Category: Being in This World

Choosing Creativity, Connection & Calm

How are you holding up?

I keep reminding myself that stress and anxiety do nothing to contribute to my resilience, strength and resourcefulness during challenging times. Instead I am actively reaching for things that contribute to my calm.

What’s Currently Supporting Me

  • Listening to gentle music. Here’s a soothing playlist I’m enjoying on Spotify: Strings for Sleeping.
  • Tidying my home, particularly the studio. It’s become quite chaotic and I feel so much better when it’s at least a little orderly.
  • Cleaning with love and intention. From my hands to the countertop, from the light switches to our laundry, it feels good to wash away worry and dirt.
  • Frequent lie-downs. This is especially nourishing when I can curl up amidst the kittens and be serenaded by purrs.
  • Time in my Studio Yearbook, writing, doodling, cutting and pasting, washi-ing, colouring, generally messing around.

During this week’s Studio Yearbook kick-off, participants shared some of things that are helping them stay nourished and calm. There were so many great suggestions that I pulled together the common threads as a robust resource for us all.

What’s Currently Supporting Studio Yearbookers

Connecting with Nature. This was the major theme amongst yearbookers. Whether it’s stepping out into the backyard, going for a walk (wherever you are, no matter the weather, with dog or without dog) or listening to the birds through your window, tuning into the beauty and aliveness of the natural world is a balm. It’s reassuring how, as yearbooker Sabrina put it, “Everything goes on as usual in nature.”

Breathe. Throughout your day, simply pause and take a deep breath. Breathe with your whole body. Feel the difference it makes. Step outside or open your window and gather beautiful fresh air into your lungs.

Time with Furry Friends. If you have pets, they are such a comfort. As I’m writing, Scout is curled up behind me on my chair, leaning into my lower back. In a time of social isolation, it’s nice to have that physical connection!

Gratitude. This is always a powerful practice and even more so now. In the midst of this crisis, take some time to recognize the gifts that are present and available to you right here and right now.

Movement. We may be spending most of our time indoors but that doesn’t mean we have to stay still. Studio Yearbookers are stretching, dancing, doing yoga and Tai Chi to keep their bodies moving. There are lots of free resources online to support you in finding your way to move. For example, I know a lot of people enjoy Yoga with Adrienne and I quite like Yogamazing with Chaz.

Meditation. Even a 5-minute meditation will bring respite to your day. Again, there are many resources online to get you started, including the popular Insight Timer app. For a live experience, my meditation teacher Susan Piver is currently hosting meditation gatherings free online each day. Find out more here.

Filter. As I mentioned last week, I encourage you to stay informed and to also manage your input. You get to be your own filter and choose when, what, how much and from where you take in information. Trust your instincts. You are allowed to choose what is right for you.

Connecting with Loved Ones. Reach out to people you care about. Send a text or an email. Make a call. See if you can set up some family FaceTme, a coffee date on Zoom. Studio Yearbooker Susan is reading stories to her grandchildren across the country. What a great way to spend some of the day!

Be Present. Instead of spinning with worry about what might be, remind yourself of what is true in this moment. As yearbooker Amy says, “For now I am well. I am safe. I have plenty of food. That’s enough for this moment.”

Create. Studio Yearbookers are baking bread, making soup, painting, reading poetry, drawing, dancing, taking photos, writing, Many of us are finding ourselves with the gift of found time. Treat it like a precious gift and come to the work, the projects, the practices that have been waiting for you.

Creative Sharing

Not only are people doing beautiful things to nourish themselves but there are also so many finding ways to nourish one another!

Sing. This week my beloved Choir! Choir! Choir! hosted a Social Isola-sing-along on Facebook. For an hour, 9,000 people around the world sang together*. We couldn’t see or hear each other but oh, could we feel the togetherness! They will be hosting more of these events. If you want to participate, be sure to like their Facebook page here.

Attend. Also this week the ever-inspiring Indigo Girls held a live concert and Q&A on Facebook and Instagram. What a joy to be invited into their living room! It was so special to not just be with them but also, as I saw the comments going by, to recognize some of my dear friends in the crowd! Even though we live far from one another, we attended our first live concert together! Just like choir, the Indigo Girls have said they will be doing more of these events. Follow them here if you want to attend.

Listen. These things usually pop-up rather quickly so you have to keep your eyes open! One thing that I know that is available right now is that Audible is opening their vault of kids stories (including classics like Jane Eyre, Frankenstein, etc) whiles schools are closed. These are free to listen to here. (Thanks to my sister Shannon for the tip.)

Let’s all take exquisite care of ourselves and each other. Stay connected. Celebrate the blessings. There are good people everywhere.

Facing Hard Times with a Sensitive Heart

As I sit here writing this to you, what I hope more than anything is that you are well, that your loved ones are well, that all the people around you are well.

It’s a troubling time. Just as we finally begin to move out of the grips of winter towards the freedom of spring, we find ourselves wending into worry about the impact of COVID-19. It’s hard to get clear information. It’s hard to know what to do. I was surprised when Justin got home from work the other night and told me that our grocery store had been cleaned out of toilet paper, paper towels and more. All of this has me taking my spring cold rather seriously, even though I have no tangible reason to be concerned.

But everyone is concerned.

Conferences, schools, borders are closing. People are stocking up. If you’ve watched zombie movies and the like, maybe those fictional scenarios keep running through your mind. Not the zombie part, per se, but the way a crisis plays out, the desperate and horrible ways that people are said to behave. Those are the stories in our psyche and they are not helpful.

In contrast, this week I listened to a wonderful interview with Rabbi Harold Kushner, who wrote (among many other books) When Bad Things Happen to Good People. So much of what he said rang out into the darkness, particularly his exhortation to…

“Live bravely in an uncertain world.

As creatives, many of us have highly tuned sensitivity. It’s one of our best attributes. We take things in deeply. We revel and rattle in response to the world. As highly sensitive people, we can find crisis, chaos and confusion overwhelming. The jangling of our nerves makes us want to retreat, to shut down, to stop listening to the news.

We sensitive creative hearts mustn’t abandon the world.

Yes, take care of yourself. Sleep more. Eat well. Soothe your spirit with quiet and music and meditation. Journal your worries, fears and gratitude. Read what strengthens and inspires you. Stretch your body. Meditate. Hydrate. Create. Breathe. Let your practices support you beautifully and well.

Stay informed. Use this as an opportunity to hone your skill of discernment. Do your best to rely on simple and clear information resources not sensational stories or emotional tirades. Accurate information and helpful guidelines work wonders in the face of overwhelm. Check in with your resource once a day and then approach your day wisely and well.

We are connected. Don’t let this virus drive a wedge between us. Yes, for a time, we must keep our distance. We will hug less and we will stand further apart but, make no mistake, we are in this together. Do what you can to contribute. It can be as simple as diligently washing your hands. Make it even more powerful by infusing this act with positive purpose: “As I wash my hands, I help create safety for all.” This approach can apply to any of the recommended behaviours, for example, “As I keep my distance, it’s not because I don’t care about you. It’s because I do.”

Isolate – and reach out. We are all being encouraged to socially isolate and to self-quarantine if we’re not feeling well. Thankfully we live in an age where we can do this while also staying connected. Skype, Zoom, WhatsApp, Facetime (even *gasp* phone) friends and loved ones. Look for ways you can help out in your community – and if you are the one who needs help, don’t hesitate to ask for it.

Take action. Send love. Whether it’s the current pandemic or something else that is flooding your nervous system with worry and stress, I encourage you to engage in the practice of sending love. Overwhelm thrives when we feel like there is nothing we can do. Even the smallest actions can give our energy a place to go and make us feel more settled. When I notice myself getting caught up in an emotional spiral of fear, worry, anger and anxiety, I get very still. I take a couple of deep breathes and become present in my body. From my heart centre and my belly, I send love. I send it to myself. I send it to others who are similarly suffering. If I am feeling very strong, I send love to what or whom I perceive to be the cause of the suffering. (If I don’t feel it, I don’t push it). This practice brings me ease and comfort. It makes me feel less alone. In my deepest heart I also believe that somehow it helps others feel less alone too.

You are not alone.

If you are feeling stressed out, worried and overwhelmed, if you or your family members are feeling unwell, know that right now I am here, breathing deeply and sending you love. I know that out there, someone, maybe you, is doing the same for me.