Identifying THE Most Important Thing To Do

In the previous post, I asked the question: What is your most important creative work? And I suggested an activity—answering two questions—to help identify the most important thing you can do in your life. The questions were:

  1. If there is only one thing you can work on now, what would it be?
  2. If there is only one direction you can take your work in for the next three years, what would it be?

If you’re like most people, you feel challenged to identify one project to focus on for three years. Lots of things feel important. Lots of things will also go unrealized—never amounting to more than a day dream, because it’s hard to imagine the logistics of accomplishing the goal/project, or imagine how one more THING(s) could be squeezed into a life that’s already full to the brim and can’t hold one even more thing.

After some thought about what I would have to give up to work on just one project, I realized more than decided that the answer to question 1 is:  ME. I’ll work on me. I don’t have to give up anything that’s important to me at this time, not unless I want to.

That brings me to my answer to question 2. I want to feel HAPPINESS more consistently. Happiness is an elusive emotion, coming and going like the tides, and when it’s out, little feels good. So it makes sense to me to focus steadily toward feeling happy. Whole books have been written about happiness and how to find it.

Happiness isn’t Hiding Under a Rock

I know that happiness is a state of mind and the reason it seems elusive is because we have a tendency to look to things and people to bring it. That’s what makes happiness elusive. Nothing and no one can really make me (or you) happy. I have to decide, and that’s where the work and the rewards come in.

If I stay out of my own way, this one decision—to be happy—will help me make decisions about any projects I have going on now or that may come up in the future.

Decide What is Most Important to You

If you’re having trouble deciding on what’s most important to you, I submit for your consideration that your most important work is essential to YOU and how you feel about yourself.

What isn’t Your Important Work

It’s not checking your email or text messages. It’s not worrying about things, writing to-do lists, cleaning and sorting things to keep or throw away. There are lots of things we do that are not essential. When you decide:

  • Write in one sentence what you think is most important for you to do for you.

Spend at least 20 minutes every day doing something that will help you realize your intention. That’s your most important work of the day—every day.

 

 

 

What Is Your Most Important Creative Work?

 

Spring Fling

Finding time to be creative may seem like a stretch when earning a living, maintaining a home and personal relationships, and sleep take up most of your day. Time to express your creative self may seem like a wishful thought: a pipe dream. And being the creator that you are will continue to feel like a pipe dream until you decide you want more.

Often, it’s a belief about what it means to have a creative life and do creative work that holds people apart from those things. No one wants to be a starving writer or artist, or an underpaid actor. So the desire to do creative work is sidelined and may never be given a chance to play out in real life.

Changing Beliefs

EVERYONE is creative and creating all the time, but most people don’t realize that. The word “creative” doesn’t apply only to those who work in the arts. You create your life with the minute-by-minute, day-to-day, year-to-year decisions that you make. It’s only when you feel that someone else has control of you and your time, and many people do feel that way, that finding time to be and do what turns you on seems like only a dream that can’t be realized.

The first thing you need to do if you feel out of control of your own life, is recognize that you are the captain of your life. You are. And as the captain, you get to decide how and where to spend your time and energy. More importantly, you get to decide how you’ll feel while you do the things you do.

A Personal Story

I attended an art exhibit last evening. The art on display was painted during a three-day plein air event and I knew several of the artists who had participated in the event. I congratulated everyone who won some recognition and complimented others on their paintings. During one conversation, I asked the artist (an acquaintance) about the process of being accepted to participate in the event because I’m interested in doing it myself next year. She told me that most of the artists who have participated in the past will get the limited number of available spots next year. I asked her if she was suggesting I shouldn’t apply, to which she replied, “I just don’t want you to feel heartbroken when you don’t get in.” I said, “You don’t need to worry about my heart. I’ll be fine.”

Then, I found the woman  in charge of the event and asked her what I needed to do and when I needed to do it if I wanted to be considered for next year’s event. She gave me her card and told me to contact her in January 2020.

Power Play

I’m in control of what I do and how I feel. And you’re in control of what you do and how you feel. If you want more time to feel and be creative, start by answering the following questions for yourself:

  1. If there is only one thing you can work on now, what would it be?
  2. If there is only one direction you can take your work in for the next three years, what would it be?

Do you notice a pattern emerging that might be your important work? If so, write a sentence that clearly explains what that work is.

The value in this exercise is focus. If you can focus on one thing that is really important to you know, you can let go of (for a while) other things that pull at you and want your attention. This isn’t a goal setting exercise. It’s a process to help you focus and understand what’s important enough for you to make time for it. That’s your important creative work.

My next post will be about how to carve out a small block of time, a little as 20 minutes a day, to do your creative work.

 

The Best Reminder I Ever Received

yin yang

I was sitting alone on my lawn feeling frustrated, angry, sad, and depressed. For several days I’d avoided people and refused to make any commitments. I wanted to be left alone. While the details leading up to that difficult week have been forgotten, one general theme stuck with me: I’d begun to reject the notion of myself as a creative person. 

Like I said, I was sitting on the grass and out of the blue I heard “You are here to live in joy.” I turned to see who had spoken. No one was there.

I didn’t know what to think, but I knew that I’d clearly heard the words.

My self-imposed time out gradually came to an end. I resumed tasks and for the next 25 or so years, I worked at a job and at being a wife and mother. Once in a while, I’d think about that afternoon. I read a couple of books about how to feel joy, but I never really did it. Not until 2018.

The message is delivered again.

I’d purchased an online painting class and the book Ask and It is Given by Esther and Jerry Hicks was on the recommended reading list for the class. I bought the Kindle version of the book and started reading. On page 8 in bold type I read, “You said, I will live in joy.” 

In the paragraph that followed, I read:

You said, “I will go forth into the physical time-space reality among other Beings, and I will assume an identity with a clear and specific perspective. I will learn to see myself from that point of view, and I will enoy being seen as that point of view….You said, “I will love pouring myself into this physical body, into physical time-space reality, for that environment will cause me to focus the powerful Energy that is me into something more specific. And in the specifics of that focus, there will be powerful motion forward—and joy.”

I didn’t know what to think. But I kept reading.

On page 23, I read:

By paying attetnion to the signals of your emotions, you can understand, with absolute precision, everything you are now living or have ever lived. By understanding your emotional connection to who you really are, you will come to understand not only what is happening in you own world and why, but you will also understand every other living Being with whom you interact.

Now, I felt stunned. Here someone was saying that my emotions could help me understand myself and what was happening around me. I’d been trained through all the years of my life to control my emotions, hide emotions, and to insert logic before emotions in every circumstance, because reason and logic (as we’re also taught) are reliable while emotions unreliable and lead to Trouble.

Fast forward: Why was that the best reminder ever?

Because I’m learning to honor my emotions and when I focus on feeling good, I FEEL good and things go well for me. When I let negative emotions shatter my focus, I don’t feel good and things don’t go as well. These things are true. No exceptions.

Disallowing and misunderstanding emotions are only ever what holds me and you apart from feeling good, living with more joy in our lives, and CREATING the lives we want to live.

With every thought, we have a choice to make. When thoughts are:

  • Should I trust myself?
  • Do I know enough?
  • Am I smart enough?
  • Am I worthy enough?
  • Is fate working against me?
  • Do I deserve ________?

You feel negative emotions. When you choose to not trust yourself or feel worthy, or when you blame fate or someone else, you feel negative emotions. These negative emotions are not signaling us that we’re wrong or bad or stupid. We feel negative emotions because we judge and value ourselves based on what we perceive others will think about us. Always.

Feeling emotions is the way to understand with absolute precision everything you need to know about you and what to do next and next and next. By paying attention to how you feel and understanding that when you feel bad, you’re going against yourself for no good reason, it becomes easier and easier to live more joyfully.

I don’t expect you to take my word for any of this. You shouldn’t.

Power Play

We learn through experience. If you want to learn to create you life deliberately, check out Ask and It is Given or listen to Abraham Hicks on YouTube—when you’re ready to believe in and trust yourself.

Why an Artist’s Date is Worthwhile

Matisse Still Life

Still Life with Pascal’s “Pensées”, oil on canvas by Henri Matisse, 1924. Minneapolis Institute of Art.

This is my birthday month and I’ve decided to focus the whole month toward being happy as much of the time as I can. Why? Because I know feeling happy is a state of mind that I have control over. I can choose to be happy or not and feeling happy has benefits. A lot of other things just seem to work out better. I made a list of 26 things that I feel happy doing. My list includes:

  • Looking at the sky and cloud watching
  • Painting
  • Connecting with my adult children
  • Listening to music
  • Looking at other artist’s paintings
  • Buying art supplies
  • Artist dates

I’ll add more things to the list as I think of them. I’m committed to being intentional about doing at least one thing from my list every day and to pay attention to how I feel as the day goes on because I know I can choose how my emotions impact me. Noticing how I feel is as important, maybe even more important, because it’s so, so easy to let other influences (people, events, circumstances) hijack even the best intentions. I’ve had lots of practice doing just that. Now, I’m going to practice myself into the momentum of feeling happy just because I want to. I’m also keeping a record of good things that happen every day, because noticing the good things that come to me will be fun and it’ll be a reminder of the benefit of a positive mindset.

I took myself on an artist’s date.

Julia Cameron launched the idea of having artist’s dates in her book The Artist’s Way. If you’re unfamiliar with this concept, it amounts to setting aside time every week to do some fun, simple thing: go to a museum, see a movie, visit a garden center. Artist’s dates are time designated for having FUN and maybe also being inspired. These dates often bring insight and teach us things about ourselves as creators.

I went to the Minneapolis Institute of Art and spent a couple of hours strolling through rooms filled with paintings from the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist periods. Some of my favorite art was produced by artists such as Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, and John Singer Sargent.

Paul Gauguin Tahiti

“Tahitian Landscape” by Paul Gauguin, oil on canvas, 1891. Minneapolis Institute of Art collection.

Sargent Moorish Courtyard

“Moorish Courtyard” by John Singer Sargent, oil on canvas, 1913. Minneapolis Institute of Art collection.

An “aha moment” and why this artist date was so worthwhile.

I’ve seen the MIA collection of Impressionist paintings before but as I stood in front of a piece of art by Paul Cezanne, another of my favorite artists, it dawned on me that an artist’s reason for making art is a game changer. Not all masters are highly skilled technicians. What masters do is use their natural talents, skills, and tools to work out problems. They find solutions that other artists can adopt and because the new knowledge is shared, art advances.

Reawakening to Creativity

May 3 plein air

Plein air 6×8″ oil painting, May 3, 2019.

A crayon drawing on the bedroom wall of a gradeschool friend was my first attempt at creating public art. I was in second or third grade. My friend’s dad was the school superintendent and I was never invited back to her house. In high school, I fantasized about being a fashion designer and living in Paris.

Artmaking has always had a special place in my life. Sometimes, it’s been a significant part of my life. Like when I went back to school in my thirties and drawing, design, painting, print making, and photography classes filled my days. Then, as many people do, I needed a job. I went to work, raised my children, decorated my homes, and planted flower gardens. I was creating every day, but I had stopped making art. Thirty-four years passed.

Then, four years ago, a series of events that began as a challenge to “do something fun” brought me back to artmaking. I paint almost every day now and my life is filled with new experiences, new friends, new goals and dreams. Reawakening to my creativity has fed my curiousity about what might be possible. Artist Nicholas Wilton said, “The soul of a creative is never, ever quieted by practical objectives.” That is SO true.

Something I believe with my whole being is that EVERY ONE is creative. Every one.

What place does creating have in your life?

Note about the image: I started doing plein air painting in 2015. I love being outside in nature and while this kind of painting is challenging, it’s also rewarding and FUN. 

 

 

 

Konmari Changed My Relationship to Books

books for mercury rtx course

I binge watched episodes of Marie Kondo’s Tidying Up on Netflix last weekend. Kondo is a small woman with a big mission. She teaches people to sort and tidy their belongings in ways that she says will bring joy into their lives. In every episode, I saw people change as they worked through Kondo’s tidying process. But I had to go through Kondo’s process myself to feel the change, to understand the burden related to carrying the books with me, and to experience the joy and freedom when the tidying was done.

I love books. I prefer to buy rather than borrow books because I enjoy having them around me. Like many book buyers, I intend to read every book, but half of them go unread. They’ve sat on shelves throughout my house, some for YEARS, waiting for me. I’ve never felt any guilt about buying and not reading them. They don’t spoil.

The Japanese have a pretty word that describes stockpiling books that are never read: tsundoku. The word doesn’t carry any negative stigma in Japan according to Prof Andrew Gerstile, who teaches pre-modern Japanese texts at the University of London.

tsundokuillustrated

Over the years I’ve bought, shelved, boxed, and moved, from one house to another and from book case to bookcase upstairs and downstairs, hundreds and hundreds of books. These are books from one bookshelf. Some are already in bags to be donated or sold. The piles grew over the weekend as I added books that I collected from other rooms and from the basement. Kondo recommends sorting by category (books, clothes, etc.) rather than by room and placing all the alike items on the floor in one room. The purpose for gathering things in one place is so we can see how much we actually have.

books piled

As I cleared the shelves and sorted my books into piles to keep or not, I followed Kondo’s guidance, and asked myself two questions:

  • Is this book and it’s contents something I want to bring into my future?
  • Does holding this book bring my joy?

If the answer to either question was no, I put the book into a donate/sell pile. After all was done, I’d moved eleven bags of books out of the house.

books to go

I had more books than I could read in ten years, and not so long ago, I believed this:

bookclutter

The Way to Joy

In three days of sorting and tidying books, I’ve reduced my book stash to only those books that I believe will bring me joy today. Tidying up also freed up space in my mind and that gives back to me time that I’d committed to reading. I can create more.

Moving and sorting books revealed something I wasn’t expecting, though.

space cleared

Sending the books away uncovered a big question

Almost since I began reading, I’ve believed I could write. Writing became a driving force in my life. Suddenly, as I considered and appreciated all the empty space in my bookshelves and felt relief from the burden of reading books that no longer interested me, I had the thought: Do I still want to write?

That question needs more thought. In the meantime, I’ll still buy books. And I’m OK with that.

Power Play

It’s easy to get caught up in obsessions, like reading is for me, and forget to check in with yourself about what is exerting influence in your life. Stacks of books were exerting influence and pressure on me. But we can control what has influence in our lives.

You most likely know what is influencing you. Do you need to interrupt the pressure? Do you need to tidy up something in your life so you have more time to feel creative? I’d enjoy hearing from you.

 

Freedom to Create Joyfully

 

42_Autumn Oak_200dpi sm
“Autumn Oak” is #43 in my 100 paintings project. All rights reserved.

I’ve had lots of interests over the years and I like to write. I’ve had the freedom to create blogs to my heart’s content on this platform and write on a lot of topics that have interested me. As my interest in some of those topics has waned, I’ve archived or deleted the related blogs. I’m down to three. I blog about creativity, astrology, and my artwork at these sites (click on the links below or in the left Menu):

There are good reasons to keep them separate, but I also experience these different areas of interest as related. I create art and write about it. I write about creativity. And I use astrology to explain the creative process and provide insight into the freedom to choose and create a life within the context of the life fate handed each of us. The common thread is creativity. So, I’ve decided to provide connections to my other blogs and in a sense bring them all together. I don’t have a “schedule” for posting. Sometimes, I’m more active on one blog and less so on others. Check them out.

 

Art Journal – Plein Air Water Lilies and Zen

Sharon Leah | Art & Blog

Pond lotus

I went out four times in July to paint pond lilies and almost gave up after the second try. Every plein air painting experience has its challenges, but the rewards make it “mostly” worthwhile so I continued to try. This post is a summary of that experience.

Plein air paintings of water lilies

There’s just something about water lilies and lotus. They’re enchanting and beautiful in their simplicity, and many artists both before and after Claude Monet have painted them. Monet’s series of water lilies paintings, over 100  in all, have a tranquil beauty that both painters and collectors appreciate.

Monet Lilies

Water lilies by Claude Monet. Completion date 1917.

Monet loved gardens and painting, and it was to his gardens in Giverny that he retreated as World War I ravaged Europe. He was aware of the war and could sometimes hear the sound of gunfire in nearby battlefields.  “Yesterday I resumed work,”…

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Thought Precedes and Creates Change

kung fu

To create means to take what is and make something new or different. We learn how to take raw materials—canvas, pigment, paint, brushes, pencils, paper, clay, dirt, stones, glass, water, seeds, food, technology, fire, even pressure; and most important of all, our thoughts—and create. We create art and music, tools and technology, community and communities, fun and fitness, first with our thoughts and then with things. In all instances, we as creators have to either allow or facilitate the changes that make what is into something different.

There is one thing that interferes with change, though. Resistance. Others resist our desires. We resist theirs, because _________ (fill in the blank). Things that are big—like a tree or a building—resist our efforts to move or change them (until we think of a way to make the big things smaller and easier to manage). We’re accustomed to looking outside of ourselves for the person or thing that’s behaving like an obstacle when resistance interferes with our plans. Often, however, we’re actually getting in our own way with our own split energy. This happens when we direct some of our energy toward a desired outcome while also expending energy to resist very changes we want to make. Mental resistance, while it has no size or weight, because it consists entirely of thoughts (which can’t even be seen), is the BIGGEST reason we don’t get what we want in life.

I watched Kung Fu starring David Carradine when it was on TV in the 1970s. That was my first exposure to the fascinating world of martial arts and Eastern philosophies. I enjoyed watching Caine, as he was known in the series, demonstrate the power of non-resistance. Every episode had a fight scene and when Caine was threatened, he practiced non-resistance. I don’t mean that he let himself be attacked. But when the person came at him, Caine deflected the attack or stepped aside and allowed the attacker’s momentum to carry him until he stumbled and fell, sometimes over a cliff. In every instance, it was the attackers’ behaviors that caused their own self-undoing.

The Kung Fu philosophy is grounded in the Tao, meaning “the way, or the path,” and that means simply living in harmony with nature, other people, and within oneself. While living with nature and others is important, it’s the relationship to self that forms the foundation for everything that follows. And thinking anything that goes against yourself and splits your energy will make it more difficult to create whatever it is that you desire to create: artwork, a fit body, healthy relationships, etc.

Everyone is a creator, because thoughts turn to things. If you really want to create a painting, you’ll think about it and do what you need to do. If you want to be a better painter, you’ll think about what you need to do and then do it. If you want to be more fit, you have to start where you are, think about what you want to do, and then do it. If you don’t let your thoughts get in your way, you’ll succeed. It’s hard to ignore the truth that “thoughts turn to things.” But if you doubt that’s true, look around you. How did you get to where you are? Did you have thoughts and did you’re thoughts become actions or beliefs that you live with now?

To suppress a truth is to give it force beyond endurance.  —Master Po in Kung Fu

What you resist not only persists, but will grow in size.  —Carl Jung

 

Emotions Reveal Your Focus

full moon

The moon is full today in the sign of Capricorn and reflecting the light from the sun that has been traveling through the sign of Cancer since the Summer Solstice on June 21. There are lots of stories and legends about the effects of the moon cycle, especially the full moon, on humans. Most of these stories feature words like “moody,” “loony,” or “lunatic.” All of these words imply some kind of unconscious reaction—feeling emotion—to living life. They describe moods.

Moods are always triggered by some event—a chance meeting, a conversation, a song, a memory, etc., which could be anywhere on the emotional spectrum from joyful and happy to sad and lonely.  When a thought triggers an emotion, other thoughts will quickly join with the first thought and in no time at all, a mood develops. Often, the mood is familiar because we’ve “been there, done that” lots of times before. And the mood plays on and on because we get stuck in its familiar vibrational groove. It’s a set point.

Moods are indicators of emotional set points. They’re always the result of one thought leading to another to another until the brain is hijacked. Now, this isn’t a problem if the familiar mood is joy or happiness. But if you’re feelings fall on the other end of the spectrum, and you feel angry, sad, depressed, lonely, or afraid, do everything you can to get out of that vibrational mood.

Power Play

Change your focus ASAP!! Silently count down from 17 to 0 five or ten times, or until the disruptive thoughts fade. Why 17? That’s how long it takes for one thought to attract another thought. So interrupt the thoughts before they can accumulate and trigger a mood. Once the disruptive thoughts start to fade, and they will, DON’T try to recall them. Move on and have a better day.

Thoughts are Energy that Create Worlds

yin yang

Magnetism is the force of attraction or repulsion. Magnetism is caused by spinning electrically-charged particles moving around, and the magnetic field of an object can create a magnetic force that attracts other objects. When two magnetic objects are close together, there is a force that attracts the poles to each other.

Our human bodies generate internal magnetic activity (every cell contains energy) that keeps us alive. This internal magnetic energy interacts with all the other magnetic fields on the planet we live on. Our brains are a dense mass of energy producing cells that create measurable brain waves. And it’s in the brain that thoughts are produced, transmitted, and received. The laws of nature apply to humans in the same way they apply to a magnet or any other magnetic force on earth.

The difference between us and a magnet is that we have conscious choice. We can choose whether or not to be drawn into a force field. We can choose to join an activity, stop at a sale, go to a movie, say yes or no to an invitation. We can decide how to respond to the randomness that surrounds us. We can decide, if we’re conscious, about what kind of thoughts we let in. This is important to understand and to remember, because EVERYTHING is energy, including thoughts.

Reflect for 60 seconds on anything and pay attention to how one thought leads to another and to another. Those thoughts collect and can create enough momentum to, in turn, cause you to take an action or feel a feeling that’s often a reaction.

The Law of Attraction says that we invite our experiences through our own thought processes. Nothing can occur in your life experience without your invitation of it through your thoughts. For a lot of reasons, few people want to accept that we shape our experience of life through our thoughts. Not wanting to accept the physics of our experience here on earth doesn’t change the physics, though. We are made up of energy. Our thoughts are created from energy. They’re transmitted and received because they’re energy. The key to having better thoughts and better life experiences is to remember that we have conscious choice.

Power Play

Understand the Law of Attraction and remember that you can choose which force fields you are drawn in to. The news is a force field. If watching or listening to the news upsets you and causes you to feel negative emotions, you can choose to either not pay attention to news or you can be selective about what you pay attention to. People around you are force fields. You can choose to stop receiving thoughts that upset you or you can interrupt the thoughts that you’re attracting by changing your focus. You get to decide what affects you, what you accept or reject, and what your actions or reactions will be.