As we near the end of September and prepare to embrace the "Fallidays," as I like to refer to the upcoming months, I can't help but reflect on this past season of transition and change.
The last three months have looked very different in our home with my recent decision to leave my previous career role to focus on our family and developing Creative Habitat. Ever since getting married to my, then, medical student husband who is now in his last year of residency, I have worked outside the home to help support our family during his medical training years. The years prior, I was busy living out my college years working toward a double major and myriad of internships and campus involvements.
Now, my days revolve around an almost 2 year old boy who blesses and challenges me daily. For the first time in years, I have no set schedule which also blesses and challenges me on a daily basis. I am slowly learning how to let go of knowing the plan and instead allowing moments to unfold before me. Our spontaneous trip to the dog beach this week (shown above) is a perfect example!
This change of pace has been restoring in many ways and a needed time of rest and rejuvenation from all of the balls I was juggling. As I've been looking into articles about mindfulness, rest, and well-being this year while developing Creative Habitat, I learned something very interesting about the history of "rest" in Jewish culture.
In biblical times, Jewish farmers were expected to work their land for 6 years and let it lay fallow every 7th year to allow for restoration of the soil and also as a dicipline to trust God's provision for them during this season of rest, called a Shemitah or Sabbath year. After 7 Shemitah cycles (every 49 years), the year following the last Shemitah in the cycle (the 50th year) is considered a year of Jubilee.
A Jubilee was intended to serve as a year of freedom and mercy where debts were forgiven, slaves returned to their families, and land was returned to the original owner. Based on historical records, we have been in a Jubilee year (September 2015 - September 2016). Pope Francis has announced this season as the Year of Mercy (December 8, 2015 - November 20, 2016). Ironically, November 20 is my son's birthday, but that's beside the point!
I have been fascinated as I have read more about the significance of the Shemitah and Jubilee years and their global impact both historically and in current events. I am convinced now, more than ever, that we were designed not only for work, but also for rest.
Rest is so counterintuitive to our "Go, go, go" culture, yet so important for the serenity of our souls which fuels our creativity. After all, a soul at rest is free to create when it is not burdened by burn out. I can personally attest to this truth in my own creative process.
Ladies, as we near the end of this Jubilee year, I hope we can carry on the creative habit of rest and restoration into the weeks, months, and years that follow. Allowing ourselves rest may be one of the most significant creative habits we can establish to fuel our creativity and live abundantly in our creative gifts. Like many changes in life, this change will surely be a challenge, but oh, SUCH a BLESSING!
Wishing you creative and restful days ahead.
Trivia for the Day:
What does this Creative Habitat blogger have in common with Michealangelo and Dr. Seuss?
A Creative Habitat!
It's true! I have lived and created in the same cities and even resided on the same street as one of these renaissance men, different century, but I like to think there was still a touch of inspiration in the air. I'm referring to Casa Buonarroti, a property owned by Michealangelo on Via Ghibellina, the same street I lived on while studying abroad in Florence, Italy.
I'd take a deep breath each time I'd pass his prominant marble bust carved distinctly above the large wooden door of his florentine flat, hoping, maybe just maybe, to absorb some of his creative genius.
Fast forward 8 years and I now find myself living and working in Dr. Seuss's hometown where he created many of the fun characters and stories we cherish today. Similiar to my practice when walking by Casa Buonarroti, I breath in the creative inspiration while walking on the UCSD campus (where I used to work) which is home to the Geisel Library. This library houses the largest collection of original Dr. Seuss drawings, sketches, manuscript drafts, and photographs documenting the full range of Dr. Seuss's creative achievements from 1919 to 1991.
I am encouraged to know I have worked within walking distance of both of these creative geniuses authentic drawings and sketches reflecting their raw talent and creative process. I have received a touch of inspiration from both as a result!
In Big Magic, the book I am currently reading, Elizabeth Gilbert conveys her belief that creative ideas are living amongst us waiting to find their human collaborator to bring the creative vision to fruition. Just as there are billions of people inhabitating the planet, these ideas inhabit us through a touch of inspiration, but the chosen collaborator must be willing.
Michelangelo was willing. Dr. Seuss was willing. As creative beings we must ask ourselves, "Am I willing?"
Even as a busy mom of a toddler, I can attest a willing spirit yields creative gifts. No matter how crazy and overwhelming life may seem, there is always a touch of inspiration waiting for a willing collaborator.
Wishing you creative and willing days ahead!
Freedom. What a gift. What a sacrifice. We are free because many gave all to defend the freedom we celebrate on this Independence Day. As I reflect on the significance of 4th of July, I can't help but wonder how many Americans truly live with the conviction our forefathers intended for America, "Home of the free and land of the brave."
We live in the land of opportunity, yet many Americans are trapped in depression, addiction, and isolation, serving as a constant reminder we must continue to defend the freedom we value by making a conscious choice to embrace and appreciate the freedoms we so often take for granted.
Freedom of speech. Freedom to worship. Freedom to vote. Freedom to pursue life, liberty, and justice. This is truly profound when you consider the many other countries where many only dream of freedom yet we have the freedom to dream.
As a seasoned dreamer, I feel so blessed to live in a country where I can dare to dream and dare to be different and make a difference. It is my hope, Creative Habitat will make a difference by encouraging women in their freedom and call to create.
After several months of feeling called to focus more attention on my son, our family and the development of Creative Habitat, I finally put in my notice at my professional job (July 1st was my last day in the office). This was a big decision for me because I have worked since I was 16 years old. Professional development has always been a freedom I have valued.
I am pleased to share the new freedom I have experienced in stepping away from my job to step into my calling. I know this was a "freedom decision" because it required sacrifice...sacrificing the known for the unknown, and yet, the unknown is where I feel called to explore!
I look forward to dedicating myself more fully to embracing the freedom to develop the creative gifts I've been blessed with including my son (as shown in the photo above), his sibling on the way (Spoiler Alert: I just finished my first trimester with #2), and developing Creative Habitat resources to encourage my fellow creative mamas to embrace their creative gifts as well!
This Independence Day, I am daring to live and dream more fully. Will you, Creative Mama, dare to live and dream more fully with me? This is afterall, home of the free and land of the brave. Let's be brave and claim the creative gifts we've been given to use and serve with greater intention!
Renewal is a consistent theme in Southeast Asian culture. From store fronts to prayer beads to cultural dances, hope for renewal speaks loud and clear in this region. Take the Cambodian Khmer Apsara dance for example.
Thumbs and middle fingers pinched, wrists twisted outward and palms raised to the heavens. This mudra (hand gesture) represents blessing the new seed before planting and renewing the land. The dance ends with a single lotus flower placed in the hair of the Apsara Mera, the lead dancer, symbolizing purity of heart and renewal of spirit.
The lotus flower is thought to be free of impurities and a symbol of rebirth, thus, explaining its prevalence in a country still seeking both renewal and restoration. The muddy roots represent our messy lives and the lotus flower rising above the mud to bloom, clean and fragrant represents human's desire to break free of suffering and embrace a new future. The hope of a new future is evident in eyes of the Cambodian people who continue to deal with the fragmented pieces history left behind.
While many know Cambodia's devastating story, few have taken action to play a part in their next chapter. Dr. Beat Richner, "Beatocello" is one such character who has dedicated his life to renewal for Cambodia's children. Dr. Richner is a suisse pediatrician and cello player who weaves both his profession and creative habit of playing the cello together to serve Cambodian families.
In 1992, he moved from Switzerland to Cambodia to help rebuild and manage the Kantha Bopha Children's Hospital where he volunteered with the Red Cross just before the brutal reign of the Khmer Rouge. He was forced to return home to avoid possible retaliation and death. Since his return to Cambodia, he and his team have provided free healthcare for millions of Cambodian children. He also holds cello concerts for tourists as fundraisers for the clinic. His clinic, or "creative habitat," now attracts lines and lines of moms and kids waiting for their "Beatocello" check up as shown on the YouTube video on the homepage of his website:
(Watch until the end...Astounding!!!)
Seeing Dr. Richner's vision of hope in the face of such adversity is truly touching and inspiring. Imagine how many people would miss his creative habit if he had not followed his intuition and returned to a war torn land to rebuild this children's hospital. Generations are being changed because he planted a seed of creativity creating a lotus effect of renewal.
What creative habit do you feel called to develop? What lotus effect will transpire as a result?
Now is the time to plant your seed, share your harvest, and renew the spirit within. Generations may follow!
Always keep your wits about you and learn how to function in an ever changing environment. This was one of my life lessons from diving as discussed in my previous post, although a recent experience tells me I still have a lot to learn.
While boarding a flight to Doha, Qatar, I felt a sense of unease. Given this was my first travel experience in the Middle East, I experienced my American lens in a new way. I found myself looking down in an effort to shield my face to somehow blend with the women around me wearing burqua head coverings. This experience was eye opening as I caught a shrouded glance from a woman across the way.
How can society widely accept one woman as "naked" as me yet expect head to toe coverage for another woman on the same plane? I felt a sense of both freedom and guilt as I took my seat.
While contemplating our cultural differences, a man quickly stowed his bag in the overhead compartment and sat down next to me. I felt my heartbeat quicken as he fidgeted to plug in his phone, put on his sunglasses, and began texting in Arabic while pulling nervously at his beard. In this moment, CNN media clips began infiltrating my mind and gripping me with fear.
Deep breath, I thought. "You are in his environment, his culture...you have no right to judge," I kept telling myself. As the flight prepared for take off, he continued to text and receive texts. Wasn't his phone supposed to be on airplane mode? I questioned suspiciously. My legs began to tremble as the plane lifted into flight.
Shortly after reaching altitude, he began to chant a prayer while moving his body in a subtle but noticeable forward sway. My heart dropped in my chest as I considered the "What if." I began watching videos of my son (who is staying with his grandma in Colorado while we are on this globetrotting adventure) and thought to myself, "How could I leave my son?" "How could I be such an irresponsible mother"
"How could I..."
Wait. Hold that thought. How could I think the worst of this stranger just because his cultural norms were different than mine? How could I...
It's amazing how strong fear is when paired with imagination. I felt lead to share this "strange behavior" with the flight attendant as my due diligence and was pleasantly and shamefully surprised to find the only strange behavior was my own. The flight attendant tactfully made me aware of muslim prayer practices and assured me this man was acting normal. I can only imagine what he thought of me, the ignorant American frightened for no rational reason.
Once I gained further understanding and composure, I sat down and found myself praying as well. In hindsight, we were one in the same, representing two different cultures praying side by side, living out our creative habit of prayer in unison. I am truly grateful for this learning experience and a creative habit that can unite what society seeks to divide.
Jet lag worked in our favor earlier this week allowing my husband and I to join a sunrise Thai Chi session we would have otherwise slept through. The elderly but spry Thai Chi master greeted us with a subtle grin as we tiptoed to our places and assumed "White Crane" position ironically juxtaposed with the iconic metal cranes developing the skyline behind us.
Our fellow early risers swayed in unison to the harmony of the music as we embraced the chi together. Each movement gracefully flowed to the next while fear and stress dissolved at our fingertips making room for positive energy to enter our souls. For a brief moment, we experienced the yingyang balance in body and spirit.
While the class was a memorable experience, I was most stuck by the Thai Chi master's closing remark, "Take care of your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." I stopped to reflect on the weight of this statement.
As a woman, I am programmed to take care...take care of my husband, take care of my children, take care of my responsibilities...but do I take time to take care of my heart? What does this even look like? Was the Thai Chi master referring to taking care of the physical, emotional, or spiritual heart?
Perhaps all three...leading me to three further questions...
Is there a parallel between taking care of our hearts and carving out time and space to develop one's creative gifts?
Could our creative gifts be our heart's most authentic expression and wellspring of life?
Will developing creative habits allow us to live more balanced and authentic lives, thus helping us better care for our own hearts and the hearts of those we love?
I bow my head in reverent quietness realizing my heart already knows the answer.