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Recovering a Sense of Faith

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Last year, I began reading “The Artist’s Way.” A friend recommended it to me. She thought I might appreciate some of the exercises and inspiration as I tried to love being and artist (again.) And I did!

Artist-Way

Julia Cameron soon made it into my blog posts. I wrote about my experiences.

Recovering a Sense of:

Safety 

Identity

Power

Integrity

Abundance

Compassion

Connection and Strength

Self Protection

And then, I got stumped. “Recovering a Sense of Faith.”

I read the chapter. It made no sense. Faith is a sticky subject for me.

I reread it a month later. I was simply confused.

Then reread it again six weeks later. I couldn’t quite get what relationships and boundaries have to do with faith.

Then again two months later. I let it go.

In time, I began to work on my own underlying issues. I worked on boundaries and barriers. I explored trusting my own judgment. I began valuing my own time. My priorities became important. I began valuing myself.

I began to see myself as a part of something bigger. For so long, I felt more like apart from something bigger. I began thinking about the economics of the living. Not how to make a living (although I admit, I think about that too). But truly, how to live our lives in a way in which we are living.

For so long, I felt like I was bogged down. Carrying too much. As my dad would sometimes say, “It’s like you’re trying to carry 10 gallons of crap in a five gallon bucket.” My vision of myself carrying TWO five gallon buckets overflowing with crap came through in brilliant Technicolor.

Clearly, I could not go on like this forever. Even as I tried to reconsider my relationship with work, the image of myself still held true. No wonder I couldn’t quiet get the idea of a sense of faith.

I couldn’t let go. This is one of our greatest challenges in life. After all, we are infinite beings living in a finite world. Our spirit craves infinite communications of love, acceptance, joy, and peace. Yet we hold on to so many finite things. Why can we not learn from the trees that let go of their leaves each autumn?IMG_0337

As we go into winter, are there things that simply won’t serve our well-being anymore? Do we really want to share our sacred space with things that no longer serve us? Would it be better to let the material objects move to another space where they can either be appreciated or perhaps break down into the earth again?

Letting go of my first pair of hikers was a difficult challenge. But after 11 years of holding on, it was time.

Letting go of my first pair of hikers was a difficult challenge. But after 11 years of holding on, it was time.

As a family, we had gotten used to being overwhelmed. We struggled to make room for laughter, learning, creativity, communication, joy, peace, and tolerance. And then we starting letting go of things we held on to. Like my first pair of hikers I purchased in 2002. Like the broken toys and unnecessary papers. We examined relationships that were no longer working for us and began to set boundaries. We understood and accepted our short comings, and let our sweet energetic puppy go to another home on a farm, where she can run and play to her hearts desire. We let go of the images that we have to be overly busy to be okay. We continue to open ourselves to ideas and clarify our priorities in life.

We created space for more infinite qualities to fill our home. The universe responded to this space in our lives and offered us a gift. A piano!  A free piano!

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We easily found the physical space for it in our home. And the infinite qualities that emerge from exploring the world of music of the family cannot compare. In the first days, I settled in to teach myself a special song.

This song, my dad used to sing along with my boys’ musical toys. He’d prepare his silly voice and sing, “Tell me won’t you please. Why the leaves, have furry leaves.”

Knowing very little about music, I simply thought he was making up words to be odd and funny. When my siblings and I were faced with the unexpected task of selecting music at his funeral, all I could think was how important it would be to have the “Furry Leaves” song. I knew it was a classical composition, but had very little way to communicate what this song would be. Luckily, a friend who was helping us with cleaning and planning knew a little about music. I sheepishly tried to hum the tune.

“Oh, that’s Furry Leaves.” She said.

I looked at her. Certainly Dad hadn’t sung the Furry Leaves song to her. She wrote it down for me and I laughed. It was Beethoven’s Fur Elise. My dad had probably made up those words when he was a child learning to play the piano.

So on Sunday night, I got to work. And I learned to play the first little bit of Fur Elise. Just enough to sing the words.  I now feel as though I have both received and given a gift of infinite proportion.

And I may finally have an understanding of Julia Cameron’s final chapter.

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The Creative Balance of Work and Play

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The Creative Balance of Work and Play

In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.  ~ Albert Einstein

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For several months now, I’ve been working through a wonderful book, The Artist’s Way. It was written more than 10 years ago with the intention to help aspiring creatives work through their blocks. I can’t help but wonder what it would have been like if I had gotten my hands on this book when I was 20 years old. I suppose I wouldn’t have been really ready for it. I suppose the universe works out as it should. Because here I am now, continually engaged with this read and so honored to be able to share some of it with my readers.

The book is broken up into weeks, with varying themes, tasks, and reflections each week. Some weeks I start out strong and move right through with ease. Others, I find myself working through bit by bit. This week’s topic is “Recovering a Sense of Self-Protection” and I have been chewing on it for quite some time.

In this chapter, Julia Cameron helps us explore the toxic habits we have that disrupt the flow of creative energy.  My toxic habit? It’s workaholism. And Cameron exposes every little bit about my habit (the one I am trying to break) in this chapter.

In a way, it was a breath of fresh air. A year ago, when I began trying to restore balance to my life, I sought out books to help me realize that I had an unhealthy relationship with work. I was addicted. But the resources I found tended to be written for men in business suits who should take more time for their golf swing rather than their office. No thank you. I needed something that could fit for women, who felt the need to prove themselves, who didn’t want to fail in the face of patriarchal society. Women who were struggling to balance, who had a list of should-do-for-others that was must longer than the list of needs-to-for-myself. I knew I wasn’t alone in feeling this way. I knew there must be many others, men or women, who wanted to redefine their relationship with work to better their lives.

In time, those ideas lead to the beginning of this blog. I’m so glad to have made the connections with others and gained a supportive readership. Thank YOU!

The challenge with redefining one’s relationship with work is that a work addiction is not the same as a drug addiction. It’s not socially acceptable to avoid work. Even when I took a few months off, I was surrounded by work at home. I certainly didn’t feel like I was getting sober. I wasn’t really having fun. I wasn’t sure I knew how.  Cameron highlights the paradox of workaholism so well,

Only recently recognized as an addiction, workaholism still receives a great deal of support in our society. The phrase I’m working has a certain unassailable air of goodness and duty to it. The truth is, we are very often working to avoid ourselves, our spouses, our real feelings. In creative recovery, it is far easier to get people to do the extra work of the morning pages than it is to get them to do the assigned play of an artist date. Play can make a workaholic very nervous. Fun is scary. “If I had more time, I’d have more fun,” we like to tell ourselves, but this is seldom the truth. To test the validity of this assertion, ask yourself how much time you allot each week to fun: pure, unadulterated, nonproductive fun?

Fun? What am I supposed to do with that? How? With who?

rachel, in her natural habitat

I am getting better with this. Seriously, I am. Sharing experiences with others has been the key to learning how to have fun. Building friendships. Exploring opportunities. Laughing. And to the displeasure of my children, singing. In fact, just yesterday, I galloped down the road with my 3 year old. I don’t know if anyone was watching. I don’t really care. Because we had fun. He laughed and so did I. And the best part– I didn’t even get hurt.

For a long time, I had a deep fear of fun. I was terrified that if I let go, just a little too much, that something bad would happen. As if I had that much power in the universe! Ha! But, still the feeling was real. A feeling that if I let responsibility slip just a little bit, that bad, terrible things would happen as a result. The feeling is still there, I realize as I write this. But it is negotiable now. Not all-encompassing or consuming.

 winter woods

The mind is capable of so many things. Our perspective can lead to our ruin or our triumph. It all depends on what we believe. For so long, my work determined my worth and my schedule. It was a viscous cycle. I didn’t do the things that I needed to do for myself when I needed to. I would say, “Just let me finish this up.” or “When I get through this deadline.” or “I just don’t have time.” I believed those statements. I saw my work as a building block to get to the next point in which I could be happier.

Cameron is very clear about this, she says, “Workaholism is a block, not a building block.”

It is amazing for me to share all these bits, to see just how far I have come. Because truly, each step has been a challenge. The path doesn’t always feel easy. In fact, most often I feel like I am not doing anything at all. That’s where this book has been really great. Cameron encourages us to take time each morning to take time to clear our mind and write in what she calls morning pages. Even if it feels useless and silly, those morning pages are the way in which we draw a map for ourselves that includes both where we have been and where we want to go. I love her reminder,

“To write is to right things. Sooner or later— always later than we like— our pages will bring things right. A path will emerge.at the waterfall

Somehow, I find that a path has emerged.

The pieces are starting to come together.

I admit though, it is still scary. It feels unknown. I have several projects lined up in the next couple months. This is a good thing financially. But its a scary thing psychologically.

It will be up to me to find that balance.

To do my work, without overworking.

To make my needs a priority,

Like eating nourishing meals.

Taking time to meditate, write, read, and create.

Spending time outside, with my family, animals, and plants.

Being spontaneous enough to have fun. Pure, unadulterated, nonproductive fun.

Being content with who I am, where I am, at that moment.

Only when he no longer knows what he is doing does the painter do good things. ~Edgar Degas