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Breaking Through: Winter Discoveries for Creativity and Healing

Inner Artist

What a delight to happen upon at the local library Julia Cameron’s Vein of Gold, a spinoff of her very popular (cultish?) Artist’s Way. Cameron is an artistic descendant of one of my writing heroes, Brenda Ueland; what Brenda was writing decades earlier, Cameron expands and enhances with accessible — and even fun! — exercises to break down fears, reconnect you with your original creative spirit, and help you approach your creative work with a lighter heart.

Favorite exercises so far include:

  • Identify something in the house that needs a new coat of paint. Pick up a paint sample in a color you wouldn’t normally choose, or maybe even two colors you wouldn’t normally put together. I chose a chair and painted it purple, but my daughters tuned into the project and inserted themselves, and we were having so much fun that we now have a purple chair with peach spots, a gray chair with a peach sunset, and a peach stepladder with purple designs.
  • Secret Selves. Identify five personalities that live within you but don’t usually see the light of day in your public presentation of yourself. Give them names. (Examples from Cameron include “Vampy Vanessa” and Bon Bon the cheerleader). Describe one of their typical outfits. Feel your consciousness expand to recognize the importance of all these parts of yourself.
  • Slay a Creative Monster. Identify an idea or a person that has stood in the way of or discouraged your creativity. Envisioning this naysayer as a monster or other fantastical creature, write a fairy tale in which you vanquish him/her. Give yourself permission to write badly and floridly. This doesn’t have to be a great short story.(I wrote about a “Smart Sasquatch,” who praised the completion of rote tasks but laughed when I  tried and struggled with more open-ended ones.)

Inner Healer

I’ve been using the Curable Health app for about six months now. I’ve found it helpful in learning about brain’s role in chronic pain, and I like the writing exercises and meditations.

But I had hit a plateau and was feeling frustrated. My next major breakthrough came this past week with this Guided Visualization for Pain Relief and Healing, which I selected in desperation when my back pain wouldn’t let me sleep at 3:00 in the morning.

For the first time in a long time, Jason Stephenson’s soothing voice and gentle visualization gave me permission to imagine one of my spots of chronic pain as an old injury, and to approach it with the nurturing, healing attitude I might take with a muscle tear or an open wound (rather than my usual approach, which is to attempt to self-inflict a chiropractic adjustment).

I can’t explain why this visualization helped — it all feels a little “woo-woo,” and I don’t know what is actually wrong with my back. (Several therapists and whatnot have told me the pain probably isn’t caused by an old injury.)

What I can say is that the next morning, doing a stretch that usually has me yanking and cranking to try and get comfortable, I broke down sobbing — not in pain, but because my back didn’t hurt. My loyal family came to check on me, blinking in confusion when I told them I was crying because I wasn’t hurting.

If you suffer from chronic pain you will understand the depth, both physical and emotional, of that relief.

Inner Freedom

In a way, both these methods are after similar things: freedom from the inner blocks and obstacles that keep us from experiencing and acting from our vibrant, whole selves. Sometimes I get frustrated with what feels like an endless cycle — is it two steps forward, one step back, or is it sometimes the reverse? Do I need an electrical shock? But I think the verdict is clear: the only thing for it is to keep stepping.

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