What’s your creative process?

dark alley in venice

Thinking about this quote, today, from American photographer Robert Adams.

“The operating principle that seems to work best is to go to the landscape that frightens you the most and take pictures until you’re not scared anymore.” –Robert Adams.

For me, there are creative projects that emerge from “the landscape that frightens you the most” — and then there are ones that invite me into their world with such glad welcome that they are, quite simply, a return home. More and more, my relationship with my creative process is an encounter with the heart of belonging.

When I take the time to restore my inner sense of safety and well-being first, then the thing that seemed frightening at first glance, turns out to be kin. There is a dimension in which all things are in me, and I am in all things. When I meet the landscape that frightens me up close — not as an idea of what it is, but by touching its soul and presence — then I recognize my kinship with it. This doesn’t mean that I don’t use discernment in what I choose to encounter. It does mean acknowledging the life that holds us equally in a web of belonging.

How about you?


Holy Yes and Deep Devotion

beach sunrise

It begins simply enough. A tug in your belly. A longing in your heart. Restless feet aching for the grit of the road. The call of…something.

It pulls you out of your warm bed, your tangled sheets, just in time to glimpse the stars dissolve, the sky reveal its morning face. You stand barefoot at your window.

Next thing you know, you’re breathing sea air. Eager, thrilled, bewildered, you stumble towards the tideline. The ground under your feet gives way to crumbling sand, to shell-pricked tidal flats. Mud squishes through your toes. Salt stings your legs as you wade through foaming waves.

Ahead, a shimmering horizon. You can’t see any details yet – not from this far away. A rim of violet mountains squats at the edge of a pewter sea. A pale sky, breathtaking in its simplicity.

Spaciousness. Freedom. Beauty. Joy. The call of wild geese, high in the sky. The call of the unknown, echoing all around you.

Your heart lifts, soars across the bay to those mountains, to that glimmering horizon, in a single swift breath.

Oh, yes! With all your heart, you say Holy Yes! This. This is where you belong!

But then…Your feet in the shallows, covered in seaweed…You’re still on this shore.

How will you get from here to there?

How will you cross that immense body of water undulating between you and the place your heart knows intimately, but where you’ve never been?

You can’t swim there, it’s too far away. You don’t own a boat, though the bay is dotted with craft of every kind – white sails and little red dinghies, Crayola colored kayaks, hulking oil tankers, sleek cruise ships. None of them belong to you. You have to find or buy or build your own boat. You’ll figure out how to navigate it later, once you’re on board, engine started, skimming the waves.

You contemplate the distance you’ll have to travel. You veer between delight, determination and despair; bright faith and lurking heartbreak. Notebook and pen in hand, you make plans, sketch out schemes and strategies, write impossible lists.

You gather supplies, roll up your sleeves, fling yourself into action — and the horizon that beckoned so compellingly dissolves in a flurry of screen-time and Facebook updates, to the staccato soundtrack of barked orders from that little fascist voice in your head: Do This! Do That! No, Not That!! That!!!

Every time we create something new, we hold in our hands the crackle and zing of that current between Here and There. It arcs between the horizon of our heart’s desire and the shore on which we stand. Deep devotion holds us steady throughout the journey.

Without vision and bright faith we’d stay asleep, or we’d shuffle dreamily along the familiar shore, ignoring the call of our true desires until we fall ill, or the safe harbor we’ve so diligently clung to collapses in some inexplicable way.

Without the Holy Yes of deep devotion, we would never take the risk of making art or raising a child. Building a business, abiding by our true desires, growing an intimate relationship, growing ourselves – each of these demands love and courage, grit and grace, power and the humility to listen to the voice of our hearts.

Our Holy Yes summons our intelligence to learn new skills, our creative genius to lead the way. It calls on our willingness to live true stories and abandon hollow tales. Our deep devotion feeds our determination to do the work, to build that boat, to cross that sea, to give ourselves, body and soul, to the task at hand.

Devotion also holds us steadfast for the long haul. There are no shortcuts to this journey. It won’t all be transcendent bliss and angel wings wafting us home, though both angels and bliss will reveal themselves when we do the work of clearing our vision of the scrim of beliefs, patterns, stories and pictures that obscure the view.

We are accompanied by all the evolutionary forces of the universe. We don’t make this journey alone. And, no-one else can do the work that’s ours to do. Our Holy Yes is ours to declare, not just at the start of the journey but every step along the way.

Our Holy Yes launches us out of the safe harbor of Here. Deep devotion keeps us moving towards There, towards our heart’s horizon, where the emerging soul of wholeness lives.

Holy Yes, deep devotion — these are the gifts we offer our world, the gifts that accompany us on every evolutionary journey.

If there’s something calling you now – a new horizon in your business, a vision that won’t go away no matter how often you dismiss it as impossible or impractical – try softening into the Holy Yes that sings in your heart. Listen for the pulse of deep devotion.

If what’s calling you is a new horizon in the world of your business, please join me for a free, 21-day e-course — Unfold the Miracle of Your Business: A 3-Week Experience of Energy Alchemy for Entrepreneurs. It begins July 14th.

I offer this e-course with the wish that it will lead you to your emerging Holy Yes and Deep Devotion to your heart’s horizon. You can read more about it and sign up here.


On Communication and Communion

Hand weaving

This morning, I’ve been re-reading the transcript of a conversation between poets Allen Tate and Stanley Kunitz that took place in 1966. The excerpt quoted below is from their riff on communication and communion.

“If you’re reading a poem, you are not receiving a communication, you’re participating in a discovery, and as a reader, you participate in that discovery as a collaborator. We use communication; we participate in communion. Any genuine work of art…is a discovery of a kind of knowledge about the human condition that we did not have before. On the contrary, the mass-medium commentator is trying to move us toward some course of action, which may be deplorable or of uncertain consequences. We had better beware of these people who communicate. I think it’s best to go off and sit by ourselves alone and read Shakespeare.” –Allen Tate, 1966. From: Communication and Communion, A Dialogue between Stanley Kunitz and Allen Tate.

To me, both communication and communion are necessary elements of culture and relationship. Both play a part in how we, as entrepreneurs and artists, meet and participate in shaping our world. But, when the exigencies of communication override or outweigh the soul’s deep desire for creative communion, we lose something essential — not just in our own lives, but in the life of our culture and society.

How do you weave the warp of communication and the weft of communion into a seamless work of art, a beautiful whole, in your business? How does the tension between these elements inform your marketing, your relationships with your readers, clients and customers? If participation and collaboration are essential values in the world of your business, how do you make a place for these in your offers, and in the culture of your business?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, stories and experiences around this.


Summer Altar

from my summer altar

This is part of my summer altar. Invoking the blessings of the Devas of Love, Harmony, Healing, Prosperity, Sovereignty, Power, Form, Flow.


Poets are the soul-keepers of our world

Reading this poem, by Czeslaw Milosz, I’m filled with gratitude for his exquisite voice, for his wisdom and vision, and the devotion with which he served what he loved throughout his long, working life. Poets are the soul-keepers of our world, and he was one of the finest.

LATE RIPENESS

Not soon, as late as the approach of my ninetieth year,
I felt a door opening in me and I entered
the clarity of early morning.

One after another my former lives were departing,
like ships, together with their sorrow.

And the countries, cities, gardens, the bays of seas
assigned to my brush came closer,
ready now to be described better than they were before.

I was not separated from my people,
grief and pity joined us.
We forget–I kept saying–that we are all children of the King.

For where we come from there is no division
into Yes and No, into is, was, and will be.

We were miserable, we used no more than a hundredth part
of the gift we received for our long journey.

Moments from yesterday and from centuries ago–
a sword blow, the painting of eyelashes before a mirror
of polished metal, a lethal musket shot, a caravel
staving its hull against a reef–they dwell in us,
waiting for a fulfillment.

I knew, always, that I would be a worker in the vineyard,
as are all men and women living at the same time,
whether they are aware of it or not.

–Czeslaw Milosz, Late Ripeness, from New and Collected Poems

Round

Devil's Marbles, Australia

She won’t be held
in pants with tightly buttoned waists,
their tailored creases knifing into
glittering conversations. She won’t enter
the clamorous avenues of your angular world.

Her roundness deflects your demands.
She will not offer you mirrored surfaces, the comfort
of your own high-powered reflection. She is mute
that way. She holds her counsel as she holds
the undulant hive that spins sunshine
in the moonlit chamber of her symmetry.

Her home is in the round hills. You have to climb
a long way to reach her and then
the mouth of her cave is hidden in thickets of box thorn,
prickly pear, nettles, desert mallow.

You have to want her enough to go looking for her.
You have to shed your city clothes, risk being stung
on the soles of your feet. You have to be brave.

You call, call out.
Your voice echoes off the red hills, disappears
in the thin, sage-scented air.

You turn away. And then, just perhaps,
you’ll hear it—
a single thrumming note that builds, reverberates,
a stream of golden honey from a hundred thousand bees
pouring into the startle of your ear.


Work is Joy

When your work emerges from the flow of your joy, everything you do becomes fluid, easy. Joy is a powerful creative force. Its swift current dissolves the debris of fear, procrastination, doubt, and the endless distractions that dribble away your energy, focus and purpose, and keep you from your true work. Step into the flow of your joy and both you and your business will flourish.
Let your work be a current in the river of your joy


Imagination is Freedom

woman on swing

Imagination is freedom — it can transform the world. Here’s a wonderful story told by Robert Hass, about the power of imagination in action in one of the direst places in our collective history.

“I’ll tell you a story that may or may not be true because it belongs to the history of marvels. The French poet Robert Desnos was in Buchenwald not because he was a poet but because he was a Jew. The story is that Desnos and all the men in his barracks were marched to a room and told to strip in preparation for being deloused in an adjoining room. They understood what that meant, and Desnos turned to the man next to him and said, “I read fortunes. Let me see your palm.” The man, stoop-shouldered, eyes wet with fear, held up his palm. Desnos looked at it and shook his head. A long lifeline, he said, but I see trouble in business down the line and trouble with your daughter. The man, stunned at first, laughed. And others laughed. And soon all the men in the room were standing around naked, laughing, with tears in their eyes, reading one another’s palms. The guards were so disconcered that they ordered the men to get dressed and marched them back to their barracks. The next day a transfer order came through and many were sent to a work camp and some survived to tell the story. Desnos was not among the survivors. Surrealism began with the idea that freedom of imagination could transform life, and in this instance, if the story is true, it did.”
–Robert Hass, from What Light Can Do


Work Is Gratitude

Stanley Kunitz quote


What Matters Most?

Peace rose

I love roses. I love their labyrinthine petals, their careless beauty, their mysterious, glowing hearts. I love their generous perfume, the sovereign power of their thorny stems.

The very first rose bush I planted was a variety called Fragrant Cloud. A gorgeously elegant hybrid rose with dark red-orange petals, it had a distinctive, spicy-sweet perfume that settled on my suburban garden like a benediction.

I loved it so much that I scoured my local nursery for other scented roses, hauling them home in the trunk and back seat of my Volvo. By the end of that summer, the palms of my hands were blistered from digging and planting, and the sunny side of my quarter-acre garden was a riot of multi-hued roses. Creamy headed, velvety red, vibrant orange, pink, lavender, butter-yellow – they quivered in the afternoon breeze, offering their extravagant beauty to honeybees and passing neighbors with equal profligacy.

At the end of each work day, I pottered about for hours, tending to my rose bushes. I watered them and sang to them; attuned to the Rose Deva to get its advice on when and how to plant, to feed, to mulch. I cleared the ground around their roots so they could breathe. I nursed them through bouts of powdery mildew, black spot, and other deadly fungi; released small armies of ladybugs to eat the aphids that would otherwise suck the life out of them.

After a full day of work at my business, pouring out my heart and the contents of my brain to dozens of clients, students and staff, alight with the fine buzz of writing and creating, I returned in the evening to the peace of my garden. I was happy there — a simple, sensual joy that eluded me in the more complex shadows of my family’s home.

The ground under my knees was soft, moist, musky. Crumbling chocolate earth lingered in the crevasses of my hands, and under my fingernails. Sting and sheen of sweat on sunburned arms. Scent of roses, lilies, stocks, layered over, under the sharp green of cut grass. Bees bumbled from shrub to flower, doing their necessary work. The meaty spit and sizzle of barbecue from a neighbor’s yard.

In the lingering light of summer, my boys played outside with their friends until dusk. They ran wildly through gardens and backyards, whooping and laughing, calling out to each other across hedges and from the branches of trees, filling the air with joyful noise.

Everything bloomed, that summer of my first rose garden — my sons and my garden grew tall and strong. My business was thriving too, the excitement of full-on creative fire at the heart of a vibrant community. I was in love with my work, in love with my lanky teenagers with their curious, questing minds, their cracking voices and joyous, generous hearts.

My marriage, on the other hand, was failing. Almost invisibly, at first, it began succumbing to a creeping mildew of the heart that would not reveal itself – not fully — for a few years yet. By which time the damage was terminal, and could not be reversed.

By the third summer of my rose garden, small herds of roving deer began clattering through our neighborhood, driven by new housing development down from the hills that were their natural home. They wandered through my garden at night, trampling the soft ground with their sharp hooves, nipping roses neatly off their stems, depositing mounds of faeces in the garden beds.

They stripped the bark off our apple tree, the one my boys had climbed until they grew too big for its slender branches. Yearling bucks rubbed their budding antlers against the apple tree’s trunk to scratch the uncontrollable itch of new growth. They left the tree weeping sap, vulnerable to opportunistic infections.

One morning, I went out into the garden to find my rose bushes denuded of flowers, their stems broken beyond repair by slashing hooves. The ground beneath them had churned into a muddy gloop, the tops of their roots were gashed and exposed.

I sat with my back against the bleeding trunk of our apple tree, my belly tender, feeling as devastated as my rose garden.

And I cried, grieving the loss of something that didn’t have the strength to survive without heroic outpourings of my time, energy, resources and heart. I asked myself some hard questions. Why was I trying to grow the kind of garden that could not make itself at home in the natural world? What if I oriented myself to belonging, to harmony, wholeness, ease, instead? What would that feel like? What kind of garden would I grow?

I communed with the Rose Deva, and the Devas of my garden, my family, and my home. The truth was undeniable – a compassionate laser cutting through to the heart of the matter.

When any element of an ecology is out of harmony with the whole, it undermines the health and vitality of the entire ecology. Rose bushes whose natural vitality has been bred out of them can no longer contribute to the vibrant life of a garden. Deer driven out of their habitat by human disregard trample and destroy in their attempts to forage for food. A family oriented around one person’s needs and desires cannot flourish.

That weekend, I dug up the dead rose bushes, and buried them in the compost. Determined that the new garden would grow in harmony with its surroundings, I chose heirloom roses, some of which have been around as a species for hundreds of years. Once established, they are all but indestructible. Unlike hybrids, which are as finicky as greyhounds, these are roses in their (mostly) natural state — vigorous, untameable, vibrantly alive.

Their flowers were small, shaggy, old-fashioned looking. They exuded a perfume that filled my garden with an otherworldly scent like musky angels with bells for wings. Best of all, they flourished happily in my garden, needing very little beyond sun, rain, love, and an occasional pruning.

Instead of spending hours working in my garden each evening, I now had time – to write, to cook my boys their favorite meals, to drive them and their friends to the beach or to the lake for an after-dinner swim, to listen to their stories and their unburdened hearts.

Over the next couple of years, those roses grew into towering thickets that even the deer could not penetrate. They formed a sheltering boundary that made my garden magical — a place out of time where, on long summer evenings, I read, wrote, dreamed a new life for myself and my sons. My boys grew tall too; their world expanded to embrace wider horizons than the small town in which they had grown up.

My older son moved halfway across the world to teach English in China. I finished my novel, which was published internationally. My younger son traveled with me on book tours, where he met people who lived very different lives than anything he’d ever experienced in his Canadian hometown. He returned from these adventures with a new sense of his place in the world, an expanded vision of the possibilities life had to offer.

The day I drove away for the last time — from my marriage, my home, the garden that shone green-and-gold in the evening light – I left with a grieving, grateful heart. In the end, I made the only choice that love would allow.

I’ve never created another rose garden – or any garden, really. My body is aging, and I conserve my energy for that which nurtures wholeness in my life. These days, my love affair with roses blossoms on the beach trails near my home, where wild roses mingle their perfume with the brine of sea air in the summer.

Sustainability, wholeness – these are the touchstones that guide my choices and form the path beneath my feet. I welcome into my world, and the world of my business, that which brings greater harmony and wholeness. Everything else I bless with love, knowing that it does not belong with me.

This makes choosing what’s mine very simple. I’m a business strategist whose only strategy is not a strategy at all. I choose the unfolding pattern of love, of wholeness.

Living and doing business in this way requires discernment. It also calls for willingness to embrace and act on the truth of my heart, no matter what. The gifts of choosing from this center include the miracle of a business culture that supports me and everyone in the world of my business to live joyfully and to thrive. A culture that contributes to the wholeness and healing of our world.

How about you? What feels out of place or unsustainable in your life? Where are you paying a dizzying price for something that doesn’t belong in your world, or in the world of your business?

And: What path leads you to the heart of what matters most to you? What happens when you follow this path, and give your love and devotion to this holy center?

  • You are a sovereign being,
    a fractal of the Sacred,
    a fractal of Wholeness.
  • The flow of your life.
    The soul of your business.
  • Grow your business.
    Grow yourself.
  • Expand your life. Evolve your business.
  • The art of alignment. The miracle of action.
  • Trust in the power of your perfect unfolding.
  • Permission to grow, to flow, to know.
  • You learn about freedom by experiencing what it feels like to be bound.
  • Beyond your beliefs, beyond your drama — the truth of your life.
  • Success is becoming the person who can ask for hugs and holding when your own strength has deserted you.
  • Embrace the mystery at the heart of creation.
  • Your soul sends out tendrils of light and fragrance into the world.
  • You are the gift — and the giver.
    You are the Love, and the lover.
  • At the heart of all things — even limiting beliefs and painful programming — is wholeness.
  • Surrender is an act of will. It is aligning your will with the will of the Sacred.
  • You learn about sovereignty through the experience of being dethroned.
  • Love transforms.
  • Your soul's purpose is to participate in wholeness, to express wholeness.
  • True Desire is a messenger of your soul.
    It leads directly to your soul’s purposes.
  • Unfold the miracle of your life and business.
  • Business = Love in action.
  • Everything you need is already within you, waiting to unfold and express itself.
  • Your inner world shapes your outer world.
    Success is an inside job.
  • You are the story, and the story-maker.
    Your life is yours to shape.