The Fear and Magic of Beginner’s Mind

The Fear and Magic of Beginner's Mind

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I have a bad habit of over researching. I tend to gently slip my way into learning something without committing to it. I watch, I read, I learn. And when it finally gets to be too much and I have to face the fact that it's time to actually DO... there's a clash. My mind and my body don't match up. I get frustrated with not being able to do it, because I "know" so much. I am thrown into the beginners seat, and into the realization that learning something with my mind doesn't make me an expert. Only doing it does.

If you've been with me for any length of time, you probably heard my story on how I researched mixed media and art journaling for TWO YEARS before putting a brush to paper. I thought I learned my lesson... but, you'll probably chuckle when I tell you this, I did it again. With karate. (Old habits die hard, right?)

To be fair, I had no interest or intention of doing it for myself when I signed my kids up and started intently watching the classes. But still, almost two years later when I realized I wanted to do it too, I had to wait until I was "ready".

Why do we wait so long
to begin something new that we're interested in?

Why do we "prepare ourselves" so much if it rarely changes the experience of beginning? Why do we try to cheat ourselves out of being a beginner, rejecting the beautiful, exciting state of beginner's mind?

Perhaps because of our intent focus on the outcome? Or maybe it's a fear of failure, or of looking uneducated or "stupid".

We know intellectually that we can't possibly be good at something if we've never done it before. That it takes time and practice to become good at anything. And the hard truth is, we are more often in a state of not knowing, than we are in truly knowing.

It's funny really, how we humans are pretty confident beings despite how little we actually know. I mean, I suppose we have to be in order to make any sort of decision; and we're faced with literally thousands of decisions each day. Our brains are magnificent, constantly making judgement calls to guide us through life, filling in our gaps of knowledge with the most likely information, and making calculations to predict the future. The problem is, we can only make those calculations based on what we already know or what we think we know, which leaves open the possibility that we're incorrect, especially if our information is faulty or out of date.

There is so much you know, and yet so much more that you don't know; and even more still... so much that you don't know that you don't know. This is true for us all, and yet we all work so hard at denying that we don't know something, we work so hard at avoiding or rushing through ever truly being an open-minded beginner.

The ironic thing is:

We can only learn and grow, and we are only ever really happy, when we dare to be naive, when we get present to enjoy the journey with fresh new eyes of a "beginner".

I've seen it for myself - The other week I was thrown into something new without a moments notice to prepare. I had joined my daughters in a new group karate class, and it just so happened to be the day they were practicing kata. (For simplicity sake, let's just say that's when you stand up in front of an audience on your own to demonstrate a series of karate techniques.) Now, I've been in the spotlight before - I've given a speech or two (in which I spent months preparing for), and I have shown myself on video (with approximately 20+ takes with each one) - but this was different.

If I had known ahead of time, I may have not gone. I may have told myself I wasn't ready. That I needed to practice more. Or maybe that demonstrating wasn't something I needed to work on right now. Or perhaps I would have sat in anxiety about it for days before it actually happened.

But alas, there I was in class, and my turn was approaching. I couldn't refuse. My heart was racing, I tried to calm myself. I knew the moves. It was just a matter of getting up there and doing it. So I took a deep breath, stepped up, announced myself with what felt like a bit of confidence. I could do this! I move into the kata, giving it my all. Then, half-way through, out of nowhere, my body starts shaking. My legs turn to jelly. I try to hit harder with every move, willing my body to turn solid again. But it was no use, my body trembled uncontrollably until I somehow made it through to the end.

Later I had a good laugh about it with my kids, then again with my Sensei. "Could you see me shaking!? I was literally trembling like a leaf!" But I survived. And what's more, in being open and honest about my experience, I received the support I needed to move forward and actually be excited to try again. They all knew just how hard it is to do something for the first time, to do something in front of an audience, to face your fears. They've all been there themselves, many times, as I'm sure you have as well.

One of the things we try to practice in martial arts, is something called shoshin, or "beginner's mind". So, doing my best to embrace this (and knowing that if I waited too long to do it again I'd probably loose my nerve!), I asked one of the other adults from my usual class to join me next time. I was curious to see how long it would take for me to be able to get up there and not be shaking in my boots! So every Saturday we faced our fears, stepped up in front of the group, and did our best. Over and over and over again. It got easier each time and it was exciting to see ourselves grow.

Reflecting back, I see how jumping into it in this way was way easier (and more rewarding!) than spending weeks, months, or even years preparing myself. I progressed much faster than if I had spent time "getting ready" to start, and I avoided all the anxiety that would have created. After diving in head first as a total unprepared beginner, I had the courage to keep going. And wouldn't you know - my partner and I got promoted soon after!

More and more I'm beginning to fully understand shoshin, and that it is the only way to journey on the path to black belt (and the path of life) - with a beginner's mind; not just when we start something new, but in every moment.

As we develop knowledge, our minds naturally become more closed and we tend to dismiss much of what we hear. Our minds are wired to search for confirmation of our current philosophy or previous experience, rather than being open to new information.

The Art of BeginningBut with a beginner's mind, open and free from preconceptions, we are willing to move forward and make mistakes, we listen more deeply and see more clearly, we are eager to hear new perspectives, we are open to question old beliefs, we are able to be present with what actually is, we see the world anew with wonderment and awe...

To allow yourself to remain as a beginner, opens you up to expand exponentially.

As Zen teacher Suzuki Roshi famously said, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”

If you look to this moment as a new beginning, suddenly this moment isn't the same as all other moments. Suddenly you aren't confined by your brain's map of the world, suddenly possibility opens up. Things can be different than before. You can make a different choice.

And the beauty of life is, each moment we are offered the opportunity to begin again. And if we embrace it, life becomes an endless adventure of possibility.


Here's to new beginnings!

Much love to you,

 

Answering the Call to Create

How to be creative againOne would think answering the call to create is as simple as 1-2-3:

1. Feel the urge.
2. Grab some supplies.
3. Go create.
Right?

Sometimes. But I know all too well it's not always as easy as it sounds. If you're anything like me, you may easily wake up one day with a nine-hour-YouTube-marathon hangover, knee deep in supplies you now feel guilty for buying because you still don’t know what the heck to do with any of it. And even if you did, you know it’ll never turn out the way she did it. Ugh, and let’s not even mention that huge pile of laundry still sitting in the corner and the dirty dishes in the sink. How do those artists make it look so easy??

Let’s face it - that deep yearning inside that’s pulling you feels so bright and promising and invigorating, but it can be confusing and frustrating as hell.

There’s two things that I know for sure:

Yes, You ARE Creative.
And you’re feeling that urge for a reason.

Because here’s the deal: In order to create or express yourself freely and authentically, it needs to come from an authentic place. From within.

Beautiful, you are so much more than you realize. Your Creative Soul is calling you back home.

Life can be harsh. But I want you to know that you always have the most beautiful, knowing, loving guide within you. Your Soul, full of infinite wisdom and creativity, patiently waits for you to come back home and nurture the flames.

So why does it feel so damn hard? And why do we keep getting in our own way?

Because your mind is the one running the show, and it's scared to let go. Our minds are used to being in control and predicting outcomes. For us to truly get present and follow our Soul's whims one step at a time, means to step into the scary unknown. That place of unknowing, of uncertainty, can feel dark and filled with monsters. We hold on for dear life and fight tooth and nail not to be thrown off the edge into that scary place!

When there's a calling to step into that unknown, many people turn to battle. They try to fight away the voices that tell them not to move on, that tell them they can't, or they're not good enough. They start to beat themselves up for beating themselves up. They try to ignore those inner critical voices, or tell them to shut up. When really, those voices are just scared.

The only true way in, is to simply start walking gently past that edge into the unknown while holding compassion for the part of you that's scared sh**less. Our minds need to build trust that when you listen to your Soul, everything will indeed be okay.


Always in curiosity and love,

 

Making the Commitment to Show Up

Last week when I shared some thoughts on developing a dedicated creative practice, a lot of interesting comments, and ideas, and reminders came up that helped me (re)start the journey.

Before, sitting down to create when I didn't feel like it sounded like icky forcing - but these last few days of showing up for the practice felt far from icky. Each day starts off a bit awkward, but after just a few marks, I often find myself lost in doodling or finding clarity. (And not always, but that's okay!)

Art Journaling on the couch

I've discovered that not having expectations around what I do, leaves room for me to simply focus on showing up and staying present. I have yet to feel like I want to write or draw or paint... but I know I want to have a creative practice.

So each day, at the same time, I simply show up and make a mark.

No pressure. No desired outcome. Just openness and a mark.

Having grandiose ideas around the practice would just make it feel like a big heavy thing on my 'to-do' list that would likely lead to fits of the 'I-don't-wanna's'! I also know that if I continued on as I was, only creating when the mood strikes, I would show up less and less until perhaps one day I'd find myself not being able to call myself 'creative' at all.

Allowing myself to make crap day after day ensures that I'm present and ready for the moments when the muse (or the universe or creative flow) decides to flow through me.

It just takes some trust and consistency in showing up. And yes, it's hard.

Commitment may not fit into our glamorous idea of being creative, but it's what works, and it's what nourishes us.

Like my mentor, Kate Swoboda, so timely said in a recent blog post: "We need to water our personal selves much like we water plants." It's not about whether you have the time, or whether or not you know what to do - "It's about a choice to step into consistently practicing the things that make your life feel better."

So if creative expression makes your Soul feel alive, as it does mine... what are you waiting for?

All it takes is a devotion to make a mark each day. You never know where it might lead!



Always in curiosity and love,



>> I'D LOVE TO KNOW - WHAT ARE YOU READY TO COMMIT TO?



Thoughts on Developing a Creative Practice

Over the last decade of diving into how we humans can return to creativity later in life, one thing has always eluded me (or is it perhaps one thing I've been resisting?).

It is the question of whether we need to have a dedicated daily or weekly practice in order to truly deepen into our creativity.

I've always leaned toward 'no', seeing as though I consider myself a lifelong creative and I have never had a consistent practice. I would always ride the ebb and flow of my inspiration and curiosity while releasing any tensions, or built up energy, through writing and scribbling. But this past year has got me thinking that I may be wrong.

Being my naturally curious self, my mind begins to wonder about the differences between my new martial arts dedicated practice, and my lifelong 'do-when-I-feel-like-it' creative practice.

At the beginning of every karate class the students say a creed that ends with: "We are dedicated! We are motivated! We're on a quest to be our best!" For almost two years I've been hearing my kids and the others shout this at the top of their lungs three times a week. It makes it easy for me to tell my girls that we're dedicated and going anyway when they whine about not being in the mood to go to the dojo. Hence, when I decided to step into the practice myself this past March, it felt only natural to promise that I'd show up to every class unless I had a really good reason to miss it.

There were many times at the beginning of my martial arts journey that I wanted to skip class. I was too tired, or too sore, or just not in the mood... but I forced myself to go anyway - because of the promise I made myself, but also because I didn't want my kids seeing it was okay to skip it whenever they felt like it.

So I continued to show up week after week, and eventually the showing up got easier. It became more habitual, more 'normal'. (Well, maybe not normal based on how obsessive I've become!) Now, it's just something we DO. It's part of our life that's inseparable from us.

And yet...

When we took off for a two week vacation to my Aunt's beautiful home, with karate gear in tow and full intentions of practicing often... we ended up only doing it once. Even though we had plenty of time and space to do what we will.

It just goes to show: inspiration and willingness aren't always enough to get you into action.

I used to think I just wasn't inspired enough to create when I wasn't feelin it, so I'd wait it out. Many times creative bursts would return, but this last dry spell has been stretching far and wide. I actually did find inspiration here and there over the last few months. And I do have the desire to explore the path of drawing... but it has yet to happen. Perhaps all that's missing is my will to make it happen with a dedicated practice.



Always in curiosity and love,



>> I'D LOVE TO KNOW - DO YOU HAVE A DEDICATED PRACTICE IN YOUR LIFE? TELL ME ABOUT IT BELOW!



The Truth in Embodiment

It never ceases to amaze me the connections I make between my art journaling journey and my life; and how it can be used as a tool to express all of the lessons I learn along the way and to practice new ways of being.

Most recently, my path has led me to karate of all things. After almost two years of watching my kids train, I decided to jump in myself... and it has been so fascinating to sink into the unexpected self-growth lessons and to notice how it connects to art journaling!

The Truth in Embodiment

One of the biggest benefits and most awakening Aha's (so far!) I've received from training in martial arts is total embodiment and the true meaning behind it.

For many years I've used the practice of movement to get present before diving into my art journal (in fact, moving your body and activating your senses is one of the suggested rituals in my Roots Class). I've also talked about how getting back in touch with my senses was the beginning of my journey back home to myself.

But I'm starting to see that those short practices were only just the tip of the iceberg. As I explore and stretch the boundaries of what my body is capable of, feel the soreness in new muscles I never even knew existed, and marvel at the magic of muscle memory... I find myself on a journey towards true embodiment and of learning how to be in relation with my body.

Before, my body felt more like a tool - something that just helps me do things. Now, I feel it becoming more a part of me as my mind and body begin to merge on the mat, on the page, and in life.

Embodiment is not just about being aware of the body as a thing, but of being aware AS a body.

...just as we were all born to be. As infants, we have no ability to make sense of the world through thought. Rather, we are aware of everything around us through our senses, and are highly in tune to what our bodies need. But as we grow, we move away from our sensory knowledge and begin to rely solely on our minds.

I'm beginning to think we have it all backwards.

As we all know, the mind can get easily cloudy or confused. It makes up stories that are far from the truth. It can misperceive events and even how we look and feel. It's not always a reliable source of input. The body on the other hand, never lies. It offers the unfiltered truth of what you need and of what you're experiencing.

What if instead, we switched their roles - living from the body and using the mind as the incredible tool it was intended to be only when we needed it?

How much simpler would your life be then? And how much easier would your creative process flow?



Always in curiosity and love,




Better Than Self-Love?

It’s that time of year again – where hearts and cupids are everywhere we look, and the self development world is plastering quotes on self-love. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for love. But why does it have to be centered around buying more stuff, and what the heck does self-love mean anyway?

Love can mean very different things from one person to the next. And the road toward self-love can be long and hard, and is very personal. Yet, self-love is often spoken of as if it were a switch that could be simply turned on. And even more so, we often paint the picture that self-love is an idealized state where we only feel positive feelings towards ourselves.

But nothing could be further from the truth. Loving ourselves does not mean our inner critical voice is suddenly shut off, or that we never suffer, or that we don’t become disappointed in ourselves.

And from my experience, you can’t just decide to love something or someone and immediately have it be so. It takes intention, nurturing, and most of all time. Trying to force an end result without first focusing on the steps to get there can be disheartening.

What happens when you fail at something, or don’t meet your own expectations? What happens if you kind of hate a part of yourself? What happens when you decide to love yourself, you struggle with it, and then perhaps you start to think thoughts like: “Why can’t I? What’s wrong with me?” What happens when you think overly critical or hateful thoughts, then turn it around and say something loving – but it only makes you feel worse because you don’t truly believe it?

It’s exactly in moments like these where telling ourselves to be more loving might actually backfire.

So what then?

What if instead, we focused more on being compassionate toward ourselves?

Doesn’t that already feel oh so much lighter? Self compassion doesn’t ask us to judge ourselves, it’s simply a way of relating to ourselves kindly. It allows us to embrace ourselves as we are right now, flaws and all. It gives us permission to feel the way we feel without shame. It gives us a more solid sense of self worth because it’s there for us when we fail. It deeper connects us to others because it reminds us that to be human is to be imperfect.

You already have the roadmap and the skills to be compassionate. I can bet that you at least try to be compassionate with your good friends and loved ones. So there’s nothing more you need to learn; it’s simply a softening in to include yourself in the encouragement, understanding, empathy, patience, and gentleness you offer others.

I believe that once we stop treating ourselves so differently and show ourselves the same compassion as we do others, we will come to truly acknowledge our shared nature of our imperfect humanity – thus opening our hearts even wider to others and ourselves, in turn creating a more loving world all around.

Much love to you!!

{Creative} Soul Truths #5

You already have everything you need. Your authentic Soul voice is bright, beautiful, and patently waiting to freely express itself.

Its quiet voice is always speaking to you, through what we call intuition, even if you can’t quite hear it now. We all have intuition… it’s our inner knowing, or what I like to call the language of our Soul. It’s the part of you that speaks the truth about who you are and what you want. So basically, it’s your life road map to living your purpose, and your most fulfilled, joyful life!

If we get present and follow its urges when we sit down to create, we will develop an art journaling practice that can ultimately bring us more confidence, happiness, self-awareness, healing, and a newfound sense of wholeness.

If doing that feels impossible for you right now, then for one reason or another, your mind is trying to protect you from letting your creative spirit free, from letting your intuitive Soul lead the way. (You’re not alone! It’s a totally natural part of being human.) The key then, is to go gently, with compassion, and start to build trust between your mind and your intuitive Soul.

Your mind is so used to being in control and predicting outcomes. For us to truly get present and follow our Soul’s whims one step at a time, means to step into the scary unknown. That place of unknowing, of uncertainty, can feel dark and filled with monsters. We will hold on for dear life and fight tooth and nail not to be thrown off the edge into that scary space!

So the only way in, is to start slow, start gently, hold that compassion for the part of you that’s scared sh**less, celebrate yourself every step of the way, and build trust that when you listen to your intuition, everything will indeed be okay.

TIP: Practice being present and becoming an observer of your thoughts. When fears or judgements come up, acknowledge it without running away, then choose courage – what one step are you willing to take next?

I so hope that you have found this Soul Truths series to be helpful and inspiring!

If you would love to get more support around connecting to and building trust with your creative, intuitive Soul so that you may express yourself more fully in your journal (and in life!), then I invite you to join me and a community of other Soul Seekers in my 6-week program Creative Soul Roots. (We start Sept 28th, 2019!)

In it, I’ll guide you through a series of fun, creative exercises that will help you to put these Soul Truths into action, nurture your creative Soul, and develop the skills needed to get out of your head and into your heart.
Click Here for more info & to reserve your spot!

Whether you decide to join us or not, I know for certain that if you’re here, then creative expression is the path you were meant to take to help liberate your Soul. I know you can do this, don’t give up!

Much love to you!!

{Creative} Soul Truths #4

Unfortunately our society tends to dismiss play for adults, and perceives it as unproductive, petty, or as a “guilty pleasure”. We’ve formed the belief that in order for something to be meaningful or legitimate, we have to work hard at it. Yet recent studies are showing us that play and rest are essential; it’s just as important as getting enough sleep, eating well, and exercise.

Play helps us to relieve stress, manage emotions, connect deeper with ourselves, and create stronger and more meaningful bonds with others.

The truth is, we can simultaneously be productive, be helpful, be of service, finish our tasks, AND be light, playful beings. Because play has more to do with your willingness to be uninhibited, to be imaginative, to be joyful. Play is about allowing yourself to express your spirit without restraint. Play is about allowing yourself to be YOU.

Play is more than just being child-like, it’s a transformative, vulnerable state to be in. It’s surrender of the ego. It’s choosing curiosity and aliveness. It’s letting go of outcomes or expectations, and being fully present to the here and now. It’s responding to what’s happening with curiosity, instead of reacting – and there’s where real transformation can happen.

And when you pair play with expressing yourself in an art journal, it becomes a vehicle for powerful healing! Art journaling is a beautiful (and fun!) way to free your Soul, and to facilitate your self growth; allowing you to explore and express your inner self. It shouldn’t be put on your “guilty pleasures” list – with it directly linked to our mental health, it should be top priority!

It doesn’t have to be as hard and stressful as we sometimes make it out to be either. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to do it “right”, and to search for meaning. But change, transformation, and self expression can happen with ease and play! As long as you allow yourself to play and follow your intuition, the transformation you seek will naturally happen. So stop stressing yourself out about art journaling. You can’t do it wrong!

You are here to dance a splendid dance in this lifetime and to feel the fullness of who you are! Allow play to be the easeful, fun way in which you align yourself and your life with who you truly are!

TIP: Start by practicing showing up to your art journal and committing to just one minute of play with paints or crayons. And if possible, create with young children – kids are masters at play and creativity, let them lead the way!

Much love to you!!

{Creative} Soul Truths #3: Breaking Through the Stuck


A creative block can show up in many different ways... Sometimes it's avoidance or procrastination. Or the opposite - getting caught in the research trap, constantly watching YouTube videos or tutorials. Or maybe you start buying all the new supplies, gathering so much that you feel overwhelmed by the choices. Perhaps you have a loud inner critic that's telling you that you aren't good enough, so why bother. Perhaps you approach your journal tentatively, so afraid of messing things up or doing it "wrong".

However you experience your stuck, if you try to force through it or yell at your inner critic to 'shut up' (or ignore it!), you're only digging yourself deeper into the rut.

Look, we live in a world where the logical mind is King. Our culture, especially here in the US, relies so heavily on the mind and the "left-brain" way of thinking. We honor logic, structure, speed, control; so much so that we often let our minds run on auto-pilot. Your mind is used to being in control. To let go, so that you can create freely, is really scary and threatening.

If you're feeling like there's a force field between you and your art materials, you're probably right. Your mind (aka ego, aka inner critic) will do anything to protect you. It will do anything to stay in control, the way you were taught to. It will do anything to protect your inner child or inner artist from getting hurt again. So yelling at it, or trying to force it to stand down so your intuitive, creative Soul can lead the way, will only make it stand firmer in place.

Your mind is only doing it's job. And it's scared to let go. The only way to loosen its grip, is to face it bravely with compassion. (The climax scene in Disney's movie Moana comes to mind!)



Much love to you!!



P.S. You don't have to go it alone. We'll be facing our inner stuck with compassion, together in the journey ROOTS, starting September 28th. In the meantime, try this: Start practicing compassion with yourself in the little daily moments. Then, start exploring: What would help your mind to feel safe enough to play in an art journal?




{Creative} Soul Truths #2: The One Thing That Often Keeps Us Creatively Stuck


There's one thing that people tend to get stuck on when they crave a nourishing art journaling practice ---> trying to "figure it out".

Look, I get it. There are SOOOO many drool-worthy artists out there sharing addicting how-to videos, so many different fun supplies to try out, and yeah, I totally geek out on research.

But the truth is, practicing in an art journal isn't about figuring out how to do it, it's about learning to navigate your inner world and the unknown.

You don't have to know what you're doing, to know what you're doing. You may never discover a formula. And when expressing yourself, you will never know where it will lead. But what you will discover, is what works for you in terms of feeling into your intuition, getting past the hard parts, finding the joy, and navigating the fear monsters.

We often crave rules and step-by-step instruction because we want to do it "right". We want to know what to expect. We want to know what we're heading into. Predictability feels safe. Control feels safe. But with true, authentic creative expression, there is no right or wrong. There is no step-by-step guide. We need to embrace the unexpected. We need to be open to mystery and surprise!

In fact, the less you know, the better.

I know all too well how easy it is to get caught up in the excitement of art journaling - delving into the infinite possibilities of techniques, and exploring how other people approach their journal. We tend to over complicate things (at least, I know I do!), especially when we want to learn something new. We dive deep into learning everything there is to know about it, searching for the one "right" way to do it. We start comparing our work to others'. We get hung up with how-to's and perfecting… unintentionally squashing the fun-loving, curious part of ourselves that just wants to create and play with child-like freedom.

But for your Soul to shine through onto the page (and into your life!), you must get out of your head, and into your heart.

You must step into that space of the unknown… That place where you have no idea what to expect next. That place where anything can happen. That's where the magic lies!



Always in curiosity and love,





P.S. Here's a TIP: Approach your journal without a plan and without a vision. You don't (and shouldn't!) know how you're going to start or where it's going to lead. Instead, follow your intuitive urges one step at a time, allowing something to emerge naturally.