Category: Reading Nook

Practice What Is Right

Tanya's Altar
“Wisdom is not gained by knowing what is right. Wisdom is gained by practicing what is right.” Barbara Brown Taylor.

One sunny day this week, I walked over to my dear friend Tanya Geisler’s for a morning of co-working. We do this regularly, sitting at opposite sides of her dining room table, encouraging one another as we take on the work of our dreams.

We prefaced our work, as we often do, with coffee, connection and conversation, filling each other in on our lives and our work, what we’re celebrating and what we’re wrestling with. This week, I shared with Tanya a shocking dream I’d had about being fired and deserving it. I knew this dream was about me not living up to some of my commitments to myself. There were things I knew I should* be doing and, for a long time, I’d been making other choices. The dream was my subconscious (and/or the powers that be) telling me that it was well past time to make a change. As an example, I told Tanya that one of the things that I knew I was meant to be doing was meditating. I just knew it in my bones.

Tanya said, “Then there is nothing for you to do but to meditate. You can go use my altar right now.”

Right now?

I squirmed.

I said thank you.

I deflected.

As our conversation moved on, I felt myself coming around. Somewhere inside me I found a willingness to say yes: yes to Tanya’s graciousness, yes to the call to meditate, yes to the better part of myself.

Here’s what happened when I said yes.

Tanya walked me up to her beautiful altar, an altar sparkling in gemstones and blessed by statues of Buddha, Ganesh, Lakshmi and Saraswati, an altar infused with love and devotion. She offered up her sacred space to me, giving me extra candles, tarot cards to pull from, a cushion to sit on and then she let me be.

I took my seat.

I immediately felt this sense of rightness with myself. I lit a candle and started my practice.

Within moments the majestic Matteo entered the room, the most elusive of Tanya’s three cats. He brushed himself up against my forearm. He rubbed against my lower back, his luscious tail passing along my skin where it was exposed between my sweater and my pants. He purred.

I reached out and pet him, giving thanks for his presence and this beautiful sign from the Universe that yes, this sitting is right.

After a brief moment, I was called back to the practice, as though someone had dropped this lesson in my heart:

“Enjoy the blessings of the practice but don’t let them draw you away from the practice. Come back.”

As I brought my attention back to my breath, another of Tanya’s cats entered the room, the blue-eyed beauty Ramona, talkative as ever. It was as though the Universe was saying, “Did you hear that lesson? What will you do?”

And so I basked in the energy of “cat” and I stayed with my practice. With downcast eyes, I paid attention to my breath and as I did I could see a glistening thread of gold between my heart and the candle. Perhaps it was the interplay of light and my allergies but even if that is so, as I watched the golden energy move between my heart and the candle’s flame, I knew it was another sign that I was in the right place, doing the right thing and that in that moment, all was well.

Note: A New Wisdom Core conversation exclusively for students of The Academy is coming soon. Tanya and I will talk about the challenges and rewards of stepping into your starring role.

* Should isn’t always a dirty word.

Honour the Work

As a teenager, I studied dance with a teacher who became one of the most important mentors I have had in my creative life, Marjorie Keith. One of the powerful lessons that she taught me was that no matter where we were, no matter what we were doing, it was important to honour the work. We honoured the work when we gave her our full attention. We honoured the work when we gave the choreography our all. We honoured the work when we sewed the costumes with care, sold the tickets with diligence and taught the little ones with love.

Honouring the work is not about discipline. It’s about magic. It’s about letting the muses know that you are here and you are ready.  It’s about receiving them in a way that makes them want to come back. It’s about creating the conditions for inspiration and creativity to thrive.

Honouring the work is about creating a gateway for the magic of art to come into this world and light the way – for ourselves and for one another.

This sounds rather woo, doesn’t it? It’s all true – and it’s practical too.

When we honour the work, we get more done. When we honour the work, we progress in our skills. When we honour the work, others take us more seriously. When we honour the work, we take ourselves more seriously too.

What are some of the ways that we can honour the work?

Give the work your full attention. Be present.

Give the work the time it needs. Be patient.

Hone your craft. Be persistent.

Give your best effort. Be wholehearted.

Defend and champion the work. Be a hero.

Honouring the work is a part of the culture of the studio.

It lays and then strengthens the foundations on which our mighty creative energy can be unleashed into the world. The stronger this foundation, the more powerful the creative energy that can be channeled through us, the greater the light we’ll shine.

This week, in your efforts, great and small, lay the foundations for magic. Honour the work.

Inspiration Practice

Right now, behind the scenes, I am working on bringing you the new spring/summer season as well as beta-testing a printed “studio diary” to bring to you for the new year. One of the aspects of the diary is to notice and gather inspiration every day, a powerful practice for a creative life.

What has inspired you today?

Can you answer that question quickly and easily? As I have worked with my alpha and beta teams on this project, this has turned out to be a challenge area. What does it mean to be inspired? In our regular workaday life, where do we look for inspiration? And when we find it, what do we do with it?

Let’s start with developing an inspiration practice.

Remember when the concept of a gratitude practice was new? With the introduction of a simple practice of jotting down 5 things a day we are grateful for, our awareness expands and our energy shifts. We discover that a day lived in gratitude is a richer day.

What if we took that approach to inspiration, simply making note each day of what inspired us? Would our creative awareness expand? Would we broaden our horizons? Discover more? Create more? Would our days be different? Would we be? How would our creative lives be enriched?

Let’s find out.

Every day this week, keep a note of what inspires you.

What sparked an idea?

What caught your attention?

What stirred your emotions?

What made you think?

What got you into action?

What awakened your creative fire?

As you do, notice the impact of this practice on you and your creative life.

Breaking Ground

Tulip Filled with Snow

I’ve been very excited about the return of spring, especially getting back into the garden. I was thrilled to see signs of green as the week began and then shocked to see snow by Friday! I hope all of those tender shoots find their strength against the cold.

It’s a great illustration of the seasonal development from the Full Worm Moon in March to the Full Pink Moon in April.

Now is the time of transition from underground stirrings to breaking ground and braving the elements.

Our creative dreams go through this as well.

Our ideas start deep within, growing in strength until they manage to push through into the tangible world. When they do, sometimes they are met with nourishing sun and rain and sometimes with ice and snow. Our dreams and our creations must find and build their strength, bolstering themselves with love and belief when it is available so they may face rejection and judgement when necessary.

The plants and our creative ventures are leading by example: grow your strength as you brave unfurling.

We, too, go through this process as we dare to express more of our true self in the world. As we embrace our becoming, there comes a time when we must bare our vulnerable heart to the elements, whatever they may be.

Sometimes we stay underground for a very long time, sometimes hiding, sometimes readying. The unfortunate truth is that we can never be fully ready for what is to come.

We must simply be brave and break ground.

Below ground we gathered the nourishment for the first stage of our journey. We drew our power from the soil, from the damp, from the dark. But there comes a time when we must take our place in the garden, when the strength we need to grow into our beauty can only be found by reaching towards the sky. It is then that the sun can find us.

Is it time for you and your tender creative dreams to brave the elements and break ground?

I believe in you.

Creating Space around the Edges

JRS 2017-03-29 Walk with Tanya

In design, white space is what is left untouched. It is the space above, below, beside and in-between. White space gives us room to see what’s important. It provides clarity and focus. It is not an extra, something you have as and when there is room. It is an essential. It is part of the design, an element that is taken into consideration throughout the creative process.

What if we designed our lives with white space in mind?

We often fill our lives with so many commitments and activities that our schedules and to-do lists are crammed to the edges with no white space to be seen. When the unexpected happens, be it crisis or opportunity, everything is tossed into a jumble. We scramble to keep it together while we watch things fall off the grid.

With our days overstuffed, we’re often overwhelmed. The slightest thing sends our emotions reeling and we have no room for deep reflection or flexible thinking. Life is like a rush-hour commuter train where we close our eyes and try to hang on until we get to the end of our ride.

But what is the end?

Our life is the journey and the destination.

When we do a little less, we experience a lot more. We have time to see, feel, taste and hear, to touch and to be touched, to reflect and to respond. We can see with greater clarity and focus with greater depth. We can make better choices and have room to manoeuvre when that choice is change.

We are organic beings living organic lives.

White space gives us the ability to be spontaneous, to grow and to go in unexpected directions, to say yes on the fly and to dance with the moment.

This week white space allowed me to turn a work morning into a long walk with a dear friend and it held my heart open wide enough to let in deep inspiration about the next season in the studio.

Where can you create some space around the edges?

Experiment and experience it yourself. Create white space in your life and notice the impact. Play with the balance and discover how much space feels just right for you.

10 Things I Want Committed Creatives to Know

Jamie Ridler Committed Creative

I recently wrote 10 Things I Want You to Know When You Are Discovering or Recovering Your Creative Heart . Now, I have a message for those of you who are, beyond a shadow of a doubt, (okay, there is still shadow and doubt,) to your creativity.

1. There will be dark days. There will be days when you doubt your work, the world and yourself. It doesn’t mean you don’t know what you’re doing. It doesn’t mean you are not meant for this. Emotional storms are inevitable on the creative journey. Develop practices that support you when they arrive. Move your body. Journal. Change your environment. Get extra sleep. Give yourself a port in the storm.

2. It’s Worth It. Especially on those dark days, you may question whether it is worth it, whether this art that calls you is a divine guide or a siren song. The truth is, whatever happens, your artistic heart is undeniable. It has been and always will be with you. Be true to it, no matter what. If you find yourself suffering too much and too long, change something. Take a break. Make a shift.  You could be you on the wrong path but you are not on the wrong journey. Never doubt your creative compass. Following true north is always worth it.

3. Honour the Work. Having built a relationship with art and creativity, you are a part of a tribe of people whose devotion tends to the creative fire not only for your self but also for all of us. Whether you are creating, observing, teaching or learning, honour the work. How you show up to art is a model for others. Be a powerful and positive representative wherever you are.

4. Commit to your craft. In order to bridge the gap between what you envision and what you create, continue to hone your skills. A master is never done. S/he has embarked on a lifetime of learning. Don’t get discouraged or complacent. Embrace the journey. Delight in discovery. Do the work.

5. Tune Your Instrument. Always be in creative practice. Keep limber. Don’t take for granted the hard-earned skills you have developed. Keep them sharp and yourself spry so you are ready for creative inspiration and challenge when it arrives. Be ready to play.

6. Trust Your Artistic Voice. As we create, we look for clues that we’re on to something. Some are internal clues, like when your hair stands on end, when tears fill your eyes or laughter escapes into the air. These are all signs that yes, this is it! This is the resonance we look for, that place where our artistic voice and our creation are dancing. There are also external clues, like when the room falls silent or bursts into applause, when people praise your work or pan it. You must trust the internal most of all. Even if your income relies on people loving your work, you must make time in your studio for creating what is unwaveringly true to your artistic voice.

7. There is always a new edge. As a creative, you will always be dancing on the edge of what you know. Inspiration will take you beyond what you’ve done before into new territory. Over and over again, let yourself be a beginner. It will require bravery. It will demand leaving your ego at the door. Become masterful at being a novice. You and the work will be richer for it.

8. Don’t let money define you. When we are serious about our creative practice and our creative work, we often assume that the best path is to make it our profession. That is a good and noble path but it is not the only one. In fact, sometimes our motivation for transforming our passion into our profession is that we want the world and our loved ones (often our partners) to believe that our art is worthy of our devotion. We may also be seeking financial proof that we are worthy of being called an artist. Money does not define you. If you show up with sincere devotion, if you commit to your craft and do the work, if you build a body of work that is true to you, you are worthy.

9. There are more ideas than time. Though it might not feel like it, this is a blessing not a problem. You are a traveller blessed with a world so vast and beautiful it is greater than one person, greater than one lifetime. There is always a next adventure – the next project to create, the next idea to bring to life, the next level of excellence to reach. Let go of the paralyzing need to have it all and instead choose and create. Then choose and create again and again and again. Then, instead of a wall of frustration, you will be building a body of work. You will be using your time, not losing it.

10. Leave a Legacy. Every now and then in your creative life, stop to gather and celebrate your accomplishments. Frame 7 pieces. Create a portfolio. Put on a show. Pull your work together into a book and bind it. However you do it, create a frame around the work that says, “I made this,” so that you can see the fruits of your artistic labour – the progress, the passion, the personality. Tell your story. Share your work. Be a part of the creative conversation. Take your place amongst those for whom creativity and art are central to life. Take your place, because that is your truth and you belong.

And one more…

Be a Light. No matter where you are on the journey, you are ahead of some and behind others. Just as you hope those ahead will guide the way, be a light to those behind you. Be generous with your knowledge, especially if it is hard-won. Be welcoming, especially if you know what it is to be intimidated to enter. Add your wisdom to the collective pool and your artistic life will move us all forward.

10 Things I Want You to Know When You Are Discovering or Recovering Your Creative Heart

Welcome Back from Your Creativity

10 Things I Want You to Know When You Are Discovering or Recovering Your Creative Heart

1. Your creative awakening is a blessing! When any one of us begins to discover or recover their creative gifts, it is like the first promise of spring for all of us. If your creative heart has been hiding in the dark, hibernating, staying safe and sound, deep underground, we have missed you. The world is ready for your tender shoots to break through the surface. We can’t wait to witness the powerful growth of your strong stem. We have been anticipating the magnificent beauty of you in bloom.

2. They were wrong about you.  Whichever teacher, parent, sibling, stranger told you directly or gave you the impression that the arts are not for you – they were wrong. Creativity is your birthright. If an artistic impulse is pushing on your heart or a creative call is stirring in your belly, now is your time to heal the hurt and reclaim what belongs to you – your talent.

3. You are right about you. That impulse that draws you to the dance floor, the canvas, the kitchen, the page, the sewing machine – trust it. That instinct that you have something to say, to dance, to dream, to express – follow it. That ache, that hunger, that deep desire for colour, words, music, texture, ideas – give in to it. That wild aliveness – unfurl it. Become the artist you know are meant to be.

4. It’s not too late. There is no age restriction on creativity. When we shelve our creative desires because we believe it is too late for us, we lose even more precious creative time. Dance now. Draw now. Paint now. Act now. You won’t regret time spent on what you love- not a moment of it.

5. It’s not always fun. I know. That’s not what you want to hear. I’m not saying it will never be fun. It will be. But it will also be challenging, enlightening, inspiring, soul-shaking, spirit-wakening and more. Be open to all of it. The arts are a gateway into the full range of life’s experiences, including, but not limited to, fun.

6. Start where you are with what you have. Though creative hearts are drawn like magpies to the shiny and the new and though we love supplies (and organizers for those supplies), the truth is that you can return to your creativity with nothing more than you and what’s around you. Exercise your imagination. Doodle on scrap paper. Cut shapes and colours out of magazines. Start with whatever you have, right here, today. The most important part is that you start.

7. Take your time. Don’t be in a hurry to get to the “accomplished” stage. Enjoy these tender new shoots of your creativity. Enjoy the freshness of it all. Take in all that this creative stage is teaching you. Let yourself feel all that it brings up – joy, sadness, anger, all of it. This is your life. Don’t be in a rush to get through it.

8. Demand better. If you encounter a teacher, a colleague, a friend who is making it harder for you, who is reminding you of old fears and dousing your creative fire, take it as an opportunity to create a different outcome. Now is the time to ask for what you want. Now is the time to find a helpful teacher, a supportive community and loving friends. As you demand better, you become a hero not only to yourself but also to others who are aching for a world that is kinder to creative hearts.

9. Drop the darkness. When your creativity rouses after a period of being shut down, neglected or repressed, you might find that when you return to it, you discover a rich supply of unexpressed feelings, like tears, anger, frustration and resentment. Turn to your art to help you clear the energy. Don’t revel, wallow or hold on. Let it pass out of you as you move or write or paint. Release it and keep releasing it until your creative spring runs clear and you are here, in the present, again.

20. Spread the light. As you come alive with creative fire, cultivate the ability to be an encourager of other creative hearts. You have hard-won and well-earned insight into this artistic hero’s journey. You know what it is to be an artist in hiding and you know what it is to brave stepping out into the light. Make it safe for others to do the same. Welcome them to their own journey. Offer encouragement or a friendly ear. Share knowledge. Tell your story. And continue your bold and beautiful creative journey so that others can see what it means to be brave, to be true and to be you.  We are in it together.