What Doctors Can Learn From Artists and Entrepreneurs

Since leaving medicine, I’ve been an entrepreneur and an independent artist. They are similar pursuits, and both have taught me about the experience of living in creative rather than reactive mode. In the moment you can claim your role in creating the experience you are having right now - as reflected to you by the external circumstances you find yourself in - you begin to take a creative stance. You begin to see yourself differently within the grand puzzle of your world. No longer can you point your finger and your attention outward at “them”, but now you must see the source within you that holds your power to create, choose, and act.

Every artist and every entrepreneur has had to touch this inner place in order to bring a never-before-seen vision into material reality. Whether you name it “imagination” or “vision” or “desire”, every human being has an inner source of creativity. Some of us have placed this in a box in the basement of our consciousness. Maybe we have given up on ever being able to use it in this lifetime. But as long as you are alive, you have this source within you, waiting for you to open the space for it to breathe.

Here are four creative mindsets you have within you, waiting to be awakened and remembered.

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Falling Down To Earth...Lessons from "Gravity"

gravity I saw Gravity this weekend. It was date night. Since we normally watch movies on Netflix in the luxury of our own living room, with the sunset and ocean behind our backs and the fire roaring in the fireplace, the trip through traffic and the ordeal of finding a parking space in a shopping mall made me expect a lot from this one.

We decided to splurge on the 3-D version. We got a big bag of popcorn, and settled into the theater, which we had mostly to ourselves.

I was already filled with gratitude for my life on the coast after we set foot inside the neon shopping mall that contained the movie theater. At that moment, seeing the names of the food court vendors – none of which were familiar to me, feeling the fluorescence of everything, squinting at the brightness of the SALE signs in every store window, hearing the echoes and reverberation of the cavernous container of the space, I realized how long it had been since I’d shopped in a mall. When had that shifted? I recalled a time in my childhood when the only place to shop for clothes and shoes was the mall. It was also one of the main “hangouts” for kids who went out after school (of which I was not one).

I won’t talk too much about plot points here, but I want to list several of the “messages from the universe” that I feel are embedded in the movie. I’ll scramble them up so as not to have to give too much of a spoiler alert. But if you must see the movie first, I’ll warn you that I refer to some scenes in the text below.

1. We’re hurtling at light speed toward our destiny at all times.

2. There are two ways to go through our brief moment of time called life – light and floating and free, with laughter, presence, and acceptance, or tethered, struggling, thinking hard, constantly driving somewhere, not knowing where in particular.

3. As unlikely and miraculous as it was for the protagonist to arrive back to earth, her journey is a metaphor for the set of unlikely circumstances that collide to create any individual life on earth, and both are equally miraculous.

4. There are two ways to meet our inevitable demise of death – in awe and wonder, with a light heart, and fully present, or with fear and regret. The way you die is the way you live. Start living.

5. To continue living, you must continuously jettison the parts that no longer serve you. Even though at one time in the past they were essential to your survival, these parts can be exactly what’s holding you back right now. Keep letting go.

6. Sometimes you find yourself on the end of a tether, getting whipped around, believing you’ve been rescued or saved. While you’re technically alive, the ride may feel nauseating, and you’re never permanently protected by what’s on the other end of the tether.

7. Use what you have, do what’s in front of you, remember what you know, and start from where you are.

8. Be grateful for your mind, and remember to use it to serve your heart’s desires, not replace them.

9. Everything can be blown to bits, and you can be one of those bits. You can experience your own rebirth by falling back down from (your head) space into the watery womb of mother earth. You can dive deep, find air, reach land, express gratitude, and then finally find your own legs. This is the story of human evolution…from star stuff to dirt, that’s what we all are: miracles.

10. Sometimes we need to journey far, far away in order to find our way back home.

E-Squared Book Club: Week 2

Richard Bach quote The stories from the E-Squared Book Club are just too good not to share!

We discussed the results from Experiments 1 and 2 this week, and when we met at Quarry Park by the labyrinth, we did Experiment 3 together.

And can I just say "WHOA!".

Since I have the unique position of being with both in-person and phone groups, I just have to share what's happening with everyone.

Miracles BIG and small

One of the common observations from Experiment 1 was that our expectations were high. We each began to notice "small" miracles in our lives immediately after setting the intention. Examples (you be the judge of how "small" these seem):

  • getting the bills paid with ease
  • thinking of a movie and then having your husband call to say you're going to see that movie
  • having your 4-year-old walk into your bedroom while you're sleeping, kiss you on the hand and say, "I love you mommy" before crawling into bed with you
  • seeing a dolphin doing backstroke
  • receiving an offer for a free piano
  • being in a restaurant, having one of your kids meltdown, and looking over to see a grandmother at the next table, who lovingly sends you a verbal blessing.

Two different Book Clubbers described having thoughts that maybe what they were noticing during the experiment "wasn't big enough". Tammy described repeatedly asking for "something big", all the while receiving many small blessings and gifts during the 48 hours. During the final hour of the experiment, her "big" message came in the form of a scary near-miss incident while in the car. Her husband turned on to a one-way street headed in the wrong direction, with a car following behind him. They faced four lanes of oncoming traffic, and every single car stopped without a single collision.

Miracle? YES! Big? YES!

Tammy's takeaway: she's perfectly happy with the small gifts, thank you very much.

Experiment #2 seemed to get all of the Book Clubbers a little bit stuck on what color cars to start counting. Some described "sunset beige" as a color they couldn't picture. Others wondered whether it was OK to choose a different color than suggested in the book.

My read on this is - just choose something specific that is unusual for you and start looking for it. Decide you are going to start counting. Then let go.

I forgot about the fact that I was running Experiment #2 until my boyfriend casually mentioned that he had received an offer for a free piano. We were on a bike ride along the ocean. I gasped when he said this and said, "Hey! Are you doing the energy experiments? Cuz that's a blessing if I've ever heard one! That counts! You have to tell me things, because they're EVIDENCE!"

As soon as I said that, I turned the corner onto Kelly Avenue and began seeing beige-colored cars. Fourteen of them by the time I got to the end of the block. I stopped counting when I reached 35 beige-colored cars a couple of hours later that day. I was convinced.

My orange butterfly story showed me again about letting go of attachment and what it feels like for me to be plugged in to the FP.

The day of the experiment, I was a bit stressed. Driving through marathon traffic to get to the finish line, where I would be performing music at the after party. Runners were exhausted, volunteers were working to protect the race course, and I was driving a big ol' SUV full of equipment I needed to set up. It was like being in a video game.

By the time we started to play, my emotions were fried. But at one point in the performance, I remember getting to the point of truly having fun, letting go, and what I like to call "being inside the music". I was free. My eyes were completely closed, and I was facing a window. When I opened my eyes for a moment, I saw one orange butterfly, directly in the center of the window.

That was it. Message received. Hello FP!

(If you haven't read the book, "FP" is what Pam Grout, the author, uses to refer to the Field of Infinite Potential.)

On the phone, Danielle had an "aha" moment about finding the balance point between conscious awareness of an intention and letting go of attachment to outcomes. I think we are all learning about what this balance feels like energetically as we do these experiments. This is for you, Danielle:

Open and Let Go 10.17.13

Dancing Magic Wands

We ended our meeting at Quarry Park with Experiment #3. I brought two coat hangers and two drinking straws and we went at it.

Shirley, bathed in light at Quarry Park

I learned that the "handle" on the magic wands needs to be free of any kinks. My hangers were a little stubborn at first, but with some fiddling we got them to work really well.

Tammy was the magic wand queen. If you met her you would immediately feel her radiance. And when she stood in the sun for the second part of the experiment, focusing her mind on her love for October sunshine and circles of women, those wands went "Boing!" and flung so far outward I couldn't believe it. Magical!

When I held the wands while doing the first part of the experiment (imagining a vivid and unpleasant memory from my past), I felt my body crumple and almost lost my balance as my weight shifted backward. The wands started bouncing inward.

When Shirley held the wands and did the same exercise, the wands crossed. Talk about dramatic energy movement! We received such a gift with this demonstration that I'm planning to repeat it at the next meeting for anyone who missed it!

What I love about these experiments is that there is no "right" or "wrong" result. It's all information. We are learning so much from each other, and I want to have a place for us to share this with anyone who wants to be involved.

So if you've been wanting to join the club but can't make it to our meetings (see the schedule here), please read the book anyway, and post your results in the comments! We want to hear your miracles, your blessings, your experimental findings as you explore the magic in your life with the eye of a scientific experiment.

Until next week...

- The E-Squared Book Club

P.S. Read about Week 1 here.

Live Your Medicine

Lisa Pillar Point FB profile reverse warrior The Native American tradition speaks of each person's Original Medicine - that set of gifts that only you can offer the world with your particular life. I've always felt there was such a finality to the phrase "Original Medicine" - like I had to define the one thing I was here to do, or it would be lost forever.

No pressure!

This feeling would ignite the achiever in me, who would scramble to come up with a name, a brand, a package, a business, something very "put-together" that would create an image of how well I knew my Life's Purpose.

I've been doing some version of that for most of my life. But recently I've begun to discover a process I find much more alive, much more healing, much more in alignment with my own sense of unconditional wholeness. I call it "Live Your Medicine." It is the practice of asking, "What time is it now, for me?". It involves listening for what holds the most fear for me in this moment. And then summoning the courage to take action toward that in one small way. Again and again, revisiting and refreshing with each present moment.

It is reminiscent of Eleanor Roosevelt's words:

"You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

How often do we actually avoid - quite skillfully - the things that spark fear inside us? How often do we explain away these avoidances with elaborate theories, often quite impressive in their defense of our own status quo?

"Live Your Medicine" captures my emerging discovery that the true healing experiences for me happen whenever I do something that is utterly frightening to my mind's unquestioned beliefs. "Live Your Medicine" is an invitation to search inside yourself to find your edge, and to live in a way that develops your courage, rather than reinforcing old patterns, no matter how comfortable they seem.

For example, each morning for most of my life, I would begin with a "To Do" list - my responsibilities and things to get done. There was no reason for me to get out of bed beyond that list. It served as my purpose. There was no rhythm other than the methodical ticking off of items, showing up for scheduled activities, and getting through things.

Everything in my life changed when I made one seemingly small shift: I began my days differently. Instead of hopping out of bed and beginning to run after my "responsibilities" dutifully, I stepped off my bed and sat in silence, looking out a window at the sequoia tree stretching tall in front of it. I started with five minutes. I did yoga, not when the yoga studio scheduled a class, but when I needed it - sometimes first thing in the morning - and for the length of time my body required it - sometimes only twenty minutes.

Since then, I have maintained a practice of beginning my days with rituals that ground me in my connection to breath, body, and the earth. I am currently blessed with the situation of living just fifty steps from the beach. Most mornings I make the walk out to the bluff, and down to the sand where the birds pace along the water's edge. I wake up gradually, following the pace of the sun's creeping over the fog-covered hills to reveal the glistening surface of the ocean.

I notice, though, that even this ritual can drift into feeling of an "assignment" I give myself. I can fall back into a pattern of giving myself a job - even if that "job" is to start my day more kindly. My practice can harden into a set of rules that I must follow, or else be judged as something less than acceptable to myself. Not very kind!

My mind can turn any practice into a "To Do". It's just a repetitive pattern - a habit that was practiced for many years, and reinforced without questioning.

So my medicine is to "do the thing I think I cannot do". To be attentive to what that thing is, in this moment. And then do it.

I recently learned some simple restorative yoga poses from a friend. No need for the fancy bolsters, blocks, straps, and blankets that I've used in yoga studios. I can use pillows, blankets, and whatever else I have available. The experience is like floating - like my entire body is being supported, almost suspended, without any effort from my muscles. It's like being in water, without having to move at all.

And it's a totally ridiculous way to start the day! Which is why it's my medicine. Living MY medicine, at this particular point in my life, means having the audacity to begin my day by going into a state of complete surrender and relaxation. As if there is nothing to do, nothing to conquer, nowhere to be.

This is what living my medicine looks like for me, right now:

Restorative Yoga Lisa While my body floats in the feeling of being totally supported, my mind rests. It cannot feel fear in this moment of rest. And each moment I spend here, I train in courage. I look fear in the face - the fear that whispers a "To Do" list in my ear - and I do nothing anyway.

What's YOUR medicine right now? What time is it now for YOU?

Photo credits: Top - Randy Bales. Bottom - Lydia Puhak.

Empowering Your Self With Vision

Red yellow heart CROPPED

“How you see determines what you see, and what you feel.” – Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche

I’ve had a love-hate relationship with vision boards since the very beginning. My very first one was an assignment for the very first personal development workshop I attended. End of Day One, before we were to break for dinner, we had a few hours to make a board of what makes our heart come alive.

First vision board - Real Speaking

The second one I made was later that year with an ex-boyfriend on a retreat in Santa Cruz. It was my first beach weekend retreat since moving to California five years before. What had taken me so long?

Second vision board - Santa Cruz

Then I made another one that made me feel like crap, but I didn’t quite know why.

I kept up with vision boards for some reason. Maybe it was my determination to see if they would really work for me in my life. I was a total skeptic in the beginning, going through the motions like a good student, but not truly expecting anything to happen.

After several years of practice, now I know that when I approach them from a certain place within me, vision boards can invite in some real magic into my life.

I haven't yet written about the latest example of how a vision board changed my life, and since I’m leading a vision board workshop next week, this seems like a good time to really tell the story in completeness.

From Complaining to Creating

I was living in a tiny house with my boyfriend. It was his house. I moved into it. This was after I had downsized my own belongings by eighty percent. I had moved out of a commercial office space, and then moved out of my apartment after staring at the furniture for months and months, not knowing how I would detach myself from it.

There was really no space that was “mine”, although I had access to everything that was his. We made a garden. We cooked. We adventured mostly outside the house. But we felt closed in because we were surrounded by apartment buildings, a parking garage, an architectural firm, and a daycare center. Our blinds were always closed, and there was only one door to the outside. I had a tiny space in the back, about the dimensions of a single yoga mat, where I did my morning ritual, meditation and chanting. I could see a patch of the sky, and the tops of trees from the windows in there, which gave me a daily dose of spaciousness.

My enlightened self can identify the gifts of that time in my life – the gifts of being outdoors for a long hike every single weekend, the gifts of being in my garden every day in the summer, the gifts of not working so hard on my business, the gifts of discovering REI, and the gift of becoming more open to things falling apart.

But I still found myself spending most of my waking hours complaining about the space, what was missing, how it was impeding my ability to focus on my work.

I realized most of my energy and attention were being spent on what I didn’t want, and what wasn’t working. I was blaming the space for all of the things I wasn’t able to feel within myself.

One day it occurred to me that I was also free to ask, “What if I shifted my attention to what I do want?” Aha! I hadn’t done that in awhile. Complaining was my mind’s way of dealing with the situation, believing that if I complained enough, maybe something would happen differently.

It had been over a year and nothing had “happened” differently, at least with the space.

So I decided to make a vision board.

What It Looks Like versus What It Feels Like

I used google to search for images of places and views and living spaces that felt like  what I wanted to experience from my own living space, but had never dared to say out loud. Knowing what I wanted to feel like is an important difference from believing I knew what things were supposed to look like. We’re so bombarded with images these days that we rarely have time to sink into our bodily sensations that come up in response to these images. I've learned that when I connect with the feeling behind images, I am often surprised that what they look like is nothing like what I imagined.

The qualities I wanted to feel were captured with the words gathering space, nourishing space, convertible space, walking space, creativity, honoring earth, peace, reflection, nature, beauty, energizing, growth, inspiration, joy.

Since I wasn’t able to see these qualities in my living space at that time, I didn’t believe they could be part of my reality ever. But I set aside those doubts for one evening, and put myself in the place of the person in my imagination – the “me” who had it all. I found pictures of nature, hiking trails in the backyard, a garden, expansive views of hillsides, trees, big windows, high ceilings, convertible spaces for creating, reflecting, gathering, eating, and seeing nature.

Then I said, What the heck, since I’m doing this exercise, why not put everything out there? The stuff I really don’t believe is possible.

So I put in a recording studio – a picture of a guy playing guitar in front of a microphone, surrounded by windows opening into views of trees and nature. Another secret desire of mine was to have my own creative space, and for my boyfriend to have his own creative space, so that we could come together in each of these spaces but were not forced to work in the same space at the same time. I put in a picture of a home yoga studio with luxurious amounts of open hardwood floor space, literally thinking, “Yeah, right. No one has that!” while feeling in my body the tingles of excitement around the idea of, “What if I did?”

I loved the resulting images, and it was enough for me to make it the wallpaper on our computer so I could dream of living there on a daily basis.

Living Space Dream Board Dec 2011

Three magic words: "Thanks, I quit."

Then I let go.

There was a sense of relief and freedom just from having created the vision board. And in my mind, everything about the images seemed impossible – there was nowhere I had ever seen in the Bay Area that would meet all these criteria, be affordable enough for us, close enough to my boyfriend’s work for a manageable commute, and so on. My naysayer mind chimed in again with its list of “no way”s.

I let go but I didn’t forget. I left the vision board on the wallpaper of our computer, and then I returned to the tasks of daily life.

Within three weeks, my boyfriend sent me a link to a property for rent in Half Moon Bay. The pictures had windows that looked similar to the images on the vision board. Interesting, I thought. I clicked back onto craigslist and saw that there were two other places in Half Moon Bay within our price range. One of them had very dark pictures, and a very simple description that wasn’t flashy. Yet it just had a feeling that intrigued me, and I wanted to check it out. We scheduled appointments at all three properties for that weekend.

The minute we turned the corner and started driving down the street, I knew this was the one. I just felt this was where we were going to live.

Standing in front of driveway view of house

Then our jaws kept dropping. The beach was just steps from the front door.

Standing at front door

Pillar Point

There was a large room facing the ocean that is now our home music studio and house concert venue. And the front room, with two large windows peeking out to the ocean view, is now my home yoga and meditation space and painting studio!

Dreamspace with cat

I even have my own office, which I honestly didn’t even expect. I was prepared to let that go in exchange for the yoga and creative space. But I got it all!

Office 1

We got it all.

We are both so happy and inspired in this space, as it serves our needs and creative purpose in life right now. We enjoy sharing it with the community in the form of house concerts, my new SoulBodyMind Salon series, and who knows what other forms will emerge.

I tell this story whenever anyone asks “how we found” this place, because I know from experience that the place found us.

By shifting the energy from “what’s missing” and “what’s not working” to “What do we want to create?”, we invited in our own ability to see possibilities in a whole new way.

I never imagined, even at the moment of making the vision board, that we would end up living by the ocean. I was in love with the tall trees, the mountains, the rivers. I thought we would find a little cottage up there somewhere. But my ability to imagine was only based on my prior experience, and the universe had a greater vision and infinite possibilities waiting for my ability – my vision - to discover them.

Sunset Pillar Point 3.25.12

Try out the experiment of taking an area of struggle in your life, an area where you notice yourself spending a lot of time complaining about what’s wrong or missing, and try asking, “What do I want to create in this situation?”

I’d love to know what you see through these new eyes.

Join me on February 9th for a Vision Board Workshop at Prajna Yoga & Healing Arts in Belmont, CA. Do you want to have me facilitate a Vision Board Workshop for your organization or in your home? I'd love to talk about that with you. Contact me to discuss your curiosity and interest.

Photo credits: sunset, Randy Bales. All others by the author. Prints of hand-painted heart image available at my online Zazzle store.

How to Kill Your Creativity…And Bring It Back To Life

[singlepic id=461 w=320 h=240 float=center] Is your creativity dead?

I honestly believe that few of us – regardless of whether we work as “creatives” or not – intentionally set out to kill our own creativity.

We may just gently turn our backs on it, dismissing it as something reserved for children, or as something only “irresponsible” adults indulge in, or as a waste of time that could never serve a purpose in society (ie, getting paid money for it), or as something only “talented people” get to do.

I’m here to say that none of those is absolutely true.

Creativity is not limited to art…

So, let’s say you’re longing for a more creative life. That could mean anything from having more freedom and flexibility in your current job, to finding a way to support yourself while expressing your own creativity.

I don’t define creativity as being limited to “artistic” activities like painting, dancing, singing, or sculpting pottery. I define creativity as our innate human ability to connect with the unseen. By this definition, I see every human being as creative, by virtue of our brain’s ability to spontaneously form images that are only seen in our mind’s eye.

How you choose to use your creativity is a different story.

And this is where many of us have killed our own creativity, or least left it for dead.

How Creativity Dies

Let’s say you don’t believe that you ever killed your creativity. But somehow, it just died.

Why would it be useful to spend any time thinking about how it died? Shouldn’t you just move on, get over it, and start creating?

I could have written an article on how to practice creativity in your life right now. I actually did that, and maybe it spoke to some of you.

But what I’ve found with more time talking to adults in life transitions is that in order to recognize how we want to change, we need to talk about what gets in the way of that change. Focusing on the big vision is important, and looking directly at the obstacles in our own minds is important. Only when we see what’s standing in our way can we shift our attention toward a clear path through.

The Voices That Kill Creativity

In my own journey, I’ve discovered that there are at least three characters in my mind who show up whenever I am step into my creative self.

I’ve named them, because it helps me form a humorous mental image of these characters and – importantly - recognize them as “not me”

Voice #1: "The Slavedriver"

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I picture a relentless tyrant, holding a whip and demanding every ounce of energy and focus on the tasks he has deemed urgent and important. He shouts: "Work harder! You need to be making more money! How will you pay the bills if you don't work more? You’re nobody if you’re not working hard all the time!"

Voice #2:  "The Critics"

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I picture the guys in the balcony from The Muppet Show, Statler and Waldorf. "Hohohoho!”, they sneer, reveling in their elevated status, far removed from the performances they are critiquing down on the stage. “THAT'll never fly. No one will ever take THAT seriously. THAT'll never be worth anything. What a waste of time! You'll never make it!"

Voice #3:  "The Teacher’s Pet"

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I picture the perfect student, eagerly listening to the teacher’s every word and raising her hand at every opportunity to give the right answer. She says, "I need to ask for permission or receive approval before I act on anything. I need to know it's OK to do before I do it. I need to know that everyone will like me if I say what I want to say. I need to know that I have the right answer before I raise my hand, step forward, or speak up."

For me, the dance goes something like this:

When I open my eyes in the morning, The Slavedriver makes a long To Do list, ensuring that the number of items on the list is not humanly possible to complete in one day. That ensures I’ll always end the day a little dissatisfied…and keeps the Slavedriver employed.

I manage to quiet the Slavedriver down long enough to create space for my mind, body, and breath to connect, and to hear the silence of a clear mind. I perform a morning ritual reminding me of space in my mind, body, and breath. From this silence, my creativity starts to speak through me. I hear words, I see images, I envision metaphors for how I can relate differently to a particular challenge, or I notice how tightly I am gripping and attaching to certain thoughts. I receive guidance that feels calming, freeing, and truthful.

I hold that guidance long enough to put the ideas on paper. That means I’ve successfully ignored the Slavedriver’s unrelenting wrath for another few minutes.

Now it’s time for the Critics. As I step back to admire and assess my work, I hear them immediately chime in with, “HA! Like THAT’ll fly! Good luck with THAT…not! Hohohoho!”. Their sheer delight at mocking my tender creative attempts is enough to stop me in my tracks, or at least send me running toward the nearest distraction (in my case, opening my internet browser and checking e-mail, scanning Facebook, or looking at the pageview statistics on my blog).

Once I’ve unfrozen myself from the stupor of clicking endlessly back and forth among the five or six open tabs in my browser, I wake up to the fact that the Critics have been running the show for me. It’s time to put something out there already.

Enter The Teacher’s Pet. She’s such a nice girl, so polite and well-behaved, so eager to be called on when she has the right answer that no one else does. She is SO afraid of putting a creative piece out in public when she doesn’t KNOW whether she got it “right” or not. She is terrified of losing her status as Teacher’s Pet, perfect student, A-plus girl. She grabs a hold of my shoulder, clinging with tiny fingers, begging me to wait until I know more.

So there I am, with my creativity gasping for breath, stuck between the ongoing cries for productivity from the Slavedriver, the sneering Critics’ seeds of shame, and finally the doubts and fears of the Teacher’s Pet.

How To Resuscitate Your Creativity

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If you’ve never faced a problem with your creativity, then please stop reading. Go back to your prolific output of one-of-a-kind masterpieces in the making, and don’t change a thing.

But if you’re anything like me, and experience periods of creative “flatlining”, read on. You might be thinking that with all this chatter in my head, it’s a miracle that I even made it this far in writing this blog post.

You’re right. It is a miracle. And here’s a process that really works to bring my creativity back to life, just when it seems to be slipping away.

  1. Acknowledge the characters in your head. What are the voices killing your creativity? Hear what they have to say. Ignoring them doesn’t work. Pretending not to hear them doesn’t work. They want to be heard. Sometimes that’s all they need before they begin to quiet down. Really listen, and try writing down or saying out loud what you hear.
  2. Name them. This helps you recognize them as “not you”, and to see when they are running your show.
  3. Form a relationship with each character. Now that you’ve stepped back and noticed that these characters are not who you are, talk to them from the place inside your heart that knows your greatest truth and creative power. Treat them with the kindness and gentleness you want for yourself, not the criticism and judgment they appear to hold against you. For me, this involves saying to the Slavedriver, “Thank you for your concern. You’re right, I need to make money, but there are many different ways to make money with the gifts I have to offer. I don’t have to struggle. I notice all the ways in which money arrives effortlessly.” When the Critics chime in, I notice that they’re not on the stage with me, and they’re also not the whole audience. They only occupy two seats in a huge auditorium that is my potential audience. Let them laugh and sneer, because there are (or will be) plenty of other seats in the house for supporters and fans. To my beloved Teacher’s Pet, I offer reassurance that life is not a school classroom, and I don’t need to know before I raise my hand. I thank her for all the times her niceness served me, and stand in the trust of my own power.
  4. Create space for silence and solitude each day. Finally, the best antidote to quiet and calm all of these characters is silence and solitude. I find and create space for this each day, whether through meditation, yoga, singing, walking in nature, writing, gardening, or reading inspirational wisdom. As I soak myself in the open space of silence, and feel my body in the freedom of solitude, I gradually learn to trust my own creative power, and the characters in my head become more cartoon-like and less real. I can observe them and laugh, and know that they have only the power that I grant them in my mind.

When I practice these four steps, with patience and gentle persistence, I always find an opening for my creativity to flow. You may notice that I haven’t done anything to “eradicate” the voices. I haven’t killed the characters. I also don’t wait for them to go away. I treat them with creative energy, and that’s what I receive in return.

Try this with your own creativity. But only if you’re prepared to be surprised.