Zen And The Fine Art Of Creation

jo n otisThe retreats began here at my farm, WillowCreek Stables out of a desire that I had to make the world a less lonely place for myself and others.  As someone who has struggled with depression and other forms of “creative” emotional challenges all of my life, I have learned that the only ‘cure” for disturbances of the mind is to know ourselves deeply and to work with others and to find the beauty in all aspects of who we are.  To make these discoveries, we use the study of chakras. To reinforce what we are learning about ourselves we partner with a gentle herd of horses.

In this world of prescription solutions for the things that ail us, it is clear that a pill alone is
not the solution to deep personal/planetary unhappiness.  On or off medication, anyone with depression, bi-polar, borderline personality disorder or any other emotional disturbance, needs to be highly responsible for their own emotional well being.  No doctor, no pill and no therapy can do more for you than you can for yourself.   You are already free – you just don’t know it yet. The only path to clear and unshakable contentedness is in being able to be present and available for other people and you cannot give to others what you cannot find for yourself.  The kindest thing we can do for others – is to take incredibly good care of ourselves. The more we focus on understanding what it means to be a conscious person – awake aware and alive – the more our choices reflect this desire to have greater peace in our lives. Becoming self aware through the study of chakras can be instrumental in shifting our awareness to this higher understanding.

lily and jo in arenaHere at WillowCreek we work with the horses to help us in understanding the very basis of self.  Horses emulate this fundamental understanding of life in their very nature and behaviour. As herd and prey animals, horses are in constant communication in a very visceral and observable way with each other and their environment. By watching and interacting with them, we learn also how we interact in definite and subtle ways with our environments and the people we live with.   Through round pen work, and even just time with a horse in meditation, brushing and interacting, we can be brought to that important quiet space that helps our minds and hearts open to our greatest creative natures.  Our relationships and our enjoyment of life can be greatly enhanced when we bring what we learn from horses out into the human world. This is the great benefit I have found in having our farm, and it is my desire to share this with whoever wants to find it.

The first chakra is the root of it all – literally.  red and rich like the earth in colour, the frequency of this chakra governs how well your feet are planted in reality. What is reality? It is “that which never changes” – as Maharishi explained.  By simply focusing conscious thought and intention in one area of our being, we significantly enhance our connection and understanding of it. We eat root foods, talk about our history and our personal roots and we try and find different methods that can be applied in REAL life, to help to ground you.  Grounding means that although the events of life can be flying around, and chaos may be evident in your circumstances, remaining grounded,. through yoga,  conscious thought, meditation and creative expression can help us become less reactive and prone to making negative decisions and choices based on temporary events. And ALL events are temporary, we discover.

Meditation is a central focus of the retreats.  Mediation becomes demystified as we learn together that simply sitting with our breath and being “with ourselves’, without trying to change or alter or judge any part of our experience for a period of time every day, can greatly enhance our living experience and keep things real.  Over time, as we progress through the chakras and our actions begin to support our intention for greater peace in our lives, meditation becomes a central part of this reconnecting and key in the ability we have to achieve a simple balanced existence. 984297067

While the first chakra is satisfied with mere survival – the second chakra seeks pleasure and enjoyment. These cannot exist if there is a constant undercurrent of self loathing and guilt running through your life. Becoming simply conscious of what your mind is saying to you about yourself, shifts your creative potential into a whole new set of possibilities – life changing possibilities.

By addressing the Chakras, you are undertaking the most arduous and adventurous of all of life’s journeys – the one that brings you back to You.  Once your mind begins to focus on this subject, nothing you do will ever feel the same. This experience manifests itself differently for each person.

The colour orange is the frequency associated with the second chakra. wearing orange clothing, eating food high in orange colours such as mangoes, carrots and squash are all tools helpful in reconnecting your intentions with your creative self.

The second chakra becomes blocked through self criticism and guilt. How you speak to yourself becomes very important ion the healing of this area of your life. If you are a habitual ‘self criticiser” – then we employ a “fake it till ya make it” approach. ENLIGHTENMENT

The Sanskrit name for the 2nd Chakra is “Svadhisthana.” This word means “dwelling place of the Self.”​  The self is not the body – because the body you are in has changed many times since you were a baby.  Self is something permanent – a sense of being you have had since you were a child: the “inner you”. The outer self is always changing.  The true self is what we are – the same self that exists in the experience behind the experience – the observer of self – the listener of thoughts.  Who hears the thoughts you have?  Why are the thoughts you have and who you are not the same?  Thoughts are only an activity that the mind. Thoughts are not self.  Creativity is often belayed by our thoughts. We do not follow our creative pursuits because we believe they are time wasters.  As  musician growing up I often had people tell me that I could do music as a hobby, but that it could not be a ‘real’ living.  Unfortunately, the arts and creative pursuits are viewed as unproductive and unprofitable in north american culture.

Poetry, writing, music, cooking, dancing and visual arts are some of the creative methods we use for self expression.  Each of us have a different tendency to be more or less visual, auditory or kinesthetic.  Our creative passions will follow these various tendencies.  I think that once we begin to explore on facet of our creativity, different periods of time and different energies in the world circumstances will also make us more prone to different forms of creative expression. For example, you maybe feel like singing one day, or painting a picture the next to express the same emotion  but in different ways.

Remember – ALL people are creative. The point of life is to know ourselves and to be able to use our creative selves in any way possible to improve the condition of others. plato

Many people don’t focus on their creative talents because they are ‘too busy with real life – trying to gain more an more material wealth to feel more secure.  But we all know that material security is not personal security.  The only way to find that, is to explore yourself and know who you are and what is it that makes you function and express as you do.

This doesn’t only mean a psychological evaluation.  Psychology is a limited portion of your life.  Almost exclusively focusing on an evaluation of your past life cognitive behavioural psychology can be a very effective way to understand the different reasons you made the life choices you made.  The key to psychology however is using your past like a users manual – a simple reference guide.  not something you would usually want to reread often, a reference guide is only as good as the information is brings. then it is put away. Psychology is the evaluation of the activities of the mind.  An attempt to give a scientific explanation to what is most often the result of a spiritual disconnect.  Things of the spirit are best expressed through art – words always fall short of what we really know and feel.  And healing occurs in the discovery of the present moment  which is most optimally found when we are engaged in our highest creative calling.

I draw, paint, write and play music.  If I do not do these activities for a period of time, my emotional and spiritual health are seriously compromised.  I become depressed, irritable and introverted.  Expressing outwards, joyfully, painfully or in whatever capacity you need to at the moment is critical in maintaining the flow of energy that needs to come from the inside of you to the outer world.   We are BORN creative – and spend the majority of our adult lives trying to recapture the essence of the freedom that unfettered creative expression can bring. horses_in_the_rain_12_by_cotten_candy101-d36lstw

Finerminds.com had these indicators for self-evaluation:

Five Signs Your Second Chakra is Weak

1. You are plagued by guilt and reluctant or unwilling to forgive yourself for past mistakes. You are constantly judging your worthiness compared to others, and tend to avoid the company of people you perceive as more qualified than you, because just being around them makes you feel inadequate.

2. You have a fragile sense of self-worth, which is highly dependent upon pleasing others – especially those you perceive as having power or authority over you. This often results in seeing yourself as a self-sacrificing martyr, often putting others’ wants and demands before your own needs, all the while harboring silent resentment towards them and self-criticism towards yourself.

3. You get easily offended, hurt or upset by the words and actions of people that you perceive as not appreciating you. You get defensive and tend to condemn others who behave differently than you think they should.

4. You believe that you are flawed and are always under construction. You don’t trust that you can be loved just for being who you already are. Instead you believe that you have to continually improve yourself to become worthy of being loved, by others and by yourself.

5. You experience any of the following physical symptoms on a frequent or recurring basis: bowel disorders, bladder or urinary tract infections, chronic lower back pain or sexual appetite imbalances (hyper or hypo sexual).

Enjoy your SELF.


It’s your Thing…Do What You want To Do!

your thingWhen my mother died in September 2013  I reacted in the only way I knew how; by getting busy.  In the days preceding her funeral, I spent hours and hours putting together a series of photos and made a slide show of her life.  I got to know her better in every picture – following her from one year to the next. the hard first years where she wasn’t allowed to act like my mother, as I had been adopted into my family and my grandparents were raising me. once the “cat’ was out of the bag – it was even harder I think at times because now I couldn’t relate to her as a mother yet. Then finally, full circle came when i had my own kids and we just became “partners” and friends, and she was able to evolve into a mothering role with me.  An incredible woman on all counts, she passed on her love of music, art and life to me and her all important advice to just be myself – to love what i am and to have a blast with the talents that god gave us. I love the fact that she was involved in her own funeral in a way as she was the one who picked the play list, choosing some very funeral inappropriate music like Mambo No. 5 by Lou Bega and “It’s Your thing”, by the Jackson 5.

The morning of the funeral I got up in such a twist of confused grief that I was quite sure that I would not be able to function. My face swollen from distress and soul emptying jags of crying, I didn’t even bother with make up – or brushing my unruly hair.  I knew I would have to sing – i don’t remember packing my guitar but somehow it ended up there with me.

Walking into the funeral parlour I went upstairs and into the huge room we hope will be able to house the hundreds of people who would be attending a final farewell for a woman who had spent her life loving people. Some members of my family and her husband sitting in a circle looking dazed and confused. I say hi, we exchange niceties – my kids look like zombies. I hate that they are in pain.  But this is life.

Placing the laptop with the slideshow I wondered if I should keep the sound off – her musical choices were, to say the least, not very “funerally.”

I press play…and here we go.  Picture after picture…her with her twin, looking beautiful and happy and alive – bathing suits, beaches, sunshine…a time when life felt normal because she was here.  Hair styles ranging from some fluffy Afro thing in the 7o’s to her cute short blond look.

now everyone is standing around he computer, a crowd is gathering and there is laughter, fun, voices start to sound like we are at a cocktail party at ten am. Laughter rings…the music changed the energy of the room and suddenly we are reminded that we are there to celebrate an amazing life.

Hers and as she would want it – OUR amazing life.

“It’s your thing…do what you want to do!”

I look around and the people who have now begun to file into the room looking forlorn. I see that they brighten a little at the music – I see some even inadvertently doing little wiggle dances – oh yeah! She had the right idea. Even past the grave she was giving us what she gave in life – this joyful countenance and an ability to look at everything with a purpose and reason.  Music always was her healing force.

As has happened so often since her transition, I have thought ‘oh, i wish you were here to see this”.

But she has never been far from me:

112_10306035229_9296_n‘It’s your thing baby – do what You want to do”… I hear her say to me as she puts her arms around me and tells me it’s going o be ok.  I wrap my arms around my shoulders and pretend she is hugging me – it helps sometimes.

And I do – my thing, that is.  And so do my kids. We are a unique family often times opinionated open hearted connected fun loving and awesome!

This year we started some new traditions because Christmas without her and keeping all the same things would be too painful.

Three weeks ago i had all my kids come for a tree trimming dinner.  They all turned 18 as of august, so we bought some wine, and began to put up the tree…but here’s the thing.

We all like each other too much. Only half the tree even got put up…and we forgot to put the bottom on the tree (fake tree – we don’t like to kill stuff for our own entertainment…). So. the middle and top of the tree are together…and the bottom part – which for whatever reason was left aside…is sitting in the living room. Seven kids – 25 years of decorating trees and we just did a big fail. The tree is tiny, adorable and leans to the right like a drunken sailor. About three hours into the tree trimming, the house is BUZZING with laughter, people on the porch talking, hugging like old friends. Then I heard it – the best thing a mother can hear:

“wow…i cant believe I like my family so much!”

‘yeah – we’re awesome! I like hanging with you guys better than any of my friends..”

And now I’m crying. Here’s the thing. As a mother – there is NOTHING you want more than to know that your kids love each other so much that when you are gone, they will be there to help each other through what you know will be the all the painful trials and pains of life – but also that they want to share their happy times!   In our family this didn’t happen. We have one brother (we had the same brother because of my adoptions situation) who has spent so many years calling the women of the family crazy that he has talked his way out of so may beautiful experiences.  I don’t045 want this kind of nasty arrogant superiority with my kids, and neither did she.   My mom would be so happy – this was our number one goal with the kids. That night, I stood in the kitchen making sure to keep my back turned so they wouldn’t see the tears of gratitude.

My heart was so full of happiness.

My mom is here with us.  i feel her all the time. And my friend Richard – all the time. My horse, dog, goat cat – all lost this year. Mike who sadly took his own life. A year full of losses has taught me so much.

So, to all the people I meet who ask me HOW I am so damned happy, and that they wished they could do the thing they love the most too – make this year the one that you dive into the full potential happiness of your life!

If I was told I would die tomorrow, I wouldn’t have a single regret because I listened to my mother and “did my thang”…

thanks Poun.

Happy Christmas to you – may 2015 bless you with every chance to know your own awesomeness and to ‘do your thing”!