Developing a Foundation For a Creative Life

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Sparklers after Sunset by Jamie Street on Unsplash.com

 

The other afternoon, I had a lovely interaction with the express checker at Whole Foods. He’s a fun guy. I remember him and like to be in his line because he’s always kind and present no matter how busy he is.

Our conversation started out with me telling him, “I’m so glad I got you for a checker today. You’re always so friendly and pleasant. It’s nice to interact with you.”

His smile began to shine and his eyes grew bright. He has the nicest smile. And he replied, “Thank you. That’s nice of you to say. How’s your day been? Have you done anything fun or exciting?”

I had to think for a moment. “No. Not really fun and exciting. It’s been an okay kind of day.”

I then asked him about something he’d told me a few months back – that he had graduated recently and was looking for work in his new field. “How’s the job hunting going?”

He took a moment to pause, perhaps to consider how to answer the question. Then said, “I’m working on it. I’ve got some fear around moving forward.” or something along those lines.

I stood for a moment noticing how amazing it was to hear someone tell the truth. Just like that. With no great fanfare. No drama. Just the truth. His voice was clear as he was honestly sharing that he was feeling fear. And then he said, “I don’t know if that makes sense.”

So I told him what I do for a living. That I’m a coach. He chuckled in response. And then I told him that it makes total sense to me. I hear this all the time from those I work with. And, I know it deeply within myself. The feeling of fear when we step out into new territory. For some of us, the fear keeps us stuck – not moving. For others, we step out but with great bravado so no one will know we are afraid.

And, then he mentioned how the fear gets in the way of responding creatively. And, then, of course, my ears totally perked up and I smiled. After I told him I teach courses on this, he asked me if I had anything to share with him. And, of course, as you probably guessed, I did.

So, I did.

This is what I shared with him. I think it is good and helpful information. I wouldn’t call it advice per se because there is no way to tell him – or you – what you should do…but I can offer him/you a few ideas to develop a strong foundation for a creative life.

  1. Trust in your own knowing
    Trust that you have the resources within you that will guide you in any moment. Don’t look ahead and worry about what will come and how you will respond. When you have faith in your own capacity to know in the moment, you are much more likely to take the next step, and then the next, and then the next. With each step, your creative resource within knows how to respond.
  2. The Voice of Judgment
    The thing that gets in the way of trusting your own knowing is the Voice of Judgment (the VOJ). The VOJ tells you that you need it, that it is looking out for your best interests. And the more you step out, the louder it gets. But the thing is, you don’t need it. It will only keep you small. Afraid to risk. Overthinking. And swirling in dramatic emotions and fear.
  3. The Foundation for Creativity – Presence:
    Ultimately, the trust in your own creativity, your own knowing, is the foundation you want to cultivate. Once you relax the VOJ and trust in your own ability to know in the moment, everything opens up. You become aware of everything around you, aware of possibilities, aware of resources available to you in the moment. The thing is, you aren’t going it alone. You are fully supported by unknown forces and by the flow of life that surrounds you.
  4. YOU are Creative
    This is what it means to be creative. Creativity is much more than artistic talent. Creativity is the nature of this universe we live in. And it is our nature.
  5. You are not afraid
    You are feeling fear. There is a big difference. One slaps the identity of fear on you, that you are a fearful being. When we do this, we begin to believe that we are afraid. But, when we realize fear has nothing to do with our identity, that it is something we feel just like any other feeling, we shift into an entirely different relationship with it. It no longer is us. Instead, we can keep moving, feeling whatever comes. Same with judgment, which is the source of our fear of being creative and taking risks. When judgment no longer sticks, it just comes and goes.

All feelings come. All feelings go. But your creativity is YOU. Your capacity to meet whatever comes is YOU.

He thanked me. And then, I realized I’d just had that fun experience he’d asked me about earlier. In just a few short minutes, we’d talked about something that lit us both up. I could feel how excited I was to share what I know. And I could see the gratitude in his smile and eyes. He was genuinely interested in what I was sharing with him.

We said goodbye, and I headed out to my car.

R I S E

volcanoRISEsmallAll of this is so present for me as I prepare my new course R I S E. This man is not alone. I told him that. We are all facing unknown territory. It might be the current conditions in the world. It might be a new job search or a relationship breakup or an illness of someone we love. Whenever we realize we do not know what lies ahead and we wonder HOW we will navigate this unknown space, we have the choice to step into this vast unknown place of uncertainty or to retreat back to what seems like safe space.

The most important thing is that we find a trust in our capacity to be in this life, fully engaged and fully alive. This is what we came here for! To be alive. To live who we are. To be part of the human community.

Live Q&A Call

I’ll be hosting a live call to share more about R I S E and this amazing work that I’ve been teaching for fourteen years to so many different people and groups. I will share a bit of the work. Trust me, you’ll take away things you can use immediately. And, I’ll answer any questions you might have about R I S E

Dates:
Saturday, Feb 4th 9-10 am PST

Call Information:
712-775-7100
Participant Access Code: 1005863#

 

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Discovering Your True Capacity to RISE

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“You are what you pay attention to.” ~ Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

 

A pretty profound statement, really.

This morning I was thinking about reflections, about where, what, and whom we look to for a reflection of who we are – or who we believe ourselves to be. What and where and whom we habitually look to reinforces our sense of identity and our idea of what we are capable of.

When I was a young girl growing up in my particular family, there were certain things that were more acceptable ‘to be’ than others – like sweet, polite, and agreeable; toned down and quiet rather than boisterous. It was acceptable for me to be small, to contain my natural power rather than challenge the power of the adults in any way. That was the parenting style of the time. A child was to be seen and not heard – especially girls.

For most of my adult life, without even realizing it, I continued to seek out reflections that showed me I was good, polite, toned down, etc. to make me feel at home, comfortable, like myself – the self I long ago constructed so that I would be always ‘acceptable’. And in order to find these reflections, I had to continue to believe I am and BE only these things.

But, the reality is that underneath it all, I am a lot more than these qualities.

In the creativity courses I teach,

I offer to my students the understanding that our true nature is made up of a myriad of essential qualities, meaning natural and organic qualities that we already are without having to learn them or acquire them.

In fact, we cannot acquire them for they are what we are. They are essential to who we are.

The main essential qualities – soul qualities of our essential nature, of Essence itself – are compassion, joy, intuition, strength, will, and power. These qualities reflect our essential nature. Let that sink in. These six qualities are qualities of the nature within you.

These qualities ARE you.

We lose touch with them is that we come to disidentify from them. I mainly disidentified with joy, strength, and will. As a polite girl, it was necessary to not be too willful. As a girl who learned that she got strokes from being nice and unassuming, my essential strength, will, and power went undergound, into the shadow. And, as a girl who learned to identify with others’ suffering, I pushed my natural joyous – boisterous, really – self away. Living as the girl I described above, compassion and intuition were acceptable qualities and so it wasn’t a problem for me to stay connected to these in order to maintain my constructed identity. In fact, I got really good at living these qualities. They became emphasized.

In reality, it isn’t that we disconnect completely from any of them, but what I’ve found is that we ‘pretend’ to ourselves that some of them are ‘more like’ the identity we created than the others.

Essential Qualities and Facing Life Challenges

Take a moment to sense which of these six qualities you were able to stay connected to and which ones you ‘disallowed’ due to the identity you created:

compassion
joy
intuition
strength
will
power

Now, think about the qualities you learned weren’t okay to show. These are the ones you have a hard time accessing. And then consider the challenges you face right now – and the things that have always been a challenge for you. Ask yourself if the reason these things seem challenging to you is because you cannot fully access these certain qualities. If so, notice if you are reluctant to pursue these challenges because you believe ‘you don’t have what it will take’ to meet them. That belief comes from the fact you don’t have full access to your essential qualities and somewhere you know it. You BELIEVE you don’t have what these challenges will take.

Every single human being is born with full and open access to everything we need in order to live our lives. We’ve just lost connection to some of them.

After my husband died, I faced a great many challenges and at the time I thought for sure I didn’t have what it would take to face them. But, as I stepped through each one, I became stronger, more resilient, more powerful than I had been prior. And the deeper and more fully I grieved, the more joy I began to feel again.

Here’s the great news…

My late husband’s death pushed me into rediscovering these qualities, but we can choose to step into our challenges knowing we have exactly what we need to move through them.

We remember and reclaim access to these qualities by more consciously living the challenges we face in life. Challenges help us remember the depth and breadth of our capacities. Each challenge is the opportunity to discover our natural strength, power, will, intuition, joy, and compassion…and many of the other myriad unique qualities our soul possesses.

Think about that. Consider the challenges you are personally facing. What frightens you about these challenges? Now, for a moment, think about which qualities would support you to R I S E up to meet these challenges. Which of the six do you need but you don’t feel you have access to? Here’s the secret. It is by beginning to meet that challenge – committing to it and moving through the creative process within it – that the qualities are called forth.

It is by meeting these challenges with love and courage that you rediscover you are Love, you are intuitive, you are strong and powerful and joyous at your core.

These times are asking us to reclaim who we are. This is how we evolve – by becoming conscious of our essential nature and expressing this nature into the world.

As we begin to notice our natural, organic qualities, we connect to the fluidity of these qualities, which connects us to the experience of being alive rather than a still frame of a picture of who we decided we were some time ago.

By living our challenges, we begin to feel who we are rather than believing in any static idea of who we are.

Registration is now open for R I S E – my new course. 

R I S E is a 9-week course that will give you practical and potent tools to rediscover these qualities by taking immediate creative action in the world. The course is based on powerful Stanford University curriculum and it provides…

  • juliebyleniA foundation of tools, practices, and understandings from which to take clear action – the kind of action that often feels frightening and overwhelming without these tools and understandings.
  • Experiential and practical exercises to guide you to discover deeper and deeper layers of your true nature and how it desires to express itself in the world.
  • The realization that there is no ONE WAY to R I S E and that what R I S E even means is different to each of us.
  • An understanding that while these times feel challenging, it is the very nature of challenges to bring our best selves forward in order to bring forth a more creative, loving, joyful culture.
  • and so much more…

Find out more here. I’d love to have you take this journey with me!

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On Being Human

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beinghuman

 

“To be a good human being is to have a kind of openness to the world,
an ability to trust uncertain things beyond your own control.”

~ Martha Nussbaum

I’ve been talking with a friend lately about being human. How do we do it? and do it well?

It seems like a funny thing to talk about, but when you start to see how often we bumble things up –  get things ‘wrong’, say the wrong things – being human can feel like walking through a quagmire.

We seem to be funny creatures – not just my friend and me (yes, WE are) – but all of us human beings. Sometimes, it just feels really hard to be here on Earth – vulnerable, soft-soul creatures walking around in fleshy human bodies.

Especially now. We’re living in amazingly turbulent times. The rate of change makes my head spin. And I feel great grief with the direction we are headed as a species.

So how do we cultivate an openness to this world that feels so beyond our control?

We have to develop a practical, embodied relationship with the unknown nature of Life and we do this by becoming aware of and skilled in the expression of our own internal creative Source. We do so by becoming aware of our unique creative process and how to take action by being in direct relationship with this Source.

“To be a good human being is to have a kind of openness to the world, an ability to trust uncertain things beyond your own control, that can lead you to be shattered in very extreme circumstances for which you were not to blame. That says something very important about the human condition of the ethical life: that it is based on a trust in the uncertain and on a willingness to be exposed; it’s based on being more like a plant than like a jewel, something rather fragile, but whose very particular beauty is inseparable from its fragility.” ~ M Nussbaum

When you are rooted in the firm foundation of your creative Source, you can trust in the uncertain and have this willingness to be exposed.

I like Nussbaum’s analogy of being like a plant – or a flower – “something rather fragile, but whose very particular beauty is inseparable from its fragility.”

This is what I’ve been writing about for years here at UnabashedlyFemale. This beauty. This fragility. This tender softness of our human souls. To be human is to be flesh and soul. It is vulnerable.

And yet, this vulnerability is so much stronger than we think, because the main qualities of our creativity – our sacred nature – are strength, will, joy, intuition, love, compassion, generosity, caring, and power. Consider these qualities. The more we will our vulnerable, soul-soft, felshy selves, the more these qualities come to the fore.

When we live in a dynamic relationship with our own creative Source, we become reacquainted with these qualities of Being that we have mostly lost touch with from living out of fear and self-protection. It is by entering into this direct relationship and living it in the world that we remember these qualities – that we remember who we are and what we are made of.

Trust is the very important piece here. We have to learn how to trust again. And what is it we must learn to trust? Ourselves. The uncertain and unknown. And our capacity to meet whatever comes. We must relearn how to trust our relationship with Life, and with that comes relearning how to trust our relationship with other human beings – and really humanity itself.

Nussbaum writes that “Being a human means accepting promises from other people and trusting that other people will be good to you.”

But, if we no longer trust other humans (and ultimately ourselves, meaning our relationship with the unknown) then our life “is not a human life any longer.”

Here’s the part where it gets dicey. There are people in this world, right now, who wish to do us harm. How do we stay human in a world where other humans want to destroy life? How do we be a human being in today’s world where so many humans are violently against each other, and against Life? My answer leads me right into the unknown because “I don’t know.” And, I do know we have to find our way back to our humanity or we will not survive.

[Edited to add: And I do know we must see the highest in every human being, meaning we must see the Source that is within them, even though we meet their actions with our own appropriate action.]

I can honestly say that trusting the unknown has been one of the greatest challenges of my own life. I’ve fought it. Yet, I am completely in love with the mystery, with the creative process. I think I am not alone in this dilemma. We love adventure but we also do not like to lose control. Yes, we are funny creatures.

I agree with Charlotte Du Cann who writes,

“I realise we are not in a political crisis; we are in a spiritual crisis, an existential crisis. We don’t know what it means to be human anymore. We have lost contact with the meaning of time, our presence here. “

If our fear of each other is causing us to lose our humanity, then you can bet this is a spiritual crisis, an existential crisis. Our being human is directly tied to our spirituality. To be human we must be in direct relationship with the Source that gives us life, the Source of our creativity. We must be in dialogue with the Source of this great mystery, which means trusting the mystery – out there in the world, inside within ourselves, and within every other living being.

It’s all really very practical. The unknown is a fact of life. It is when we deny the facts of life that we’ve lost touch with the real.

If we are going to be agents of love and change, then we have to trust that which IS love and that which is the source of change.

 

***

Just next week, I open registration for my new course R I S E. This course is the culmination of my teaching over the past decade plus. The core of the course is the curriculum I teach at Stanford, and the same curriculum I taught when I worked with families directly affected by 9/11 and people directly affected by the Sandy Hook tragedy. It is the work I teach in companies. Originally offered to MBA students at Stanford for 25 years, it is powerful work.

I’ve named it R I S E because it is time to rise up. It is time to bring all of our knowledge, experience, and purposeful intent to create a more humane world. The beauty of R I S E is that it offers a practical and potent container to support YOUR work in the world. It gives you the interactive experiences, tools, and practices to come to know your own creative source so you can meet any challenge you face as you R I S E in this new year. We truly are facing a time of challenge, but at the same time we are facing a time of possibility – pure possibility.

When we R I S E to meet our challenges, we discover who we really are, we discover the vision we hold inside, and we discover the deep capacities we’ve been gifted with. R I S E will give you an amazing foundation from which to meet any challenge and opportunity, and living our challenges is how we discover who we are and what we are capable of.

Registration opens the second week of January. Sign-up for my newsletter to be notified.

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