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“Recovering a Sense of Abundance”

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What would a nontoxic god think of my creative goals?

I am exploring and experiencing my fluid understanding of a creator, creative abundance, and money. I’m halfway through Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and this weeks topics are challenging in many, many ways. Too many times I have made decisions based on what I thought what I was supposed to do and completely ignored what I truly wanted to do. Where does that come from? Likely it has something to do with ideas about behaving in ways to please a Creator. Is it really necessary to think of our God as a paternalistic authority? What if what I wanted to do was what I was supposed to do, even if it wasn’t sensible? What if it would have cost me money?

What if Shakti Gawain is right in saying,

“The more we learn to operate in the world based on trust in our own intuition, the stronger our channel will be and the more money we will have.”

What if Julia Cameron is right in saying,

“Looking at creation, it is pretty clear that the creator itself did not know when to stop. There is not one pink flower, or even fifty pink flowers, but hundreds. Snowflakes, of course, are the ultimate exercise in sheer creative glee. No two alike. This creator looks suspiciously like someone who just might send us support for our creative ventures.”

What if Paul Hawken is right in saying,

“Always leave enough time in your life to do something that makes you happy, satisfied, even joyous. That has more of an effect on economic well-being than any other single factor.”

Last week, I shared the ambitions I have for the year ahead. And just like I have said in previous posts, sometimes writing and sharing ideas is what makes them become true. At times, abundance seems to arise out of the little bits we give into the universe. It is up to us to think in terms of abundance rather than scarcity.

Yes, I know that is starting to sound like economics. For me the only way to learn economics was to learn from a Bateson. I wrote a little about my favorite people that I’ve never meet on one of my first entries. Anthropologist Gregory Bateson and his daughter Mary Catherine Bateson are social theorists that see productivity (of any kind) depends on the discovery of new forms of flexibility. In Composing a Life, Mary Catherine Bateson explores the human engagement in two distinctly different economies: The economy of finite resources and an economy of flexible and expanding resources.

A system that relies on finite resources is based on scarcity. In every day human life, activities are competing. All exchanges become zero-sum games. “If I go to the grocery store, then I can’t spend my afternoon with my creative endeavors.”  “If I put off buying those supplies I wanted, then I can pay that bill.” The logic of Ifs and Thens require us to approach the most important aspects of life sensibly. We spend our time saying, “if only” and “I wish I could __________________”

Cameron reminds us, “Creativity is not and never has been sensible. Why should it be? Why should you be?”  But how many times have we said, I’d like to do the creative things I love, but….

The other system of economics in which everyday life unfolds relies on flexible and abundance resources.  Activities are mutually enhancing. In the economics of expanding resources, the more you give the more you get. The games are no longer zero-sum. They become win-win. In this system, our energy does not just come from food and rest, but from using energy. We gain energy by exercising or having lively dialogue with a friend. We gain more by allowing more to happen in our lives—by allowing ourselves to become unstuck. In order to truly embrace the dynamics of this system, we must be willing to give ourselves the things we need to function at our best. Too often we let fear and guilt deprive us of the joys and luxuries that we so deeply want.

I want to encourage you to try something.

If you didn’t fill in the blank in the “I wish I could” statement, please do so.

Now put whatever it was you wished for in a new phrase. “I wish to ______________.”

Does it sound different? Does it feel different?  Do you think perhaps our creator hears it different?

I suppose God has the Internet, because God must be reading my blog. I cannot begin to describe the degree to which I have been experiencing abundance in the past week. I’ve been allowing myself to meditate, write, and read in ways that work for me. I’ve sold two books, had orders for jewelry, met a local writer, found opportunities for part-time teaching, got involved in an awesome artistic and instructional collaboration for the North Dakota Junior Duck Stamp Program, started working on a (paid) grant project, was asked to serve on four grant review panels this spring, made an amazing connection with one of my readers, and had some great phone conversations. I rearranged and decorated an office for myself. I designed five new jewelry styles. I made my bed in the morning. I did the dishes at night.

The speed in which all of this has happened in just a few days is startling. But, I know I could not experience this abundance if I had not made the choice to give myself the luxury of time.Beautiful morning

of wine and wisdom

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Some people have a tendency to avoid the opportunity to enjoy themselves. With quite irrational reasoning, they are convinced that they don’t really deserve it, want it, or need it, they are afraid the let go and share themselves with others, or they are certain that something bad will happen. I am one of those people. My upbringing influences this tendency to deprive myself of good times. But in the rare chance that I let go, the latter reasoning runs pretty strong, especially if enjoying myself involves alcohol.

Living in small town, there really isn’t a whole lot to do when it comes to date nights. My husband has tried to encourage me more than once to go out to the local establishment for dinner and a drink. But the moment I hit the door, my sensory alarms go off—fried food, cheap beer, stale smoke, dim lighting, classic rock—the entire feeling of a bar tells me that this is NOT a place that I want to be. It tells me that this feels like a place that something “bad” could easily happen. I have a very low tolerance for drama. I’m one to cut right through bullshit and tell everyone involved how they are wrong. I’ve been there too many times. So I opt to stay home, where I can cook up just about anything that we can’t get in town and enjoy drinks in a comfortable space.  But still, young parents need date nights! What’s a girl to do?

549356_115586761905745_246648430_nI have been slowly tuning into the local community activities and events. I have been hearing an increasing rumble about wine tastings that are going on every two months or so. I figured that would be a different atmosphere, and while I regrettably know very little about wine (a shameful confession of a self-proclaimed foodie) I might just find some folks to fit in with.  I have an allied relationship growing with the one who oversees the wine club and tasting events. So, I was sure it wouldn’t seem completely foreign and I had a pretty good sense that at least one person likes me enough to be glad I had come.

We arrived fairly early, which is completely out of character for me… but seeing as our babysitter was there, the kids were ready for us to go, and we only had to walk 2 ½ blocks, being early only seemed logical. The atmosphere was so elegant, with tables set up in bistro fashion. But, the feeling was casual. And even though I missed the hidden step in the seating area TWICE, I felt comfortable with being me and meeting other people. This event was a special one in the works, in that only one wine was featured, a common table wine from Spain. But, the wine was used to make three very different drinks. Kalimotxo, Mulled Wine, and Sangria.

After sampling all three, we were entitled to a full glass of one of the featured wines or a selection from the bar. Since this experience is about trying new things, I opted for a selection from the bar and had Vinho Verde.  We returned to our seats (and yes, that is when I stumbled down the hidden step for the second time!) and chatted for a while. Then my husband left to get another selection from the bar and GASP! I was alone. I gathered up some courage and went over to a crowded table of ladies who were busy chatting and giggling to introduce myself.

I felt like the awkward high school girl approaching the popular table. I suddenly became aware of my lack of self-esteem. Little did that inner critic, full of cynicism and lies, know it was about to get a jolt of a lifetime.

In some of my previous posts, I have eluded to the dysfunctional families in which I grew up. I use the plural form of family because the two sides were so extremely different from each other, that it is no wonder I often felt bipolar. But as I learn more and more, I see that fundamentalism and alcoholism are not that different from each other.

The denomination of Bible Believers Baptist that predominately influenced my understanding of spirituality had some very distinct “rules” when in came to women, family, and obedience. The underlying theme of self-sacrifice was apparent in the dressed down “modesty”, the simplicity of wool and denim fashion, and the common mannerisms that made me feel like I was going to burn in hell for using the slightest element of slang. Dancing was a path to temptation and drinking is not even spoken of. I learned that as humans we are worth nothing without the light of Jesus to guide us. I learned that any other version of spiritual understanding that did not align with the gospel of God’s word was as good as evil. I learned that it was my responsibility to help those who were lost on the path of life become saved. That is an overwhelming amount of responsibility for a child to bear. Especially, when deep down I wasn’t comfortable with living the way of life that was set before me.  I could not accept the rhetoric that said enjoying oneself led to the temptations of Lucifer, that being submissive to men is the best place for women, and that disregard to the worldly things will bring eternal happiness in the glory of heaven. Amid the promises, something was missing. Something very important was missing.

And the same thing was missing on the other side of the spectrum.

In alcoholic systems the rules were more complicated, they were not written. In the mind of a child, they felt something like this—life is miserable, drinking makes it bearable. But don’t drink too much and don’t get angry, because that is when things get broken and people get hurt. And don’t ever tell anyone else if that happens, because we don’t talk about our mistakes. Don’t call the police, because someone will get taken away. Don’t state the obvious. Don’t try to ask for anything to change. Never ever try to argue with someone who is drunk. I could have easily fallen into that trap as well: as humans we are not worth the possibilities of life, being destructive is the only way to maintain control, and silence is the only way to ensure that no one gets hurt.

Now that you know the rules, lets go back to the wine tasting event, shall we? I was approaching the table of ladies, feeling nervous, scared, and certain that something was about to go wrong. Instantly, I connected to a woman who has lived here in town just a little less than myself. We shared a little about ourselves, talked about the wines we liked (or maybe didn’t like so much), we joked about how bad we were at organizing and maintaining a routine. I teased my husband—“If I ever have her over for afternoon tea, I’ll be in trouble… the house will never get clean!” She chimes in, “Yes, but we would have a wonderful time! And that is what is most important to me is the relationships and the connections.”

That was what was missing in the dichotomies of my early existence, the value of relationships! That’s why I studied anthropology and ecology! That’s why I fell in love with my husband! That is what I wrote my thesis about! That is what kept me going when I was burning out! THE VALUE OF RELATIONSHIPS! Even more, the value of myself in relationships! I still want to scream it to the world and drown that cowering self-esteem forever.

The rules have changed. The rules never applied. I didn’t believe in them, but I was still grossly in tuned to them. What shattered all this in the moment was not just what this woman said, but who she was. She had come to our town to serve as the pastor at a church, she had worked as a missionary in Japan, she was drinking wine, she valued relationships, and she was beautiful and vibrant. She did not preach to us. She appreciated us for who we were. I wanted to hug her at that point. (And maybe would have if I had one more glass of wine.) She gave me another version of reality that I didn’t fully realize was possible. She gave me permission to enjoy myself and my own spirituality, in a way that worked for me.

We walked home, unchilled by the subzero temperatures, enlivened by the world around me, and holding on to the words that kept me afloat as I bounced between dysfunctional extremes. Grandpa Pepper would tell me, almost every time I saw him, “You are so special to me, Rachel. God made you special because he loves you.” I didn’t understand how that would all work out when I couldn’t foresee myself going down the paths ahead of me, but it gave me a secret weapon against that inner critic of mine, some bit of truth that I could believe in. And even now, as I am getting more and more comfortable with being myself and sharing that true self with the world, Grandpa’s words remain in my heart. I am worth something. I am something worth sharing.

“Recovering a Sense of Integrity”

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It has been a rocky road that I have been traveling on. I have passed the familiar landmarks and feel as though I am perched on the edge of the rabbit hole. I feel a great sadness for all that I have lost along the way, but more than anything I feel fear of what I am to do next, what is down this road, and whether or not I am ready. Fear grows like a weed, choking out the acceptance of possibility and putting in roots that take the form of illusion and denial. I broke it off with denial some time ago, but its idiosyncrasies remain like a thick resin. I try desperately to scrub it off, unaware of what is yet to shine underneath.

I’m not so certain that these emotions and images have as much to do with my current position on my life path as I portray them to. I think they have been there for sometime, but I have become too comfortable with keeping them silent. My weeks continue with Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. She is not a fool. She knows too well that people who have neglected their creativity have been ignoring so much more, something waiting to be encountered.

“Art lies in the moment of encounter: we meet our truth and we meet ourselves; we meet ourselves and we meet our self-expression. We become original because we become something specific: an origin from which work flows.”

She knows that we have developed habits that enable us to continue ignoring the bits of ourselves that desperately need to be heard. That’s why this week my assignment is to undergo reading deprivation. Yes that’s right, no reading.

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Cameron explains,

“For most artists, words are like tiny tranquilizers. We have a daily quota of media chat that we swallow up. Like greasy food, it clogs our system. Too much of it and we feel, yes, fried. It is a paradox that by emptying our lives of distractions we are actually filling the well. Without distractions, we are once again thrust into the sensory world. With no newspaper to shield us, a train becomes a viewing gallery. With no novel to sink into (and no television to numb us out) an evening becomes a vast savannah in which furniture— and other assumptions— get rearranged. Reading deprivation casts us into our inner silence, a space some of us begin to immediately fill with new words— long, gossipy conversations, television bingeing, the radio as a constant, chatty companion. We often cannot hear our own inner voice, the voice of our artist’s inspiration, above the static. In practicing reading deprivation, we need to cast a watchful eye on these other pollutants. They poison the well. If we monitor the inflow and keep it to a minimum, we will be rewarded for our reading deprivation with embarrassing speed. Our reward will be a new outflow. Our own art, our own thoughts and feelings, will begin to nudge aside the sludge of blockage, to loosen it and move it upward and outward until once again our well is running freely. Reading deprivation is a very powerful tool— and a very frightening one. Even thinking
about it can bring up enormous rage. For most blocked creatives, reading is an addiction. We gobble the words of others rather than digest our own thoughts and feelings, rather than cook up something of our own.”

The first two days were interesting, kind of like getting orientated to new surroundings. No reading books, articles, and blogs. I kept my email and social media to a minimum. On Christmas Day, I gave myself leeway as I perused the cookbooks that we unwrapped from under the tree. Today was the hardest. I wanted that tranquilizer. I wanted that little piece of imagined peace to envelope me and give me some sort of false promise of what the future holds. As if anyone or anything really knew.

Tomorrow, I know not what to expect. I guess it is during this point when we find ourselves in the dark that we are holding the hand of faith, and with it we shall overcome the fear.

going sane

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going sane

The past two weeks have not been very good for me in terms of health. I’ve spent most of my hours resting and getting plenty of fluids. When I could, I would read, write, draw, or do some online shopping. At night when I couldn’t sleep I would do some meditation practice. I did everything I could to take care of myself, to allow myself to heal.

In the same way, I found that I was taking care to continue nurturing my creative core. This is a process I made a commitment to in my post what matters most. I continued reading Julie Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I continued my morning pages as well as most of the other tasks I described in “Recovering a Sense of Safety.”  The major exception was the last one, which required me to take a brisk 20 minute walk with my inner artist. Rain check please.

I had some illuminating and strange dreams as well as some valuable reflections. Overall, I learned that my creative core was pleased to be taken care of. Much like a child who has been told shush a few too many times, my creativity had been sitting back and watching, testing the waters now and then, and feeling a bit scared about being asked to come forward and play. Even being under the weather, I would say I did good to make steps in my first week of creative recovery. Image

So, I shall move on to week 2, “Recovering a Sense of Identity.” Cameron discusses that once we’ve fashioned a safe place for our creativity to be present, it is up to us to maintain that safety by respecting ourselves in healthy ways. Sometimes during this process we will feel as though we are going insane. In actuality, we are going the other way. We are going sane. Much of the chapter has to do with dysfunctional relationships and behaviors that enable us to keep our creativity subdued. This is such a sticky process, because some such relationships can be disguised. She explains,

“Be very careful to safeguard your newly recovering artist. Often, creativity is blocked by our falling in with other people’s plans for us. We want to set aside time for our creative work, but we feel we should do something else instead. As blocked creatives, we focus not on our responsibilities to ourselves, but on our responsibilities to others. We tend to think such behavior makes us good people. It doesn’t. It makes us frustrated people.”

Reading this section might have been a lot harder for me if I hadn’t spent the past couple of years reading about codependence and addiction recovery. But it really did make me realize that so much of my life consisted of me doing things I didn’t really want to do. What a dreadful feeling that was.

This week’s tasks are designed to provide strength to set and respect personal goals and boundaries.

  • Every morning and night read these basic principles. Bet alert for attitudinal shifts.
    • Creativity is the natural order of life. Life is energy: pure creative energy.
    • There is an underlying, in-dwelling creative force infusing all of life— including ourselves.
    • When we open ourselves to our creativity, we open ourselves to the creator’s creativity within us and our lives.
    • We are, ourselves, creations. And we, in turn, are meant to continue creativity by being creative ourselves.
    • Creativity is a gift to us. Using our creativity is our gift back.
    • The refusal to be creative is self-will and is counter to our true nature.
    • When we open ourselves to exploring our creativity, we open ourselves to the creator: good orderly direction.
    • As we open our creative channel to the creator, many gentle but powerful changes are to be expected.
    • It is safe to open ourselves up to greater and greater creativity.
    • Our creative dreams and yearnings come from a divine source. As we move toward our dreams, we move toward our divinity.
  • Document my time spent on activities this week. Pay attention to the things I wanted to do and the things I felt like I should do.
  • List twenty things I enjoy doing. Determine when the last time was I allowed myself to do these things.
  • From the list above, write down two favorite things that I’ve avoided that could be this week’s goals.
  • Read the positive affirmations I created for myself in week one.
  • Return to the list of imaginary lives from last week and add five more.
  • Make a “Life Pie.” Draw a circle. Divide it into six pieces of pie. Label one piece spirituality, another exercise, another play, and so on with work, friends, and romance/ adventure. Place a dot in each slice at the degree to which I am fulfilled in that area (outer rim indicates great; inner circle, not so great). Connect the dots. This will show me where I am lopsided.
  • List ten changes I’d like to make for myself. I would like to ______________.
  • Select one small item and make it a goal for this week.
  • Then do that item!

With the next week’s set of tasks already starting for me, I hope to get back to my normal self soon. I have exciting and crafty plans for the weekend ahead!