Scheduling Creativity

Don’t wait to be compelled to do great work.

Richie Norton

I’ve always been a creative person. As children, my sister and I spent hours drawing every day. I honestly probably have my parents’ relative poverty to thank for that. When you come from a family that doesn’t have the money to take you places and buy you new toys all the time, you learn how to entertain yourself with creativity. Not only did we draw constantly, we even made little clay figures, modeling them after Pokémon, or what have you, that we couldn’t afford. It’s funny how the things you once felt cheated by in life become the things you are most grateful for and vice versa.

Anyway, for the majority of my life, my creativity was dependent on “inspiration.” Initially, this wasn’t hard to come by. It is easy to feel inspired and excited by simple things when you are a child. However, once I got into high school, that inspiration started to dwindle. This could also have been a result of my increasing anxiety causing me to start overthinking my process. Whatever the cause, I began creating less and less. It didn’t seem worthwhile to make the effort if the outcome wasn’t going to be something amazing. My ideas weren’t good enough, in my opinion. I wasn’t good enough.

Eventually I stumbled upon the fact that many great artists and writers had struggled with the same issue of motivation. It wasn’t that history’s greatest works always spurred from incredible ideas or the energy of inspiration, rather they came from dedication, hard work, and persistence. Many writers swear by having a writing routine where they write a certain amount every day, regardless of if they feel like it or have anything interesting to say. Despite this, I continued to resist this idea for years. Only recently have I begun to see the value in this method.

The hardest part for me, is accepting that you will certainly create more, but each work may not be as incredible as ones that have been passionately inspired. However, with this regular practice, when inspiration does strike, you will be able to use the skills you have been honing to produce the best version of the work you’ve been inspired to create. In addition to that, inspiration will find you more often if you work at it instead of just waiting passively for it to find you.

Since I began writing and drawing every single day a few years ago, it is stunning how much I’ve improved. (I actually don’t know if my writing has really improved, but my drawing definitely has.) Perhaps more important than the higher quality work I am able to produce, is what I have learned along the way. I’ve learned that the outcome, the product, of creativity isn’t what I’m really after. There is a special joy in producing something from within our own minds and seeing it materialize in the world. Writing and drawing and other artistic endeavors are not a means to an end. They are an end in themselves. They are like dancing.

Dancing is certainly a form of art, but unlike other artistic modalities, these is less focus on a “product” and more focus on the experience in the moment, whether or not their is an audience. Capitalism has obscured and cut down the spirit of creativity within each of us. It has taught us that only certain people are “talented.” Only these talented few have any right to spend their time in artistic pursuits. And even then, only if they are intending to market their work in some way and make a profit. Never simply for personal fulfillment or fun.

Regardless of whether or not you consider yourself “creative” or “talented” I believe that artistic expression is an essential, inherent part of being human. I also believe that it is one of the only ways that we are truly free. Don’t allow anyone to take away that freedom. Don’t allow the world to sever the connection to your imagination. I guarantee you that you friends and family would love to see what you are able to create, irrespective of how “good” it may be. Few things make me happier than seeing the drawings that the children I work with make. Some of my favorite art has been made by my best friend who I’m sure wouldn’t consider herself very talented.

Talent is irrelevant. Art is a glimpse into the mind, the soul, of another. There is an inexplicable intimacy to art. That is what makes it beautiful. So please, express yourself freely in whatever way that brings you joy. Share yourself with the world. Make creativity a regular practice. Even if only for yourself. It’s worth it.

17 Ways to Develop Your Creativity

A Letter to My Sister

Dear Sarah,

I’m not sure if I’ll actually decide to give you this letter, but I knew I had to write it either way. I just have to put these thoughts down into words. Even though our family has never been very outwardly affectionate, I have always had a deep well of admiration and love for you for as long as I can remember. We may be pretty close in age, but I’ve looked up to you my entire life. All I ever wanted was for us to be friends, and it means the world to me that we are now.

It’s hard for me to come up with the right way to phrase everything I want to tell you. I guess primarily I just want you to know that most of the aspects of my life that I am now so proud of were introduced to me by you. You are the reason that I draw. If it wasn’t for you, I may have never found an interest in that hobby. I can still remember how good you were with colors and blending even when we were still using crayons. You should see the way I show off the paintings I have of yours to everyone that comes to my house. I know you don’t even use it anymore, but I’ve shown so many people your website. I am just so proud to have such an incredibly talented sister.

Even though mom and grandma raised us, you have always been my primary role model. One of the most influential times in my life was living with you again at mom’s when you came back from Florida. I doubt you’re aware, but a lot of the “self improvement” things you brought back with you during that time shaped the course of my life in the years since then. Remember when I first started writing pages with you every morning? Even though I no longer do that exact practice, that may have been the first daily self care habit I ever had. I can trace back a lot of my beneficial daily routines to that time.

You were even the reason I started doing yoga! Doing those poses in the rec room with you all those years ago was probably the first yoga I ever did. I was so impressed when you showed me that you could plant your palms flat on the ground in a forward fold. It was the first time I realized that maybe yoga really was something regular people could become good at, not just famous internet influencers or people that had practiced it their entire lives. I would have never become a yoga teacher if it wasn’t for you opening that door for me.

Another major part of who I am today that I want to thank you for is veganism. I’m not sure I even knew what a vegan was before you. I know it took me a while to get it, but once I did you were the anchor that kept me sane in the beginning. You showed me so many delicious new options. You were pretty much the one that taught me how to cook, albeit indirectly. Your culinary skills are another thing I can’t help but brag about to everyone I know. I cannot wait to have Nick try the Gross Sandwich. I’m sure I would have struggled so much more with a vegan diet if it wasn’t for you feeding me for the first couple years.

You have so many amazing talents. I am so grateful that I have had you in my life to constantly inspire me and challenge me. I would not be half the person I am today if it weren’t for you. I just want you to know how much I love, admire, and appreciate you. And how much I always have, even when on the surface it seemed as though we didn’t like one another very much. You are an incredible, funny, intelligent, creative, and unique person.

Finally, I want you to know that even if Val and I pressure you to make more art again, the things you create aren’t what give you value. You could never touch a pen or a brush again and I would still love and respect you just as much. I’d still be just as proud to be your sister. I only want you to be happy, because you deserve to be happy. You have no idea how much it fills my heart with joy to know that you’ve found a wonderful man who loves you and can be by your side. Not only that, but the fact that he has an incredible young daughter for you to help raise. Alice is so lucky to have someone like you in her life to learn from and look up to. I guarantee you have already permanently altered the course of her life for the better. She may write you a letter like this herself one day.

With love and gratitude,

Your Sister

20 Best Sister Quotes - Quotes About Sisters

One Step at a Time

You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step. -  Martin Luther King, Jr. #quote | Wholeness, Take the first step, Martin  luther king

“Just take it one step at a time.” “Live your life one day at a time.” We’ve all heard these familiar platitudes a million times. A perfect counter platitude would be “easier said than done.” It’s always an interesting moment when a phrase such as these really sinks in and starts to feel meaningful in a significant way. I don’t know what causes these moments to occur, but sometimes a lesson you use to roll your eyes at and ignore, becomes piercing and poignant. I had one of these moments with the idea of “taking one step at a time” a few days ago.

Often I don’t start moving towards a goal unless I have every step of the process planned out in detail. This rarely happens though. It’s a big challenge to map something out from start to finish. Therefore, I don’t take action steps to achieve most of my goals and aspirations. I spend most of my time waiting and hoping one day everything will become clear. The perfect moment will materialize and everything will magically start to fall into place. Unfortunately, that moment never comes.

On the flip side of this I am often paralyzed and overwhelmed when I do try to plan out all the details of something I want to accomplish. Even something as simple as doing the laundry or cleaning up around the house can become a daunting task when you are constantly ruminating over each little step in the process. When you look at all the components lined up in a row, a goal can become an impossible feat in your mind. “I’ll never be able to do all of that,” I end up telling myself, which leads me to give up before I’ve even started.

Intentionally reminding yourself along the way to only focus on the step you’re on is a great way to lessen both of these extremes. If you have a goal and you only know the first step towards that goal, go ahead and take that step. Trust that the universe will reveal the next step once you’ve taken the first one. If it feels too hokey to “trust the universe” then trust yourself instead. Once you’ve taken that first action, you’ll have a new vantage point or new information with which to decide what the next action should be.

Now, I’m not saying this works for every situation (although it might.) But I wouldn’t advise something like quitting your job because you know you want to be an entrepreneur instead, if you haven’t the foggiest clue what you want besides that. I’m speaking more about smaller goals, at least in the beginning when you’re working on building that trust. For instance, I’ve been wanting to start a podcast with my two best friends for years now. We’ve all talked about it dozens of times. It’s almost become an inside joke. “We’ll talk about this for our podcast” or “Wouldn’t this be a great episode? Why aren’t we recording??” The idea never went much farther than that though. Even though we all wanted this to happen, none of us were willing to take the first step. I can’t speak for my friends, but for me, this was because I couldn’t visualize where it would go from there. None of us know anything about podcasting or marketing ourselves.

I’ve finally decided to take that initial leap of faith though. I downloaded a free podcasting app, made sure my friends were still on board, told them to brainstorm ideas, and made a plan for us to meet next week to discuss. Sure enough, the next steps have already been appearing before my eyes. I’ve been having such fun coming up with ideas for taglines and topics. I’ve even been doodling ideas for a logo. It even finally gave me enough momentum to purchase an electronic drawing tablet which I’ve been wanting to do for awhile. (I may be going too hard on the logo part, but fuck it, I’m having a good time.)

Focusing on one step at a time not only helps us make our goals more achievable, it also reminds us that the end goal isn’t necessarily what’s most important. Life isn’t about reaching the goalposts, it’s about thoroughly enjoying the moments leading up to them. When you just focus on what’s right in front of you, it’s easier to reevaluate as you go. Is this still what I want? Is this still making me happy? Sometimes just by taking small steps towards one goal, we uncover new things about ourselves and/or new opportunities along the way that completely alter our trajectory. When we get fixated on the goal itself, we can end up trudging toward it for years only to realize once we get there, it isn’t what we want anymore. That kind of tunnel vision can also stop us from recognizing the other avenues that open up for us along the way.

So if there is something you’ve been wanting to do, but you’ve been waiting for the right moment, this is it! The stars have aligned in the form of this post. I’m here to tell you that you’ve got this! It’s okay if you don’t know exactly how you’re going to get to your goal. You probably know at least one step you’ll have to take. Just start and I promise the rest will begin to unfold naturally from there. The only questions you really have to ask yourself as you go are: Am I going to enjoy this step? Does the idea of this process excite me? Inspire me? When you’re working towards a goal your enthusiasm is the only compass you need. It won’t let you down.

The Power of Daydreaming

At times, life can be frustrating. My soul often gets weighed down by the constant repetition from week to week. Wake up, workout, go to the office, go home, make dinner, go to bed, repeat. It only makes it worse when I start to get aggravated at my own lack of motivation and ability to insert novel experiences into my day. It feels like I have all of these great ideas, but I’m just too mentally and/or physically exhausted to implement any of them into my life.

Most days I really struggle to think of anything worth writing about. It feels like a chore to decide on an idea and go with it. I spend most of my time second-guessing my choice as I’m writing anyway. I don’t know why I put so much pressure on myself. Hardly anyone reads my posts. I’m supposedly just doing this blog for fun. But am I having fun? I definitely am when I come across a topic I’m really passionate about. That happens less often than it used to. I feel like I’m starting to run out of steam after writing once a day for over a year. More and more frequently I find myself googling writing prompts in a desperate attempt to find inspiration. However, none of the prompt I find ever seem interesting in the slightest.

Today I started with a different approach. I was feeling unmotivated by any of the prompts I came across, so I asked myself: what type of things make me feel motivated? I tried to think back to a time I felt really excited about something, anything. It’s honestly rare for me to feel really inspired by anything anymore. The only thing that came to mind was being a teenager and daydreaming about random things in class. It was such an enjoyable thing to do. I don’t know why those reveries stopped.

Part of me thinks daydreaming disappears as a natural part of growing up. I also think the advancements we’ve had in technology play a part. Whether you’re a kid or an adult, no one really has the opportunity for daydreaming anymore. At any dull moment, we can grab our phones or a computer or whatever and mindlessly scroll through content until we’ve killed all of our down time. It’s sad to imagine the younger generation never getting to enjoy a good daydream.

There are actually a lot of benefits to daydreaming, despite how often we were told it’s a waste of time. Daydreams help us get clear on our hopes, dreams, goals, desires. They help us plan for the future. They give the mind a chance to rest and reorganize information. Daydreaming can even help you be a more creative person!

Somewhere along the line, I got bogged down by only placing value on “real” things. Daydreams seemed dangerous. I felt as though I was just getting my hopes up, deluding myself, wasting time and energy thinking about things that would never happen. I guess I was afraid that if I thought about something too much, like being with my partner, I’d only experience more pain if/when the relationship didn’t work out. If I daydreamed about living in a big house in the country and ended up renting a small apartment in the suburbs, I’d have set myself up for disappointment. By closing myself off to hopes and dreams, I felt I was protecting myself from pain.

I’ve since learned through many hard lessons that you can never protect yourself from pain. Pain, disappointment, and suffering are parts of life that cannot be avoided or planned for. So don’t worry about it! Don’t cut yourself off from the good parts of life in an attempt to avoid the bad. While it may seem like a good idea, it’s counterintuitive.

Daydreaming is just another lighthearted aspect of life that I’ve ruined for myself for being too serious. This strangle-hold of control I try to have over myself isn’t doing me any favors. Not everything has to have an ulterior purpose. It’s okay to do something just because it makes you happy. In fact, that’s the best reason for doing something in my opinion. I would never accuse someone else of wasting their time for finding enjoyment in something simple or silly. Yet I never allow myself that same freedom. It’s another question of what it means to “waste” time. It depends on what your goal is.

Even though my primary goal in life is to be happy and make others happy, it doesn’t seem to align with my actions. In fact I spend most of my time thinking and doing things that make me unhappy. The world already places so many restrictions on us. I’ve started to internalize that rigid structure. I forbid myself from having “unrealistic” thoughts. But imaginary objects, animals, landscapes, lifestyles, and scenarios are some of the most fun things to think about! The possibilities are limitless. What an absolute joy it is to let your mind off the leash sometimes and see what it is able to create and imagine.

Today I want to focus on giving myself that mental freedom. So I’m giving myself a little assignment. Feel free to give it a go yourself, and if you’d like share it with me! I’d love to hear what you come up with. Here’s some daydreaming homework if you so choose to accept the challenge:

Ask Yourself:

  1. What is something I’d enjoy daydreaming about?
  2. Do I want it to be realistic, total fantasy, or somewhere in between?
  3. What barriers do I notice myself setting up to limit the possibilities?
  4. Can I give myself permission to play in my own mind without any rules?
  5. Can I give myself permission to spend time on something for no other reason than to have fun and make myself happy?

Allow yourself as much or as little time as you need. Try to write it down as you go to help you stay focused. Let’s work together to learn how to motivate and inspire ourselves. We have the ability to create a rich inner landscape of thought to keep us energized and uplift us when we need it most. Not giving ourselves this gift is the real waste.

Daydreaming Is Actually a Sign of Intelligence, According to Neuroscientists

Technology & Creativity

I often wonder who I would be without technology. Would I have less anxiety? Would I be closer to the people in my life? Would I be more present? Would it be easier to focus? Sometimes I can look back at my childhood for a clue to the answer to those questions. Although it’s hard to compare because childhood is so different from adulthood in general. I can’t tell precisely what role technology may have had in those differences. One thing that seems clearer to me than others is the effect technology has on creativity.

Before the advent of computers, television was the biggest hurdle to my creativity. I get that blaming technology or television is ultimately a copout. Nothing is making me use these things as much as I do. However, I would argue that boredom itself leads to creativity. To be honest, I can’t remember the last time I was actually bored. I’m certainly anxious, but not bored. I remember when I was younger, trailing behind my mother as she went about the house doing chores whining about how bored I was. It was that very boredom that became the catalyst for so much creativity. You’ve simply got to get creative if you want to find ways to entertain yourself. I was required to look within myself for stimulation rather than depend on the world around me.

I still have fond memories of the ridiculous games my sister and I would come up with like smacking a ball back and forth at each other down a long hallway in our house. Once we made our own Pokemon figures out of clay because my mother couldn’t afford to buy all the ones we wanted. When I was really little I even tried to make unique toys for myself out of construction paper and cotton balls. We were very creative and innovative children. Who knows if any of those moments would have even come to pass if we had our own tablets or smartphones like the children of today.

Now I can hardly come up with an idea for my daily drawings on my own. I can’t help but search for “inspiration” on Pinterest first. Lately I’ve even been searching through endless prompts for what to write about rather than taking the time to search my own heart and mind for what I’d like to say. It’s much harder to convince yourself to take the time to look within when there is just SO MUCH available outside of yourself to consume. Not to mention its much easier to scroll through Pinterest than it is to sit staring at that daunting blank page. In addition to that, it almost feels like my own ideas couldn’t possibly even compare to the creative content that already exists at my fingertips.

We’ve all come to realize the damage that constant comparison can cause to our self-image and self-esteem. I think it also has a huge negative effect on our creativity. Who knows what my mind would be able to creative if it wasn’t always preoccupied with what already exists. With the way we are all so dependent on technology, it feels nearly impossible to expect anyone to spend time cultivating their own creativity. Because that’s just it, creativity is something we have to practice. The problem with practice is that we must accept we aren’t likely to be very good in the beginning. It’s hard to settle for your own (initially mediocre) ideas when you know there are better ones behind a screen, a simple click away.

I don’t know what the answer to this problem is, or if there is even a practical way to address it at all. The silence we all had to face in the past was the blank canvas that allowed us to find our own inner greatness. That silence is still there, waiting patiently for each of us. Yet in the past we were forced to sit with this silence, now we must choose to. I fear that as time goes on less and less people will realize the value in doing so. Years of constant external stimulation will also make it harder and harder to make that choice even if we want to. Soon our own inner worlds may be lost to us completely.

Harnessing Your Creativity - Little Black Belt: a Martial Arts Blog

Words I Need to Hear

I took a deep breath and listened to the old bray of my heart: I am. I am. I am.

Sylvia Plath

My silly, silly star child. Breathe deeply and let go. You have nothing to fear in this amazing world of yours. You doubt yourself at every turn. You move forward with constant backward glances, wondering if you still have time to turn around. Perfectionism at its most painful. You don’t need to be perfect. It’s okay to make mistakes. Stop asking yourself whether or not you’re making the right decision. Sit in silence and let your heart guide you. And in those moments your heart remains silent, be patient. Keep listening. Don’t take life so seriously. This is all just one big mystery after all. Just enjoy.

You’ve got everything you need, always. You are everything that you need. You can trust in yourself. You can love yourself. You aren’t going to get caught up in and weighted down by the little things today. Can you feel that rhythm inside your chest? Feel the warmth in your veins. You are a miracle made of stardust and loving energies. Your only purpose here is to be alive and to share what you are with the world. You were made for this and you will never fail. So keep smiling, keep moving. Do whatever it is that brings you joy in each moment. And if you don’t always know what that is, that’s okay too.

You don’t always have to know the right answer. Some questions have no answer. You can learn to live alongside the questions. What ever made you believe that happiness is found in finding all the answers anyway? Ignorance is bliss after all. Be grateful that there are still so many mysteries our there in the universe around you. What a beautiful, fascinating, massive world we’ve found ourselves in. What a blessing to be a small part of such majesty. Keep this humble gratitude close to your heart always and you will never go astray.

You don’t have to be afraid to speak from your heart, to speak your truth. It’s what you were brought here to do. Don’t be afraid of the words you find to express yourself. Honest, difficult words are more beautiful than all the flowery lies. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. That is how you grow. What wonderful things you may not have learned were it not for the mistakes of your past. Life is a delicate balancing act. Wobbling and falling is all part of the show. Trust the net that lingers below to catch you. You are the performer, but you are also the net. There is nothing to fear.

Today is going to be a lovely day. Make sure you are present for it. Give it your full attention. This day is all that you have to focus on. When you feel your mind drifting off into the future, gently guide it back to you. Keep asking questions to ground yourself. What does my body feel like? What can I see, hear, smell, touch, taste? What is this? Stay curious, even when the answer keeps changing. Even when there is no real answer to be found. Practice withholding judgement. Exercise your loving kindness.

Life is a lot like a game. Games can be fun. But they can also be stressful and aggravating when we become too serious about them. Today you will remember that it’s just a game. You will shake off all of that old stagnant energy from your soul. You heart will feel light. You will give love freely to yourself and others. You will smile and you will laugh, because you are so lucky to be who you are. So lucky to be here experiencing this moment. To love and be loved. Everything is as it should be. It’s just a game, so have fun.

Meditation girls | Yoga drawing, Yoga illustration, Yoga cartoon

Channeling Your Inner Child

I saw a post on Tumblr the other day that said: I think the key to a happy life as an adult woman is to channel your inner weird little girl and make her happy. There is so much truth behind those words. Without realizing it, I have been doing exactly that. By setting goals for myself to write and draw everyday, I am actually giving myself permission to enjoy the hobbies I use to enjoy as a young girl. For as long as I can remember I loved to create through these two mediums of artist expression.

Even though I have already been unwittingly following the advice of that post, doing it with a conscious intention of taking care of that strange little girl inside me, makes it feel all the more special and rewarding. At some point as I began to grow up, I started to need a reason behind everything that I did. Which seems strange to me, given that ultimately nothing really matters except what you decide matters. Did I have a reason to play Pokémon and Hamtaro for hours? Was there a good reason for printing out stacks upon stacks of Sailor Moon pictures I found online to color? Was there a purpose to all of the magical time I spent playing outside in nature with my sister and friends? Were these experiences any less important, any less meaningful, because I didn’t have a direct, practical goal in mind?

Perhaps this resistance to doing anything without a clear purpose is merely an excuse, a lingering symptom of mild depression. After all, what better reason is there than to make yourself happy? Sometimes it feels as though I’ve forgotten how to make myself happy, how to enjoy my life from one moment to the next. Only once I’ve begun a project, given myself the time to lose myself in it, do I feel true joy and freedom. It’s taking that first step that is always so very difficult. For example, most days I simply dread the idea of beginning my yoga and meditation practice. I contemplate cutting it short every time. But when I actually sit down and begin, it always becomes the very best part of my day. Despite this, that initial dread never seems to go away.

For a lot of my life, I relied on inspiration to spur me onward. Without it, I felt like there was no way I could continue with anything I was doing. However, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that most of the time that inspiration follows rather than precedes my actions. Most days I have no idea what I want to write about when I sit down to begin. I never know what to draw in the evenings. Yet I’ve learned that if I just force myself to start, I can surprise myself with what I’m able to create. I think that is what art is all about, surprising ourselves. Most of my best creations were not the result of careful planning and intention. They were spontaneous accidents that allowed me to unconsciously share a piece of myself with the world that I didn’t even know was mine to share.

So when I’m struggling with that stubborn resistance before beginning something, I’ve found it very helpful to remind myself that this is a gift for my inner child. It’s almost like the joy you get from playing with a child, in fact. As an adult, you may not be very interested in the game itself at first, but to see the happiness and pleasure in that innocent little face makes it worthwhile. It makes me so happy inside to imagine my younger self in my place, happily typing away, working hard on stories that will never be published or even read by others. To imagine that little girl I once was drawing anime without a care in the world, her excitement at how good we’ve gotten at it.

Channeling my inner child is one of the best ways for me to remember how to be in the present moment. It reminds me how to enjoy for enjoyment’s sake. I am so grateful for the children I get to meet everyday at work. Their lighthearted energy has been a great help to me as I work to reconnect with the child within myself. I am able to see myself in them and remember what it was like to be the age they are now. They inspire me to keep the child in me alive, to keep her happy, to keep her close. It’s definitely something worth practicing.

Photo by Allan Mas on Pexels.com

Mixed Emotions

I’ve mentioned that I have a lot of unhealthy behaviors that I’ve been struggling with this past year in quarantine. Even though I’ve begun to feel utterly fed up with performing these behaviors, they still seem to persist. It feels like, despite all of my best laid plans to change, I always fall short in the end. However, yesterday the idea of letting all of those things go, my rigid schedule, my smoking, my eating habits, seemed possible. If you happened to read my post from yesterday, you may understand why.

This is not a new phenomenon, and I’m sure other people have experienced this as well. That special motivation and excitement from the idea of changing for someone else. I know sometimes that can be a toxic thing. You shouldn’t aim to change important parts of yourself for another. But the thought of improving your image in the eyes of someone else by finally changing things you’ve already been wanting to change seems different.

While I’m grateful for this new sense of energy and motivation, I am also wary of it. Curious about it. Last night as I contemplated my complete disinterest in the idea of binging on junk foods like I would have normally done, I wondered why exactly this behavior had no appeal to me whatsoever. Thinking of the shame I would experience if anyone I knew were to find out always seemed to just exacerbate the problem. No, this was something different. It was positive emotion that was guiding me. I finally settled on the idea that this newfound inspiration to turn away from negative behaviors stemmed from an overwhelming sensation of tenderness and self-love.

It’s been so long since I’ve really fancied someone enough to remember this feeling. Somehow being approved of by someone I really like always seems to flood me with not only the happiness of mutual admiration, but of self-acceptance. Everything seems so much more concrete and crisp when reflected back to you through another. And while I am still extremely grateful and happy for this rediscovered feeling, I am also somewhat upset by it.

Why do I need the attention and approval of someone else to finally love myself? I am still the same person I always was. I have always been deserving of this love. I have been trying (and mostly failing) to love myself for years and years now. No matter what I do, no matter how many positive affirmations I recite or automatic negative thoughts that I try to reframe, at the end of the day, I am always left with the idea that I’m simply not good enough yet to be worthy of my own love.

Yet someone I’ve only met twice comes along and suddenly I am capable of loving myself? Why? I doubt I’ll ever fully be able to understand it. Perhaps I am thinking about it too much. It feels like once again I’ve found myself trying to focus on the negative. True, I should love myself despite what anyone else in the world thinks of me, but I am still grateful for being given a helping hand towards that goal for the time being. Despite the initial catalyst for these positive thoughts and emotions, they are still much appreciated.

Photo by Samson Katt on Pexels.com

Money Maker

I’ve been drawing something every single day for around a year now. It has been a great habit to start. It helps me spend some time being playful and creative each day. The only issue I’ve encountered at this point is running out of ideas. Well, that and the ever-increasing stack of drawings I’ve started accumulating. In an attempt to think of some interesting drawing ideas, I came up with the idea to start doing drawings for the children I work with. A few people had suggested that I make a collection of my sketches into an adult coloring book. While this was a great idea, given that I don’t ever like to color my art, I didn’t feel much inspired to do so. After thinking on it for awhile, I decided I would feel more passionately about putting it together if it were a coloring book full of positive affirmations for children and teens.

One day early on in my career when I still felt very awkward about waiting with the children while my coworkers spoke with their parents, I decided to make a drawing for a little girl while she was busy playing. Even though I was too anxious to go join her or carry on a conversation, I didn’t want it to appear that I was cold or disinterested. So I did what I could, in my own socially awkward, anxious way. I drew a picture of a cute Japanese-style dragon with cherry blossoms around it. I added a banner that said: You deserve to be happy. Before she left I crouched down by her side and gave her the picture. I told her that I drew it especially for her while she was playing. I told her what it said and that I wanted her to always remember that and believe that it’s true. Even though it took a lot for me to build up the courage to do that, it was all worth it when I saw how happy it made her. She was so eager to show her mom. I can still hear her precious mousey voice saying, “Look mommy, she made this for me!”

Just thinking about that day makes me tear up. That experience is what inspired me to make more drawings with positive affirmations for kids. The first few I drew made me so happy and excited. I couldn’t wait to show my coworkers and see what they thought about the idea. I already knew they liked my art, but I really underestimated how much they would love this new endeavor. They immediately started talking about copyrights and publishing, selling them to therapists and other child advocacy centers, all the potential money there was to be made. They urged me not to do anything with them until I put legal protections in place. I was excited and flattered and more than a little embarrassed. I never know how to respond to praise or compliments. Soon those feelings began to fade, though. They were replaced by hesitation, regret, anxiety, and fear.

I went from making a new coloring page every day to once a week, to not at all. It feels as if all the passion behind this idea has drained out of me. Now whenever I think about it I become lost in a fog of copyright law, fees, plagiarism, business plans, and marketing. I had only been waiting for my coworkers’ approval before happily handing them over to each kid that came in. Now it seemed like a much longer wait was ahead of me before I could start giving them away. All I had been thinking about was being useful to my advocacy center, to the children I see every day. I was excited about how this gift would impact them, if the words on the page would some day make a lasting impact on their hearts and minds. However, dollar signs were first and foremost for everyone else.

Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful that my friends at work thought so highly of my art that they want me to protect it and make a profit from it. I’m sure they have no idea how this business advice left me feeling deflated and frustrated instead of proud. I never wanted to make any money off of this idea. My only desire was to make children happy, to introduce them to the power of intention, self-talk, and positive thinking. Now I feel pressured to secure my claim to these images before sharing them with the world. I feel pressured to come up with a way to profit from this work. I feel as though it would be stupid of me not to do these things. That others would think me stupid for not doing these things.

It reminds me of a study I read about once. One group of children was told to do a fun activity, then rate their enjoyment afterwards. Another group was told to do the very same fun activity, but with the added bonus that they would be paid afterwards. This group surprisingly rated their enjoyment much lower than the first, non-paid group. You see once money becomes a motivator, it becomes work rather than play. When you shift your focus from intrinsic motivation to extrinsic, a task becomes much less fulfilling. Making art to positively impact the lives of children, means a lot to me. Making art to make money, leaves me feeling empty.

It all comes down to caring too much about what other people think of my actions and decisions in the end. No one is forcing me to guard these drawings and add price tags. I am free to give them away whenever I see fit. The only thing holding me back is the opinions other people may have about that. But I’ve got to trust myself and hold on to the passion that led me to start this project in the first place. This was never about money or even what other adults would think about it. This is about helping children. This is about making small, vulnerable humans feel happy and loved. That is what motivates me. That is what sparks joy in my heart.

The Mirror of Yoga

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A yoga practice is quite often a reflection of the yogi’s inner life. Yoga has the potential to be a window into our personal struggles, fears, strengths, weaknesses, and much more. Even before I knew about the spiritual side of yoga, I could feel it changing the way I thought about and perceived the world as well as my place within it. Those who have a personal yoga practice as simply exercise or stretching like I once did, still can’t avoid the deeper impact and insight it provides.

It is a rare opportunity to go within, to be alone with ourselves, to notice the patterns of our own minds. Are we easily frustrated? Are we critical of ourselves at every turn? Is it hard to let go? Is it hard to be still? To remain focused on what’s in front of us? Can we learn to settle our minds, to use our breath? Yoga provides us with a chance to learn all of these things about ourselves. When we practice yoga, we are not only training the body. We are also training the mind.

I have noticed my own struggles reflected in my practice lately. It has felt like my safe haven recently, a way to escape from my reality. Yet yoga has a way of showing us things, even things we don’t want to see. Having an “escape” inevitably begs the question, why is one needed? Allowing my practice to be a shield from the rest of my life, has caused it to become rather stagnant. I feel stuck. Just as I do overall right now.

Our daily lives feed our practice just as much as our practice feeds into our lives. That vital loop has been severed for me for awhile now. It is hard to feel passionate, inspired, playful, or courageous in your practice when you aren’t able to feel that way day to day. It is hard to practice self-love, self-care, compassion, and ahimsa in a one hour vacuum. It is hard to teach from the heart, when you have been hiding your heart from even yourself.

Lately my practice, while always an enjoyable time of peace, rest, and rejuvenation, has felt like hypocrisy at the same time. I am isolating myself within my yoga, instead of allowing the nutrients of my practice to sate the gnawing pangs of my real life problems.

My yoga mirror has been showing me the reflection of my fear, my avoidance, my inertia. I am afraid to challenge myself. I am afraid that I won’t be able to rise to those challenges. I am afraid to fail, to fall. I have remained in one place for so long, not progressing in life, nor my asanas. Telling myself I can’t do it before I have even given myself the chance to try.

But I should know better. Because yoga has also taught me that there is no reason to be afraid. There is no reason to fear failure. Because even failure is not final. When you are learning to do a headstand, you are going to fall. A lot. If I had taken that first failure as proof I was incapable, my body would not be able to do any of the incredible things I’ve taught it to do. Yoga teaches us that failure is a necessary part of growth. When you fall, you laugh, get up, and try again. And with each fall, you learn something new. I need to engage my core more. I need to place my hands wider apart. I need to focus. I was holding my breath. Failure is not something to avoid, it is a valuable chance to learn vital information.

I want to use these lessons and the many others yoga has given me. I want to move forward in my practice, in life. I want to try new things. To be playful again, curious, excited. To laugh and learn and love myself despite my missteps along the way. No matter what happens, I know I’ll always have a safe place to rest. On the mat, and within. We all do.

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