More sparkle, more ease: What will *you* welcome in 2015?

sparklylights

It’s easy to forget in this frenetic world that the deep well of connection to ourselves and to life is the soul of creativity.

So I’m taking some time off from my usual routine this week to reconnect.

What’s bubbling up, so far, from this spaciousness in the midst of pre-holiday activity is a set of questions. (Aren’t the answers we’re so often seeking actually just better questions?)

Here is my year-end meditation, or remembering, for you to try if you’d like. You can do this in a journal, as I did, or do it out loud with a friend, someone you feel really safe with.

You can answer all three questions, or choose one (I found that answering just the third one led me into the others).

When you are still and connected to yourself, what do you know to be true?

What do you know about what you need, what you desire?

What qualities do you want to welcome into your life as a new year begins?

Here is what I wrote in my journal:

More ease, more lightness. More belief that ease and lightness are possible.

More openness and reaching out.

More trusting in myself and in life.

More acting on my intuition, more quickly.

More noticing what works for me, less dwelling on what doesn’t.

More decision-making from a place of calm and peace, less decision-making from a place of fear and anxiety.

More time spent in nature, with animals and trees.

bluejays

More face-to-face meetings with friends and potential friends.

More kindness.

More patience.

More showing up for myself.

More acceptance of what is, and more recognition that accepting it doesn’t mean I won’t change it; it just means I’m not in resistance.

More sparkle, more dazzle, more glitter (I’m not sure what this means yet).

More fun and play.

More permission to ask for more, even when things are “good enough.”

What about you? What do you know to be true for you as we move into a new year? What qualities do you want to welcome?

Wishing my dear readers, clients and friends a beautiful and peaceful holiday season with plenty of connection to yourself.

above images ©2014, Jill Winski

Saturday Gratitude

In keeping with my intention to create new, supportive rituals this year — both in my life and here on this blog — this is my first Saturday Gratitude post.

I’ve been noticing the connection in my life between gratitude and creativity, and here’s what I’m discovering: creativity does not flow from a place of lack. And when I have a “not-enough” mentality, I end up putting a ton of pressure on my creativity to make me feel better, make me money!, make me feel successful.

But (as I’ll talk about in my next post), we are in relationship to our creativity. Imagine putting pressure on a person to make you feel better, make you money, make you feel successful. My hunch is that person (if they had a decent amount of self-respect) would run from you pretty quickly.

The same goes for creativity. It loves us when we express gratitude for it, but tends to hide from us when we pressure it.

So every Saturday, I’ll be winding down my week with a focus on three things I’m grateful for. And I’d love it if you’d join in, if that feels good to you!

Here’s this week’s list:

* My computer died this week, and I managed not to completely freak out. (And I’d backed up my work — something I haven’t always done in the past.) AND, money flowed in from an unexpected source to partly cover the cost of a new computer.

* My 13-year-old cat is in wonderful health. In fact, my boyfriend and I refer to him as “the kitten” due to his youthful acrobatic abilities.

* Here in Chicago, we have beautiful, gentle, snow-globe-quality snow in the air this morning. I didn’t think I could stomach more snow, let alone be grateful for it, but I have to say, it’s just so pretty. So I’m grateful not just for beauty in the world, but for my capacity to see it and appreciate it. That capacity is a renewable resource, for all of us.

What’s on your Saturday Gratitude list this week? I’d love it if you’d share. And most importantly, notice how you feel after you make your list.

Don’t forget to check inside

girlwalking

As part of my practice of observing my thoughts and feelings and the patterns they create, I’ve noticed an interesting thing lately: I feel more upbeat, hopeful, and just plain happier, in the early part of the day.

Part of this is just my own personal rhythm — my most energetic time of day tends to be between about 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. But it’s something else, too.

I start off almost every day with a walk (only in the most extreme weather do I forgo my daily walk). Depending on what I have to do that day, the walk (which I combine with getting my morning coffee) is anywhere from fifteen to forty-five minutes long.

My walk is all about noticing — the morning sounds of traffic and squirrels and birds, the feel of the sidewalk beneath my sandals, the super-slow beetle who somehow avoids being crushed by pedestrians as he makes his journey from one side of a cement square to the other. I also notice what’s going on within me — am I sad, joyful, serene? Are my thoughts fixated on that interaction I had yesterday that felt kind of icky? Am I grinding my teeth again? Did I get great sleep, or not quite enough?

When I return from my walk, I do a few minutes of journaling (or morning pages, as Julia Cameron calls them) and record anything I noticed on the walk, anything really taking my interest and “up” for me.

Then, I’m ready to start my day, and most of the time, not always, but frequently, I feel really good.

At 7 p.m., not so much. That 6 p.m.  to bedtime window tends to be the toughest time of day for me. Why?

It’s taken me a while to get this, but I understand now.

Evening time is iPad time for me. I “reward” myself for doing my priority stuff during the day by sporadically checking my iPad throughout the evening. Some of this is fun and feels good; much of it involves checking Facebook, Twitter, and various blog articles; getting caught up in trails of links from one blog to the next; absorbing lots of “expert advice” that may or may not apply to me; listening to recordings from classes and coaches and writers and others I’ve been meaning to get to.

All of this is good, to a point. Information can be profoundly helpful at the right times. And I think we all understand the dangers of information overload and the overwhelm it can wreak.

But the problem is not the information itself.

The problem is forgetting to check inside ourselves to gauge whether or not this information a) is worth our time, b) actually supports our own values, and c) actually applies to us at all.

The crappy mood I tend to get into in the evenings — so much to the extreme of my “morning self” — has much to do with the fact that, in the mornings, I make a conscious choice to connect with myself, to check inside. My morning walk, the steady repetitive rhythm of my steps, creates a great space in which to observe myself, while also connecting me to my surroundings, and particularly, the natural world.

In the evenings, I’m letting go of that conscious choice to check inside myself, and as a result, I turn into a kind of ping-pong ball bounced around by the information I absorb online. I find myself getting agitated, confused — this “expert” says to do this, and this one over here says the opposite; this friend on Facebook is annoyed that people are posting X, while this other friend wishes people would post more of X; this writer seems to know a lot about X and has tons of followers but in fact I feel depressed every time I read one of her posts.

It’s a lot to take in — and a lot of it doesn’t matter.

In the morning, I reconnect with me. I remember to check inside. I realize what I really value and what I don’t. I’m able to make a distinction between what information is helpful and what isn’t, and how much information is too much. I remember what’s true for me.

Can I carry that morning connection I establish with myself into the evening? Can I unsubscribe from lists that don’t add to my life, even if some panicky part of me believes this information is “practical” and I “just might need it someday”? (No matter how “practical” information is, if it doesn’t feel good and right to me, it’s not practical for me.)

Tonight, I’m going to begin an evening ritual of reconnecting to myself. This doesn’t mean I won’t pick up my iPad — I have a lot of fun there. It just means my evening intention will be to notice how I’m feeling when I absorb information, and to recognize I can choose to reconnect with myself at any moment. Information can be helpful, even crucial, but only when I’ve established a solid connection with my own inner compass first.

(And by the way, some of what I connect with online definitely helps me reconnect to myself — and certainly helps me connect to others. I love many of the ways I connect online. The important thing is to notice, to check in.)

What about you? How do you remember to check in with yourself in a world where it’s increasingly easy to look outside ourselves for advice, for “the truth”? I’d love to hear, in the comments.

Image is “A Walk in the Park” © Janet Best | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Feed yourself images — it’s good for you

parkbenches

“Filling the well involves the active pursuit of images to refresh our artistic reservoirs. Art is born in attention. Its midwife is detail.” — Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way

Yesterday I slept in because I had woken up in the middle of the night, scared by a dream. (When I came to consciousness, I was lying flat on my back shouting “death angel!” My boyfriend tells me he thinks Death Angel was an ’80s metal band — can anyone confirm this? — but that is not what my dream was about.)

I was so afraid I’d see a death angel in my bedroom mirror that I got up and went into the living room and watched TV until my bedroom didn’t seem so scary anymore.

Anyway, because I let myself sleep late to compensate for being up in the middle of the night, I walked out of the house at 10:30 to get my morning coffee with my mind full of all I had to do, feeling irritated and stressed. I hate starting the day late. It screws up my to-do list, makes me feel I’m already behind just by virtue of not beginning when I thought I would.

I got my coffee and then walked over to the hardware store to buy some lightbulbs. The person working at the front desk was tied up with a return, so I walked to the back of the store to the other register.

And I noticed the store had an old-fashioned red-and-gold popcorn cart set up back there, complete with little bags of popcorn and a hand-written sign that said “Take one!” I didn’t take one — I was working on my coffee — but I loved this. It brought back another memory of free popcorn, when I was a kid, maybe in a similar setting, and my mom grabbing two little bags of popcorn just like this, and handing one to me.

And then I began to think about how I really like my hardware store. The employees are always friendly, and customers are allowed to bring their dogs in, and when I go in there I feel like I’ve stepped back into the 1980s, in a very good way.

The popcorn cart made me feel happy and I left the store with my lightbulbs feeling a little less stressed. And I thought, you know, it’s Saturday. There was a time when Saturday was my day of relaxation. Now I too often make it my day to “get a lot done that I didn’t get done earlier in the week.”

So I decided I would reclaim some of that old Saturday relaxed energy and take a little walk.

When I returned from it, I scribbled down bits of what I remembered from the walk in my journal:

A snowman dressed like he was on a tropical vacation — Hawaiian shirt, grass skirt, sunglasses perched above his carrot nose — with a tube of SPF 50 lying in the snow next to him.

A sleek black dog in a red collar, digging in the snow and retrieving a tennis ball. The dog pranced around its fenced-in yard with the ball in its mouth, peppy and proud. It was an adult dog, but it bounded and flopped like a puppy. It saw me, dropped the ball to its feet, and froze, staring at me brightly with its ears perked and a dusting of snow on its chin that looked like cake frosting.

The dog and I exchanged a long, contemplative look, and then I rounded the corner and saw the sheets of snow coating yard after yard. The snow appeared perfectly smooth, but when I looked closely, I saw that hundreds of tiny rabbit tracks peppered each blanket. Now, I haven’t actually seen a rabbit in months — unlike squirrels, who are the chatty, ever-visible extroverts of the neighborhood animal kingdom, rabbits keep their distance and when you do see them, they freeze until you move on. But I love that rabbits leave traces of themselves, so we know they’re around.

The popcorn cart in the hardware store drew me into the present moment, and I moved on through my day more alert to the sights around me. Filling up on these images and then writing them down felt so nourishing. It connected me with the wonder that is the world around me, and I forgot about the to-do list that had been hanging over me when I’d left the house. When I returned to it, I felt more grounded and saw that not everything on the to-do list needed to be done. The peace I thought I would have when I had completed everything on the list was already within me.

My walk turned into what Julia Cameron calls an Artist’s Date. The purpose of an Artist’s Date is to fill your “creative well” with nourishment, in whatever form that takes for you. For me it is often the beauty of the everyday. How could so much amazingness be just outside my door? Well, it’s always there, but most of the time I don’t see it. I had to consciously open myself to it — which I did by choosing to slow down and have a leisurely walk — in order for it to find me.

This kind of nourishment is always available, and it’s totally free.

Try this: Make a practice of writing down images that inspire you, in as much detail as you can. See how you feel while you do it, and afterward.

Image is “Benches in Snow”, © David Coleman | Dreamstime Stock Photos

How to tell if perfectionism is running the show

Here’s the second article in my May perfectionism series. You can read the first one here. And there’s plenty more on this site about perfectionism — just check the “categories” listing on the right.

Sometimes — often — I get into a space of confusion where I’m aware that a rather ugly shift has occurred, but I’m not sure why.

It’s when I’ve been doing something I’m really excited about — something, like writing, that may be hard and challenging, but it’s also energizing because it feels like I’m doing what I’m meant to do. I’m humming along, excited, full of enthusiasm, with a feeling of deep rightness. Or maybe I’m just feeling pretty okay. It’s going well. Well enough.

And then: the shift. Something starts to nag at me. I feel a tightness in my head, my chest. I notice I’m tired. I notice I’m a little angry. Suddenly, that feeling of deep rightness is gone and in its place is fatigue, a bad mood, depletion.

When this used to “happen to me,” I thought it was because I was just moody. I thought it was because I was emotionally unstable. I thought it was because I was doing something wrong.

Now, I know it’s because perfectionism has taken over. Without my awareness, I’ve shifted from the challenge and joy of the aims of my inner enthusiast, to the futile agenda of my inner perfectionist.

The truth is, I don’t “suddenly” shift from a space of enthusiasm and energy to Suckville. There are some “middlemen” that I typically don’t notice because they’re so subtle and automatic. Those middlemen are: 1) my physical sensations and 2) my thoughts.

“The shift” happened to me last night. I was at my computer working on something with my cat in my lap, feeling content, peaceful, energized. Everything was humming along; for about an hour or so, I was in a pretty blissful place.

And then: I started to get a little bit sleepy. That was all. Just a little sign from my body that it was beginning to be time to call it a night. (Middleman #1 — physical sensation.)

Not a problem, right? I’d put in a good hour of work (and it’s unusual for me to get much done in the evening anyway, so this was a plus after a day that had been pretty “productive” already.)

However, when I started feeling physically tired, my mind spewed out the following thoughts: You’ll never get anywhere if you always stop when you’re tired. You know tomorrow is a busy day and you won’t have the evening free to work. Why don’t you ever have the energy to make a real dent in the important stuff? You really need to push yourself to do more. (Middleman #2 — my thoughts.)

This was just a sampling of my thoughts — there were probably dozens triggered by the simple fact that my body was ready to call it a day and my inner perfectionist, a.k.a. that part of me that believes I’m not enough and I must constantly prove myself by doing more, wasn’t having it.

Last night, I was able to catch the poor little inner perfectionist and assure her that we’d done more than enough for the day and she was going to have to take a nap, which she badly needed. Sometimes, I don’t catch onto her as quickly. I believe she is telling me the truth. I push myself to do more and more, and I burn out.

The aims of my inner enthusiast feel inspiring, expansive. They challenge me, open me up, make me feel “greater than” I was before. The aims of my inner perfectionist feel like a clamping down. They tighten and close me. They make me feel “less than.” They may look like valuable ideals that are meant to get me to a better place (this is the tricky part), but the truth is in how they feel.

During my life coach training, Martha Beck liked to remind us, “You can tell it’s enlightenment because it tastes of freedom.” The pursuits of my inner enthusiast ultimately feel like freedom — even when they’re challenging as hell. The agenda of my inner perfectionist feels like punishment — even when it looks good on paper, even when it looks awfully appealing to my “social self.”

Saying “enough for now” does not mean my inner enthusiast won’t propel me toward my dreams again tomorrow.

I’d love to hear from you. How do you know when you’re in the grip of perfectionism? And how do you move out of it?

For more on this topic, check out my article on how to tell if you’re stretching or pushing yourself, here.

To Create or Not to Create? Assessing Your Energy Levels

I’m totally committed to working on my novel five days a week. But today, it got a little challenging. We got a decent amount of snow here in Chicagoland, and in the time between two coaching calls — time I’d scheduled as my writing time for today — I realized I was going to need to go out and shovel. It was just one of those practical, mother-nature-induced, daily-life annoyances that I was going to have to deal with.

It ended up taking longer than I’d imagined it would. The car windows were wrapped in ice. The recycling bin fell over as I tried to pull it over a bank of snow. And so on.

“Screw it,” I thought as I trudged back up the steps to the house, my cheeks pink and my forehead clammy with sweat. “No writing today. I’ll just have to chalk it up to a snow day.”

Around 8:30, I wrapped up my last coaching call. I was hungry. I ate some leftover mostaccioli and opened my iPad and started playing the Fluff Pets Rescue game I’ve become addicted to over the past week, my “reward” for doing all the stuff I had on my to-do list. I took it as a given that I was too tired to write. But I felt a little bit hollow; the “to-do” list for the day wasn’t truly complete.

And then I felt a little pull in my stomach: a tingle of excitement. I noticed something: really, I wasn’t too tired to write. I wanted to write. So what if it was almost 9 p.m.? I could sit there rescuing fluffy pets (and who doesn’t want to sit around doing that?) or I could get up, go to the computer, and do a little writing.

And that’s what I did. I didn’t do much — just ten minutes of new writing. That was it. But, tonight, that was what it took to give me that feeling that I’d done enough. I moved the writing to the place where I’d done what I wanted to do with the story, with the language, for today. It felt good. I felt satisfied. I’d kept my commitment to myself, even if it wasn’t as much as I’d planned to write. It was enough.

Now: had I gotten off my last call at 8:30 and realized I was physically depleted, my eyes were starting to close and I truly needed to wind down for the night — had it felt like forcing and pushing and having to literally drag myself to the computer to make myself write — that would have been a different story. Had that been the case, I would have called it a day for today — no writing. I would have chalked it up to a snow day and left it at that. And it would have been good.

Geneen Roth once wrote, “Sometimes doing it looks like not doing it.” Sometimes, when we need to rest, that is exactly what we should be doing. This doesn’t mean that at those times we are not creating. Something in us, I believe, is still at work; our unconscious may be knitting together that impossible story problem while we dream.

And sometimes, like tonight for me, doing it looks just like that: going to the desk, sitting in the chair, typing the words into the computer, or scribbling away in your notebook (I still often love to write the old-fashioned way, in a hard-backed Cambridge notebook).

You can always listen to your body for information as to what you need most in this day, this moment. When you think about creating, do you get a little flicker of “yes!” in your chest, even if you’re tired, even if you’ve had a headache since noon? Then by all means, go for it, even so! If, when you think about creating today, your stomach plummets to your feet, your tired bones feel like they want to be in bed and maybe you’ve tried dragging yourself to the computer and sat there for a while and nothing’s really coming out, then, by all means, call it a day for today. You can, and will, start again tomorrow. Trust that implicitly.

By the way: Watch for a special announcement from me in the coming days — I have a cool gift for my readers that I’ll be writing about very soon!

A couple of announcements, & gratitude!

A while ago, a coaching buddy of mine and I were talking about how it’s difficult to experience a feeling of abundance in our lives when we don’t take time to really feel it, don’t slow down enough to be with it, don’t take a moment to say “thank you.”

I can forget. I can get so focused on what I don’t have that I get into “lack” mode. And then I see evidence of lack, everywhere. When I remember, when I notice what I have been given — often with no conscious effort on my part –I see evidence of this in my life, everywhere.

We can practice this. We can practice by noticing. Yesterday I noticed I was a little bit tired, and although I felt a tremendous urge to rush over to the computer to respond to email, I decided to sit quietly on my couch. My cat woke up from his nap, looked at me, and immediately came over and jumped into lap. I listened to his purr and felt it reverberate through my hands, my chest, my abdomen.

I breathed in the abundance of this moment. I was sitting on a soft down throw my mother gave me for Christmas last year. My living room felt warm, even though it’s in the 40s outside. The sun was sneaking out, after a clouded-over, gray morning. It felt good, to just be, to realize I had all I needed in that moment. And in this one.

Here’s to noticing what we have. Here’s to saying “thank you.”

And here’s to more abundance — a couple of announcements:

* Last week, I officially became a Martha Beck Certified Life Coach (woo-hoo!).  In celebration, I’m offering four FREE half-hour coaching sessions — first come, first-served. Bring me any issue (it doesn’t have to be related to creativity, but it certainly can be) and we’ll do a little exploring and get you a little less stuck. To get your free session, email me at jillwinskicoaching@gmail.com and mention “free session” in the subject line.

* Also, I am super-excited to announce that I will be a coach for the next session of Jenna Avery’s Just Do the Writing Accountability Circle, which begins Nov. 28. I’d love for you to join us — it was the amazing encouragement of this circle that helped me finish a first draft of my novel last session, which I wrote about here. To sign up for the Writer’s Circle, click here. The last day to register is tomorrow, Nov. 23, so don’t wait!

Wishing you the gift of noticing what’s beautiful, good and right in your life.

Image is PUMPKINS © Paul-andré Belle-isle | Dreamstime.com