Enlightened Work and Mindful Play
Select excerpts from Tranquilista: Mastering the Art of Enlightened Work and Mindful Play
by Kimberly Wilson | Posted February 1, 2010 | Updated May 19, 2019
There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost. Martha Graham
The notion of creativity can be tricky to grasp. What exactly is it? Well, the art of being creative, of course. But what does "being creative" mean? Although I've read heaps of books and have focused on living creatively for the past decade, I still struggle to define the term. I first discovered that I was creative by reading books claiming that everyone is creative. Really, even moi? Although I've been addicted to accessories since my early years (picture a narrow pink belt worn over a black-and-gold first-grade soccer jersey topped off with a wide green headband), I never thought of myself as "creative" a term reserved for painters or sculptors. You know, those who have their work on display and for sale. Since discovering that I, too, was a creative being, I've been on a crusade to inspire others to uncover their creative sides. This stage is all about unleashing your creative juices, exploring ways to live creatively, and basking in this state of expression.
I like to think of each day as a fresh canvas full of possibility. Of course, there are days when you wake up and feel like nothing is in store, but stay with me. You can exude your creativity in numerous ways from the clothes you wear to the color of the pens you use to the way you organize your files. Simple choices you make every day offer a welcome opportunity to think creatively. Begin to define your life as art a true masterpiece. You already know you are one of a kind. Now revel in the creation of this magnum opus and consciously design your colorful canvas.
When you define your life as a work of art, each brushstroke, each decision, each person, each piece has significant value. Start to envision your life as the creation of a museumworthy masterpiece. What do you want to see colors, players, life-defining moments, milestones? Let your canvas unfold in images that make your heart sing. You control your artistic touches and can start anew anytime. Every day, you are given a fresh canvas to paint with a renewed outlook. Enjoy the evolution of this ongoing work of art, and start to cultivate creativity in all you do.
Julia Cameron first exposed me to this little gem when I read her bestseller The Artist's Way. An artist date is a weekly two-hour solo excursion to indulge your creative side. I like to take this a step further with occasional solo nights, days, or even weeks. Think of your artist date as replenishing your creative well, nurturing your inner artist, and allowing yourself the chance to find inspiration. I've pulled together a plethora of options based on my own artist dates to offer ideas on indulging your creatress.
Nothing serves up happiness or inspiration quite like a big room packed full of books. My heart skips a beat when I step into a bookstore. Determining which section to hit first is the most anxiety-producing moment. Once I've decided, I settle into pure bliss. Bookstores offer ideas, creative thought, and tons of possibility. It's like going to a great movie and getting lost in another person's storyline for days.
Living in Washington, DC, definitely spoils me when it comes to fabulous art exhibits. I saw a jaw-dropping Edward Hopper exhibit and came home with a heap of postcards of his work and CDs filled with jazz music from the 1920s to the 1950s. As I do in bookstores, I find it delightful to see someone's creative expression in galleries this time on canvas or sculpted in stone. When I first moved to the nation's capital, I used to hit the galleries and museums often, wandering the vast halls and bathing in the muses around me. Getting the chance to see paintings in person that you grew up seeing in textbooks like Renoir's Luncheon of the Boating Party is a religious experience.
Going to see musicians play live is sure to jump-start your creativity. I've been to numerous Tori Amos shows solo over the years. Her music and performance persona always bring tears to my eyes. Seeing an artist in her element can leave even the most fledgling, aspiring performer feeling more connected to her own spirit.
Find a store full of fabric glue, watercolors, ribbons, rolls of fabric, and knitting needles, and you'll be in for a little slice of creativity heaven. Walking the aisles can fill your spirit with doses of color, texture, and ideas. Dabble in scrapbooking, stencil a blank tee, watercolor a postcard, or frame a print. Craft stores contain enough eye candy (and potential projects) to inspire your soul for years to come.
A dear friend has a belly dance studio, and I love going to watch the ladies perform in full stage makeup, including glitter and long feathery eyelashes, along with extravagant costuming and tons of accents in their hair. I find myself dancing to the beats in my seat and daydreaming about joining a touring troupe.
Why not spend your lunch hour on a nearby patch of grass, or take a Sunday drive to your state park? Have your sketchpad and journal in tow to capture inspiration as it arises. Communing with nature assists with getting your spiritual connection on. Have you found the nearby arboretum or botanical gardens? Listen to birds, watch the squirrels, and gaze at the stars. Nature encourages you to slow down and relish magnificent vistas and often you can do this without having to travel too far.
Forcing creativity is akin to bathing a cat. The key is to be deliberate about it. Set the stage to let it flow. While working to meet deadlines in the face of writer's block, or to juggle multiple creative sparks, I have found that four tools are critical to my creative success. Following are my life-saving creative tools.
When I sit down to indulge in a creative endeavor, I often light a candle. It's important to turn off the influx of email, set my cell phone on silent and put it way across the room, clear my work space of clutter, have a cup of tea nearby, and play ambient music in the background (unless I'm writing then I need pure, blissful silence). I also find it critical to be dressed in something comfy that feels well put together accessories, lip gloss, and all. But that's me; it's important to explore what works for you.
How can you make your creative time sacred? Try taking a hot bath before sculpting. Painting your nails before writing. Baking bread before gardening. Spending time at your altar before dancing. Meditating before sewing. Whatever it is, turn it into a regular ceremony that prepares your mind, body, and spirit for creative expression.
We all know Virginia Woolf strongly suggested that women have a room of their own. I believe it is necessary, whether you are creating or not. But for artistic play, it is critical that you have a special space to store your tools, display your design boards, feel safe, come for inspiration, and file your ideas.
Design boards are the perfect place to post swatches, images, cards from fans, color chips, and artistic postcards so that you'll have inspiration at your fingertips. Ensure that your space is well stocked with pens, paper, and creative tools such as needles, paintbrushes, or wire. Lighting can assist with creating ambience, but in your workspace it is critical to have lots of lighting to prevent your having to squint remember, darling, squinting promotes wrinkles.
Carve out space for the creativity to flow, and have patience if it doesn't flow as quickly as you'd like. A kitchen timer can be a handy tool for all sorts of discipline: meditation, creating, yin yoga, and taking small chunks of time to focus on a bigger goal. If you are heavily scheduled (aren't we all?), it's key to use the space between obligations for making things happen. Rushing from one meeting, class, or call to the next can leave you twiddling your thumbs between appointments, since there isn't enough time to launch into another project. Take advantage of the in-between time to open your Word document and add fifteen minutes' worth of writing to your novel. Sometimes you have to steal what little in-between time you have. Have your journal or idea book handy at all times for brainstorming and for capturing fleeting ideas.
I try to allocate one day a week for creative flow. During this time I muse on new designs for my ecoclothing line, TranquiliT, write, bead chunky gemstone necklaces, organize my living and work space, take hot baths, and daydream. This creative space is critical to refueling my often depleted well. Review your schedule right now and observe where you can carve out at least fifteen minutes weekly to work on a creative project. This is in addition to the weekly artist date. I know, I never said the journey to enlightened work and mindful play was easy. But creativity is critical for your soul's survival, so do all you can to make it happen.
When leading yoga and creativity workshops, I love to bring in the tenets of yoga and share how they apply to our creative process. Tapas means "discipline." To create you must be strict about sitting down or getting out there and making it happen. Ahimsa is nonviolence and is critical to the creative process. Of course your first draft or performance won't be your strongest, but you must practice kindness toward yourself on the creative journey. Self-study, svadyaya, ensures the continued connection of your spirit to your creativity. By reflecting regularly, you are able to grow, improve, flourish, and change course, as needed. Santosha is the practice of being content with what is. So your book signing drew a small crowd it drew a crowd (even if it was your family), and that is what you must focus on to stay inspired. Saucha means "purity" and brings us back to the importance of setting up an organized creative space and keeping our insides pure by consuming healthy food and drink and getting exercise. All these practices will assist the creative flow.
Creative expression is a right, and a necessity for your continued exploration of yourself, especially while you're on a more mindful path. Explore ways to add more color, glitter, laughs, and light to your everyday. Put your personal stamp on everything that you put out in the world. You are unique, no doubt about it. Let your authentic spirit shine forth and sparkle brilliantly.
The lovely Midwestern designer Amy Butler oozes creativity from her books to her sewing patterns to her stationery to her organic bedding. She has taken her creative passion and grown it into an inspiring business that helps fuel other women's creativity. I've used her ornate paper for crafts, tried designs from her book In Stitches, and thoroughly enjoyed my interview with this down-to-earth designing diva. Amy exudes Midwest charm, humility, and a balanced work ethos and is sure to light a creative spark and have you wishing she was your BFF. What began with twelve hundred dollars has turned into an empire of creative expression.
You may be wondering how seeing your life as art and partaking in artist dates applies to you, especially if you aren't sure where your creative flair lies. That's what we'll explore in this next section. I've gathered an assortment of ideas to help you as you use twelve fabulous methods to dabble in creative expression. Some of these mediums have submediums, so just remember, there are thousands of ways for you to express your creativity, and in this stage we're just skimming the surface while introducing you to some favorites.
So you think you have a novel inside you? Maybe a screenplay or memoir? Or simply a good, old-fashioned how-to article? Well, getting it out is an ubercreative process, and seeing your words come to life on a page or stage or in a movie theater can be absolutely thrilling. Not sure where to start? By capturing your thoughts, of course. Sounds easier than it is, trust me. The key is to start writing now. Pull out a kitchen timer, set it for ten minutes, and begin writing on your laptop or pad of paper. Commit to writing ten minutes each day for a week, and watch an epic unfold. Sign up for a writing class, or launch a writing group with a few of your closest girlfriends.
Writing a blog is another fun way to get started. It offers instant gratification because, with the click of a button voilà you're published for the entire world to see. No pressure, eh? Blogs offer you a chance to receive feedback from your audience, and this will give you the opportunity to see if you're on the right track. Many larger projects have been launched through this humble means.
How about writing an article and pitching it to a magazine?
Interested in learning to play the guitar, drums, or piano? What about singing or songwriting? I promise there is a means for you to learn book, tutor, DVD, CD, group classes, or other. The options are endless. Let your inner rock star come out for a visit. You may just surprise yourself.
As a young girl I danced in order to perform in annual recitals. Nothing beats getting all made up, dressing to the nines in sparkles, and heading on stage to strut your stuff after rehearsing for months. As an adult, you can still experience this glamour, but your parents may not be in the audience recording like they were when you were five.
I use this term generically to cover a few mediums, such as pottery making, sculpting, drawing, and painting. This is what many people think of when they hear the word artist. Trying out things you've picked up from a book, taking a group class, or working one-on-one with a tutor offers you a chance to create in ways you may have never thought possible. And if you don't discover that you're the next Georgia O'Keeffe, it's okay. Enjoy the process and honor yourself for stepping outside your creative comfort zone.
Even if sitting down to a sewing machine feels impossible, there's a ton you can do with fabric glue and a needle and thread. Pick up one of those amazing books that gives you over a hundred options for clothing, accessory, and home decor items that you can make with a T-shirt. Try your hand at tie-dyeing. Go crazy with appliqués. Cut up an old sweater or blanket and turn it into leg warmers.
Knitting has become superchic over the past decade, with stores devoted to the craft popping up in big cities. Crocheting uses one less needle and is also a popular craft perfect for making blankets for all those darling newborns in your circle. Beading is a playful excursion from daily to-dos. It's amazing to see how quickly you can have your own one-of-a-kind jewelry collection for a fraction of the cost. With a few simple tools, some sparkly beads and other findings, you can make all sorts of fancy necklaces, earrings, and bracelets. Scrapbooking falls into this category and is such a popular pastime that you can find all the necessary accoutrements at your local dollar store.
The act of planting something and watching it grow can be rewarding. We, too, are little seedlings constantly growing, thanks to water, love, and light. Plant a few herbs in pots on your apartment windowsill or an entire wildflower garden in your backyard to get a little glimpse of Central Park in your own 'hood. This endeavor takes a few gardening tools, soil, seeds or seedlings, sunlight, and a dash of know-how.
I have friends obsessed with improv and have gone to see others perform in rousing local plays. I hear only rave reviews from people who take classes in said subject. Why not audition for your local theater's upcoming performance? When I go to see plays, I'm always impressed with the laundry list of performances under the actors' bios. I was once an apple in our church's rendition of Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree. You have to start somewhere, and yes, your small community play counts. If this is a dream of yours, begin to explore the possibilities and you may find a hidden talent.
Excerpted with permission from the book Tranquilista: Mastering the Art of Enlightened Work and Mindful Play ©2010 by Kimberly Wilson. Printed with permission from www.newworldlibrary.com.
Kimberly Wilson is the author of Tranquilista and Hip Tranquil Chick. She is also the designer of eco-fashion line TranquiliT, and the founder of the Tranquil Space Foundation, which promotes yoga, creativity, and leadership in women and girls. She lives in Washington, DC. Visit her online at www.kimberlywilson.com.