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.”
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.
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.
About 50 million people worldwide are suffering from dementia in 2021, but the total number of people with dementia is projected to reach 82 million in 2030 and a staggering 152 million in 2050.
For Kate Kunkel, the tragedy of this disease struck three times. Both grandmothers and her mother passed away with dementia, inspiring Kate to embark on a mission to understand why this ruthless disease was haunting her family. During this process, Kate made some startling discoveries and has devoted her life to sharing them with as many people as possible, in the hopes that she can spare others this terrible fate.
Kate’s book, Don’t Let the Memories Fade, is for anyone looking for ways to improve their health and stave off the dreaded diagnosis of dementia. No matter your age, the information and suggestions in this book will help you live a healthier life and feel better!
I particularly like two things about this book:
One, it’s written for the general reader in clear, simple language and from the perspective of someone who has lived through the heartbreak of assisting a family member with Alzheimer’s.
Second, the suggestions it offers—on diet, exercise, sleep, stress reduction, and creativity apply to anyone who wants to live healthy—especially at and after midlife.
Following the suggestions offered in this book will reduce your chances of developing not only dementia but the other diseases of older age—heart problems, cancer, arthritis–any condition where inflammation is a factor.
Research on the microbiome points to the detrimental effects of the typical American diet, stress, and environmental factors. But simple lifestyle changes can reduce the inflammation in our bodies and give us new hope.
We affect the level of health we experience. It isn’t always easy to change our ways, but the benefits are enormous. Even if you have dementia or other inflammatory diseases in your genetic line, you can change your future and beat the odds! People are doing it every day. This book is a great place to start investigating how to live healthier and preserve your memories.
We know now that cognitive growth can occur at any age. Neurogenesis is the study of how new nerve cells develop. We can learn new tasks and make new memories well into our nineties if we work on exercising our brains! Learn something new. Learn something new that’s hard and you’ll notice how much more alert you feel!
Each chapter has a “checkup” so readers can assess themselves on the topic discussed. Included are practical steps to improve health. Kunkel ends the book with an 8-week program for improving brain health. It includes suggestions for diet and nutrition, exercise, and lots of yummy recipes. A list of resources is included for those who want to know more. Check it out! You have nothing to lose but your old habits!
Kate consults with people to improve their brain health. You can see her podcast at Brain Health Matters.
Well, here we are. It’s been a month since I’ve attended a meeting outside my home. A month since I’ve taught in a classroom. Since I’ve had lunch with a friend, gone to a movie or stood in line at the grocery store. Even for an introverted writer who loves solitude, staying home this much gets weird.
Every day I bike through my neighborhood with my dog. She’s well over a hundred in people years, so we don’t go far. Lots of stopping and sniffing. I want her to keep her muscle strength as long as possible, so I persuade her even when she’s reluctant. She gains enthusiasm as we progress and on our way home, she trots along beside me, wagging and smiling. I put her inside and go out for a longer, harder ride. Sometimes I walk a Bosque trail. Most days I visit the local park to sit under a Ramada and watch people playing with their dogs and kids.
Everywhere I go, people greet me. They wave from cars and porches. We exchange anecdotes about our dogs, our shopping challenges, the weather. I know twice as many of my neighbors as before the pandemic. Maybe because more people are home. Maybe because community is our only bulwark against the waves of tragedy and fear sweeping our land.
It’s so odd that now we express our love for each other by keeping our distance.
I’m one of the lucky ones who can work at home and order what I need. And suddenly there was plenty of time. The perennial excuse evaporated overnight. Without appointments, errands, and classes, I could be wildly productive.
But it’s a month in and I’m just beginning to settle down. I have written. I always do. But my productivity did not escalate with the additional time. I found myself dithering, staring into space, watching shows on Netflix I didn’t even like.
My old responses to stress—procrastination, obsessing on unimportant details—re-appeared. My thoughts and fears about the pain and suffering hovering over the world like a black cloud was the culprit.
I meditated and prayed about it. Took the practical steps feasible for me. Reminded myself that I am safe. I am healthy. At this moment, I have a place to live, food to eat, beautiful animals to keep me company, friends to call and zoom with. And now, I’ve started offering writing workshops via zoom. Why not? Virtual training may be the new normal.
Finally, it occurred. This is the time. To stop making excuses. To look at my reactions to the changes in our world without flinching. To walk the talk. Be honest. The reason I’m not working on my new book for six hours a day is because I’m nervous!
When I’m nervous, I procrastinate. I read every email, news reports, the latest statistics. Being informed is fine, but knowing all the details doesn’t help.
So what does? What helps us live with uncertainty? This is what I came up with
- Acknowledge feelings. It’s okay to feel anxious, stressed, impatient, depressed. Feelings denied only pop up later. Now is the time to admit that I’m human. I’m upset. I don’t like this. I want it to end.
- Make self-care a priority. A walk, a bike ride, a yoga tape, an online exercise class. Deep breathing, meditation, stretching, dancing around the living room. Now is the time to move—bodies and emotions so those negative thoughts don’t dig in
- Keep in touch. Call, skype, email, zoom, wave from the porch. Make a new friend while out walking the neighborhood.
- Help someone. What can I do? Who needs help?
- Tolerate uncertainty. There’s no telling how any creative project will turn out, so that’s nothing new for a writer. It’s a good skill to master. Now is the time to let go of trying to control things. It was mostly an illusion anyway.
- Take small steps. Now is the time to say, I don’t know, and move forward. The best cure for paralysis is action. One foot in front of the other.
- And most important, notice negative thoughts. The what if’s. The it might’s. None of them are real. They’re just thoughts. And thoughts can be changed. Dissolved. Replaced.
I am safe.
I am healthy.
I have what I need.
I can adapt.
I can create.
I can do my work.
I can love.
Do you believe in miracles?
Sure, you might say. I’ve seen miracles. And I expect to see them again
Or, There are no such things. Science has explanations for everything.
Actually, both perspectives are right. Miracles are prayers answered, hope fulfilled, stories of the seemingly impossible, inspirations that change lives, the melting of hardened hearts, personal transformation. But how do these things happen?
Contrary to what our senses tell us, science informs us that everything is energy. The observer affects the observed. Our thoughts influence what we perceive, how we feel, and whether we are joyful or depressed.
Mahatma Gandhi said, “A man is a product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes.”
Traditionally, a miracle is an event we don’t expect and didn’t foresee. It comes out of the blue, full of meaning, an object of wonder so marvelous it points to a reality beyond our reach. In a religious context, we can see this as God, the ground of being, or as manifestations of supernatural powers.
What is miraculous in one culture may be ordinary in another.
In the west, people interpret spontaneous recovery from serious illness as a miracle, and persons with unusual healing powers as miraculous beings. In some earth-based cultures, thunder and lightning are considered messengers of the divine, while recovery from serious afflictions is the result of energetic interventions by a shaman or spiritual healer. And perfectly ordinary
Saint Augustine said, “Miracles are not contrary to nature, only to what we know about nature.”
Another view is that the miraculous shows itself in the everyday world—in nature, in the love between people, in a child’s smile.
The miraculous may simply be something we do not yet understand. When we use the power of intention, affirmation, gratitude, or prayer, we are harnessing energy in the living field that connects us all. We do it to change our lives, which means we acknowledge our connectedness in the field of life. Nothing is really separate. If I love you, I love myself. If I hurt you, I hurt myself.
When we understand this, we notice that our thoughts and words change our perception of reality. If we persevere with those new thoughts, our actual reality changes too.
If I pray for healing for my friend, and my friend recovers from his illness, is that a miracle? Or the effect of intention on the web of consciousness that binds us together
You decide, according to what you believe.
For 101 stories of everyday miracles, check out the new anthology, Believe in Miracles, by Chicken Soup for the Soul, available now for pre-order. My essay, Please Pass the Holy Water, is one of the stories. I hope you enjoy it.