Wednesday, February 29, 2012

in clover: courage, in color

Brene Brown has this to say about courage: 

The root of the word courage is cor -- the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage had a very different definition than it does today. Courage originally meant to speak one's mind by telling all one's heart.
Over time, this definition has changed, and, today, courage is more synonymous with being heroic. Heroics are important and we certainly need heroes, but I think we've lost touch with the idea that speaking honestly and openly about who we are, about what we're feeling, and about our experiences (good and bad) is the definition of courage.
Heroics are often about putting our life on the line. Courage is about putting our vulnerability on the line. If we want to live and love with our whole hearts and engage in the world from a place of worthiness, our first step is practicing the courage it takes to own our stories and tell the truth about who we are. It doesn't get braver than that.

Recently I had the pleasure of shopping for art supplies.  They have been sitting in a bag in our breakfast nook, tempting Little C (and me) almost beyond comprehension but we’ve managed to restrain ourselves and tonight we break out the pristine paper and fresh markers, pencils and pastels.  Tonight the ChristCare group I lead will begin a Lenten practice inspired by the book “Praying in Color” by Sybil Macbeth.  Those who show up for Cultivating Mindfulness tonight will meditatively pray for friends and loved ones, through drawing and coloring.

We’ll express these prayers visually and in vivid color.  No words required.   In the weeks that follow we will intentionally focus on portions of our lives that we wish to pray for…in color.  We will pay attention to and acknowledge personal challenges, our growing edges...we'll even draw the whiny, stinky, childish parts of our lives that the author says calls for compost prayers.  We will name our gifts.  We will express our gratitude.   We will chronicle our spiritual histories.  In the end we will hold prayer filled visual images…icons, if you will…that not only represent the prayer that guided their creation but will also serve as a visual reminder to remain in or return to prayer. 

Some in the group are very excited.  Some have bought their own sketch books and markers and colored pencils, anticipating this particular prayer practice might just stick.  Some are quite anxious. They are concerned because they do not consider themselves “creative” or “artistic.”  Some are both excited and anxious. Some are afraid.  In her book, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, Sue Monk Kidd says, “I cannot tell you how many women I meet who say, ‘Oh, I’m just not creative.’   It breaks my heart, because every woman IS creative in some way, and every woman’s creativity is valuable.” 

It breaks my heart, too.  Over and over again, I have heard it.  Many times it has been my own voice, ringing in my ears.  

I have a couple of cameras and I truly love using them.  I know that material things can’t bring true happiness but there a few things I would really, really miss if I lost them.  My camera would top the list.  I can remember, as a pre-teen, watching my Dad use his Minolta SLR.  I wanted that camera.  Bad.  I had a Kodak Instamatic but to me, that small instamatic was not a REAL camera.  My Dad’s camera was REAL.  I wanted to thread film and change lenses.   I wanted the bag full of gear and I wanted that big, bulky camera hanging by a strap around my neck.  I took a photography class my senior year of high school and had access to a real camera, a Nikon, and a darkroom but it wasn’t until Michael and I were engaged that I graduated from owning an instamatic to a more real point and shoot 35 mm…a gift from his folks.  And it wasn’t until Little C was born that I finally splurged and bought a really real digital slr camera and a couple of lenses.  And a bag for all the stuff.  And a tripod.  It came with the strap. 

Once I saw a status on FaceBook that read, “Buying a camera does not make you a photographer.  Just sayin.”   

As someone who had finally acquired a real camera and was enjoying taking what I felt like were, for the first time in my life, real photographs, this really pissed me off.   I sat and stewed for a good long time.  And then I realized that as much as I hated to admit it, this person is correct.  Buying a camera does not make you a photographer.  But buying a camera and using it to capture images sure does.  Using that camera, no matter the results, absolutely makes you a photographer.  Just sayin. 

No one has an exclusive claim on creativity.  NO ONE. But it does take courage, the kind of of courage Brene Brown speaks of, to claim your creativity.  It takes a willingness to lean into, rather than run from, feelings of extreme vulnerability.  It takes turning a deaf ear to those voices in your head that whisper or perhaps shout, “You are not a REAL artist.”  

In her book, "The Dance of the Dissident Daughter," Sue Monk Kidd says that we must begin by acknowledging our creativity and then “Second, we must explore it.  Ask yourself, “What is my deepest passion, really?  What moves me profoundly?”  And let the answer float up from the truest, most vulnerable place in your heart.  Greet this answer like it is your newborn self being placed in your arms.  Love it.  Bond with it.  Feed it.  Don’t push it aside, minimize, make excuses, and starve this thing of beauty, because this answer is a window into your creative life.” 

Finally Monk Kidd acknowledges that we need to commit to our creative path. She says she meets many women “with books inside them they never write down….women with all kinds of dazzling projects their souls have concocted that for some reason they never get around to manifesting.”  She talks about the difference between “sacred dawdling” and “resistance to act” but in the end, she says, “The main thing is to stop struggling and nourish yourself.  When you nourish yourself, your creative energy is renewed.  You are able to pick up your lyre again and sing.”

And so tonight I look forward to being nourished.  I look forward to being with a group willing to abide to a covenant of vulnerability.  I look forward to connecting with God…to telling my story and listening to theirs.  We will be praying and meditating and drawing and coloring.  This group of creative and courageous women, despite their anxiety and discomfort and fear, will show up to pray for others…maybe for you.  And they will be praying in color.  



Thursday, February 2, 2012

in clover: Word

Have you chosen your word for the year?  

It’s all the buzz on the blogosphere.  New Year’s resolutions are old news.  They have been replaced with New Year’s words... one word to contemplate, to meditate on, for the entire year.  Last year, I had “a word.”  I didn’t choose it though.  It chose me.  That word was with me for most of 2011 and it led to numerous personal insights. It was a good word but it was last year’s word. 
I tried my best to choose a word for 2012.  I reflected.  I journaled.  I paid attention to words that had “energy.”  I even did a meditation designed to reveal my word.  For a few days I thought my word might be HOSPITALITY.  But I really, really wanted the word to choose ME and while the word HOSPITALITY did resonate for me, it seemed a bit forced.  Meanwhile, I began to get antsy because the newness of the new year was wearing off and I had no word. 

Now January has come and gone and I am fairly certain the word that has chosen me for 2012 is CREATIVITY.  

It’s odd that CREATIVITY would emerge as my word because right now, 

I am in a funk. 

At first I thought I was experiencing post-holiday fatigue but I’m ready to throw in the towel and officially call this a funk. This has happened before….very often in the gray days of January and February….but still, I am disappointed that it has happened to me, again.   I had envisioned a cozy winter spent enjoying hearth and home… snow days, reading (lots of!) books, watching movies by the fire, eating yummy wintery food, playing board games and working on needlework.   Maybe ultra-organizing my closet.  Or trying my hand at painting. Something. 

Until a few days ago, I wouldn’t admit to the funk.  I said to myself (and to Michael), “I’m just tired from the holidays.  I need to rest.”  So I rested.  Then I said, “I am an introvert.  I need to stay home.”  So I stayed home. 

But my fatigue has not yet lifted. 

Winter blues….winter blahs….seasonal affect disorder….I don’t know…

I’m just not “myself.” 

These days I most often pull a black sweater and jeans from the closet because it’s easy and I wear the same pair of earrings every day.  I have to make myself cook.   And clean.  And read.   And write.   I have a stack of  creative projects I have looked forward to working on but I just don’t have the energy.  
This is not a black cloud…more like a light gray one.  I don’t think my family is exactly suffering.  I get up, I get dressed, I leave my house every day.  I have lunch with friends.  I welcome my work, as a spiritual director intern.  I do my homework and I help my kids with theirs.   Everyone has food to eat and clean clothes to wear and rides to their various practices. 

I just feel…..blah. 

I would like to leave this feeling of heaviness behind.  Right this minute.   But I know that is not how this works.   

Yesterday I read an interesting article by Martha Beck on the topic of lasting happiness.  In it, she proposes that many of us think we are seeking happiness…..but what we really are seeking is excitement.  She believes that culturally we are addicted to excitement and the adrenaline rush it brings.  She thinks we confuse a manic feeling with a happiness feeling.   She likens it to using the drug ecstasy. 

Then she writes about joy.  She says, True joy lacks the wild ups and downs of an excitement-based life. It's a peaceful landscape…. Indeed, it's so peaceful that, to our adrenaline-soaked culture, it looks rather plain. In fact, I like to think of it as the plains of peace.”


But it was the next part of the article that I found most interesting.  Beck explains, “…one day, while reading up on the latest research in positive psychology, I discovered a two-word instruction that reliably ushered me onto the plains of peace….Here it is: Make something."


She continues, "You see, creative work causes us to secrete dopamine, a hormone that can make us feel absorbed and fulfilled without feeling manic. This is in sharp contrast to the fight-or-flight mechanism, which is associated with hysteria hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. Research indicates that we're most creative when we're happy and relaxed, and conversely, that we can steer our brains into this state by undertaking a creative task.

Huh?  I did not expect the main topic of an article written about happiness and joy to be CREATIVITY. Gratitude, sure.  Meditation and contemplation, absolutely.  But not CREATIVITY
I certainly was surprised to read about creativity and happiness together, in a “chicken or egg first” sort of way.  So interesting! And clearly, more proof that the word CREATIVITY has chosen me for 2012. 

“To get a dopamine "hit," make something that pushes you to the furthest edge of your ability, where you're not only focused but learning and perfecting skills. Cooking an unfamiliar dish will do the trick, as will perfecting a new clogging routine.”

So let me get this engaging in a creative pursuit, even though I might not "feel like it" right now, I can literally affect a what happens in my brain?  And I can feel happier and more relaxed which in turn leads to even more creativity?  That is amazing!  

I find that so empowering. 
“The aftermath of a creative surge, especially one that involves a new skill, is a sense of accomplishment and increased self-efficacy—which psychologists recognize as an important counter to depression…. you're left with the happy fatigue of someone who is building strength."

I'd really like to feel some of that "happy fatigue."    

And...get lasts....

"Pay attention to this process, and you'll...find yourself increasingly able to tune in to the delights of the present even when you're not actively creating. When this happens, you'll be on your way to genuine happiness: abundant, sustainable delight in the beautiful moments of ordinary life.”

I feel better already. 


It’s what’s for 2012. 



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...