Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Wild Soul of Nature

I've been reading Women Who Run With the Wolves, and so maybe that was why I dreamed of foxes. In the dream I was at the Ecomuseum or looking out a window of a building onto a field. A red blur of foxes ran over a hill, and I caught a glimpse of fluffy red tails and their distinctive coats. I turned to someone and said, I didn't know that foxes lived and ran together in a clan like wolves do: tribe, group...pack, that's it!

On the same day, early in the morning I noticed my dog sniffing the grass on the front lawn and wandered over to see what she was smelling - a rather big dead animal. At first I thought it was a rabbit, but after getting the shovel and turning it over, I noticed the long whitish snout, sharp teeth and ugly bent claws, roundish tail.  An opossum! It seemed unlikely this far north, but a quick search on the internet for images showed me it was beyond a doubt a dead possum.

Two wild animals creeping into my zone, one in dream, one on my lawn.  What could it mean? The value of a little wildness in my conventional, tidy life... I ponder the question, why does the word 'wild' thrill me, especially in the sense of the inner wild woman that Clarissa Pinkola Estes talks about in her book. I lead a fairly suburban life - neither in the woods, nor fully in the city. Our house is near water, and that brings closeness to wild geese and ducks, but besides that it's the skunks and raccoons and squirrels, crows and sparrows that keep us company.

-----But the wildness I think I'm missing is that connection to the instinctual, the healthy body instincts and feelings that get smothered by too much 'civilizing,' too much worried parenting, too many strictures, too much rigidity and restriction of freedom.  We're told when we're little to quiet down, to not bother our mother when she's busy (on the phone, stirring a pot, reading the newspaper, trying to have a quiet moment!), to let Daddy snooze in his chair; we're kept in straight lines in desks with our hands on top of them, on good behaviour at school, we line up after recess, we don't let the cruel words of boys and girls hurt us, 'sticks and stones will break my bones'....we hold things in tight, inside.

Where is the wild nature of the pre-school child, the spontaneous feeling that fills our spirit and calls to our soul - the way the body could move with the soul if it didn't feel so tight! I'm missing that wildness, that get up and go-ness, that freedom to move. Last week I began working with a Rolfer (body worker), and I have already found a small measure of joy creeping back into my body, freeing up some old tightness.

How can you let your wild nature soar today, just a little? Maybe a little jig on the grass? A moment alone with the crows? Can we be strong enough to listen to what our bodies whisper in our ears, our instinct and intuition? Estes suggests we not treat our bodies as a dumb beast of burden carrying our weight in the world, but as a rocket launcher! A place, a window that the soul looks out of. Let us let the wild animal of our body love what it needs to love....


Monday, September 12, 2011

Facing the Page: Writing through fear

“There is vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.” Martha Graham, as quoted by Agnes DeMille,  Martha: The Life and work of Martha Graham

We all have blocking beliefs, whether its I’m not good enough, or I don’t have time, or I’m not creative. When I listen to all the reasons I can’t write, or the fears that assail me when it gets to rewriting, I paralyze, feel frozen. So many good projects are waiting on the back burner for me to make a commitment to them, to decide I am worthy of taking this creative time. This morning I decided I needed a ritual to let my muse know that I am going to take this time and finally face the blocks that may be unconsciously holding me back from working on my stories.

What I love about the Martha Graham quote is that she gives me permission to just do it! To not wait for the perfect moment or the perfect mentor to encourage me. I don’t have to worry about how good my writing is, or the value of my stories. But I do have to take the time and keep the channel open. Just acknowledging this intention is very good for me. I feel my desire is growing to love myself enough to write those stories of a rebellious young girl feeling her way through love, sex, relationships with guys, experimenting with danger, pushing the edges of her boundaries to find her own truth, living in an house with alcoholic parents where unpredictability was the order of the day.

Tomorrow I begin leading two Creative Journal Classes and I’m very psyched for it. I understand the fear some participants or new writers may be feeling because I still feel it! I get to place my faith and trust in the journal writing every time I open the page. It’s not usually difficult for me to write in the first place, but taking the raw material and transforming it into stories is something new for me. I’ve worked with poetry for over twenty years, and love that creative process. Now it’s time to give some dedicated time to the stories inhabiting me.

Here’s a metaphor for facing the fear that I came up with for my first class (excerpted version): 
Imagine your desire to write is like a tow line attached to a ferry crossing a river. If you jump in the cold water you’ll be swept downstream by a very strong current, and may drown (at least, that is the fear). But if you hold onto the tow line or better yet, attach your boat to it, or drive onto a ferry that is attached to it, you will be pulled across in safety to the other side. What does the tow line represent in this scenario? Your faith and trust, taking baby steps, one at a time, in entrusting your thoughts to your journal, beginning to tell your story.

Where we are headed is not a physical space and the fears may seem irrational. Maybe it’s a dream you have of publishing a book, maybe it’s more self-awareness you want, or time for some creative play. Maybe it’s a particular project like I have, to write my teenage adventures (they’ been sitting on my computer since I took a course online in Autobiographical writing).  What do you need? You need encouragement and you need courage: both these words have the French word for heart at the center – Coeur – so you need to get in touch with your Heart’s desire in order to find your courage.

How do you imagine yourself getting across the wide gulf? The only way I know is by writing from the heart, surrounding yourself with heart-centered, positive people; perseverance and discipline are needed, yes, but from the inside, not the outside. If you don’t have a fierce desire to write yet, that’s ok. Let it be vague and foggy, and just know that if you attach yourself to the tow line, the rope can be your journal, your connection with the inner guide, your trust in the Voice. Your desire to get to write and know yourself better is like a muscle that has been a little unused perhaps, but with practice it will get strengthened. You will get across and look back, wondering what you were so afraid of, because you find you do have the power to write, the strength, the courage has come.  This is how I felt watching my website go live the first week of September and two new book projects begin to come closer to reality.

The journey of your life is afoot, the journey to journaling also. Here you are, on the boat taking your first steps to face your fears – bravo! Give yourself a pat on the back for showing up, for registering for a class, for taking baby steps that can turn into giant steps. Let it continue like this, venturing into unknown territory.  We’ll break it down into doable tasks. With five minute writing, ten minute writing, small questions to get you started, deep questions that may challenge you or inspire you. We will always begin with centering, to ground ourselves in the body, in the here and now. We’ll jump through the hoop or the ring of fire by focusing on the hoop, not the fire. 

Writing is a beautiful gift humans have been given. Don't let the fear stop you from discovering it.


Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Tango at mid-life: creativity

I met an old friend at a Labour Day brunch, and she was telling me about losing her job in a month or two, part of the company's downsizing. I knew she worked in accounting, but I wondered what her real passions were. She told me that years ago she used to dance, doing ballet and ballet jazz, her creative passion.  At age 55, she didn’t think she could go back to dancing, but might look into evening classes. She’s a mother of three, now grandmother of two little ones, and had stayed home with her kids when they were younger. She sort of fell into accounting as a job because she knew how to do it, and it paid the bills. Raising three kids left her little time to explore her own passions.

When I asked her about her creative side, her face lit up, and I could see she had a longing to explore dance again.  I told her about an exercise I do in my Creative Journaling classes, called What do I love. One of the questions is, what did you used to do for fun that you don’t do anymore. The first thing that popped into my mind when I answered this question was biking. As a teenager, and even later as a married woman without kids, I used to ride my bike all over the place. I loved the sense of freedom, the wind blowing in my hair, the ability to go far and faster than walking, the parks I discovered, even the cemetery where I would bring my journal and write amongst the quiet trees and gorgeous landscaped plots.

Lise said biking was something she loves too and she was thinking of getting the bike out again. My husband just helped me over the weekend, pull the bike out of storage and pump the tires. It’s funny how when we get busy with families and work, we let these things go sometimes. Then, the kids grow up and leave home, and we begin to find time at mid-life for doing things we love again. Often, from my conversations with women, it’s the creative pursuits like drawing, water colour, dance or writing, that come to the fore. Or things we like to do just for fun, for no practical reason at all, like biking or sword fighting or swimming competitively like two of my friends in their fifties who spent their whole vacation in the pool perfecting their strokes.

What have you rediscovered that you love to do? Have you been brave and registered for something new? Have you ever considered journal writing as a pastime? The following are some quotes on creativity that I’ve been collecting, to inspire me when I’m down in the dumps and forget how taking baby steps towards being creative fulfills my soul.

The heart of all creativity is the awakening and flowering of individuality. The mystery and magic of being an individual is to live life in response to the deep call within, the call to become who we were dreamed to be...the divine blueprint of the soul. This is where true freedom awaits us. Freedom is the poise of the soul at one with life which honours and engages its creative possibility.” Beauty, John O’Donohue

“There is vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.”  Martha Graham, quoted by Agnes DeMille, in Martha: The Life and work of Martha Graham

“A woman must be careful to not allow over responsibility (or over-respectability) to steal her necessary creative rests, riffs and raptures. She simply must put her foot down and say no to half of what she believes she ‘should’ be doing. Art is not meant to be created in stolen moments only. “ Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Women who run with the wolves, chapter “Clear Water, Nourishing the Creative life”

"Once you become aware of what stands in your way and become willing to release it, you signal the universe that you are ready to manifest the life you were meant to live. Chérie Carter-Scott

Are you ready to manifest the blueprint for a creative life?

Let the universe know,