In my book A Journey of Creative Healing I tell how I believe that committing to a creative project every day, come rain or shine, helped heal me from multiple sclerosis.
When that intuitive message came to do something creative everyday it made total sense as I had learned the joy and satisfaction of being creative from an early age. My mother was the ultimate creative, and an eminently kind gentle soul – I was her shadow, I loved her beyond the widest ocean, higher than the sky and all of the tea in China!
My grandfather was a self-made man, he was an importer of coffee and dried fruits and conservative to the bone, which meant he did not believe in women working. Instead, Mummy learned to sew a fine seam, make all of her clothes and hats. She loved hats and wore them well, so much so they became her signature dressing, ‘choose the hat first darling and the decision on the rest of the outfit falls into line.’
When eventually my Grandfather gave permission for my parents to marry after seven years of ‘courting,’ in setting up her first home she rebelled against the heavily Victorian style of the house of her childhood and embraced the 1930’s cutting-edge-fashion of art deco. She was an avid collector of Clarice Cliff, the legendary ceramic artist’s pottery. In the Blitz, we lost our home and everything in it. Later when we lived with our grandfather, his house was hit by a V1 doodle bug and again all we had were clothes we stood in.
‘Make Do & Mend’ was a government catchphrase during that time and my mother was very good at. She found a semi-detached house to rent and once again created a stylish home. There were no quarterly household item collections, there were no flea markets and furniture was scarcer than hen’s teeth with everything rationed. But she begged borrowed and made make-do-&-mend into an art form. Today’s home-stylists would have adored her as she was the Queen of renovation. She bought the old, tired and worn back to life; recovering threadbare chairs and settees, French polishing scratched and dull furniture to a glowing patina and painting the house inside and out.
She especially loved the spill of lighting from table lamps, overhead lighting was never used, and graced all of her many lamps with her hand-made pleated chiffon lampshades. She was equally at home in the garden and our small colourful blooming patches, both front and back, were the envy of neighbours.
She was a good cook, and when her father died and left her a small inheritance she set up a small café. Immediately her morning and afternoon tea concept was a winner, people loved her sense of style, pink bone china for tea and for coffee, the first of its kind shatter free glass cups and saucers. Soon the market demanded luncheons and she started her day before sparrow twitter preparing, baking and cooking and achieving a regular sixty covers a day for lunch and a steady morning and afternoon trade.
She smoked, a pack of cigarettes a day, but elegantly like a glamorous heroine out of a forties film and died too young. She was a casualty of the English class system, she identified herself as ‘upper middle class’ and fought to hang onto to this label throughout her life. Sadly if she had been asked to define herself her first priority would be ‘I am middle class, but upper middle class,’ instead of saying what a magnificent all-round nurturing Goddess that she was.
I know that I’m pure energy and that the thoughts that I generate have complete dominion over my reality. So I set myself the task of diligently observing my thinking and I am beginning to understand how much brain activity I invest into negative or victim thoughts.
To give you an understanding of the canvas I am working with, I am a number 2 on the Enneagram profiling scale. This personality profile is defined as the ‘Helper’ or ‘Giver’
You would recognise the type as some one who has a natural empathy, is there in a crisis, or intuitively works out in a flash how to help/please/make you feel good. Nice people yes because there is a deep caring there but the dark side is that we 2’s have a pathological need for your approval. We suppress our own needs as we give, understand and help but if this is not given the right approbation, recognition or level of appreciation God help you as the sweetness transforms into a shrew. I’m in conflict as I write these words wanting to say unfair, unfair. Not me I’m evolved, my consciousness is awake. I do things for the purest motives. I’m lovely! Really Mary?
But with a detached observation, I notice that those poor little me, dark thoughts – Nigredo – will give me a dull achy type pain in my sinus area. I am sure if I was scanned while indulging in this putrefying nastiness, neurologists would identify exactly where the activity was happening in my brain. Thoughts of love, laughter and creativity – Albedo – conversely pulsate a blissful rainbow of colour and peace rising up, so it seems to me from my heart and suffusing my brain to match the vibration of the universe. These are the same feelings that I get when I meditate.
With the Nigredo thoughts comes pain that pulls down a heaviness, a darkness into my body but with the Albedo there is a feeling of nurture, like the warmth of a loved one’s arms about you or the gentlest kiss. It is all about softness whereas the mean manipulative thoughts are harsh, gritty like flint in a wound.
I’m trying to train myself to identify that pain associated with the negative thought the instant it occurs, to act like a warning klaxon to stop the victim/the world has done me wrong thoughts worming in, waiting for any opportunity to take me down.
Awareness of course, being in the present is route to consciousness. The path of being in the present for me is identify the pain or the joy that a thought gives me. Then I can use my will, to change the pain of the negative thought into a vibration of joy.
By transforming a dense leaden contemplation into golden bliss choices – that is true alchemy. ‘How clever I am,’ I think, ‘I could start something here.’ But Mary you know this is not new, wise men, the holy men have been saying this throughout the ages. So why has it taken me so long when I knew it intellectually? The truth is I, like you, needed to be ready to embrace this wisdom – to make it my own. Frank Sinatra nailed it –To think I did all that, And may I say, not in a shy way, Oh, no, oh, no, not me, I did it my way.
Neuroscientists found that when they dumbed down the analytical side of the left-brain hemisphere – the right brain, which provides us with insight or intuitive responses, was clearer sharper and demonstrated enhanced creativity and innovation.
It seems that simple steps like brushing your teeth with your weak hand, travelling a new and different route home or eating foods that you have never tried before will stimulate and improve our overall brain development.
But can we improve our insightful thinking (what I would call creative intuition) without an attendant neuroscientist zapping half of our brain with electrical impulses to temporarily still our left-brain’s predictive course of thinking?
Can we grow our well-spring of creativity?
When I write, I’m single-minded, totally focused, in the zone. If I was in an MRI scanner I’m sure it could be seen that both sides of my brain would be contributing.
But the most valuable moments of creativity for me frequently occur after I have had time out. After I meditate, take a walk along the beach focusing on the ocean, reflect on a good movie, or take an adventure break by going somewhere new. Seeing things as though I was seeing them for the first time. The light bulb moments come when my brain is not busy with the grey chatter of the day or my treadmill thinking. They come when my neurons are having a break from firing along their well trod pathways.
For a few years now I have deliberately practiced developing my intuitive ability. At first I found it hard not to indulge the analytical side as it could and still can be extremely persuasive in the case it presents. But over time and many personal development courses I have found ways to disengage the finger wagging left brain and increase the ‘yeh baby’ creative moments.
This is where this picture on the left plays its part. Meet little Me, aged four’ish. My inner child. I see her shy but triumphant smile as she tries to ride her older sister’s bike. I identify with her trusting quality of innocence; she simply does not recognise that she is not big enough to fully reach the peddles to make the wheels turn. She is in the moment of loving being able to ride the bike unconcerned that the bike will remain stationary.
My inner child image is my express route to my intuition. I visualise her proudly sitting on her two sizes too large tricycle and this curbs my busy left-brain. In this quiet well of connection I set my intention to receive whatever guidance I need, may be its a plot snag or a character’s flaws. As I continue to focus on this specific image of my inner child I find I experience once again her moment of elation and feel her joyful innocence. It creates the same mind flora as the aftermath of time out but with more purpose. I find my intuition gives up guidance and answers like slices of golden toast in a pop-up toaster.
A mental image does not have to be a picture of you as a young child that is just my way of leaving the wallpaper behind and soaring to different places. For you it could be something from nature, a loved pet or any image that allows you to identify with a joyful experience and importantly captures that feeling of innocence – seeing things as though you are seeing them for the first time.
It is a simple technique but so effective. Similar to developing any part of our muscular system it requires regular practice to access it at will and determination to trust what you receive.
Try it I think you will be amazed.