Catch & Store Energy: Making the Most, to the Max!

August is here. The month of my birth, the waning blue moon, the plump pears weighing down the tree in my back alley…

August means that Wildness Weekend is just a few weeks away, and every day my dreams become clearer and more concrete. July was all about absorbing inspiration – through books, coffee dates with collaborators and mentors, workshops, time alone in nature, and always, dance and movement.

I’m a longtime student of Permaculture, and lately I’ve put my Permaculture Design Certification to use in an unexpected way as I cultivate my inner garden. As a total winterphobe, I start to get anxious this time of year as back to school sales herald the coming of the freezin’ season. I’m trying to allay these fears by thinking about the second Permaculture Principle: Catch and Store Energy. 

I’ve been making hay while the sun shines, on a borderline manic quest to make the most to the max (#MTMTM) of these long days and the opportunities they provide to take in new ideas, cultivate new friendships, and find the spark for new projects. I’m stockpiling this inspiration to feed me through the dark days when it’s a bit harder to come by.

I offered my first Dance Our Way Home session early in the month, holding space for women to take a couple of hours out of their everyday urban realities and get wild through a healing freestyle dance journey.

And the most beautiful part? Each woman had a breakthrough that was totally unique to her. Here’s what some of them had to say:

“I finally got reconnected with my soul! This was exactly what I needed after weeks of mind chatter and lots of mental work.”
“This space gave me such a divine and profound moment of releasing and just feeling my feminine goddess. It felt so good and safe and now she’s out…Better watch out!”
“Emily authentically facilitates connection with self, other, nature & universal divine. Her wild spirit creates a space for freedom and self expression, that anyone would be grateful to bear witness to.”

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The participants’ feedback affirmed my sense that we’re all craving connection with our wild essence, and facilitating this connection for others energized me and turned up the volume on my own inner Wild Woman’s voice. I’ll store that energy for a long time – and I hope to offer more DOWH sessions soon.

Here are 5 other sources of inspiration that I’ve drawn from this month:

1. Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ exploration of the Wild Woman archetype in Women Who Run with the Wolves A no-brainer, I know, but I have to share how much I am loving this book. From Baba Yaga to the Inuit Skeleton Woman, Estes draws the wild woman out of our planet’s timeless myths and her analysis resonates deeply. I’m looking forward to sharing some of her ideas at Wildness Weekend.

2. People, Nature and Music at Boreal Festival This annual canoe trip/music festival takes a couple hundred house music lovers up to Muskoka for a bush doof unlike any other. I connected with lovely new people in this free-spirited tribe and felt right in my element dancing til dawn, paddling and swimming in Moon River, and sleeping under the stars. Boreal was unforgettable, and the organizer, Justin, led from the heart in a way that really earned my respect. I bought my tickets to his Harvest Festival today (Sept. 18-20) – come!

3. Coworking at the Centre for Social Innovation I recently joined as a community member, and have been spending lots of time at the CSI doing my own work and learning about the coworking movement. I have big plans in this field, and I am so lucky to have a well of inspiration right up the street from my apartment. More broadly, I am inspired by the folks who populate Toronto’s coworking map. July was full of meetings with people in the industry who were without exception eager to share contacts, lessons and encouragement – I just had to reach out.

4. Embodying Emotion at Layah Jane‘s Deep Waves 5 Rhythms  The last session I went to was in late May, and doing the waves again last week showed me how much has shifted since I wrote about my spring thaw. My dance felt light and open as I skipped and cartwheeled. The words that kept coming up were JOY and SIMPLICITY. I’ve been devouring Gabrielle Roth’s Sweat Your Prayers, but nothing compares to getting into the studio and moving through flowing-staccato-chaos-lyrical and finally, resting in stillness as spontaneous images of flowers and indigo skies flood my inner vision.

5. The Teachings of my “Disengagement” At this time last year, I was booking off the August long weekend for my wedding. The universe had other plans, and my relationship ended with love and mutual understanding in the beginning of April. I’ve done (and continue to do) the work to move through the pain and to reflect on everything I have learned from the breakup. As I walked down the dock at my cottage on the night of the Blue Moon, a dizzying wave of gratitude unexpectedly washed over me and I just stood alone and laughed and cried and watched the mercury ripples dance all around me. I may not have been in a wedding dress this weekend, but I am madly in love with my life, and that will do just fine.

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Inspiration is easy to come by in the summer, and these hay bales are stacked in my soul.

As August bathes you in its warm rays, make sure to get out there.

Wake up early.

Stay out late.

Feed hungrily on whatever inspires you.

Take it all in and store it somewhere you can access it on a cloudy day – in a journal, in your instagram feed, in a friend’s memory, or canned in your pantry.

Make the most…to the max.

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MORE CREATIVE THAN I THOUGHT

I remember learning about adjectives as a kid, having to pick the ones that described me. “Creative” was always one of adjectives ones I chose – and like kids everywhere, I never stopped creating. I directed my siblings in plays, brought secret societies to life in living room forts, choreographed Disney tunes and filled notebooks with the adventures of cartoon bunnies. People were – and often still are – always praising my creativity.

For a while this label stopped feeling natural to me, as my inner critic told me that by society’s definition, I was not a capital C ‘Creative. It said, “Maybe you once held creative potential, but what did you do with it?”

I didn’t end up working for a creative company or selling my photographs, I didn’t publish poetry or even design logos. I downplayed the role of creativity in my life and became intimidated by the people who were actually making money off their Creativity. When people called me creative, I shrugged it off.

Sure, I wrote spoken word poetry, designed multidisciplinary experiential programs, took photographs, painted, blogged, organized theme parties, cooked feasts, founded social groups, nurtured gardens, developed innovative lesson plans but….

full_CM_PK_AWB.001Yesterday morning I biked down to Liberty Village to be among the city’s real Creatives. For a few years, Toronto has hosted Creative Mornings – a free monthly breakfast lecture series for the creative community. Whenever possible, I attend these talks for the spark of inspiration that always comes from opening my mind to someone who is in a totally different field than mine. What I will get out of it is always a mystery, but I have never been disappointed.

Every time I attend a Creative Mornings talk, I sit quietly and dash as soon as it ends. I feel like an impostor. Because, you know – not a Creative. I don’t even have tattoos or a funky haircut.

Yesterday’s Creative Mornings talk – featuring Yvonne Bambrick – was the first time I actually felt like I belonged. Bambrick spoke about her ‘creative journey’ as a community organizer, event coordinator, and cycling advocate.

Wait a minute…those aren’t Creative jobs.

OK so Yvonne is also a photographer (like me, she wears many, many hats), but that’s not at all what she highlighted in her talk. In fact, when she went over the things she has learned over the course of her ever-evolving career, the number one lesson was about broadening the definition of creativity.

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Hearing this, I was suddenly very aware of how differently I was behaving at this morning’s event. Yet another outer demonstration of the inner shift that has been taking place over the last few months. I was talking to everyone around me, not quietly eating my everything bagel – seeds in my teeth be damned! I engaged in the conversation on twitter. I was no longer self-conscious about being called out as a non-Creative interloper. I was one of the last people to leave. I realized that lately I am more comfortable considering myself creative.

I approached Yvonne when it was all done to thank her for putting into words what I’ve been feeling for the last few months. “I am more creative than I thought,” she remarked during her talk, as she spoke about rethinking the definition of ‘creative skills’ to encompass all of the ways she has problem solved, integrated and innovated in her work and her life.

Creativity is not a gift that is only given to a special few. It is an innate human trait that we can all cultivate. Some have to work harder than others, but that says less about your innate capacity for creativity than it does about your fears, self-judgments and the mental habits that keep you safe.

If you’re having trouble recognizing your own creativity, here are a few ideas and questions to get you thinking:

1. Broaden your perception of what it means to be creative. Think about how you express yourself in your daily life. What small choices do you make every day that dictate how you present yourself to the world?

2. Own any novel patterns, products, concepts, or processes that you have put out there as your creative oeuvre. Remember that creativity does not equal art. How have you combined interesting ingredients to come up with something new?

3. Do you allow yourself to daydream? If not, give yourself permission to try it ASAP. Go for a walk or just lie around on the couch. Then pay attention to your daydreams and notice where your mind goes when you are idle.

4. Creativity is often driven by a sense of purpose.  Think about ways that you have tapped into your values and worked with a mission to solve a problem – no matter how big or small.

5. Examine your relationship with change.  When have you made a change, embraced a change, reacted to change, thrived on change? Reflect on the times in your life when you have made positive changes of any size. What unnecessary boundaries have you broken? What perceptions have you challenged?

6. Think about times that you have harnessed inspiration from an unexpected source. Whether it is nature, another person, a piece of music, or even your own failure, creativity comes when we can recognize learning opportunities everywhere and grow from unlikely inspiration. What creative ways have you translated the random things that inspire you into your life and work?

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Reframing it this way, I can once again own my creativity as an essential part of my being. If you look at your own life through this broadened lens, I bet you will see yourself as creative as well. You will recognize the fact that you create prolifically on a daily basis. And I’d also bet that the more you own your creativity, the more creative you will become. 

Today I am alone at my cottage having a lazy, rainy summer day. How have I been creative today?

  • I sat on the dock and daydreamed while I watched a bass hovering over its eggs, and then daydreamed some more while weeding my garden.
  • I sliced asparagus differently than I ever had for my omelette.
  • I pickled garlic scapes and cooked rhubarb with rose water.
  • I picked and arranged a sumptuous bouquet of peonies and wildflowers.
  • And I wrote this post.

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If you’re looking for an undeniable reminder of your creative self, come to my Wildness Weekend: A Co-Created Retreat for Heart Centred Female Innovators. Your wild self can’t help but create – it is her birthright and her essence. Info and registration here. 

Poem: Embracing the Divine Feminine Within Creates Balance and Deeper Knowing

IMG_1022 This poem was written in response to a Soul Card that I drew from the deck on my Dance Our Way Home facilitator training – the task was to explore one of the DOWH principles (created by the magnificent Erica Ross). The principle I was assigned was:

EMBRACING THE DIVINE FEMININE WITHIN CREATES BALANCE AND DEEPER KNOWING

Come my dear one

Sit in the shade of the date palm

Rest your burning feet in still pools

Taste honey on your parched tongue

Lay in my lap and let me comb your matted hair

And anoint your holy temples with scented oil

I will not displace your god, I will make love to him

I will not slay your dragons, I will become them

I will not drown out your cries, I will listen to them

There are more questions than there are answers

More roads than destinations

Needing is knowing

Wounding is healing

We can only make sense of contradictions

So sit, be still inside while you body moves

Shine your shadow on me

Call me in silence, approach me in stillness

Ascend into canyons to find me

Or burrow into mountaintops

I am subtle

I am irresistible

You know me well, come home