finding creative inspiration

When I was at school, I participated in art about as enthusiastically as I participated in sport – ie. not at all! How strange then to find myself, aged 52, working in the world of movement and exercise with a growing fascination in art and creativity. I come at both things from the perspective of wellness, because I think that movement and creativity are each closely linked with a sense of well-being, promoting physical and mental health.

Maybe both things were always destined for me, and it just took me all this time to realise it?! But now that I have, I think that for me a key part of 2019 will be about finding creative inspiration…

This week I have made a start & have felt a real surge of creative energy, which was sparked by a wonderful writing workshop on Wednesday afternoon. Although I like to write I was nervous, not knowing what to expect from the session lead by Hilary Wilce at Smallhythe Studio. I needn’t have worried – it was the most supportive, uplifting and joyful way to spend two hours and I smiled gently to myself all the way home. I feel like it has stirred something in my soul and opened my eyes to see differently. It was truly inspirational and an unexpected joy. I will definitely go to more writing workshops and wholeheartedly recommend the process of using writing prompts and short time-frames (eg. five minutes) to get your thoughts on paper.

reading, writing and purple ink

When I got home after the writing workshop, I picked up my Christmas present to myself which I had only flicked through previously. It is a beautiful book called ‘Conscious Creativity’ by Philippa Stanton. I had seen it on Instagram (a source of much inspiration for me given that I love photography, even if it is only iPhonography) and bought it mostly because it is a visually stunning book. One of the things I love is that the author leads you to explore your own creative vibe through a series of questions and prompts and then some exercises* to work through at your own pace. You can dip in and out or follow along with each chapter, which is where I’ve started because I feel like a bit of structure is good for me right now. If you’re interested in exploring your creative side in 2019, this is a great place to start.

Still feeling creatively stirred when I woke up today, I followed up a recommendation that a friend gave me a few weeks ago. She had just started Mission: Inspiration with Mike Deakin – a series of monthly art journal challenges delivered via You Tube, his facebook group and his vlog. I woke up early and sat in bed watching his first ‘story’ for January, which, for someone who has never dabbled in mixed media art (but would love to know more about it), was totally mesmerising! I have no natural feel for this kind of art but watching someone create in this way was mind-blowing for me. I’m not expecting my creation to blow anyone’s mind but I will be getting out some glue and paper this weekend for sure!

So how about you – what do you do to feed your creative soul? Does creativity play an important role in your life? How does it make you feel?

I’d love to know what inspires you and any creative types that you follow – please share.

* And also I’d love to know any music suggestions you’d like to offer, partly because one of my ‘Conscious Creativity’ exercises is to listen to some music recommended by a friend. There is another reason for the music too, but I’ll share that at a later date…

Wishing you a joyful, creative week Jx

putting my house in order

Putting my house in order – January 2019

Not one for NY resolutions, I am however really enjoying the surge of energy I’m feeling at the start of 2019. This time last year my Mum had not long died and I felt as if I was crawling into the new year. My only goal at that stage was to have one thing each month to look forward. Those things became my stepping stones through a difficult year.

It took me until October to even start to emerge from my grief. Obviously the grief is still there but it is no longer pulling me under – it’s a part of life but it’s no longer all-consuming. From that point on I had a real drive to ‘catch up’ on the months I had lost and I entered into a phase of frantic DIY which lasted until early December. In hindsight, I realise that it was mostly about being so busy that I didn’t have time to think; it was my way of escaping from the world and staying safe in my house. It left me with newly painted walls and total exhaustion!

Since Christmas I have started on a new DIY project, but this time it feels different. I’m not using it to avoid the world – I’m using it as a way of putting my house in order and the change in focus feels quite nurturing. Resolving problems, clearing out cupboards, reorganising and re-thinking how I use the space I have, has been a really positive process – although the dog is still not happy that his bed is in a different place!!

At the same time I’ve started taking more care of my body – the ‘house’ in which I literally live – by reviewing and overhauling some lazy nutrition and exercise habits:

  • I’ve defrosted and sorted through my freezer; stocked up on staple ingredients; batch-cooked some meals and prepped so that healthy meals can be quicker and easier to prepare.
  • I’ve been trying to walk at least 5km a day – some days I’ve gone double that distance, some days I haven’t reached it, but over time I hope the average is 35km a week. I’m finding it quite tough – not the distance, but the time it takes to walk the distance – but since I hate running I’m just going to have to find the time required!
  • I have also signed up to R.E.D January to nudge me into doing something fitness-related every day (on top of walking). I have become very good (aka bad!) at ‘letting myself off’ my own fitness training over the past few years, armed with some real reasons but mostly lots of excuses, but I am determined that it is going to change this year. I’ve started with short workouts on the basis that 10-15 minutes is an ok place to begin and that done is better than perfect. It’s not too late to sign up to R.E.D January if you need a gentle nudge too

The final part of putting my house in order is finding a word to set my intention for the way ahead. I caught myself  thinking I didn’t want to do this because although I think it’s a neat idea, nothing came to mind and I didn’t want to give my energy to it…but my #cy365 photo prompt for Thursday was ‘one word’ and that kind of forced the issue! My first thought was ‘now’ because it was in the title of the book I had just finished reading (‘Goodbye For Now’ by Laurie Frankel) and I decided it was a good reminder about being present – ‘in the now’.

here

Then as I walked my 4.7km this morning I decided that ‘here’ was perhaps a better reminder to be present in life and so that is what I have settled on. I regularly give myself the chance to opt out of living fully but maybe this year will be different and I will opt-in to the ‘here and now’ more often…

Regardless of the time of year, I think it is always useful to take time for some auditing and life-laundry. Putting my house in order feels like the best way to start the year, and so much better in every way than the way it started last year.

I don’t plan to use these intentions to beat myself up with if I get side-tracked later on, but at their heart these are the things that matter to me and it seems sensible to set out my stall in the quiet moments before I go fully back to work next week.

I’m fed up with not showing up in my own life and I am the only person that can do something about it, so watch this space (or don’t!) – this year I will be HERE!

Jx

onwards & upwards

As a general rule, I don’t tend to label days or weeks as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ but last week really was a BAD week, and so this week has been about moving onwards & upwards.

Or as a friend often says in such moments: ‘AVANTE!’

I had some (mental health) homework to do over the weekend which has been surprisingly helpful. The first part was to identify some key personal values; the second part was to find activities which support/match each of those values. For example, if one of my values was ‘feeling a sense of achievement’, completing a DIY task would be an activity which supports that value.

The idea behind the homework is to find a whole range of activities that support my values, so that I can spend more time doing those things (because they will help me to feel better) and less time doing mindless things (such as watching TV) which might be a  good distraction but which don’t contribute to a sense of well-being. To start with I was a bit flummoxed about my task, but once I gave it some thought it all became clearer and I have used it this week to help me feel more ‘me’.

I have also taken some inspiration from this gorgeous picture (by Lori Roberts) which is called ‘ABC of Life’ – I think it encapsulates all the things that matter to me (maybe apart from the voting?!):

ABC of life by Lori Roberts

So armed with my list and Lori’s art, I thought I’d share some of my wins from the past week:

  • a long walk on Saturday morning in the company of friends, followed by tea and cake at The Avocet Gallery in Rye Harbour got the weekend off to a really great start. The sunshine and stunning views made the early start very worthwhile. I walk everyday but really love to venture out for longer walks when I can – it works like a meditation for me I think. This week it will be Fairlight to Hastings, chips on the beach, and walk back again…
  • after-class drinks in the pub on Monday evening was a good start to the week – even though I don’t drink and I didn’t want cheesy chips, it was great to be in the company of those who do & did. Thank you lovely FP ladies x
  • I picked up my crochet hook (after a gap of 2 years) just to check I could still remember what to do (and I can!) ready to join a CAL (crochetalong) at Hoop in Tenterden on Saturday afternoon. I can’t wait to get started again – creating something (anything) is most definitely one of my key values – and I’ll be able to show what I made in 3 months’ time… [Do have a look at their website for details of upcoming events and workshops if you like to dabble with hook or (knitting) needle]
  • skiving off for an hour to pick damsons in the middle of a working day was a real feel-good moment – the sun was shining, buzzards were circling & calling overhead and there was no-one else around to compete for my bounty. I don’t often eat jam but I’m going to make it anyway to make use of my hedgerow harvest and add another tick to the ‘creating something’ activity list
  • bizarrely, and I never thought I’d say this, but I have even gained pleasure form starting on my tax return this week! Partly because it fits my ‘moving forward’ value but also because looking through the receipts has brought up many fond memories of planning & delivering my first retreat event this time last year. It’s odd that so much joy can be stored in an invoice, but I will definitely look for it every time I complete my tax return in future.

Rye Harbour

(Saturday morning in Rye Harbour)

It has surprised me how much a piece of homework which initially had me weeping (so much so that I literally kept turning the sheet of paper over so I didn’t have to look at it!!) has helped me to move beyond a difficult week and feel much more connected to myself again, and I haven’t been feeling that for quite a while. It’s just one step on a long road, but it feels great to make a start.

Obviously we all have our own unique set of values that keep us grounded. Maybe you already know what yours are or maybe my homework might help you too –

  • what are your key values?
  • what activities do you do to support them?

Onwards & upwards.

Avante!

self care

Written in November 2017:

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about #selfcare & what I can add to my life to fill up my bucket over the next few months. I think over the course of 2017 I lost the balance of work & life a little bit and I don’t want to continue this way.

I’m very aware that if I’m not careful the things I add will start to feel like stuff-that-has-to-be-done which of course takes away the joy of doing them… The hours I work don’t leave much time for regular extra-curricular things so I’ve decided to focus on adding ‘ad hoc’ things I can do when I feel able to. My goal is definitely to add quality but not quantity. I already have enough quantity going on…!

In the context of my own life, I was already thinking about how important #selfcare is when I had a conversation with a client one evening and was quite saddened by something she said.

She has recently experienced some leg pain and after some successful soft tissue work with her last week, I advised her on a couple of simple release exercises she could use during the week to keep her feeling more comfortable. She has been frustrated by her limited ability to exercise and is keen to get back to running. We were catching up on her week, and talking about whether she had done any of the releases I had suggested and she said that she had literally not had the required two minutes on any day since I had seen her last!!

Really??!

We had a pretty light-hearted chat about where she might have found those two minutes each day, but I really hope the message was loud & clear:

if we never put ourselves at the top of our own to-do list, we’ll never be at the top of our to-do list!

My lovely (& undeniably very busy) client had put everything else on her list – stroke the dogs, sort through the post, organise the children to practise their music, make the dinner, a large G&T…and I’m not in any way saying that those things are not important BUT I am definitely saying that those things are not more important than her leg. I hope she heard me – I’ll be checking with her next week for sure!

Self-care comes in all shapes and sizes.

If we ignore our body when it is in pain, the pain is not going to go away, and it will probably get worse and require more time in the long run.

In the same way, if we ignore a lack of balance in our work & life, it probably isn’t going to become any more balanced…

What shape does your #selfcare look like?