After being with my family and friends a lot during the holidays, I’ve been reflecting on how we spend our time together when we gather.
A few years ago I got tired of hosting parties where I spent most of the time having small talk and not actually feeling connected.
I think for many of us there can be a routine around what we do when we gather: talking, having dinner, telling stories, maybe playing a game or watching a movie. And while all of the pieces might be fun, we sometimes leave these gatherings feeling like we wanted more connection than we found there. Even if we were spending time with people we really love. Can you relate?
So I decided to make things more intentional by hosting a potluck with a twist-- the first hour we’d do some creative writing, and then let the party unfold from there. I gave everyone a writing prompt, we free-wrote for 10 minutes, and then shared our writing in small groups. We did this three times. That was all I had planned.
But people loved it so much they wanted to share what they wrote with the whole party. It became an impromptu open mic! Every single person shared. One of my shyest friends shared all three of his pieces, including one I’ll never forget about “pregret” (regretting something in advance).
The whole rest of the evening was so alive and connected because people had the experience of being vulnerable and showing themselves, and they all had something to talk about later.
There are so many simple ways to bring more life and connection into your gatherings through creativity. My friend Adam Rosendahl, who created Late Nite Art, has an awesome instagram post about all of the creative antics he got up to with his family on Thanksgiving this year, including a collaborative drawing of their meal, freestyle rapping, and story games.
I also HIGHLY recommend the book The Art of Gathering by Pryia Parker. It’s given me so much inspiration for deepening connection at all types of gatherings, from parties to business meetings.
Finger painting, singing circles, improv games, collage, pie-making, dance contests, poetry readings--the possibilities are endless.
Got any stories of creative gatherings you’ve loved? Drop me a line and let me know, I’m always looking for new ideas!
In my last blog post I challenged you to do something--anything--creative. How did it go?
The reality is that if we want to be more creative, we have to do more than think about it. We have to make time and space in our lives for our creativity.
While taking classes and workshops and dedicating our lives to art is all well and good, that’s not realistic for all of us, and definitely not all the time. But a creative practice that we can do in our homes in 10 or 20 minutes? Now we’re talking.
In addition to carving out the time, It’s really good to have some kind of space for our creative practice, no matter what form it takes. Ideally one that is private(ish).
Don’t have a good-enough space, you say? I didn’t think I did either - until I used my bathroom. Yes, you read that right. My bathroom.
I live in an intentional community house and I share a private space with my partner and young child. I was aching for a “room of my own” and realized that I could put a desk by the window of our large bathroom. I’ve painted, sang, danced, cried, and so much more in this bathroom. Did I fantasize about having some gorgeous backyard studio? Yes. Did I wait until I had one? Nope.
And, to my surprise and delight, after years of making the most of bathroom creative time, I have gotten a tiny bit closer to my dream in the past few weeks. There just so happens to be a treehouse on our property that the kids don’t use. (Treehouses are so 1992, I know…) As I walked up and opened the door, I found my new creative studio.
Sure, I can barely stand up in it, but there’s room for a table and a chair and a meditation cushion on the floor. It has windows that open and look out into the trees. OK, there’s no glass, but it’s warm most of the time in Oakland...and I can wear a sweater. We cleaned it out and found a rug and some battery solar lights to cozy it up. It’s not perfect, but it works. Especially when the bathroom is occupied!
So back to you -
Take a moment to think about your home.
Is there a space you can carve out for you own creativity?
A desk in the corner of a kitchen or bedroom where you can stash some art supplies in a box? Can you clean out a closet and put a little table in there? Maybe a corner of the garage?
Drop me a line and let me know what you come up with!
Do it now. You know what I’m talking about. That creative thing you’ve been meaning to do that you’ve tucked away in the corner of your mind.
Don’t wait until the lighting is right and the stars have aligned and you have the perfect array of art materials laid out in an Instagram-worthy spread.
There’s always gonna be more work to do, emails to reply to, facebook posts to read.
Start now. As soon as you finish reading this.
It doesn't have to take more than five minutes. It can even be three. But it can change your whole day. And over time, change your whole life.
You get to see what happens when you step out of the constant working and consuming, and into the unknown sea of your own creative expression.
You start making space for your unique voice to come through.
You start listening to your intuition as it guides the lines you draw or the way you move your body.
Don’t put pressure on yourself to create something amazing that you’ll frame and hang on the wall (though I won’t try to stop you if you want to do that!)
The point is the process, not the product.
It’s the act of playing and creating because that is what we are meant to do as humans and that is what makes us feel more alive. As Howard Thurman said, “don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
I've found, in my own life and work, that when we are more alive, more fully ourselves, and more in touch with the flow of creativity, we are then able to truly serve and share our gifts with the world.
Can’t think of what to do? Here are 3 ideas to get you started:
Go ahead. Do something creative. Let me know how it goes!
What would you do if you didn’t care what anyone thought? If it didn’t have to be good? If you followed what makes you feel alive? If you trusted that was enough?
These are the questions I asked myself when I was planning my creativity workshop last month. I had been running through ideas, thinking about what worked in the past, and I just felt...blah. I started half-planning an event that didn’t sound that fun to me, and then I stopped.
I asked myself what I actually wanted to do.
At first nothing came to mind. I thought that maybe I was in an uninspired mood. Then a few minutes before getting into bed, a brand new idea popped into my head:
“I want to sing karaoke. But not regular karaoke, intentional karaoke. Conscious karaoke. Conscious karaoke? Hmm...that might be a good name.” The description spilled out of my head into the notes app on my phone. I felt excited.
When I woke up the next morning I was a little less sure. Did Conscious Karaoke sound funny in a good way, kinda tongue-in-cheek? Or just weird? Would anyone like it? Would people think I was weird?
Fortunately, those voices never got too loud. I kept reminding myself that it was OK to just do what I wanted to do, and see what happened.
And a few weeks later I was in a dimly lit private karaoke room in downtown Oakland with some brave souls. Conscious Karaoke was a reality. It was as fun as I had imagined, and even more deep and healing than I had anticipated.
I used my 5 step intuitive creativity process as frame for the evening. I guided people to listen inside for what song was calling to them. Everyone discovered something that was just right.
One woman’s experience was was deeply emotional, and it surprised her. “I’ve never cried and sang at the same time in front of other people before,” she said. She doesn’t identify as a singer, but her “performance” was incredibly moving because it was so real and vulnerable. And it was healing for her.
Someone else chose a song where she could try out expressing anger, and she was fierce! It allowed her to step into parts of herself that she doesn’t normally show, even to herself. We could all feel her power.
As for me? I belted out a Janis Joplin classic and realized that I only knew the chorus, so I had to improvise all of the verses. Not doing something perfectly--in public, no less--is good medicine for me.
Everyone was so brave. People had moments of self-consciousness -- their inner critic trying to overshadow their expression -- but the space was safe enough for them to lean in and stay present instead of hiding.
If I hadn’t followed that voice inside that was telling me what I really wanted to do, none of these breakthroughs would have happened. And that would be a shame.
Is there anything you’re excited about, but holding back for fear of judgment? Can you make some space today to tune into what you really love, or what you really want to do, and then go and do that? Drop me a line, I’d love to know!
And join my email list if you’d like to know when the next Conscious Karaoke event will happen next. It would be truly great to witness your song emerge.
What do you feel when you read those two words? Dread? Irritation? Anxiety? A desire to immediately start reading something—anything—else?
For me, thinking about climate change brings up a list of “shoulds:” I should be more aware, I should be more involved, I should be donating more. Also, fear. Particularly for my almost three-year-old daughter, who will be living in this changing world much longer than me.
When all of the shoulds and fear start to rise up, I often find myself clicking off of the story I was reading and moving on to fold my laundry, or do anything else besides think about the situation on our planet. While I’m usually pretty good at staying with hard feelings and working through them (I am a therapist after all!), I often feel stuck around this issue.
Because it feels so freaking HUGE and OVERWHELMING!!!!!
And sometimes kinda hopeless.
Anyone else with me here???
So, I’ve been thinking.
I’ve realized that, for me, the first step toward taking on climate activism in a serious way (beyond attending a rally here and there) is to face these feelings, and see what emerges from there.
And one of the best ways I know to do that? The arts. Of course.
Why face our feelings? Why use art for such a daunting crisis?
Working through my feelings with art always helps me to sit with my fear, grief, and anger, rather than running away from them. Any art process, whether it’s drawing or collage or movement or writing, creates a container for things that can feel huge and unwieldy. It helps us get whatever is inside, out.
And because the creative process is generative, it always opens us up to something else. Sometimes there’s discovery—a way that our current feelings about climate change are connected to fears from our childhoods, or recognizing our disillusionment from being an activist earlier in our lives (this is true for me). We might also connect to our love for our planet, as we allow ourselves to feel and move our deep grief.
Through all of this, it may create some room for inspiration and action. For new ideas about how each of us can be involved in creating a world that is healthy for everyone.
Oh, and another thing we need to face these challenges? Community. Real connection. Knowing and feeling that we’re not alone.
I’m putting together some Expressive Arts circles where we can process our feelings about climate change together, and inspire action in ourselves and each other. If this is something you’d be interested in participating in, reply in the comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts!
While I don’t have the answer to the crisis we are facing, I do know that it requires many, many people using their creativity to come up with inspired solutions. So let’s start practicing.