Sunday, October 29, 2006

Find a New Perspective…


When I was in graduate school and having to write several poems a week, I often found myself stuck for ideas, inspiration, and fresh images. I’d stop and start, pace the living room, feed my parakeet, write a bit more, make some tea, wash a few dirty mugs, and finally force myself to produce something of quality by staring at my computer screen with the powerful eyes of Superman, willing the right words to the page. If I had only listened to the messages my body was sending me!

I believe there is something very physical about creativity. It does not merely jump from our brains and onto the canvas, journal page, or computer screen. My body was telling me to move when I was stuck. All of my pacing and fussing with my environment meant that I needed a new perspective. I believed myself to be a “bad girl” for getting up from my desk so often to fidget with the physical world. But, this movement was exactly what I needed.

There is something profound about physically finding a new perspective when you are stuck. I can just feel the stagnation when I think of classrooms filled with students sitting in straight rows and staff meetings where people are forced to sit for two hours in stale, dry rooms and try to think up brilliant ideas.

As a guest teacher in some community college classes over the last year, I’ve led an exercise where students must physically find a new perspective in the classroom. At first they look at me blankly and step two feet in one direction. I have to explain that they really need to alter their perspective. I tell them to climb on top of and underneath tables; move to the front of the room where the teacher normally stands; hang off the chair backwards and look at the ceiling. Once I give them this permission, the energy really gets moving. In once class, a student tried to fit his whole body into the recycle bin! I tell the students that finding a new perspective in their environment will invariably create a new perspective on their work.

Try this: Sit under your desk, stand on your head, turn the lights off and walk in circles, sit at a different table to write, climb a tree. Find another perspective that is unusual (but safe) to help jumpstart your ideas when you’re at a stand still.

P.S. As a write this, I am sitting in my closet looking up at my colorful clothes hanging above me. Where are you?

Friday, October 13, 2006

A Good Night

Today I spent the afternoon with my friend Corbin, a writer and a mother of two. We ate lunch, shared our current writing projects, and took a lovely walk through her neighborhood. Throughout our conversations, the subject of sleep emerged. We talked about lack of sleep, in particular, and the repercussions of this. Luckily, I have not experienced a great deal of insomnia in my life, but I know many who struggle with falling and staying asleep. And, I don’t know how parents endure years of interrupted sleep. Corbin, while certainly affected by lack of sleep, deals with it gracefully. For one thing, she takes naps, something I have just learned to do this past year.

My heart goes out to those of you who struggle with sleep on a regular basis. I know on a very small scale how one poor night sleep can adversely affect my day and how life can seem a little less vibrant and a tad blurry. I know that for many people, insomnia is a serious and constant struggle. A poor sleep cycle is hard to break, but there are things you can do to enhance your chance of a more peaceful night’s sleep. What I have to offer is from the realm of aromatherapy.

Try this: Aromatherapy Bath

Before bed, soak your tired bones in warm water filled with calming essential oils. Add to your bath 2 drops marjoram oil, 2 drops ylang ylang oil, 2 drops chamomile oil, and 2 drops lavender oil.

Try this: Nighttime Pillow Spritzer.

Pour distilled water into a spray bottle and add 3 drops lavender oil, 2 drops rose oil, 2 drops chamomile oil, and 2 drops ylang ylang oil. Spray your pillow and sheets–and the air—just before climbing into bed.

Note: Any one of the essential oils listed above can be used on its own. So, if all you have is lavender oil, use that for your bath and spritzer. I have given clients a simple lavender and ylang ylang spritzer, and many found it very calming before bed.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Art of Grounding

Over the past two days I have physically exerted myself more than usual. Yesterday I went on a considerable run and today a 32-mile bike ride. What I’ve discovered these last two days is that I haven’t been paying much attention to the lower half of my body. During my run, in particular, I found myself tuning into the weight of my body as it hit the earth with each stride. I heard the crunch of my shoes against the gravel and felt how my joints endured the force of my body as if moved through space. As I write this entry, my hips, thighs, knees, and feet are aching. In some ways I like this feeling because I’m reminded that the lower half of my body actually exists.

Like most of us, I spend a considerable amount of time living in my heart, throat, and head. My stress and worry seem to collect in these upper chakras, and over time, I neglect the foundation of my body: the Root or First Chakra.

This First Chakra extends from the coccyx to the toes and it is the chakra that teaches the art of grounding. This chakra, in its simplest description, is about survival—our primal and instinctual need to survive and protect ourselves. It is also about living in the present moment, in your body, and feeling the life-giving earth beneath your feet. When this chakra is closed or neglected it is easy to feel “spacey,” unclear, worried, anxious, and stuck.

How can you feel more grounded?

Try one of these:

* Walk or run. Feel your feet against the earth. Connect with the lower half of your body as you move by listening to the sounds you make when your body meets the earth.

* Jump up and Down or Dance. Pretend you are a kid again and playfully jump up and down. Even better: find a soft piece of earth and jump or dance on it while barefoot. Feel dirt sift through your toes.

* Rest. Yes – rest! Turn off your brain for a while and sink into the being that is your body. Find a comfortable spot to relax and bring your consciousness down to your legs and feet. Feel the weight of your legs and let this weight sink into your couch, chair, or bed.

* Foot bath. Fill a tub with some warm water and a few drops of something fragrant if you like (something earthy like ginger, bergamot, or cedar essential oils would be nice). Draw the energy from your body down to your feet and notice if you feel any different. More grounded, perhaps?

Image credit: Root Chakra image above from the Akashan Pathways website.