(Editor’s Note: I met Gina several years ago at a writer’s group we both belonged to. Her new book is out this month, and well worth taking a look at. She wrote this article specifically for Boom This! Readers and added some helpful exercises which are much appreciated!)
For many of us, heaven meets earth through creative inspiration. We may not all be working artists, yet each of us was born with a creative soul. Along the way, part of it may have become shrouded, squelched, devalued, injured or ignored altogether. Too often, we’re forced to choose between our creative longings and everyday practicality. So, we deny that part of ourselves, linger through our days obliquely, and wonder why we feel bitter. The current flows around us and we slowly drown in our own life.
How do we save our creative spirit? In my new book, Everything Matters, Nothing Matters: For Women Who Dare to Live with Exquisite Calm, Euphoric Creativity and Divine Clarity, I suggest seven steps that offer a pathway back into your creative heart. Here is a brief explanation of these seven concepts, along with simple exercises that you can do anytime, anywhere.
The act of setting intentions -- instead of goals -- can be very powerful and effective. Here is the difference between the two: having a goal is like tying up a care package with string and sending it for delivery to a specified address. Intention is more like being on the other end of a delivery, with or without knowing its sender or contents. An intention-based life is approached, always, with optimism that gifts are arriving all the time. As the recipient, we are only responsible for signing for the package, unraveling the string and accepting the gift.
Exercise: Write a short poem or catch phrase that reminds you of your greatest intention for yourself and your life. It can be anything at all -- no rules apply here. An example: “He who dies with the most joy wins.” Post this saying on your bathroom mirror, computer workstation or refrigerator.
2. DAILY PRACTICE
The second step is to allow time to be still and quiet, such as meditation or another daily practice that opens you to a direct experience with the Creator. In doing so, you’re nurturing the creative part of yourself and bringing it to the forefront.
Exercise: Choose a simple daily (or regular) routine that connects you to Spirit: cut flowers or herbs in your garden, read the Bible or other sacred text, take a morning walk or do gentle yoga stretches. Afterwards, allow the energy to carry you into a mood of contemplation. Go about your day. If this mood fades, return to doing something that reconnects you -- even if it’s just taking a few deep breaths or glancing at artwork that inspires you.
3. PAYING ATTENTION
Intention, when combined with attention, enables us to become wildly generative receptacles through which creativity flows. When you stay in the present moment, as Eckhart Tolle says in his Oprah-chosen book, A New Earth, miracles begin to show themselves in the form of inspiration.
Exercise: Our voice is our song that we sing to the world. Pay attention to your song -- meaning, how you say things, and the literal meaning of them. Years ago, I chose to replace the word “deadline” with “lifeline”-- which better reflects how I feel about meeting my work assignments. Play with making up words to express what you’re feeling. When I saw a group of dolphins in Hawaii, I got so excited that I blurted out to my son, “What an endolphin rush!” What words can you replace or invent that more adequately intend what you want to create in your life?
4. TURNING WITHIN
Sooner or later in our creative journey, we have to put aside external modes of inspiration -- whether it’s reading, taking workshops, relying on our loved ones to motivate us -- and simply listen to what our inner voice is saying. All of the three steps mentioned so far (Intention, Daily Practice and Paying Attention) aid us in hearing more clearly the voice of our own creativity.
Exercise: As we turn within, we may have a tendency to look back at certain situations with regret or remorse. We all make mistakes. Guess what? That’s a good thing. In fact, nothing is as successful as a string of mistakes. Our alleged errors help us refine ourselves. Creativity is about change and experimentation; trial without error is unlikely, and constraints hamper creative flow. Do a meditation in which you forgive yourself for your mistakes (which are really gifts of insight in disguise). Going forward, allow yourself to have greater tolerance of mistakes -- yours and others.
5. WORKING WITH A MENTOR
At certain times in our lives, having a mentor can be very useful -- especially after we’ve gotten to know ourselves better and what we want by turning within. Now is the time to reach out and gain support for your creative endeavors -- either with a specific teacher, a master’s class or community-based group.
Exercise: One option is to form a small circle of compatible folks who collectively intend to inspire and challenge one another. Begin by answering the question: In what way do I want to grow right now? Establish some simple ground rules and be creative by opting to go on outings or ending your circle with something fun --like chocolate all around….mmmmm.
When we become practiced at paying attention, we naturally begin to move into a space where we can impartially survey, as if from a distance, what is happening around us and to us. In Zen Buddhism, this state is called satori; to the earliest Christians, the term was gnosis -- realizing direct knowledge. I like to think of it as our consciousness becoming conscious of itself, which results when we are fully present in every moment of our lives.
Exercise: Travel not only teaches us about other places, it can lead us inward to a richer understanding of who we are. When we change our environment and leave our comfort zone, we learn varied rules, boundaries and tolerances. Anything can happen: from a lost set of eyeglasses to crime and even warfare. Because our antenna is up when traveling, it increases our capacity to be present and witness people, places and situations. Take a trip to a place you’ve never been sometime in the next few months -- even if it’s yet-to-be discovered place in your own neighborhood -- and explore witnessing.
Creativity in its highest form is this: the outward expression of our internal beauty, revealed through our chosen endeavors. All work that is truly inspired emanates from a pure connection to two things: the deepest truth that your soul yearns to express and the highest devotion to rebirthing Creation through your self. That is what these seven concepts lead us towards -- being able to integrate our creative longings with how to best express them and where they might be most practical and useful in the world.
Exercise: To successfully integrate, we first need to clear the lower emotions of guilt, shame and remorse. Is there someone you need to forgive? Mend the fence. Does someone deserve your forgiveness? Build a bridge. As A Course in Miracles says, “Today it’s time to practice forgiveness. Every tomorrow will profit from it.”
You, too, can savor the experience of awakening more fully into your creative heart. If you consistently experiment with these seven concepts, you will eventually succeed in creating a gift for yourself beyond price: You will know who you are, with the freedom to be it. And you will know what you want, with the daring to go for it.
By Gina Mazza Hillier
Gina Mazza Hillier is a freelance journalist, editor, writing consultant, dance enthusiast and advocate of living with creative abandon. She is a partner and founder of Epiphany Works, LLC, a Pittsburgh-based inspired event planning company that creates public entertainment and forums of inquiry to celebrate and integrate world cultures and spiritual traditions. Everything Matters, Nothing Matters: For Women Who Dare to Live with Exquisite Calm, Euphoric Creativity and Divine Clarity (St. Lynn’s Press, April 2008, ISBN: 978-0-9767631-8-5, $17.95) is available at bookstores nationwide and major online booksellers. Visit www.EverythingmattersNothingmatters.com to read an excerpt and learn about Gina’s media appearances and book signings. In addition to EMNM, she is the co-author of Romancing with Future (Findhorn Press, 2008) and The Highest and The Best (Xlibris, 2000). Gina can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit www.Ginawriter.com, www.epiphanyworks.org or http://museyoucanuse-gina.blogspot.com