This week you get a rare peek into an anecdotal blog- this is a topic I feel is important enough to share some personal information and opinion. Please, if this is not for you and not in line with your sensibilities, take no offense, I do not offer my views to you aggressively and am always open minded and grateful to listen to your thoughts and experiences:
I am currently preparing two pieces for a female artists’ invitational honoring International Women’s Day (the Holiday is March 8, 2019). This day has always been important to me and so is this show and its message. Because of this, women’s history, feminism, and I suppose the unfortunate current exacerbated global climate of hate, division and fear have been heavy on my mind, and not so far from home. I hear and feel in my heart your stories firsthand on the therapy couch. I don’t pretend to ever know what another person’s experience is like and to hear these stories and take care of them purely by the listening is a responsibility I take very seriously. What I can say from hearing your stories and from knowing my own is that we are universally connected in our experiencing of hardships- of how we have been put down, marginalized, criticized, overlooked, judged and worse by other human beings. In a strange way it seems to be a fairly ubiquitous experience of humanity- though in varying degrees. I marvel not infrequently that people don’t connect more often on this simple point: life is a struggle and we are all struggling together.
This is a difficult topic to write about because I know how delicate it is. Each of us have been injured and many of us deeply. All of us so differently. That means there isn’t much that can be said specifically that won’t trigger someone else painfully. Perhaps, again, the best we can do is simply acknowledge, generally, this common experience of humanity. I wonder if healers, nurturers and helpers get a cross-section of stories and can see this better. Sometimes I meet a person that just seems to be born seeing “big” with “eyes open” able to consider the experiences of others easily. Others struggle or are unwilling to do this very thing. Regardless, all of us are neighbors, coworkers, and community members together.
The big question I suppose, is will anything ever change? Has it ever changed, historically? To be honest, I am not sure about the latter. I certainly want to have hope for the former. I think most of us have a pretty good idea of what it will take: good human beings as our children. The most simple and beautiful concept- muddied by a chaotic world of influences that each of them, each of us, came into.
I have been, and perhaps you have been, too, struck by this experience: watching young children, (perhaps 5 years old, perhaps younger) playing together. They do hurt one another’s feelings- but they also see each other’s pain and are quick to see their mistakes. They rally for each other. They are so beautifully inclusive. The new kid is incorporated. The shy kid isn’t left out. The crying kid isn’t shamed and someone gives them a hug. The child that doesn’t understand the game is explained the rules so they can play. Conflicts arise and are resolved. Clearly the potential for a future all of us hopefully want is there. We can see it in our littles.
From my perspective that is the most important thing we have to do. Maybe we adults are broken. Maybe we are too set in our ways. Maybe our hurts, our past, our present, have entrenched us too much to really change. Maybe not. But maybe. But maybe not so much that we can’t still want different for our children and support their natural inclinations to do better. I think looking at them we know what this looks like. We know that it’s better. Can we give it to them? Can we allow them to have it? I see this as our most serious responsibility.
These are my thoughts these days as I paint.
(C) 2019 Creatively, LLC
A favorite question in therapist offices everywhere, no less frequently heard in my offices : “how does that make you feel?” I ask it not for no reason! Getting in touch with your feelings is an important step to creating your best life. Today’s blog post spends some time on emotions 101- a nod to a blog post past and today connected to the theme of mindfulness.
In simple terms emotions are signals between our bodies and our brains to communicate information. They are physiological sensations often in unique combinations that have important messages to us about a threat, a need or overall sense of wellness. The process can be clouded by emotions’ tendency to not always be “logical”- the brain is needed to “assess” if anything is “needed” in response to emotional signals once received. The problem is, as human beings, thinking organisms as we are, we spend too much time in our brains and not enough time in our bodies. We lose touch with our emotions. They may be trained out of us by society. They may be labeled “good” “bad” or “valuable” “nonvaluable” to our lives. We suppress, ignore, or avoid. None of this prevents the signals of emotions from being generated by our bodies. Just as we are thinking beings we are also emotional ones. The emotional signals are going to be sent. What does this mean if we are not “listening” to them?
Oftentimes in daily jargon or even in the therapy office we are cautioned not to “stuff” emotions or “bottle them up” or there can be negative consequences. This is not really a good explanation of what happens. When we stop paying attention to the emotional signals in our body what we are suppressing or ignoring is information. What we are really avoiding are uncomfortable sensations in our own bodies (aka- the actual emotion). The consequences of this are not an amorphous pressure chamber that will “explode” some day though it is a ticking time bomb of sorts. What we are doing by neglecting these signals of information is neglecting our needs. Imagine if you had a pet and each time this pet tried to communicate to you it was hungry, wanted to be pet, wanted to go for a walk and so on, you didn’t pay attention to it. Over time this pet would not be well. By not paying attention to our feelings we are essentially doing this same thing to ourselves. There are consequences like becoming more vulnerable to stressors in our daily lives because we are generally not taking care of ourselves as we could be.
By using mindfulness we can begin to train ourselves to bring our attention from our thoughts where we spend so much of our time, to check in with what is going on in our bodies. We begin to get to know what physical sensations go on in our bodies throughout the day and what they mean. Do you know what your feelings actually feel like? Would you recognize them before they reached crisis levels? There is a lot of data about yourself to learn if you start paying more attention. It requires patience directing and redirecting wandering attention that wants to live in thoughts. It requires persistence staying with potentially uncomfortable body sensations we are used to ignoring. It requires daily practices and stick-to-it-ness. But it can truly change your life.
And- as we have alluded to in posts past- being more in touch with yourself and your needs and improving your control over attention in general has positive impacts on your creative work as well. Curious how? Look back at creative block posts for “Get Unstuck with Mindfulness.”
Ready to start your mindfulness journey? Want to live your life with more purpose, acceptance and peace? I can help.
(C) 2019 Creatively, LLC
An important concept in mindfulness is decentralization- the basic idea that we are not our thoughts. It is commonplace for human beings to over identify with thought content and make the easy jump from thought content to self identity, but this extrapolation is not well founded. Just by virtue of being capable of thought, we must be greater than and separate from it.
Consider the image of a game of chess with two main components- the board and the pieces. In this comparison we will use the board to represent you and the pieces to represent your thoughts. In a normal game of chess the pieces move about on the board, independent of the board, the board not invested in or concerned with the action of the pieces. It is merely the place where they are moving and the game is taking place. In a similar way, we are the containers where our thoughts occur but are no more our thoughts than this. Understanding and internalizing this principle is an important step to allowing yourself the space to pay attention to self and individual needs versus thoughts and thought content- you must start with a fundamental understanding that they are not the same.
Many of the concepts in mindfulness practices are about getting away from or not over attending to thoughts, and the ability of the mind to know things in many different ways without needing thoughts to give them voice- how that can even be a disservice to you. In fact, one way to learn, internalize and understand something without using thoughts is through art. When we use music, images, movement or other creative art forms, we are able to express and internalize concepts in a different way than through language. Writers are in more of a bind here since language is their main tool- so while its not impossible to use writing apart from thoughts you may try experimenting with a different creative modality as you begin practicing with mindfulness. In fact- it may even be beneficial for all creative artists to try a creative modality not in their wheelhouse to explore concepts while taking some of the product-focused pressure and accompanying thoughts out of the way in the beginning.
In the spirit of mindfulness, creativity and the concept of decentralization, I suggest to you a 2D art activity. As always, take this exercise and make it yours- make it abstract, use a different media and so on. The prompt:
Start with a self portrait. Some sort of representation of yourself. Consider as you work- what might this version of you be feeling? Physically experiencing? Thinking? How do you as an artist feel about the portrayal of yourself in your work? What are your physical, emotional and thought experiences as you work?
Once you are satisfied with your self portrait and feel you have taken a moment to be present with it (in your “nowscape” not your “thoughtscape”- if these mindfulness concepts are new to you sit tight- more mindfulness blog posts are on their way), add a second “self” to the portrait that is “observing” the first “self.” What does this second “self” think of the original portrait? How is their perspective on the original portrait different or similar? How does this second self feel, emotionally and physically, to be in the painting with the first self? What are their thoughts?
When your piece is done, sit back and consider your work. Feel your feelings and sensations identifying yourself as each person in the portrait. What insights can you glean? What if you label the original “self” as “thinking self” and the second portrait as “whole self”? How does this change your feeling about the piece? You don’t have to name or articulate your thoughts. Focus on your own emotions and sensations as you consider these concepts and try to stay present with them.
As always, be sure to book-end your exercise in some way, with some sort of ritual to signify to emotional and thinking self that the activity is over and you are closing doors that you opened to return to level of functioning you were at before you began. The goal is to grow in understanding, not leave yourself open and raw in an unhealthy way.
If you find you spend a lot of time in your thoughts, if you have ever noticed or been told you “intellectualize” or “avoid” as a coping skill, mindfulness might be for you. It is for a lot creative people. Come sit on my couch and let’s talk about how these tools can work for you!
(C) 2019 Creatively, LLC
This week I am giving you a post I have shared before- if you haven’t read it, I invite you to. If you have read it, and been have following the new flavor of mindfulness to the work going on at Creatively, I invite you to re-read it with an attitude of mindful acceptance of experiences. Take a read and absorb. Give me a call and come on in and talk!
Creatives! Exciting news. I have two wonderful workshop opportunities coming up- one at the Columbia Art Center called “Unstuck Studio for 2D Artists” and one at the Howard County Arts Council called “Found Object Mandala and Meditation” they are such exciting opportunities to create and be well. Learn more about each in the snapshots below- the links to register are in the buttons ABOVE each snapshot. Enjoy!!
‘Tis the Season! And for many Creatives, the darkness and cold temperatures along with the expectations that come with the Holiday Season put us in a creative slump. It is normal this time of year for studios to be empty, brushes to gather dust, notebooks go unused. So- for this week’s Creatively blog, I give you a challenge- get creative! A good accompanying read for this week’s post is the “Getting Unstuck with Mindfulness” post.
I have lots of information for you about getting unstuck and finding your creative flow (look for the upcoming workshop series at Columbia Art Center!) and this week we will highlight some of the advice: go simple. Release yourself, creative, from high-level expectations in your work. Set yourself up for a project that you enjoy. Choose a subject you are familiar with and know you do well and enjoy doing. Cook that back to an even simpler version of this that you know will likely produce something you can feel good about. We are trying to set you up for an enjoyable process and product. I really like mandala and zen doodling for this (there is a blog post to get you started on this if you are interested). One way to get yourself back into doing something is to simply remind yourself why you enjoy doing it.
Need more? Add a small component of motivation. Give yourself a deadline in the form of a gift, find a local show, event, open mic or something to participate in. Self impose a deadline- and make it short (1 week MAXIMUM). What would happen if you gave yourself 30 minutes? Sometimes a shortened timeline can release you from higher demands you might place on yourself and further facilitate the exercise.
When you are done, while you are doing it and as you are getting started- talk to others! Talk to friends, loved ones, other artists, or (gasp) a creativity expert (me!) about your process, what excites you, what your barriers are, what your successes are, what got you into your art form, what fulfills you about it. We are trying to get as many parts of our creative brains awakened to remembering our love of our art.
That’s it! Stop reading, start doing! I challenge you to share your work on the @creativelyllc IG page- help challenge each other to reignite your creative energies and support each other! I’ll kick it off- I have challenged myself to two pieces this week, stay tuned...
(C) 2018 Creatively, LLC
The Holiday Season is quickly coming upon us and with its arrival we need to revamp our mindfulness. In this spirit, next week I will vacation from my blog, newsletter and website- so feel free to take the time to reread some past posts or take your own mindful break!
By now you have had some introduction to what mindfulness is and some ways to use it in your life. Mindfulness is beautifully simple and uncomplicated. When we are mindful, we are quieting the mind and focusing on our present experiences. Even those of us that feel seasoned and successful in mindfulness practices can get diverted from this state of being during the Holiday Season.
Part of the problem with the Holidays is we want them to “be” something. Therefore, we have expectations for them. We compare out and feel pressure to deliver certain things to those around us. Usually these are with the intention of giving the perfect Holiday Season to others. This year, I give you permission to be a little more selfish. Ask yourself what makes the Holidays memorable and special for you? Of the list of things you “have to do” for your Holiday Season- why do items make that list? Let’s make mindful choices this year for how and why we celebrate. Try this simple exercise (as always I advise not to do these exercises without the guidance of therapy sessions- so let’s schedule one of those, too!):
Make a list, drawing or representation of your choosing of what you plan to do for this Holiday Season. If that is already too overwhelming (hmm) then choose one holiday for the exercise. When you are finished, go through each thing you plan to do and “mini-meditate” on it. Consider it. Scan your emotions, scan your body. As you consider this thing, how does your body react? With tension? With warmth? What are your emotions associated with this thing? Stress, joy, something else? Ask yourself, why do you do this thing during the Holidays? For yourself, for others? Allow your mind to consider and hold this information as you think about this first thing. Your goal this year is a peaceful, mindful, happy Holiday Season. Does this thing fit into that picture? Continue the exercise as you go through all your plans. Amend them to take away or add what brings you closer to a more peaceful and enjoyable Holiday Season. Allow yourself to feel the anxiety of eliminating things you might be accustomed to doing from your list. Give yourself permission to do something different.
So often when there are big calendar events like during the Holiday Season, we become so focused on outcomes and making them “perfect,” we miss enjoying them for what they really can be: peace, happiness, family, love, fulfillment and more. This year your new Holiday Tradition is yourself: create a more mindful Holiday Season.
Talk to you again in two weeks (unless I see you in my therapy chair- go ahead- schedule something!)
Happy Mindful Days!
(c) 2018 Creatively, LLC
Hello, Creatives! I will be interrupting my usual post cycle this November as I travel and spend time with loved ones. The next blog post, live cast and newsletter updates will be on Friday, November 30, 2018. Individual sessions will still be held on a scheduled, limited basis during the month of November, and remaining workshops (come get unstuck with us!) will be held as scheduled. I will be reachable on a very limited basis during the month of November, so please utilize the Urgent Resources list (click the button below, or find on the client portal or under new patient paperwork on this website). Happy Thanksgiving!
From Multitasking to Mindfulness
I have posted on mindfulness before (look through past blog posts for the basics)- and this week’s Creatively blog builds our basic knowledge of mindfulness into application in our busy world.
We live in a society demanding us to be constantly moving, achieving, earning and doing- a frenetic pace necessitating multitasking to accomplish everything expected of us at the levels at which we are supposed to achieve them. We are expected to attain perfection at home, in relationships, socially, at work and *gasp* creatively, too. Any one of these is a full time endeavor, and we are endeavoring to achieve them simultaneously. Like any machinery- and like machinery our bodies are electrical and energy based- we cannot forever sustain this pace without consequences. Anxiety, depression, health problems and other disorders are prevalent today and part of the problem is we are running ourselves into the ground to meet impossible external standards (see last post on self esteem).
Today I suggest to you an alternative perspective: change from being a multitasker to a unitasker. Instead of push, push, push- what if you pumped the brakes and valued each task, individually? What if you honored and invested fully in each goal and aspect of your personal journey? Inevitably, the other things on your list would need to be set to the side, but I submit doing this with intention is liberating. What would happen? What would happen if you relaxed your standards of perfection? What would happen if you allocated energy to one project at a time, rather than everything at once? Would you be happier, healthier, less stressed?
Many creative people I talk to describe intense periods of creativity, followed by creative lulls where they become invested instead in self care, home projects, relationships and more. They feel guilty for not maintaining constant “level 10” creative output. Review the diametrically opposed creative personality traits blog post. Remind yourself the natural order of the universe is ebb/flow, expand/contract, and part of being a creative person is to have equal parts of very different tendencies. By giving yourself a rest from your endeavors, you are freeing up energy for your next creative push. (Of course, this is a different discussion altogether than “showing up” for creativity- and you will find a blog post here about that, too.)
In the spirit of parsimony and “unclenching” as I often refer to it in session, I will leave you today with the simple idea, and an illustrative exercise to test it with. Give yourself a week for this experiment. Take a written calendar- like a pen-and-paper calendar. Keep a list at the end of every day of everything you did, and at the beginning of every day of what you wanted to accomplish. Observe the changes that take place in the planning and the achieving over time. If you don’t notice changes, extend the length of the exercise. Come talk to me about what you find. Happiness can be found in unitasking.
(C) 2018 Creatively, LLC
Hello, Creatives. This week, I bring you another theme from the couch. I want to introduce it to you clinically as an important and fundamental goal for personal growth, while giving it “creative people” flavor. The topic: self esteem.
You may be familiar with this concept under different names- and it can be presented in different nuances and aspects including: self esteem, self worth, sense of self and more. Who says what you are worth? How do we internalize what our value is? One of my favorite theories to conceptualize this is Person Centered Theory.
Person Centered Theory will tell us that most of us build a sense of who we are based upon how others value us. From a young age, we internalize rules from others about qualities that make us good or bad, smart or dumb, pretty or ugly, worthwhile or not. In the creative world it is much the same. We learn if we are talented or not, if our art/writing/dancing/music is good or bad. We will likely learn these based on how closely our creative tendencies mimic those that others around us value (e.g. was a parent classically trained? They will likely value this more in you). Overall, these learned rules and internalized value systems that dictate our worth are called “conditions of worth,” and they are not helpful to us.
The problem with conditions of worth (COWs in Person Centered Therapy) is they are based upon external forces. In other words, if we subscribe to them, we essentially allow our worth and sense of self to be dictated to us by others. There are a myriad of reasons why this is not ideal for us and I will leave room here for you to peek back into your own life and generate some examples- but basically it boils down to inconsistency and external locus of control. It’s ok- we all have COWs. COWs develop functionally because as children we learn about the world through mimicry and adoption of others’ value systems as a starting point to develop our own. The problem becomes a sort of self-esteem failure to launch, where, again, for many reasons, we get stuck in the former and don’t move into the latter. If you have now or have had in the past struggles creatively and/or personally with self worth, and examine your young adult years, you will likely begin to guess at some of the contributing factors.
According to Person Centered Therapy, a fully realized, happy person with good self esteem is “self actualized” and has become congruent with their “organismic valuing process” or OVP. Essentially each of us intrinsically “knows” what makes us happy and peaceful, and making choices accordingly gives us happy and peaceful lives. Unsurprisingly, this in turn fills us with self worth because we are living authentically.
If you haven’t guessed it, self esteem work can get emotionally sticky and for that reason I always recommend therapy as a starting point to build insight into your story. What are your levels of self worth? How authentically are you living? What points in your life can you identify as contributing to any stuck-ness in your process of self-actualization? If you haven’t read it- the “Referential Self” blog post is a good accompanying read to this topic.
What I can give you in this post is a belief to launch you perhaps into consideration of a new mindset- a starting point for your own self esteem project. This is often step one when I am working with a client. The belief is based upon a concept of radical self acceptance- accepting yourself in this moment just as you are:
“What I need, care about and feel matters.”
What a simple concept. But- search yourself- do you really accept and believe this fully? Building self esteem through radical self acceptance does not mean avoiding the setting of personal goals for ourselves and working towards change, but it also doesn’t mean perfection. It starts with a place of love and acceptance for ourselves and our life experiences: a place of compassion, respect and understanding for who we are and who our lives have made us.
Ready to build up your self worth? I have a safe place for you to do the work!
(C) 2018 Creatively, LLC
The information provided in this blog is from my own clinical experiences and training. It is intended to supplement your clinical care. Never make major life changes before consulting with your treatment team. If you are unsure of your safety or wellbeing, do not hesitate to get help immediately.