With Valentine’s Day just behind us, I find myself still thinking about the power and importance of intimacy. I heard a fascinating report on CBC radio about a study in the psychology of falling in love in which strangers were given a list of increasingly intimate questions to ask one another and the resulting closeness was measured.
Discovering more and more about one another is a key way that we human beings create intimacy. It’s a part of the joy of new relationships, actively getting to know this beautiful human being in front of you and also actively being discovered. What a glorious experience to see and be seen!
What happens when this delightful period of discovery and increasing closeness have to come to an end? What happens as time goes on and we know a lot about our loved ones, partners, friends and family?
One of the ways that we can keep that energy of discovery alive is to share new experiences. As you discover more about the world, whether through trying a new food, learning a new skill or traveling to a new country, you discover more about yourself and one another.
I certainly found this recently when for my birthday Justin and I decided to take ballroom dance classes. As we tentatively tried the tango and learned the rhythms of rumba, we saw new expressions of one another and of ourselves. It’s that latter part that I want to focus on today.
All of these brilliant explorations of intimacy apply not only to our relationships with others but also to our relationship with ourselves.
When we take ourselves for granted, when we stop exploring, when we no longer wonder about our hearts or get curious about our thoughts, when we’ve solidified into a worldview and a “this is the way I am” attitude, we lose intimacy with our selves. We start making choices and doing things based on habit, on a memory of who we were the last time we checked. We lose our connection to the present moment and to the person we are right here today, not to mention the possibility of who we might become.
Today I want to recommend three creative living activities that will enhance your sense of self-intimacy, three activities that will keep you connected to who you are.
Journaling is like having a conversation with yourself. It allows you to get the thoughts, feelings, words and ideas out of your head and onto the page. Something magical happens in that physical distance. As our words travel outside ourselves, we see them in a brand new way. We start to hear our own voice and recognize what is in our heart.
Here are a couple of tips to get you started. To bypass your busy brain, keep the pen moving. Give yourself a certain amount of pages (e.g. 3) or a certain amount of time (e.g. 10 minutes) and let that pen dance, non-stop, the entire time. Just let the words flow, even if all you can write is, “I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to write. I’m tired. I don’t know what to write.” It’s like scribbling a pen along the page until the ink flows smoothly.
It’s also great to work with journal questions. In fact, why not answer the questions that were used in the survey to make a start? You can also make up your own journal prompts. Anything’s fair game. Answer interview questions you see in magazines. Think about what you’d want to know about someone or what you wish someone would ask you. What do you remember about grade 3? Who do you take after in your family? What are you loving right now? What’s annoying you these days? What dream have you never told anyone? How do you imagine yourself in 2020?
When I ask people about their creative practices, journaling tops the list. It’s a powerful tool for self-reflection, self-expression and self-discovery.
Where journals work with words, dreamboards work with images. The simple act of choosing images out of magazines, cutting them out and gluing them onto Bristol board or into a journal can be transformative. Right before your eyes you’ll start to see what you love. And the power of this practice grows when you do it regularly. Over time you start to see trends, shifts and developments in the colours you choose, the moods that show up, the places, the objects, the symbols, the people. Your dreamboards reflect you – your taste, your aspirations, your preoccupations – back to you.
And just like the intimacy questions grew ever more personal, you may find the messages from your images get deeper and deeper. In the beginning you nay find yourself choosing images that are steeped in the familiar: “Oh, yes, I love white kitchens. I’ve always wanted a manual typewriter. Ah…. Paris… when will I get there?” Then gently, almost imperceptibly, you find yourself in new territory. Your choices may even surprise you and when they do, you are learning something new about yourself: “Since when am I interested in calligraphy? What’s that horse doing there? What about this old woman in Peru? Why there? Why her?”
Dreamboards are a powerful way of using images to connect to your heart and to discover what it’s yearning for.
(And, by the way, if this sounds appealing to you, check out the Year of Dreams series. I offer monthly dreamboard workshops designed to take you on a fresh journey under each of the full moons of the year.)
3. Artist’s Dates
Words and images are both powerful tools of creative connection. This last tool I want to recommend is experiential.
Artist Dates are a core creative practice recommended by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way. They are solo adventures, well-filling outings that you go on by yourself. You may take yourself on a walk, to a coffee shop, a gallery, the library, the movies – anywhere that nourishes your creative heart.
Often people are resistant to going on these adventures by themselves by the gift in doing so is being able to be 100% in your own experience, to sense your own honest reaction to whatever it is you encounter, to be present to yourself and the moment. And if you allow yourself to experience something new, if you try a new teahouse, a new neighbourhood, a new class, a new food, a new adventure, it will also bring out something new in you. You will have the opportunity to experience yourself in a fresh and new way. And that is a part of what keeps intimacy alive.
Try one two or all of these practices to stay connected to your heart and your ever-evolving self.