focus, goal setting, inspiration, instinctive meditation, meditation, mindfulness, Personal Development, Personal growth

The Beauty of Micropractice

How many of us have said “I don’t have time”?
To go for a walk.
To spend time on a hobby.
To meditate.

There’s a way in. And it’s micropractice. A very short dedicated time to doing a thing.
One way is to set a reminder to stop and do the thing. For five minutes. For one minute. For three breaths. For one. Get up and walk around the block. Have a picture of your favourite place or people and spend a couple minutes looking at it.

Let’s dive in to meditation as an example.

A practice that I give to clients for when they sense they are becoming overwhelmed/stressed out/just need a quick break is for each inhale and exhale, touch your thumb to a finger… index, middle, and so on. And back up. It’s helped me so many times. I believe combining the breaths with the touch helps embody a relaxation response.

Here’s a video demonstration of the breathing techniques: https://craftingthespirit.com/2022/04/20/micropractice-breathwork-demonstration/

There are so many ways to incorporate a micropractice into your day.

Inhale the aroma of your morning beverage, the sensation of heat or cold, the feel of the cup in your hands.

Delight in the colour of light and the play of shadows.

The sensation of gravity on your body.

Take one deep breath, and on the exhale, exaggerate with a drop of your shoulders. Or take a three part breath- two on the inhale and one long exhale. Like when a child is done crying. For some people that’s more effective than one breath. With practice you may find one breath is a great reset!

Eventually, you may find you have or crave more time to do the thing. This is part of habit formation and it’s amazing how it works.

When I want to regroup/reset/refresh, I often like to get out in Nature. If I’m really feeling wound up, I choose a route that requires some physical exertion to dispel that pounding fight-or-flight feeling.

I find a place to sit or walk, and take in my surroundings. Maybe noticing how my breathing is changing. Allowing the thoughts to flow, and usually they will settle down.

I will follow the whirls of tree bark, the swirls of flower petals, the flow of water down a stream. The shifting shapes of clouds. The dancing of light and shadow at my feet. Watch a bee fly from flower to flower, and delight as its yellow pollen pants grow fat and heavy.

I once laid on a rock in the middle of a river so long that I became both the river and the rock.

Sometimes an answer comes, if I’ve been looking. Sometimes I feel lighter. Almost always I come back from the mountain, or forest, or ocean ready to take on what’s next.

My invitation to you this week to to experiment with incorporating micropractices into your day. Set aside several of these micropractice minutes in your day. I’d love to hear how it goes!

Attachment, creative block, creative practice, Creativity, focus, inspiration, Uncategorized

Improvisational Creativity

Things I’ve had “forever” are finally meeting their purpose

A week or so ago, while looking for something completely different, I came across some hand made paper and shibori indigo-dyed fabric samples I created about thirty years ago. Thirty years?!?!! How the heck did that happen?

I looked at the two stacks, noticed that the colours were similar, shuffled them together, and an art project was born. I would make a book of them. From there, I decided to stitch on them, creating several independent works linked together.

Beyond that I really had no plan, and have re-ordered which page goes where several times. Each time I sit down I pick up a page and allow my imagination to wander. Sometimes making my imaginary self very small and exploring. Are there hidden images waiting to be seen? Maybe technique marks to be honoured. I have picked up needle and thread with no plan and stitch-scribbled my way around, enjoying what is being birthed between my hands.

I feel if I had taken a different and more studied approach, the results would be quite different. It would have a different rhythm and flow to it. I like surprising myself during the creative process, exploring the “what if I tried this”, mostly delighting in the results, and always learning, regardless of the outcome.

This kind of creative practice is so important. It can shake us out of habits and expand our creative vocabulary. We can unknowingly become complacent in our choreography, writing, music, or however we express ourselves, and end up repeating themes and patterns without even realizing it. It’s a beautiful thing, for example, to witness two dancers who’ve never danced together before explore a piece of music together, create something new, and deepen their own knowledge of their craft.

One thing I like to do when I feel creatively stuck is to explore a medium I’ve never tried before. The materials or process may have some basic “rules”, but there’s something about not even knowing what the rules are, experimenting, and discovering what happens.

If you’re building a new brand, or making an existing brand more relevant, what would it look like if it was a person? What kind of personality would it have? These kinds of characteristics could be an interesting exploration and could even do something like uncover a target demographic that hadn’t been considered. What conveys a recognizable identity for a product category, and yet stands out from other similar things/businesses?

Liberally use the cut/paste/relocate features if you’re writing on your computer… I did it just now! Or write chunks of a story/article/poem/song on post-its or paper and rearrange them. Have a conversation with that character that seems to adding to your block. Do your choreography backwards. Play a musical scale as if it was the most soulful piece of music ever written. Pretend you’re from another planet and just opened up your box of art supplies.

The idea is to explore freely without attachment to outcome. You’re not making “a thing”. There are no mistakes to be made, because you are exploring, learning and being in flow with the process.

Even with this project I’m playing with now. I had the thought this morning that I could keep adding to it as long as it’s in my possession or I exist. I can keep stitching on it, or add or subtract pages. What feels done now could call to me later for something else. I can gift a page to someone if I feel so moved. If someone else ends up with it, I hope they feel free to do the same.

This approach can expand to other areas of life- those that we may or may not see as creative. Take a different route between locations. Go on a grocery store treasure hunt by picking up the first ingredient you see and building a meal by picking one thing from each aisle (I just thought of this while thinking up examples- I think I’ll try it!)

No matter how you explore, make some time to disconnect from all devices and let your mind wander a bit. Your to do list might come up, or you’ll suddenly hear everything and that’s OK. Let it flow by. Eventually you might find yourself in a state of relaxed awareness. And what do you know? You’ve meditated, and maybe even had a day dream or two. Or come up with some ideas/answers. Or had a much needed nap!

My invitations to you this week:
If you write, what would your words look like in movement? Dance them out!
If movement is your jam, what does each movement sound like? Sing and sigh as you move and see where it goes.
f you create in two dimensions, focus on texture. Go for a walk, pick up five things, and create something. Or take a sketch, cut it up into random shapes and create something different. Better yet, buddy up, each cut up a sketch and then trade!
If you normally don’t think of yourself as creative, write down the first ten words that come into your head, even if they are: I can’t think of anything to write; this is stupid. Rearrange them into different sentences, maybe even a poem.

Let me know how it goes; I’m excited to hear what you discover!



focus, goal setting, passion, Personal Development, Personal growth, Uncategorized

Content, Connection, Goals, and Plans

Things are not always what they appear to be on the surface
Photo by my friend Andrea.

The other day I was listening to a talk by Bradley T. Morris, a lifestyle and business design coach. He was describing one of his “AHA” moments. While sitting in Nature enjoying a sunset, he discovered he was already formulating a social media post rather than being absorbed in the moment. That realization was his inspiration to approach business in a completely different way. What a perfect example of how social media and online presence has taken over the lives of so many. Going through our days with an eye to creating content and capturing likes, follows, and share instead of fully embodying our experience.

Social media’s been mixed for me. I’ve definitely had moments when I take a picture or have a passionate flow of words come to me and think “Oh man! This will make a great post!” It’s also connected me to people I’ve come to call true friends, collaborators, teachers and mentors from all over the world I wouldn’t have had a chance to interact with otherwise. It’s provided an audience for my images, words, and music I might not have had. It’s inspired me to refine my photographic eye and hone other creative skills.

Being content-focused to me is living on the surface. It can take up a lot of energy, without a lot of reward for either the creator or consumer. Creating content with the goal of connection, though, has the potential to be inspirational and even interactive.

It’s important too, I feel to make sure the mission and message are aligned. That a subversive mission of gaining a following doesn’t dilute the offering.

In my own experience lately, I found I was expending a lot of effort in creating content in a way I thought would bring me passive income and potentially a large following. It. Was. All. So. Hard. I realized one day I had distracted myself from my original goal, which was (and still is) to find a way to share with others my joy of creative practice, and how it can contribute to making meaning.

To the point where even though a particular plan felt so uncomfortable, wrong, not “me”, I was pursuing it anyway. I had veered off the path of wanting to truly connect with others and holding space for them to make their own discoveries to healing, stillness, and celebration of this thing we call life.

Full.

Stop.

So, Adele, you may be thinking… what does all this have to do with goals and plans?

For one, the concepts of content, connection, goals, and plans have been tumbling around all together in my mind these past few weeks.

Let’s consider, for a moment, to look at both content and goals as intent. They can both be broad and vague. Examples could be: This topic is trending and I’m going to rehash it/share a meme. I want to increase clicks with this catchy headline. We will create a brand that will create excitement in a certain demographic. I want to write a best seller novel/song. I want to be a baseball player. I want to change my weight/fitness level. Goals are an expression of a desire. Sometimes they are realistic, and sometimes they are really more dreams than anything.

Plans are the action steps: I’m going to go a new provocative route with this trending topic, and these are the steps I’m taking. The headline is not just a teaser, but the content makes you want more. This month we will launch new packaging that’s more appealing to a demographic. I am scheduling time each day to devote to a pursuit, either for enjoyment or mastery. I am sitting down today to make my meal plan for how I want to eat. They connect (see? this is how my brain works!) the dream to reality. The route to achievement. A sense of meaning is being created. Good stuff!

I chose the image for this post because for me it’s both content and connection. It’s made from a butter box I was going to recycle. I turned it inside out, and created something different. From the outside, it’s not what it appears to be. It can hold anything. Rocks, slips of paper with words of encouragement. Or as it turned out, a pair of sock I knitted and gave to a friend because I started knitting them while staying with her when I had nowhere else to stay.

My invitation to you this week is to look at what you are putting out to the world. Are your message and mission in alignment? Are you creating value, or simply a scroll pause?


Affirmations, focus, goal setting, inspiration, journaling, mindfulness, Personal Development, Personal growth

“What Do You Do?”: Moving Beyond a Work-based Identity

Me back in ancient times, playing with my pet turtle in our blow-up swimming pool

In the culture I grew up in, training to identify with work started at an early age. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” A lot of kids answers have some element of adventure to it, once you take away the label. Fire fighter, astronaut, faery, explorer. Some are more practical: teacher, nurse, scientist, doctor, parent. For an entire year, I insisted I was a pirate named Maria.

Later, if we go to school beyond the teenage years, it’s “What’s your major? What trade are you training in?” And of course, the good old fall back at social gatherings: “What do you do?”, meaning what do you do for work. It’s a way to compare social status, I suppose.

All of these are identifiers as who we are as commodities, or part of a work community, but not who we are as people. I’ve done everything from cleaning bathrooms, to being an executive assistant to having the privilege to meeting a U.S. President. Those are all things I’ve done for work, but not who I am as a person. They don’t describe how I like to watch the play of light and shadow, stop to talk with birds, feel the texture of beads in my hands, get carried away in meditation, or how creating music will carry me away for hours. For a time I ran a group called “I am not my day job”, where we celebrated what we enjoyed when we weren’t working.

I’ve mentioned before elsewhere how having an event at one of my workplaces changed how different departments viewed and interacted with each other, simply by having a day of sharing what we all enjoyed doing outside of work. It elevated communication and interpersonal respect, and that improved productivity.

There’s so much beyond that practical value, though. I feel in so many cases now, there’s more and more pressure and expectation to produce more, with less time, and give up more of our time to our work. In some jobs, the time it takes to complete a task is monitored, not taking into account that workers are biological beings, and not machines.

This leaves very little time for us to do things we love, spending time with family, and just being. It’s gotten to the point where many of us are expected to be available for work 24/7. Belgium just recently passed a law that government workers no longer have to answer work emails or calls after work hours. Technology’s been great in so many ways, and it’s also accelerated burn out for workers.

It’s time to change how we identify, if we haven’t already. One of the- I suppose you could call it gifts- of the past couple of years is that many had an opportunity to rediscover things they love to do, and the desire to have a better balance in life.

My invitations to you this week are these:
When you meet someone, instead of asking them “what do you do” ask them what brings them joy, where’s the best place they’ve visited, first music they bought. Get creative in your inquiries.

And for yourself:
Write “I ….” and list as many things you can think of. Challenge yourself not to edit. These can be affirmations, such as “I am joyful”, things you like to do “I like wiggling my bear toes in the sand” “I love sinking into my bed after a long day” “I make music that fills my soul” “I am a friend/lover/parent/child”.

Make a list of your values. How do these reflect what you love to do? Who you are at your essence? Does what you do for work incorporate your values, or is it in conflict with them? (Sometimes we have to do what we have to do for work, and that’s OK!) If your work doesn’t align with your values, how can you make more space in your day for what does? Are there changes you can make within your current circumstances to better reflect who you are?

Look to see if there are groups or categories of identifiers. Are there unmet longings? Habits-in-waiting asking for attention? What action steps will you take today to bring these to reality?

I’d love to hear how it goes for you.
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This is a taste of the course I’m developing on defining one’s life purposes that I’ll be offering later this year. If this sounds interesting to you, send me an email at info@craftingthespirit.com and let me know you’d like to be on the mailing list.

creative practice, Creativity, focus, goal setting, inspiration, instinctive meditation, meditation, passion, Personal Development, Personal growth

Desire, Devotion, Discipline, and Dedication: Ways in to Habit Formation

Now that we’re a month into the new year, many of us have had resolutions or goals that have started to fall by the wayside. There are a lot reasons that this happens, and for so many. It could be that the goal was too ambitious, such as “I’m going to go to the gym everyday and work out for 2 hours” when you’ve only worked out an hour a week previously. Or “I’m going to write 3,000 words a day” when the most you’ve done is a couple of 140 word social media entries a week.

Why does this happen, why do we do this to ourselves, and how can we change this?

For one, as I said earlier, it might be too ambitious from the standpoint of our current reality. Or it might not be in alignment with our core values and life purposes. Or maybe we did it because we’re “supposed to”, and not because we want to.

Desire is the first key. What are some of your deepest longings? How are they currently appearing in your life, and how might you bring them forward? How do they fit in with your values? I’m a big fan of meditation being a form of mind-wandering. Take a moment to explore your desires. Something might show up asking for attention that surprises and delights you.

I feel devotion is the second key. Devotion is about love, tenderness, curiosity, and playfulness. Without engagement of joy and enthusiasm, the thing we’ve vowed to do can quickly become a burdensome chore. Sure, at times something will feel like a chore and not hold meaning, but the center of that will always (or mostly) be there.

Discipline I see as more, for lack of words at the moment, more linear or rigid. It can contain the training to learn a skill, or commitment to a time each day one sets aside to do the thing, such as writing first thing in the morning. It might include the rules one has around their practice.

Dedication to me is an amalgamation of it all. Desire, devotion, and discipline working in partnership.

It might be helpful to ask yourself these questions, originating from the work of Alan Seale, and I have used so much in life:

  1. What wants to happen? Not what do I want to happen, but what is coming forward, asking to be expressed?
  2. Who is what wants to happen asking me to be? What inner parts of me are going to be engaged to make things happen?
  3. What needs to happen? What are the action steps?

Then make time for creating the habit of what you want to do. Schedule 2, or 5, or 20 minutes to do the thing. Be realistic, and perhaps start small. You can go beyond the time if you want. With any luck, the doing, the making, the moving, will become as natural as say… cliche, I know… but as natural as brushing your teeth.

If you’re still having a challenge working something into your day, try making a list of parts of what you want to do, like a menu. Choose one, two, or three things to complete that day. A sense of accomplishment can be a reward in its own right, and created the desire to do “the thing” again.

I invite you to try this out, and let me know how it goes!