On Generosity: Sacred Key to Abundance and Joy

On Generosity: Sacred Key to Abundance and Joy

At the start of 2020, I chose generosity as my word of the year, not knowing consciously what we were in for globally that year. Or rather, the word chose me. I started this essay back then, exploring how generosity can enlarge me as an artist and human being, and I return to it now to share with you.

I invite you to journey with me as we explore this sacred quality together.

What is my growing edge around generosity?

A part of me cringes as I fear being taken advantage of if I’m too generous. That part still takes advantage of herself at times, over-giving, not feeling deserving, not believing in myself, not feeling I am ever “enough.”

As I meditate on generosity, an image pops in my head: The beggar archetype, the one pictured on the five of coins in the tarot, huddling in the cold outside a church. I recognize this archetype in me. The beggar that feels starved, needy, impoverished, shut out. She thinks she must beg for everything, that there is never enough, and she cannot afford anything for herself.

That archetype is rooted in my ancestral past. My parents and ancestors on both sides lived through intense privations and persecution. I inherited a lot of fear about survival both in my DNA and in my upbringing. And I have struggled to provide for myself financially much of my life.

How can generosity help me shift my relationship to money and provision? How am I stingy with myself and others, cutting off the flow?

Part of my growing edge is a more generous and trusting approach to myself and others, but with wisdom and healthy boundaries. Sometimes true generosity is saying no.

What does generosity feel like?

As I tune into this quality, it seems like a feeling of such inner abundance, such sense of plenty, that I overflow. Not giving in order to be liked or accepted. Not giving out of a sense that I am never enough and must always give more, do more, try harder, in order to be loved or okay or simply safe from attack. But instead, giving out of a true sense of having-ness, plenty, a desire to share the bounty of my life.

And knowing there is always more. The universe is a generous, bountiful place.

What does generosity in language look like?

To me it looks like that marriage of truth and beauty that John Keats wrote about. “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

Generosity in art looks like creating truth and beauty and spending time and care to hone it, so that it can be of value to others.

How could/does generosity inform my poetry or help me to cross that invisible barrier that often keeps me from being satisfied with my poems? That same barrier also appears to keep me from receiving greater outer acceptance of my art. The outer so often mirrors the inner world.

As a poet, I seek to find the voice that is truly mine and no other’s. That voice sometimes feels in danger of being lost in the froth of so many other voices telling me how and what I should write.

If I were more generous toward myself, wouldn’t I be more trusting in my voice and subject matter, in what I need to say in the ways most true to me?

How do I balance that generosity towards myself with generosity towards others, which asks me to make a thing of deep value to others, a thing with an open door through which others can enter, yet without betraying my own aesthetic?

What does it mean to be generous with myself?

Not self-indulgent, but caring for and giving to myself deeply. Surely that is where generosity must begin. To generously accept myself as I am, and to give the best of what I have to give, and let that be enough.

I know how to drive myself, unrelenting. But how to be truly generous?

This exploration is one beginning. These words allowed to flow and find their way. The seeking or permitting of a voice entirely mine. The way my mind and hand and heart moves when allowed out, like a dog into a park, romping.

And then to share with others from that same spirit. Here, this is what I have.

A memory of fear and generosity

When I was preparing for my senior concert in college, the culmination of four years of intense work as a composer and improvising violinist, I suddenly developed terrible pains in my arm. The concert was a few weeks away and I was practicing and preparing like mad, terrified, trying to become better at my instrument in the few weeks that remained.

And then suddenly, these shooting pains in my arm. I went to see a skilled masseur, but still the pains were there. I went to see a specialist in violin posture, and she said my posture was impeccable.

Finally, I realized I was not going to get any better as a musician in the remaining time before my performance. I was going to have to accept myself as I was and present that to the audience openly.

The pain left and never returned. The concert was a grand success, one of the high points of my life. The place was packed, the audience enthusiastic. But, most of all, I felt on top of the world, in the sheer delight of music. I gave my all generously and didn’t worry what they would think. I left that to them to decide, generously.

Generosity in art, love, and work

When I get stuck in creative doldrums, I have to return to the love of art, the love of making, and then just give my best and let it go. I have to share from a spirit not of wanting to be loved but of wanting to share the best of what I have to give or what delights, intrigues, preoccupies me now. Not needy but full.

This was the turning point for me in love. When I stopped seeking to be loved and started loving my life so deeply, feeling so full, that I had so much to share with another. And longed to create a life together out of that fullness.

Poetry, music, and art have been so generous with me. I create to give back to the things in this world that I love and cherish, the things I long to uphold, the values, the beauty, the ways of being. This is a cause that summons deep devotion in me.

Is that what generosity looks like? Giving my all for what I most love and cherish?

In that case, I’ve been generous my whole life.

Let me spread the gospel of generosity through my own embodiment of plenty. Let me know that I am enough and I have enough. Earth is a great teacher of this, so relentlessly generous. Always sharing her gifts with no thought of reward.

May I do the same, doing my work for the love of it, sharing it out of love for others and our world. When I remember this, the work becomes lighter, a joy. And I know that I have found my way, the path of generosity.

For more on choosing a word of the year or dream seeds for the year, check out: https://brilliantplayground.com/dream-seeds/

Make Your Art in Ten Minutes a Day

Make Your Art in Ten Minutes a Day

In January, I decided to take on the challenge of writing every day for ten minutes for a month.

My creative schedule for years has been four days a week for two or more hours at a time. I keep this schedule religiously, and it works well for me. So, why did I take on the ten-minute-a-day challenge in January?

Why Ten Minutes a Day?

Last year, I worked intensively on a non-fiction book about how to live a passionate, fulfilling creative life. The process of writing and revising that book has been both thrilling and consuming. (Join my inner sanctum on Patreon to hear more about creating and finding a publisher for that book, and to read sneak previews of it.)

Even though I devoted a little time each week to writing or revising poems and typed up 47 drafts of new poems last year, I didn’t generate many poems that I was excited about. Though other areas of my creative life were flourishing, I felt disconnected from my poetic muse.

So, at the start of this year, I wanted to rekindle that connection. Ten minutes a day for a month felt like the perfect start.

Ten minutes a day is something I frequently suggest to my students who are struggling to make time for their art, feeling stuck, or having resistance to creating.

Start small but regular. Consistency is more important than long stints at infrequent intervals. The muse likes us to show up often and show our commitment. Then, she starts showing up more often too.

Ten minutes is small enough that there really isn’t a good reason why you can’t fit it into your day, no matter what kind of day you have. It’s short enough that resistance is less (though not gone). But it’s long enough to make a little something.

Outwitting Your Resistance

Here’s the thing: Resistance is wily. It would love to persuade you that you need large chunks of time to create. It would love to tell you that you are too busy for ten minutes a day or it doesn’t work for your art form.

But if you are not making time for your art or you’re uninspired, there’s nothing better than starting with ten minutes a day every single day for at least a month.

Make a ten-minute sketch, spend ten minutes playing your instrument, or ten minutes dancing, or ten minutes just playing with clay. You might not be able to throw a pot in that time but you can roll clay around in your fingers and make a little sculpture or a pinch pot.

You’ll be forming a bond of connection to your creativity and lighting up your life in the process.

Throw away the excuses about how you can’t make your magnum opus in ten minutes and just start. You’ll be surprised by all you can get done, and some days you’ll have more time and spend longer.

Keep Track and Reward Yourself

I printed out a blank calendar for the month, put it on my wall, and gave myself a gold star sticker every day that I wrote.

Having the calendar with the stars visible in front of me was motivating and clarifying. I didn’t want to break the pattern of the daily stars. When I did miss a day, I noticed the impact on my motivation.

I found I loved the regularity of the process, the presence of poetic writing in my day every day, though some days I only remembered in the evening and had to grab ten minutes to do it.

In my first week, I missed two days as I was learning to make this a daily habit, especially on weekends, when I don’t normally write. I missed three more near the end of the month when I didn’t make time early enough in the day and ran out of steam.

Letting your art be the last priority on your to-do list does not work well. The muse does not appreciate it.

There was never a good reason that I missed a day. I didn’t make it enough of a priority or didn’t push through the resistance. It’s that simple.

Create a Space of Permission

The other thing I did to entice my poetic muse was I committed to not judging what I made. This kind of permission is vital to rekindling creativity.

I stopped worrying about my voice, style, and subject matter—things that had persistently concerned me in 2022. I stopped worrying about what was getting published these days or whether I’d said it all before.

My agreement was to show up and write for ten minutes a day and spend five minutes beforehand kindling connection through meditation and/or reading inspiring poems by others.

Starting out, I had one good poem drop in and then many days when nothing interesting was happening. But I kept going. Most of the time the writing didn’t feel like it was hitting a groove, and I wondered when it would. But I reminded myself to trust the process and suspend judgment. It took almost the whole month before things started really sparking.

Getting in the Mood

I needed prompts. Something to write about or some spur to my imagination. I don’t have a project or compelling subject night now. So, I needed inspiration. This takes some trial and error to find what’s inspiring me now.

I also found that my muse needs more than five minutes of preamble time to get into the creative state. I could do just five or ten minutes of breathing meditation and reading poems when I was short on time, but the results in my writing were often less satisfying.

If I spent at least fifteen or twenty minutes priming the pump, my muse tended to wake up more.

Nonetheless, I didn’t use this as an excuse to skip a day. If ten minutes or fifteen minutes is what I had, that’s what I would use.

I discovered that I can sit down and write a poem (or something that will become a poem through revising) in a short amount of time.

I was surprised to discover that it feels better and creates a very different energy when I write every day.

It’s Your Turn

I encourage you to try it for a month and see what it brings to your life.

Keep it light, keep it simple, and don’t judge the work. Just ten minutes with a little warmup time beforehand to connect with your body, heart, and spirit. Step outside for five minutes or do a little meditation or listen to some music or stretch your body.

Give yourself the gift of a little creative time every day.

Just Say No to Distractions to Create a Life You Love

Just Say No to Distractions to Create a Life You Love

I have been on a roll lately, getting things done that are important to me. Taking on my big dreams and big projects, the ones that have been languishing, being avoided, or moving so slowly.

To move forward in a concerted way toward what matters most to me, toward co-creating what I long for in my life, one thing has been paramount: saying no to distractions.

This requires, first and foremost, making choices, choosing what matters most now, creating an order of priorities. And then, focusing on just a few things, focusing on completions.

I’ve been gaining greater clarity as I go.

And that means letting other wonderful, valid, even loved things go for now. Saying no to distractions. Being vigilant about staying on track.

As scary or difficult as some of my dreams can feel, as challenging or triggering as some of the steps I need to take are, the feeling of momentum, relief, and release is wonderful. Freeing, enlivening.

Are You Distractable?

I don’t think of myself as a person who is easily distracted. Once I am engaged in a task, I don’t like to be interrupted. I can hold a laser-like focus, especially when creating art or working on a project.

But we live in a culture of constant distraction. And we are all affected by it, unless you live without technology. Our attention-based economy means that things are grabbing for our attention nearly all the time in the most pernicious ways.

Our cell phones, computers, and tablets are specifically designed to distract us and pull us in a thousand directions. Social media, advertising, and the news all do this too.

The effect of these on our ability to focus and stay focused on any activity, conversation, train of thought, or feeling is devastating. Especially if you wish to live a life of heart, a fulfilling, inspired, soulful, artful life.

In other words, it’s not just you who is struggling with this.

How to Say No to Distractions

The antidote, or at least a key antidote, is saying no to distractions.

Long ago I turned off all notifications on my devices—all beeps, boops, boings, buzzes, and banners—except for phone calls and text messages. And I don’t keep my phone in the room where I create or work.

I’m a big fan of the Do Not Disturb setting on the phone, but nothing beats putting the phone where you cannot see it or reach it. I have to walk into another room to answer the phone or texts. Usually, if I’m working, I ignore it.

I do my best to say no to heading off on unrelated tangents while in the middle of a project. To not suddenly switch gears, get thrown by an open tab on the computer, an email, or a thought zinging through my mind. (I don’t always succeed at this.)

I’m certainly not able to stop myself from opening six tabs on my computer during the day. But most days, I close them all down in the evening, whether or not I looked at them. I may jot down notes of things I truly want to follow up on. This is better than leaving the tabs open. It gives me more choice about when to follow up and fewer distractions facing me at the start of a new day.

Don’t Keep Piling More on Your Plate

Once I choose my top priorities for the month or week or day, I watch out for piling more things on my plate. We cannot plan everything in our lives and I wouldn’t want to. I allow for flexibility and new inspiration. But the key is to choose consciously.

When I chose to take a demanding and time-consuming course in support of my Breakthrough Dream in 2021, I found myself considering an unrelated class on essay writing and another that would feed my spiritual growth at the same time.

Until I realized, while standing in the shower (an excellent place to think because it’s so free of distractions): I need to keep my time and energy focused on the one class for the next two months. Adding more would only make my life stressful, cause me to get less from the class I signed up for, and keep me from making the progress I desire on my biggest dreams.

Your Turn: Will You Say No to Distractions?

I invite you to ask yourself:

What are your top 3 priorities for the next 3 months? What matters most? What would feel the best to complete? What would bring you the most joy or satisfaction?

And then, what distractions can you say no to in order to make more time (and inner space and inspiration) for what you love and desire?

Write these down and make a clear commitment. What distractions will you eliminate? What supports will you put in place to help you do this?

Pay attention to when you get distracted during the day and gently pause, refocus, and come back to where you really wish to put your energy.

Healthy (and Unhealthy) Distractions

Saying no to distractions that keep you from doing what you love and long to do, or what most needs doing, isn’t the same as taking breaks to rest, replenish, and revitalize. These are vital.

The difference for me between a healthy break and a distraction looks like taking a five-minute dance break or nature break during my work day vs. checking my phone. Or spending time reading or napping vs. scrolling through the news or social media.

You’ll know the difference for yourself because unhealthy distractions leave you feeling depleted, overwhelmed, unfocused, or unmotivated. They keep you from what matters most to you.

Healthy breaks revitalize you, give you fresh energy and focus, and bring in doses of inspiration.

It’s good to get up from our projects periodically to stretch, have a glass of water, look around, step outside. It’s good to take in new inspiration and experiences.

But here’s where it gets tricky: Some distractions, even though they may be lovely or have positive aspects, if they don’t feed your dreams and priorities right now, are still distractions.

Let them go. There may be time for them to become a priority later. For now, make space. Invite focus, peace, and flow by saying no to distractions.

Choosing priorities, limiting the number of them (no more than three is good rule), and saying no to distractions brings more ease, fulfillment, and empowerment.

What will you say no to so you can say YES more often to what you love?

2022 My Year in Review

2022 My Year in Review

What a year 2022 was, hard and strange, and way too fast.

And yet, many beautiful blessings happened too. Significant movement toward long-held dreams.

The only reason I can make progress toward my dreams in such a crazy world is because, every year, I engage in a beautiful process of vision-mapping my year.

Big Dreams Launched, Big Milestones Reached

I launched my Brilliant Playmates creative community in 2022. Hooray! I’ve wanted to create an online community for artists to come together and share their art and their process, get deep support, accountability, and feedback, and experience the power of cross-pollination for years. Finally, I did it.

The results have been beautiful, rewarding, and fun. What a remarkable group of artists has come together with synchronistic threads of mutual interest, particularly in the realms of social justice and collective healing.

I completed an edited draft of my book on how to live a passionate, thriving creative life. And wrote a 50-page book proposal to seek a publisher for the book. A huge milestone for me. I will start sending it out soon and look forward to letting you know about a book deal in the works! (If you want to follow that process more closely and learn the things I learn along the way, join me on Patreon.)

The monthly sacred fire circles I hold for my local community were amazing, rich, and deep. I feel very blessed by the ongoing gifts of fire and by the folks who join me around the fire.

I was able to return to my beloved dance form, Contact Improvisation, in 2022. As always, this proved to be profoundly good for my body and heart and so fun! But my dance-music troupe, Shadow Cabinet, did not meet except to perform once outside. I miss those amazing artists and our work and play together and hope to rekindle that in 2023.

My classes and coaching were consistently wondrous and full of amazing people. I feel so blessed by the folks who are drawn to my work. Thank you!

Challenges, Losses, and Learning

In 2022 I think we collectively hoped we were out of the woods with the madness of the pandemic. And then, we were disappointed to experience lingering effects in social isolation, loss of connections and activities from pre-pandemic days. In weird and disturbing illnesses of many kinds cropping up and cropping up again. In a lack of reliable information. And in ongoing stress around it all.

My husband and I focused quite a bit of energy and resources on getting better prepared for more upheaval in the coming times, living more sustainably, and fostering community. Resilience.org is a good resource for that.

I experienced some profound losses and shifts in 2022. My beloved spiritual mentor, Eliot Cowan, died. And I left my spiritual community. Both of these had been mainstays of my life for 22 years. I felt unmoored and in deep grief. I’m also beginning to harvest blessings of those changes as I step more fully into my gifts as a firekeeper and continue connections with others from that spiritual family.

My dear friend Curt also died. I miss his humor and insight, his caring and his unconventional, questing spirit.

We found out we had to move last Spring because our landlords were selling the house. That was horrible, exhausting, and threw a monkey wrench into some plans for the year. But we recovered and enjoyed an abundant harvest from our garden now that we have more sun.

Getting Down to Brass Tacks

2022 was a year in which I focused on creating a stronger foundation for Brilliant Playground to thrive. This required a lot of nitty-gritty work that was not in my wheelhouse. And some painful reckoning with what was not working.

But I’m also getting a new logo and website that I’m so excited to share with you soon. The best part is making things run more smoothly, being able to serve all of you even better, and being ready to reach more people with my sacred work.

Reading, Writing, and More

I also shared 60 delicious posts with my patrons on Patreon. These include my works-in-progress, finished creations, stories about my process, creative life, and what I learned along the way. Also, my regular What’s Inspiring Me posts.

If you’re not a patron, and you’re curious, come check it out. Your support helps keep a roof over my head and you get a ridiculous ton of benefits for a few dollars a month.

Because of working so hard on my book on creativity, writing poems, getting published, and giving readings took a back seat. Nonetheless, I was surprised to discover that I typed up 44 new poem drafts and still managed to get 5 things published last year, including my very first book reviews.

2022 was a good year for reading. I read 49 books plus parts of 6 more and read aloud from 8 more with my sweetie. I’ll work on a post about my favorite books of 2022.

Nothing ever goes exactly as planned. That’s the nature of life. But, when you have clearly-defined, soul-centered dreams and goals, plus a good map to reach them, you experience more fulfillment, joy, and grace. And you can weather the storms better because you have a way to stay aligned with your heart path.

If you’d like support with that, check out our upcoming Vision-Mapping Your Inspired Year retreat or my one-on-one coaching.

To your beautiful new year,


“The crucial question is whether or not a path has heart, because if it does, you are on the right track. If it doesn’t, it is of no use. One path makes you happy and strong, while the other weakens you.”

Arnold Mindell
Six Things to Inspire Your Heart and Feed Your Soul

Six Things to Inspire Your Heart and Feed Your Soul

For my beloved patrons on Patreon, I regularly share posts about What’s Inspiring Me Now. These are wide-ranging and are meant to offer patrons new sources of juicy inspiration they might want to tap into.

Today, I thought I’d share this on my own blog for all to enjoy.

Making a living as an artist and facilitator of cultural change isn’t easy. If you’d like to help support the sacred work I do in the world—including these posts, writing poems, teaching and helping others find their gifts and realize their dreams, and firekeeping, among other vital, life-sustaining pursuits, please consider joining me on Patreon.

You can receive all kinds of inspiration and all the amazing things I only share over there for as little as $3 a month, and I will be eternally grateful to you. If you join me by the end of the year, I’ll even send you a beautiful broadside of a poem of mine.

On to what’s inspiring me now…

What’s Inspiring Me Now

Poetry Unbound

This podcast is a dream! 10-15 minute segments in which Padraig O’Tuama reads one beautiful poem in his gorgeous Irish accent and then illuminates aspects of it so beautifully and then reads it once more. The very best kind of little break and nourishment for your soul in your day. His selections are excellent. The details he pulls out are beautiful and meaningful. And the whole thing is a delicious treat.

Photo by Gabriel Jimenez on Unsplash

Sustainable Living and Resilience

For about a year and a half I’ve been delving deep into the big topic of how do we become more resilient for the coming (and current) crises in the environment, economy, and energy production (peak oil etc)—and how do we live more sustainably on Earth, creating resilient, sustainable communities and lifestyles.

It’s been a deep and challenging exploration, confronting head on just how unsustainable our way of life in the United States is and how much needs to change. And facing my fears and the reality of the collapse of our current way of life.

Then, finding real steps I can take to become more resilient and sustainable. For instance, Don and I continue to expand the number of foods we make from scratch, limiting our buying of things that come in plastic especially but also in glass or cans that must be recycled. We’re also keeping our heat lower this winter and wearing more layers and investing in a local farm through their CSA program.

One of the books that has been a guide in this is Making Home by Sharon Astyk. Excellent, extensive resources can be found on resilience.org.

This is a big, ongoing undertaking, and it includes not just physical resilience steps, but emotional, social, spiritual, and cultural.

Tatterdemalion by Sylvia Linsteadt and Rima Staines

We found this utterly extraordinary novel in our favorite bookstore, Point Reyes Books. The novel imagines in magical, mythic, and poetic ideas, language, and paintings how the coming collapse of civilization as we know it will go down and what comes in the several hundred years after that. So beautiful and wondrous, though also some very hard times. Also, the book is published by a press, entirely supported by crowdfunding, that is committed to publishing books that might not find their way in our profit-driven publishing world.

Adventurous music

We’ve been delving into our CD collection and on the weekends, when we have more space for adventurous listening, enjoying such things as Bartok’s Divertimento for Strings, Penderecki’s Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima, and Tuvan throat singing. This feels deeply nourishing to my musical soul, which loves complexity, dissonance, innovation, and unusual sounds.

The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop by Felicia Rose Chavez

This book is an amazing, deep guide to teaching and facilitating writing workshops in a way that not only welcomes and supports writers of all colors but enlarges our world. It’s been surprisingly validating of my own current teaching methods while also offering me places to grow even more as a teacher. So good. I wish every writing teacher and student would read it.

Drum class

Oh my goodness, this is so fun. Don and I are taking a conga drumming class with a local treasure, Robert Scarlett, who has been drumming and teaching for decades. Every Tuesday night we drive down the dark, windy country road and gather with a handful of others to play. We are complete beginners, but after only three classes, we are already making music together on the drums. Learning something new is good for the soul.

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,

Need Creative Inspiration? Go for a Walk

Need Creative Inspiration? Go for a Walk

One of the times I am most creative is when I have spent an hour or so working on a creative project, and then I go for a walk.

On the walk, ideas tend to start pouring in.

I think this is because I have already engaged deeply with the project. I have connected with it, maybe wrestled with it, maybe made some progress.

And then I let it go. I put my body in motion and relax my mind.

I walk with no agenda. I’m not aiming to think about my creative project. I am not trying for revelations. I just walk and enjoy the scenery and the motion of my body. I let my mind roam.

Often, things begin to click. Stuck places in the work start to open. New ideas come. Sometimes it has nothing to do with the piece I was working on. I hear lines for a new poem. Or have a wild inspiration for a dance piece. Or for a new class I’d like to offer.

There’s a rhythm to walking that is soothing and regulating. It brings body and mind into a union. I am in motion, moving forward in my life. I am going somewhere, doing something, but with nowhere to get to and nothing I have to do.  

I am breathing and feeling the wind on my face and witnessing the world around me. A bird singing in a tree. A squirrel running across my path. Flowers blooming perhaps or leaves falling or snow on the ground. Or maybe a city street or neighborhood.

Sometimes our most creative times are not when we are in the studio, grappling with making art. Sometimes they happen when we let go and set our body in a gentle motion, when we step outside of the house, office, or studio, and outside of our to-do lists and plans. When we look around, feel the air, smell and see things, and let our minds wander. When the rhythm of our footfalls tunes us to our heart, soul, and spirit, and to the spirit of the world.

If you are stuck creatively or in your life, this can be especially helpful. Or when you’re seeking new inspiration. But it’s wonderful after any time spent working on, or playing with, a creative project. Even after a very fruitful time.

Beethoven was famous for going for long walks every day after composing—and for shorter ones during the day—and he would bring pen and music paper with him to jot down ideas.

For poet William Wordsworth walking was indispensable to writing poetry. Both employed meter and rhythm, and his walks gave him imagery as well as ideas to use in his poems.

Much more recently, in 2016, Clare Qualmann and  Amy Sharrocks curated a series of walks, talks, and events called Walking Women, which brought together over fifty women artists to share their artistic walking practices.

A Stanford study has shown that walking increases creative inspiration and truly original ideas. The researchers discovered that “A person’s creative output increased by an average of 60 percent when walking.”

Here’s my invitation and encouragement to you. Spend some time actively engaging with your project, idea, or problem. Then, let it go and go for a walk.

Don’t go looking for ideas. But, in case they come, you might wish to bring a small notepad and pen or your phone to take pictures with or record on. (Just make sure it’s in airplane mode.)

Sometimes you’ll just have a nice walk. Sometimes you may be led to turn down a new path, enter a shop, or you’ll synchronistically run into someone (or something) you need to meet.

Sometimes new ideas will show up in your dreams that night or as you move through your day the next day. Or a few days later. Be patient. Things are percolating.

You might wish to make walking a regular part of your creative practice as so many artists have done throughout the centuries. The imagination thrives on idleness and rhythm, permission and openness, curiosity and wonder. These are all qualities that are abundant when we go for a stroll.

6 Uplifting, Inspiring, and Informative Podcasts

6 Uplifting, Inspiring, and Informative Podcasts

I am late to the party when it comes to podcasts. For years, people would recommend them, and I would think, “I don’t have time for that.”

But lately I’ve discovered good ways to fit them into my week and the benefits of listening. I’ve discovered the joy of podcasts.

Why Listen to Podcasts?

I keep finding myself getting pretty morose and overwhelmed between news of the world and my own challenges. I needed a way to uplift my energy and shift my perspective regularly in a short amount of time. Podcasts turned out to be perfect.

I can sample them in bite-sized doses and follow my inclinations at any given moment. The range of what is available is like a huge buffet.

If you find yourself getting down in the dumps with all the fear-mongering, divisive, infuriating, heartbreaking news that bombards us, check out these podcasts and notice how they shift your mood, stimulate your mind, inspire your creativity, and bring you back to your heart.

But first…

When to Listen to Podcasts

Some folks listen to podcasts while making dinner. My husband and I almost always make dinner together. We decompress and talk about our day then, so that doesn’t work for me.

Others listen in the car during a commute. But I work from home. I do listen while doing errands sometimes. And I love to tune in on long car rides.

Some people like to listen in the evenings. This seems like a great way to unwind before bed and more nourishing than most of what’s streaming on TV. I just haven’t gotten myself to do it yet.

Others listen while walking. I like to commune with nature and unravel my tangled thoughts on walks. But, because I have fallen in love with podcasts, I do listen on some walks or for part of the walk.

My best time: I listen while I ride the exercise bike. I’m much more inclined to ride the bike when I have something interesting to listen to, and I get to listen to twenty minutes of a podcast at a time. The hard part is stopping when it’s really engaging!

Six Podcasts to Brighten Your Day and Spark Your Mind

This is just the beginning. Part of the fun of podcasts is following the recommendations that pop up or searching for a topic or a speaker or writer I love.

None of these are going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Each of these podcasts has a distinctive flavor, and, in the case of the ones where the host interviews different subjects, they vary greatly from episode to episode.

Find the ones that appeal to you. Sip and sample them. One great thing about podcasts: you can turn them off at any point and switch to a new one. Click on the show name below to go to the podcast.

Scene On Radio

This is the podcast that got me hooked on podcasts. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

I started with the series called “Seeing White,” which is about the construction of “Whiteness” and race in America (and beyond) and its present-day repercussions. It’s so good!

Scene On Radio is hosted by a White man, John Biewen, but his regular guest for the “Seeing White” series is Dr. Chenjerai Kumanyika, who also joined him for series 4 on democracy. Biewen also brings in myriad other riveting specialists.

There’s a season on patriarchy and sexism with co-host Celeste Headlee, which I haven’t listened to yet. The latest season is “The Repair” with co-host Amy Westervelt, which focuses on real solutions to the climate crisis. The little bit I’ve heard I loved.

On Being

On Being describes itself as “Immersive conversations and explorations into the art of living.”

This widely syndicated show is hosted by Krista Tippett, who facilitates deeply engaging, soulful conversations. She interviews a vast array of writers, teachers, and fascinating humans, who are each carrying a piece of wisdom about how to live well in these times.

The show has been going on for years, so there are tons of episodes to choose from on subjects that range far and wide.

The Slow Down

This podcast was launched by former U.S. Poet Laureate, Tracy K. Smith, who handed it off to Ada Limón, now our new U.S. Poet Laureate.

Electric Literature called it “a literary once-a-day multivitamin show.” Every single day, the host reads and discusses one poem that she loves. The episodes are about five minutes long and marvelous.

Whether you read poetry or don’t, this is a great moment to slow down in your day and nourish your soul.

Infinite Intelligence

This podcast is made up of short segments from live retreats by Abraham-Hicks, great for listening to on my exercise bike or while driving around doing errands.

If you don’t know about the phenomenon of Abraham-Hicks, I don’t know if this will make sense to you or not. For me, it’s a good shot in the arm of positivity and reconnection to how we can co-create our dreams.

I started listening to Abraham nearly two decades ago, stopped for a long while, and am now diving into these little segments. The message has improved and these snippets can be helpful as a reset for my mood and focus.

Beautiful Writers

This podcast is all about the ups and downs and insider secrets of writing and publishing books.

Linda Sivertsen interviews an amazing cast of writers of all kinds on this show, including the likes of Brené Brown, Steven Pressfield, Ann Patchett, Terry McMillan, Joy Harjo, and even Tom Hanks. The interviews are warm and fun and full of fascinating tidbits. Great for writers and anyone interested in creativity and words.

Creative Pep Talk

“Creative Pep Talk helps creatives reach their potential” says the show description. I just discovered this one and have only listened to three episodes, but I’m really enjoying it.

Andy J. Pizza is an illustrator and storyteller with plenty of heart and experience with the ins and out of creativity. What I’ve heard him say so far is right on, helpful, smart, and encouraging. This podcast is a combination of his monologues with some interviews with other creators on what it takes to create and keep on ticking.

Over to You

What are your favorite podcasts?

Send me a sentence or two about what it is and why you love it. I’ll share some in a future post.

Making Spells: The Magic Power of Writing

Making Spells: The Magic Power of Writing

I have been keeping a journal since I was nine years old. And I’ve been writing poems and stories at least as long. I memorized my first poem—“Little Tree” by e.e. cummings—when I was 11 because I wanted to be able to partake of the magic of reciting a poem.

Writing helps me make sense of the world, and keeps me in touch with my feelings, thoughts, desires, and needs. So that I can better flow with my feelings and meet my needs in healthy ways.

Writing helps me uncover my dreams and the path to living them. Next steps and solutions come to me. But, as much as I rely on my daily journal practice as one key to my well-being, writing for me is about far more than just journaling.

Through writing, we can engage in the joyful, challenging, astonishing act of art-making, shaping words on the page to create magic. That act is profoundly healing, life-giving, and life-affirming. And, it can create worlds, not just on the page, but in our lives.

Powerful language can call us to make changes, develop compassion and understanding, inspire us to new visions.

There’s a reason that the word “spell” means both to spell the letters in a word and to cast a spell or create enchantment.

There is magic power in language used artfully and crafted with care.

Writing in this way connects me to my Deep Self and to all of Life. Inner wisdom and guidance flows through me. Wild imagination flows through me. Playful silliness flows through me. Buried emotions flow through me. Brilliant ideas come to me. Healing and mysterious language appears seemingly out of nowhere. I discover realms both within and without that I didn’t know were there.

That’s why I return to writing again and again as a place of solace and healing and connection. And as a place of wonder and astonishment.

Writing and sharing my writing gives me a voice to connect with others. It creates a bridge out of the separation and loneliness and despair that can overtake me in these hard times. It helps me sort through the overwhelm.

And when I hear the words of others, I am reminded of our shared humanity.

For all these reasons and more, I love to write and share my words and hear the imaginative words of others. It is a powerful balm in these times and also a powerful act of rebellion against the life-negating powers that seem to have too much sway in our world.

We aren’t helpless at all. We are powerful beings. One of our greatest powers is the act of creation. We need to call on this power in these changing times, so that we help shape a world we wish to live in. We do this one gentle word at a time.

If you would like to engage in creative play with me and others, I invite you to join me for Freedom to Write. Whether you are an established writer or a beginner, I believe you will find the process deep, rich, surprising, inspiring, and nourishing. A weekly haven for your creative spirit.

Busyness Kills Creativity—Slow Down and Care for Your Muse

Busyness Kills Creativity—Slow Down and Care for Your Muse

Busyness wreaks havoc on your creativity (and your health and well-being). When you fill all the crevices with work, running around, and noise, you don’t let inspiration come to you or notice things that might spark your imagination. You don’t give your muse what she needs to thrive.

In my last two posts, we’ve been talking about how to transform your relationship with time. If you’re wondering why this matters, here are some key reasons. Plus, a couple of wonderful practices to put a stop to the painful habit of busyness.

Creativity Thrives in Idleness

“How are you? Keeping busy?” It’s incredible to me that people will start a conversation with these words. As if keeping busy were an ideal or a sign that you are a good person.

We celebrate busyness in contemporary society, and often feel anxious when we don’t have something to do. So much so that if we have a few idle minutes, many of us will check our phones. Instead of looking around and taking in our environment. Or letting ourselves enjoy a few deep breaths.

But, when we’re tired, overwhelmed, multi-tasking, or rushing, we are not sparking creativity, which needs idleness to thrive. Long walks, naps, daydreaming, and puttering around are music to the muse’s ears. Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way writes about the kinds of simple, repetitive activities that stimulate the artist’s brain, things like knitting, gardening, cooking, driving, and showering.

I am a go-getter myself, and I have trouble sitting still for long without doing something. I will often fill my time with reading a book, watching a movie, or taking care of items on my to-do list. It’s not that any of those things are bad or wrong, but creativity needs open space to thrive. 

The Biggest Obstacle to Creativity Is Busyness

Emma Seppala has studied what provokes our best creativity. As Director of Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, she found that the biggest obstacle to creativity is busyness. She writes, “creativity happens when your mind is unfocused, daydreaming or idle.” And she goes on to say, “We need to find ways to give our brains a break. If our minds are constantly processing information, we never get a chance to let our thoughts roam and our imagination drift.”

Andrew Smart, author of Autopilot: The Art & Science of Doing Nothing, looked at neuroscience and discovered that your brain is healthier, happier, and more creative when it’s idle. Smart writes, “busyness destroys creativity, self-knowledge, emotional well-being, your ability to be social— and it can damage your cardiovascular health.”

So, how do we stop the habit of busyness and let our brains and our muses recharge?

Here are two simple, but powerful practices.

Stop Telling People How Busy You Are

When you notice yourself telling others how busy you are, stop yourself and change your language. Start affirming a more positive relationship with time. You might say, “My life is very full right now.” You might even say, “I’ve been doing too much, and now I’m going to commit to slowing down more.”

Stop affirming how busy you are and that you don’t have enough time. Stop trying to get approval or sympathy for being busy.

Work with the time you have and give thanks for the abundance of time you’ve been given on Earth. You might use a favorite affirmation of mine whenever I start getting anxious about all I have to do:

“I always have enough time to do what I love and need to do.”

When you are feeling panicked about how you will get everything done, stop and remind yourself that you always get everything done that has to get done. Look at the past. Isn’t this true?

Then, let the rest go. If there is too much to do, it’s time to make another plan. Make new agreements with others if you had deadlines you were supposed to make that are impossible or you took on too many commitments. Delegate tasks to others where you can. Eliminate things from your list or postpone them. Be reasonable about what you can and cannot do.

Practice Being Inside of Time

This is my favorite practice as it is quite magical how it opens up time in your life. I call it Being Inside of Time.

Do only one thing at a time and don’t think of the future while you do it.

Stop multi-tasking. Stop letting yourself get interrupted and distracted by emails, social media, your phone, or other people. Close the open tabs on your browser. Turn off all the beeps and notifications that you can on your phone and computer permanently. They wreak havoc on your nervous system and your ability to concentrate. Put your phone in another room whenever you can, and/or use my favorite setting: Do Not Disturb. Ask others to honor when you need to focus on what you are doing.

I find that the most essential aspect of this is to not run a list in my mind of what I have to do next or that day or on that project while doing something else. Running the list of what else needs doing takes me out of the moment, out of the task at hand, and tends to leave me feeling harried.

So, practice giving yourself entirely to what you are doing in each moment. And then, when the time is up for that activity, go on to the next. Do one thing fully, whether you are brushing your teeth or composing a sonnet. Be inside of time.

This will open time and slow it down in the most amazing ways. I’ve had the experience of things that I thought would take hours getting done in strangely little time when I do this. And it helps my mood and nervous system, and my whole feeling about my life, enormously.

In upcoming posts, we’ll get into some practical tools for sorting through all the many things you feel you have to do, want to do, and should do, and making space in your life for what matters most. In the meantime, I encourage you to try these two practices and let me know what you discover.



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