The Trecena of Batz: 13 Days of Creative Expression & Insight

140808122043-01-selfie-monkey-0808-exlarge-169The Mayan solar day 1 B’atz’ is tomorrow, Tuesday, June 14.

{For an explanation of how the Mayan calendar works, read the full post here.}

From then until June 26, we are moving through the trecena ruled by B’atz’: the thread of life. Its animal totem is the monkey. These days are superb for expressing our creativity with lighthearted glee.

Dance. Sing. Paint. Write. Above all, play.

According to The Serpent and the Jaguar by Birgitte Rasine, on B’atz’ days, the Maya “express their intention to freely receive all that they have requested from the universe, and to be able to unravel or resolve any matter of issue, especially family problems.” These days are “extremely auspicious for all artistic works and endeavors; in fact, it is a powerful day to begin any project.”

Another aspect of B’atz’ has to do with looking at the cycles, habits and repeating patterns in our lives.

The thread of life refers to time. Ancient Mayan artifacts depicted the Goddess Ixchel weaving the cosmos on her backstrap loom. In fact, the elements of the loom, weaving procedures, designs and the weaver herself are all part of the Maya vision of birthing and the Cosmos.

By paying attention to the patterns in our lives, we can eventually get to the root of things and uproot unwanted or harmful habit-patterns. This, in turn, creates space for our natural creativity to flow and flourish.

This trecena is also a great time to let go of inferiority and superiority. No need to compare—just be you.

Here’s to embodying the delight, creativity and curiosity of the monkey and exploring the multitude of patterns we’ve woven into the colorful tapestry of our lives.

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Writing Down the Chakras

Writing is an art, a gift, a practice.

I practice and teach writing as taught by Natalie Goldberg in her numerous and fabulous books, primarily the classic, Writing Down the Bones.

Her few, simple rules for writing include: keep your hand moving, don’t reread (until after the writing session), don’t edit, let go of control, don’t worry about correctness (spelling, punctuation, complete sentences, or even making sense). Let your heart-mind stream its consciousness onto the page. She encourages writing by hand, with a pen or pencil, in a notebook. Especially in our day and age of so much screen time, so much sitting the fluorescent glow of computers, writing longhand is a wonderfully prehistoric thing to do.

Writing practice, like any practice, is ideally done daily or as frequently as possible. Writing is a skill that improves with practice. Everyone can write; anyone with intention can be a writer. We cannot only write when we are inspired. Writing practice is the foundation of our mindfulness practice and our published works, as well.

Here are some suggested sentence starters to use during your writing practice, categorized by chakra…

The root of the solution: Muladhara ChakraRoot / 1st chakra

I am ___________.
I come from ____________.
My roots are __________.
I feel safe and secure when ____________.
I feel unsafe and insecure when __________.
I connect with Earth by _______________.
I need _____________.

second_chakraSacrum / 2nd chakra

I want ___________.
I feel ___________.
I desire ___________.
I sense ____________.
I move ___________.
I flow with ___________.
I connect with water by __________.

third_chakra_imageSolar Plexus / 3rd chakra

I will ___________.
I do ___________.
I’ll go ___________.
I am now _____________.
My passion is ___________.
My purpose is ___________.
With my effort, I ___________.
I connect with fire by ____________.
I manifest __________.
I create ___________.
I destroy ___________.

fourth_chakra_imageHeart / 4th chakra

I love ___________.
I give ___________.
I freely share ____________.
My heart is ___________.
I care about _____________.
I cultivate compassion by _________________.
I am devoted to _________________.
I adore ________________.
When I was a child, I loved _______________.
I am grateful for ___________.
I appreciate ________________.
May all beings ______________.

fith_chakra_imageThroat / 5th chakra

I listen ___________.
I hear ___________.
I speak ___________.
I say ____________.
I express _________________.
I communicate ________________.
I write ________________.
I convey ______________.
My voice is ___________.

sixth_chakra_imageThird eye / 6th chakra

I wonder ______________.
I see ___________.
I visualize ___________.
I look within and ___________.
I feel intuitively that ___________.
I imagine __________.
I close my eyes and __________________.
I open my eyes and _________________.
I envision ________________.

seventh_chakra_imageCrown / 7th chakra

I connect with ___________.
I believe ___________.
My spirit ___________.
My soul ___________.
I have faith in ___________.
I trust ___________.
I am inter-being with ___________________.
I am interconnected with _________________.
God is _______________.
The universe is _____________.
Life is _________________.

 

 

40 Creative Ways to Express Yourself

Everything is an expression, an expression of creation and destruction. Expression exists in everything– wind, fire, waves and flowers. Expression is everywhere – in a smile, a kiss, in every wrinkle. Expression is some-thing, however practical or impractical, made beautiful. Expression is an everyday art. Expression is the result of intentional action – something you do that shares who you are. Expression is evidence of your essence. Expression is essential to your wellbeing. Expression without expectation is easy:

  1. paint
  2. draw
  3. write poetry
  4. journal
  5. write letters
  6. invent stories
  7. write a play or movie
  8. sculpt
  9. play music
  10. record music
  11. dance
  12. yoga
  13. play sports
  14. exercise
  15. travel
  16. speak
  17. converse
  18. teach
  19. act
  20. study languages
  21. cook
  22. garden
  23. build
  24. origami
  25. collage
  26. carpentry
  27. blow glass
  28. do metal work
  29. make jewelry
  30. decorate
  31. landscape
  32. sew
  33. knit
  34. crochet
  35. quilt
  36. weave
  37. throw parties
  38. bake
  39. take photographs
  40. sketch

How do you/can you express your unique and wonderful self through creative outlets?

Expression through Music with Vespers

What inspired you to learn music? How did you learn? Can you describe your learning experience?

I would say the motivation was from within.  I was so young when I started, it was just something I was compelled to do.  I never looked at someone else and made a conscious decision, it was just a spark within me that my parents (thankfully!) saw fit to nourish. 

Vespers Shadow SaxWhy the {sax, piano, electronic music, etc.} specifically? What does the instrument allow that perhaps other instruments, words or other mediums do not?

I really dig the sax because of the versatility of it. It can stand on its own, it can be soulful, it can be nasty, it can be funky, it can be pretty. I can also cut really well as a solo instrument, which is useful for playing over my electronic music.

What are you working on now? Why is it important for you to share your music/knowledge with others?   

As we speak I’m currently on Salt Spring Island working on a new EP that’ll be released on The Funk Hunters’ Westwood Recordings in a few months.  For me, sharing music has always been something that’s come naturally.  I get really excited about learning new things, and I find that excitement is enriched through sharing what I’ve learned and jamming out with like minded people on a musical path.  My online academies,Vespers.ca and WarpAcademy.com are manifestations of that.  I created Vespers.ca as a conduit where I could teach my community through one on one lessons, online courses, live group webinars etc.  Warp Academy came later when I wanted to partner up with other minds in the industry.  Now Warp Academy is host to several thousand students and a community of over 10 trainers who are all experts in their fields.  We have courses on everything from DJing to music theory to sound design to mixing and mastering.  A student can come to us, learn all the essential subjects to produce electronic music, and do it all at their own pace from a computer with an internet connection in less than a year at a fraction of the cost of a year at college.  That was our vision.  

Tell us something about your process of creating music (from composing to mixing or performing…). What are some things you have learned about yourself and/or the creative process along the way?

My creative process starts with building source sounds.  Patches in synthesizers, drum kits, recordings or organic sounds etc.  I like having fresh, unique sounds to work with for every song.  In the process of creating these sounds, I usually get inspired or hear something that eventually becomes the beginnings of the tune.  After that, it’s just putting regular work into it until it’s done.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Here is a video in which I interview Kenny Werner who discusses how spirituality affects his creative process: http://www.warpacademy.com/kenny-werner-interview/

And, here is a free pack of my tunes! http://vespers.ca/vault/vespers-music-pack-free-download/

Much Love!

Why Write?

“Don’t be a writer, be writing.” ~ William Faulkner

typewriter1

Why am I writing? Because the blank page is daunting until the moment I sit down and write. I face fear, truth and reality and let the letters and words flow through my fingers.

Writing is one continuous, tangential discourse with myself.

And also with you.

Writing lifts up my heart.

I’m writing what I enjoy and enjoying what I write. I’m writing to harvest delicious sentences and cultivate bountiful paragraphs.

Because I adore words.

I delight in the act of creating essays.

I love language and crave communication.

I’m writing because in the act of quality writing, I have no choice but to be present.

Hence, I’m writing as a mindfulness practice—a daily life practice—I’m writing to express myself.

To connect.

To unite with you, for just this one moment as you read these words.

I’m writing to benefit myself and all beings, or as many as I can possibly affect with my string-of-pearls-of words.

(Keep reading)

The Importance of Daily Curiosity

20140211-201916.jpg

Every morning, I ask myself these four questions:

What am I writing for? What am I practicing for? What am I teaching today? What am I learning?

The answers vary widely yet patterns emerge. I am writing for peace. I am practicing for enlightenment. I am writing to be open to what arises. I am practicing to go with the flow.

What are you creating?

If you’re a writer, “what am I writing for?” is a valid and important inquiry. If you’re another type of artist, you can insert the appropriate word. What am I painting for? What am I singing for? What am I designing for?

It’s also valuable to answer the question, now and again, “Why do I write?” (Why do I paint? Why do I draw? Why do I sew? Why do I act? Why do I play this instrument?)

I write because I feel I must.

I write because I enjoy the act of filling up notebooks. I write because I can. I write because people can really connect through the written word, and what is more precious than a real connection? I write because words are little packets of power. I write because life’s precious and mundane details beg to be documented.

When a subject saunters into view that I feel the urge to explore through writing, I clear my voice and express my ideas. This freedom of expression through writing, like my body’s freedom of expression in yoga, is a genuine and great freedom for which I am eternally grateful.

What is your practice?

Mine is hatha yoga and Buddhist-flavored mindfulness meditation.

But what am I practicing these things for?

I practice yoga and mindfulness for sanity. I practice to maintain and improve my flexibility, strength, balance and focus. I practice to be more kind and compassionate to all beings, including myself. I practice to create space in my mind, body and aura for new ideas to arise. I practice to be a more present, loving partner to my husband and mother to my daughter.

I practice to be present with this breath going in and this breath going out.

I practice to soften. I practice to open. I practice to practice. Yoga and meditation are the means and the end.

What are you teaching?

As a school teacher, my third question is practical: What am I teaching today? What skills will we be working on? What will my students be reading, writing and talking about?

Equally as important: how can I be a model of mindfulness and compassion for my students? How can I teach them to love learning and reading? How can I teach them to explore and think critically? How can I teach them to be present and kind?

Even if you’re not a teacher, you’re a teacher.

So, what are you teaching? Ask yourself.

What are you learning?

Learning is a lifelong process. Learning happens from the moment of birth (or before) until our last exhale.

Failure is learning. We learn by reading, seeing, looking, watching, but most of all by doing. (And by teaching others.)

Currently, I’m reading books about marriage, happiness, Buddhist meditation and the life story of Nelson Mandela. I’m learning how to be a mom to a 1-year-old on the verge of walking. I’m learning how to cook more exotic vegetarian meals. I’m learning how to become a freelance blogger.

I’m learning 1,001 things I don’t even realize I’m learning. Our human brains are just that brilliant.

A huge part of learning is reflection. So, be curious and reflect every day. Ask yourself these sacred, mundane questions in the quiet of each morning or night.

Listen to the answers; they just might change your life.

Originally published on Be You Media Group.

28 Reminders to Inspire You Crazy Creative People.

bob ross

{This was originally published on elephant journal.}

Creativity is a practice. Craziness is a skill.

Or, perhaps better stated: we are all crazy in our own ways and we are constantly absorbing and creating, whether we realize it or not.

We are all creative. Art, in my opinion, is a matter of mindfully intending what we create. Art is our offering to the world.

Here are 28 reminders—14 from me and 14 quotes from famous creative people—of how to enhance our creative spirit and express ourselves boldly, clearly and uniquely.

1. Be willing to fail.

Messing up is truly the only way to learn and the only way to succeed eventually. Make happy little mistakes, as PBS painter Bob Ross advises. Let go of perfectionism. Practice doesn’t make perfect.

Practice anyway.

2. “Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it.” ~ Salvador Dali

3. Make time for your creative practice.

Make time, that is, to play. What’s your medium? Play with sentences, pastels, vegetables, sand, chords, rhymes, photography, whatever you fancy.

If you’re so busy that you can’t play, well…you need to take a hard look at your schedule and see what can be given up. Making creative expression a priority in your day or week is of incredible value.

4. “When we engage in what we are naturally suited to do, our work takes on the quality of play and it is play that stimulates creativity.” ~ Linda Naiman

5. Feed your mind.

What are you reading? Listening to? Watching? Experiencing? All the art that we take in affects our own creative expression, whether it’s hung on a museum wall or found on the sidewalk. Be mindful of the art and ideas—the mental food—you are consuming.

6. “I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

7. Change it up.

Don’t get pigeonholed. Be willing to break out of your genres and traditions. Write a poem if you’re not a poet. Draw some doodles if you’re not an artist. Take artsy photographs if you’re not a photographer.

Break out of the rut. Be willing to do creative things differently than you’ve done them before. Collaborate with new partners. Shift gears. Keep it lively.

8. “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” ~ Maya Angelou

9. Keep some of your stuff secret.

In today’s internet age, it’s easy to put stuff out there. Maybe too easy. There is definite value to keeping some of your creative endeavors private, whether it’s to work on essential revisions before publishing—or to keep for your eyes only forevermore.

Whether or not you self identify as a writer, it’s a wonderful creative practice to keep a diary or journal of your thoughts, ideas and brainstorms.

10. “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” ~ Scott Adams

11. Be happy! Balance self-acceptance and action.

12. “You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club.” — Jack London

13. Just do it. Let the stream of consciousness flow.

14. “Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things” – Ray Bradbury

15. Reconnect with your crazy and childlike imagination.

16. “Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up” ~ Pablo Picasso

17. Don’t fret over being “creative.”

The truth is, there’s nothing really original, but we all have the potential to be creative by mixing things up in new ways.

18. “Creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.” ~ Albert Einstein

19. Be brave.

20. “Creativity takes courage. ” ~ Henri Matisse

21. Discuss ideas.

A good conversation can provide artistic inspiration. Talk over your ideas with trusted friends. Ask for feedback. Accept criticism.

22. “Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

23. Be yourself!

There’s no wrong way to be you. Your whole life is your masterpiece. Don’t waste it trying to imitate, undermine or outdo others.

24. “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.” ~ Martha Graham

25. Rev up your third chakra (solar plexus). The seat of creativity, will and desire.

26. “The inner fire is the most important thing mankind possesses.” ~ Edith Södergran

27. Empower your throat chakra. But don’t worry about fame and fortune. Be happily anonymous.

28. From The Book of Life by J. Krishnamurti:

Have you ever thought about it? We want to be famous as a writer, as a poet, as a painter, as a politician, as a singer, or what you will.

Why? Because we really don’t love what we are doing.

If you loved to sing, or to paint, or to write poems, if you really loved it you would not be concerned with whether you are famous or not.

To want to be famous is tawdry, trivial, stupid, it has no meaning; but, because we don’t love what we are doing, we want to enrich ourselves with fame.

Our present education is rotten because it teaches us to love success and not what we are doing. The result has become more important than the action.

You know, it is good to hide your brilliance under a bushel, to be anonymous, to love what you are doing and not to show off.

It is good to be kind without a name. That does not make you famous, it does not cause your photograph to appear in the newspapers. Politicians do not come to your door.

You are just a creative human being living anonymously, and in that there is richness and great beauty.

Writing, Movement and Change.

leaf-falling

Welcome to Autumn! I hope you are enjoying the crisp air and fall colors and flavors that come with this seasonal transition.

Lots of good stuff is brewing here at Yoga Freedom! After years upon years of writing for myself and publishing for free, I am now earning about as much through writing as my part-time school teacher salary! Even with the availability of free media online, it is still possible to earn a living as a writer. This is good news for journalism, creativity and the entrepreneurial-minded.

Over twenty people have purchased Flow and Flower, the chakra ebook I self-published in August. I am currently in the process of revising my memoir/manifesto, Yoga Schmoga and plan to share the first edition by Thanksgiving. I am also going to be redesigning this website in the coming months. Your feedback or suggestions are most welcome!

Finally, I have been writing up a storm for Elephant Journal. Here are the articles and blogs I’ve published in the second half of September.

33 Short, Sweet Yoga Quotes from the Masters. Whether you read them for personal enlightenment, to share with friends or yoga students or to include in articles or blogs, I hope this collection of sayings from Indian yoga masters will be of benefit.

6 Totally Must-Read New Age Self-Help Books. Though I have moved away from the self-help genre, these six decidedly New Agey books resonated with me greatly at the time that I read them.

Best Breath Practices: 5 Energizing Pranayama Techniques. The importance of the breath, in yoga and in life, cannot be overstated. These five basic breath exercises are guaranteed to give you a nice, natural yoga buzz.

Change: The Essence of Fall. We can take a lesson from the trees releasing their leaves. Autumn is a time to let go.

Pith Advice from an American Buddhist Nun: Collected Sayings of Pema Chodron. If you don’t know Pema, I hope these inspiring quotes from several of her books will whet your appetite for more Tibetan Buddhist teachings and meditation practices.

3 Simple Yoga Alignment Tips to Revolutionize Your Asana Practice. Be grateful for what you can do. Be grateful for the awesome gift that is your physical body. Have compassion for your body, and practice poses that challenge you and make your heart sing.

Love Hate. I have a love/hate relationship with many things. Including technology. And elephant journal. And myself. And the world.

Ready to Cut the Cord with Facebook? What can I say? I love it, I hate it, and I’m not ready to cut the cord… yet. Are you?

Feliz Fall!

Namaste,
Michelle