Thursday, December 17, 2009

Emotional Hygiene--Check Yourself


Creativity is one of those higher order skills that really works best when we are at our best. Part of that process is staying on top of our emotional hygiene. First, I think we need to take the stigma out of the discussion of emotions. There is nothing wrong with feeling angry, sad, and disappointed sometimes. However, if we do not handle these emotions effectively, we end up alienating people or constantly feeling like crap.


We all have our own styles for dealing with emotions. For me, after a long day at work, I need at least half an hour to "decompress", usually by playing a computer game, reading blogs, or (when I am being emotionally unhygienetic) drowing myself in chocolate. Some of our habits as related to emotions are good and some not so good. Being aware of what we do in response to our emotions is the first step towards good emotional hygiene.


As with physical hygiene, emotional hygiene skills fall on a continuum with some people being impeccable, and some people being an absolute mess. People with impeccable emotional hygiene often come across as relaxed, joyful, and able to handle stress with cool calm. People who are a mess on this continuum often meet criteria for a serious mental illness. Most of us, just like the bell curve, probably fall somewhere in the middle of those two extremes.


Improving emotional hygiene can only improve one's quality of life. I am going to do a series of posts on what I am doing to improve my emotional hygiene. I would love to here what you do!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Best Gifts are Creative Gifts

I believe that finding the perfect gift for someone is an art. There is no thrill like getting someone a gift that they really love and can really use. However, this is not an easy feat!

My boyfriend, John, has an eleven-year old daughter, M. This age is very difficult to shop for! For that matter, John is hard to shop for. So, when faced with a challenge, I try to get the creative juices flowing to explore options. This exploring has led me to creative gift giving.

For M., I like to give her creative project gifts that many times are things I would enjoy as well. This way, it not only inspires her creativity but leads to an activity we can do together. An example of what I mean is:



Both M. and I like the show Project Runway. We have also used this kit together. It was a lot of fun and helped us both be more creative. It was also a way to spend some fun time together.

For John, it is also difficult to find good gifts. He loves knights and anything associated with that time period so one thing I like to get him are cool T-shirts that he would wear and are unique to what he likes. Zazzle is a great place for these types of products. Zazzle has several unique products that can be for almost anyone! Here is an example of what I might get him.

Joust shirt
Joust by BrazenHussy
Buy shirts at zazzle.com


I will keep posting great gift ideas until Christmas. We all could use help picking good gifts!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

"Dive From Clausen's Peer" A Review


"To Thine Own Self Be True".


This idea is at the heart of the novel Dive From Clausen's Peer by Ann Packer. As simple as a concept as it may be to be true to oneself, the real world application of this idea can be quite complicated. In this novel, the main character, Carrie, feels herself drifting from her old life. Like many of us, she felt that a stage in her life was complete and was compelled to move on or else be trapped in a rut, stagnating in a part of her life that was long dead.




Unfortunately for Carrie, something happens that keeps pulling her back into this old life from which she is trying to break free.




I like this book because it places a complex character in a complex situation. She is likeable and real; however, like any person, she has quirks and weaknesses. To judge how she reacts to the event that is pulling her back is difficult; there are no easy answers, which makes the novel provocative and worth the read.




On my bookmark scale, I give this a 7.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

My Favorite "Awareness" Blogs


What do I mean by "Awareness" blogs? These are blogs that talk about being aware of who we are and how it affects others. They do have a spiritual tone but have more practicality than just discussing abstract spiritual ideas. Others might also call them self-improvement blogs; however, that also short changes what these blogs are about and what they offer readers.



1. http://zenhabits.com/ Anyone doing a list of the top "awareness" blogs would include Leo Babuto's blog. He is the leader in this field. There is such an amazing tone to his writing and blog. His blog is simple and pure, with practical wisdom that benefits all kinds of people, no matter your beliefs or lifestyles. He simply helps the readers know themselves better and live better lives.



2. http://happylotus.com/ This blog is really wonderful. Nadia is an amazing writer and an amazing person. She talks about having had a near death experience as a teenager. This NDE seems to have tuned her into something deeper and more spiritual than is in the general awareness of society. Her compassion is so clear in her writings. Also, when you comment on her post, she writes a response, which is always kind, loving, and thoughtful.



3. http://www.questforbalance.com/ Lisis is the woman behind this blog. What I enjoy about this blog is the sweetness in the writing. She has a kindness and vulnerability in her writing that reaches out to the audience in a very real way. Lisis also responds to her reader's comments in a kind and thoughtful way.


When I read these blogs, it is not only the insights but the reminder to act out of a place of peace with yourself. They help me recenter and remind me of the compassion and love that needs to drive all actions. Sometimes, I get so angry and frustrated with my job or certain things in my personal life, and reading these blogs help me take that breath and remember the peace I had forgotten. I'd love to hear the "awareness" blogs that you love!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Maintaining Creativity in a Mundane World


Some days, I just feel like being creative. I either want to write a poem, draw, start a novel, or take some pictures. Unfortunately, I find that the mundane duties of job and life often drain that vivacity. There are certain responsibiilities in life that can take over and draw us into hyper-practicality. Get the bills pain on time, keep the house clean, grocery shop, take kids to some practice, etc.

So, what is the best way to reignite the creatie fire? Some things that work for me are


1. the five second meditation/visualization Yes, five seconds is a bit of an exaggeration but not as much as you might think. What I do to get in the creative frame of mind again (I also use this technique to regroup and relax), is use visualizations. For some of my visualizations, check out
http://www.spiritsoflena.com/2009/10/using-peaceful-scene.html


2. Cross-pollination: using others' creativity to ignite yours I talk about this on my photography blog at http://spiritsoflena.blogspot.com/2009/09/creativity-power-of-cross-pollination.html. I list there people who have really inspired my creativity. When I am having trouble being inspired, I will listen to some of my favorite songs, watch a show that is creative and inspiring, look at inspired photos, etc. This often helps reignite my creative drive.


What helps you reignite the creative flame?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Using "The Peaceful Scene"


Creative visualization is a powerful tool. Many theorists in the area of creative visualization assert that by visualizing what you want, your goals, or actions, you are likely to achieve what you are imagining. In fact, a book was recently written on the topic that has had some popularity called The Secret.





However, there are other powerful uses of creative visualization. One that I use a lot is what I term, "the peaceful scene". The peaceful scene is governed by your own emotional reactions to different types of settings. Therefore, for a peaceful scene to be most effective for you, it should be created by you.

I will share my two current ones, though, in the hope that it might help inspire others in building their own peaceful scene. Anyone can borrow any aspect of mine and apply it to their own process. I'd also love to hear about other people's creations so I can build some more for myself! You can never have too many tools in the stress toolbox.

My first one involves the ocean. I imagine myself in a hammock on a beach of soft, white sand, where the water is a translucent blue. I can feel the breeze rocking me and hear the water softly rippling. I drag one of my hands in the water, feeling its coolness run over my fingers. It only takes a few seconds to formulate this scene in my mind and I can stay there for as long as I choose (and without anyone who happnes to be around to know what I am doing.)

My second one has been formed recently. I actually "stole" it from a movie. I should probably thank the cinematographer for the peceaful scene. The movie is "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon". I finally got around to seeing it a few weeks ago. The scene is in the forest, in a room seemingly without a ceiling, just walls with a huge window. Two of the main characters are there and the man expresses the desire to be with the female character in this setting, leaving real world complications behind. I imagine myself there at a little round table, sipping warm tea, listening to the rustling of the leaves.



Using existing scenes and adapting them to your emotional perspective is a great strategy. Especailly movies that have wonderful cinematopgrahpy where almost every scene is breathtaking. Not that your pecaeful scene has to be beautiful or breathtaking. The only rule with this strategy is that it works for you!
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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Being More; Doing Less


As I explained in one of my previous posts, http://www.spiritsoflena.com/2009/09/my-happygirl-character.html my major goal in all my expressions is to bring something beneficial and of worth to the world. In contemplating this idea, (as I tend to overthink everything!), I have often wondered what the best way is to make my contribution.

Many wise people have said that to change the world, you have to start with yourself. This is one of those pieces of truth that is easier said than done. How do we actually change ourselves in a way that benefits the world around us? Conventional wisdom would say "do more" but the real difference comes from "be more", which can actually mean doing less.

What is meant by "be more"? Well, simply put, self-evolution. Being aware of yourself in the moment and how you are "being" in the world. It's having the courage to shine a light into yourself and paying attention to how "who you are" is affecting those around you. Then striving to be more of the big three:

Be more Accepting (of yourself)


Be more Kind (to yourself)


Be more Loving (to yourself)


Ultimately, be more of a living embodiment of your divine self which only you can find and define. One has only to look at the great ones to see the point. Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Theresa, Jesus, Buddha are all examples of this principle. Their actions were secondary to them being who they were. Their actions were a natural expression of who they were which gave power and genuineness to what they did.

The way to be a better you starts with one basic principle: pay attention to yourself, observe yourself, love yourself. Some ways to do this are:
1. Meditation

2. Daily reminders to yourself to pay attention to yourself and be kind to yourself.

3. Connecting with others who are also on the path to "be more"

4. Ask yourself questions like "who am I?" and "what is my purpose?"

5. Spend some quality time with yourself!

There is a buddhist saying: "You can explore the universe looking for somebody who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and you will not find that person anywhere."
Happy Being to everyone!



Sunday, October 11, 2009

Bonesetter's Daughter by Amy Tan--Not Broken!


I love Amy Tan. She has long been one of my favorite writers. I think I should be up front about that before I dive into a review of her novel Bonesetter's Daughter. Also, it is important to know that I like character driven novels versus novels that are more plot-driven.


Bonesetter's Daughter, and most of Amy Tan's writing, is character-driven. Tan does this type of writing masterfully. This novel is no exception. What Tan does so well in terms of character is give us someone with strengths and weaknesses. There is tragedy and hope residing in the same house, giving the reader the full spectrum of human experience.


As with her other novels, we see a personal journey of the character in dealing with cultural and generational differences. Additionally, there is a seeking for understanding the experiences of those closest to us and trying to understand another human being's journey. This novel is a study of a mother/daughter relationship and the daughter's journey to truly understand her mothers' story.


It is definitely classic Amy Tan. Although I enjoyed the novel, I prefer Kitchen God's Wife. However, if you are an Amy Tan fan like me, you will definitely enjoy this novel. I also highly recommend all of Tan's short stories for the same reasons. On my bookmark scale [from 1 (burn after reading to 10 (I can read this ten more times)], I'll give this novel a 7.5.



Saturday, October 3, 2009

My Six Words--Thanks for the Prompt!!

I love this idea! My six words for the moment are

Happily holding a blue soft Himalayan

The six word idea comes from

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Photography Favorites of the Week




Winston napping; a sunflower field in formation.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

My Happygirl Character


To go along with my online persona, I have created a new character. Her name is happygirl and she represents happiness and the calmness of yin. The design of her is simple because simplicity is often the key to serenity. She is one of my alteregos. I want to share something positive in my art. While I would love to make money from being creative, simply because we all want to be able to follow our bliss without financial limitations, I also want to share art that has a positive and loving aspect. Yet, as I say that, I am thinking about times when art is dark, which can be just as amazing and beautiful. Oh well, part of being creative is containing seemingly opposite truths.

http://www.zazzle.com/happygirl_happy_girl_says_be_good_magnet-147849402601233611

Sunday, September 20, 2009

My Favorite Photography




These are my favorite photos that I have taken as I explore the wonderful world of photography!

Creativity and Courage

Creativity is as much about courage as anything else. I am a relative newbie to the visual arts. I think that that fact is clear through my work that I have shared so far. One might ask, why share it if you know it is rudimentary and simplistic?

I love doing anything artistic. If I could, I would go take art classes but money and time prevent me. What I am doing at this point, is treating it as a hobby. I read everything I can about the visual arts in which I am interested. I also evaluate and study the work of others, particularly the ones that I am inspired by.

Still, why do I share my productions? The main reason is to get feedback, to see what people are attracted to and get comments that will help me grow in this area. Also, it is a good way to record my early work and see my progress over time.

Art is very subjective and quite often the artist will think something they created is brilliant yet it does not translate to the audience. On the other side of it, an artist may be really unsure of something and get a really strong positive reaction from the audience. Ultimately, to be in the creative world, you have to be willing to be a fool in order to have moments of genius. I am willing to be the fool 99 percent of the time if I can capture a moment of genius 1 percent of the time. Besides, I have been the fool so many times, I am used to it!