How to do a Creative STOP (and how not to)

October 2nd, 2014

We all get to the point where we just need to STOP. That could look like anything from a 10-minute meditation to a year’s sabbatical. Often we are feeling a little out of alignment, weary, stagnant.

This summer has been my personal Stop. For me, that meant putting aside the new website I’d been working on, letting my blog do online savasana and rest, and not innovating new programs. Yes, I’ve continued with my private clients. I still tied my shoelaces and did enough to keep money flowing. But all in all, it was my summer of stop.

What I learned this summer surprised me. I was visualizing that I’d sort of “clear out” over the summer so I could be a clean slate come fall. And I do feel more clear. However, what I really learned was how to do (and not do!) a stop. I realized it’s a lifelong practice. One way clears a path to your clarity, while the other obscures it. Here are a few things I discovered…

A good Stop has to have some amount of complete aimlessness. When I kept controlling what my day/hour/minute looked like, my ego was in charge and there was no room for something new to appear. So sometimes I had to let go and simply see what happened.

Just because we give ourselves time, doesn’t mean we’ll use it wisely. I discovered that I could have a whole open day and spend it in ways that deepened the gift of the Stop, or not. The former looked like meditating, reading inspiring books, journaling, resting and being present. Even working, but in a mindful way. The latter looked like too much – email, Facebook, unnecessary errands, Godiva chocolate, or business details on overdrive.

Sometimes all we need is that mindless TV show. The difference is making the conscious decision to watch it, versus unconsciously escaping (wait, when did the TV go on, and how did this Kind bar get in my hand?)

Road trips can be great mind-expanders for a Stop (even though you’re really “going,” I know). This summer I drove through New Mexico with my daughter Chloe, and my vision enlarged to meet the mountains, the palette of sky, the stretch of desert… everything opened.

A Stop is not all bliss. In fact, it can be incredibly hard. Our society is so busy because many of us are running from what catches up with us when we are not moving. There were days when I was clawing the walls, and all I wanted was to get busy and distracted. But it passes, and when it does, often a nugget of wisdom awaits…

You can get lost on a Stop, or you can get found. The easiest way to get lost is to completely forget why you are doing it and disconnect. The easiest way to get found is to have a daily ritual that reminds you of your intention. For me, that was a frequent morning meditation and holding big questions (Where does my greatest joy meet the world’s greatest need? How do I create a business that is both sustainable and enjoyable?), and listening for answers throughout the day or week.

So now, my creative Summer Stop is over. I feel refreshed and ready to dive back into life with new insights and energy. I also realized that my Stops will never end. With a creative business, I find that I’m regularly called to do a mini-stop – to slow down, pay attention, and see what needs to stop (even just in my head) so that something New can start.

Pearls for reflection or comments: How do you know when it’s time for a Stop? What are some elements in your most successful Stops?

Please share your thoughts below in the Reply box …

 You may reprint the featured article, in its entirety, by including a byline and a link to Carolyn’s website. www.backyardpearls.com

Carolyn Scarborough is a professionally trained creativity and writing coach. As founder of Backyard Pearls, LLC, she helps coaches and heart-based entrepreneurs to unblock their creativity so they can connect with and express what’s deeply meaningful to them. She leads retreats, telecourses and does private coaching with new writers, experienced writers, and those who simply need a creativity boost to launch business and writing projects. She is the author of “Backyard Pearls: Cultivating Wisdom and Joy in Everyday Life,” and is an award-winning magazine writer who has published more than 500 articles in publications around the world.

Request your complimentary “Tapping into your Inner Wisdom” session here.

 

Creating with Fresh Eyes

May 14th, 2014

I remember showing up rushed, dropping my camera bag on the table a little too loudly as I slunk into the last remaining chair. The class’s title “Mindful Photography” had attracted me. I had done some magazine photography long ago, and my more recent stints had been as the unofficial family photographer, but I hadn’t taken a photography class since college.

As we sat in the dimly lit room, watching beautiful photographs pop up on the screen, the teacher explained the process. She said that traditional photography uses masculine terminology, such as “shooting” or “capturing” an image. What if, she urged us, we instead saw it as “receiving” an image? And what if, instead of focusing on the end product of the photograph, we focused on the process of receiving it and didn’t worry about the rest? With that, she instructed us to go outside, mindfully see what called to us, and then stand there until we were in relationship with it. Then we were to receive the image and move on.

I pushed open the heavy metal door into the spring sunshine, and with curiosity I walked out and simply focused on being present. I crunched on brown leaves mixed with flower petals in the parking lot. I opened to the smell of fresh cut grass. The further I walked, the more expansive I felt. Then my eyes landed on a clump of fern-like plants, soft and fuzzy and slightly shivering in the breeze. I stopped. I recognized myself in them – green, new, slightly shivering with my layers peeled off and the vulnerable insides revealed.

As Christine Valters Painter says in “Eyes of the Heart,” “For me, both art and spirituality are truly about tending to the moments of life: listening deeply, holding space, encountering the sacred and touching eternity. For a few seconds, I touch time beyond time, and in that spacious presence my heart grows wider, my imagination frees, my breath catches, and I am held in awe and wonder. These are the moments that help to make life full of meaning.”

Ifern don’t know how long I stood there with this plant — a plant I would have otherwise walked right by – and reveled in deep joy and open-hearted connection. Finally, I “received” the image with my camera, offered a moment of thanks, and walked back to the classroom.

This is the heart of my creative process, whether it is writing or photography or cooking. It is about slowing down enough to become present to the miracle before me. And when I look and listen, it is always there. And then I translate it – with words, with images, with a grateful heart.

As Marcel Proust says, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” My wish, for me and for you, are new eyes to re-create the world, over and over…

Please share your thoughts  below in the Reply box …

 

You may reprint the featured article, in its entirety, by including a byline and a link to Carolyn’s website. www.backyardpearls.com

Carolyn Scarborough is a professionally trained creativity and writing coach. As founder of Backyard Pearls, LLC, she helps coaches and heart-based entrepreneurs to unblock their creativity so they can connect with and express what’s deeply meaningful to them. She leads retreats, telecourses and does private coaching with new writers, experienced writers, and those who simply need a creativity boost to launch business and writing projects.  She is the author of “Backyard Pearls: Cultivating Wisdom and Joy in Everyday Life,” and is an award-winning magazine writer who has published more than 500 articles in publications around the world.

Request your complimentary “Tapping into your Inner Wisdom” session here.

What Does Your Productivity Boss Look Like?

March 4th, 2014

Have you ever had one of those moments where everyone is singing or talking loudly, and then they stop but you keep going until that mortifying moment when you realize you are the only one making noise, and everyone is staring?

Of course, I just mean this theoretically, that’s never happened to ME.

But anyway, another version of the story is all the different voices we have in our head – the critic, the perfectionist, the cheerleader, etc. And when they all quiet down except one… well, it’s pretty easy to spot.

Yesterday, while I was pouring a cup of spicy chai tea, I noticed a tightness in my stomach and an uneasy feeling. Things were quiet… quiet enough that I actually heard a voice that often gets lost in the din. While I was hoping to sit and relax with a cup of tea, there was a voice that was actively opposing my plan. “You’re not doing enough,” he rasped. “In fact, YOU are not enough.”

Ouch.

When I looked closer, the signs were unmistakable. It was my Productivity Boss.

He has a certain set of preferences. I should be doing things that make money, that look good, that were written in my planner for that day or that are done at a gallop. Or, as Stephen Covey would say, those in the category of “urgent, but not necessarily important.”

So when I slowed down, he filled me with a sort of aching anxiety as he fretted in the background with these doom and gloom prophesies and visions of living in the streets just around the corner (no one can accuse him of being apathetic in his proclamations – perhaps Shakespearean theater would be a better outlet for him).

I paused, I breathed, and then I did one of the things my Productivity Boss hates most. I did a reality check.

The past week I have been doing a healthy eating cleanse. What this meant was a lot more time around food – hours spent shopping, chopping vegetables, sautéing, cleaning, spicing, etc.

This is a strong value for me – I want to bring even cleaner eating into my life so I can increase energy and focus for the things that matter. Problem is, that means little to my inner Productivity Boss.

I looked back on my day. True, I had not spent as much time in the office and had not written like I’d meant to. Five points to Productivity Boss. On the other hand, I had spent that time grocery shopping and prepping a healthy lunch. I had spent 10 minutes stretching. I had taken a walk and gotten some interesting business ideas. And so far as I could see, my life was NOT going to hell in a hand basket, despite his sputtering.

What I realized is that he’s just there to keep the status quo, and when I’m running around unconsciously following his direction, I feel overwhelmed as if I’m never doing enough.

But when I can breathe, see him for the misguided little man he is, maybe even give him a virtual margarita and send him to a beach chair, then I can move forward with MY version of productive and creative living. It feels so much saner. He may pout, but I am the one who is gleeful.

I’d love to hear the signals that your Productivity Boss is wreaking havoc in the background. How do you know he’s there (words, a body sensation?), and how do you diffuse him? Please share your thoughts  below in the Reply box …

 

You may reprint the featured article, in its entirety, by including a byline and a link to Carolyn’s website. www.backyardpearls.com

Carolyn Scarborough is a professionally trained creativity and writing coach. As founder of Backyard Pearls, LLC, she helps coaches and heart-based entrepreneurs to unblock their creativity so they can connect with and express what’s deeply meaningful to them. She leads retreats, telecourses and does private coaching with new writers, experienced writers, and those who simply need a creativity boost to launch business and writing projects.  She is the author of “Backyard Pearls: Cultivating Wisdom and Joy in Everyday Life,” and is an award-winning magazine writer who has published more than 500 articles in publications around the world.

Request your complimentary “Tapping into your Inner Wisdom” session here.

Seeing With the Eyes of a Poet

January 19th, 2014

As I sat in the hotel room bathtub, all I could think about was the perfect storm of “cough-pocolypse.”

A month ago, when my husband and I booked two seats to hear poet David Whyte speak in San Antonio, it seemed like an inspiring idea and a fun road trip.

Then life happened.

Over the holidays my husband got the flu, and I got the cold that, when sung in my head to the Lamb Chop tune, went “This is the cold that never ends, it just goes on and on my friends…”

Both of us had been feeling slightly better for a few days, however, so off we went.

During Whyte’s presentation, I kept trying to suppress a cough that blurted out during the most poetic lines, and by the time I got in bed, the coughing really began. I spent hours alternating between sitting in the bathroom breathing in steam from the shower and sitting straight up in bed. Whatever I did, it felt like a fiery hot nail was scratching down my throat.

The next morning, after finally getting a few hours of sleep, I got up and all I could think about was how we shouldn’t have come on the trip. I berated myself that I should have packed better medicine. I shouldn’t have had the diet Coke at dinner because the caffeine kept me awake. The hotel air was too dry and if I’d stayed home it wouldn’t have been so bad. I had created the perfect storm.

Finally, trying to reach for something that felt better, I dropped a bath bomb into the hotel tub, made some tea and plopped in… as I continued my dramatic replay.

And then it hit me. By spending time in my head on the perfect storm of the past 24 hours, I was missing the perfect storm of the present moment. There was the shiny silver of the bath fixtures sweating with moisture. The faint lemony smell of the bath bomb. The warmth of the tea as it surfed across my tongue and down my throat. I realized that poet David Whyte didn’t get his inspiration from replaying old stories in his head while he was in the middle of a different moment. His poetry came from full presence.

Suddenly my robotic story melted away, and I all I could feel was relief washing over me. As I sighed in the tub, I let in a little more freedom, and a lot more peace.

Afterwards, when I looked out the hotel window with a clear mind, what had looked like barren fields the day before now looked like a straw colored paradise, like the field I built forts in as a child. Colors felt brighter, appreciation coursed through me. My cold hadn’t changed, but my eyes had changed…

I’d love to hear your comments on the article, what pearls you notice when you begin reflecting. Please share your thoughts  below in the Reply box …

 

You may reprint the featured article, in its entirety, by including a byline and a link to Carolyn’s website. www.backyardpearls.com

Carolyn Scarborough is a professionally trained creativity and writing coach. As founder of Backyard Pearls, LLC, she helps coaches and heart-based entrepreneurs to unblock their creativity so they can connect with and express what’s deeply meaningful to them. She leads retreats, telecourses and does private coaching with new writers, experienced writers, and those who simply need a creativity boost to launch business and writing projects.  She is the author of “Backyard Pearls: Cultivating Wisdom and Joy in Everyday Life,” and is an award-winning magazine writer who has published more than 500 articles in publications around the world.

Request your complimentary “Tapping into your Inner Wisdom” session here.

Finding Your Quotable Self

November 26th, 2013

I use quotes a lot. When I wrote my Backyard Pearls book, I started each chapter with a quote. I read quotes in my writing process teleclasses. I have whole files of quotes categorized by topic on my computer.

So when I started creating the schedule for my next writing retreat, of course I began looking for quotes for just that dash of inspiration.

Only this time, a strange thing happened. The more I tried to find someone to authoritatively and poetically capture what I wanted to say, the more I found myself getting a headache, feeling stressed out, and floating farther and farther away from the process.

As I stuffed my brain with words, I moved out of my flowing creative mode and into driven research mode.

Suddenly, looking through past notes, I found it. The perfect quote. Who had written this gem, I wondered. It didn’t have a name beside it? As I scanned the page to find the author, suddenly I realized who it was. Me.

This quote was simply an “aha” I had had and typed on a page along with a lot of other thoughts. That’s when it hit me. I had been so busy looking for other people’s wisdom, I hadn’t stopped to hear my own.

Author Parker J. Palmer talks about how at workshops, we take the most notes on what the leader says, and few if any on what we ourselves are thinking or saying. Somehow we see the speaker as knowing the answers, yet in reality it is in listening to our own souls speak that we find our clearest truth.

Recently I was at a fundraiser gala where I ran into an old friend who works at a hospice center. She said she had been preparing an inspirational prayer every week for the employees, and that she typically read passages from favorite books. But then she decided to try something new. For the past month, she had been writing the prayers herself. She shared that it had been more time consuming, but that her feeling of joy and self-satisfaction far outweighed the lost time. She was hooked… on expressing her own words.

This is a pivotal step for all of us. To hear what others say… but to listen even more deeply to what we say. To hang onto our every word as if a great expert were speaking, which she is…

Questions for Reflection:

  • Find something that you’ve written, choose a few sentences, and put quotation marks around them. Then, add your name to the end. How does that feel? What thoughts come up?
  • Where have you chosen to listen to others wisdom where you’d be better served listening to your own?

I’d love to hear your comments on the article, what pearls you notice when you begin reflecting. Please share your thoughts  below in the Reply box …

 

You may reprint the featured article, in its entirety, by including a byline and a link to Carolyn’s website. www.backyardpearls.com

Carolyn Scarborough is a professionally trained creativity and writing coach. As founder of Backyard Pearls, LLC, she helps coaches and heart-based entrepreneurs to unblock their creativity so they can connect with and express what’s deeply meaningful to them. She leads retreats, telecourses and does private coaching with new writers, experienced writers, and those who simply need a creativity boost to launch business and writing projects.  She is the author of “Backyard Pearls: Cultivating Wisdom and Joy in Everyday Life,” and is an award-winning magazine writer who has published more than 500 articles in publications around the world.

Request your complimentary “Tapping into your Inner Wisdom” session here.