Tag Archives: intuition

on creativity, intuition and making time

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“You should make books and sell them at the Farmer’s market!” said a co-commuter, as we were waiting for the train this morning.

I was bringing in a large unused canvas I had stashed in our shed to give to a coworker, and my commuter friend asked me, “Oh, do you paint?”

I explained what I was doing with the canvas, and how it had been some time since I’d devoted any time to painting on a canvas of this size. I asked her whether she did.

“I used to… in high school. I’d like to get back into it but I just don’t have the time to devote to it.”

This has got to be one of two of the most common phrases I hear in relation to art making. The other is something along the lines of “Oh, I’m not artistic.”

I told her that there were courses she could take online, and sent her a link to Flora Bowley’s website, even offered to lend her Flora’s “Brave Intuitive Painting” book.

Then, when she asked me (the inevitable question) whether I’d sold my work, I told her “Mostly, no.” I told her that I for the most part worked in a book these days, journal-style, so I showed her some photos, which elicited “Oh, you’re really good!” followed by the sentence I started this blog post with.

I am good. I know this. I can always get better, and practice does improve one’s skills. I know this too.

Here’s the thing. Not that many years ago I made a choice. I chose not to make a living through visual art.

I struggled with this for a long, long time. When I was at the top of my young life, it was something that I felt I was meant to do, but after I left art school without completing my degree, I began working in offices. It didn’t take me long to get mired down by debt. Then I married and a whole different lifestyle took center court.

A few years into motherhood, I decided to try to revisit the art-as-a-living thing and struggled for a while longer trying to figure out how to manifest this desire that sat in the pit of my stomach into something more tangible – something that would provide enough income to replace the one I was earning through other means.

I never did figure it out. I flailed – wildly – and in the end those aspirations were left behind, along with the rubble of a failed marriage.

Not the art, though.

When people claim “art saves lives” I can really get behind that phrase. It’s saved mine innumerable times, has been along with me on my life journey and has always provided refuge.

It’s provided a way for me to express the things roiling inside of me that I could not – did not even know how to – bring out in any other way.

The book I’m reading at the moment, A General Theory of Love by Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini and Richard Lannon, (all M.D.’s), had some interesting passages about the complex functioning of the limbic brain, and how human intuition works.

“As we move through the world we tend to presume that success comes from understanding. The brightness of rationality’s narrow beam makes this supposition nearly inescapable. “Reason is the substance of the universe,” Hegel crowed in an age when science still expected to explicate everything. But these memory studies have intuition leading comprehension by a country mile; they reveal our lives lit by the diffuse glow of a second sun we never see. When confronted with repetitive experiences, the brain unconsciously extracts the rules that underlie them. We experience the perceptible portion of this facility as a gathering pressure in the solar plexus, ready for use but defying description. Such knowledge develops with languorous ease and inevitability, stubbornly inexpressible, never destined for translation into words.”

On the following page they speak to how children learn language, but I find this very summative of the creative process as well:

“Every language is intricate, but is not chaotic; the underlying uniformities reveal themselves to the neural systems poised to pluck recurring patterns out of a sea of experience. […] Behind the familiar bright, analytic engine of consciousness is a shadow of silent strength, spinning dazzlingly complicated life into automatic actions, convictions without intellect, and hunches whose reasons follow later or not at all. It is this darker system that guides our choices in love.”

I believe that it is this same system, that when tapped into, provides me with the essence of my creativity. I’m pretty sure that’s where it comes from for all of us.

While I’ve moved from one art form (visual art) to another (writing), I notice that the way in which it comes into being is different, but not the place from which it derives. For me, the drive to create is innate and autonomic… something I must do.

I’ll close this meandering post with this: create (if you want to) if there’s something that crouches in your solar plexus that wants to be outwardly expressed.

If it feels right, sit with your body for a while and make room for the process to unfold in your life.

I have found that it is profoundly enriching, and even at times life-saving. A birthright.

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the cult of positivity

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I’m sure I’ve blogged about this topic before, or carried on about it on Facebook.

I see constant anecdotes and photos reprimanding us…

…that if we were grateful enough, we would never be lacking for anything

…that while we are blowing hot air about our particular misery du jour, others are taking their last breath

…that were we to count our blessings, we’d realize how damned lucky we are and stop that complaining shit stat

And I get it. Some people never stop complaining, even when every little thing in their lives is the way you or I would wish ours to be – they are still snivelling bags of misery (and that does, in fact, get old).

There are times, though, that even if you are fully cognizant of the fact that people are starving in Africa and you happen to be fortunate enough to have sufficient food in your pantry to feed a whole small third world village for a month, you still feel pretty down about the things that are happening in your life and being reminded of that tidbit of information does nothing to spike up your happy meter.

Instead you feel even shittier for having your “first world problems” in the first place, and feel guilty for being so (apparently) ungrateful for what you have.

Here’s the thing. Inner unrest is almost always a signal that your intuition is trying to tell you something.

Sometimes it’s because you have stopped listening somewhere along the way and are functioning on auto pilot without really paying attention to what you are doing.

Inner unrest niggles when the situation you are choosing to engage in goes against the grain of your fundamental values and principles, and you are choosing to ignore the little red flags that are popping up as you are going along because you’ve gotten so used to being comfortable in your discomfort.

Then there are times when we go through some major transitions in life, and while we humans are certainly equipped to deal with transitions (seriously… we would have died out millennia ago had we not been an adaptable species), our instant-presto society expects us to pop up like a freshly thawed toaster pastry mere days after something life-altering has occurred.

That can be even the good stuff… a promotion, a newly-tied knot, a long-desired move to a new place, the purchase of a new home… or the obviously less positive stuff… like losing a job, having to move without notice, the end of a relationship, health challenges, children moving out (i.e., an empty nest), the loss of a loved one (whether expected or not).

All change, to some degree, causes an anxiety reflex. Some of it merely heightens our awareness so that while we are in a new situation we adapt as quickly as possible – but it is exhausting, even if it is exhilarating.

The more painful sort of change grinds us into the ground and pulls us along by the ankles through the raw and painful grieving process. There is much out there on the different stages of grieving, so I won’t discuss it in detail here, but what I do want to note is that the process takes inordinately longer than any amount of time typically allotted for it by our western society.

People are patient for a week or two (if that), but after that if your performance isn’t back up to pre-trauma speed, patience with your process starts to dwindle and whatever progress you might have made in the interim is largely interrupted by the added pressure that is now placed upon you to be back to “normal” again. Many people either have never experienced grief before, or have conveniently forgotten what it was like to be in its throes – sort of like the purported denial of remembering childbearing pain.

The key to survival is to seek out qualified support to help you over that hump, because once the funeral is over, and the condolence notes stop coming in, or you are two months in to flying solo after a twenty year marriage, people forget that things were ever different, and that can be hugely difficult to deal with on top of the ongoing grieving.

Whether the life change is big or small (and it’s all individually relative), self-care becomes primordial to the survival of our hurting soul bits. In the end, these very same things are what help me keep my sanity even when shit isn’t hitting the fan.

So… what to do?

1. Schedule in time for your Self.
Learn to gauge to what point you can push yourself before a melt-down is impending. It will change over time, and it will be a trial and error process for a while. If you feel that once a month you need to work in a mental health day just to stay sane, plan it ahead of time. It will be something to look forward to and the break in your normal routine something that will be akin to that light at the end of the tunnel when you start down sliding. The waiting between breaks will help you build up resilience and allow for the incorporation of healthy coping mechanisms in the meantime, which will make everything go more smoothly. Determine what your daily, weekly, monthly needs are, and have an action plan.

2. Practice radical self-compassion.
Like it or not, things will not always go according to plan. Something might happen that will throw you off kilter despite your best efforts. You may not, on a daily basis, be functioning at 100%. One of the best takeaways for me from The Four Agreements (if you haven’t read it yet, I recommend it) is to do your best, whatever best means on any given day. On some days your best may just be to roll out of bed, get dressed and make it in to the office, while other days it will be to blaze through a week’s worth of work in a single afternoon. It may vary that drastically. Respect the variance. Respect your willingness to show up, in whatever capacity that you are able. Be gentle with yourself. Afford yourself the same compassion as you would extend to another in your situation. You deserve to be treated kindly, even by yourself.

3. Establish good boundaries.
People mean well… they do… but sometimes their “help” does more harm than good. Learn to be specific about your needs, if you ask for help with them, as well as to gracefully express when someone is triggering all of your defence mechanisms. Deftly extricate yourself from the situation or the ministrations and be sure to let them know to be more mindful of the way in which they communicate with you going forward. Relentlessly cut ties if they have a track record of not positively supporting you.

4. Have a support system in place.
Know who you can call on when you are on the verge of a melt-down. Have an escape route in place so that you can go some place private. If you are seeking the help of a professional counsellor, have your appointments set up on a regular basis in accordance with their advised schedule and make additional appointments if you feel you need them. If you need to be assisted chemically to find better balance, explore the most personally comfortable way in which to achieve it.

5. Spend some time, daily, checking in with yourself.
Whether that means doing it while sitting on a meditation cushion, as you move through the asanas in yoga class, during a walk around the block, while soaking in the tub or lathering up in a shower, when putting in miles on the treadmill at the gym, or at the table with your journal or art supplies. Make real or mental notes on how you feel, how you’ve improved in the last while and think about how you want to feel. Danielle Laporte’s The Desire Map helps siphon down our focus to what she calls our Core Desired Feelings and keeping those in mind while we do our inventory check can pull us back to center even when we’ve skidded off the road.

6. Nourish yourself.
That means feeding the body, mind and spirit, daily. Plan meals ahead so that you take the guess work out of daily cooking chores – chances are you will be eating more healthfully or regularly. Take vitamins and minerals as recommended by your physician. Spend some down time with a book, crossword puzzle or other mind-feeding endeavour. Honour and connect with your spirit, in whichever way you feel most comfortable.

7. Move.
Spend some time getting physical. I have found that when I’m hurting emotionally my tendency is to avoid being embodied. I become this untethered soul hanging on to my bodily connections by mere shreds. Exercise gets the endorphins pumping and even if my heart is heavy with grief, my body feels lighter after it’s been fully exerted.

8. Rest.
Fatigue is a by-product of depression and the carrying of the burden of stress. Without adequate rest the body simply can’t perform its regenerative functions, whether for the physical body, the mental body or the emotional body. Eight hours of sleep is the generally established minimum, but more may be required during more taxing times. Honour your body’s signals and allow it the rest that it needs to heal itself.

Enacting these things may take some effort, especially at first. I know that when I’m newly grieving, I’m like a dazed zombie and barely functioning. If you have someone close to you (a spouse or a partner) who can help you over the hump, you are ahead of the game. Otherwise you may well have to wait until the fog lifts before you will be able to begin fully implementing these self-care steps.

But for the love of all things holy, don’t let the bastards get you down… you are worthy… you are worthy… you are worthy.

Adriane xo