Making the Most of Your Life

Making the Most of Your Life

My friend Curt died a couple of weeks ago. I learned about it on Facebook and was stunned.

Curt was a heart-centered, caring soul and helped me in many ways over the years. He was a person I could trust to be honest, authentic, and to listen deeply. He could also be quite funny.

A few weeks before that an important person in our local music community died quite unexpectedly, a real shock. He wasn’t old. Then, my friend Amy’s mother died, also suddenly.

All of this death and loss is having me consider mortality and how I want to live, how I want to spend whatever time I have left, which may be very little or perhaps many years. There’s no way to know.

What if I only have a few years left? What if I have ten? Or just one? What do I most wish to do with that time? How can I live my best life now?

Death is so clarifying.

“Dying requires that we take the step without proof. We walk through the door. We cannot turn around and go back, so we walk through. The end. No guarantees, no certainty, no assurance. We walk, taking each step not from fear but from love, because a great mystery is blessing each footfall. Our hearts understand that mystery and feel the joy. It is the mystery returning to itself.”

Rodney Smith, Lessons from the Dying as quoted in Daily Wisdom: 365 Buddhist Inspirations

What rises up for me is the desire to do even more of what I love, to make even more time for creativity in my life, to make it even more of a priority. I want to study it more deeply, be in creative community with peers and mentors, sharing with others and dialoguing about art and making.

And I want to enjoy my daily life, the small moments, each act of doing, each interaction with another. And continue to heal or release what hurts or haunts me, so I can be most joyful, alive, expressed.

All this uncertainty and upheaval in the world brings losses, endings, and letting go of various kinds. We can contract in fear or we can open in love to the mystery and wonder.

I’m choosing to make the most of my life now, to shape the most beautiful, rich, meaningful life that I can.

I choose to spend my resources of time, money, energy as much as possible on the things that are closest to my heart, bring me the most joy, and help me live well.

And that’s scary because my fear says I should spend all my time, energy, resources on preparing for a changing world—I’m doing that too—and on making more money. But I might not be around to enjoy that money. Whereas, if I make more time for making art now, I know I’ll be loving my life.

What are those things for you that bring you joy, fulfillment, love, peace?

I invite you to explore this in your heart, your thoughts, and in your journal. Answer, as best you can, from your heart, not your head.

If you only have three years left to live, how do you wish to spend them? What rises as a priority? What would make for the best life?

  • And then, how can you honor those priorities through your choices now?
  • What actions can you take this week, this month, this year?
  • What might you need to let go of or stop doing to make more time, space, and resources for what you most love?
  • What might you need to invest in?
  • What supports do you need to put in place to make more space and time for what matters most?

So much is changing in the world in radical ways. We don’t know what the world will look like tomorrow or next year. This makes it hard to plan. Even crazy-making.

For this reason, I feel there is no better time to focus on what your heart feels most drawn towards, what fills you with delight, or meaning, or love, or joy, even if you are full of doubt and fear about taking those next steps. Whenever something is on our heart path, there tends to be doubt and fear.

There are no assurances, no guarantees, but the path of heart is the best path I know. And it’s the one you are called to for a reason. If you long to dance, then dance. If you long to make music, make music. If you long to paint, please paint. And if you long to study marine biology, do that.

Perhaps you want to play music and study marine biology. Trust that. There may be a beautiful interweaving of the two that wants to come uniquely through you.

The dreams of your heart and soul were given to you for a reason. We need you to follow your dreams.

And if you are longing for support with finding and following your heart’s dreams and desires, check out my Creative Life Coaching & Mentoring.

To your heart-centered life with love,
Maxima

How to Follow Your Heart to a Life of Meaning and Joy

How to Follow Your Heart to a Life of Meaning and Joy

Follow your heart. We hear it said over and over. But how do you even know what your heart is saying?

How do you know it’s your heart you are listening to and not some other aspect of yourself misguiding you? What if your heart is closed and you can’t hear it?

A new subscriber sent me this subtle and interesting question this week. It was so good I decided to devote this week’s post to answering it. Here’s his question:

“How can we follow the heart if it appears closed? Are we subtly prompted through the mind until we fully reconnect with it and choose to open it and follow it again?”

Some keys to the answer are embedded in the question itself.

One key is in the word “appears.” The heart appears closed but is never really closed. Openness is its true condition, its natural state, and it never forgets how to do this.

Because of trauma, events that happen to us, and our conditioning, we may learn to close down our hearts. We may feel afraid of being hurt or disappointed, rejected or shamed.

We may have been taught to distrust the heart and favor the mind. That is the dominant paradigm of the Western world. So, the heart feels atrophied.

We may feel we are not fluent in the language of the heart, due to a lack of encouragement and practice. So, we find it hard to hear the voice of the heart or recognize it.

The Signature of the Heart

The heart voice has a distinctive signature. It speaks with authority, wisdom, quiet subtlety, and sometimes humor. It can be no-nonsense direct and sometimes utterly mysterious from the perspective of the mind.

Other elements of the heart signature are: The heart doesn’t offer reasons. It simply says, “Go there. Do this.” The heart doesn’t know fear. And it is not concerned with outcomes, with gain or loss. It is concerned with Truth, Growth, your rightful path, Fulfillment, Deep Joy, and Connection.

It will take in complex situations and lead you toward a good life, a life that benefits all.

Your heart voice will have its own unique signature. If you get to know its signature, you can learn to recognize it. You’ll learn to know how your heart speaks, which is often not in words.

The heart we are talking about here is not the wounded heart, not your wounded self with its false beliefs and limiting behaviors and ego-desires. Rather, it is your internal guidance system, meant to lead you to your best life.

When the heart is speaking, you feel it in the body. There is a resonance. You feel moved. You might feel tingling or a slight pressure in the chest. Maybe the hairs on your body stand up or tears come to your eyes. Or you feel very still and peaceful. You feel compelled from within. There’s a knowing of rightness and an absence of doubt or questions.

Can the Mind Lead You to the Heart?

Let’s look at the second part of the question above: “Are we subtly prompted through the mind until we fully reconnect with [the heart]?”

The answer is no. The mind will not direct you to the heart.

The mind deals in fear. Its job is to protect us from perceived and real harm. It tries to hold onto gains and shield us from loss. It is excellent at making distinctions, language like I am using now, making plans and following through, figuring out details. But it is meant to be the servant of the heart, not the boss. Most of us have this backward to our great detriment and the detriment of our world.

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”

This quote, attributed to Albert Einstein, is a paraphrase of something written by Bob Samples about Einsteins’ teachings. Nonetheless, it’s apt.

Instead of expecting your mind to prompt you to hear your heart, I recommend that you look, listen, feel for the heart’s unique signature, and follow those promptings. This takes practice, patience, and a willingness to make mistakes. Like any art form.

An Ancient Tool for Hearing the Voice of Your Heart

Fire is one of the primary tools given to human beings to help us connect to our hearts and live our lives in a good way.

Human beings are the only creatures who have a relationship with fire like we do. We are the only ones who for thousands of years have gathered around fires to warm our bodies, cook our food, light our way, share stories, songs, and poems, and work through conflicts. In fact, the earliest evidence of humans cooking with fire dates back to at least one million years ago. Archeologist Michael Chazan admits, “Socializing around a campfire might actually be an essential aspect of what makes us human.” I would agree.

It is said that in the time before time, this special relationship with fire was given to humans as an antidote for the mind. To bring us back into connection with the heart. There’s a reason that we are, to this day, dependent on fire in so many ways. Human beings are meant to connect with fire daily as an aid to counterbalance the negative tendencies of the mind.

In cultures around the globe, fire is associated with heart and spirit. You see candles burning in temples and synagogues and churches. You see fire used in ceremonies throughout the world. And you hear some of the many profound gifts of fire spoken of in the metaphors we use: the fire of passion, the fire of truth, the light of inspiration, the burning away in transformation.

Fire also helps us feel our emotions so that they don’t stay stuck inside and fester. When we do this, we can hear and feel our heart’s movement guiding us in our lives.

A Profound Practice to Reconnect with Your Heart

A very simple and profound practice for reconnecting with your heart is to sit with a candle for a few minutes (or longer) each day. Gaze into the flame and pour out your heart to the fire— whatever is weighing on you, concerning you, delighting you, perplexing you, frustrating you. You can do this silently or out loud. Then, sit for a few minutes (or longer) and listen for a response.

The response may come in words you hear inside, in a felt sense, in a shift of awareness, in a movement of emotion, or in quiet and stillness (so that you may think nothing is happening, but it is!). Often, the answers will come in your life, as you get up from your candle and move through your day. Opportunities, synchronicities, and messages will appear if you pay attention. This is the movement of heart, guiding you back into balance and wholeness in your life.

If you can gather with others, or alone, around a campfire, that is even more potent. Most potent of all is a sacred fire, consecrated for ritual, connection, and transformation.

Choose to Follow Your Heart

The last part of the question I received contains wisdom: “Are we subtly prompted… until we fully reconnect with [the heart] and choose to open it and follow it again?”

It is a choice to open our hearts and follow their guidance. We are free to make this beautiful choice in every moment of our lives. We get to choose again and again.

Will I follow my heart? Will I risk looking like a fool or a beginner, making a mistake, doing something that feels challenging or new, to follow the promptings of my heart? In the movie Tick, Tick, Boom! one character asks another: Are you letting yourself be led by fear or by love?

Let this question be your guide. And keep your questions coming. I love answering them when I can.

To your heart-centered life,

Maxima

P.S. For further reading, you might enjoy my post on cultivating intuition here: https://brilliantplayground.com/cultivating-intuition/

And, there’s an excellent post by psychologist Amy Johnson on learning to distinguish between what I’m calling the mind voice and the heart voice, which she calls personal mind vs. wisdom. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/is-your-mind-the-servant-_b_7822304

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.

Welcome.

Brilliant Playground is a space of inclusion and honoring for people of all colors, races, paths, genders and sexual preferences. You are welcome here!

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Creative Sparks provides tools, guidance and soul inspiration about once a week to:

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  • Identify and realize your heart’s true dreams
  • Live a life of passion, purpose and deep play

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