Where Is Your Attention?

Tanya-Kushner-FlowersDeepak Chopra says, “Attention energizes; intention transforms.” It’s a powerful statement, and when employed thoughtfully can revolutionize the way your days unfold.

Here is a short reflective exercise that will help you begin to note where your attention is and direct that attention toward what you want, instead of what you don’t want.

Below are some questions that can bring laser-like focus to things that are asking for your attention (but maybe haven’t yet been articulated at the conscious level). In addition, these questions will lead you to a set of intentions and action steps that help you construct your day  in a way that will be deeply satisfying—and highly productive.

Take 20 minutes to do a free writing in response to these questions. Then, consider what specific actions might allow you to move productively, beneficially, and even lovingly through your day.

  1. What’s bugging you? (About anything. Come on. . . get it all out!!
  2. What do you want instead of what is bugging you? (Remember, answer this while looking through the lens of limitlessness. Go wild.)
  3. What would you have to drop or stop in order to get what you want? (Be honest!)
  4. What accomplishments/actions/events/feelings would make this a great day for you?
  5. Now, get scissors and cut out your answers to questions 1 and 3, and keep your answers to questions 2 and 4. This is where your attention should be. And once you are focusing more fully on what you want and what you can do (instead of what you don’t want and what you have been doing wrong), you will be well on the way to moving through your day more productively, beneficially, and even lovingly.

Try it. It works.

What Keeps You From Creating?

images-1This month we wrap up the 2016 accountability groups, and in our last session we’ve seen clear evidence of participants who have increased their ability to stay clear  and focused on their creative endeavor.   It’s been a great experience to share the large successes as well as the small set-backs with a group of people committed to their creative life.

That’s what we do at LifeArt Studio—help people increase creative energy, focus, and performance. In this process, we return again and again to three core principles.

  1. Lifestyle design. Many things contribute to constructing a happy, productive, creative life. Learn to structure your home, your work-space, your calendar, your schedule so that you can experience what is meaningful to you.
  1. Habits of mind. Identify the attitudes and beliefs (conscious and unconscious) that keep you from feeling good, being creative, or moving forward in an area of life.
  1. Skill set. Hone the necessary knowledge and skills to perform or produce your creative desires.

What does an accountability group do?

The purpose of an accountability group is to help you stay focused on all three of these arenas, to get help where you see weaknesses, and to be reminded to stay dedicated to the process.

We are adding two new accountability groups to our 2017 offerings, and you might be a good candidate to join us. To determine if such an experience is right for you, I offer a very quick overview of 9 factors we have found that keep many from moving forward with an idea, a relationship, a project, or creative endeavor.

In exploring these 9 avoidance tactics, participants have improved the discipline, the focus, the energy, the resilience, and the grit it takes to stay with a project for a significant amount of time. See if anything on this list is an issue in your creative life, and if so, think about joining us in January.

9 Factors That Contribute to Avoiding Your Creative Work

  1. Level of Urgency. Most people say that they are more productive when they have a deadline to meet. It creates urgency. If you’re working on a project or “thinking” about working on a project and the months (even years) are dragging by, this factor might be holding you back.
  1. Perception of Competence. We all face that inner critic: “I’m just not good enough to do this project. I’m weak, undisciplined, lacking in drive.” This is a common story we tell ourselves to avoid doing the work. (And it has to stop.)
  1. Attention to “create-space.” Have you created the appropriate space and condition under which to create? A place to write, a studio to paint in, a place to meditate, a dedicated space for your materials. And then, have you marked a time on your calendar to actually get to this “create-space” regularly?
  1. Level of Fear/Resistance. This is the big one. “I’m just not good enough. What will people think? It’s too hard. No one will like what I’m making, anyway.” In an accountability group, we find the “assignment” that hides underneath the resistance.
  1. Connection to Mission. “What am I doing? What do I believe in? How am I serving? What is my purpose here? “ These are huge questions, but we find they surface regularly in accountability groups. Research shows that intentions and goals that are connected to our higher mission will be easier to accomplish than activities that are tangential or even antithetical to our core mission.
  1. Levels of Support, Encouragement, Necessity. Who is your team? Who has your back? Who really cares about your success and accomplishment? Find your tribe and let them give you what you need.
  1. Monkey Mind. There is no denying that regularly quieting the chatter-y mind will increase your capacity for living and creating more happily and productively. (We have the data to prove it!)
  1. Believing you are the “maker” instead of the “instrument.” Sometimes, we suffer because we believe it is our job to handle everything. Well. . . that’s pretty much impossible. Practicing surrender is one of the highest skills a creative can cultivate.
  1. Showing the Work. It’s amazing what happens when you muscle up the courage to show your efforts to an audience—a friend, your colleagues, or your accountability group. When you see the care, the attention, the respect, the admiration that others give you when you have been willing to offer a small part of yourself to them, everything changes for you as an artist. You take baby steps. You build confidence. You go back to the drawing board. You revise or re-work. You show the work again, and again, and again. It makes you better, and better, and better. It makes others better, too. It’s all good.

images-2Join us in January and see what can happen to  your creative living.   You can contact me here for more information.




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.