The Artist's Way

With the start of spring, I've been considering ways to tap into that creative energy the earth is experiencing right now. It’s been almost 20 years since I discovered The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron. Based on Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step program--part of Cameron’s life path--the book outlines a 12-week course for “recovering” our inner artist child. In addition to the weekly tasks based on the themes such as recovering a sense of safety, possibility, abundance, etc., there are two basic tools utilized for the entire course: Morning Pages and the Artist Date.

With Morning Pages, I would awake a half-hour earlier than usual and write stream-of-conscience for that time--first thing, before I even got out of bed.  The idea is that when we clear our heads of the clutter, nuggets of clarity, truth and creativity will be revealed.  I kept this practice consistent for most of 10 years, and indeed some of my best ideas and revelations came through unexpectedly on those pages in the wee hours of the morning.

The Artist Date felt almost indulgent at first.  The assignment is to take yourself (alone) on a play date to feed your creative consciousness each week. I found myself in a one-shot pottery class, hiking, going to a musical, salsa dancing...the list goes on. I realized soon enough how important it is that my creative self be listened to and pampered. I could more easily receive insights, inspiration and guidance when I took the time to nurture myself in this way.

 

The Artist’s Way also promotes 10 Basic Principles.  The one that has stuck with me: “Our creative dreams and yearnings come from a divine source. As we move toward our dreams, we move toward our divinity.”  When I sit down to my harmonium to play and sing, I have those moments of connection--that feeling of being the conduit to something greater than myself.  I consider those deeply sacred moments...it is not just me playing, singing, creating.

Ultimately, we do not have to be artists to create.  We are creations and therefore, innately creative. How will you feed that creative self this month?

 

 

Listening to God

Has spring sprung? I’m almost afraid to ask, as April snow is certainly a possibility. If you are in the Northeast like me though, you are likely loving these unusually high temperatures. As a practicing Pagan for many years, I always looked forward to long winters, though.  It was such a welcomed shift from my hectic, over-programmed life to a slower pace in all things.  Allowing my body and mind to reflect the cycle of nature in winter meant that I took the opportunity to rest more and turn inward for some intentional reflection. When spring came, my spirit was then ready to blossom again, and whatever I had been pondering could start to manifest.

My spiritual life has shifted somewhat.  I still find meaning in following and celebrating the seasons, in setting intentions at every new moon and am still known to pull out my tarot deck and pendulum on occasion. However, my yoga practice has made me appreciate the calm and stillness in every single day.  My meditation practice, turning inward and reflecting, is how I begin each day before sunrise.

My parents instilled in me a practice of prayer, and I think of prayer as talking to the divine. My mother could also be heard saying, however, “God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason!” This was a message meant to let me know when I was talking too much and not listening, and it is a message that has become more resonate for me these days in my spiritual practice.  If praying is speaking to God, then meditation is listening.  I am finding a great deal of worth in just listening. For me, calm and stillness is key to hearing that divine voice.  It is a voice that has helped me make intentional changes in my life instead of settling with inertia. It is a voice that keeps me in integrity with myself and those I love and serve.  It is a voice that has led me to a more authentic place in my life.

Although I admittedly seem to go deeper in winter, I no longer wait to turn inward and reflect. My reflections no longer wait until spring to birth--I have a consistent flow of creative energy. Life remains full and at times challenging, but I rarely experience it as overwhelming. These are most certainly the results of calm and stillness.

So, what does calm and stillness look like to you?  Can you show yourself some love by taking time to listen to what God is trying to say? I wonder what that divine voice will reveal.

Immune-Boosting Apple Recipe

So, I'm feeling a bit under-the-weather today and decided to make my favorite immune-boosting snack--so simple and yet so yummy! To 1 cup of hot water, add 2 cinnamon sticks, 10 cloves and the peel to one clementine or halo. Let steep and cool to room temperature.  Drain the water into a bowl and squeeze a slice of lemon into it. Slice your favorite apple, add it to the water and let it sit for at least 30 minutes.  Drain the water and eat!  You will have a delicious spicy apple--which is supposed to keep that doctor away, of course--but you will also have the benefits of clove (helps pull infection from tissues), cinnamon (anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory), orange and lemon (cold-fighting/antiseptic).

If you use therapeutic grade essential oils, you can simply add a drop of lemon and a drop of your favorite immune blend to a bowl of water and let the sliced apple sit for 10-15 minutes! It's that easy!


Daring in the New Year

I have decided to be daring in the New Year! Want to join me? I'm not talking about adding a cape to my yoga gear and jumping off tall buildings, but I am talking about allowing my courage to consistently meet my vulnerabilities.

Below is my first go at it! This is a video of me leading kirtan in the Main Hall at Kripalu a few weeks ago. It was my first time doing this in front of a large crowd and with both David Newman and Sean Johnson present--not to mention the professionals who graciously agreed to back me up musically: Mira Newman, Beth Ann Schroeder, Narada Wise and Todd Keller! Talk about feeling nervous and vulnerable! I showed-up, though, and what transpired was an authentic, love-felt offering:

This absolutely felt daring for me, but when I think of other acts of daring, I am truly inspired by my best friend, Julia, and her family. They immigrated to the U.S. from Uzbekistan in 1991 where, at that time, an Uzbek uprising against the Turks made them worry that, as Jews, they may be the next targeted minority. Her parents left jobs as an emergency room doctor and civil engineer only to have to start over in a new country. I then think about the amazing woman Julia has become as the Director of IT at a large construction company--the only woman at the big boys table and P.S. a kick-ass yogini herself: jyotiyogahealing.com--and I have to "give a shout-out" to the many women from the suffragettes to Gloria Steinem who dared to pave the way for me and Julia as single women to have the ability and power to live on our own and on our own terms.

These are acts of great daring, certainly, but we should also give ourselves credit for those daring feats that are not so grand and obvious. For instance, I moved to New York in my 20's from my small town in TX with just a few thousand dollars in the bank, a couch to sleep on for a few weeks and some phone numbers of friends-of-friends. Even my decision to live values not shared by my family takes courage--especially when in comes to conversation at holiday dinner tables! Most recently, I dared to ask for help. Asking for help from friends and family during my separation and divorce was at times very difficult for me.  With our culture's rugged-individual mentality, it can feel almost shameful to admit that we cannot manage our lives alone at times. I can tell you, however, that my asking for help has fostered deeper relationships with certain friends and family members.

The results of daring are not always what we want or hope for, of course. I am thinking of the times when I offered love to someone only to have it rejected. However, I am reminded of the following quote by Brené Brown in her book, Daring Greatly:

"The willingness to show up changes us. It makes us a little braver each time." 

So, when we do dare, we build our courage to continue to dare and--i would add--our comfort with failing and trying again! I wonder what your acts of daring have been--grand or otherwise? How did they make you feel? I would love to hear about them! Will you join me in being intentionally daring in this new year?

KEEP IT SIMPLE

It is much easier to stay busy and frantic than it is to love and know ourselves and others deeply.
— Janet Luhrs

I had the great opportunity to spend a month in India last year.  It began at the I-AIM Ayurvedic Medical Center outside of Bangalore. Being is this picturesque Indian countryside focusing on meditation and yoga for six hours a day while receiving Ayurvedic treatments for my sleep and eye issues allowed me to find grounding and start a process of rejuvenation and healing. My fear was that I would get terribly sick; but truly, I do not remember the last time I felt so at peace and so healthy as I did in India.

In the mornings, we practiced sunrise yoga and meditation on the roof and could see the lights and hear the morning chanting of mantras from a nearby village. We decided to take the mile-walk to the village one afternoon…rustic would be an understatement. Most homes were simply small concrete abodes ventilated only by the air coming through small windows, the school had a few rooms with a volleyball net outside, and the unique feature was that it housed a farm for abused and abandoned cows—150 or so. I was struck by the immense joy of the people we encountered. The families running the cow farm invited us to meet some of the cows and drink coffee with raw cow’s milk. The joy was infectious, because I laughed until I cried that afternoon. We met some of the youth playing volleyball, a goat herder, children on bikes—all of them very curious of us and happy. There was a deep sense of community: they worshipped together, played together, grew all of their own food together—they needed each other. I was struck by how very little they possessed in material objects and creature comforts and yet possessed so much joy.

We have mostly lost this in the U.S. as we become more and more programmed, isolated and independent in how we live—we choose busyness over intimacy as Luhrs alludes—and consumerism is a far too popular treatment to satisfy our restless souls. For now, I will simply turn inward and spend some time evaluating what it is about my life that no longer serves me. What is keeping me from joy? I realize winter is around the corner, but perhaps it is time for some spiritual spring cleaning. Which possessions tend to own me (instead of the other way around) and deprive me of valuable time? What in my schedule needs to be released in order for me to be more fully present with those I love? In what ways do I busy myself to keep me from valuable time on the mat listening and getting to know my true self?

May I embrace simplicity so that I have more space in my home, mind and spirit.