"At the deepest level, the creative process and the healing process arise from a single source.” ~Rachel Naomi Remen
I had so much fun with a root canal on my back tooth that I decided to do it again. Okay, not really, but I am grateful for dentists and endodontists even though visits to them are not high on my list of fun things to do. I get to choose my attitude and I feel fortunate to live in a time when dentists can relieve my pain. My tooth has been causing pain for over a month. I thought I could wait until my six-month visit in three weeks, but in addition to the pain when eating and after eating for hours, the pain was waking me in my sleep. And anyone who knows me understands that I need my sleep.
I have a great dentist and staff and I learned that the root canal I had 25 years ago could fail – who knew? Once they saw my problem, they got me an appointment with an endodontist on the same day. So, all I had to do was wait for 6 hours. The tooth was throbbing like it had its own heartbeat, so I decided to paint with watercolors. And like magic, I was in the present moment putting paint to paper and for hours the pain was not in the forefront of my mind. I painted small wet-into-wet pieces of nature. They are not masterpieces, but they were the perfect pain reliever. The painting above is one of the pain relieving pieces. The creative process brought me to the present moment and eased my pain.
How can you use present moment awareness when you are in pain?
“I would say I was always very ambitious and goal-oriented, but rather than being just a go-getter hustler, now I surrender a lot more and I trust my path a lot more.” ~ Jenna Dewan
I was going through old notebooks and found a piece of advice from a friend that got me through a difficult time at work. During that time in my life, I didn’t have a mindfulness practice, yet he taught me an important mindfulness practice to surrender and let go because I didn’t have control. My friend got me to read a great book Now, Discover Your Strengths by Buckingham and Clifton and I learned that two of my deep strengths are responsibility and achiever.
Responsibility and achiever are good strengths to have in the work place. I took full responsibility for each task I was given and the achiever in me wanted to do the best job possible. But, my friend pointed out that for my psychological safety I needed to look at the situation that was causing me to suffer and realize that many things were WAY outside of my control. He got me to comprehend that I couldn’t own the pieces that I didn’t have control over and it was important to separate myself from the things I didn’t have control over. In work situations there can be may be issues with politics, bosses, their bosses, co-workers, technology, software, and other things to numerable to list. I had to let go of beating myself up when all of my hard work wasn’t making a difference. He told me to TRUST that everything would work out. I still worked very hard and did the best I could, but I let go of my expected outcome - it made a huge difference in my attitude and sanity.
Now seven years later, I realize how valuable the advice was - it was just the beginning of learning to trust in a power greater than myself and to learn to surrender and go with the flow when you aren’t in control. And we are never in control. I am so grateful to have received the advice so that I survived and thrived during a difficult time. I am also grateful to now have a mindfulness practice that focuses on those key concepts of acceptance, surrender and trusting the path.
What are your greatest strengths?
How do you take care of your psychological safety when things in your life are outside of your control?
“Creativity reduces stress, anxiety, depression, and can increase a positive outlook and lead to a better immune system response.” ~Doreen Virtue
One of the best ways for me to live in the present moment is when I do creative endeavors. I never thought of myself as a “creative” person. I took my first art class in my thirties. In my first watercolor class I learned to mix colors and I thought it was magical; I entered another realm of time and space. On Wednesday’s I would leave work on time and attend a 3-hour painting class. During that time, I was in the now. All of the issues from work and in my life just disappeared from my thoughts. Art brought balance into my life.
I am currently reading Jean Haines new book Paint Yourself Calm. This is a book about creating mindfulness using watercolors; it is not a how-to book about creating masterpieces to hang on your wall. Jean states in her book, “Anyone can paint. Not only anyone, but everyone.” If you have never painted with watercolor and want to experience the joy of living in the present moment, then this book is for you. If painting is not your creative path, then you might try some other current trends including meditative coloring books and mindful doodling (Zentangle). There are many other ways to be creative too – you can be artistic when cooking, gardening, taking photographs, quilting, scrap-booking, making crafts, jewelry making, or whatever brings your focus to the here and now and lets your forget about your worries and regrets. Creativity is nurturing for our body, mind and soul.
What are your favorite creative activities? How can you find more time in your life to be creative?
Is there some creative activity that you have always wanted to try? If yes, get a book, sign up for a class, or watch an online tutorial and get started on a calmer new you.
“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.” ~Amit Ray
I was on a road trip and we encountered a major thunderstorm that was very nerve wracking for me as the passenger. We were on the freeway and I noticed that up ahead were ominous looking dark clouds. Once we hit the storm, it was a torrential down pour. We had the wipers going at full speed and you could barely see the car in front of us. Many cars had pulled over to the side of the road, some with their flashers on and others with their lights turned off. It was a dangerous situation; we were in the middle lane of the three-lane highway. Every car and truck, but ours, had their flashers on as they were driving. The highway was flooded with water so whenever a semi-truck passed us we had another major impact of water, in addition to the rain, so we were blinded for a few seconds.
We were in this intense storm for forty-five minutes and needless to say I did not enjoy it. Why didn’t I enjoy it? Because I wasn’t in control; I wasn’t driving and I could not control the weather. And then I remembered “Oh yeah, I am never in control.” At the point I became aware that I was not in control, I remembered that I needed to practice present moment awareness. The first thing I did was take slow deep breaths. That made me aware that I had been taking shallow breaths and that I had tensed all of my muscles. Deep Breathing with longer exhalations than inhalations immediately helped to relax my body and mind. Then I remembered that I needed to surrender to the situation, as I had no control over what would happen. My mind was racing with thoughts of all of the things that could happen (car crashes, death, etc.), but I needed to be present in the now and just accept what was actually happening. As soon as I surrendered, a deep calm overwhelmed my body. It was amazing – it was actually a blissful feeling in the midst of this uncertainty. I didn’t enjoy the storm and I was grateful when the storm let up, but I learned a great lesson in letting go and practicing acceptance.
How do you bring calmness to yourself and your body when you are in stressful situations?
How do you conquer the anxiety of life?
“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” ~Buddha
Recently on my camping trip, I would sit in my chair with my cup of coffee and admire the beauty of nature all around me. I spent a lot of time watching the birds. I loved watching the geese and especially the baby geese; they were so cute swimming in the lake. The father was very protective of his children as he came squawking up to me as I took pictures from the shore. He made his point and I backed away.
My favorite bird to watch was the blue heron. I loved to hear the thwack of their wings as they flew overhead. But, what I loved to watch most was how the heron would just stand silently still in the water for hours. I wanted to emulate that heron and just “be.” He was modeling for me how to live in the present moment; he wasn’t busy off doing little things, he was just being. I am sure that he had a time to eat and clean, but most of the time when I saw him, he was just majestically standing there and living in the present moment.
I learned a lot from watching nature and how the birds and animals didn’t seem to struggle. The animals had a pattern - the beavers were swimming in the early evenings making their lodges, the fish were jumping for the insects at dusk and dawn, and the frogs and toads made there mating calls at night. The animals did not seem to be dwelling in the past or worried about the future, they were taking Buddha’s advice and living in the present moment and making the most of it. When I get busy “doing” too many things, I will pause, take a deep breath to calm my body and emulate the heron by coming to a place of stillness.
What can you do to concentrate the mind on the present moment?
How can you emulate the heron in your own life?
Peggy Steffens is an artist and Chopra Certified Meditation Instructor
My goal is to build a community with like-minded individuals who want to grow, share and learn from one another. Please post comments to enrich the experience for all.