Category Archives: spirit

Morning pages: Dredging out of a creative primordial soup

Lots of people ask me where I get my ideas.

Stephen King answers the same question this way:

“. . . good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.”

Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, interviewed the American poet, Ruth Stone. During that interview, Ruth Stone spoke of feeling poems:

“. . . coming at her from over the landscape like a thunderous train of air.” She said that when this happened, she felt the poem coming, it shook the earth beneath her feet, and the only thing she could do was run like hell to the house, chased by the poem. She had to get to a piece of paper and a pencil fast enough so that when it thundered through her, she could collect it and grab it on the page. Sometimes, she said, she wouldn’t be fast enough and the poem would barrel through her and she would miss it and it would continue on across the landscape looking for another poet.”

Wouldn’t that be exciting?

I’m helped by Julia Cameron’s morning pages. In The Artist’s Way, she recommends the daily practice of writing three pages every morning. Weird and wonderful stuff comes to me on those pages. The ideas feed this blog and my other creative writing. The ideas arise out of a creative primordial ooze; I dredge them out of the muck, and they rise to the surface with a sucking sound, brand new and unevolved.

Without fail, something comes up. Almost always I think: “I could never have thought of that on my own.”

Out of the empty sky, barreling across the landscape, or rising out of the primordial soup—however we choose to describe it—the ideas come from somewhere, someone, someplace, something outside of us.

We just recognize them when they show up.

drop-off-zone

 

 

Faith and fear, a la Joel Osteen

“Faith and fear have something in common. They both ask us to believe something will happen that we cannot see.” —Joel Osteen

Why is it so easy to accept fear-based dire predictions, but so difficult to believe in faith-based hope?

Why is there such societal pressure to go with fear instead of faith? Why are we so resistant to the idea of looking like a hopeful fool?

Joel Osteen has a point. Maybe the odds are 50/50 in any given situation? Maybe we should run with the faith option instead of succumbing to the grip of fear?

Why not?

Maybe we’ll end up saying “I had faith that would happen,” instead of “I was afraid that would happen.” 

Photo by Donald L. Smith © 2014

“Onward” by Donald Smith © 2014

 

3 messages from heaven

In Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the AfterlifeDr. Eben Alexander describes the near-death experience (NDE) that granted him a glimpse of heaven. The circumstances of his brush with death differ from those of other people who reported NDE visions of heaven. In most cases, the patients’ hearts stop, or they stop breathing, but the part of their brains capable of creating visions remains functional. In Dr. Alexander’s case, bacterial meningitis shut down that vital visioning part of his brain.

Before his rare and serious illness, Dr. Alexander relied on a purely scientific view of the world. He did not give credence to near-death visions of heaven, because he credited the brain with, somehow or other, sparking the realistic images.

Then this man of science lost brain function and found an expanded view of life. After he made his unprecedented and unexpected complete recovery, he wrote about the spectacular experience.

Many aspects of his story warrant attention, but I particularly liked the phrases of reassurance he received from a beautiful heavenly girl:

“You are loved and cherished, dearly, forever.
You have nothing to fear.
There is nothing you can do wrong.”

No matter what any of us think of heaven—whether we think of it as a place, or a vibration, or a state of mind, or a figment of the imagination, or a threat wielded by organized religion to scare people into being “good”—no matter what any of us think, we can still choose to settle those phrases into our hearts as truths.

That one simple act would make the world a happier place, I think.

p10176

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“In my past view, spiritual wasn’t a word that I would have employed during a scientific conversation. Now I believe it is a word that we cannot afford to leave out.”

—Eben Alexander, M.D.

Time to think: The power of quiet time

My friend, Jennifer, thought of me when she read a New York Times article last week: “No Time to Think” by Kate Murphy. Jennifer thought of me because I am not like the people described in the article—people who are so afraid of being alone with their thoughts they actually administer electric shocks to themselves if left alone with nothing but their thoughts for as little as 6 minutes.

postcard poem ArleneJennifer is the friend who coined the “Laughing Thinker” phrase I use as part of my bio; I take it as a compliment that she sees me as both profound and happy. I love to think. During the day when I am at home, I never turn on radios or TVs. I live in silent contemplation all day, and I love it.

During the Christmas season I work part-time at a bookstore in a shopping mall. Many of the younger solo shoppers enter our store with ear buds in both ears. I think, “They can’t even go shopping without some din in their ears?” Are they really so afraid of their own thoughts? Apparently so.

Why is this a problem? What does it matter if people shut themselves down? According to researchers, the main reason people don’t want to think too much is they don’t want to dwell on the negative or ruminate on their problems. But if we don’t allow ourselves the time to sort ourselves out, it hampers ability to empathize with others. 

Lost creativity is another cost. Murphy writes, “. . . an idle mind is a crucible for creativity.” Thinking about problems outside of reality adds new dimensions to the issue and allows for novel solutions to challenges.

Empathy and creativity melt away so many negative issues. At this time of year, it’s tempting to rush, rush, rush and party, party, party. At this time, some of the negative family, friends and financial stuff we suppress the rest of the year raises its unavoidable ugly head for us to deal with. So, at this time of year it’s more important than ever to foster thinking time.

Winnie the Pooh and Tigger were onto something: Think, think, think, and laugh a little too.

Laughing Thinkers

Laughing Thinkers

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http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/27/sunday-review/no-time-to-think.html?utm_source=pocket&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=pockethits&_r=0

 

The art on our walls: Memories of my father

Fifteen years ago on this date at about this time in the morning, I received a phone call. My mother told me my father had dropped dead of a heart attack.

I reeled upon hearing the shocking news. I sat on the family room couch in a daze.

I was home with my five-year-old daughter and two-year-old son. My daughter quickly figured out that all was not well. I pulled her close and told her the news. Without saying a word, she left the room.

A short time later she returned and handed me this picture. “Now you’ll always remember what your father looked like,” she said.

dad

I framed the soul-laden picture and hung it on the wall in my office. It is one of the many pieces of art on our walls that holds great meaning and tells a story.

Is the art on your walls soul-laden?

 

2 secrets to lasting relationships: Kindness and generosity

shared-joyEver wonder why some relationships stick and others peel away? Scientific research might have some insights into this.

An article by Emily Esfahani Smith published in The Atlantic and Business Insider outlined the research of John Gottman and Robert Levenson at “The Love Lab” at the University of Washington. Gottman and Levenson watched newlyweds interact with each other and then checked in with them six years later to see where the relationships ended up.

Gottman and Levenson divided the pairs into two groups: masters and disasters. After six years, the masters still maintained stable relationships but the disasters were separated, divorced or struggling.

When observing the two groups, Gottman and Levenson noted the physiological responses. The disaster couples’ hearts beat quickly and their sweat glands activated, but the masters stayed calm. They affectionately behaved kindly to one another, even in disagreement.

The physiological reactions can be explained by the kind of “scanning” couples choose. Partners either scan their environment and their partner seeking things to appreciate and say thank you for, or they can scan looking for partners’ mistakes. Disaster couples’ bodies reacted in a way that prepared them “to attack or be attacked.”

Wanting to know more, Gottman invited 130 couples to a retreat to watch them interact. Esfahani Smith writes:

Throughout the day, partners would make requests for connection, what Gottman calls “bids.” For example, say that the husband is a bird enthusiast and notices a goldfinch fly across the yard. He might say to his wife, “Look at that beautiful bird outside!” He’s not just commenting on the bird here: he’s requesting a response from his wife—a sign of interest or support—hoping they’ll connect, however momentarily, over the bird.

The wife now has a choice. She can respond by either “turning toward” or “turning away” from her husband . . ..

Turning toward or turning away from partners affects the relationship. Disaster couples turn toward only 33 percent of the time. Masters show the kindness of turning toward 87 percent of the time.

Generosity comes into play around “shared joy.” Master couples actively celebrated the joyful news of partners. Disaster couples either ignored it or diminished it. Apparently it is just as important to be present for our partners when things are going right.

What frequency is your scanner set to? 

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Read more: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/06/happily-ever-after/372573/#ixzz3KNfwGsWO

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