Thursday, February 20, 2014

Creative Transformations

"There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."  --Anais Nin

This year seems to be all about transitions and transformations.  Blame it on the Wood Horse.  

I've gotten caught up in this spirit as well.  I've taken on new creative projects that I've always wanted to try.  Essentially, I'm in search of joy... One of the most creative and transformational energies there is.

My new approach is all based within the transformational context of getting closer to my own inner truth, tapping into my personal power, and expressing that truth through as many creative outlets as possible.

The first one is working with one of my best friends in the world.  I've written about Shannon and her book before.  

Then Just Stay Fat

Now I'm doing it on a daily basis.  In return for free 1:1 coaching sessions on nutrition and exercise, I'm writing a blog series called 90 Days to a Younger Me.  

What does younger mean exactly?  Feeling younger.  A transformative process based on healthy exercise and nutrition practices, that I will be able to do for the rest of my life.  So far, this little arrangement is working out pretty well.  Although I have to say that writing every day is quite a creative discipline. It certainly keeps my pen wet.  And the best part is I'm getting stronger and feeling younger every day.

The other project is with one of my best teachers in the world.  And also a cherished friend.  Holly Coleman, of Global Wisdom, has provided so much valuable guidance to me during times of transition and transformation.  In fact, I consider her my own personal spiritual mirror.  Holly reflects back to me what I most need to see, in that moment, but may not yet have the clarity or courage on my own to see.
She does so compassionately, humorously, and often borrows from many pop cultural references to explain a situation, so it becomes more real, more tangible, and ultimately, easier to overcome.  

In a word, Holly makes spirituality accessible. All that "woo woo" stuff may turn some people off entirely.  That's not the group who most needs global wisdom anyway.  But for those seekers who are open, willing, and ready to peer through their own spiritual mirror, Holly is an invaluable advisor.

These conversations inspired me to develop these audio files into videos so that I can share these insights with others who can benefit from them.  I had so much fun putting these together, and adding some of my own original music in the intro and outro.  

Check them out, hopefully they help you navigate the energetic waters of 2014:

Keep your saddles oiled and stay tuned.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Two Trees One Life

Two trees
                        And yet joined by the same creek.

Their branches meet overhead the bubbling brook,
            Pine needles tickling.

Underneath the churning water, their roots intertwine.

Clinging to each other’s life,
            Enriching, sustaining, and drinking in
                        The roots of Mother Earth.

Right now it’s a dry dusty creek bed.

But as I stand here in the warm glow
            Of an Indian summer in January,

I imagine it bubbling and bursting with life, love, and the goodness
            Of All That Exists when May arrives.

And I am whole.

I wrote that poem a few weeks ago on a nature hike with my wife.  The words just popped into my brain, and decided I would share them here.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Thoughts on Auld Lang Syne

I'll admit it, New Year's Eve is not one of my favorite holidays.  It always seemed sort of an arbitrary reason to celebrate... I tend to agree with Hamilton Wright Mabie.  It's just like any other night, right?

But we all know it's not.  While I might successfully avoid the drunken debauchery on December 31st, I do spend a lot of time looking back and looking ahead.  And I'm thankful that I'm doing this without a hangover.

This year, I'm not thinking so much about New Year intentions and resolutions, but rather wondering more about how to make the best choices in 2014 to guide me where I'm going next on my creative path.  Because intentions and resolutions are about staying committed to the choices we make.  But before you can make those commitments, you need to be sure that they're the right commitments for you, on this point in your creative journey.

I've learned over the past year how little time we all have to spend on the things, people, and places that bring us joy.  That's why I'm putting so much intention and attention on the way I want to spend 2014.

Again, it's not so much about dictating what commitments I need to make and sustain.  But rather, how I want to spend my time and attention, and who I'd like to collaborate with in doing it.

Questions like these help me make better choices to fuel my creativity:

  • What activities bring me joy?
  • Who raises my spirit after spending time with them?
  • Where do I find myself centered and joyous?
  • What do I need to keep my creative juices flowing?

Makes sense, right? But what does this all have to do with the popular New Year's Eve song 'Auld Lang Syne'?

It's a reminder of the power of community and connections, and a recognition of the passage of time.  This is one of the oldest songs, and I think one of the most melancholy, to be honest.  But it symbolizes endings and new beginnings, it offers an ode to old friendships, and it naturally inspires whole groups of people to sway and hold hands.  In fact, in the Scottish tradition, everyone joins hands in a circle and sings it together at farewells, funerals, and of course, during New Year's Eve celebrations.

So I offer a toast to my fellow seekers of community, connections and creativity, in the form of Jimi Hendrix's interpretation of the 1711 classic 'Auld Lang Syne'.

Forgive me, but I couldn't resist,... I had to end with this simply scrumptious duet of Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon Levitt singing "What AreYou Doing New Year's Eve?"

Best wishes for a fantastic 2014, and stay tuned.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Creative Power of the Truth

Photo from:
 "Better a cruel truth, than a comfortable delusion." --Edward Abbey
Telling the truth isn't for the faint of heart.  Honesty requires bravery. And I think that's precisely where the power comes in.

Pondering this raises many questions.  How do we know the truth in order to tell it and hear it?  How can we ever be certain when perspective, context, and even the passage of time each play a part in our understanding of the truth?

But before diving in to that fun philosophical journey... perhaps I can step back for a bit and explain where this desire to dissect verisimilitude came from today.  My friend recently published a book all about telling the truth.  Shannon Sorrels' ...Then Just Stay Fat is brilliant yet brutal in its honesty, just as the title pointedly suggests.

Shannon examines all of the reasons Americans can't handle the truth about weight, nutrition, and physical fitness.  And she does so in a way that leaves me laughing at the turn of every page.  And after being her friend for nearly two decades, I recognize her distinctive voice in every Southern-fried syllable.

You can see her honest irreverence in this video below:

...Then Just Stay Fat is powerful in its consistent embrace of factual truth.  I can't deny Shannon's unbeatable logic and comprehensive research.  And these facts are presented in ways we can all relate to... whether it's Shannon's take on the latest in yoga short fashion that provide "a view to China no one could possibly miss" or the tricks we play on ourselves that end up adding on needless pounds (e.g. are you familiar with the pressure of a "don't waste your food" habit?).

There are so many daily hurdles to health that we must overcome. Our current culture certainly doesn't make it easy to succeed in moderation, healthy nutrition or active exercise. 

Shannon's honest approach sheds a light on that culture, in a way that will make you laugh, and make you more aware of your own habits... all necessary tools for creative change.

So getting back to the original question, once we muscle up the courage to speak the truth, how can we make sure that we're speaking it? 

I think the truth speaks to us in both whispers and wallops.  If we don't catch the "whisper", the truth will likely show up in the form of a "wallop".  Using the example of good nutrition, fitness and health, a "wallop" could be a heart attack, a diabetes diagnosis or similar medical crisis.  It's essentially the truth forcing us to pay attention.

So my advice is to listen carefully for the whispers.  This requires finding time to be still even amongst the madness of everyday life. 
  • Dedicate time to thoughtful meditation. Deepak Chopra recommends 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes at night.  With a full-time job and a long commute, I must say this has been challenging.  So I'm starting out with 10 minutes 2x a day... I'm hoping I can miraculously stretch this out as I start to see the benefits.
  • Invest in some fun meditation toys (or tools).  I recently bought a meditation pillow because my butt tends to fall asleep before I can complete even a few centering breaths.  Now that I'm comfortable, I can stay relaxed longer and focus on my breathing rather than my cramping muscles.  I also recently bought a healing relaxation meditation CD... this is perfect on those days when I can't quiet my mind through sheer will.
  • Eat right and get plenty of sleep and exercise.  I read somewhere that sitting is more dangerous than smoking.  Yikes.  I also read that when we don't get enough sleep, we eat much more then next day.  So despite the fact that this will sound like a New Year resolution, I do hereby resolve to make smarter choices and take good care of myself in 2013 (and beyond).  Otherwise, I might miss those whispers of truth.
Thanks so much to Shannon for her honest (and hilarious) look at how the truth can set us free.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Time for the Harvest

"Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower." 
~Albert Camus
Most of us spend a lot of our time thinking about where we're going.  What's next on the career horizon, where our pre-teen kids will go to college, what we need to do to be ready for retirement.  Whatever it is, it's usually concerned with the future.

That's the way I've always felt about Fall.  Instead of enjoying the crisp, clean, autumn air and gorgeous and vibrant leaves, I keep thinking about what's next.  Winter.  I admit it, a Northern California winter is far better than the snow-filled NJ winters I endured as a child.  But winter still means shorter days, longer nights, and more rain and overcast skies.

So this  year I've tried to gain a new perspective.  I've pondered the meaning of "the harvest", and tried to apply this to my creative life.  

"Delicious autumn!  My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns." 
~George Eliot
What I've discovered is that the harvest is a time of: 
  • Community - The harvest brings us together.  You can't reap all of earth's bounty on your own - you need help from your neighbors, your family, your friends and colleagues.  And you certainly can't eat all of that pumpkin pie on your own.  This is the time to have a house party, a block party, or a simple dinner with close friends.  Celebrate the joys of the season and warm your home with friendship and love.
  • Gratitude - It's no coincidence that Thanksgiving is a fall holiday.  The beautiful abundance of the harvest reminds us to be thankful for all we have.  If you haven't tried this before, it might be a good time to start a gratitude journal.  I can say with confidence that even on my worst days, I can always find at least one thing to be grateful for, even if it may seem trivial (e.g. a hot cup of strong dark coffee).  And once I think of that one thing, others quickly follow.  And that bad day somehow doesn't seem so bad after that.
  • Quiet reflection - By the time October rolls around, you realize that the year is nearly over.  Where did 2012 go?  This question raises others... what did I accomplish this year? Did I get to all of those new year's intentions? Do they remain relevant?  Take this time to savor the moment, the quiet before the storm of the winter holidays.  Breathe.  Find out what your inner voice is telling you it needs most this harvest.
  • Nourishment - There are so many abundant and comforting fruits and vegetables this season.  Fresh artichokes, avocados, pumpkins, squash, and peppers greeted me at my local farmer's market on Saturday.  The turnips, parsley, celery and bright orange carrots practically begged me to make homemade chicken soup.  Nourish yourself, your family, and your friends this season with Mother Earth's final gift before she goes to sleep for a few months.
Enjoy all this season has to offer... Feast your eyes on the fall colors.  Smell the fresh crisp in the air. Give thanks for the bounty of the harvest. And stay tuned.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Creativity as Healer

Sometimes I feel a bit embarrassed at having too many creative outlets.  It suggests a lack of focus, and drags my progress down a bit on the many projects I have running at any one time.

But now I realize it's actually a survival technique.  Creativity - whether it's drawing, photography, writing, or music - helps us process our emotional baggage.  It offers up avenues of expression, allowing us to safely tell our own stories of fear, hurt, pain, and confusion without judgment, without repercussion. It's the universal healer.
If there was only one path on that road, or one channel to use, it would be extremely limiting. Whenever we get stuck on one "channel", we can open up through other ways.  And opening up is the first stage in healing.  As Joni Mitchell points out:
"At the point where I'm trying to force something and it's not happening, and I'm getting frustrated with, say, writing a poem, I can go and pick up the brushes and start painting. At the point where the painting seems to not be going anywhere, I go and pick up the guitar."
Certain stories are easier to tell in one medium over another, and I think this is also true for where we are in our own process of understanding them.  But remember it's important not to over think it.  If your temptation is to reach for the pen to draw or the camera to record a moment, go with it.  And if the creative pull lags, don't feel bad about reaching for the paintbrush and canvas.

In fact, wholeheartedly embrace your inner "flip flop".  Don't fight the inner need to focus, despite what I wrote before.  Yes, focus and priority have their places.  But when your intention is to heal, you need to be completely in your element, where you can literally lose yourself.  And in losing yourself, you connect to something greater.  And that something greater is what heals you.

So approach your creativity like playing, if it stops feeling fun and starts feeling more like drudgery, you're doing it wrong.  Stop doing it.  And stay tuned.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Creative Simplicity

"Life is amazingly simple when it's good and amazingly good when it's simple." --Terri Guillemets
Over the past few years, I've yearned for a more simple life.  Modern life is often complicated, chaotic and confusing.  Even when things are going well, our daily existence can still be stressful and overwhelming.  This information age we're living in has enormous benefits - don't get me wrong - but there are times when I wish I could just completely unplug, disconnect, and drop off the grid for awhile.

I've discovered other creative adventurers who have embraced ways to simplify their lives.  In fact, I just recently read Courtney Carver's book Be More With Less.  She and the other contributing authors offer helpful tips on achieving a simpler and yet more rewarding life.  And that's what so interesting about simplicity and minimalism.  Rather than "giving up" the excesses we've grown so accustomed to, these techniques result in streamlining our lives, our work, our homes, and our daily lives.

Throughout the book, there's an underlying theme that joins each "more" and "less" recommendation/chapter... and that's the important first step of prioritizing.  Taking practical, straightforward steps like cleaning out a closet require us to determine what things we truly value.  And that is likely to change over time, and as time passes, without taking time to "prioritize" or "filter" we end up accumulating a lot of things that end up dragging us down.  The stuff we own ends up owning us.

"The best things in life are nearest:  
Breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, 
flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, 
the path of right just before you.  
Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life's plain, 
common work as it comes, certain that daily duties 
and daily bread are the sweetest things in life." 
~Robert Louis Stevenson

The other important lesson in the book is that achieving a simpler existence doesn't require a fast change and it doesn't have to be perfect.  In fact, Courtney concludes with the sage advice, "Aim for slow, deliberate change.  Things don't have to be perfect to get started, just start."

If you've also struggled to find a way to slow down and simplify, I recommend checking out Courtney's book and her blog.  And after you're done, go out and experience what Robert Louis Stevenson talks about above.  

For the simplest, sweetest things in life help us to stay tuned.
I captured a simply stunning rainbow in my backyard the other evening.