires, pursuits that you have going in your life now or have been thinking about. Dump them all onto a piece of paper.

Go through them one by one. Which ones spark joy? Which feel exciting or draw you? Which connect to a deep sense of purpose or meaning? Put a star or a heart next to those.

If something feels heavy or too hard, perhaps the time is not right for that now. If something feels like a should rather than a want to, cross it off or find a way to connect it to something you truly desire. Maybe you need to hire support with it. If something feels urgent, is that urgency connected to a goal or dream that’s truly important, or is it a false urgency, coming from unhealed trauma or anxiety?

Winnow down your goals and projects. Cross whatever you can off the list. Now, choose a primary focus in your creative life and/or in your life as a whole. If you cannot choose one, choose three and rank them in order of priority.

You can decide the time frame for this choice. Perhaps you start playing with this by just choosing a singular focus from now until the end of the year. That’s just two weeks away. So your focus might be to enjoy the holidays and let yourself rest. Or to finish a project that is near to completion. Or to spend time harvesting the outgoing year and visioning the new. Perhaps you are ready to choose a primary focus for 2022.

Focus Is More Than Just Choosing

Once you know what your focus is, you need a plan for how you will move toward it and keep it alive in daily life.

Focus can include detailing the steps and timeline. Right now, I’ve given myself the goal of editing one big chapter of my book every two weeks until this draft is done. Your focus might be a learning goal: To master watercolor technique or learn to play Bach’s solo cello suites. What’s your plan for how you will do this?

Whatever the focus, and whatever your steps, you also need a way to remember to take those steps, check how it’s going, and adjust as needed. You need encouragement, support, accountability. I have both an editor who is helping me with my book and a writer friend that I meet with regularly to share.

Remember, you don’t have to do it alone. We need mentors and companions on the path to our heart’s dreams.

Support for Your Passionate Life

If you would love radical clarity on your focus, I’d be honored to support you with one-on-one Creative Life Mentoring. This is a magical combo of life coaching, creativity mentoring, and soul whispering that is tailored to your specific needs, desires, dreams, challenges. It is a profound gift to give to yourself.

Stay tuned for part II on Focus in which I share some recent pitfalls I fell into, how I got out, and more.

Harvesting 2021, Making Space for the New

Harvesting 2021, Making Space for the New

We have reached the final month of this ragged year. I had hoped this year would be far better than 2020, but 2021 proved rough, painful, and confusing in many ways. Nonetheless, beautiful things also happened.

December is a good time of year for taking stock, for reflection, and harvesting of the year that’s nearly past. There are bright pearls to be found amid the slimy innards of the clamshells, lessons to be gathered to help light the way forward, sorrows to be mourned and released to make space for the new. It is like putting the garden to bed, harvesting the final fruits, cutting down the dead plants, covering the bed with mulch, so that it becomes fertile again for new growth.

These times call for slowing down and turning inward. They call for emptying out to make space for new visions, new dreams, new stories, new life. We need to collectively dream the new, in order to bring it into being. It is up to us to make a more loving, beautiful, sustainable, joyful world for all. And we can do it.

I invite you to take some time with a journal to go inward and reflect on the outgoing year. You might wish to do this in several sessions—answering one question below in your journal each morning—or you may wish to do it all at once, or in conversation with a loved one or friend.

With the questions below I share a few of my own answers to give you some ideas.

Questions to Help You Harvest Your Year

  • What were the highlights of this past year? What are the moments and experiences you most treasure? When did you feel most engaged, lit up, or enjoying of life?

For me, some of the highlights were camping with my beloved—those precious days spent entirely outdoors, connecting deeply to the natural world, with a fire every morning and evening, and no cares or concerns.

And attending the Collective Trauma Summit online—the excitement and validation of learning about collective trauma and collective healing and how it dovetails with my work, both personally and professionally.

  • What do you need to mourn, honor, and release? What was difficult, painful, hard, disappointing? Give the experiences and feelings space on the page and then choose to let them go, so they don’t become stumbling blocks in the new year.

One of the biggest things I’m mourning is another year spent largely cut off from friends, dancing, playing music with others, going to concerts and festivals, having parties. And how this has negatively impacted my joy and inspiration.

  • What did you learn this year? What new skills or insights or discoveries occurred?

I am celebrating completing a course on book proposal writing. And doing individual healing work on my inherited trauma.

  • What were your accomplishments? What did you complete or do? What are you proud of?

I am most proud of having completed a proposal for a book on creativity that I am writing. I also did an enormous amount of work on the book itself. It’s really coming together, and I will be ready to send the proposal out in the new year!

  • What blessings came your way this past year? What was fortunate?

    Our garden continues to be a rich source of daily blessings. Also, the monthly fire circles I host were rich and deep, and a strong community gathered to help carry us through these times. I was blessed once again to have amazing students and connections in my classes.
  • Looking now perhaps particularly at your creative life, what did you get done? What activities, habits, classes, companions served you best? What inspired you most this year?

In addition to accomplishments already mentioned, I started assembling a new manuscript of poems and editing them. What helped me most was a book retreat intensive I participated in and the course I took. Also, partnering with a poetry buddy to give each other feedback once a month. And upleveling my creative studio with new bookshelves and a wonderful new chair.

  • What did you not get done that you would like to complete before the year end or make a priority for the new year?

I did not get my new website done despite countless hours spent researching and planning it. Frustrating! I’d love to have it done by year-end but realistically it will likely take a bit longer than that.

Support in Creating Your New Year Aligned with Heart

I hope you find these reflection questions helpful and inspiring. When we take time to harvest the outgoing year, we clear space within so that we can plant new seeds for the coming times. It is a kind of inner decluttering.

If you would like support in going deeper in harvesting the outgoing year and visioning the new year, I would be honored to work and play with you in my one-on-one Mentoring program.

Together we will take stock of the year that’s ending and create an inspired roadmap to guide your coming year. A good roadmap aligns with your heart, soul, and spirit, so that your life shines from within. A good roadmap also has a balance of clarity and flexibility. In that way, you know the steps to take to reach your most cherished dreams. You’ll have a guide to stay on track. And you also can adjust to the unexpected, while not losing your essential heart path.

If you are longing for a more inspired, fruitful, joyful year ahead, I invite you to sign up for a series of mentoring sessions with me now. If you have dreams or goals and need some help, this kind of focused support can be priceless.

The first step is to sign up for a free Discovery Session here. We will explore what you desire, what’s been getting in your way, and whether we are a good match to play together in this way.

Dealing with Disappointment in Art and Life

Dealing with Disappointment in Art and Life

Recently, I suffered a big disappointment. It felt like a physical blow to the chest. I was reeling with pain and shock.

In a moment I will share what happened and the six steps I took to recover from it. It is important to deal with disappointments in a good way, so they don’t block you from what your heart desires. So you are free to create your best art and your best life.

All artists and dreamers face disappointment in our lives. It is the nature of the game. If we dare to dream big, if we have big hopes and aspirations, if we pour our hearts and souls into our beloved creations and have the courage to share them with others, we can also fall hard, fail spectacularly, and be deeply disappointed.

This truth is a main reason why many people stop themselves from dreaming at all or daring to follow their heart’s dreams and their soul’s callings. Why so many people feel a hole in the center of their lives, something vital that is missing.

If no one dared to dream big, if no one dared to create art from their heart’s rich store and share it with others, our world would be a very bland, cold, and brutal place. That’s why it is so important to learn how to deal with disappointment, why we need to learn how to “fail better,” as the saying goes.

A Story of Disappointment and a Metaphor for Art and Life

When I was twelve years old, I took horseback riding lessons. One day, while learning how to ride over a series of jumps, the horse threw me off her back. I went sailing through the air and landed in the mud. I was startled and shaken, but unhurt. The instructor told me to get right back on the horse and try again. She said it was very important that I do this, for two reasons: First, so I would not be afraid to ride again. Second, so the horse would know she couldn’t throw me and get out of going over those big jumps. So the horse knew I would not give up so easily.

That horse is your art or your dream for your life.

When Things Don’t Go As You Hope

Earlier this year, I applied for an Individual Artist Grant from the California Arts Council. I worked so long and hard on the application, refining every bit of it, getting feedback from others. Somehow I thought for sure I would get this grant.

And I felt that I needed it both financially, and, even more importantly, as a leg up in my creative career. Getting this grant would be a validation that I hoped would open doors to other grants, awards, and opportunities. I have been working so intensely on writing for decades without much recognition or support. So this grant opportunity had a lot riding on it for me.

By now you have figured out that I did not get the grant. I felt stunned when I read the email and so disappointed.

I have dealt with a great deal of disappointment in my creative life. I have applied for many things that I have not received, and opened hundreds of rejection letters from literary journals to which I submitted my writing. Of course, I have also received wonderful acceptances and opportunities, had many publications, been invited to give readings more times than I can count.

This was not one of those moments. This was a bitter, painful disappointment.

How I Recovered Myself and My Art

Here is what I did to deal with it and get back on the horse.

1) I let myself feel the feelings all the way through.

This is so important. I didn’t stuff them, minimize them, or try to make myself wrong for having them. I cried. I swore. I banged my fist. I paced around to move the energy. And I met the feelings with love and compassion.

2) I shared the experience with trusted others.

I texted my husband at work immediately. His beautiful, quick reply was perfect. “I’m so sorry, sweetie. Your time will come.”

I also shared about it with my patrons on Patreon the next day, when the feelings were still raw. One of the things I love so much about Patreon is that, because it is a private group, I can share intimately about my creative life, projects, and works-in-process.

Sharing the feelings helps air them out and not let them fester. And I want my patrons to know the truth about the ups of downs of a creative life. I received lovely messages from several patrons in response.

3) I paid attention to what I was making it mean.

Yes, I was disappointed not to get the grant, but what was causing the real suffering was what I was telling myself about it. “I will always be passed over. I will never be recognized for my art. Other people always get the awards, and I don’t.”

I noticed the old false beliefs and painful wounds connected to these stories. I have a wound around feeling invisible, unseen, unheard, under-appreciated that goes back to my childhood. Unfortunately, I also have a deep-seated fear of being too visible that connects to my family heritage. It creates a bad double-bind.

Out of this old pattern, I have tended to re-create invisibility, or lack of recognition, for myself in painful ways. Having that old pattern and false belief triggered by not getting the grant was what was causing the most suffering. I could see that.

Recognizing the old patterns and where they come from, I could question the old stories and see that they are coming up in order to be healed.

4) I gathered helpful information.

Thanks to sharing on Patreon, my dear friend Molly texted me to express her condolence, and she shared an essential piece of information that made all the difference.

She told me how I could access a list of all the applicants and who got the grant. (The Arts Council was sharing this list.) I was stunned to discover that many writers and artists who are way more famous than me, and who have done wonderful things, also did not get the grant. These artists, I felt, had considerably more reason than me to be disappointed. This really helped explode the stories I was telling myself.

5) I soothed the feelings and fears.

Not receiving the grant provoked fears about money, as well as about never getting the recognition I long for and need in order to have a more thriving creative career. I had to meet those fears and soothe them, let them know what’s really true, or more true, both about my current situation and my future prospects.

When we are inside of old stories, limiting patterns, beliefs, and fears, we filter outer evidence so that we tend to only see, or see more of, what supports our limiting beliefs. And we ignore evidence to the contrary of our limiting beliefs.

So, I needed to have compassion for my hurt, and show myself what was actually true, contrary to my fears. I have enough funds right now to cover my needs. I have received other forms of recognition. I am growing in my art and life, working on healing these patterns. The future is unknown. All I can do is work and play towards what I love and dream.

6) I got back on the horse.

The very next morning I was in my studio at my regular creative time, writing, working on my next book. I keep doing what I love, what matters most to me.

Whether you have experienced a recent disappointment or one in the distant past that you still carry, these same steps can help you to feel, heal, and move forward. Learning how to deal with disappointment is essential to a healthy, thriving creative life and to living your heart’s big dreams. For the benefit of all beings.

I invite you to share a take-away from this post below. What spoke to you most? What can you use in your own life?

How to Stick to Your Goals and Have Fun in the Process

How to Stick to Your Goals and Have Fun in the Process

Would you love to write or paint or play guitar every day? Would you like to kindle a meditation practice? Or a gratitude practice? Or a new eating habit?

Do you keep procrastinating on a project you want to complete? Writing that book, cleaning out your closet, putting together a portfolio of your art.

Stickers might just be your new best friend.

I got these beautiful stickers from Ben Franklin (arts and crafts store) two weeks ago. Already, eleven of them are gone! I’m so proud of myself. In a minute, I’ll tell you why.

Using stickers to motivate yourself towards your goals, especially daily goals, is a tool I often recommend to my students. They work beautifully to help you cultivate new daily habits, and they are also fabulous for taking small steps toward big projects or dreams.

Don’t worry: If you don’t like stickers, I’ll give you another option below.

Why I’m using stickers right now

I needed to revitalize my commitment to moving my body every day.

With the pandemic dragging on, and me working from home, glued to my computer at my desk, I have not been getting enough movement at all.

Add to that three months of relentless, off-the-charts, unbearable heat wave here in Northern California, and at least a month of choking smoke from gargantuan wildfires. Getting outside at all has become difficult. Which means taking walks—one of my favorite forms of exercise—has not been palatable or possible often. And dancing with others, which I used to do twice a week, has been gone completely for a year and half.

And then the gloominess of a world in chaos, and the ongoing isolation, make it hard for me to want to put on music and dance by myself or do yoga.

What’s a girl to do to keep her body healthy?

Stickers! For every day in which I do at least 20 minutes of movement—bouncing on the mini trampoline, yoga, dance, walking, lifting my miniscule weights—I put a sticker on the wall calendar. I now have eleven in a row, and I do not want to break the chain!

Plus, these stickers are so beautiful, and it’s fun to choose the one I get to have that day. A little like an advent calendar in reverse.

The stickers and the unbroken rows provide such strong motivation that I insisted Don and I take a walk before dinner a couple nights ago, even though we had already had a full day of cleaning out the garage and had things to do that evening.

In the past, I would have just decided to wait for tomorrow. But not now.

How to use stickers to reach your goals

Choose any goal which you would like to have become a daily habit or activity for a period of time (or forever). It’s helpful, when starting out, to choose a period of time to focus on. Thirty days is good. Long enough to really dive in. Not so long that you feel you can’t keep it going.

Decide on a do-able daily chunk. I encourage people to start small and build on their success, rather than set ridiculous, ambitious goals and fall apart by day three. Ten minutes is good. But you decide what works for you and your goal or project.

calendar

Get a wall calendar or print out a calendar for the month and put it up on the wall or somewhere highly visible.

For every day that you do your new daily practice, give yourself a sticker. And do your darnedest not to break the chain. (If you do break the chain—life happens—just hop right back on that horse the next day.)

For those who don’t like stickers

Men often balk at the idea of stickers as being childish, girlish, silly, or unnecessary. Which is really a shame because you are missing out on some serious fun and motivation.

But all is not lost! For you guys (and any of you who have suppressed your inner child or have a phobia of stickers), you can use a check mark or an X.  

Studies have shown—for those who like studies or need proof—that doing this really does increase motivation for the goal. You get a little burst of positive hormones every time you get that sticker (or check mark), and seeing the unbroken chain is also a motivator.

Make your success even more likely

Get an accountability buddy. Tell a friend your goal for the next thirty days and report in each week—you can do that by text or email or phone. It helps greatly if the friend also has a goal—it doesn’t have to be the same goal—but it’s not strictly necessary. The key is to pick a friend who is encouraging and kind, but not too lax in letting you off the hook.

Celebrate and acknowledge yourself every single day that you do your daily goal. Really cheer yourself on. This is important.

And then, choose a reward to give yourself at the end of the thirty days. Something you would truly enjoy. Something you want. A dinner out somewhere nice or a trip to the beach. A new pair of shoes. A whole afternoon off to read trashy novels. And be sure to give yourself the reward if you make it to thirty days of stickers in a row.

Share your goals here, if you like. And I will cheer you on.

The Joy of Completion: What Are You Waiting For?

The Joy of Completion: What Are You Waiting For?

I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.

― Henry David Thoreau

Every Monday I draw a card from the Zen Tarot deck as a guide and meditation for the week. Last week I drew Postponement, a card I’m not sure I’ve ever received before.

The card pictures a woman, living in a gray world and peering through a window at a landscape full of colors, longing to be there. But she hesitates, full of “what ifs.”

The card talks about the way we put off what we desire out of fear and doubt. And reminds us we won’t be younger or braver next year.

First I thought: That’s not me. I’m not a procrastinator. I go for what I want. After all, I teach Living Your Dreams and coach others to live theirs.

But as I sat with this card throughout the week, I felt shocked at how often I postpone big decisions and put off doing things for myself, especially if it involves spending significant amounts of money and/or time. Especially if it’s about my art. Ouch.

I also saw how many incomplete creative projects are lying around my studio, from the small to the large, and how many books are half-read, stacked in piles.

What’s Behind Procrastination?

When we want to do something but we don’t do it, resistance is at work. Resistance is fear in various disguises. Procrastination, distraction, doubt, excuses.

We don’t want the discomfort it will take to do it. Or we don’t want to give up what we’d have to sacrifice to go for it. We’re afraid to make mistakes. Or we’re afraid of being judged. We’re afraid to fail.

For me, making the wrong decision terrifies me. I’m afraid of getting hurt, of losing what is precious to me. I am afraid of expending energy, money, and time only to wind up disappointed or broke. I’ve experienced it before. We all have. And these experiences leave scars that cause us to be cautious, often too cautious.

The Costs of Postponement and Incompletion

But, postponing what we love and long to do, delaying finishing what we start, sucks energy from our lives and feeds our fear and bad habits, giving them more power. Putting off decisions and dreams drains vitality and joy.

Half-completed projects or those never even begun that we carry around in our hearts and minds create a feeling of stuckness, frustration, and confusion. They rob us of living fully now, expressing our gifts and purpose here. They cost us deeper enjoyment of life.

That endless list of should do, want to do, must do, maybe I’ll do that’s in our minds creates an energetic bog that makes it difficult for creativity, vitality and abundance to flow freely in our lives. And for us to feel free, playful, joyful and fully expressed.

Benefits of Deciding and Completions

We all know the relief and surge of energy that happens when we finish a big project, make a big decision, or take decisive action toward a longed-for dream or goal.

As we clear up projects, decisions and goals, we open the doors to new blessings and ideas. We summon the support of the universe. We gather momentum for bigger dreams. And, we feel satisfaction, freedom and fulfillment.

When the Time Is Not Right

Sometimes we aren’t ready yet or the time is not right. Perhaps there is preparation we need to do.

There are natural rhythms to life that need honoring. Just like there is a natural cycle to the seasons. You cannot plant a garden in winter and have it thrive.

Also, we cannot do everything at once. Biting off more than we can chew leaves us with another incompletion or disappointment. That is why clear choices and priorities are vital on the path of dreams.

Sometimes we don’t have enough information to make a big decision yet.

Sometimes there is inner work to do. If our inner selves feel conflicted about our dreams, if our wounds are too unhealed, or our beliefs too unsupportive, we will create enormous wear and tear trying to move toward our dreams. And, it’s not likely to go well. We have to first create space within ourselves.

Sometimes we don’t have the resources yet and need to gather them, though often if we choose boldly and move in the direction of our dreams, resources of many kinds show up.

“Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initative or creation, there is one elementary truth…that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves. too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would otherwise never have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in ones’s favor all manner of incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man would have believed would have come his way.

Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it. Action has magic, grace, and power in it.”

― W.H. Murray The Scottish Himalayan Expedition

Summer Solstice: Completions and New Beginnings

We just passed the summer solstice, one of the four sacred turning points and portals of the year, a powerful time for letting go of the old—including habits and beliefs—and calling in the new.

For this solstice, I am calling in a deeper commitment to fostering my own greatness as an artist and receiving the support, recognition and audience I need and desire.

And I’ve decided to focus on completions for a while. Taking my cherished projects, dreams, and goals and moving in a concerted way toward finishing them, one at a time.

I’m also looking at my big life dreams and what decisions I’ve been postponing. It’s time to move forward. If I need more information, I’m gathering it. If I just need to leap, I’m doing my best to leap.

Decluttering Is a Form of Completion

Piles of old stuff we no longer love or use weigh us down energetically. Decluttering frees up energy and space in our lives and welcomes the new. If you’re not sure where to start with completions, decluttering can help move energy and bring a feeling of lightness.

Decluttering my writing studio is one of my incompletions. It is hard, involving sorting through endless pieces of paper (the writer’s curse). But even when I do a little bit of it, I feel relieved. I breathe easier and have more space inside for new inspiration.

Decluttering can be hard on your own. Get a friend to come over and help you. Then, do the same for your friend. Or hire some help. My friend Megan Montero helps people declutter, no matter where you live.

How To Start Completing Things and Moving Forward Now

Make a list of incompletions in your life. What projects, goals, plans, ideas are partially done or floating around in your brain? Look around your home, office, studio, your life. What have you started or wanted to start?

Make a list of indecisions. What big dreams, longings, questions have you been harboring? For me, that’s whether to get an MFA in creative writing. I’ve been thinking about this for only about 20 years. But I am terrified because my experience in graduate school for music was so awful, and because it costs so much.

What about emotional incompletions? Are there people you are not complete with? Someone you need to say something to, or even to write a letter that you don’t mail? Someone you need to forgive or ask forgiveness from? Some grief that you are not complete with? The Grief Recovery Handbook and method is excellent for this.

Now, choose one thing at a time from your list. Small or large. Make a plan to finish it. Take steps each week until it’s done. You may wish to start small to gain momentum.

You Don’t Have to Do It All, Just What Matters Most

Not everything on your long to-do list needs to happen. Sometimes you just need to decide not to do something and cross it off your list for good, give away that pile of stuff you aren’t going to use, let go of an old idea or project you no longer desire.

Letting go of perfectionism will go a long way toward supporting you. Be willing to let things be “good enough”.

And, don’t try to do everything at once. You’ll just spin out, get distracted and quit again. Stay focused on one or two things. Get those done, then move on.

Also, let go of the idea that you will ever cross off everything on your to-do list. That’s not the goal. The idea is to free up energy and joy by taking on the things that matter most to you and/or are weighing you down.

Let Death Be Your Guide

Ask yourself what would matter if you knew you would die a year from now, what would you most want to get done? How would you most wish to live? Then, how about if you were going to die five years from now?

Creating art, sharing it with the world, being with people I love and enjoy, and living joyfully are what I most wish to spend time on. I have some specifics–finishing two books I’m working on, enrolling in that MFA program, healing my relationship with music. And I would still choose to declutter my studio because, even though it wouldn’t matter much after I was dead, it matters to my living easefully, freely and happily now.

Let death be your guide to living a rich, joyful, fulfilling life.

There is no time like the present for making our heart’s dreams a priority and doing the things we long to do. What will you complete first?


If you’d like support with completions and decisions, reach out to me for one-on-one life coaching here.

Finding Your North Star to Guide Your Year

Finding Your North Star to Guide Your Year

Have you named dreams, intentions or desires for the year ahead? Have you sat down to connect with soul-inspired vision?

Or does that all feel hopeless in the light of the upheaval of our times? How can we possibly plan?

Why bother?

When you take the time to connect with, and clearly name, your heart-centered, soul-inspired dreams, desires, visions for the year, you have a north star to guide you through waters both stormy and calm.

You have a way to stay connected to what matters most to you, what fills your life with beauty, fulfillment, connection and joy, even in the hardest times. And when everything is swirling around you, you have a safe harbor to return to.

This process isn’t about trying to nail everything down. This is about being in sacred partnership with Life, co-creating with what wants to be born through you.

My Breakthrough Dream

Every year, among naming other dreams and goals, I choose a Breakthrough Dream as a central focus for the year. This brings tremendous clarity, inspiration and movement to my life. (For more on finding your own Breakthrough Dream, read this post.)

My Breakthrough Dream last year was: “I am lovingly supporting Fierce Aria [my book of poems, published in May, 2020] so that she may flourish in the world and reach all those who need her. I allow her to win awards and acclaim and sell her first thousand copies in 2020.”

Fierce Aria is my first published book. I spent more than ten years creating it and huge amounts of sweat and tears (also dollars!) to bring it life. I want it to reach and move people and open doors for me as well.

So, it was a perfect Breakthrough Dream. And it seemed just about impossible from the start.

How it actually turned out

My dream stretched and pushed me all year. I wrestled with it! But it also gave me a powerful focus that held me and helped me through a very tough year. And it brought incredible blessings to my life.

I am sure I didn’t come close to 1000 copies sold, though I’m still waiting to hear from my publisher. (If you want to get a copy, I’d love that! You can order it here or through your bookstore.)

I only managed to get two reviews—beautiful reviews—one on Hannah Rousselot’s blog and the other in a wonderful online literary journal called Sweet. And I only began submitting to awards contests at the end of the year, so I won’t know until later this year if the book wins any.

But whole new worlds opened up in my creative life. Big shifts both internally and externally. I’ll share more in my Year in Review post, coming soon.

Dreamtending is deep soul work that is life-giving to you and to our world. It isn’t even so much about the outer results—though those can be amazing—as it is about how it changes you within.

Committed but not attached

The key with any dream or goal, intention or desire is to stay committed to it but not attached to the specific outcomes. Easier said than done!

If you do your best to hold your dreams lightly with all the love in your heart, but be open to new information, new directions showing up, you will find yourself flowing toward not only the fulfillment of many beautiful things, but also toward greater freedom, peace and wholeness within.

Give yourself space

To do this, you need first to give yourself space to get quiet and go inward, to listen to what you long for, what life is calling you towards, how your soul needs to grow.

Now is a perfect time to do this. Last night was the new moon, a time for slowing down, going inward, setting intentions and beginning new things.

Joseph Campbell said, “Follow your bliss,” because what lights you up or fascinates you or compels you within is the key to your soul’s path. Your deepest dreams will lead you to what you uniquely have to give to our world and also to your own inner growth.

Clarity is liberating and invigorating (and also scary!)

Once you’ve gone inward to hear your dreams, needs and desires, you then summon the courage to clearly name them—even if some of them seem impossible or scary. If it scares you and also excites you, that is a sign you are on the right path.

I always try to do six impossible things before breakfast.”

—from Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

To bring your dreams to life, you will need to name some actionable steps you can take to support them and put those steps in time. Perhaps you only know the first few steps right now, or only one. That’s fine. Start there.

One of the Fundamental Principles of Creative Dreaming that I teach in my Living Your Dreams course is “You don’t need to know how to make your dreams come true. You only need to know clearly what the Dream is. The Dream will show you the how, one step at a time.”

To your heart’s dreams,

Maxima

Take it further

Read this post on Dreaming Your Year for more on how to do that.

If you are interested in my one-of-a-kind Living Your Dreams course, The Artist’s Way is the prerequisite. Because it gives you the tools, transformation and introspective processes to be ready for Living Your Dreams. If you have questions, I’m right here.

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