holding (creative) space

“Holding on to the past is the riskiest choice you can make. Because when you hold on to the past – you erase any chance that you can change.” -Mastin Kipp

I notice often in my conversations with creatives and small businesses (myself included) that openness will fall along an abundance or a scarcity mindset when faced with new ideas. Willingness to embrace new ideas or fear new ideas has something to do with whether the creative person is hanging onto or can work with failures from the past.

I'm not even talking about Fall On Your Face failures- the kind we think stay with us the longest... but more like when a creative in business tries something, and gains a little momentum from it, and then the wave crests and dies off. Disappointments. Investments. Loss. There is grief there, a specific kind of grief. And unmet, unloved, and unreleased, that grief can consume the creative. It accumulates in the rafters of the heart. It suffocates possibility. 

I've been thinking a lot about my own places where I'm stubbornly holding on to a narrative that needs to be healed, released, and loved. I have specifically been thinking about the amazing creative potential of the human body, and that held, old, unreleased ideas and grief within our bodies creates disruptions within our physical selves. Creativity will not be stopped, so the body creates illness, stupor, depression. The body is nature, teaching us.

I've been thinking about the personal experiences I've had of "tapping into source" (whatever that means to you as a creative person), and the way that my sacred creative space resides in:
1. my body, voice and mindset
2. my home
3. my work and the city where I choose to live
and lastly 4. my *interaction* with the natural world.*

*this list changes and grows, evolves and flows with my own changes.

my way of dealing with a loud and overwhelming bus commute last fall: earth sculptures by the bus stops.

my way of dealing with a loud and overwhelming bus commute last fall: earth sculptures by the bus stops.

I have been waiting, perfecting, and dancing around growing or allowing change in my own artwork since the last big shift. I realized lately I've been holding on to an old image I had of my previous Etsy shop: ouou. I guess in the back of my mind I was waiting for my cards to reach a level of darlingness that that shop had on the one hand, and (somehow, miraculously) then I would allow, be READY for, all these other creative projects to be unfurlled with the other hand.

What am I holding back for?

First of all, my card shop is all fun right now. I'm selling in 6 local shops and I'm completely delighted. When I feel like it (like when I released these Super Birthday cards) I make new cards. On my weekends I get to be my dorky old Etsy self and hang out listening to podcasts; printing, scorring, cutting, packaging cards. So I've only had 1 sale on Etsy with my latest shop. So what!

I am ready to embrace changes. I'm ready to tell stories and bring up my sisterhood with the heroines I've created. I've been burned many, many times in my almost 10 years doing this creative thing in a public way (since Etsy) and I'm not famous. I haven't made it, I don't have a set income or etc etc etc, but I don't want to set limits on my future based on the pitfalls of the past.
I'm not daunted.
This is not my hobby, this IS my livelihood.
Whew. I said it. Art is my livelihood.
Creativity is my livelihood.
Creativity is my bread and butter.
I am here because of creative life force. I am creative power.

In fact, I feel newly refreshed for holding space for creative movement to come through and develop newness. Through my physical body and mindset, practices, and daily rhythm. Through my home. Through my ways of working.  Through my continued exploration of the place I live. Through my ever-evolving relationship with nature.

My cards are cooking, they're doing just fine. I'm happy with them, delighted to make them. Recently I began the practice of blessing my space and blessing my work as I packaged and boxed it up... still able to learn new ways of seeing my own creations!

I am creating a sacred space to invite possibility.
I am opening up a beautiful, held space to invite creative spirit.
I am creating by clearing out, by fully feeling, by allowing grief to have it's say and move along.
I am feeling safe in my creative destruction/ invocation because as a part of nature, I am held within nature, and cherished.
I am allowing my best dreams, wild fancies, belly laughs, and sparkle-colored daydreams to run rampant through my heart, to infuse my body with new energy, and to slowly come into existence.

PS I've really been inspired by the trauma recovery and empowering writing of Rachel Maddox, and linked to her blog above. I also have been just totally in love with the ethos of two working mamas who have built a creative business called SoulKu. They've gotten me singing over my cards and blessing my outgoing mail... those of you who followed Post know I do so love a good blessing! Read their (just lovely!) blog here!

the empathy response

There is a myth that people who are Autistic don't feel empathy. However, I suspect like me, many people with Autism feel an overwhelm of both empathy and a total confusion about how to address the feelings in social situations. Be that because of sensory input getting mixed in with the empathy response, and vying for attention, or any number of other reasons. We are hearing so much these days about the IMPORTANCE of empathy- how could the empathy response ever be bad?

Our mirror neurons are a collection of pathways which send messages to our nervous system to guide the empathy response. Mirror neurons guide the "monkey see, monkey do" action. They are great for learning, great for empathy and sympathy and community, great for connecting us with babies and children. But in a person with many, many mirror neurons, consider something else. Consider the person who can pick up on each and every small, subtle shift in YOUR emotional states as they dance across your face. As your body stiffens or relaxes throughout the day. Think how mutable emotions are, and just how MANY emotions we, as adults, choose to ignore, stifle, or set aside for later.

The ASD person with an abundant collection of mirror neurons who is "reading" the world from this place, from over-empathy, is getting too much information. The subtlety of the world is not subtle to them, and it is just as difficult to "tune it out" as it is for the ASD person to turn the volume down (or up) on sensory input that is out of whack. Having a sense of other people's feelings is overwhelming- and the Autist may choose to do what he or she does best, to narrow things down to black and white categories in order to stay safe. Good and bad. Happy people, sad people. People I smile around, people I mask around. Remember- mirror neurons ask OUR bodies to FEEL and MIMIC the same actions and feelings as the person we are watching- so if I am swimming in your joyful face, wouldn't I want to be around your joyful face more often?

If I am swimming in a sea of faces, wouldn't I try as hard as I could to mask my face? Or, overstimulated by all those signs and signals of emotions (and most likely other stimulus that the brain is pushing right to the front, assigning PRIORITY labels to each new sound, sight, face, shrug, beep, flicker... you get the idea)... wouldn't I feel more than a little bit manic? Hyper? Perhaps (as we see in some children) very, very angry?

Remember we are wired for connection, and the Autistic person is no different. We long for connection. So, the inner magnet that draws us to other people is there. Keep in mind an Autistic person may have a nuanced tool for regarding the world around them, but not nuanced communication for responding to it.

If I am seeing a subtext of anger from you, or feeling you are stronger than me, or you are scowling, sighing, muttering, tense, what are my choices? In childhood? As a "socialized" adult? Passive aggression? Scowling? Demuring (looking away)? Scowling?

The Autistic person is capable of empathy, perhaps more-so than you realize. Is that person being socialized and taught what to do with THEIR feelings as opposed to the feelings all around them? Are they taught to read THEIR bodies before reading the room? Are they taught techniques to communicate in the face of hostility, other people's depression, big feelings of any kind, or how to communicate around subtle cues? Keep in mind, too, that when your own feelings and emotions are (confusingly) buried under the deluge of other information- it may more often than not be TOTALLY paralyzing, and/ or take a BIG emotional event to get YOUR feelings out there- to sort through all those fragments, words, thoughts and collected feelings that sort of "stuck" to you from others.

Empathy is another place Autistic people become misunderstood because their tools are often times "calibrated" on a very high scale.

the well

Last year I was part of a group of female business owners lead by a coach learning about spiritual practices and rhythm-based mindfulness as relates to our money, our creativity (on all levels), and our intentions. It was fantastic, and the lessons of an entire year of this sort of attention continue to infuse my days.

Recently I have noticed a personal symbol of mine come up at a time of high anxiety and transition. I am moving from one job to another, and feeling stretched very thin. Meanwhile, I'm noticing my creative practice is VERY chaotic. My relationship with food and money, similarly spontaneous. I'm in survival mode. Several times now the symbol of The Well has come up. Last year, when I first moved to this neighborhood, I noticed wishing wells lining my walk. It was quaint and symbolic of a settled, more generations-old neighborhood. Also, at the time, I was setting many intentions and doing a lot of dreaming, planning, magic-making and wishing.

But these days The Well is taking on a new depth... and I recognize the pun here. One of the ways The Well came into my attention was picking up the I Ching and opening to a page on The Well, which talks about different levels of misfortune or fulfillment. The bottom of the well has foul water. The rope is old and tattered and your bucket doesn't reach the bottom. The well is still and quiet. The water tastes of a crystal spring.

Just recently I came across this from John O'Donohue: "It is no wonder that in the Celtic world, wells were sacred places. Wells were seen as threshold places between the deeper, dark, unknown subterranean world and the outer world of light and form." He later goes on,

When a well awakens in the mind, new possibilities begin to flow, and you find yourself a depth and excitement that you never knew you had. This art of awakening is suggested by the Irish writer James Stephens, who said, 'The only barrier is our readiness.' We often remain exiles, left outside the rich world of the soul, simply because we are not ready. Our task is to refine our hearts and minds. There is so much blessing and beauty near us that is destined for us, and yet it cannot enter our lives because we are not ready to receive it.

I must confess, as I have logged in longer hours at work, and construction hit because Spring in Portland also means construction on the roads! As my commute involved long stretches through my least favorite part of town on a bus (ugh), and my window's view was reduced to the side of the apartment next door (instead of the changing season's leaves and trees)... The rope of my bucket just got frayed and old and couldn't reach the bottom.

I really needed these calls from The Well to remind me that not only is there Change, and there is also Blessings all around me (the season of spring blooms! new job! construction!) but that there is darkness and depth as well. ...as well. There is mystery, there is chaos and blindness in creation, and there is the potential for the cool, refreshing water that tastes like a mountain spring.

my guiding word of 2016

Inspired by one of my favorite visionaries, I have chosen a word for 2016. No I'm not late! Didn't we just have that wonderful full moon in Leo? Bringer of your power and your deep truths? Well Lola Medicine Keeper (the blog post) says your word should scare the crap out of you a little, but you know... in that motivating way (!) and mine certainly does.

Partnership.

Yup> I have been a trailblazer of Going It Alone for my adult life. Close family and friends will snort into their coffees to read that, of course, because I have needed A LOT of help along the way... and that's been the lesson, the tide, that continues to pool around my ankles: we aren't here alone. We are all connected. Some of my repeated medicine from Life has been: go it alone, end up needing help, realize you're not in it by yourself!

Our interconnectedness feels all the more present for me as I watch my parents go through the process of struggling with cancer. I feel a million miles away, but my body is never not attuned. I know big family shifts are happening. Big shifts in my own life. Unfoldings and shedding.

So this year: Partnership. I'm seeking partnerships in my work, and simply when I leave the house. I'm seeking (healthy, vital) partnerships as an artist around town, but also in my wholesale accounts. I'm seeking to nurture my existing partnerships, and foster new friendships, relationships, and hopefully a primary partnership! A lot of breaking down barriers here for me- but it's worth it. My art is also calling out for partnerships- a designer, more storytellers, more ways of growing and learning. I feel good about this. Jumping into the deep end kind of good? But good.