Listen! Something is Stirring!

It wants your attention. It wants to be free. Have you heard it whisper?

You know what it is. It dances through your dreams. It causes you to be late because you’re mesmerized by a cloud formation that looks exactly like the city in a story you want to write. In a rare moment of silence, it says, Come, follow me, I have a story only you can tell. An image only you can paint.

It offers impractical ideas, suggesting you compose a poem or a symphony. A ludicrous idea. After all, you’re a busy person. Who has the time for frivolities? Ridiculous. But, is it?

The call of the Creative Self is real. It means that something inside you wants to be born into the world of time and the light of day.

The seeds of inspiration reside within us. Often just beneath the level of awareness. It takes a receptive attitude to invite those seeds into our lives so we can shape them by creative acts into a poem, a story, a drawing, a clay pot.

Children have unfettered access to the messages of their Creative Self. They draw on walls, paint on their toes, and sing at the top of their small lungs, simply for the joy of it.

As we grow, we learn what pleases our parents, teachers, and friends. We want to fit in, to be loved and praised, so we learn to follow the rules. We don’t fingerpaint when we’re supposed to be studying. We don’t eat dessert before the meal. We don’t spend nearly as much time watching clouds drift by.

Even though we learn to ignore its subversive messages, the Creative Self does not disappear. It is always waiting.

When it makes itself known, it can burst out like thunder, impossible to ignore. Or it may whisper, faintly, its voice only discernible in the vague moments between sleep and waking. Don’t be fooled by volume. The faint voice may have more to say.

Humans create biologically. We also create the conditions of our lives, with our choices, our willingness to learn, observe, and investigate what lies beyond our immediate surroundings.

  • Every explorer wonders what waits beyond the horizon.
  • Every athlete imagines the heights of skill she can achieve.
  • Every artist practices her art to faithfully reproduce the images of the imagination.

People who perform at the highest levels of their sport, art, craft, or profession have an inner drive urging them on. They might call it inspiration or ambition. The words don’t matter. The vision that urges us to keep us moving forward comes from the Creative Self.

You can do it, the Creative Self notes, because it knows you can.

No matter how loud or soft, how often it comes, or how clear its message, the voice of the Creative Self is what you are waiting for.

“Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.”

                                                                                                                 Rumi

 

 

Loving and Giving

Writing about the upcoming arts and crafts festival at UNM Continuing Education got me thinking. As much as a sense of unease rises in my chest at the sight of artificial Christmas trees for sale in October, I tell myself to stop being a curmudgeon. It’s the holidays! Get in the spirit!

Time is moving too fast, I protest. Can’t I enjoy fall leaves and carved pumpkins before trimming the tree and singing carols off-key?

In fact, No, the universe answers (with a smile).

Fall is winding down, even though summer flowers are still blooming on my front porch. It’s time for gloves and shorter days and a huge turkey dinner before we begin the great slide down the hill of this year toward Christmas/Hannukah/Winter Solstice. Celebrations that remind us of light and darkness, our ancient past, and how to push through winter until the weather turns again.

The winter holidays hold the promise of light renewed. If we have the capacity to express love for others—family and friends, our community, the people and animals of the earth—then perhaps there is hope for us too, even during the coldest winter night.

During the winter holidays, we are encouraged to express our love with gifts. If heartfelt, and offered without expectations, the most delightful of acts. To give freely, with no thought of what will return to us is a true expression of the concept of the high heart, which expresses authentically, without bartering.

The high heart offers compassion for self and others, appreciation, perception without judgment, and forgiveness. It works within healthy boundaries and does not take responsibility for the behavior and feelings of others. (As you might expect, living in our high hearts is related to feelings of calmness, peace, and more integration of our physical systems, which leads to less stress)

The low heart can be judgmental, fearful, clinging, sympathetic, and prone to attachments. It lacks boundaries and wants “credit” for its good deeds. It expects gifts received to be commensurate with gifts given.

So in this season of craft fairs, holiday sales, and lists of gifts to purchase, I hope to maintain an attitude of appreciation for what I have. I choose to be grateful for the years on this earth I have been gifted with, to forgive those who have injured others, and to send love to all beings, no matter how misguided and off-track they may seem.

The holidays are a perfect time to take stock, see where we’ve been, and decide if we want to change the story of our life for the coming year. I’m starting now. Not with goals or resolutions, but intentions.

  •             I will love more
  •             I will write without fear
  •             I will trust my Creative Self to guide me through challenges
  •             I will appreciate
  •             And I will live the story of my life as honestly as I can

Winners and More Winners

My new book, When Spirit Whispers: a journey of awakening, is a winner in the 2022 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards! I am excited and gratified to be honored by this excellent organization.

The book was a labor of love, my small offering of aid and inspiration to those traveling the path of personal discovery. Writing and publishing it was a lot of work and the award got me thinking about what being a winner means.

Awards and recognition are great, of course, but not the whole story. I haven’t entered many contests, partly because the submission fees can be considerable and the wait times long. I decided to go straight for publication and focused on getting short stories published while I was finishing my first novel.

After struggling to learn how to write publishable work, my first published short story was a huge win! My work was in print! And accompanied by beautiful art! It encouraged me to learn more about the market and how to hone my stories so they would be interesting to editors and publishers.

In the last twelve years, I have published many short stories, personal essays, and three novels. I also self-published a collection of short stories, The Way Home, several short pieces of fiction, and now, two nonfiction books, When Spirit Whispers and the When Spirit Whispers Workbook.

I appreciate being recognized by industry professionals, but even with the fancy sticker I get to paste on my book, it’s the reaction of my readers that warms my heart. When readers tell me how they react to my book, some finding validation and inspiration in its pages, all the struggle to write and publish is worthwhile.

So what is a win?

Awards, yes, of course. And getting your words in print, yes, is fun and validating.

But, wins take many forms, like:

  • Finishing a book/story/screenplay/poem
  • Expressing yourself in writing, art, dance, song
  • Enjoying a career you love
  • Creating a loving family
  • Surviving difficult life events
  • Surviving loss in any form
  • Getting through and adjusting to any difficult medical diagnosis
  • Healing old trauma
  • Thriving anew from the lessons of trauma
  • Finding the friends, healers, and playmates who see us for who we are
  • Speaking our truth
  • Allowing love to guide us, even when the world is careening off its axis
  • Learning to forgive
  • Finding joy in work, play, nature, animals, and all the wonderful people who are standing in the light of love

How do you feel about winning? What gives you pleasure? What is joyful? What are you proud of?

If you can name even one thing, then you’re already a winner.

Your Creative Self is Waiting for You!

My next nonfiction book has a working title of Your Creative Self is Waiting for You. I am writing it for readers who want to access their creativity in any form. I believe we are all creative. Even those who protest, “Oh, not me, I have no talent.”

We can’t all be famous painters and writers, but everyone can express themselves. Taking a few small steps to give form to our thoughts, images, yearnings, and ideals is empowering.

Writing in a journal, doodling with a pencil, coloring images in an adult coloring book, re-arranging a room, setting a beautiful dinner table, taking time to teach a child—all are creative acts that feed our souls.

With the humanitarian tragedy unfolding in Europe, my stress level has gone up. I wondered if writing about creativity is appropriate given the turmoil in the world. But then I remembered how writing eases my tension. Writing stories, especially, feels good.

And I remembered Paul Levy, a wise man who teaches about the negative effects of trauma in the mind, what he calls wetiko. Wetiko is a Native American term referring to the negative mental programming, or mind virus, that causes selfishness, insatiable greed, and the unfeeling wielding of power over others. Levy offers an answer to the question many are asking. What is happening to our world?

A few months ago, I took an online course from Levy. It was profound and inspiring. He said that we all suffer to some degree from the effects of wetiko  It can take the form of the inner critic who judges and criticizes, often urging us to act against our own interests. The good news is that one way to counteract it is with creative acts. So the time spent in the writing room, the studio, the workshop is not wasted. We can free ourselves by opening ourselves.

We are all stressed and anxious. The pandemic is winding down. But now we have inflation, war, cultural polarization, and the juxtaposition of truth and lies which is truly terrifying. All my life, I’ve struggled with discerning what’s true for me. People dealing with the effects of early trauma are often confused about how much to trust their feelings and intuition. I have used many methods to separate the easy messages of the common wisdom from my truth. Opening the channel to the inner world works. That’s why so many people are journaling. Writing memoirs. Taking up painting. Intuitively, they want the different answers that lie within.

So I write about the inner self, the Creative Self, the part that pain, disappointment, grief, loss, and illness have not damaged. The part that reminds us we are more than our experiences. We are creative beings who can change our thoughts. We change how we perceive our lives by playing, making music and art, by writing, and by opening our hearts to people, animals, and plants.

Being creative is not a panacea, and won’t solve the world’s problems, but accessing our creative energy brings us closer to life as it is supposed to be. It will relieve stress, release endorphins, and help distance us from the inner critic. When we play with the Creative Self, we remember who we are.

So don’t say, I’m not creative. Don’t listen to the critic who judges you not good enough to write/paint/build/compose. You’re exactly good enough, right now, to start. And that’s all it takes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Different Kind of Memoir

New Mexico author Jean Stouffer has written a moving memoir of healing from the effects of growing up with an alcoholic mother.

But Sometimes I Cry is not just another recounting of a child caring for an absent parent and the self-esteem and abandonment issues that ensue. This memoir uses personal history, myth, and poetry to convey her journey from a traditional wife and mother who could not express herself to a woman who speaks her truth and accepts how she feels.

She tells her story in short chapters organized into five sections as she works with a therapist to unblock her emotions and uncover her true self.

Most sections are told in the third person, from the point of view of many charming fictional creatures—mouse, cloud, stone, owl, baby bird, beaver—who stand in for the author. Only the sections about her beloved dog, Molly, are conveyed in the first person. They are among the most moving accounts in the book.

She also gives the reader short progress reports in the third person, which tie together the fictional and poetic chapters.

When I asked about that choice, Jean said that writing in the first person was too painful. Her fictional characters conveyed her meaning and gave her the distance she needed to write about her experiences and process.

Jean did not publish this book for thirty years. Jean said she wrote it for herself, to process what she was feeling, and, at the time, never considered publication. Years later, a friend read the manuscript and encouraged her to put her story into the world. Sometimes I Cry came out in 2021.

“Writing the book changed me,” Jean said recently during a phone conversation. “It improved my relationship with my husband and helped me realize I had value beyond my traditional roles. After that, I became a hypnotherapist and got a lot of satisfaction using my skills to help people through difficult times. Going through the healing process and writing about it helped me understand that it is okay to have emotions, to be an independent person with my own feelings and goals.”

I asked Jean what she hoped readers would get from her book.

“Hope,” she answered. “Maybe my story can encourage others. Facing the darkness isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. I ended up a much happier person. A stronger person who could offer my gifts without losing myself.”

You can purchase Sometimes I Cry in paperback and e-book formats at Amazon.

You can reach Jean at www.JeanStouffer.com