The Artist’s Way ~ Week 6

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Week 6 ~ Recovering a Sense of Abundance

Abundance…the one subject I am always eager to explore and the one I dread. Like many of us (especially artists) I have a complicated relationship with money. One that I am working on.

  1. The counting reminded me of how I’ve been counting calories. It’s how I’ve lost 31 pounds since the end of September. And it makes sense. Money and food are both energy. When I lose track of either one (calories in or money spent) that’s when I get into trouble. I think I will keep counting what I spend. I keep track online and categorize each expenditure but writing it down in a little notebook as I spend it makes me feel more accountable.
  2. I’ve written my Morning Pages every day, just not every morning. I’ve noticed there’s a perfect window to write them and it is definitely in the morning. Wen I wait until the mid-afternoon my brain is foggy, my attention diffuse. When I wait until late at night I’m just too tired to focus.
  3. For my Artist’s Date I went to Earth Lore and treated myself to a few little luxuries that really nurture my creative and spiritual self: some teas,  a beautiful deck of cards, a book on creativity and yoga (two of my favorite things!) and some incense. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular but found exactly what  needed. 27972595_10212577978179185_7783535907238460880_n
  4. Noticed a couple of instances of synchronicity this week: my sister posted the poem, “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver and I had been reading it at the end of my yoga classes all week. A student brought in a stone with the word “trust” painted on it and I had already planned on using trust as one of our writing prompts for the class that night. While giving Reiki to a friend the title of my memoir came to me along with the structure. What a gift!

Onward!

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The Artist’s Way • Week 5

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Check-in

  1. I did my Morning Pages every day, not always in the morning but every day. Often I’d hit this wall of “what is the point of this?” It feels like a waste of time, a waste of paper, a waste of trees as I struggled to fill three pages. Today, as I was whining about that very thing again, it hit me that this is a process not a product. It matters less what I write but that I write. That I show up. That I honor the commitment I’ve made to myself, that I just fill the pages without expectations of having a breakthrough or insight or even as Julia Cameron calls it a “truth point.”
  2. Even though I took my BFF as my date I’m going to go ahead and count this as my Artist’ s Date and here’s why. I was tempted to turn down this Artist’s Date that was literally gifted to me for free. A student had tickets to Yamato-The Drummers of Japan and offered them to me when she was too sick to use them. My initial response was no. No, I don’t even know who they are. No, I don’t want to go out after having to teach two classes early in the morning. No, I don’t want to drive up there and back late at night. Then I remembered this process of honoring my artist, of playing, of saying yes whenever possible. So, I googled who they were and they looked amazing and I said yes. And it was amazing. The show was engaging on so many levels: visually stunning, I not only heard the music but literally felt it thrumming through my body. It’s made me wonder why my initial reaction to something new is usually no. I am trying to catch myself and saying yes more and more.
  3. Synchronicity: Looking back the one thing I noticed is how I got the tickets. When she realized she couldn’t use them the went on Facebook to find somebody to give them to and I was the first person she saw. I haven’t actually been keeping an eye out for synchronicity so that is something I need to start consciously holding as an intention.
  4. Other issues: This week it felt like I kept this whole process on the back burner. Even though I did my Morning Pages daily, and went on my AD, I feel like I dropped the thread of the theme, of the process this week. I did a couple of the in-chapter exercises early in the week then nothing. Today I did all of the tasks. So it felt like I bookended my week with this work rather than letting it flow through me and around me throughout the week. The good news is I don’t feel bad about it or about me. It’s just something I noticed and thought, “Huh, this isn’t working for me. Let’s change it.”

The Artist’s Way: Weeks 1-4

Vision Board 2018

My Vision Board, 2018

My plan had been to post at the end of each week about my current Artist’s Way journey. Then I got the flu. And had my wisdom teeth out. And an inner ear thing that made it difficult to stay upright for any length of time. But I have stayed connected to the process. Today I will post a recap of the last 4 weeks and from here on will post weekly. That’s my plan anyway… (fingers crossed!)

Week 1 • Recovering a Sense of Safety

I had an epiphany this week while doing one of the tasks: List three old enemies of your creative self-worth. I have done this task numerous times over the years. And have even explored this particular enemy before but this time I discovered something new.

If you grew up in Michigan, you might be familiar with a TV show featuring “Oopsy the Clown.” He did a segment where children could draw pictures, send them in and he would feature them on his show. Well, I did that. I drew my picture in crayons of Oopsy standing between tow big trees, mailed it in and it was featured on TV. I was practically famous! I remember kneeling on the floor in front of the TV eagerly waiting for him to show my drawing. He did. My family was all around me. Oopsy showed the picture, said my name and age and then described the picture this way: “Well, here’s a picture of Oopsy standing between…two big ice cream cones.” What? Not ice cream cones! Trees! You are standing between two big tees! I just wanted the floor to open up and swallow me whole. As I explored this experience I wrote, “I had followed through on something and I was humiliated.” Ding, ding, ding. One of my challenges is following through. Finishing stories, novels, sending them out, following up with agent queries, sending them out to more agents. So, it hit me. A part of me is afraid that if I follow through I will be humiliated. It doesn’t feel safe to follow through with my art.

Week 2 • Recovering a Sense of Identity

No big epiphanies this week. Just a steady showing up to myself, to my inner artist, to my writing. I struggle with Artist’s Dates. Not sure why. I’ve struggle with them every single time I have done The Artist’s Way. I have no problem being alone or doing things alone so I don’t know what is going on. I did a Zentangle while sitting in front of the fire for this week’s Artist’s Date. I didn’t end up liking it and felt really distracted as I did it which is the exact opposite of what is suppose to happen. Supposed? Hmmm…that’s always a red flag. Maybe I have too many expectations about what Artist’s Dates should be, how they should feel, what they should produce. Maybe it’s not about producing anything but just being.

Week 3 • Recovering a Sense of Power

I enjoyed the detective work this week. Excavating my childhood for who I was then, what I enjoyed doing, what kind of person I was then. I remembered that I wasn’t afraid to try new creative activities: pottery, making tissue paper flowers, collaging vases, weaving, creating an “aquarium” out of an old shoe box with paper fish dangling from strings. I read a lot. Every report card from elementary school mentions my love of reading, my love of books. Library day was my favorite day of the week and I was always exploring shelves that were years above my age.

A little bit of synchronicity I observed: In the detective work I wrote about loving to play with Spirograph. Then I was in my writing room and looking for something in the closet when I found a brand new Spirograph I had bought at a toy store several years ago but never opened! So that was my Artist’s Date. Unfortunately, the wheels didn’t work well, the teeth didn’t stay connected so the pen kept slipping making it a rather frustrating experience.

Week 4 • Recovering a Sense of Integrity

So, I didn’t get a chance to read this chapter on Sunday. I checked in with my TAW online group and saw all the commotion about Reading Deprivation week. Ugh…I knew it was coming,I just thought it was the seventh week. I was not prepared for it. And I rebelled. I outlined all the reasons why I couldn’t not read this week. I still had to finish the book for the book club I facilitate at our yoga studio thais weekend. And besides, I wasn’t reading a lot anyway these days, not as much as I usually did. And this book isn’t up to date. It should be a social media/iPhone/technology deprivation week. That’s what I really needed help with. So, I went ahead and read on Monday but it just felt off. Partly because I am a rule follower. Mostly because I heard how lame my excuses sounded. And they were definitely excuses. If I have learned anything these last six years of delving deep into my yoga practice, it is that I most need what I most resist. So, I gave in. Fine. No reading this week. I didn’t even finish the book for our book club. Instead of reading here are some of the things I did:

~  I stayed on top of writing handwritten welcome notes to students new to my yoga classes

~ Wrote a letter to my sweet 7-year-old niece who had sent me a postcard earlier this month

~ Created a vision board for this year (this was my Artist’s Date)

~ I have acquired a stack of a lovely magazine called “Flow” that always has several fun projects or activities throughout each issue that I never seem to do. Well, this week I started doing them

~ Instead of reading at night I found some yoga nidra meditations on Insight Timer and listened to them which helped me fall asleep faster and sleep more deeply

~ Instead of eating my breakfast this morning in front of the TV or at my desk watching Youtube, I sat at the dining room table and had a mindful meal: giving thanks for the food, no distractions, chewing food slowly, placing fork down between bites

As always, I benefitted from not reading. But I have to admit I was really cranky about it at first. I’m sure the weird energy of the full moon this week didn’t help. Not reading allowed me to stay a little more introspective, a little more connected to myself so I didn’t go to my usual easy buttons to check out like too much sugar and/or wine.

As we come to the end of the first third of the process I can feel a subtle inner shifting. I feel energized with tons of ideas for essays, my novel, themes for yoga classes, yoga sequences. I am just feeling more engaged on so many levels.

Another Circle Around TAW.

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I am doing “The Artist’s Way.” Again.

Probably my third or fourth time over the years. But this time it feels different.

Usually I turn to it when I am feeling stuck or exasperated with my lack of creative progress. But that is not the case at all this time around. I have written something everything single day since January 1, 2016. I wrote over eighty thousand words on my novel last year. I have about sixty thousand on a YA fantasy I have been revisiting this year. I am teaching eight yoga classes a week, feeling connected to my own practice as well to my students. I’ve been vegan since July of 2017 and I’ve lost about thirty pounds.

So, I am not stuck.

So why the lure of TAW now?

I think I want the playfulness of it. The nurturing aspect of the whole process. And that is even more available now that I am doing it with a group. I posted to my FaceBook page that I was going to do TAW in the new year to see if anyone was interested in doing it with me. Many people were. We now have a group of about 20 phenomenal woman from across the state and country moving through the tasks, Morning Pages and Artist’s Dates together. It’s a beautiful thing to witness and be part of.

Unfortunately, the week we started it I got the flu. 102.8 fever and just felt miserable. My husband had just left to go out of town so I was alone. I was just barely feeling human when I had to have my wisdom teeth out due to a cracked tooth. Then on the heels of that I was dealing with fluid in my inner ears which was making me dizzy and nauseous. Not an auspicious start to the process. But instead of throwing in the towel or berating myself, I did what I could. Some days my morning pages were only one page. My Artist’s Date that week consisted of binge-watching “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”

For once I was completely compassionate with myself.

Maybe it’s the fact that I am 52 instead of 22 and have learned how to be gentle with myself. Maybe it’s the yoga foundation I now stand on that permeates every aspect of my life and is allowing me to approach the TAW with compassion and curiosity rather than another way to bludgeon myself for not living up to my own impossible standards. Because my standards are no longer impossible.

All I know is that this time feels different.

I feel different.

I am different.

I am exploring the process of TAW with curiosity rather than as a way to whip myself into shape or to fix what I believe to be broken.

That’s the difference, right there. I no longer think of myself as broken.

And that difference has changed who I am.

Befriending my Body…Finally.

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I’ve battled my body for as long as I can remember.

There are entries in my diary from high school where I admit to “cheating” and eating a Hostess apple pie or some Oreos. Reader, I wasn’t heavy. At all. I look back at pictures from that time and can’t imagine what I was thinking.

I can clearly recall two times in my life when I felt happy with my body. Two times. I am 52. Once was on my wedding day. I loved my dress. It fit perfectly and was exactly what I had it mind. Another time was in a beautiful one-piece swimsuit I ordered from Calvin Klein and I put it on and felt great. And it wasn’t it looks great for a bathing suit. Nope. I felt amazing in it.

But those two times that I can recall are like grains of salt in an ocean of judgment, berating, disdain, shame and loathing I’ve felt for my body throughout my life.

Recently, I’ve lost almost 22 pounds. And I feel great. I feel like I am befriending my body for the first time ever. But I had to ask myself this hard question: Am I befriending my body now because I’ve lost weight? Is my compassion contingent on that? I sat with that one and finally came to this conclusion: I believe I am losing weight because I am finally loving my body.

Let me explain.

When I hurt my back two years ago I did a lot of soul-searching. I felt betrayed by my body. I cried, a lot. I wrote, a lot. And what emerged was that my body felt betrayed by me. Betrayed by my lack of compassion, my insistence on numbers on scales and clothing tags revealing my worth, hiding behind sugary treats and big glasses of wine, moving to burn calories rather than moving because it feels good.

It’s been a long journey over these last two years. Physical therapy, Bowen Therapy, Cranial Sacral, Shamanism, journaling, yoga, walking, meditation. Lots of tools that basically all led to me finally listening to my body. Really hearing what it needed rather than thinking I knew what was best.

I moved carefully and mindfully back into my yoga practice. I began starting each day with 5-10 minutes of meditation while in Constructive Rest Pose then moving into my PT exercises and other  gentle yoga moves that my body seems to love.

Next, I became a vegan again around my birthday. I had tried it a few years ago and it didn’t last long. I think I came at it from a distorted angle, looking for yet another quick fix that would solve my weight loss issue. This time I tried it to help my body heal. To fight inflammation, to ease the pain in my joints. I also became more aware of the impact my choices have on animals and the environment. Plus, my oldest daughter went vegan as well and she has been huge support in staying the course. Nowhere on my list this time was losing weight.

Eating vegan feels right in my body. I feel lighter, clearer. I have more energy, less aches and pains.

Finally, I had a physical in September. My weight was the highest it has been since I was post-pregnancy. I do not take any medications for cholesterol or blood pressure and I want to keep it that way. So, I started thinking about an approach to losing the extra weight, not an easy task at 52 and in the middle of menopause.

I decided to track my calories. I loaded Spark People onto my phone and was soon astonished at what constituted a serving versus what I had been eating. I didn’t become obsessed with it. I tracked my calories for most meals but still went out occasionally (though I eat out less often because the vegan options are so limited) and slowly I began to see results. The pounds began to drop and my back began to feel even better and mysterious aches began to dissipate. Because I am eating less sugar and foods that feel “noisy” in my body, I have more time to write, to do yoga, to read, to meditate. There’s a stillness at my core that has probably always been there but I wasn’t connected to it. Now I am.

Every change I have made has come from a place of love. A place of tender yet fierce compassion for my body, for what it needs.

At 52, I can finally trust that I am truly befriending my body.

List: 5 Obscure Words that Give Me All the Feels.

I love lists so each Saturday my plan is to share a list of some sort,                                  covering a range of topics.

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Image found via Pinterest.

  1. Helhjartat  ~ Everything I do, I do with my whole heart.
  2. Meraki ~ To do something with soul, creativity or love, leaving a piece of yourself into what you are doing.
  3. Metanoia ~ The journey of changing one’s mind, heart, self or way of life.
  4. Sonder ~ The realization that each passerby has a life as vivid and complex as your own.
  5. Vellichor ~ The strange wistfulness of used bookstores.

Five on Friday.

Each Friday I try to share five links that made me think, inspired me or I just found entertaining throughout the week.

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  1. Preparing for our first vegan Thanksgiving.
  2. I love having journal writing prompts at the ready.
  3. A peek into the writing mind of J.K. Rowling.
  4. “To put it another way, it took me two decades to become brave enough to be angry.” Read this piece by Lindy West.
  5. I’ve been exploring this link between voice and integrity and authenticity. Do my words come from integrity or do they add to the noise of the world? This speaks to that.

A Book I Love. #TBT

Each Thursday in honor of #TBT, I am going to feature a book that I truly love, that helped shape me as a writer, as a woman, as a human.

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This book saved me. I read it when I was a new mother myself. It was before I had found my circle of other mom friends. I was far from family, my husband was often on the road for his job so it was just me and the girls. Her daily reflections sustained me through the dark times when I was exhausted, had no idea what I was doing and felt incredibly alone and lonely. It wasn’t a sugar-coated version of motherhood. It wasn’t the Hallmark version. It was real. It was honest.

Exhausted, she leans over the bassinet as her son wakes up from his nap and thinks, with great hostility, “Oh, God, he’s raising his loathsome reptilian head again.”

I laughed out loud, I cried and found solace in her words. Here was another mom going through the same joys, the same shit, the same despair, day after day. She gave me permission to not enjoy every single aspect of motherhood even though it would go by so fast. By being herself, she gave me permission to be more of myself.

 “We had another bad night. We finally slept for two hours t 7:00 AM. What a joke. I feel like thin glass, like I might crack.”

Habit, Routine + Ritual.

Routine and Ritual

“We are what we repeatedly do. Success is not an action but a habit.” ~ Aristotle

Whenever autumn rolls around, I find myself drawn back into that back-to-school mode. Since I am long out of school, it’s a time of year when I turn inward and really look at how I am spending my time. By then, I’m coming off a summer of loose routines, fun and spontaneous adventures and I’m ready to dive back into a structure that feeds my creativity.

This year I’ve been thinking about the differences between habit, routine and ritual. Habits—good and bad—are those things we do automatically without too much thought: brushing our teeth, taking a shower, a walk after dinner. Routines are a set of habits that lend structure to your day. So a set of habits such scraping your tongue, drinking a glass of warm water with lemon, gentle yoga and meditation become a morning routine. Nighttime routine might consist of a cup of tea, turning off all electronics, setting the alarm, reading a book before going to sleep. I think of routines as safety nets to our days.

“You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” ~ John Maxwell

I knew I had to change something about my morning routine. My habit was to eat breakfast while watching a show on Hulu that I had missed the night before. But that became a slippery slope and before I knew it a whole morning could be wasted in front of the TV and on my phone. So, my one change was to eat breakfast at my desk. I make some toast, fruit and tea, go into my writing room, close the door, light a candle, read an inspiring writing book while eating my toast then write my morning pages while sipping my tea. Then I set a timer for 30 minutes and work on my novel. I’ve started doing a freewrite based on a card drawn from “The Observation Deck” then I move onto my draft and start knitting together what I have, cutting what doesn’t work, asking myself question. I keep a writer’s notebook specifically for this project where I keep my freewrites, notes, questions, timelines. After the timer goes off I’ll go do some small household task like wash the dishes or put in or fold a load of laundry then set the timer again.

“If you want your day to be organized, develop a routine. If you want your day to be meaningful, create rituals.” 

This one small tweak of a habit—moving where I ate my breakfast—cracked open my morning routine and helped me create a ritual that sustains my creative process. Lighting the candle, reading an inspiring book, drawing a card from the “Soulful Woman Guidance Deck” all weave together to create a ritual to nurture my creativity. When I start my day immersed in the creative process, it sets the tone for my day, it adds meaning to my life.

List: 5 Favorite Things about Fall.

I love lists so each Saturday my plan is to share a list of some sort,                                    covering a range of topics.

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Image found via Pinterest.

  1. The shift in energy. Not only is there a crispness in the air but there is a crispness in my personal energy. I become more focused, ready to dive back into a structure that supports my writing. I haven’t quite succumbed to the hibernation of winter and still manage to get outside to enjoy a walk around the lake in the sunshine, taking in the trees ablaze in color at the water’s edge.
  2. Soups and stews and my crockpot. I food that fills me up and warms my belly in the fall and winter. Now that I am vegan, there are so many recipes I’ve saved that I can’t wait to try.
  3. Bonfires. It’s too hot to have them in the summer. Cool, fall nights are the prefect time to sit around a roaring fire under the stars with family, friends and some wine…and,of course, s’mores!
  4. The fall book releases. Sometimes I have them written into my calendar so I don’t forget the pub dates. It’s like Christmas in September! And that includes the publication of the annual Best American Short Stories. I think I’ve bought it every year for at least the last fifteen years. It’s an excellent opportunity to read a diverse range of writers on a variety of themes and styles. Each one is like its own little master’s class in the short story form.
  5. Tea! Lots and lots of tea! I drink it at my desk when I’m writing in the morning, in the afternoon while reading, at night to help me wind down. So soothing, so simple.

 

“Fall has always been my favorite season. The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale.” ~ Lauren DeStefano, Wither