Monthly Archives

February 2016

catching ideas welcome presence
creative presence

The Idea Catcher


“I have so many ideas that I’m lucky if I don’t trip over them each morning.”


I love the image of Bach tiptoeing through his room, over ideas strewn on the floor like discarded underwear. Isn’t that just how creativity works, too? Ideas are abundant. Having ideas is much easier than grabbing hold of them and bringing them into the world.

An Embarrassment Of Brilliance

When looking for a good metaphor it often helps begin with nature. And the abundance of creative activity in nature amounts to an embarrassment of brilliance: millions of eggs laid by sea turtles on a beach on a single night; galaxies bursting at the seams; countless fruit rotting under countless trees; the outrageousness of Spring  where whole landscapes burst into bloom for a few weeks.

Maybe you’ve experienced one of those lazy days sitting in the garden, trees swaying, bees droning in the background as a s stream of creative ideas flow through your mind, only to be swept away as you fall into a nap. Or maybe your ideas arrive in the shower. Or you receive wild visions while stuck in traffic. You, too, are the conduit for an embarrassment of brilliance.

Like Bach, ideas are floating all around us like a rabble of butterflies. The next step involves action. We need to pick up an imaginary butterfly net and snatch the ideas we most resonate with, the ones we commit to working on.

Why It’s Hard To Move From Idea To Action

Once we commit to an idea it is removed from the safe bubble marked ‘daydream’ and we start to make a place for it in the real world. Undertaking this process means to risk mucking it up, or being ridiculed.

I have piles of notebooks that I keep in a red box, each one filled with sketches, doodles, ideas. I love that box. It’s like a bright red cocoon for my ideas. They sit there like fat little grubs, readying themselves for the day they’ll burst out into the world.

Flipping through my notebooks can be like walking through a butterfly pavilion.

I safely watch all my ideas and sketches from here, some more viable than others; there goes a lime green one floating up to the canvas ceiling, while another struggles to free its soggy orange wings from the edge of a water feature.

But this is an exercise in separation, too. I keep myself apart and safely view my ideas with both hands tucked into pockets to avoid squashing anything.

In Order To Create

We need to get involved, no more viewing from a distance, it’s time to pull out that net and commit.

Problem: you might find a sense of dread rising when it’s time to do that.

Sometimes, dread comes from the tension between the ideal version of the idea in your head and the flawed version which your limited abilities may actually produce.

And it’s true, the flaws will be there. Ideas are delicate things, their wings can be easily torn, they might not adapt well to a new environment. But the work of adding beauty and meaning to the world involves the realization that a lot of ideas just won’t make it. There’s no need to take that personally, it’s just the truth.

And the beauty and meaning we’re talking about there is the singular beauty and meaning that comes filtered through you, and your perfectly flawed life. That’s the flavor of your personal magic and only you can bring it into the world.

Leap Into Action

Here are some tips for moving from idea to creation. Let’s snatch these ideas as they float past, then do something with them.

Start Small

Small starts are a great way to build momentum. Once you begin the transition from ‘idea’ to ‘action’ it’s like adding oxygen to kindling. I’m an anxious starter and have learned over time to build in small, non-intimidating actions at the start of each project. For writing, a brief entry in your journal can work. For art,  sharpening pencils, organizing paintbrushes, selecting the right paper can be enough to get you settled and ready to make those first few marks. Once you’re on your way your project starts taking over and sweeps any nervous energy away.

Get Present

Being in the moment is a great way to both open yourself up to inspiration, and to grab what the muse offers you and run with it. Being mindful and aware allows your perception to open out a little and gives inspiration more chance to strike. Noticing is a simple writing meditation that can help you get settled into the present moment and open to creative possibilities.

Inhabit Your Body

A great way to get in touch with your creative abilities is to move your awareness down into your body. Your body is a vessel of inner wisdom and connecting with your body allows you to sidestep the bustle of mental chatter. Things are quite here and there is space for wisdom and beauty to emerge.

A great way to bring awareness into your body is to let your feet be flat on the floor and imagine that you are breathing in and out through the soles of your feet. As you breathe do a simple body scan , moving your attention down from your head–to your throat, the center of your chest, belly, pelvis, knees, feet. Even a few seconds of this has a settling effect and you can feel the difference.

Fail Often

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Samuel Beckett

Lowering the stakes is a great way to begin a project. Realizing that your self-worth is not tied to every blog post, painting, or workshop that you create is a blessed relief! Is it really a problem if this blog post tanks? or if an illustration looks a bit out of whack? No. It’s tempting to aim for perfection but th truth is that the more you’re prepared to fail the more you produce.  And BONUS: the quality of your work improves dramatically.

Give It Some Air

I used to be a drug and alcohol worker, and one thing we did was to sit with clients as they wrote down what they saw as the ‘good’ and ‘less good’ aspects of their substance use. This exercise had a profound effect on people, it was often the first time that all the desires, consequences and judgements, good and bad, that had been swirling around in their heads was released, and they had a different perspective on them.

You can get this same effect with your ideas–by telling someone else about it, or putting it into another format–I often sketch my blog post ideas, or write a mini description of an illustration I want to do. A simple shift in perspective can really freshen things up.


Ideas are tender beings, sometimes they just need to work in the dark for a while. It’s like being in a cocoon, if it’s opened up too soon everything is lost. No one can tell you when, either. Only you can know.

Leave Foot Prints

At 5 years of age I got a pair of ‘Bata Scout’ school shoes. They had lion paw prints stamped into the sole, and at the back of the shoe, just above the heel, was a tiny opening with a secret compass tucked inside. I remember walking in the dirt and checking out my foot prints with the air of a seasoned jungle explorer.

We can also leave footprints of our creative projects. I keep notes of each stage of creation whenever possible. When a project tanks, it’s footprints are left behind for you to retrace and get a sense of where and why things went wrong. Sometimes you can even pick up a failed idea and set it in a new direction.

How About You?

What’s your favorite way to get from ‘idea’ to ‘action’? Do you use some of the methods outlined here, or do you have your own strategies? If so, I’d love to hear them in the comments!

tides of desire
in the world

Following The Tides Of Desire

“Underneath it all, we are wild and we know it.”

Reggie Ray

Sometimes you can be sitting there and not even notice it happen. The slow creep of water up the beach, the wavering line of wet sand making it’s way up to where you’ve left your things. Next thing you know, the water is lapping at your towel. It’s the tide, and it’s moving in silently.

Despite the quietness, the tide is a powerful event generated by mysterious forces. The moon moves in relationship to the earth and between these two shifting bodies the power of gravity is at work: the earth holds the moon in it’s orbit, and in return the moon exerts it’s own pull, lifting and releasing great bodies of water as it cycles the earth.

Our desires are like this

Once we are locked in to something we desire, the space between us and our desire becomes charged and energy flows. And that’s part of the thrill of desire, the energetic pull we experience in our minds and our bodies. It’s the thrill of aliveness, awake and running through us.

Desires are a powerful force in our life and if we are not conscious in our relationship with our desires they have the power to overwhelm us.

It’s no accident that one of the first questions a life coach is taught to ask of their clients is “What do you want?” Because our thoughts of desire and our bodily experience of desire can be so strong and have such a quality of urgency, we can be pushed to our capacity simply managing them. So it makes sense that we don’t always get to sit down and examine what’s going on.

How often do you consciously think about the desires that move you? How much thought do you give to following the pull of your desires, the field of energy that moves between you and the thing or person or state of being that you are desiring?

Have you ever chased a desire and got burned for it? Followed through on something you thought you wanted, and lost control along the way? I know I have. We might realize afterwards that our energy was spent chasing something we didn’t want so badly after all. We may have chased relationships with people when what we really desired was to be accepted, wanted, loved. May have chased alcohol or drugs when what we really desired was confidence, excitement, or to be comfortable in our own skin. The same with food, or activities, or choosing a place to live.

The desire under the desire

Sometimes the things we really desire are hidden underneath, like deep water moving underneath the surface. The movement of the water below creates visible waves of movement on the surface, and makes it’s mark on the shore. But the actual movement of water underneath can be hard to see. And sitting with all that energy might be a little unnerving sometimes, too.

Diving underneath our apparent desires to find out what’s going on can be helpful because:

Sometimes our desires are misdirected.

Sometimes our desires are overwhelming

Sometimes our desires are trying to tell us something.

Here is a simple exercise that can help get started looking at the nature of our desires and to taste some of that energy that is running through.

A conversation with desire

Doing this exercise can help you check in and, in a very light way, experience the energy of your desire.

The first step is to get something that you consider a treat–your first cup of coffee in the morning, or a beloved pastry, maybe cue up a piece of music that moves you deeply. You can also call up an image of something (or someone) you desire if what you want isn’t at hand.

Next, ground yourself. You need to be aware of your body to do this exercise, so sit comfortably in a chair, or on the floor, if you want to be standing that’s okay too, and direct your attention into the places in your body that are holding you up.

If you are standing that would be your feet, feel where they connect to the floor, experience the pull of gravity on your body. If you are sitting down you might place your attention into your feet on the floor, the buttocks where they rest on the chair. Just feel that for a moment before we move to the next step.

Next, put the treat in front of you. Observe it. Notice what responses come up for you. What thoughts are coming up for you? What do you experience in your body as you observe this treat?

If you are having trouble noticing anything go back and ground yourself again, put your attention back into your feet, your buttocks, sometimes putting a hand in the center of your chest can ground you in your body a little more and help you to access more information. If nothing comes up, then nothing comes up. That’s perfectly okay. That’s information too. There’s no way of doing this wrong.

The next step is to slowly reach towards the treat, but don’t touch it. Use your body for this step, reach out with an arm, even if you’re working with an image you’ve chosen. Again, as you reach out notice what is happening in your body? What thoughts are coming up? Pull your arm back slowly without picking up or touching the treat. What do you notice here?

Okay. We can’t end on a cruel note here.

The final step is to reach out slowly again, this time allow yourself to have the treat. Smell the coffee and have a sip, break into that pastry, imagine yourself with that special person. Notice the thoughts that come up, notice what your body is experiencing right now.

Riding the tides

The exercise we’ve just gone through is a simple one, but it’s a nice way to start leaning into our desires, to help us get a feel for what’s going on underneath the surface as the tides of desire run through us–through our body, through our consciousness.

As you do this exercise you might surprised at what comes up. Sometimes the strength of the desire takes is more than you anticipate, sometimes the final step proves underwhelming and you might wonder why you were so excited to have that thing.

More important than the actual results of doing this exercise, is the power of taking the time to come home to the body and really experience the push and pull as our desires play out. To get a feel for that and to see what’s really going on in there, to get into the habit of having conversations with your desires.

It can begin a fruitful practice of getting to know your desires and appreciate the thill and sense of aliveness they bring to you, while learning how to avoid getting pulled under by them.