I’m Starting With Myself

This is the third in a series of blogs that I’m posting in response to a challenge posed by Winnie Kao, a blogger who launched “Your Turn Project,” which urges wayward bloggers like me to post a blog every day for a week. (This one was supposed to have been posted yesterday but I was wrestling with what I wanted to say. And so, rather than drop out entirely, I’ve forgiven myself and I’m posting it late.)

Today’s question is, “Tell us about something that you think should be improved.”

Where to start? My (Canadian) government recently made a secret arms sale to Saudi Arabia, a country with a terrible record for human rights violations of its citizens. The Correctional Service of Canada has also made it clear this week that it will impose no limits on how long its own citizens can be held in solitary confinement (often for several months), despite numerous warnings about the psychological impacts of lengthy detentions in solitary, not to mention a number of suicides on the part of solitary detainees. Such appalling inhumanity astonishes me. To say there is room for improvement in my government is an understatement.

What can I do about it? I can write letters to my Member of Parliament. Done that. I can bleat about it with my friends. Do that all the time. I can vote for another party. Done that too.

None of those actions are likely to do much to improve the caliber of the political leaders who represent me. I can’t control how they behave. But the one thing that I do have control over is myself.

Which means that I need to ask myself something like following: In what ways do I exhibit the inhumanity, lack of compassion, dishonesty, lack of creativity, greed, black-and-white thinking, shortsightedness, etc. that I’m seeing in my government?

What? How could such dastardly qualities present themselves in a nice girl like moi?

But the truth is that while I tend to be kind, honest and compassionate toward others most of the time, that amiability can evaporate if I feel hurt or threatened in some way. Plus I’m not as kind, honest and compassionate toward myself as I need to be. If I’m unwilling to tell the truth about that, my efforts to improve circumstances outside myself will be compromised.

Tolstoy has said, “Everyone wants to change the world. No one wants to change themselves.”

It’s not hard to understand why. Looking within can unveil some qualities and habits that are not flattering. And negative ways of perceiving and behaving are profoundly ingrained, which means that the process of self-change is not a quick fix. It can take a lifetime.

And yet, if we’re serious about improving the things we don’t like in our world, telling ourselves the truth about how those things are reflected in us has to be our starting point. Otherwise we trap ourselves in a binary, self-righteous, us against them stance that only perpetuates the status quo.

On the other hand, if we are able to see ourselves in a less self-flattering, more nuanced, and more dimensional manner, and to drop our judgments toward those whom we hold responsible for what isn’t working, then our hearts and minds will be open and we will be better able to conceive of solutions that are creative, original, and have some chance of working.

This attitude applies as much to our own personal, professional and creative lives as much as it does to the world “out there.”



Feng Shui For Splendid Spaces

This is the second in a series of blogs that I’m posting in response to a challenge posed by Winnie Kao, a blogger who launched “Your Turn Project,” which urges wayward bloggers like me to post a blog every day for a week.

Today’s question is “Tell us about something that is important to you.

Many things are important to me and Feng Shui is one of them. Pronounced, “Fung Shway,” it is the ancient Chinese art and science of placement (over 3000 years old). Feng Shui is based on the idea that the quality of your life – of your health, prosperity and happiness – is intimately connected with the quality of your environment.

For years I’ve been in love with the idea that making particular adjustments in my living and working environment would support changes that I wanted to make in my life.

Plus I’ve always been keen to connect with that larger Reality that is not typically accessible through our five senses. Science is now affirming that consciousness and our physical reality are intertwined – and so Feng Shui, which strongly supports our awareness of that interconnection, is a powerful ally for positively affecting our day-to-day lives.

If I feel overwhelmed or scattered with too much busyness or if something painful has happened in my life or if I have to face a big challenge of some kind, here’s that I do. I immediately clean and declutter my space, I remove everything that no longer reflects my current interests and circumstances, and I bring as much order and harmony as I can to my environment.

That never fails to help me think more clearly, have a clearer sense of what my priorities are, and feel more empowered. And more in my heart, as opposed to rattling around in the abattoir of my meddlesome, confidence-crushing mind.

Understanding which areas of my home or office correspond with which areas of my life has helped with issues like career, finances, and relationships. When I was living in a high-rise apartment with an uncomfortably high rent, I enhanced its Wealth and Prosperity area and not too long thereafter, a home came to me that was half the rent and just as nice. Nicer in some ways. These kinds of “coincidences” happen to me all the time.

What I love about Feng Shui is that it compels us to reflect on what’s really important to us, on what we truly and deeply desire. In order to make the changes in our spaces and in our lives, we need to know what we want. Often it isn’t what we have assumed it to be.

That’s what excites me as a Feng Shui Practitioner cum Creativity Coach. Helping people to identify their heart’s desires and to bring them back home. Creating splendid spaces inside and out.





Thriving in The Discomfort Zone

This is the first in a series of blogs that I’m posting in response to a challenge posed by Winnie Kao, a blogger who launched “Your Turn Project,” which urges wayward bloggers like me to post a blog every day for a week.

Today’s question is “Why are you doing the Your Turn Challenge?

Because I’m addicted to my Comfort Zone, that’s why. I’m addicted to the toxic coziness of my risk-avoiding Comfort Zone, destroyer of dreams extraordinaire.

Aren’t I overstating it a bit? I wish I were. But the reality is that an unnatural attachment to the dreaded, ever-expanding Comfort Zone is the main reason that I and so many others aren’t living our heart’s desires.

Yes, we may be content and perhaps even happy at times but it’s the kind of happiness that is a pale facsimile for the joy that arises when we’re showing up in a way that is not… comfortable.

Like writing this blog. I’ve never written a daily blog. Ever. In fact, looking back over my blog archives, there have been times when a year has gone by without a post. Shocking. So that’s why I’m doing this. It’s also why, in the years I have remaining on this planet, I’m determined to spend as much time in my Discomfort Zone as I can possibly tolerate.

It’s not as though I haven’t been here before. Once I did a tandem parachute jump out of an airplane. It was so thrilling, I felt as though I owned the planet. A couple of years ago, despite the Comfort Zone Dominatrix having reduced me to a state of anxiety bordering on paralysis, I got up on stage and sang a blues song in front of a live band. It was wonderful.

And just last week I said “yes” to an opportunity to have a TV crew come to my house and interview me about my work as a Feng Shui consultant.

The Comfort Zone Dominatrix did NOT want to. She wanted time for me to become more accomplished in the profession, she wanted me to refer them to another consultant with a nicer house and more experience, she wanted me to become someone smarter, younger, richer, better in every way in order to be worthy of saying yes to something like that.

The Comfort Zone Dominatrix within would have us all defer our dreams indefinitely. In fact, this entity would prefer that we forget that we even have dreams. To give it the benefit of the doubt, it may be motivated by a hyper-vigilant desire to protect us from the slightest whiff of a risk, but like the “well-intentioned” friend who, after spending time in her company, always makes you feel just a teensy bit diminished, The Comfort Zone dominatrix is a killer and it means business.

So that’s why I’m hanging out in the Discomfort Zone and writing this blog. I want to live. It’s as simple as that.

How Writers Work

This post is part of a blog hop. I was invited on board by my talented friend, Glynis Whiting, author of A Nose for Death, the first title in her Nosey Parker murder mystery series. As a dramatist and filmmaker, Glynis brings a rich background to her mystery writing, which focuses strongly on character.

Part of blog hopping involves linking with other authors.  PJ Reece, author of works of YA fiction as well as the acclaimed Story Structure to Die For, is one of the smartest, most talented and disciplined writers I know. Read his post and be inspired. I met coach and author Jackee Holder at a writing retreat in Paris a couple of years ago. Her book, 49 Ways to Write Yourself Well, is one of my favourite resources on using writing to heal.

What am I working on?

I’m working on a nonfiction book about the journey of the suicide survivor – the one who is left behind after a loved one takes his or her life. I lost my brother to suicide ten years ago and feel a strong calling to explore a subject that is of central importance in our time. Suicide rates among 35-to-65-year-olds, the age range that my brother was in when he died, have increased by 28% in the last decade. There is also a growing recognition that suicide is more pervasive in our culture than the statistics would have us grasp; many deaths attributable to self-destructive causes could be deemed suicides. Suicide is a huge issue and gives rise to all kinds of questions – psychological, sociological, medical, existential, and spiritual. What can be more important than life and death?

How does it differ from others in the genre?

My book not only offers a multidimensional picture of how suicide impacts those who are left behind and of the many faces of grief, it also addresses suicidality in those who’ve lost a loved one in this way, particularly close relatives of the deceased. The risk of suicide among the surviving sibling is more than three times greater than that of the rest of the population and my book addresses that directly. This book offers an honest and vivid account of how my brother’s suicide impacted me and of my own struggles with suicidality. It also provides a range of tools for dealing skillfully with suicidal thoughts, for dealing skillfully with grief, and for using the opportunity afforded by the suicide of a loved one to craft a rich and meaningful life.

How does my writing process work?

The key to my writing process is to get at it first thing in the morning. It’s my best time of day and I’m happiest and most productive when I honour that intention. I have other things that I have to do that involve putting food on the table, and so I need to be disciplined in ensuring that I get at those writing projects that are close to my heart. I’m also working on developing the capacity to write in the middle of whatever’s going on in my life – to be able to find writing time, however short, in the midst of life’s other commitments and obligations so that if I’m not able to get at it first thing, I’m still getting something done that day. In addition to that, I book myself into writing retreats/intensives with fellow writers where we rent a space for a week or so, devote our days to writing on our individual projects, and then play in the evenings!

Why do I write what I do?

I’m drawn to write on subjects that contribute to healing the human heart – and am inclined to believe that doing so contributes to healing at a global level. While there is cause for hope and optimism, it can’t be denied that this is a dark night of the soul in human history, and I feel a responsibility to bring light to that darkness.

Creativity Coaching for Start-ups

Usually someone starting a new business seeks advice from an accountant or a business consultant of some kind. Someone who knows his or her way around a balance sheet, business plan, or strategy statement. A number cruncher, risk management consultant, or marketing specialist.

These kinds of services are essential for any business to succeed AND, as I am just beginning to realize, so is creativity coaching, which involves assisting any creator in any field who wishes to be more productive, to develop her creative and humanistic capacities, and to more successfully share his talents, services, and/or products with the marketplace.

This past weekend, my friend and colleague, Somae Osler, invited me to support her in opening her elegant, newly renovated yoga studio (Somalila Studio), serenely situated on the rural property near Duncan, BC, which she shares with her husband, poet Richard Osler.

It was a bold beginning for Somae, who not only provided free classes in areas such as Beginner Yoga, Restorative Yoga and Movement Meditation throughout this inaugural weekend, but also invited participants to share their needs and concerns in “tea and treats” sessions after each class.

As Somalila Studio’s “Creativity Coach in Residence,” I participated in all five of Somae’s classes and attended all follow-up sessions. Throughout the weekend, she and I had a number of one-on-one sessions in which we addressed the inevitable anxieties that emerge from putting oneself out there, assessed her strengths as a teacher, parsed client feedback, spotted marketing opportunities, pinpointed potential challenges, identified populations that would likely respond to her unique approach, discussed possible business affiliates, etc. We also spent a lot of time discussing her values, refining her vision, and determining how to maintain the integrity of her vision as her business evolves.

It was exciting for me to work with an artist in an intensive “on site” situation like this. To not only hear but to directly witness her needs and challenges, and to be able to address them in real time. It was a revelation to see how natural it was to move from existential concerns (“Am I good enough?”) to business matters (“What’s a reasonable price point in this market?”) to client relation issues (“How am I to offer my help while maintaining strong boundaries?”). None of these areas exist in isolation. They’re all interrelated.

I feel grateful to Somae for trusting me with her baby, which is what a new business is. (She did great, by the way! Lots of positive feedback from participants who are eager to continue working with her.) I left feeling inspired to offer this kind of service to other artists who are starting new business ventures. To have the privilege of accompanying them over the threshold from the familiar to The Unknown. I hope I get the opportunity.

Cutting Through Perfectionism

I had never thought of myself as a perfectionist, but in a recent conversation with a friend who’s known me for many years, she casually said, “You’re like me. We’re both perfectionists.” We are? I am? What is a perfectionist anyway?

I’ve always understood it to mean that you set high standards for yourself and for those around you; that you can be counted on to deliver a high quality performance, service, or product; and that you want nothing but the best in all situations. Isn’t that a good thing?

Not according to Jungian therapist and author of Addiction to Perfection, Marion Woodman, who sees perfectionism as a consequence of an imbalance arising from a culture that emphasizes specialization and perfection, and as a major cause of eating disorders, substance abuse, and other addictive and compulsive behaviors.

Maybe not such a good thing.

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Empowering Creative Women

Today is International Women’s Day, a time to consider the achievements and accomplishments of women all over the world.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the particular challenges faced by women in our quest to live according to our creative passions and inclinations. Although the specific history, sociology, psychology, and spirituality of women has been part of my consciousness at different points of my life, I’ve been less inclined to frame my and other women’s challenges in that manner in recent years.

But it’s essential to take into account the distinct issues that are part of many women’s experience. Issues like always putting others’ concerns before our own, or of giving away our power to authority figures, or of being afraid of rocking the boat, of speaking too freely, of being too much!

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When the Gremlins Have Taken You Down

The gremlins are sneaky. I’m talking about those evil critters whose sole purpose is to sabotage the forward movement of your creative life. You think you’re just taking care of business – dealing with your broken down car or your laundry or the membership applications for your housing co-op. These are all important matters, right? Dealing with them immediately means that you’re taking care of business, and once you’ve cleared the decks, then you’ll be able to get at your creative projects.

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Countering Negative Thoughts

It’s 3:00 AM and here I am, wide-eyed as a marigold. But there is no sun to warm me and open up my petals to the light. Oh no. Instead I am surrounded by the dreaded demons of the night. Nasty phantoms of misery battering my weary, bed-rumpled self with messages of doom, hopelessness, and failure.

“Let’s face it, you’ve never amounted to anything and never will.”
“Your creative dreams come A BIT LATE, don’t you think?”
“You’re too OLD and worn-out to make any money now. Scraping by on an inadequate Old Age Pension is all you can hope for.”

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Rethinking Depression

I’m thrilled to have one of my creative heroes, Dr. Eric Maisel, guest-posting on my blog today. He’s so extraordinarily productive (having authored 35 books and counting) that, if he weren’t such a nice guy, I’d have to hate him.

I first encountered Eric’s work eight years ago when I was looking for resources to develop a course on Creativity that I was teaching at the Vancouver Film School. Eric’s The Creativity Book was a wonderful source of ideas and inspiration. In more recent years, I picked up Fearless Creating, which formed the basis for my course, “Stoking Your Creative Fire,” which I will soon be offering as a teleclass. Eric is also the originator of the exciting 21st century profession, creativity coaching. I’ve taken two of his courses, which are predictably brilliant, and am close to completing my certification through the Creativity Coaching Association.

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