Seeding Your Subconscious

I’ve been out of the blogosphere for a month.

When I began the countdown to publishing my book, I cut back to writing my blog twice a month, rather than weekly. Then, as the deadline drew nearer, I stopped blogging altogether.

Oh, what I learned from that experience!

I keep relearning an essential truth: treat my creativity with respect. Nurture it daily, and don’t demand that it perform like a circus animal—that kills the spirit. Creativity is not tame and orderly; it’s a deep, mysterious process.

The moment I put demands on my creativity, the muse retreats like the moon at morning. Inspiration and imagination get blocked, and nothing works.

But when I shift from demanding that my creativity produce, to playing with my imagination, my creativity slowly begins to flow again.

I call this “seeding my subconscious.”

Drawing of things on my desk

This morning, I felt really blocked. So I looked at objects on my desk for something to paint, just to play, without any expectation that I would produce something “good.”

I sketched a gray conch shell.

I put watercolor on paper, quickly sketching sunflowers in a blue vase.

I played with my sun and moon motif, using a fountain pen with a semi-flexible nib.

Still feeling blocked, I chose four words (conch shell, sunflowers, sun, and moon), then I wrote a short vignette, using each word somewhere in the story. It felt like I was in the flow, at times, but most of what I wrote seemed flat and uninspired.

That’s okay. The muse is temperamental.

The shapes, colors, and words from this morning are all offerings to my subconscious, little nourishing seeds for it to absorb, or use to bring forth something new.

And that experience brought me to write this blog post, after waking this morning, unsure I could write anything.

That’s a good start to my week.

The Secret Drawer

I open my eyes to a blue light, the veil between waking and dream worlds, as thin as a spider web. I am so near the edge of sleep, it’s like waking up beside the deep pond of my self. The light of my mind touches on my mother, and some treasures in her secret drawer. I dip my hands into the water to bring them up.

Old key in lock

Last weekend, I helped my father sort through my mother’s clothes—some to donate to Goodwill, others to the high school Theater department.

It was odd to imagine my mom’s old clothing, altered and embellished for young actresses, standing bravely on the stage. I think my mom would like that. She enjoyed the theater. The things she touched, that warmed her skin, that she carried—all props in the stories of her life.

When we finished with her clothes, I opened her drawer of keepsakes, full of notes and artwork from me and my siblings. It felt intimate, looking at what my mom had saved. Like maybe I shouldn’t be looking—except that they were things that I wrote or made for her. They are my past, too.

I found a long piece of Christmas paper, with each end rolled toward the center. Puzzled, I unrolled it to find a note I had written in pencil.

“A scroll for the family. I love you [lists their names] — Love, Julie Ann.”

I felt a prick to my heart, and then tears. A vague memory of making that scroll flickered in my mind, like a few frames from an old film. And with it, deep feeling—of loving my family so much, and wanting them to understand that.

I looked further, curious to know what else meant so much to my mother.

I found a cigar box covered with pink contact paper, with gold stars and a red wooden knob. I recognized the paper and the box. One of my brothers—now a gifted painter—made it at school. Inside, I found a pinecone that was spray-painted blue. A pair of little boy’s sunglasses, with sand still stuck to them. And a small, round tin box that I’d decorated with felt, ribbon, rhinestones, and costume jewelry. In the tin box was a tiny photo of me, a little toy chicken and duck, a Christmas tag, two beads, and a toy ring.

I found notes I’d written to my mother and father, drawings, a story I wrote, and a “newspaper” I made. One newsworthy article said, “Mrs. Baldwin had to wait for 2 hours for the TV repair man!” And in the sports section, “They [sports] are stupid like always!”

Between my tears, I was laughing. I found at least three notes with promises to “clean my room tomorrow.” In one of them, I warned my mom not to look, because it was so messy it might be “hazeras” to her health.

Going through my mother’s secret drawer, I rediscovered some elemental parts of myself, moments I’d forgotten—like bits of old leaves in the silt at the bottom of a pond—and it is from them that I create.

Type block with word 'self'

I crave—and yet avoid—that initial piercing of my heart. The flow of emotion, the darkness, the light, the loss, the gifts, the betrayals, the kindnesses…. But I open the secret drawers of my memory anyway.

I peek inside. I shine a light through the depths of my pond, touching remnants of what I no longer clearly remember. That is where meaning lives—waiting to be reborn in a story, a poem, or a painting. Those are the treasures that I bring up from the depths.

Dealing with Anxiety

Recently, someone asked, “How do you handle your anxiety, when the world seems out of balance, and you don’t feel very strong?”

We all feel this way at times, but it got me thinking about how I try to manage my own anxiety.

Stack of rocks on sand

I make myself stop, and take a few deep breaths. Then I do something that grounds me, like taking a walk, and really noticing the details of what’s around me—the sky, the shape of a tree, the smell of the fresh air. Or painting—focusing on the lines, the color flowing from the brush to the page.

Grounding and getting present is key. When you’re in that space, you can often hear your own inner wisdom more clearly, and your emotions, which are like weather, may shift.

If you’re still feeling unsettled, don’t fight not knowing yet. Accept that it’s just where you are at the moment. Trust that your soul is in a deep place; some process is happening deep within you.

It’s dark and full of pressure and currents, in that deep place. It’s not comfortable, but something is preparing to come into your consciousness—an insight, a new idea, an intuition, a way forward.

Get curious. What does your strong inner core want you to know?

My experience in knowing and working with other soulful, creative people, is that we’re wired in sensitive ways that allow us to bring up from the depths, treasures and insights, which we use in our art and in our lives. If, like me, you struggle with anxiety at times—doesn’t everyone, really—I hope this is useful.

Tune Out to Tune Back In

I need to go into deep places while I’m writing my book, but TV and Facebook keep pulling me—energetically—back to the surface. I’ve been feeling more and more fragmented by all the electronic inputs to my life.

Woman underwater touching surface

So a few days ago, I decided to take a week-long break from both TV and Facebook.

I thought I would miss them. But instead, I feel more peaceful, more present, and more in tune with myself.

It’s lovely.

I feel more connected to the place I create from. My work is benefitting, and so am I.

Are you feeling deeply connected to your inner wisdom, or are you disconnected and frazzled?

Consider taking a break from all the electronic media distractions. Drop a line into your subconscious. See what emerges. Notice the little tugs to do what you always put last in your life. Let them catch your heart, and reel you in, closer to your soul’s purpose.

What do you have to lose?

My Dog Ate My Blog

Cute brown dog nose

The morning sun turns the snow a pale gold outside my window; shadows lay in soft gray. The sky is bright blue behind the pine tree. It’s cold—around 20 degrees—but the light brings its own kind of warmth.

My dog, Lucy, sits on her bed in front of the window, watching the world. I see a trail in the snow, to and from the pine tree, made by a neighbor’s cat. I imagine Lucy wishes a cat would walk by right now, and bring a little excitement to her morning.

Lucy comes over, lays her face against my leg, and looks into my eyes. I pet her for a while, telling her how much I love her. She soaks in the sound of my voice, as though it is sunlight.

Cute brown dog with colorful toy

But I need to write this blog, so I tell her it’s time to go play with her toy. She grabs a colorful wool octopus and plays for a few minutes. Then she’s by my side again, wanting more attention.

Like my mind, she’s looking for something to land on, to keep her focused for a while.

I take her outside. We stand on the deck, where moisture evaporates like smoke from the fence. A small moment to appreciate the beauty of this world.

Sun sculpture on steaming fence

Back inside, she’s still restless. I fill her favorite puzzle toy with treats. (No one could call me co-dependent with my dog—unless they knew me.) Now she’s alternately dropping the toy and flailing it back and forth between her paws to get the kibble out.

When I create—like writing this blog—I do something similar. I toss ideas around in my head, like a salad, hoping an olive will pop to the surface, a tasty morsel of inspiration.

So here’s this week’s nugget: create from where you are. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. Don’t demand of your creativity, greatness; just let it be what it is.

Small moments, like looking into the eyes of a little brown dog, accumulate in our lives. They inform its meaning as much as any grand philosophy.

Be present. Appreciate what is. Create from here.