Sitting with a Beautiful Question

51zvuHPCgoL._AA160_-1“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”                                ― Rainer Maria Rilke

Next week, two new groups begin at LifeArt Studio, both focusing on the powerful questions that shape our lives and create conditions for creating.  Poet Ranier Maria Rilke urges us to be patient with the uncertainties of this life, to live into the questions.  And that is exactly what we’ll be exploring for ten weeks as we practice ways of seeing the questions that our lives present to us, and ways of living patiently with those questions, instead of trying to force a solution.

We all want answers to why things are the way they are.  Why can’t I lose weight?  Why can’t I find love?  Why am I always at odds with people?  Why do I procrastinate doing the very thing I say I want most desperately to do?  And it’s so easy to get pushy about getting answers.  We’re not very patient creatures.   But patience—and self-awareness— will guide us eventually to answers, if we’re awake enough to recognize them.

Warren Berger, author of A More Beautiful Question, says the power of questioning can crack us open to a whole new way of thinking about what is possible for us, to whole new ways of approaching the deep yearning to create something new within ourselves.  The series of questions we’ll explore in these group coaching sessions are designed to do just that.  They help us set aside limiting thinking we might be holding around our possibilities, and then they guide us toward creating a map that will allow us to explore the possibilities that rise up as we ask and talk about these questions.

As we move through the five sessions in October and November, I’m going to share with our LifeArt Studio readers the big questions we’re posing, thinking about, sitting quietly with, and learning to hold in patience and equanimity.  By doing this, I hope to give you a small glimpse into our process of living the questions.

So here is the first set of questions.  See if they help you begin to examine your creative living.

1.  What is going well for you these days with regard to a creative project that has your attention right now.  Make an honest assessment of your attitude toward this project, the conditions under which you explore this project, and the level of inner and outer support that exists for this project.

2.  What’s going not so well with this project or endeavor?  Can you see some evidence as to why it’s not going so well?

3.  What one thing could you do to support your creating more fully, more happily, or more productively?  What are the costs/benefits of this “one thing”?

If you have a project or endeavor that you’re stalled on, you might want to join a new accountability group beginning in October.  We’ll do lots of questioning there, but also examine some concrete strategies for getting back on track and holding yourself accountable.   There’s room for you.  Contact me and let’s talk about it.

Are You Hiding Out?

images-2Last spring, 16 brave creatives came together at LifeArt Studio to proclaim they had an idea, and they wanted to create something. They were asking for support and encouragement with projects that heretofore were not being well tended— a book of poems, a memoir, a collection of paintings, a blog, a photo essay, a foundational practices plan, a website, and more.

And now, here we are, almost at the end of our creative journey together, having cried, complained, worried, avoided, laughed, encouraged, praised, and worked really, really hard.  But of course, the “creating” is just getting started, and the journey is not over.

So last week, I gave the participants some final thoughts, and I’d like to share them with those of you who also want to be held accountable.

First:   Taking on a creative project is a big, bold, brave, and scary thing to do.  So kudos to you all!  Brava!  Brava! Please be aware of the progress you have made, and be grateful for the clarity that has emerged around what yet wants to be created. There’s time. As Elizabeth Gilbert says in Big Magic:  Creative Living Beyond Fear, “The work wants to be made, and it wants to be made through you.” Remember this! Give your work time and space and lots of love.

Second: At each session we discuss how a creative project forces us to think about where we are in life and what we really want to say about our experience.  But we’ve also noticed how the things we say we want for ourselves are the very things we have a hard time creating for ourselves.  It’s maddening.  So we also address the obstacles we construct to avoid the hard work of creating. The best you can do is be honest about these obstacles, knowing that, for the most part, you have created them yourself. The world didn’t design them specifically to foil your desire to be an artist. Be vigilant so you catch those obstacles when they arise. And be patient with yourself as you attempt to disarm obstacles entrenched in your conditioning.

Third: Work hard to see the places where you are hiding out. Ask yourself, “What do I avoid doing or saying that keeps me from facing who I am and what I am here to create.

In our monthly accountability sessions, we’ve seen the ways we all “hide out.”  We’re so clever at it.  We avoid, we procrastinate, we judge, we analyze, we medicate, we postpone, we get busy, we take on other commitments!  Oh the ways are endless, aren’t they? And that’s what therapy, coaching, and self-study (svadyaya) is all about—ferreting out the places we hide out and keep ourselves from creating what we have the potential to create.

I am using the Greek word eudaimonia a lot lately.  It can be translated in a variety of ways, but essentially it means “being in a state of realizing your full potential.”  And that’s what an accountability group is all about—helping us figure out what we are capable of doing, feeling, expressing, offering to the world.

So the question that a good coach poses to her clients is this:
What keeps you from approaching your full potential?

The most common answer? “I’m afraid I won’t measure up.”

Yep, that’s it. We fear we won’t be good enough. “No one will like what I do, or pay me for what I do, or even notice what I do.” And as one of my clients said recently, “I’m afraid I’m going to do all this work and nothing will come of it.”

We are amazingly skilled at coming up with reasons that we won’t measure up. And we hold on to those reasons with a herculean grip.

But I’m here to tell you that you are up to it. You will measure up.   You DO measure up. Already!   Proof of that “measuring up” is the deep satisfaction you feel when you express (shape, construct, create) an idea that came uniquely out of you. There is no amount of money or adulation that can take the place of that kind of satisfaction. Saying what is inside of you to be said is the best reward. And no one is keeping track of the magnitude of that expression. Its value has to be held precious in your own heart. This is what we call courage, from cor, the Latin word for heart.

And so. . .I take pleasure in telling you how thrilled I have been to witness your courage.

As the accountability groups come to the end of their six-month commitment, I have asked them to consider a few questions that might guide them into the next six months of creating.

  • Do you feel complete about the work you’ve done?
  • Will you continue to work on your project?
  • What kind of support will be most helpful to you as you continue with your creative life?
  • Where are you being dishonest with yourself?
  • And where are you failing to honor yourself?
  • How can you strengthen the habits of mind that allow you to create at your best?
  • Where are you most proud of yourself?
  • And are you willing to show your work in some small way?

I hope these questions are helpful to you as you think about undertaking something big, bold, brave, and scary. And if you are ready to commit to a creative project, and if you, too, would like to participate in an accountability group, please contact me. New groups will begin in October 2016 and run through May 2017.

“Be bold! And mighty warriors will come to your aid.”




Experience Your Experiences

images-1The purpose of life is to experience your experiences.

Think about it. . .

Many of us move mindlessly from experience to experience and fail to be aware of the essential nature of the experience. We rush through tasks, conversations, projects, thinking we need to get on to the next thing. Such rushing causes us to miss the richness, the beauty, and the potential that lie at the heart of every experience.

When we construct a life that is based on rushing and urgency, we can begin to feel empty inside and mistakenly believe that if we simply change what we are experiencing all will be well again. And so we rush after yet another new experience, trying to gobble up life so that we can feel satisfied, purposeful, or happy.

What is the antidote to this grasping after experience and then not really being present to the very experience we wanted so desperately?

This is the topic of the workshop we’re offering this coming Saturday called Foundational Practices for Living Happily, Creatively, and Productively. I want to share with you some of the reasons we can work very, very hard at creating a life, and yet still feel dissatisfied. We’ll talk about the thought patterns and obstacles that get in our way, and we’ll also examine the habits of mind and the daily practices that will create the conditions for your unique flourishing in this world.

We’ll meet from 1:00 to 4:30 on Saturday, September 10, to explore these ideas and to construct your own set of foundational practices for healthy living. Join us for an inspiring few hours that may help you to more fully experience your experiences!

Please contact me at to register for this event.  A $20. reservation fee will hold a place for you.