Sunday, December 31, 2017

Guiding Star 2018 #5: Look At My Hats

Welcome back to Guiding Star.  Here we are, in the middle of all of the gems and muck of our lives.  Isn't it sloppy and messy and wonderful?!?!  I know, some of you are grinding your teeth and grumbling under your breath.  It's okay.  I'm happy to guide you to the life you know you are meant to live.  See, I'm not afraid of mud or rocks.  Or even words or failed dreams.  I've walked through that jungle many times and guess what - I'm still here!  You will be too.  Keep dreaming, keep writing, keep walking and wear comfortable shoes.

Today's exercise is one of my favorites.  I find it much easier than yesterday's and oh-so enlightening.  I hope you have a similar experience.  Today's exercise should lead you to a clearer awareness of how you see yourself, your responsibilities and your dreams. Knowing where you are, where you need to be and where you would like to be is crucial for your final Guiding Star plan.

Look At My Hats Exercise

Materials: For this exercise, you will need something to write on or in.  A journal, a computer, or scratch paper - doesn't matter.  The results of today's exercise will be seen by your Buddy.

Time: Start with 15 minutes, but be prepared to use 30 minutes.  As will all exercises, keep going if you are inspired and have the time.

#1 - List all of the hats you currently wear in life.  Hats?  Yes, all the roles and responsibilities that fill your days with light...and sometimes dark, heavy, yucky weight.
Joy Giver
Bread Winner

#2 - Are there any hats you'd like to be wearing that don't appear on that list? Write them down.
Rabble Rouser
Power Broker
Mover and Shaker
Community Advocate

#3 - Combining both lists, order your many hats from the one that takes the most time and attention to the one that takes the least. Don’t be surprised if  hats on the second list appear at the bottom of this list.

#4 - If your list is longer than 20 hats, feel free to eliminate some.  At this point in the exercise, 10-12 is a the targeted number of hats. Start the elimination with the ones that feel crusty, tired, and outmoded.  Keep the ones that glow and sparkle.

#5 - Now rank your hats in the ideal order.  Start with the one you wish received most of your attention to the one that you wish would received the least.  This is a dream list; tell the pragmatist in you to go out for coffee while you are working on this list.

#6 - Now for the fun.  Create a new list of 4-7 hats, merging those that must be on the list with at least one that you'd like to have on the list. Here's your opportunity to incorporate more of what you desire in your life.  Do it - leap!  It's only a list.

For Example:
Maria left her position as a partner in a major accounting firm 2 years ago so she could be home full time with her 3 kids.  Maria and her wife, Beth, have a loving relationship. Beth loves her work, makes a good salary and is as involved with the family as is possible. While Maria organizes one annual fundraising event for her local ballet company, she still yearns to be more engaged with the world outside of her home and family. Maria's old list might have looked like this:
Sad Sack

Her dream list might look like this:
Mover and Shaker
Giver of Smiles

Her new list might look like this:
Mother - Let's face it, Maria's got to be a mother first. She's okay with that, in fact, when she takes time to breathe and reflect on her life, Maria realizes she LOVES being a mother.
Lover - Aha. What happens if Maria starts to view herself as a lover - of herself, her wife AND her kids?
Advocate - Maria does miss being in the workplace. This year she's going to hire someone to take care of the kids (including driving them to their activities) one day a week. She's going to use that day to work at her beloved ballet company, developing a program that brings dance to underserved communities.
Giver of Smiles - Maria realizes there is a small, but powerful action she can incorporate into her life which has the potential to transform her attitude, her life and the lives of people she encounters.
Friend - Maria's wife has agreed to leave work early once a month so Maria can go out with a girlfriend. That's a reasonable goal for everyone.

Maria is well aware that not every hat will fit the way she envisions, but she's recognizing there are steps she can take to find more of what she craves in life.  This is exciting; Maria is actually looking forward to 2018.

- Tell your Buddy when you're finished.

Always remember:
Positive works
Keep it brief
Feeling stuck? Starting January 4, 2018, one-on-one assistance is available at the discounted rate of $30/hour. This offer expires on February 1, 2018. (Click here to schedule a session).

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Guiding Star 2018 #4: The Shift and The Slogan

How are you doing? Is Guiding Star driving you nuts? Ot is it energizing you? You are standing at the cusp of the biggest year of your life. One simple step continues the journey. That’s exciting to me! It is your choice.

At the end of today's exercise, you will be halfway to your Guiding Star plan. Halfway is huge. I find once I'm halfway into a project, it is much harder to give up. Why give up when I've done so much work? I hope that is true for you as well.

Today, you will create a slogan. This slogan will live with you this year. This slogan will begin a paradigm shift in your existence.

Huh? Alright, time for definitions. A slogan is a short and striking or memorable phrase; a motto. If you put your slogan on a Tshirt or a coffee mug, you'd be proud of it. Unlike some of the previous exercises, the slogan you create in this exercise will appear in your final Guiding Star plan.
A paradigm shift is a fundamental change in approach or underlying assumptions.That's right, a simple slogan is going to guide you through a remarkable transformation. If you let it.

Okay, so I have to be honest with you. Every year when I get to this exercise, I feel like I fail. I feel like I'm not very good at creating slogans that actually guide me to an honest paradigm shift...or at least that's what I think (guess I need a shift there). Yet when I look back at the paradigms I have crafted for myself, I see a HUGE change in my assumptions about my own self.

I am telling you all of this so you aren't frustrated or surprised by the challenge of this exercise. It's okay to be frustrated. It's okay to be lost. Feel free to ask for support. This is where you'll really appreciate your Buddy.

The Shift and The Slogan Exercise

Materials: For this exercise, you will need something to write on or in. A journal, a computer, or scratch paper - doesn't matter. The results of today's exercise will be seen by your Buddy.

Time: Start with 15 minutes. Don't be surprised if you need much more time for this exercise. This exercise usually takes me 2 hours over the course of a week. I like to ponder it over a number of days.

Look back at the list of deep messages you cultivated during yesterday's exercise. Choose one that calls to you. Hint: it will probably be at the top of the list.

Craft it into a brief positive phrase that describes what you want life to be about in 2018. It's unlikely that your slogan will address everything in your life you wish to transform. Be willing to choose one simple, but powerful focus.

Persisting works becomes: Persistence is my magic OR For best results, practice persistence daily.

Failing sucks becomes: Failure IS a glorious option OR Success and Failure: Two sides of the same coin OR Embrace failure.

Write down as many options as you can. Get them out of your head and onto the paper. Just write, don't edit. Feeling stuck? Say your slogans out loud. You'll hear the ones that work. Another option is to walk away, but come back later!

When you have 1 - 3 that work for you, show them to your Buddy. See if your Buddy finds them as powerful as you do. Are they short? Are they positive?

One of my favorite creative souls, Ashley Kerns, created this slogan:

Always remember:
Positive works
Keep it brief
Feeling stuck? Starting January 4, 2018, one-on-one assistance is available at the discounted rate of $30/hour. This offer expires on February 1, 2018. (Click here to schedule a session).

Friday, December 29, 2017

Guiding Star 2018 #3: Can You Hear Me Now?

In this exercise, we're going to explore the deep messages of your recent life. Some are already obvious to you, but others need time and space to come to the light and find the courage to reveal themselves. These messages might become part of of your final Guiding Star Plan.

I hope you've noticed the materials have been exactly the same for every exercise. They're going to stay that way, but I'll keep listing them as a reminder.

Materials: For this exercise, you will need something to write on or in. A journal, a computer, or scratch paper - doesn't matter. Unlike the previous two exercises, it is likely that this exercise will be seen by your Buddy (and whoever else you choose).

Time: I recommend that you set a timer for 15 minutes. Like yesterday's exercise, you probably won't be done in 15 minutes, but if that's all the time you have, take it. If you have more time, aim for 30 minutes. Of course you can keep going for as long as you'd like.

Can You Hear Me Now? Exercise

#1 - From your list of accomplishments and disappointments, list 5-10 reflections, either what you've learned or what you wish you could learn. Keep the reflections brief. Aim to use active words in the present tense.

Using the accomplishments and disappointments posted yesterday, here are some examples:

Persisting works
Breathe through the tough times
Sadness and happiness are partners
Failing sucks
Life is easy

Here you are at the first creative challenge of the Guiding Star. Can you see that you're trying to take past experiences and turn them into guides for the future? If you haven't done this type of creating before, you might find yourself lost. Give yourself patience and time. You can leave this unfinished today and return to it tomorrow. Or even the day after. Or next week. By then, you'll have a better sense of what needs to come out and appear on the page.

- Mark the messages you feel you understand deeply with a check mark.

- Mark the messages you think you need to pay attention to with a star.

- Using only the messages from the second group, rank them in order of the ones that mean the most to you to the ones that mean the least to you.

For example:

Persisting works with Alex now all the time. He used to give up at the first sign of failure, but he's intentionally worked on sticking with projects for the past 3 years and feels a definite shift in his attitude. So he's putting that in the first group.

However, Alex realizes he is really challenged by life's emotional ups and downs. He often shuts down when he is sad, even though he's certain there's a better way to cope. So he's putting both Breathe through the tough times and Sadness and happiness are partners in the second group.

After contemplating his list overnight, Alex has decided to rank them:

Breathe through the tough times
Sadness and happiness are partners
Failing sucks

While Alex has only 3 deep messages right now, the positive action of the first one already resonates deeply with him. He's staying open to the possibility that more will surface as he goes through the rest of Guiding Star.

- Let your Buddy know when you're finished.

Always remember:
Positive works
Keep it brief
Feeling stuck? Starting January 4, 2018, one-on-one assistance is available at the discounted rate of $30/hour. This offer expires on February 1, 2018. (Click here to schedule a session).

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Guiding Star 2018 #1: My Crystal Ball

Okay, let's get the Guiding Star plan going.

I've named the first exercise, My Crystal Ball, because you're going to peer into your future.

Materials: For this exercise, you will need something to write on or in. A journal, a computer, or scratch paper - doesn't matter. You are writing this for yourself. No one else will see it, unless you choose to show it to them.

Time: I recommend that you set a timer for 15 minutes. You probably won't be done in 15 minutes, but if that's all the time you've got, take it. If you've got more time, set the timer for 30 minutes.

My Crystal Ball Exercise

Pick a date 5 years in the future, like this – Tuesday, October 7, 2023. Don’t concern yourself with choosing an actual date, just choose a date 5 years in the future. Begin with this sentence:

Today is Tuesday, October 7, 2023.

Now fire up your dreams. Ponder these ideas and incorporate them if they work for you.

I live...describe the location – city? Town? Country? Rural? Urban? Describe your home. Is it an apartment? House? Condo? Do you own it? Was it given to you? Who lives there with you?

Today, I woke up and I....did you leave on a vacation? Did you go to your dream job? Are you taking care of your 3 children? Did you sit with your coffee for 30 minutes?

Today, I feel....describe your emotional state. Are you satisfied? Fulfilled? Ecstatic? Confident? Why?

Here's an example:

Today is Tuesday, November 12, 2023. I have just returned from 3 amazing months in Europe. Six galleries throughout Europe (Spain, Italy, Monte Carlo, France and Germany) held exhibits of my mixed media works. After 10 years of working on my art, I am now selling pieces and receiving rave reviews. Until 2 years ago, I never imagined this kind of success. The Chancellor of Germany came to the opening of my exhibit in Berlin! She was so much warmer than I expected.

My partner and I have decided to finally get married. Our relationship has been up and down and through so much turmoil, but we made a commitment to each other last year. Melissa and I really worked on better communication and being there for each other. She was completely supportive of my European work. It was great that she could take 2 weeks off and join me in Paris.

My daughter is 22 and almost done with college. Life took her on some rocky paths (which certainly contributed to my problems with Melissa), but she loves her biochemistry major and although I know nothing about the sciences, I am thrilled to see her thriving.

Get the idea?

You can also list or write phrases. Just get it out of your head and onto paper. There's no perfect, just you.

Let your Buddy know when you're done. Discussing or sharing this exercise is completely optional.

That light is for you

Congratulations on taking the first step on the path to your Guiding Star!

Alway remember:
Positive works
Keep it brief
Feeling stuck? Starting January 4, 2018, one-on-one assistance is available at the discounted rate of $30/hour. This offer expires on February 1, 2018. (Click here to schedule a session).

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Your Guiding Star 2018

Well, well, well, 2018 is around the corner. Time for Guiding Star, the plan that will transform your life into the one that you know is waiting for you.

I asked one of this year's fervent participants, Rachel Gitel DeMasi to reflect on what Guiding Star did for her in 2017.

Guiding Star puts things into perspective. It makes you think things through and come up with realistic and specific goals. There is a sense of encouragement when you plot and plan with your future in mind. I especially loved coming up with a personal slogan.

Although Guiding Star is a doable and fun exercise, it does require some thought. I did find myself having a hard time making a list of more than 3-4 goals and to try to make them as specific as possible. BUT this actually brought to the forefront the wishes and goals for myself that I didn't know I had!

I'm particularly pleased to have accomplished these three Guiding Star goals this year:

1. Adopted two fur babies (one male and one female-Gus and Ruby).
2. Saved more money than I ever have before. Not the amount I specified in my goal, but definitely a bigger sum than last year.
3. Took a class that intimidated me. Had a great time AND learned some new skills!

If you didn't participate in 2017, consider jumping in for 2018. Look at what happened for Rachel and for me. I know having a plan is a huge part of my ability to thrive. Nudge...nudge.

The Guiding Star Plan
Welcome to The Guiding Star plan, a series of exercises that will assist you in creating a plan for 2018. This plan will be your guide for the most amazing, fulfilling year of your life.

Using these exercises, you will design a realistic plan which will convert your deepest dreams into reasonable goals. Using these exercises, you will finally begin the true transformation of your life. Whether you want deeper relationships, professional success, a healthier lifestyle, or just time to take a bath, the Guiding Star plan will lead you there.

Why have I created Guiding Star? People say to me all the time, “I wish I had your life.” Well, guess what? A big reason for the life I have (and that you can also have) is my annual plan. It has become one of the necessary tools that I use regularly to create my life. Without my annual plan, Creatavita would still be a dream. So if you want a life like mine, here's your chance!

Guiding Star is a gift to you from Creatavita. Feel free to do it on your own. However, if you feel stuck, one-on-one assistance is available at the discounted rate of $30/hour. This offer is available starting January 4, 2018 and expires on February 1, 2018 (Click here to schedule a session).

There are 7 exercises in Guiding Star. Starting tomorrow, I'll post one exercise daily. You are welcome to them at any time. I recommend you do them in the order in which they're posted. I also recommend that you take the time to do all of the exercises.

I know finding time for an activity like Guiding Star can be challenging. I have designed each exercise to take an average of 20 minutes. Yes, you can break the time up and yes, you can take more time if you wish.

You in? Fantastic! Read the following basic guidelines and then you've got one task to do before we get started.

Guiding Star Guidelines
You've Got A Friend – A Buddy will give you accountability. It's best if the Buddy is also doing the plan. Giving and getting advice evens out the road and makes it easier to take the journey. If you can't find one, contact me here. I mean it.

Make A Date – You will be visiting your Guiding Star plan once a week for the first 8 weeks and then monthly for the rest of the year. With a Guiding Star in your hand and your buddy at your side, plus Creatavita available when you need it, you're going to have an amazing 2018!

Write It Down – There's nothing like seeing your dreams in black and white on paper in front of your face. It can be simultaneously terrifying and exhilarating. You can put it on the computer or you use a journal. Or scratch paper. That's where I start every year. Whatever you do, write it down.

Nobody Needs To Know – Except for your Buddy, no one else on this planet needs to know anything about your plan. It's not about secrecy. It's about you envisioning and moving towards your deepest desires.

Stay Positive – You will be encouraged to keep your language as positive as possible. You will suffer what you see as setbacks, but you will be encouraged to view them positively. Be prepared for bliss!

Welcome To Your 2018 – While I am your guide initially, this is your plan, your life, your 2018. You get to make changes. One of your goals dragging you down? Slogan feel stupid? Discuss it with your Buddy or me. The Guiding Star will show you the path to take.

Alright. Let's get started! Today's task:

Find A Buddy!
My Buddy lives hundreds of miles away. We're both working women with families and partners. We see each other once a year, maybe twice. We use Google Drive to share our plans as we're creating them and for our monthly reports. If one of us is working on a challenging part of our plan, we text each other. While we have been friends for many years, doing this project together has made us FFL – Friends For Life. My Buddy knows things about me no one else on this planet knows, and I like it that way.

Look for someone you trust to be honest with you. Someone who is strong enough to tell you what you need to hear, yet gentle enough to be empathetic.

And honestly guys, I am SO willing to help you find someone. Feel free to ask.

So today, find a Buddy. Share this post with them. When they agree, you are done with the first task.

Congratulations! See you tomorrow!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Photo Friday Number 3

I will love the light for it shows me the way, 
yet I will endure the darkness because it shows me the stars.
Click on Og's name to find out more about him.
Photo: Sunrise, Mount Sinai, Egypt.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

These Are For You

Each one of us has abilities, skills, qualities, that make us unique. We often end up accepting these qualities as typical of everyone, and therefore, nothing special.They are such a part of who we are and how we operate that we do not recognize how valuable they actually are. It is as if we become immune to their power. While these can be big, mighty talents, it is often the simplest of qualities that we take for granted - our ability to make others smile or laugh; our ability to listen, to say the right thing; our ability to reach out, to be accepting of others; our ability to express ourselves.

This last one - the ability to express - this is the one we creators often take for granted. Most of us were born with an innate ability to express ourselves. We've always been "emotional", bold, "sensitive", daring, fearless. We don't know life without this ability. Usually, we surround ourselves with others with the same abilities. This leads us to assuming that everyone has this ability.

Which leads me to Du.

It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Shanghai. I was returning back to the theatre, feeling wistful about having to leave this romantically charming city the next day.

A beautiful young woman approached me. Gentle in demeanor, I was surprised when she called me by name. After all, I was Nun Number 9 in this production.

Nun Number 9. I spend much of the show in the back, a byproduct of being tall. Consequently I assume I am, not quite invisible, but nondescript. Nun Number 9. My distinguishing physical features are erased by my costume, as a nun's habit purpose is to hide the body or, at the very least, take away the individuality. Even my husband has trouble distinguishing me from my colleagues. Consequently, I was surprised that someone could pick me out.

I was even more surprised when she said,

"Heidi, these are for you," and handed me a beautiful bag filled with Chinese herbal throat medicines and a dozen peach-colored roses.

It just so happens that I really like peach-colored roses.
I had used the loquat cough syrup before, but the other herbal
remedy was new to me.

Du and me on that first hot Sunday in Shanghai

These are for you, Heidi. Those words hit me hard. How did she know who I was?

Out of surprise and respect, I offer my gratitude to Du, and a friendship (well, a modern friendship, fostered by Facebook) begins.

I carry the roses with me to our next city, Hangzhou, keeping them in my room until they crumble to dust, a reminder that my creative work has reached a stranger.

I take the herbal medicines with me back to the US, grateful that I am least so far.

And I think, except for some Facebook likes and comments and the occasional message, this will be the end of my acquaintance with Du.

My life goes on. I return to the tour and we move to Tokyo, then Seoul.

Then I get a message from Du, telling me she is traveling to Seoul to see our show and asking if some of the cast would be available to say hello. Of course we are, stunned and humbled that our work has inspired someone to travel internationally to see us (although my Chinese friends assure me Seoul isn't that far from Shanghai). This time Du has gifts for the entire cast and for me, the most thoughtful gift possible - yarn for my knitting habit. Throughout my life, knitting has given me hours of pleasure; a pleasure I have happily passed on, including many of my colleagues on this tour.

Du in the middle, Rebecca Mason-Wygil on the right and me.

Du's mother (who is also a knitter) also traveled to Seoul.

Actually, this is the second box of yarn I've been given from China.
I didn't expect to receive so much yarn in China.

The box. Just so interesting to me.

I spend the following days absolutely baffled. What have I done that is so attractive to Du? What did I say? Have I led Du astray? Some of my colleagues seem a tad envious, so I don't discuss it much. But I spend hours considering on my own.

Du gives me some clues. In one of her FB posts, she admits to being shy. She tells me that I have given her the confidence to take a step out of her shy world. I start to realize what I have done.

Self-admittedly shy. No wonder Du is attracted to this big, glitzy, American story about timid, joyless nuns breaking out of their dreary lives. No wonder Du is attracted to the actor who tells this story and then pays attention to her. Not only pays attention, but acknowledges her and the gift she has given - the gift of gratitude, of acknowledgment that even Nun Number Nine's story has touched her.

I am still awed and a tad confused as to what Du is actually teaching me. That one of those inherent qualities that I take for granted, can have a strong impact on someone else? I think so. That we can change lives for the better simply by acknowledging other people exist? I want to believe this with every fiber of my being.

So this is Du's story, Du's legacy, if you will.

Du reminded me that my work really matters. Even when I think I'm inconsequential. You never know who you are inspiring.

Now I sing with joy, now I dance with even more joy. Now when I don't want to go to work (forgetting how blessed I am to get paid to tell stories), I think there might be a Du in the audience tonight. I might change a life.

And so, my friends, these are for you. These words, these ideas. May they inspire you as much as Du inspired me.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Photo Friday Number 2

Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.

Read more about Franz here

Eilean Donan Castle in Dornie, Scotland.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Ripped From The Archives: Patient Persistence

I'm back on the stage, this time in Seoul, South Korea. As I scrolled through the Creatavita archives last week, this post cried out to reappear. May it inspire you to hang in there.

This guy hangs out at the Jogyesa Temple in Seoul, Korea.
No, I'm not concerned. Not at all.
Persistent Patience
Persist – to continue steadfastly or firmly in some state, purpose, course of action, or the like, especially in spite of opposition, remonstrance, etc. 

 Patience – an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay.

You need both.

That was helpful, wasn't it?

I used to be the least persistent person on the planet, perhaps in the universe. I wanted it and I wanted it NOW. Giving up was easy for me. As soon as something became difficult, I'd give up. First rejection from an audition, I'd become an emotional mess, assume I had no talent and announce I was giving up. Boyfriend after boyfriend into husband would be forced to tell me I was talented, there must have been another reason, yadda yadda yadda. 

 I had a similar relationship to patience. If I couldn't lose that last five pounds, if I didn't get hired for that gig, I would become impatient and frustrated. And then I'd give up. Well. These attitudes will not work if you're living a Creatavita. Because creativity is always challenging and always takes time. Always.

In addition, neither persistence or patience are valued in our modern society. Oh sure, you'll hear the touching news story about the woman who endured for 25 years to get her college degree, but let's be honest, we don't expect that attitude of ourselves. We all know that we want it and we want it NOW. If we can't get it, we grab our marbles and go home. Patience, as in waiting your turn when in traffic, is considered to be a sign of weakness. Powerful people don't need patience. They can have what they want when they want it. Don't we all want that?

This is false power. This does not lead to a Creatavita. This leads to a heart attack.

I touched on this subject in the previous post Carry On. If you want to have a flourishing life and in particular, any type of artistic career, you are going to have to cultivate persistence and patience. You are going to have to develop the ability to get back up, to let the catty comments slide right off your back, to ignore all the seemingly positive things that happen to everyone else and not you, to somehow find a way to keep going.

In fact, the abilities to persist and to be patient have actually been found to be better indicators of success than talent or genius.

Now I have your attention, don't I?

Angela Duckworth, Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, calls this quality “grit”. According to Dr. Duckworth, here are the two key components to grit:

  1. Sustained passion
  2. Perseverance

Interesting, huh? Darn close to my initial idea for this post.

Here's the TED Talk where Dr. Duckworth talks about her research.

It is almost 20 minutes long, but the time has come for you to get off of Facebook today anyway. Close it up and watch this instead.

I love two moments in particular. The first one happens around 2:40, when Dr. Duckworth briefly discusses the 10-Year Rule, which is the same idea as the 10,000-Hour Rule, made famous by Malcolm Gladwell in his book, Outliers. If you didn't know either of these rules, you do now. These rules tell us that to become a world-class performer in any field, you MUST put in 10 years (or 10,000 hours) of “consistent, deliberate” practice.   By the way, we're not going to discuss which number is the better number.  We're creative types, we're smart, we only need the general idea which is lots of excellent practice leads to mastery and expertise.

 That information alone should inspire you to get to work. Think about it. You now know that if you practice for a specific amount of time with mindfulness and awareness, you will become an expert. Will you have a great career? I can't promise that, no one can, but at least you'll have mastered an creative form that is the source of the greatest passion in your life.

I'll discuss my second favorite moment from Dr. Duckworth's TED Talk in a bit.

Before we move on, here's a super quick grit test  Go ahead, take a minute and try it out.  Interesting, huh?

As you know, Creatavita is all about finding solutions that everyone, even the bozo who drives you nuts on the morning train, can incorporate into their lives. So, get ready.  Here are some ways to cultivate persistence and patience in your life:

ACTION has always helped me. Aim to do one thing every day that leads toward your big goal. Send one email, compose one measure, practice one song, write one paragraph. When you go to bed, you'll be able to put your little head on your pillow, knowing you are one step closer than you were when you woke up.

Dr. Duckworth takes this one step further, saying we should work on our weaknesses every day. That's right, at 16:10 in the TED Talk, she actually suggests spending part of your day doing something that makes you feel uncomfortable. Man, I have to meet this woman. She is singing my song!

PRACTICE patienceTry meditation or yoga. Both are excellent ways to focus the mind and body on the present moment. Being in the present often leads to a greater mastery of patience.

HAVE A PLAN. Oh no, not the plan again. Yes, that ridiculous plan that I went on and on about in my last post will help you cultivate both patience and persistence. You could also try this one. You will recognize that you are in this for the long haul and the only way to the end is via short steps.

GET SOME PERSPECTIVE. There are 8 billion people on this planet. Most of them call the day good if they have food in their stomach and a comfortable spot to call home. The vast majority of them don't find your frustration with not getting your book published, selling your cd or finding an agent all that compelling. This is not meant to diminish your creative work in any way. This is to encourage you to ask why. Why is this so important to you? What is this work really saying, what does it really mean? Would you miss this creative form if it was no longer in your life?

Finally, if all else fails -

TAKE A BREAK. Step away from the canvas, close the piano lid, shut off the computer, put down the pen. Go for a walk, a run, a swim. Head down to the coffee shop. Go to bed early. Talk to your partner, spouse or kids. Time, even when you feel you don't have any, is often exactly what is needed.

Rockabilly dancer in Tokyo's Yoyogi Park.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Photo Friday Number 1

Time for a new feature here at Creatavita - Photo Friday. My intention is to post one or two photos and a quote to keep us motivated. Every other Friday to start. How does that sound?

When I found I had crossed that line, I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. There was such a glory over everything; the sun came like gold through trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in Heaven”.

Harriet Tubman

Find out more about Harriet here.

Photo: Chrysanthemum Festival at the Jogyesa Temple in Seoul, South Korea

Monday, November 13, 2017

Everything Has A Place

Packing up my belongings so often during these past eight months has often filled me with anxiety. Will I need that shirt in three months? Will I be able to find that moisturizer over there? Should I take an extra bottle? Oh my god, what if there isn't any good coffee?  Oh, come on, there has to be coffee. Well, I was challenged to find good coffee in the last country.

All of these musings, which start out as necessary and end up yucky remind me -

Everything Has A Place

I find life flows more easily when I give every thing in my life a place. The space I live in (which is currently small and temporary) becomes more peaceful, more serene when I take the time to settle in. Perhaps it seems silly that I mindfully decide which surface will become my kitchen and which corner will be my relaxing space. I do this so I can have certainty, which leads me to peace, which leads me to a more mindful and joyful existence.

Likewise with my things. Most of us have too many physical things, right? Many of us actually struggle with releasing our material things. We cling to the memories, even though the memories don't reside in the thing. They reside in us. But let's save that conversation for another day. Let's talk about giving our things a place.

When I give each thing, even that pile of receipts that is staring at me right now from behind this laptop, a place, I recognize the value of that thing. I can determine its importance in my life. Plus, from the practical side of life, when I give each thing a place, it is easier for me to find the thing when I need it. Chargers live in the drawer at the end of the kitchen counter. My phone spends the night on the kitchen counter (turned off, no less). My room key lives in the arm pocket of my favorite Costco jacket or on the kitchen counter (see? that's the surface in my room. I'm already calling it the kitchen counter!).

I am packing and moving again today. As I flow through that task, I will stay aware of my gratitude for all of the things I have and focus on the idea that

Everything Has A Place

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Channeling Roy

Roy Halladay died yesterday.

Yes, he was a grown man who played a game and made ridiculous amounts of money doing that, but I'm a grown woman who tells stories and makes okay amounts of money, so I can't fault him for that.

Besides, Roy taught me so much about being the best artist I could be.

Roy was just another quality pitcher in the game I love until I read this Sports Illustrated article by Tom Verducci 7 years ago. I know you don't like sports, but you really should read it. Tom Verducci is an excellent writer. Besides, the rest of this post will make much more sense.

Suddenly, Roy looked an awful lot like me. A human who had a deep desire to succeed at a task that could, at times, seem impossible.

Roy sent me on a quest. Because of Roy, I purchased every book written by Harvey Dorfman. I used the guise of my son's love of baseball for the purchase, but if you want to find those books today, they're next to my side of the bed.

I remember reading a page or two and jumping out of my chair, antsy to get to a practice session. From reading Harvey's work, I realized the biggest challenges I faced were inside of my own head. I also realized if I would work mindfully and persistently, there was a good chance I could solve many of my artistic problems.

Messiah, Jim Thorpe, PA, December, 2010.
The first performance trying out Roy's ideas.

These attitudes, while initially challenging, transformed how I work.

I now see problems as challenges, challenges that might take longer to solve, but that have a solution.

I don't get as emotionally involved when things go wrong.

I seek out quality feedback from respected sources.

I work consistently (join me in my daily warmup) to keep my skills as sharp as possible.

I enjoy the game, the thrill, the wonderment of what will happen.

I am confident that my skills are up to the challenge of whatever comes my way.

I know I will fail, but I also know I have access to the tools to fix my failures.

So yes, Roy Halladay was a baseball player, but he was also a teacher.

Thank you, Roy. You changed my life.

Hit the stinkin' ball

Monday, November 6, 2017

Ripped From The Archives: Deleting The Negative

Recently, I had to return to this post for my self .
Here's guessing some of you will appreciate it also.

You ever have one of those nagging negative thoughts that won't leave your head?  You're trying to write, rehearse, practice, even perform and that one tiny moment keeps repeating over and over, like some crazy cat GIF gone awry.  Years ago, or perhaps yesterday, a critic didn't like your latest show, a director gave you a look when you missed a line, an editor commented negatively on your favorite phrase, or, the worst, your mother said she didn't like your newest creation.  You replay the words that felt like a dagger, your confidence sinks and your spirit begins to shut down.  All of the positive work you had accomplished begins to fade.

The weight of the world on my shoulders,
just like this guy in Lisbon.

Me too!!!

Here's what I've been playing with lately. Every time my mind returns to the negative moment, I practice replacing it with a positive one.  Like the spontaneous compliment from a respected colleague.  Or perhaps the memory of an accomplishment.

I will warn you, this takes time and practice.  The first time I experimented with this practice, I found myself working on it for almost a week.  But it did stop the negative thought from planting a root in my mind. I'm trying to recall the moment right now and I cannot.  Truly.  It is quite remarkable.

There's another practice I've been working with.  I remind myself that I am the only person on this entire planet who is still experiencing this past moment.  Everyone else has moved on, possibly to more joyful moments.  I have a choice.  I can hang on or I can let go.

Guess which one I choose?

In the heart of Tokyo sits this oasis, the Meiji Jingu Garden.

Friday, October 6, 2017


I've been mindfully making an effort to live by my Guiding Star Touchstones this year.

A Touchstone is a message that connects you to your deepest wisdom. I use my Touchstones to remind me of what really matters and to guide me when I feel confused. Here's an exercise that will help you find your own personal Touchstones.

My Touchstones this year are:

Persisting Brings Joy 


Today, I want to talk to you about Listen.

As I was crafting my Guiding Star plan back in January, I realized that I had developed an ugly habit - I wasn't truly listening to people. I would let them talk, but like so many of us, I would be formulating my response in my head as they were talking. Even worse, I would often feel my Inner Judge (she's a nasty son of a gun) mouthing off about how wrong said person was or how stupid said person was or if said person would only listen to ME.  But the worst realization of all?

I was using this habit on the people I loved the most.

I would do it to Beloved ALL THE TIME.

Starting January 8, I made a concerted effort (big words for I'm going to try very hard) to listen, to give all of my attention to the person in front of me. To just listen, not craft a perfect response, not tell a bigger, better story, not try to connect with them through a common thread (this habit, which I inherited from my father, is admirable, but taken too far, I find it actually makes me less connected).

Let me tell you - this Touchstone has transformed, yes, transformed my existence this year.  Don't forget, I'm out on the road in strange new lands with people who, six months ago, were strange new people to me. Reminding myself to listen to these strangers has created deep bonds with many of them. I honestly try to listen, to speak only when it is absolutely necessary, to give my colleagues the opportunity to complain or feel joyful or feel bad, to BE THEMSELVES. Many of them are no longer strangers to me.

Listening has given me great benefits as well. I am finding life to be easier when I listen. Situations that I would have previously gotten involved in are rolling off my back. I'm not reacting to every pebble that gets kicked up on the road of life. I'm not trying to solve everyone's problems for them.

Ironically, listening to others led to being listened to by others. It happened one night in Hangzhou, China, as I was enjoying a misty evening with 2 of my colleagues. The conversation started simply, with one colleague asking about my son. He asked and I talked, about my son, about how proud I am of him, about how I never expected to be a mother, about how I was frightened that I would be a bad mother, about how my son taught me how to be a good mother, about the blessing of having a good relationship with a strong independent child (that could read stubborn and mean, right?)  My colleagues did nothing but listen.

Two days later, I thanked one of those colleagues for letting me talk. I realized how much it meant to me when I started to choke up while thanking him. What a gift they had given me. A simple gift available to all of us.


Thursday, September 21, 2017

Still Better Than Nothing

As I move through my 15 minutes of blogging today, this post from July of 2016 seems most appropriate.

Better Than Nothing

A favorite mantra of mine, particularly when I'm feeling overwhelmed.

20 minutes at the gym?  Better than nothing.

10 minutes working on that project that follows you wherever you go?  Better than nothing.

Sometimes that's all you can do.  As long as it doesn't become your regular approach, you're okay.

Like this short post.

Better than nothing.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Once Upon A Time

Once upon a time, a little boy lived on a farm in North Dakota. He went to a one-room schoolhouse. He would spend hours looking at the globe, tracing his finger over the shapes and strange names. 

"Mongolia. I'm going to go there some day."

Once upon a time a little girl lived in a little town in Wisconsin. She would make up stories and dance and sing into her hairbrush microphone, so much that her sisters and brother would yell at her to shut up.

"Some day I'm going to be a singer."

The little boy and the little girl grew up, met each other and married. Their marriage was typical, full of ups and downs, arguments and love fests, good times and bum times. Because they agreed their love for each other mattered more than anything else, they compromised over and over again. One year, the little boy would live out his dreams while the little girl worked to help him. The next year, the little girl would live out her dreams while the little boy worked to help him. Somehow, this arrangement lasted for decades.

Today is their wedding anniversary and they aren't together, 
but you don't need to feel sad for them. 

They aren't together because they are living their dreams.

The little boy is in Mongolia, seeing the wild horses and drinking yak milk.

The little girl is on a stage in Beijing, China, singing her heart out.

The only things missing are the globe and the hairbrush microphone.

Happy Anniversary, Richard.
I love you more.

The Glamorous Life, Beijing Style

Beijing, the capital of China. When I hear the word Beijing, I think Mao, bad air, and too many people. None of which are on my top 10 list.

Well, the air IS bad.

AQI of 175 today which means unhealthy, wear your mask.

And Mao does still exist here.

The entrance to the Forbidden City.

And there are people, LOTS of people here.

Temple of Heaven with lots of people.
But Beijing is so much more than bad air and Mao. There's a vibrant, cosmopolitan feeling in the atmosphere. Young people ride by on bikes from one of the many bikeshare companies, fancy cars (Lexus, BMW and Mercedes are big here) drive by and the crowds are loving Sister Act.  The first night, while heading to the Great Leap Brewery, I felt like I was walking in Paris. I did. The beer scene is hopping (pun intended) and food of all cuisines is easy to find. Last week, I ate American Barbeque with another excellent Chinese beer, Slow Boat. FYI, most of these beers seem to have an ex-pat partner or two.

Once again, China has surprised me. Yes, dodging parked bikes and aggressive cars while wearing a face mask is tricky, but I'm okay with that for three weeks.

Go ahead! Park it wherever you want!

How they look after the bike company workers clean up.

I've tried to see as many sites as possible. Beloved joined me this week (he's now off to Mongolia for a few days) and we packed in even more, including:

 the Lama Temple, which is a must-see in my opinion.

Summer Palace (which was mobbed the day I was there)

Great Wall, of course. Actually, I went there twice, once with my colleagues and once with Beloved.

Forbidden City, which is HUGE

Walking is an absolute necessity here, as is patience. Beijing is home to 22 million people and most days it feels like that many are visiting as well. I'm having no problem reaching 10,000 steps a day!

Don't forget that I also go to work every night (twice on Saturdays and Sundays), spreading love and joy. I am truly embracing the magnificent abundance and navigating gracefully (my Guiding Star slogan).

Our run here in Beijing ends on Sunday. Beloved returns from Mongolia and we head to Xi'an to see the Terracotta Warriors on Monday. Then it's on to Shanghai for 2 weeks there.

There's so much to tell you, but this must be enough for now. Please feel free to ask questions by posting a comment here on Creatavita or on your favorite social media platform.