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There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.

I used to think that this was a quotation by Leonard Cohen, and now I’m not so sure – he may have borrowed it.  And I don’t mind whether Cohen wrote it or someone else.  I think it’s a great concept, which reminds us to avoid clinging on to perfection.

And I learned about Kintsugi, which is an Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with gold, silver or platinum.  It shows the repaired pot as a part of the history of the pot, rather than something to disguise.  The beauty of the pot combines the skill of the original maker with that of the repairer, making something new; embracing and celebrating the imperfect; and showing us even a broken pot can be something beautiful, useful and something to treasure.

So what have these to do with Focusing or Yoga?

I have heard so many people say, ‘I can’t do Yoga because I’m not flexible enough‘, or ‘I can’t even touch my toes, so why should I try Yoga?’, and many other reasons for not trying Yoga, Meditation (‘I can’t sit still‘, or ‘My mind is too cluttered‘ are the the reasons here), or any other activity or pursuit that is unfamiliar to them.

I’ve used similar reasons myself. ‘I can’t paint because I’m not artistic‘, has been one of my excuses.

I would never want to persuade someone to do something that they have an aversion to, but it’s good to recognise that none of us is perfect.  We all have shortcomings, some of which are visible to others and some are not.

And it is in our differences that we shine.

Like the golden cracks in Kintsugi pots.

And Nature celebrates the individuality of each plant.

So please don’t ignore fulfilling practices such as Yoga, Pilates, walking, art, Focusing, sailing, trampolining, writing, embroidery, acting or any of those other activities that may have tempted you – even just a tiny bit – because you think you’re not good enough, or because someone will see the cracks in your facade.

These are all part of our histories – what makes us how we are today.

Honour and celebrate your differences.  Please.

And let the light get in to you, and shine out of you.

 

 

Where are you?

Volcano and a puff of cloud – Carolann Samuels

For many years my creativity remained hidden.  It peeped out now and again, but ever so shyly, and retreated if anyone even looked at it the wrong way (whatever the wrong way is – I didn’t know).  I hid myself behind computers, numbers, duties.  I could become creative within these confines I imposed upon myself, but I didn’t trust it, nor did I pursue it.

 

I admired the creativity of others, but didn’t think that could ever apply to me.  

 

Who was I to think I might ever draw, paint, make pots, write, …?

Then I found Focusing.  I didn’t realise it at the time, but a door was opened.  Something in me knew that I could find some room for these practices that previously felt so alien to me.  And I didn’t notice it happening – not until I found myself in art shops, signing up for courses, and actually practising at home.  

 

I love the subtle way this happened.

 

I have written about this is other blogs, so you can see what a big deal it has been (and is) for me.

 

I also have a sense that many creative people already are Focusing.  

 

This may be because they have learned Focusing one way or another or it might be instinctive. You only have to read some of our great poets to see how they pay attention to what is going on inside them.  One example is this poem of Robert Browning: “Truth is within Ourselves”.  

And I have recently come upon another example.  Orna Ross teaches the principles, practices and process of creativism, conscious creation and creative living through her Go Creative! books and blog and the weekly Go Creative Show.  Here is one of her poems, which I think describes her creative process, especially when she says, “just be quiet. Unmask, that is all, and she will offer herself, unasked and unasking. No demands from her, ever, to know: where are you?

 

Where are you?

Where are you? The splendour of creation awaits.
Beauty veiled, she dallies, playing with the wings
of birds passing, swaying her hips with the wind,
wanting to dance, to bring you music from planets
and clouds. Call her by right name, hear her answer.
Male or female, she is yours. She lingers, singing
and playing, holding out a braceletted hand, all tinkle
and glint. She wants to roll ecstasy over and under
your skin, swirl bubblings into your blood, breathe
you away through the waves of the ages. You can stay
where you are (where are you?) and just listen. No,
don’t even listen, just be quiet. Unmask, that is all,
and she will offer herself, unasked and unasking. No
demands from her, ever, to know: where are you?
Orna Ross

 

If you would like to find out how Focusing can help with your creativity, contact me.

Are you in the Driving Seat of Your Life?

Are you in the driving seat? Carolann Samuels

Are you in the driving seat? Carolann Samuels

Mmm. Sometimes I feel I am and sometimes not.

I can say with certainty that the balance is now tipped more on to the ‘Yes I am’ side than the ‘out of control’ side. Of course there are still times when I feel all at sea: life continues to test all of us. But I have learned that I am more easily able to ride the storms now. And yes, it’s Focusing that has helped me so much.  And how has that come about?

 

When I first learned about Focusing, it was more about curiosity.

 

What is it about this method of paying attention to what’s going on inside us, that people say is so helpful?

It took me a little while to understand what Eugene Gendlin was saying in his book ‘Focusing’. His method of ‘clearing a space’ at the beginning of a Focusing session didn’t work very well for me at that time. And even though I wrote down the sequence of instructions so that I didn’t have to keep flicking the pages of the book, I just didn’t ‘get it’.

So I sought a teacher, and came across the very talented Kay Hoffmann. With her I found myself in a Focusing experience that very first time.

Later I did find Gendlin’s method useful for me some of the time – depending on how I was feeling at that moment. Of course the rest of his book is wonderful, instructive and inspiring.

 

Having experienced Focusing, I couldn’t get enough of it.

 

I embarked on training with Kay and finding out all the ways in which Focusing can benefit people – all people.

In those early days of learning Focusing, I found that it helped me to get more in touch with my own creativity. I found myself, almost accidentally, writing more. I embarked on a course in ceramics.  

I even picked up a paintbrush, which I hadn’t for decades. I had no confidence in any of these, and in a way, I felt shy about trying them. I was even slightly furtive when buying the equipment, in case I met someone I knew in the shop and they might question me.

I’m almost embarrassed to admit this in such a public place, but I would like you, my reader, to get a glimpse of just what a change was happening, oh so subtly, in my life.

 

The results of Focusing can sometimes happen immediately, and sometimes they trickle quietly into our lives, almost unnoticeably, until one day we realise the subtlety, or even the enormity, of what’s occurred.

 

So the creativity side was definitely one of these trickles. And there are others too.

Later, I made a big lifestyle decision which I found very difficult to justify to anyone else. Something in me knew that it was the right thing to do. I spent quite a few Focusing sessions testing it out with the part of me that confirmed this ‘rightness’, and the parts that were worried for me. Each time my body affirmed very definitely that yes, this was the right path.

And so that’s what I did then. And now there’s another change as I let go of something that has been very rich in my life for a number of years. There’s fear; there’s apprehension; there’s sadness there too. I can acknowledge and respect all of these, and I can feel very open to the new doors that are just beginning to show themselves.

I cannot be certain whether without the reassurance of Focusing I would have made these decisions or not. What I can be sure about is that Focusing enables me to feel much more confident about changes, and being open to the new that will come – whatever it is.

How to Focus on Your To-do List

list-372766_640Life can sometimes feel overwhelming with so many things to do.  Do you feel you can never keep up? 

Every time you manage to cross off one thing on your to-do list, something comes along to replace it, and it’s often two or three.

I know what it’s like.  I’ve had to juggle lots of things in my life: children, pets, jobs, garden, oh and some life for myself too.

Would you like to learn the simple trick that has worked for me, and still does?

I wish I’d worked it out sooner, because my life would have run much more smoothly, and I wouldn’t have forgotten those urgent things that just have to be done, and had to somehow squeeze them in when I felt exhausted at the end of the day.  But never mind, it works really well for me now. 

Its simplicity almost embarrasses me now, but I tried a lot of different variations before I found this way.

And how did it come to me?  It has been a mixture of finding out what others do, and then Focusing on my problem, and making it my own system, one which works well for me.

At one time I had different notebooks for the different aspects of my life, but that got messy, and now I only have to carry one tiny book with me (or you can use your phone).  It wasn’t a bad system, but with all the different things in my life I was juggling, it was just too complicated.

And I’ve tried several electronic methods, on-line diaries with integrated to-do lists, apps that help you prioritise, and lists that will sort things in any order you want.  They’ve all worked after a fashion, but were never quite good enough.  I still saw that ever-lengthening list, and it would take precious time just to keep it under control.

I also find that writing things down, with a pen, onto paper, not only helps me to remember it, but helps me think around any problems associated with it, sometimes getting a new perspective.  

This system has helped me feel much more in control of all the things that have to be done, and as a result, I am much more relaxed.

Would you like to feel more relaxed and in control?  Here it is:

  • Take one journal book – like this one:

  • Many designs will work.  You need one that’s going to last, and not fall apart before it’s full.  I like this style because the pages are stitched in, are already numbered, there are Contents pages at the front, and an expandable pocket in the back cover where you can keep loose pieces of paper.
  • And you need a smaller notebook that will fit in a pocket (and the smaller notebook might be the notes page on your phone.)

I start at the beginning of the book and write my first to-do list on page 1 (after the Contents page).  I add a note in the contents page of the heading and page number. 

This list might be quite long, and I keep adding to it until the page is full.  It might include things like: collect dry cleaning before Wednesday, get quotes for painting the house, write a novel, where shall I go on holiday next year, etc.  Some are immediate tasks, some more long-term and some are wishful thinking.

I use this book for all my notes and lists, always adding the page number in the contents page.  For example, I have a page for admin/business; one for books that friends have recommended to me.  Another page lists possible gifts, so that when it comes to birthdays I am not struggling to remember what I discovered three months before would be the perfect gift for my daughter.  I have a list of things I need to do in the house; one of blog ideas (!); one of thoughts about future yoga lessons and equipment to buy; questions to ask my mentor, etc.

  • Everything that is urgent has a star next to it, or is highlighted. 
  • Everything that has an important timescale has the date next to it.
  • Each new page/list starts on the next available fresh page.  There are no blank pages in between the pages that are already used.
  • Each page heading has a number in the contents page, and if the content goes on to a further page, I just add this to the contents page, so it might look like this:
    • To-do list – pages 1, 5, 9, 27.
    • Recommended books – page 2
    • Admin/business – page 3
    • Birthdays – page 4
    • Yoga notes – page 6        etc.

Doing it this way means that:

  • everything is in one place
  • you never run out of room until the book is full
  • you can find everything in the book because it is (very easily) indexed

So far, so good, but it can still seem overwhelming with all these different pages.  So what I do next is the simple thing that has made all the difference.

I have a separate small notebook that fits easily in a pocket, and each day I transfer from the bigger lists those things that absolutely must be done, and those that I feel I can achieve today.  In the main book, I cross off what I’ve managed to do, or that may seem irrelevant now (and that does happen!).  I prefer to do this in the morning, but you can do it at any regular time. 

This smaller list has to be achievable in one day.  It takes less than five minutes to flick through the main journal and write out.  And it means that I don’t feel overwhelmed with the multitude of things, some of which are urgent, and some wishful thinking.

Changing the way you currently organise your list of jobs to do may seem an impossible task, but it’s not as difficult as it seems. 

The secret to organising it is this:

  • Buy yourself two notebooks – one larger, one smaller (or create a page on your phone for the smaller one)
  • Set aside an 30 minutes to an hour (and it make take less) to get down in the larger book all those tasks that have to be done.  Set up and index other pages you might need.  This is a one-off task.
  • You don’t need to get everything down at this stage, just the really important stuff that’s nagging at you. You can keep adding to it whenever you want to.
  • Transfer to the smaller book (or your phone) what you can achieve today – nothing more.
  • Tomorrow, in the larger book
    • Cross out what’s been done
    • Add anything new. 
    • And on a new page in the smaller book or phone, add today’s tasks.

And that’s it.

Would this simple system work for you?  Would it help you manage your to-do lists?

If it would, just use it.  Get started.  It’s easy, takes very little time, and you can adapt it to work for you.  But do get started.

I’ve included this article in a Focusing blog, because I found Focusing on the issue helped me to work out how to achieve something that was bugging me.  

And I thought you’d be interested to know another way that Focusing can be really helpful in everyday life.

Don’t add this advice to your To-Do list.  Do it!

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Be brave enough to live creatively

Cactus Forest - Carolann Samuels

Cactus Forest – Carolann Samuels

“Be brave enough to live creatively. The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. You cannot get there by bus, only by hard work, risking and by not quite knowing what you are doing. What you will discover will be wonderful: Yourself.”                     Alan Alda

This quotation is new to me.  I read it in Jamie Catto’s book “Insanely gifted”, and I thought it so true that I looked up Alan Alda, and where and when he said it (at his daughter’s graduation ceremony).

And I agree, it does need bravery to live creatively, to move away from comfort, to listen to our intuition.  Our intuition can feel like a wilderness until we learn to trust it, and when we do, we discover all sorts of things about ourselves that we didn’t fully know.

On the journey, Yoga has worked well for me; Focusing works better.  They are not the only ways, they are safe, gentle, non-judgemental.  They are worth a try.

Book on a course or a 1:1