Watering the seed

Number one on my list of New Year goals for 2016 was:

Honor my intuition. Embrace trust.

Easy to write down, not so easy to figure out how to do, it turns out. Especially when you’re a perfectionist/closet control freak/me – operating on years of learned self-doubt, inferiority complexes, overthinking, and anxiety. When you’re in the process of breaking through these molds, questions like these arise: Intuition? What does that even sound like? How do I recognize my “inner voice” when I have about a thousand of those going off all at once at any given moment of my existence?

But learning to listen to my intuition has been a lot simpler than I thought it would be, especially once I realized that intuition is often synonymous with curiosity. In fact, let’s just, for a blog post’s moment, take the word intuition off the table entirely and replace it with curiosity.

Curiosity, I’m learning, is quite possibly the most powerful seed that we can water. When I feed my curiosity, all of the things that are most important to me bloom: Knowledge. Creativity. Compassion. Similarly, when I deny my curiosity, joy + illumination seem much farther away. My walls go up and my world gets smaller.

Choosing what to focus on cultivating within ourselves can be a tough process sometimes. I’m learning to always go where the curiosity goes, to give it water and sunlight and allow it to thrive. It’s something I can always trust to be there to guide me, should I ever get lost (and let’s be real, directions were never my strong suit).

If you feel led astray, I suggest following the curiosity. It wanders far and wide, and it knows the way back home.

***

Further exploring?

Here are my recommendations:

0625-sail
Illustration by Mike Medaglia/One Year Wiser 
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On Orlando + consequences

Today I’m thinking about how upset we are about the tragedy in Orlando. We should be, we absolutely should be.

But many of us seem preoccupied with this idea of delivering justice – that the gunmen involved in the shooting, as well as every other person who’s gotten lost down a twisted, tangled path and made choices that affected so many people in awful and negative ways, deserve some sort of consequence. A terrible consequence for their terrible actions. Seems fair.

I think this is a completely normal part of the grieving process. In the wake of tragedy and loss, we are hurt. We don’t understand the pain, so we search for someone to blame it on. We need to be able to channel our pain and anger somewhere, and in our devastated state, it makes the most sense to lash out at the people who seemingly most deserve it. (By “seemingly”, I’m not implying that the attackers aren’t free of fault, but that we merely glance at the situation instead of looking deeper, towards a root cause.) It makes sense to demand consequences for this unethical, heartless behavior.

Consequence: That word brings to mind a conversation I had with my best friend just this morning about parenting. We discussed the idea that our actions are our children’s greatest teachers. We can give them consequence after consequence for behavior we don’t approve of. We can tell them to go to their rooms when they’re rude, or take away privileges when they cross boundaries. But in the end, it isn’t the consequences that teach them. It doesn’t provide an explanation for why what they’re doing is wrong. It may instill fear or rebellion (or perhaps a mix of both), but it won’t explain. It merely controls. It keeps an external situation from manifesting (if you’re lucky), but it won’t mesh with their deeper intellect.

Let’s switch the perspective some more. Do you remember a time when you were a kid and received consequences for a bad choice? I do. There were only ever two things that happened afterwards: Either I did it again or I didn’t.

If I did it again, it was because the next time the opportunity showed up, I felt like this time “it was different”. I felt justified in my behavior because this time “wasn’t like the other time”; I had different reasons, different motives and incentives, different expectations. It was on a case-by-case basis that I evaluated my actions, and usually I determined that each circumstance was its own world of reasoning. Sure, something bad happened the last time I did this, but this time – unlike the last time – I’m doing it because of x, y, and z. The consequences shouldn’t apply here, right? Right! thought little me.

If I never did it again, it was because I was scared. Yes, I stopped to consider the consequences. But the consideration inspired fear. Not awareness, not emotional intelligence, not an application of my inner moral compass to guide me to a rational decision coming from a place of respect. It was simply fear of experiencing punishment + my desire to avoid whatever bad thing I had coming.

Actually, I lied. There was a third thing that sometimes happened. I call it the “fuck ’em all” effect.

Sometimes, when I’d had enough, I questioned the rationality of these consequences. I wondered why, if I thought I was truly in the right, I had to be punished. All that was shown to me was that there were certain things I “shouldn’t” do, and that if I was brash enough to try them, bad things would happen. And I thought to myself, So let the bad things happen. I know that what I’m doing is right.

And maybe whatever it was I wanted to do wasn’t right. Maybe I was harming myself or others. Maybe I was limited to my narrow, self-absorbed perspective and was driven by something beyond rationality. I was either never taught why I shouldn’t do this thing, or the lesson hadn’t yet been absorbed into my understanding. But none of that mattered.

What mattered is that I believed I was right. And that belief trumped all consequences, because those did nothing to explain to me why I shouldn’t behave the way I wanted to behave. Fear be damned, I would have my free will! *insert fist slam on table here*

***

So sure, we could focus on consequences. On justice. On vengeance. On ego. On control.

But will it relieve our pain? Has it yet inspired hell-bent murderers and broken-souled perpetrators to reflect and reconsider? Will it in the future? Is “scaring into submission” the tactic we want to handle conflict with? And most importantly, are we creating a long-term solution?

Let’s sit with our pain. Let’s be compassionate with ourselves so that we may learn to be compassionate with others. Compassion doesn’t mean we excuse away bad choices. It just means we soak in this very important concept: Everyone is in pain. But not everyone has been given (or has found) the tools to deal with that pain in healthy ways.

Sometimes it gets out of hand. Sometimes lives are lost, tears are wept, and hearts are shattered into a million agonizing pieces. But reacting in hate won’t put the pieces back together, and it won’t make these horrific acts stop.

I can’t say for certain what will make them stop. I’m not in a position to determine that. All I know is that I believe in the power of love, and in the strength of the human spirit to be bigger and better than simply perpetuating fear. I believe in our abilities as individuals to practice consciousness and acceptance, and to spread it to our circles of community. I believe in our abilities as a community to overcome a fear-based reality and build (or rather uncover) a new one. We are alchemists. We can transmute lead into gold. But we have to practice daily.

/end reflective post
There are my seeds, and I have planted them.


Header image via Hey Eleanor on Facebook

Woolgathering

Hi, blogfriends!  I haven’t posted anything new in a while because a) I’m a perfectionist, b) I’m a procrastinator [in large part due to reason a], and c) it’s all just been a very interesting thought process as far as answering some Important Questions:

How do I want my blog to feel?  What purpose do I want it to fulfill?  Why is the sky blue?  What is the meaning of life?

You know, Important Questions.

One of the big things on my mind has been my “voice”.  I think because of reason a stated above (an ungodly amount of things in my life come down to that reason, as you might come to learn), I’ve been really stressing over publishing quality content that’s valuable yet authentic.  Then I remember why I started this blog: Because I already have a voice and I wanted to start using it in the best way I know how – through writing.  And not only that, but I wanted to build a loving, curious community around the things I choose to explore with my voice.

So with that being said, I resolve here and now (with you as witness!) to release perfectionism and embrace the chaos.  Because as Miles Davis said, “do not fear mistakes.  There are none.”


STREAM-OF-CONSCIOUSNESS
—  The first song on my Discover Weekly playlist on Spotify this week brought me to tears it was so good.  [Recommended listening: watercolors – machineheart.]  I was literally crying as I walked home from dropping my daughter off at school.  The opening guitar strumming was perfect with the 8 AM sunshine illuminating rooftops and the May breeze with its slight, refreshing chill.  I live for those first moments of musical discovery, man – when everything just aligns and you can’t help but breathe a little deeper.

conversation op:  Do any of you keep up with your Discover Weekly playlists?  Send me your favorites!

—  I passed a bee struggling to move on the sidewalk and pouted a little.  I read somewhere about how super important bees are to our ENTIRE WORLD and that you can revive them by feeding them a bit of sugar water.  On the less-cool end of the spectrum, I also read that honey is basically regurgitated nectar that is passed from one bee’s mouth to another.  I’d be lying if my initial reaction wasn’t “ew”.  So.  There’s that.  But for real though, let’s remember to save the bees!

—  A poem I wrote at the bus stop yesterday:

how to be the love you are searching for

first,
stop searching.
there is no need to look
for something that can be found
in all things:
in the air,
in the clouds,
in the traffic;
in the slowness,
in the rush;
in the music that you hear.

next, listen closely
and the notes will sing your praises
as the wind rustles your hair.
look curiously up
at the everyday magic:
the leaves on the trees,
the words on the signs.

there is all of this
out beyond your mind
and it looks and feels
expansive, infinite,
as love is.

all the lifetimes
of all the seeking
will bring you back
over and over
to this place.


Well, that was fun.  A little messy, a little experimental.  Until next time.  ❤

 

Inspiration Isn’t A Daily Guarantee

This morning I read a blog post written by one of the creative mentors I follow online about how she schedules her week as a creative business owner. It was an incredibly valuable & informative post for me on multiple levels, but one particular bit stood out to me and it was this:

Inspiration isn’t a daily guarantee as a creative – sometimes creative business just looks like doing the work and getting things done, we can’t rely on inspiration to fuel us every single day.

It hit me with the truth tingles (I have my sister to thank for that phrase), which essentially is that full-body sensation that something you’ve just experienced resonates deep within you as your own personal absolute truth. Oftentimes it’s even something you knew before experiencing it – you just couldn’t find the proper outward expression until now.

Having been immersed in creativity my whole life, I did know this about inspiration. It’s like taking public transit. You wait at the station and sometimes the train comes and sweeps you away on grand journeys and other times it just doesn’t show up. It’s a tricky, spontaneous little sprite. [So is it a train or a sprite? I’m getting carried away with analogies again. I will argue that it’s both. And neither. And all things. And nothing. As inspiration sometimes goes.]

My goal is to do something creative every day, but sometimes my head is full of nothing but boring adult things – or it’s stuck in loops of obsessive anxiety – or it’s just plain tired. Some days the most creative thing I do is wake up in the morning. I am a huge advocate and a daily practitioner of the “life is art” concept, but sometimes the mundane is nothing but the mundane. It doesn’t sparkle and shine with possibility; it only sits there, dull and heavy and dry. And to feel differently about it, all it takes is a mindset shift – but on some days, even that is a lofty goal requiring amounts of creative energy that I don’t always have access to.

But I’m learning this is okay too. The dullness provides contrast to the days my heart sings with ideas and aliveness. If every day I was filled to the brim with inspiration I think I’d probably collapse from the weight of it. I’m learning to feel my way around the ups and downs, more so than thinking about them. That place of emotional over cognitive is severely underestimated and under-utilized.

I’m fascinated by the shifting tide of everyone’s creative process. For me, it feels like a never-ending journey. I’m constantly learning new things about the ways all the different pieces of my Self operate. Sometimes I get it and there is harmony, and sometimes I don’t and there is discord.

But regardless of the tune, it’s a song that’s always in my head, and I’m determined to commit the notes to memory.


Art in featured image by Valerie Guardiola

Coasting: An Introduction

For the past week I’ve been pondering an introductory post.

Being the meticulous, thoughtful Virgo I am, I promptly conducted research.

  • I combed through my favorite blogs to observe their humble beginnings.
  • I Googled “how to write your first blog post”.
  • I wrote down sparks + snippets on my morning commutes to work.
  • I hoarded half-baked, dissatisfying drafts.

Here is what I learned:

  1. There is no “right” way to start a blog. You just post something and trust in momentum.
  2. You figure things out by doing them.
  3. Your own ideas are powerful. Always give them a voice.
  4. Half-baked is a necessary part of the process. [Here’s a favorite blog post from Raptitude that talks about the importance + value of your less-than-stellar work.]

And a bonus lesson:

5. Things will fall into place. Trying too hard sometimes becomes precisely what you are trying to avoid: a lack of results.

So – to use an analogy that doesn’t really apply to me because I don’t own a car but will still illustrate my point – I ease up on the gas pedal and I choose instead to coast, knowing that while both ways may take me to where I want to be, only one of them will allow me to enjoy the scenery along the way.

And I do love me some scenery.

“Instead of trying harder, try softer.” —Eleanor Roosevelt