Animals and Nature, Awakening, creativity, gratitude, Inspiration, Mindfulness and Meditation

What to do when you feel so uninspired

Whenever I think I have nothing left to write, when I feel so uninspired, I make myself move.  And in the cold, icy days of winter, I am not exaggerating when I say that I have to coerce myself into taking a walk outside.

I think of Wordsworth, the Romantic poet, who legend has it would stride across the English moors for hours, in all kinds of weather, finding there the tranquility and inspiration for his poetry.

Movement and nature – at the very least they offer a way to prevent our creative energy from stagnating, and at their best a doorway to infinite inspiration.

It makes sense that Wordsworth would hike, long and often, if his many, beautiful creative works are anything to go by – stirring the pot, moving from yin (passive receptivity, waiting for inspiration to knock down your door) to yang (moving to greet or to seek inspiration).

So on one of my last walks, stirring the yang with dogged determination (a beautiful blue sky, sun on the snow and frigid temperatures– my cheeks red, my nose and eyes watering, yet somehow sweating my way up the hills in my big, down-filled winter coat) and thinking of Wordsworth (as you do), I notice how inspiration almost always comes to me within the first five minutes of my walk, it starts before I’ve even crested the hill…and along the river it unfolds in my mind. And I smile.

I used to worry that I would lose the idea, that I should rush home to write it down – but even when there is a delay between the inspiration and the writing, the words always come back to me.

Perhaps that is the nature of inspiration – it is not springing from my mind but entering my mind from a divine source that does not rely on my thinking mind or my memory – it only needs my willingness to receive…to enter back into a yin state like a fluid dance, to open myself to inspiration through a willingness to move my body and to quiet my mind.

I confess that Wordsworth was never my favorite Romantic poet – as a student I found him too flowery, too earnest, too…cheesy (I prefer Blake or Coleridge).  But he has helped me here in some tangible way, for the Romantics held all of nature dear, in the face of the Industrial Revolution that saw the countryside depopulated, and the rise of science with it’s relentless rationalizing of the natural world –  in their writing they offered us daffodils, a grain of sand, an abbey in the moonlight.

They knew what was being overlooked, lost, and forgotten…they saw nature through the eyes of love and wonder.

They were humbled by her beauty and they spoke for her against the great noise and machinery of progress.

On this walk I imagine Wordsworth, I imagine how- had he lived in Ontario- he may have written in his elegant hand about the humble Humber River that flows near my home.  I take joy -as I am certain he also did- in the movement of my body through the fields, in simply being outside in the cold air, among the trees, next to the swift-moving but silent river full of fresh snow.

In the midst of this natural beauty I am glimpsing the never-ending winding stream of time that brings us all back here – to a moment of movement, vision and eternal stillness.

A perfect present moment under the sky, where hope and inspiration lost are found, where:

I listen’d, motionless and still;
And, as I mounted up the hill,
The music in my heart I bore,
Long after it was heard no more.
– William Wordsworth, from The Solitary Reaper

 

 

Animals and Nature, Authenticity, Awakening, Joy

How to work with joy by giving up this one odious habit

“Comparisons are odious.”  -Popular fourteenth-century saying

Lately, I have been comparing.  Comparing myself to others, in a range of areas including but not limited to: how I look, what I am wearing, how far my leg stretches compared to the woman beside me in yoga class (because THAT’S what yoga’s all about, right there), who has more “likes” on Facebook, who is doing more seminars, who has an “in” with Oprah.

It is a distraction, it is a form of self-sabotage, it is odious.

I am certain of this not just because of how comparisons make me feel (small, miserable, defeated) but because of an experience I had last year with a hawk. Since moving to a small town in Ontario twelve years ago, I have delighted in almost weekly sightings of red-tailed hawks.  Their power and grace in flight enthrall me, and I am filled with joy whenever I see one.

So naturally I was drawn to reading “H is for Hawk” by falconer Helen Macdonald, about her experience of coming to terms with her father’s death through the acquisition of a fierce goshawk named Mabel and her struggles to tame and train her to hunt. The book jacket has it right: “it is a beautiful story about the hard-won trust between hawk and human.”

As I finished reading this book, I actually sighed with sadness and thought to myself: “This book is so beautiful, I will probably never write anything this good, or have that kind of relationship with a hawk.” In short, I was jealous of Helen.

Instead of celebrating the profound relationship that developed between her and Mabel, and being grateful that she shared this story with the world, and that it came into my hands, I was sad because I was comparing.

Comparison is the thief of joy. -Theodore Roosevelt

I felt like less. As if her words could diminish mine. As if her experience could diminish my own experience with and love for the hawk and all of nature.

Very shortly after finishing the book and the work of making myself feel like crap, I went downstairs and was standing at my kitchen sink looking out the window when a red-tailed hawk flew right past the window and landed on a fence post about 20 feet directly in front of me!

YES.

The hawk’s back was to me and as she perched she spread her wings out wide and flared her red tail feathers, before speeding off after her prey.

In that moment I was profoundly humbled.

And so I am not too proud to tell you that I burst into tears and although I was weeping, I certainly wasn’t miserable.

I felt redeemed.

I felt the weight of all those comparisons lifted from me and knew that the hawk, in the face of my self-doubt, had shown up to remind me of my worth and my work. To bring me back to joy.

As often as I can, I return to that moment of communion with the hawk to help me rise up from the shadow land of comparison, to help me focus on my own inner journey and not on what others may or may not be doing or working on or achieving.

It keeps me from letting comparisons bleed the joy out of my life.

It keeps me moving forward even when it’s hard, when my darkest thoughts tell me I will never be as good as or as committed as or as brave as…when comparison makes me want to quit.

Instead of giving up on our work and our dreams, we must learn to give up the habit of comparing ourselves to others.

I can look back now and see that there were times in my life when I gave up a project and even a dream because I felt that there was someone else doing it better, that I shouldn’t even try because my best efforts would fall short, or that my idea wasn’t as good as theirs.

For me the hawk is a light in that storm of defeating mind-chatter and I can trust her to bring me home to myself and to joy in my own work every time, and for that I am filled with love and gratitude.

If you feel trapped in the joyless, odious cycle of living by comparisons, I can help.

I know the terrain well and I can attest that once we learn to abandon our habit of comparing, instead of abandoning our dreams, we can more fully awaken to what calls us with a sense of joy, confidence, and renewed purpose.

Shona

Animals and Nature, Authenticity, Awakening, Women's Work

Quiet the Voice of Fear

“Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear” George Addair

This week I have been a true student of procrastination.

I recently embraced minimalism and decided that before I can possibly be expected to sit down and write something meaningful the kitchen drawers must be de-cluttered.  The linen closet pared down (how many hand towels do we really need?!).  I asserted that a clear and uncluttered work space opens the door to clear and uncluttered thinking…yet I knew I was just avoiding the hard work of putting my butt in the chair and writing.

You could argue, as I did for all the hours I spent cleaning out my walk-in closet, that “this is good – I am making space for creative energy, I am letting things go so that new ideas and opportunities can enter into my life, my mind, my soul….so it must be ok then, right?”

What I was doing this week was in fact a mini version of what I have been doing for most of my life.

Working at jobs that seemed “good”, productive, especially when I worked for a not for profit, I told myself “I am doing good things, how can this be bad?”.  And yet all the while there was this nagging feeling, growing more and more powerful in me, that I was avoiding the real work that needed to be done.  Work that only I could do and yet it seemed so hard to turn myself to it.

If you listen to the voice of fear you’ll hide from the real work of your life and miss out on the challenges and the joy awaiting you, just on the other side of fear.

The work I’m talking about is this work, the work of embracing my true calling and helping other women to awaken to their own true life purposes.

The reason I clean and de-clutter is out of fear.  The fear of using my gifts, however humble.  The fear that no one will understand.  The fear of failing in my work AND the fear of succeeding.

Thanks to this week, my fear is now crystal clear, with a honed edge, it has become a weapon in my hands.  In the face of this fear, I have in fact been incredibly hard on myself, heaping criticism on myself, berating myself for a lack of commitment, lack of discipline, lack of work ethic and vision.

I am lazy.

I am a coward.

As I scoured and scrubbed the surfaces of my home, I left myself not one measly scrap of compassion.

Then, in a moment of quiet clarity, I was reminded of what Byron Katie says in her book Loving What Is: “No one can hurt me, that’s my job”.  I seem to be very good at this part of the job.

I suspect you are too.

No one has ever said to me out loud the hurtful things that I have told myself in my head. We are our own worst enemies – and so the house is clean, and I feel like a turd.

All around me though, if I remember to look, is the calm, grounding support of the natural world.  All week, in my yard (more de-cluttering) or on walks, I was joined by one or more raucous blue jays.  The blue jay is noisy and hard to ignore.

So finally, I listened.

Blue Jay presents the challenge of not showing up as your authentic self, or in fact of not showing up at all.  So the Blue Jay, with his blue crown of feathers, asks if we want to be a pretender to the throne, or to develop the innate royalty that was always, already ours.

Our “royalty” lies in the unique, divinely given gifts we each have and are asked to take up and gift back to the world.  That’s where our true power lies, in authenticity, and he reminds us of the proper use of our power.

He shows you that the choice is always yours to make.

For years I was a pretender and the sight of a Blue Jay would create a kind of anxiety in me…as if I could hear him loudly telling the world that I was an impostor in my own life.  This lasted only so long as I denied the true expression of who I was and stifled the desire to do the healing work I yearned to do.

There is always another closet to clean out, another pot to wash, another task that needs doing.

In stillness, and especially in nature, you can quiet the voice of fear and hear the call to awaken.

Hear the voice of love speaking to you in birdsong…asking you to bring forth your authentic power for all to see.

If you’d like to explore how self-criticism, doubt and compulsive de-cluttering may be keeping you from answering the deepest yearnings of your soul, I am here to help.  We can walk this path together, I’ve been there, and I’m ready when you are.

 

Blue Jay

Lend me your fearless flight, your confident power, your startling blue

Lend me wisdom to take on the responsibility that comes with walking a path with heart

The path that calls from a higher self, a divine wisdom

Lend me your laughing heart, your bounding joy as you soar from branch to branch with your brothers

Lend me your voice in blue to tell of the way

To tell of the one who will be crowned in all her glory at the end of the day

When the choice is made to take up the gifts we have been given and gift them back to the world

Our power made manifest in service to our souls

 

It’s time to quiet the voice of fear,

Shona