I'm writing this column the day after teaching my weekly Shake Your Soul class at my center in Lenox, MA. It was a million dollar moment. One of those priceless classes that I can't force to happen, but that emerge unbidden and deeply appreciated. It was filled with creative spirit and soulful depth. I shared with the class afterwards that I feel grateful to have this work that I do.
Teaching Shake Your Soul: The Yoga of Dance is always an opportunity for me to open to creative energies. Sometimes my creative spirit is hibernating and at other times it is roaring like a lion. I've come to know that that are certain conditions that will support the lion and also certain conditions that "support" hibernation.
How can we allow for or create the conditions that support the emergence of our embodied creativity in our lives so that we feel more nourished, alive, energized and fully human? I propose that there is a possibility that in whatever you do there is the potential for your creative energy, your creative spirit, to be a part of your experience and expression.
Accessing our creative spirit transforms the robotic act of "a doing" to the level of Godness and certainly goodness as we align to our creator within!
Whether the activity that you are infusing with your creator within is teaching a class, writing a business plan, talking with a friend, working with a client, writing an email, being with your children...whatever the activity is, it can be infused with the spirit of creativity. In this way we find that we feel refreshed, in the moment, present in our mind and body, engaged with the world around us when we tap into this reservoir of energy and beingness as we "do the doings" of our lives.
Here are three ingredients I've found over the years that help create the possibility for meeting your creator here in this human form of ours and here on this earth in both our mundane activities that we don't normally call creative as well as what we tend to call our creative activities.
Ingredient #1: Identify and "protect yourself" from internally produced pressure and self-criticism.
Internal pressure and self-criticism is without a doubt the biggest downer to our creative spirit. It turns off the light of our spirit. With pressure we lose access to our spirit as our adrenal glands and fear centers of the brain are active and agitation of the body and mind takes over.
Pressure and self-criticism sound like, "Come on, you can do better than that" or "That's not good enough" or "Make it great" or "Hurry up, you need to get this done faster" "That's awful" "You're not good at this" etc. One of the most distressing elements about this is that we often don't hear those voices, we just feel tense, down, flat, fearful, anxious, heavy, collapsed etc.
Pressure and self-criticism can make us look like we're doing something important, or that we are working hardand deserve lots of respect and praise for our hard work and sacrifice. But this "work ethic" absolutely blocks our creativity and aliveness.
My suggestion is to feel the "hook" of pressure and criticism in its body origins as tension in key emotional body areas like our guts, our pelvic floor, chest and shoulders. Even taking 10 seconds once you've identified a tension area in your body to consciously invite and visualize it relaxing can be a great protection and support for managing and working with the energy of pressure and criticism.
Ingredient #2: Make room for play!
Play is an energy of aliveness. Watch animals at play. We are fostering a cat right now along with our own two cats and two dogs. I watch this cat whose name is Snowball playing. She runs away without any apparent reason-not from fear but from some other energy that says something like, "look at what I can do, I'm playing hide and go seek!" It has no purpose like "I'm running because I'm late for an appointment". The purpose of play is to awaken our spirited animal instinct.
We can take lessons in play in watching animals at play. Jaak Panskeep, a psychologist, neuroscientist and researcher in animal behavior listed play as one of six key emotional energies that are fundamental to both humans and animals alike and needs to be "exercised" and expressed.
Ingredient #3: Use your body to connect with your spirit!
I've practiced yoga for 40 years and tai chi and qigong for 20ish years (on and off) and recently took an incredible workshop with a leading qigong teacher, Ken Cohen, who taught this amazing system of qigong called Yi Quan. Practicing this style of qigong since the workshop two weeks ago and having incorporated elements into my Shake Your Soul class, I've been feeling this restoration of chi in my body and how chi or prana can be the fuel for inspired movement and dance.
Swami Kripalu was my initial and foundational inspiration in my spiritual quest, and I had the privilege of being in his creative and inspired presence in the early 80's. He immersed himself in the cultivation and expression of prana (or chi) as a tool for purification and spiritual evolution. One of his yogic practices was to connect to and surrender to the presence of prana and shakti in his body and allow his body to be moved by this life force so that whatever tensions and imbalances that existed in his body could dissolve into a harmonious flow of energy.
This was my foundational inspiration in doing yoga many, many years ago and continues to be what informs my yoga, qi gong and dance practice.
We all need physically based spiritual disciplines to introduce us to and strengthen the flow and expression of our life force, our prana, our chi.
So my deep encouragement is to find a practice that moves you!! Experiment with a few different practices whether they be yoga, tai chi/qigong, dance. Your body and spirit will tell you, "this is it!"
Your creativity can save your soul and your life. Your creative spirit breathes life into your body and soul.
Our soul needs outlets of creative expression in order to express itself. As we give more opportunities for our soul to express itself it can be a primary resource in guiding our lives. It begins to show up more and be our guide. On top of all that, our body basks in the release of physical tensions when our soul is in expression!
I invite you to strengthen your creative spirit and give expression to your soul through training in Shake Your Soul with me at Kripalu Center January 12-19!