Creativity Will Keep You Well

Do remember that catchy song written by Bobby McFerrin in the late 90’s ‘Be happy, don’t worry.’ If you do hum along with me as you read the good news of why the fun of creativity is so-ooo good for us.

The new age guru biologist Dr Bruce Lipton explains –
‘Cells, tissues, and organs do not question information sent by the nervous system. Rather, they respond with equal fervor to accurate life-affirming perceptions and to self-destructive misperceptions’ . You still humming? You can see quite clearly that our cells are going to respond with alacrity when we are happy and will release a mighty fine cocktail of good chemicals into our system. 

Dr Bruce Lipton

Be happy ……..

What makes us happy is being in the FLOW – 

“Flow” is a psychological state in which individuals feel entirely and joyfully absorbed in an activity that challenges their skills and abilities. 

The term Flow was coined by Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (delightfully pronounced Me-High-Chick-Sent-Me-Hi) a Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Management at Claremont Graduate University in California USA. He is also the founder and co-director of the non-profit research institute Quality of Life Research Center that studies happiness and creativity. 

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Creativity is not limited to our stereo type idea of picking up a paintbrush, threading a needle, using a hot gun, a block of clay or strumming a guitar it can be a physical activity like sport. When I got my epiphany to do something creative I was at first limited by mobility and dexterity. It really stretched me to dream up possible projects. But you know according to Prof Me-High-Chick-Sent-Me-Hi that act of stretching yourself, is the first important step of getting in the flow. Flow is when time means nothing, your whole being is involved and you are using your skills to the utmost. 

Within a short time of starting my creative projects I found I slept better waking each day with a welcome anticipation. I felt stronger and was more content in myself, The type of things I did ranged from the simplest – like planning a picnic to the more complicated as my mobility and dexterity returned. After faithfully planning, executing and reviewing these projects every day for eight months I returned to the neurologists who upon finding no symptoms pronounced I was in remission. 

Come on now start your creative juices going they will take to a happy place, away from the scariness of COVID 19. 

Once more with gusto dear friends –

Don’t worry, be happy
In every life we have some trouble
But when you worry you make it double
Don’t worry, be happy
Don’t worry, be happy now

Intuition – Time To Trust It

These are big names people, I mean very, very important people.’ Kind of a playful Trumpish lead into this subject of Intuition but conversely I want you to grasp that this is no lightweight subject. Albert Einstein, Jonas Salk, Steve Jobs and Richard Branson all believed that intuition was more vital than logic.

Albert Einstein

Caroline Myss, the five-time New York Times bestselling author and renowned speaker in the fields of human consciousness and the science of medical intuition said ‘Though many people think that being intuitive is a gift, that view will one day be considered as preposterous as thinking that being born with a sense of smell or taste is a “gift”. Your intuition is an inherent sense that develops in you just as you develop eyes, ears and your other senses. The challenge today is to understand how your intuitive nature communicates with you, as your intuitive sense is as continually active as all your other senses.’

Caroline Myss

My intuitive sense communicated with me fifty plus years ago with a voice in my head, as redolent of majesty as an old man with a beard sitting on cloud, who gave me instructions to do something creative every day, did not matter what but that it should be something I had never done before. I was galvanised into action. My intuition led me to the final creative stage in recovering from trauma and ill health.

Science now shows a gut decision, intuition, or hunch is not something fanciful — it is based on a depth of experience that stems from our unconscious. Our intuition or gut feelings come from deep in the brain in a region called the insula. Evidence from MRI scans shows that the insula is the cornerstone or wellspring of social emotions.

Steve Jobs

In 1949 Einstein said ‘Intuition is nothing but the outcome of earlier intellectual experience.”

Malcolm Gladwell, writer for the New Yorker, and no slouch when it comes to researching and penning definitive factual work, certainly would not dispute the great man’s words. But he was determined to investigate where modern science was in the study of intuition. In a nutshell he found that intuition is all about the brain rapidly slicing empirical experience and knowledge to prompt — “blink”– the intuitive message. He summarized these findings in his book ‘Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking,’ published in 2005. 

Okay, you say, you have convinced me that intuition is real and valuable but what has it to do with me being stuck at home, worrying about health of myself and my family, about money and the future. 

I have learned that intuition can be trusted to guide you to what is best for you. Whether it is simply planning how to have a productive day in isolation, to exercise, to be creative, what is best for your health and even how to be less fearful of the future. 

Richard Branson

You have heard that little voice before I am sure, or had some sort of coincidence that you know is a gut reaction. To activate your intuition, find somewhere peaceful, close your eyes and ask your question. Relax if the answer doesn’t pop into your consciousness immediately, trust that it will. The more you practice asking your intuition, the more answers will come. Sometimes in the form of symbols, sometimes a bit cryptic but you’re the creator of these and you will able to read them. 

Finally and fittingly I have chosen the man who saved generations from polio, Jonas Salk to have the last word. ‘It is always with excitement that I wake up in the morning wondering what my intuition will toss up to me, like gifts from the sea. I work with it and rely on it. It’s my partner.

Jonas Salk

Not Buying Into The Fear

In my book A Journey of Creative Healing, this step has to do with my rejection of the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. In the 1960s little was understood about the disease and its prognosis was grim. My refusal to believe I had a disease of that magnitude stood me in good stead as I viewed my illness as a physical and emotional breakdown caused by shock of the loss of my young husband. But if I had accepted the diagnosis I believe the outcome of a return to good health may well have been very different.

This step of refusing to buy into the fear of the unknown is just as relevant in our COVID 19 world today. There is no other news that fills our screens, blasts from our radios and fills our newsprint than this virus. 

Government and health authorities discuss the plight every hour, every day. Hypothesising that if we keep on this trajectory there will be no beds for other medical needs, there will be a dire shortage of respirators. And it does not stop there, so many in our community are joining the long agonising queues at welfare offices and face dire financial stress. 

You would have to be living under a rock to not to be fearful.

According to science our primordial part of the brain has an appetite for bad news. In fact this reptilian part of our brain is constantly scanning our horizon looking for anything that will threaten us. If it finds a nub of juicy danger it doesn’t send this through to the neo-cortex of our logical thinking. Instead lizard-synapses-firing it retains it, constantly edgy ready to initiate our fight or flight response. Put simply we are addicted to bad news.

Which, very nicely thank you, plays into our potential for the nocebo effect. Nocebo, (from the Latin I shall harm) is the counterpart to Placebo (I shall please). The Placebo has many ‘pleasing’ studies that show the benefits of a sugar coated pill but the Nocebo challenges even the most radical researchers for the obvious reason they could harm patients. But it is well recognised by the medical world that people develop symptoms or an illness by either suggestion or our own negative conditioning. In other words be careful what you wish for! 

The answer is simple make a real effort not to dwell in adversity. We know what we need to do to keep us safe, social-1.5m-distancing, washing your hands repeatedly and stay home.

Restrict the amount of news you listen to. Try not to workshop with your bubble folk every questionable step those in authority make. Set your intention to embrace mindfulness and practice gratitude. Indulge in light-hearted movies, especially anything humorous, sex (if you are still up for it, okay double-entendre weak but hey hey) exercise, dance, sing or anything that will release the good chemicals into our systems. 

It was Franklin D Roosevelt, no stranger to adversity himself, who said ‘The only thing we have to fear is fear itself’

Life Has to Change

Pretty obvious eh? Our lives have already in few short weeks changed dramatically. Following on from yesterday’s blog we are in a better head and heart space having accepted ‘our lot.’ 

Like Pavlov’s dog we practice social distancing, our hands are hopefully and constantly hot-water-soaped lickety-split clean and we are staying home. And as we settle into our lockdown we have time to reflect on life.

Like I did half a century ago, you may determine there are changes you need to make to live a more productive and happier lifestyle. Or simply, living with your foot off the pedal, go with the flow and allow things to happen organically.

This COVID 19 event has set the world asunder. No one can forecast what the future holds. Hopefully the world will rebel against the pace of life and greed that was ours over the past few decades. Employers may find that people working from home are more efficient, happier and healthier. We may find ‘looking out,’ for each other is a preferable way to live. Even come to the conclusion that less is the new more. 

One of the main drivers for me in changing my life was ‘finding the silver lining’ in a situation. It was difficult at first as my circumstances were pretty wretched and the nubs of thankfulness had to be dug out past anger and powerlessness. But it became a habit over time. 

In today’s lingo it is ‘the practice of gratitude.’ 

Robert Emmons is the professor of psychology at UC Davis, University of California and for over a decade, he has been contributing to the scientific literature on the study of gratitude and well-being. His studies show ‘the practice of gratitude’ improves physical and psychological health, and it allows people to form stronger relationships and become more resilient. 

The practice of gratitude I found kept me in the moment. I did not make, and have never made a list of things I was grateful about. As the habit grew it was more about appreciating the little moments in daily life that bring contentment or delight Maybe it was watching my children play, maybe a scudding cloud in a blue sky or a new shoot on a plant in the garden.

I enjoyed these smiley moments so much that I focused on encouraging the moments of pleasure to blossom to stretch in my mind. 

My mind of course was releasing endorphins, happy chappy hormones – not that I knew that at that time – practicing mindfulness or indeed living consciously was not yet in the dictionary.

Yes I know your life needs planning, priortising and setting goals or targets but now with our enforced isolation isn’t it an opportunity to live as mindfully as possible, that is deliberately being aware of the little good moments that life gives us? The practice of gratitude take us immediately into the present moment. In the present moment there is no looking over our shoulder no worrying about the future, just simply the now. 

Eckhart Toll, the spiritual teacher and author of The Power of Now said ‘The power for creating a better future is contained in the present moment. You create a good future by creating a good present. ‘

Eckhart Tolle

Tomorrow – Not Buying into the Fear

It Is What It Is – The Power of Acceptance

Psychologists will tell you that ACCEPTANCE will be always be the objective of therapy because without it no significant progress can be made. It was the fulcrum in my recovery from multiple sclerosis and the rawness of overwhelming grief over fifty years ago. . 

The world is in crisis and we are all struggling with fears of loss, abandonment and deprivation. IT IS WHAT IT IS.

So for any real progress back to some form of normalcy we must Accept that COVID 19 – IS WHAT IT IS. 

It takes no prisoners either physically or financially. It has little regard for a country’s economic stability. No regard for its victims either rich or poor, famous or commoners. (Prince Charles being the latest). It has no regard for the hardships that its ravages will bring to society.

COVID 19

As Peter and I weather our voluntary imposed self-isolation following two six-week working cruises around Australia, we have come to terms with the unfolding progress of the disease in Australia. We acknowledge that our 14-day stint may well become substantially longer. 

But acknowledgement is very different on the emotional Richter scale to the inherent power of ACCEPTANCE.

To come through this traumatic time in a well adjusted way we need to go beyond an intellectual understanding of its potential and really dig deep to face our fears and emotions. 

DIG DEEP

It takes a pinch of courage, of which I am sure you have a lot, to probe and investigate these fears. As we do it we should brook no stiff upper lip. No repressed emotions open up your bruised heart to rail and grieve. Unburdening ourselves will lead us to a deep level of Acceptance. Not always easily done but so worth persisting. You know you have achieved when the conflict is gone, or an old fashioned way of putting it is that you are spent.

This heart felt place can help you see troubles through new eyes, the joy of loving others, the joy of nature – especially the bounty of butterflies we are seeing currently here on the Queensland coast of Australia.

Sometimes the worst of times can you lead you to the best of times.

SOMETIMEE THE WORST OF TIMES ………

Recently I have fallen in love with the teachings of Jeff Foster, a young English teacher, an astrophysicist and now author of several philosophical books that lead us to our heart. Jeff expresses my conviction that we will view life differently and I will let his words do the work of inspiring you.

‘Life will eventually bring you to your knees. Either you’ll be on your knees cursing the universe and begging for a different life, or you’ll be brought to your knees by gratitude and awe, deeply embracing the life that you have, too overwhelmed by the beauty of it all to stand or even speak. Either way, they’re the same knees.” 
― Jeff Foster, Falling in Love with Where You Are

Tomorrow: : Understanding that life has to change

Rest Your Mind On The Good Stuff

In my book A Journey of Creative Healing I tell my story of how as a young woman, widowed with two infant children, I was diagnosed, with an aggressive form of multiple sclerosis.  I had suffered random episodes of symptoms for a few years before these became too obvious to ignore.

Intuitively I rejected the diagnosis.   I felt that my illness was a reflection of traumas and challenges in my life and that my illness was a physical and emotional breakdown.

To dismiss the diagnosis over fifty years ago was not difficult as little was known of the disease, unlike today, there was no swag of information, no range of medication, very few support groups and no follow up evaluation by health professionals to consider how I would cope as the disease progressed.

Instead I focused on a daily creative project, it did not matter what, or how big it was, or how perfect the results were I just put my heart and soul into doing something creative every day.

I have always been convinced this intuitive step of not defining myself as the diagnosis was central in empowering the other simple common sense steps of acceptance, rest, quiet, gratitude and creativity to weave their healing magic.  This year I have been in remission for fifty-five years. 

 I am equally convinced that had I accepted the diagnosis and rested my mind on being a MS sufferer, my story would have played out in a very different fashion.

Today’s medical advancements are a far cry from the 1960’s and state of the art technological equipment provides as with a reliable and accurate diagnosis. Conclusively we see diagnosis is key to today’s successful management of that disease.

And it would be foolhardy to dismiss a diagnosis today.

Receiving a life-changing determination of what ails you focuses the mind keenly on the specific diagnostic definition.

But I still believe that it is counterintuitive to actually DEFINE yourself as the disease.  By define, I mean try it on for size, see that it fits, then live and breathe 24/7 being a ‘…………… sufferer.’

‘Words are seeds that do more than blow around. They land in our hearts and not the ground. Be careful what you plant and careful what you say. You might have to eat what you planted one day.’- Unknown

Define comes from the Old French word ‘definer,’ which is a variant of Latin meaning bring to an end, finish, mark the limit of. Our words have energy and power, especially ones that flag our suffering.  Quantum physics (way beyond my pay grade but I trust the science) say we are energy that attracts like-minded energy.

So be careful what you wish for or rather where you put your focus.

By necessity as a patient your life is focused on coping with treatment, medication and medical appointments.  But you can balance this with practical steps to change your focus

  • Make a determined effort to re-focus on doing what you love.
  • Daily – find somewhere quiet and encourage your imagination to see yourself content and in good health.
  • Practice gratitude.
  • Avoid stress.
  • Banish the word from your everyday language or say ‘you are holding space for………’   
  • Ask family and friends to keep the word to a minimum. Ask them instead to actively visualise you as healthy and content.
  • Listen to your intuition and act upon it.

And when you able, in this wretched journey of ill health, have the courage to re-define your illness as a blessing seeing your sickness as simply the body and spirit’s way of saying ‘time-out’ to rediscover and renew you.

From this place you are no longer in conflict with the disease, and I have found, as many others have too, that when you get out of its way the body invariably knows how to heal itself.

 

Great-fully-Grateful

gratitudeIn my book A Journey of Creative Healing, I write that half a century ago my Aunty G’ advised me to ‘always seek the silver lining in any situation.’
Finding the silver lining is one of the six steps that enabled me to return to full health. Today we know it as a practice of gratitude.
Back in the early 1960’s, the double wammy of grief and illness – death of my husband and the diagnosis of an aggressive form of multiple sclerosis — made it unbelievably hard to be grateful. I was numb, I felt like I was in a dark cave, people’s voices came from afar and even the most effective circuit breaker like a smile or chuckle from my children did not reach me.

 Grief is a Process

 But now I see that those fearful dark days did have the nub of silver within. The long months of emotional hibernation had to happen to enable me to process the enormity of trauma and loss. The loss of my champion: our life together as I knew it, and as my sickness gripped harder, the dependence on others for my life.
The biblical metaphor of ‘death’s dark valley,’ fits the lonely dark space that had to be traversed, so change could occur.
As I emerged onto the gentler slopes of acceptance I started to appreciate the smallest things in life. I remember one morning hearing the birds sing, it had been long since I had heard their melodic call. As I listened and delighted in the bird’s song, I became aware of the blue-blueness of the sky. Life was no longer grey.

Determined Practice of Gratitude

Gratitude became a determined practice. I looked for it constantly. I pushed past other emotions like anger and confusion to find it. It became easier and easier to identify and expand that feeling of joy. And becoming more grateful with every passing day, I lost sight of things I lacked.
Scientific studies show how the practice of gratitude improves physical and psychological health, and it allows people to form stronger relationships and become more resilient.
I still practice gratitude today. But I do not say out loud ‘I am grateful for…..’ I do not keep a journal, or lie in bed at night and push myself to list three things that day that gave me a sense of gratitude. It is more a habit of awareness, being present in the pleasure and stretching the feeling so the warmth floods through my body.

I love ………

I love sun-kissed clean sheets on my bed, a garden tended with passion and dedication, a slow dance with my husband and singing loudly, a little off-key, in the shower – ‘I am still standing ……Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid, I’m still standing after all this time ……… ‘

Come on share with me,  what makes you grateful?

Creative Journeys

mummy
My parents and I on a summer holiday 1952

 

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 clochethem 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.’

imagesWhen 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 and mendMake 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.

lampshadShe 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 pinkup 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.

The Radical Remission Project

Dr-Kelly-Turner-PhD-Radical-Remission-1
Dr Kelly A. Turner

While I was researching and writing my latest book ‘A Journey of Creative Healing,’ I read  the New York Times best selling book ‘Radical Remission – Surviving Cancer against all Odds.’  The author is Dr Kelly A Turner, a researcher and psychotherapist who specializes in integrative oncology.   While Kelly was studying for her Phd she was shocked that no one was investigating cases of  unexpected survivor’s of advanced cancer,  so this became her purpose to research and identify common factors of these survivor’s cures – which she refers to as radical remissions.  The book summarises her decade of research, her thousand interviews of patients and finally identifies the nine key factors that can improve people’s chance’s of remission.

I was thrilled and amazed that most of my steps to recovery from MS mirrored those of these cancer survivor factors.

As with all the other health professionals work I feature in my book ‘A Journey of Creative Healing,’ I sought Dr Turner’s permission to use material attributed to her work. She is also the founder of the The Radical Remission Project that is dedicated to continuing research and creating a community for survivors, patients, guests, and health professionals and the Project’s mission is to collect and verify survivor stories so that these in turn may help others.  Although not a cancer survivor I was asked to document my healing from MS, over half a century ago, to add to their data.

Imagine my delight today  to find that I am The Radical Remission Healing Story of the Month.  (March 2018).

I acknowledge that some sickness is more immediately life threatening than others but I still see that sickness has the same commonality whatever diagnostic label you give it. Looking at the enormous contribution of Kelly Turner’s work and my singular, but no less effective, anecdotal story of recovery, it appears the predominant common denominators of improving your chances of  recovery to wellness are: Taking control of your health, listening and acting upon your intuition, releasing suppressed emotions, embracing social support, deepening your spiritual awareness and having a strong reason for living.

There are other factors in Kelly’s book – you need to read it – and yes in my case, the  vital icing-on-the-cake factor was to consistently put my  focus on doing something that gave me joy  – – a Daily Creative Project.