Module One: To begin let's breathe & then some creative journaling.
Get up early to sit in the quietness of the morning if you can. The morning light has some magical properties that encourage your body to wake you, invigorate your soul, and activate your mind / brain.
To begin, sit comfortably on a chair, floor or cushion, even on your bed if that feels right. Make sure you’re sitting up straight, without hurting your back, feet either flat on the floor or cross-legged. You can put your hands on your knees, palms facing upwards. Close your eyes gently. If your eyelids pop open don’t worry, sitting with your eyes open is just as beautiful.
My dad, who is a Zen Buddhist Monk, does open-eye sitting. This means he keeps his eyes open, but with a soft gentle gaze. Your gaze becomes a little fuzzy, don’t focus on a particular thing, just look slightly past your nose in a mid-distance. The idea behind this is that meditation is about being part of the world, not excluding yourself from the world. It’s about learning how to find a stillness and balance that you can take with you off your sitting cushion (in Zen Buddhism it’s called a zazen). But do what feels most natural to you – open or closed eyes.
I want you to slow your breathing, feeling the breath move down into your abdomen. Count your in-breath and out-breath to a slow count of 5. Make sure you’re breathing through your nose. We have little fine hairs called cilia in our nostrils that help with filtering out unwanted particles. As well as acting as an air filter, cilia humidify and warm or cool the air depending on the temperature, so it reaches our lungs at an ideal temperature. Breathing through the nose also helps you to breath deeper; it’s estimated that most people breathe at only 10 – 20 percent of their lung capacity.
Breathing through your nose deeply to your abdomen helps alleviate stress and reduces the feeling of being overworked, overstimulated and overwhelmed. The lower lung is rich with parasympathetic nerve receptors that help with calming the body and mind. While upper lung breathing actually activates our fight or flight mind.
You might be wondering why I’m talking about breathing so much, but I really do believe that in order to connect with our internal creative we need to be calm, not overwhelmed with life or possibilities of what we should do, could do. Coming to your creative practice with a slow mindful outlook will deeply assist you in developing this practice.
Sit for 5 minutes, or 2 minutes, or half an hour. How ever long feels good, until you can feel the breath has slowed your mind somewhat. What we’re doing is not ‘meditation’ as we would traditionally meditate, but bringing ourselves to a mind-ful state to begin journaling and visualising and creating in a manner that is fully connected to our internal creative self.
Listen to the sounds around you, don’t ignore or block out what you hear, but also don’t catch onto them, don’t recognise or name them. Feel the air around you, the sunshine on you or a cool breeze. Take notice of it but again, don’t hold onto the thought of it. Count your breath IN 1-2-3-4-5, OUT 1-2-3-4-5 when you find your mind wandering.
Here’s what I do sometimes when life is full and the kids don’t give me space for sitting and breathing. I step out into our garden, stand with the morning sun warming my face, or the evening sky, or the moonlight. I close my eyes and I breathe. Just 10 breaths with the sun on your face is enough to calm your body and mind, and wake up your soul to being open for communication. You can do this anytime throughout the day, whenever the right time strikes – taking the clothes off the line, digging some flowers or pulling some weeds, watching your kids run in the back yard, taking the dog for a walk, sitting for lunch break in a public park, waiting for a bus, doing the washing up. The more often you do it, the more your body gets used to full lung breathing and you’ll reap the benefits of those slow-down feelings in your body.
You’ll need a beautiful notebook, a cup of tea and half an hour on your own…..
Now quietly open your eyes and rouse your body. Put the kettle on and make a cup of tea, or make coffee, or even fresh ginger in warm water. Something nourishing to sip on.
Get out your notebook, or just some blank paper, and begin to write. Don’t edit yourself, whatever words come out just put them down on paper. They might sound silly or strange or wrong. That’s ok. This is not about perfection, but about giving yourself space just to be, to connect, to open, to feel.
Now, what about if no words come out? What about if you’re too shy to commit to ‘being wrong’, saying the wrong thing? If this happens, and you’re sitting there paralysed over a blank page, here’s what you can try:
Write a love letter to yourself, or a letter to a friend – you won’t post it; you can be “the friend”. Write down what’s around you, what you’re thinking or feeling. The way you would tell a friend about things happening in your life. This way of opening up to someone who you know will receive you with love and non-judgement helps to write the words without editing them. It doesn’t matter what the words are. Or the doodles and pictures and scribbles. Crossing out of letters, adding words in.
Write for as long as you can, or want. (I’m a mama to three little ones, I know that there’s not always lots of spare quiet time for this). 5 minutes can be enough if the words flow, or you might find you come back to your page throughout the day. I find words flow into my head the more I give them space to express themselves. I carry a notebook with me for if inspiration strikes when I’m out and about. It’s a bit hard in the car, for sure, but I try to hold the words and write them when I can.
+ What did you love doing most as a child?
+ What sparks you now into passionate conversation or thought?
+ What activity makes you forget about the world while you immerse yourself into it? How do you feel?
+ Who might you be if you were the person child-you wanted you to become, before rules and society told you otherwise?
+ Write a poem – it doesn’t have to rhyme or be perfect. A poem can just be some words that make you feel something, or think something.
I have a couple of different journals that I use for different ‘writings’. My hand made eco-printed journal is where poetry-type words end up, little whimsical feelings and thoughts and moments (we're going to make one of these in this course soon). My Soult Journal is where I write about beautiful family memories and moments – while it’s not ‘creative journaling’ it’s a writing process that gets my mind working and flowing. And another journal / booklet where I write down my goals, wishes, hopes in a business & creative sense, and one I carry with me in my handbag for quick notes and half-remembered ideas, and then another one where I’m writing my new book.
Today was about beginning, making a start. About giving yourself permission to just sit and breath and not judge what goes on our minds, and allow a flow to find it’s way through us. I’d like you to find space to sit again this week, if you can. Everyday might be possible, or twice a week only. Whatever works out is ok.
This session might seem basic to you, but I believe good breathing techniques to be a strong foundation to connecting with your creativity. Also making space and building a habit of creative journaling is an important aspect of nurturing your creative spirit. Often-times it's the simple things that have a lasting change to our self worth, our way of viewing the world, and expressing ourself in an honest and clear manner. By beginning a practice of setting aside time for ourselves - for quiet breathing, for journaling, for art-making, for creative process thinking and planning - we learn that these are important aspects in our life. That it's necessary to devote time for us!