Empowered Change

Dare to Dream!

by Linda Maree
Article 7 in our series ETAIN
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Linda Maree is a freelance writer, editor and is the creator of Etain Workshops®. For information on workshops and presentations eMail:
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E M P O W E R E D  C H A N G E

Dare to Dream!

"Creativity has its roots in the nonrational." —Abraham Maslow

The steps or stages of the creative process do not, in actuality, follow each other in sequence, but rather occur as a continuous flow, like a river whose water is ever moving, ever changing, refreshing and renewing, yet retaining its shape and identity as "the river." Still, for the purpose of explanation, it is often helpful to think of steps within a process as occurring in a particular order or sequence, and that is true of the process of creation.

As listed in last month's segment, Prepare to Create (Etain, Article #6), preparation is the first step toward opening to creativity. It is a time of action—gathering needed materials, ideas, and information for implementing the project at hand. It can be an energetic, exciting time of brainstorming and amassing often huge amounts of information, with shadowy ideas beginning to take on shape and substance.

The next two steps—incubation and daydreaming—are more inward focused—less about "doing" and more about "letting things be," allowing thoughts and information to stew and brew, while remaining open and receptive to ideas without intentionally searching for them.

The incubation period is a time for routine—going about your daily life and noting any ideas that show up, but without the intensity and focus of the preparation stage. For example, if you want to get the creative juices flowing you might do something domestic—cook, bake, clean closets, wash dishes (manually), work in the garden or cut the grass, etc. I remember asking a particularly creative friend what he does first when faced with an exceptionally big or challenging project. He told me, "I clean." It is a fact that whether you are cleaning out closets, rearranging furniture, or simply straightening your desk, organizing the physical world around you can be a great catalyst for organizing the world of thought and inspiration.

You might also try making the work or chore into a game that you play with yourself. Try cutting the grass in specific patterns, or stacking your dishes by color or category. You may set yourself the task of creating a new dish that is tasty, different, and uses only ingredients that are already in your kitchen. Above all, have fun! These may seem like silly games, but they are an easy and effective means of accessing your creative (and playful) spirit without any pressure to create, allowing you to simply experience yourself as the innovative and imaginative being that you are.

While doing these tasks—as work or as play—it is important to allow your mind to wander where it will—daydream (the third stage of the creative process), and listen for your inner voice to speak. Basically let go—don't try to figure anything out, but stay open and be prepared to stop what you are doing if ideas begin to flow. (As a rule, I keep my computer turned on and I'm ready to write anytime I'm doing household chores. This is where the preparation stage overlaps and merges with the incubation and daydreaming periods.) Somehow, when we are engaged in simple everyday activities, we will often allow ourselves the freedom to explore—a freedom we don't always experience when we're trying to be creative.

Don't forget to let your inner child out to play as often as possible. C.G. Jung tells us, "The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves." Be a kid again! Blow soap bubbles (I find this incredibly relaxing and the bubbles take on different hues depending on the time of day and the brightness of the sun); build sand castles (on the beach or at the playground); swing on a swing as high as you can feeling the air move through your hair, against your skin; dance with abandon, sing silly songs. Laugh! Engage others in your play. (Play is always more fun with a playmate.)

Sleep, too, can be very important during this time, so relax! In her book, Succulent Wild Woman, Sark emphasizes the importance of naps to the creative process. "Naps," she says, "are productive—contrary to what we've been taught." Give yourself permission to take naps, meditate, watch the sunset. The simple act of physical relaxation frees the mind to be open to new ideas.

Don't be afraid to dream, "day" or otherwise. There are no limitations in the dream world, so don't try to harness your dreams or "rein them in." Simply allow your dreams to be. This is where the miracle of creation occurs. It may be fun to play "what if" games. What if I were rich? What if I become famous? What if my idea/project/invention is successful? Given no limitations, what can you see as a possibility for your life, your work, your project or idea? Let your dreams wander far and wide. Note any nocturnal dreams you may have and listen closely to what your unconscious mind is saying to you.

ACTION: Creativity begets creativity. Give yourself plenty of opportunity to "prove" to yourself how creative you are. The more you experience yourself as the creative being that you truly are, the more you will feel the creative flow within you. It seems that, sometimes, we have to be "tricky" and "accidentally" catch ourselves being creative. Then we remember that this is our natural state. There are many ways you can experience your creative nature. Everyday chores and activities provide a wonderful opportunity for this. For years, I have played little games with myself, making up "rules" and giving myself challenges while involved in such mundane activities as washing the dishes, cutting the grass, and doing the laundry. Dusting and polishing can also lend itself well to creative games, as can cleaning closets and organizing your desk. There is no "right" way to play these games-just have fun!!

Schedule regular play and fun time with yourself. In "The Artist's Way," Julia Cameron suggests making weekly "artist dates" with yourself—scheduled time that you set aside to spend alone with "you" doing something that you truly enjoy. This can be surprisingly hard to do. While we may be more than happy to make time in our busy schedules for our friends and family, and other people and things we care about, we may also find it very difficult to actually arrange quality time with ourselves—particularly "planned-ahead" time. I have found that I am more likely to try to squeeze me in when it is convenient rather than making a true commitment to myself. This has been a real eye-opener and it is an on-going theme that I continue to notice in my life. When you see that you are cutting yourself short, it's important to make a firm date to do something fun with yourself—go to the beach, the playground, a movie, plan a picnic or have lunch at your favorite restaurant, enjoy a museum, the symphony, a walk in the park, anything that you find enjoyable. While it's great to be spontaneous, it's equally essential to schedule time for ourselves to play, to be silly, and to just be with "self." I suspect that most of us don't do this nearly enough.

Finally, be sure to get plenty of rest and allow yourself daily quiet time for meditation, contemplation, prayer, soul-searching—whatever you want to call it. Many years ago, I learned a relaxation technique that I still use today for meditation, to relieve stress, and also for those very occasional sleepless nights. This technique is very easy and doesn't require specific music or body postures, detailed instructions or training with a professional to learn it. Simply lie on your back on a comfortable surface (such as your bed) and give yourself permission to let go and relax. (I like to imagine that I am lying on the cool, delicate sand of a beautiful snow-white beach, the breaking of the waves sounding a slow, easy rhythm for my breath to follow.) Now, beginning at your feet, imagine a soft white or yellow light (like the sun) bathing you in a gentle warmth. It is not hot, but soothing and relaxing. Hear the waves, feel the warmth and relax into it. As you feel your feet relaxing, imagine the warmth moving up your legs, slowly, over your calves and knees, and moving on to your thighs.

When your legs are totally relaxed (you may even have a sensation that they have "disappeared" ), continue to move the warm light up your body, relaxing each area in succession until your entire body, from head to toe, is bathed in warmth and light. Now, allow yourself to float here for a while. If you are very tired, or you are using this technique as a remedy for an insomniac night, you will probably be asleep by this point—and that's fine. If you are awake, however, it is great to "free float" in this state for a while. When you are ready to "come back" to this world, do it slowly—gently moving fingers and toes, arms and legs, until the sensation of "body" returns. You will come back refreshed and open to new ideas and opportunities.

Linda Maree

Writer and Editor

eMail: etainwrites@aol.com

© Linda Maree 2001
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Editor's note:

Linda's Etain series offers an opportunity for Pathfinders participants to share their successes at meeting life challenges. The concept of Etain, the hero and heroine that is woven through the stories of all cultures, is the journey we all travel.

We wish you well on the path and look forward to your participation.

© dwij 2001
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