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The Creative Impulse

Posted September 27, 2014

pen with colorful art

Several people have asked me lately where I get ideas for this blog or for the talks I give.

When I'm honest, I tell them the idea is usually dredged from somewhere in the back of my mind at the last minute.

I envy those people who bubble with ideas all the time, who have so many ideas they don't know which ones to pursue, or fear they won't have time for all of them.

Even so, I wonder how many of us would describe ourselves as creative.

Creativity is more than just talent with words or art or music.

  • It's a chef, an entrepreneur, an event planner, a gardener.
  • It's a parent making a long car trip fun for the kids.
  • It's a teacher finding just the right stories and pictures to explain a new concept, whether for first graders learning arithmetic or rocket scientists reviewing a launch sequence.

I don't actually know many rocket scientists, but I know creativity doesn't have to be loopy and right-brained. It can be methodical and disciplined. Think of what it takes to design software for a video game. That's creative!

Romantic love inspires creativity, of course. You know you're in love when all the songs on the radio make sense. Now marriage proposals have become an art form. (This one has a flash mob and a marching band.)

I believe creativity is our most divine expression.

So why is it ever hard? Why do we not recognize it in ourselves more often? Why do we not cultivate it every day? And why do we procrastinate?

I admire a young woman in Canada, Samantha Reynolds, who noticed her life was being consumed as a new mother and vowed to write and post a poem every day just to keep her creative juices flowing.

Since her second baby, the poems are no longer daily, but she still sees through a poet's eyes. And, she noticed recently, so does her little boy. (Poem on Sept. 25.)

If we are made in God's image as creators, if creativity is a child's natural approach to the world, then why is the inner critic so vocal when we attempt something new?

God created the earth and saw that it was good.

Whereas many of us look at our creations and say:

This is awful.

Everyone's going to hate it.

I'm too embarrassed to put this out into the world.

Maybe I should just start over.

When did we lose the joy in creativity? (I would say it was the first time we were graded, but that's another soapbox.)

I know so many people now who are working to recapture their creative joy, and – like children – they are less concerned with whether they have natural talent than with expressing themselves.

Good for them.

The focus required for creativity may be the best way we have to stay in the present moment. It's a spiritual practice.

Even better, many of us know divine help is available for these endeavors.

You've heard the story that every blade of grass has an angel bending over it, whispering, “Grow, grow.”

So do you.

I'm teaching a class right now based on a little book called Hiring the Heavens, about creating angel committees to help with any project. It's a fun way to organize the divine power of good in the universe.

And personally, I imagine angels – or whatever forms the Source of Creative Imagination takes – are cheering us on.

So, back to the original question -- where do my ideas come from? I ask for them.

Most weeks, I tell the angels that I absolutely, positively have to have a new topic, overnight. And it's nearly always there in the morning, popping into my mind while I'm still half-asleep, just in the nick of time.

Of course inspiration can be triggered from outside as well – books, speakers, a walk.

The fact is, we are creators every second of the day, creating events and experiences with our deepest thoughts whether we know it or not.

Even at the conscious levels of personality, we are composing our lives – where to live, which jobs to accept, whom to marry, whether to have children – and choosing our reactions with each new encounter.

We can't NOT create.

Wouldn't it be more fun to claim it? To think of ourselves as brimming with creativity and turn ourselves loose on the world?

If you could create anything right now, what would it be?


Coffee Tawk: 3 New Discoveries

Posted September 20, 2014

abstract coffee cupSometimes when I start working on this blog each week, I wish I could just sit down with you and chat over a cup of coffee or tea.

I don't always have something wise or inspirational to say. Instead we could catch up on what we've been doing, what we've read, and interesting new teachers we've discovered.

With my best friends, the topics range randomly from God to hairstyles, work to relationships, politics to diets.

So why not do that here? I have three unrelated things I want to tell you about:

Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome

First, I ran across a writer named Reba Riley who has coined a term you might apply to yourself: Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome.

I have said often that people who show up at my church are refugees from rigid religions. They flinch at the name Jesus and recoil from any mention of the Bible.

I know there are millions more who will never darken the door of a church again.

At last we have a name for it: Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome. An amusing name for a real and serious cultural phenomenon.

She writes about it in a two-part blog here and here.

I don't know Reba, but I'm grateful to her.

Start Right Where You Are

Second, you've probably heard me mention my brilliant and compassionate friend Samantha Bennett in California. Her specialty is helping people break through fear and procrastination so they can actually finish their creative projects.

I know so many people who want to write a book or create a sculpture or start a business. But they never quite seem to do it.

If you're like me, great ideas can hang around for years while you get stuck in the questions.

Where on earth to start?

How to start?

Is it really the right time to start?

Is this really the right project to start?

And what if (errrg...) you're starting over?

Sam, the author of Get It Done, can help you break through the blocks and fear that keep you from sharing your genius with the world.

I've worked with Sam for a couple of years and credit her for helping me get my next book finally written and shipped off to publishers. And she helped me lighten up about all this!

She's offering a free call Sept. 30 – Overcoming Overwhelm: How to Start When You Don't Know Where to Start. You can read more and sign up here. (I'm happy to be Sam's affiliate to help get the world out, but I know you'll use your intuition and good sense to decide whether this appeals to you as it did to me.)

A New Way to Eat

I haven't mentioned this publicly, but in the past six months, I have become vegan.

For three good reasons:

The health benefits are undisputed. (I started with The China Study by T. Colin Campbell.)

I don't want any animals to suffer or die for my sake or to support factory farms with my money. I have ignored the cruel truth about that for decades and just can't anymore.

But what really surprised me was to learn the effect livestock production has on the planet. Did you know it's the single biggest contributor to manmade greenhouse gases? And uses enormous amounts of water! I'm not sure even my environmentalist friends realize how damaging this single industry is.

Anyway, this is a personal interest, and I'm not going to proselytize. This is new for me, and I've never been a role model for healthy eating!

But if you've been thinking about it, one of my gurus is author Victoria Moran, who wrote Main Street Vegan, blogged on Huffington Post about her 30-year journey from food addict to vegan, and has a delightful show on Unity Online Radio that I listen to for inspiration every week.

So that's what I've been up to. What are your recent discoveries? Share them below or shoot me an email.


Why the Path Isn't Easy

Posted September 20, 2014

yellow brick road

I've been working on a series about The Wizard of Oz and had a blinding flash of the obvious:

If the Yellow Brick Road represents our spiritual path, it is not always easy or fun!

Maybe it's not supposed to be easy.

I mention this because I hear people so often say, “If I'm creating my own experience, why isn't it all good? Why isn't it fun and easy?”

Which is amusing, because so many people go through life expecting the worst. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

Or they think they have to pray really, really hard for the good.

And at the same time, they demand that life should never hurt, and believe there's something terribly wrong if it does.

I have been one of those people. I have argued that the hero's journey should not require slaying dragons. If you expect you'll have to fight your way through a thicket of briars, that's exactly what you will get!

But I've come around to believe the dragons and briars might be a required part of the journey.

Where would Dorothy be without having to confront the Wicked Witch and her flying monkeys?

Overcoming repeated challenges was key to Dorothy's going home. And the process – the journey along the Yellow Brick Road – grew Dorothy up, taught her about her own strengths, and attracted allies.

Notice those allies – Tin Man, Scarecrow, Lion – were imperfect and afraid. They weren't Superman rescuing Dorothy, but quiet heroes, forced to draw from deep within themselves to respond in each moment, just as she was.

Could it be that we need hardships and therefore do create or attract them?

This brings me back to something I'm afraid sounds glib but might be one of life's great truths: Everything is happening for you, not to you.

Of course, that's not what most of us were taught. The common consensus is that bad stuff just happens. Maybe it's a test or a challenge to build our character.

Like having to eat your spinach to grow big and strong.

Really? Is God-Out-There throwing difficulties into our lives just to see how we handle them? (By the way, “God never gives you more than you can bear” is NOT in the Bible.)

What if instead we saw these events as real gifts, the most important parts of our lives?

I'm not arguing that growth can only come through pain or struggle. I still believe the balance of life and learning is joyful.

I also know that some life events are so horrendous, it's hard to believe any good could come from them.

But what if we consider that good is at least possible? Or even that what we perceive as insurmountable problems could melt in an instant?

You know, Dorothy threw that bucket of water not to kill the witch, but to save the Scarecrow, whose straw was on fire. What if our problems dissolve in the course of living our best lives?

I am acquainted with a lot of spiritual people – deliberate creators -- and they are not exempt from life's problems and challenges. Sometimes it seems they have more than their share.

So I have to think encountering problems may be part of the plan, and a good part of the plan, as we travel this road.

I can't prove it, but that's what I believe today.

PS – The Wizard of Oz series is being collected here if you want to listen. It will be on Sundays, Sept. 7 thru 28, 2014.


The Truth of Your Thoughts

Posted September 6, 2014

wooden figure thinking

I got out of bed at 5 o'clock on a recent morning (unusual for me!) because I had to stop thinking.

Have you ever done that? You're lying in bed, half-awake and half-asleep, thinking of all the things that could be going wrong? Or all the things you've done wrong? Fears, regrets?

Maybe I shouldn't admit how often I fall down this rabbit hole.

I'm especially bad with physical symptoms. An ache or pain, and my thoughts take me to all the horrible diseases I might have, then spiral quickly through images of endless doctors and treatments, until finally I die in pain, alone and penniless. Sometimes the cats eat my lifeless body.

Really, what we do to ourselves with our thoughts!

I know better. Some time ago, I was talking to a friend who was in a seriously dark place, regretting most of her life's decisions and feeling utterly useless. We both recognized she was depressed, and what popped out of my mouth were these words: “This would be a good time not to believe your own thoughts.”

She clung to that idea, and we have talked many times since then about the value of not believing our own thoughts.

I don't know where I first heard that suggestion, but it made immediate sense to me. Thoughts are merely thoughts, passing like clouds in the sky. Just because I think something, doesn't make it true. I have thought a great many mistaken things in my life.

But our brains are powerful. Once we have a thought, the brain will search through the files, gathering evidence to support it.

Feelings follow, and we can invest enormous emotional energy nurturing thoughts that might have no basis in fact. The loop of awful-izing builds and builds until we're sure nothing is left but despair and death. Yep, it's all downhill from here!

And all of it is based on how we think things ought to be, the outcomes we believe are vital to our happiness.

I remember Wayne Dyer wrote in Wishes Fulfilled that lying in bed imagining dire possibilities is the worst possible way to direct your life. Thoughts have creative power, after all, especially those almost-asleep theta brainwaves.

He said, Get up and distract yourself! Change the subject in your head! In my experience, at least half my miserable thoughts flee as soon as I turn on the light.

If you're not going to believe your thoughts, what are you going to believe instead?

I've been rereading The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer. He says imagine a crazy roommate sitting next to you, yammering all day about what you've done wrong or what awful things might be happening, reminding you of the outcomes you want and don't want, commenting on absolutely everything. A roommate you would never tolerate, except it's your own voice.

But it is not you. Singer makes the point that if you can hear the voice, it's not the real you.

The real you is the witness. The real you is centered in silence where it knows that all is well.

As best I can tell, the antidote to believing your thoughts is twofold:

  1. Remember they're just thoughts, electrical brain firings. Thousands of them come and go in the course of a day, and they don't all have to be taken seriously.
  2. Check in with the real you -- the inner wisdom, the serene part that recognizes life is good the majority of the time, the brave part that wants to release limiting beliefs and resistance.

Even if some of these fearful thoughts turn out to be true, the real you knows that you're okay no matter what. And quite possibly, everything in your life is perfect just the way it is. Perfect for your growth and your spiritual goals. Perfectly setting up what you want for the future.

But most of those thoughts? Forget about it! They're just a noisy crowd passing through.

I love hearing from you! What's one way you avoid getting stuck in your thoughts? Let me know in the Comment section below.


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