Creativity as a Practice, Might Save You from the Quar.

Twenty years ago, if you asked me if I was creative, I would have dismissed you with a joke, moved on, and found it entertaining that you had asked me such a thing. No part of me identified as a creative. Sure, I went through a gift basket stage and a collage stage, and when I look back on those times, I wonder if I was trying to access a sense of creativity without really knowing it. I know that I found those things to be soothing to my psyche. 

Today I see creativity everywhere, right down to how I define creativity. I am an “outside the box” thinker. While I want my outer-limits to be defined, I want total freedom to frolic within them as I choose. And I hate a plan. I like to make things up as I go. I am a thinker, for sure, and I love to imagine possibility. For me, creativity and freedom seem intimately linked. 

The Quar has taught me something. People who have a creative practice – handiwork, ideas, interior design, music, or stretching into something uncharted – are doing ok. 

People who come to me exhausted, unfocused, and stuck, are not accessing their creative genius in any way.

I’m no Sandy Cheeks, but it feels like this is more than coincidence.

As is the case with the ‘Rona, we are often powerless over the removal of the thing causing stress (ie: the stressor), but we can control how we manage it.

Bottom line, stress is caused by not acknowledging our emotional response to the thing to which we are responding (sounds like a riddle, huh?). 

For me, this looks like, “It is what it is!” Or “Everything happens for a reason!” The perspective can be helpful, but backfires if I don’t also acknowledge those feelings of frustration or fear or loneliness that accompany my experience of the ‘Rona.  

It is a global human experience to resist difficult emotions. We push them into the darkness of our bodies, where we can no longer see them, but where they continue to live. We don’t want them, so we will them away. But they aren’t actually away, and when under stress, those emotions leak into our conversations, our minds, and our hearts. Our families see them, even if we don’t.

Have you yelled at your kids or husband lately? Leakage. 

Been critical of people on Facebook about how they are managing their beliefs about the ‘Rona? Leakage. 

Reacted to a boss in ways that you wouldn’t have before? Leakage. 

These reactions to seemingly unrelated things, are triggers that show us that we have pushed something into the darkness that is wanting to be seen and dealt with.

What is the best way to do this?

Have an ongoing practice of stress-reduction that help to mitigate the emotions in the first place. 

Because stress lives in your mind, heart, and body, your practice will work best if it comes from those centers, as well. You have intelligence in each of these centers and when you access it, your decision-making, processing, coping, and overall well-being, will always come from your highest intelligence. It will come from the wisdom of your life experience and learning, from your intuition, and from your most authentic emotions. What could be wiser than that? Creativity accesses all three Centers of Intelligence.

Creativity Accesses All Three Centers of Intelligence.

Here are some examples:

Music: I work with someone who made a choice to take some time off from work last fall and when the ‘Rona struck, was completely depleted by the prospect of not going back to work on his timeline. He wasn’t all that social to begin with, but he found himself withdrawing from his family and sitting in front of the computer, playing games or endlessly looking at fantasy jobs. When he took out his guitar, something he hadn’t gone near in months, something opened up for him. He started to spend more time outside and found time to play with his two young children. He actually enjoyed playing with them. He recently found himself planning a backyard obstacle course in the snow and spending time on his computer creating programs. He credits the guitar as the thing that opened this up for him. 

Don’t play an instrument? Take one up. But know that even listening to music, particularly classical music, lowers the heart rate and pours oxytocin into the brain. Simply put, music, however it is accessed, will support a reduction in stress hormones and an increased sense of resilience.

Interior Design: I’ve painted a bedroom and a bathroom during the Quar. I’m about to start on a large family room. The family has had beautiful conversations about what we want, from colors, to design, and how much time is realistic, given my work schedule. Whether you are planning something with your family, or doing it solo, your neural pathways are opening themselves up to possibility as you choose paint colors, imagine the room the way you want it, and engage in the physical labor of repairing walls and painting a new room. 

Visual Art: I walked into my daughter’s room last week and found paper plates covered with paint and canvases with butterflies, flowers, and smiles. She isn’t a lover of the hybrid schooling and misses her friends. She wouldn’t describe herself as an artist, but she is stretching into something intuitively as a way of getting her emotions unstuck. Thinking outside of the box is second nature to a visual artist. They are discovering and stretching their brains and hearts with logic and skill and beauty. And yes, they are moving their bodies as they sculpt, paint, or sketch. 

I could keep going, but you get the idea. I have clients who dance, sew masks, engage in storytelling and writing projects, and who walk without a plan, a phone, or a map and let their natural intelligence guide them. All of these use the mind, heart, and body. 

Tired thinking about this? You aren’t adding something to your plate. You are excavating exhaustion and stress from your body. Creativity is a practice and it just might save you. 

How my “little” Yin practice has become a prescription for Joy.

I’ve been taking some Yin classes with my (high school!) friend, Ellen (@friendlyyogabeans/@ohyesIwouldgirl), and am noticing that this way of accessing the intelligence of my body….is the same way I am dipping my toe into the intelligence of my heart.

Ellen is the only person I’ve ever taken Yin from. I had no idea what I was getting into, but it was early in the Quar and I saw “yoga” and “Ellen Olson-Brown” and had to do it. Plus, she’s fun and funny and the timing worked.

What she says about the body during class is so powerful and I can’t help but compare it to the inner work I am being called to do in my heart right now, too.

Enneagram 7s (that’s me!) are thinkers, which we support with our intuition, but we can forget that our hearts exist. Our hearts are where our deepest longings live. It is where we are in touch with our emotion ~ our pain and our joy. We need all three centers of intelligence to be whole … and I have spent many, many years using about 2/3 of my intelligence.

Ellen says things like, “push yourself until you feel that tug, that edge, and then relax around it.”

My inner work calls me to push myself towards my heart in this same way.

I place some attention on my heart, notice what is there, and relax into it. The edge, for me, is just allowing it to be there. Nothing to do about it, nothing to judge. Just notice it.

And she says things like, “Sometimes the body tells us we feel pain, but it isn’t really pain, so allow it to be there for a bit, and notice what happens; it might shift, but it isn’t used to holding this edge like this and wants you to know.”

Yup. My heart sometimes tells me, “Hells, no. Don’t go there. That’s a danger zone. If you go in, you’ll never come out. You will be feeling for the rest of eternity and there is no way you can handle all that feeling. That’s for other folks.”

But what I do, is try it out for a moment. I put on a recording of a meditation that pushes me a bit, and I allow it to be there. Sometimes, I pull away, like I was touching a hot flame. Boy, I had no idea that was a lifelong habit. I have spent my life being afraid that if I feel too deeply, it won’t ever end. But sometimes I get willing and I allow it. I trust it.

And I hear Ellen saying, “We don’t want to release the tension in our muscles because we are afraid our bodies can’t handle it. But try it and see. Just give those muscles a chance.”

And so it is with my heart. It’s not so much that I don’t like to feel. I love to feel. But I want total control over when and how and how much and when it will all be over. So I just don’t go there, because that is awfully complicated for someone who moves about the world as fast as me. I really don’t have time. Emotion isn’t efficient. It doesn’t make sense (hear me escape to the logic of the 7?).

But when I do, when I allow it, with a recorded meditation, or not, I am teaching my heart that it recovers. It actually opens up. It reveals (literally 100% of the time) something really powerful and true that I’ve kept locked away. It might be a painful truth, and it often is, but it is a truth that frees me up. Something is learned, revealed, explored, or brought out of the shadows. 

Whatever it was, was always there. I put all my energy into avoiding it, resisting it, and being efficient, which exhausted me. Now, my exhaustion is a clue that I need to check in with my heart. I am not tired because of the world, I am tired because I resist allowing the world to impact my heart. Instead, I think my way through it. I make it logical. I reframe it. I look on the bright side. This is all a part of being a Type 7. But this isn’t true. There is pain in the world and we can hold that, too.

So where I was once afraid in my body, my Yin classes offer small, corrective experiences to teach my body what is possible in there. Those muscles don’t have to be tense. Relaxation is possible and healing for all those parts of my physical self. 

And by the way, Ellen always gives us permission to come out of the position if we don’t want to stay there …. Nothing is ever prescriptive, it is always a choice. 

Just like in my heart. If I offer it the opportunity to learn that when I “go there,” I can always come out. I can always decide that it feels like too much today and I can choose to come back to it tomorrow. I have choices here that I had no idea I’d have (and sometimes I hear myself getting stuck thinking I have none again).

Because I offer myself  these corrective experiences to learn that I can handle the heart center, that I can allow for what is there to be seen by the rest of me, each time it gets better. It gets easier to access and I see more. And I feel whole when I do.

That is true freedom. Wholeness is freedom. Welcoming it all is freedom. Seeing truth is freedom. Being able to freely feel pain, allows me to freely feel joy. Real joy. Not the fake, sugary, optimistic joy. But real, wholehearted joy. And like with Yin, if I don’t go to that edge and feel that “tug” of the pain, I don’t get the release into the joy, either.