Creativity Takes Courage

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About a year ago, a dear friend gave me a piece of art for my yoga room. It’s a tiny little painting, beautiful and intensely vibrant, made by one of my favorite local artists, framed by white mat board. Underneath the painting is a quote from Henri Matisse: “Creativity takes courage.” It’s so perfect. It hangs on my wall and when I walk by it every day, I have a heartfelt reminder that what I do takes courage.

Creativity is everything to me; it’s the very foundation of how I practice and teach and live my life. To me, being creative is about being willing to be in the place where Creation – the spontaneous creative energy of The Universe, God, Source, or whatever name we have for it – is moving through me, unimpeded and unobstructed, like a free-flowing river. What comes through is always a surprise and ever new. In fact, it’s never been seen before; it’s a fresh creation.

My soul craves being in this creative space. The energy of it is like breath to me; it’s necessary for my survival. When I’m in the creative flow it often looks like making art in various forms: intuitive painting, dancing, setting mantra and chants to music I have written, letting myself color outside the lines of traditional yoga poses and inventing new ones.

For me, the secret ingredient to being creative is complete surrender. It’s crucial to let go of any sort of destination or final product and, instead, be completely open to the process of creating, daring to go wherever it takes me. In order to really let the creativity come through, that means I have to release my grip of control, of trying to be the one in charge of it, and do my best to rest in and trust in the total uncertainty of it all. There is something so incredibly freeing about being in that zone of creative flow; not thinking, not planning, but just being the open vessel for Creation to pour out into the world.

But even more than making art, creativity is about being the art, consciously allowing ourselves to be divine art in motion. This means that we bravely say “yes” to Spirit moving fully through us, animating us, and guiding us in all that we do and everywhere we go. Being the art takes so much more courage than making the art. It’s scary enough to stare at a blank white canvas or paper, not knowing which colors or words to begin with. What if I do it wrong, what if it doesn’t work, and what if it looks stupid? And oh God, what if someone else see it or reads it and thinks it’s awful? But…to be the living art? To be in that creative flow and actually do what we’re guided to do in daily life? Now we’re getting into real vulnerability, the risk of looking stupid, or failing, or being seen. Vulnerability is the doorway into creativity and it takes a huge amount of courage to stay in that space, boldy moving past the fear into freedom.

The picture I have at the top of the page is from a workshop I did last year called Soul Food. We spent a whole weekend doing creative Yoga things to feed our souls. It was so incredible. (In homage to that experience, I’m using the same title for our June retreat in Montana. Details below.) But in planning it and facilitating it, I had to get into the space of risk and uncertainty and drop anchor there. As a teacher, it’s crucial for me to be in this place of creative surrender. The Freedom Yoga practice has has helped me build a strong foundation of trust in this creative process. Scary as it still is most of the time, I know that the ideas and words that come through will be utterly right for the situation, perfect, and will always work out way better than I planned or even thought possible.

One of the things I envisioned us doing during one of the workshop sessions was honoring our path by painting it with our feet. I covered the whole floor with white paper and had paper plates of various paint colors all around the perimeter of the paper. The idea was, we’d dip our feet in the colors and walk our own unique paths together ( to an awesome playlist) as we reflected on where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going.

Now, I’ve never done this before. I’ve never seen it before. But the vision and guidance was so strong, that I had to follow it. Turns out, it didn’t work so well, initially. The paper began to tear pretty quickly from the friction of our feet. So, instead of dipping our feet into the perimeter plates, we began to spontaneously pick up the bottles of paint and start squirting them all over the floor, making a more slippery surface on which to walk and spread the paint. Wow, here came the art!! People began to really let go and get into it, swinging the paint, dripping the paint. Some started painting with their hands, too.

We made a beautiful collective piece of art together that reflected a convergence of paths into this one moment, this one creation. It was just amazing and was so much better than what I thought would happen. One of the activities for the next day was making a soul collage, a visual representation of our truth and who we are. So, we decided to take that giant piece of art outside so it could dry in the sun, then we used the beautiful paper to make our collages. I hadn’t planned that at all! And in the sunshine of the glorious blue-sky day, I took this picture of some of our feet, because the beauty of the art didn’t stop at the paper. It kept going. It’s still going as I write this blog, actually.

Creativity takes so much courage, indeed. I’m grateful to Matisse for the quote and all the incredible art that he was brave enough to express and share with the world. And thanks to my friend for the art reminder to be brave, to stay in the creative place, and keep trusting it in all that I do.


~ Join me June 22-29 at the Feathered Pipe Ranch in Montana for a weeklong Freedom Yoga retreat called Soul Food: A Creative Celebration of Freedom and Authenticity.  This is a sublime and soulful week of laughter, community, creativity, and open-hearted authenticity. Freedom Yoga is the art of living a guided-from-within life and is built on the foundation of inner listening, courage, and deep self-trust. It’s a creative practice that involves following the feeling of rightness wherever it leads, daring to do as each of us is guided to do, both on the mat, and most importantly, in our lives. Our sessions will be an inspiring and creative blend of Freedom Yoga, art, journaling, mantra and chanting, storytelling, deep relaxation, and a soul-freeing dance-fusion practice I created called Bhakti Moves. We will play, color outside the lines, release comparison, and bravely celebrate who we really are. It’s going to be a great week.

The Blessing Box

I’m a member of a Baptist, African-American, gospel church. It’s awesome. I’m not
Baptist. I’m a confirmed Episicopalian, Yogi, spiritual seeker, lover of experiencing God in as many ways as I can through various traditions and non-traditions. I’m also not African-American, either. Most Sundays, I’m the only white person there. Definitely the only redhead. But, I’ve never felt more at home, more welcome, more ME at any church anywhere. Every Sunday I’m washed with the experience of what is essentially Bhakti Yoga – feeling my oneness with God through the pathway of the heart and the emotions. Our collective church experience is always spontaneous and organic, which feeds my soul to the brim and overflowing. And every Sunday, I’m blown away by the Pastor’s sermons that always, every single time, completely correlate to what I’m working with in my practice of living the Yoga.

About a year ago, he introduced the idea of a Blessing Box. The idea is to get a box of some sort and write down all the good things that happen to you every day; blessings that come your way that you didn’t create. A grace evidence box, of sorts. Put a date on it, write down the blessing, and keep it in the box.

The Blessing Box

I thought this would be a great addition to my life. So, I decided to use this cool wooden box I’d bought years ago for our ten jillion remote controls. We never used it as such and it was collecting dust on my shelf. Inside I placed strips of cut up paper and a pen. My first entry was January 2014: Dillon made it safely back to the USA! My son had returned safe and sound from a study abroad semester in Sweden. I had been a worried mom for months and I was so grateful and incredibly relieved he was back in the states. My intended practice had begun: Write a slip of paper every day.

Now, this may not seem like such a huge practice but, for me, looking for the good things that happen in my life is almost a monumental practice. I grew up in a way that taught me to always look for the negative, for things that are going wrong, as a way to stay safe and protect myself. Of course, one always finds what one looks for, as they say. Seek and ye shall find. If I constantly look for what’s wrong, well, then what’s wrong is all that I will find. Here is something very tangible and easy that I can do that will actually help me look for, acknowledge, and record the great things that are happening all around me. And, when I flip back to my “nothing good every happens to me” mode, I can open this box and take out all the hard evidence of the contrary. Blessings are happening to me every single day, in so many ways. I know I’m not alone. If they’re happening to me, they are certainly happening to you, as well! The question is what are we looking to find?

What a blessing this Blessing Box has been to me. I’m writing about it now – a whole year later – because I had forgotten about the box. Somehow, I had reverted the Blessing Box back to its previous job: collecting dust on the shelf. I flipped back into the old mode and got spiritually lazy over sitting down and taking a couple of seconds to write down something good that happened to me. So, last night, I took the box down off the shelf and moved it into my Yoga room, right by my meditation altar, where I’ll be sure to see it every day. I opened it up and read all the evidence from 2015. Wow. I had, of course, forgotten about almost all of it. But here was my proof. I’m hereby recommitting myself to this practice of looking for the good, the great, the blessings. The more I seek, the more I will find. And the more I find, the more blessed I feel. The more blessed I feel, the less depressed and dis-spirited I feel. I feel more abundance, more joy, and much more excited and grateful be on this life journey. It all comes down to what I choose to look for. Today I’m choosing to count my blessings.