Load-Bearing Beams

The Skyscraper Of SelfIt’s February, and once again Rollins is hosting our Winter with the Writers Festival of the Literary Arts.  We enjoy readings, master classes, dinners and casual conversations with award winning authors as well as new and rising talents.  Creativity is in the air at Rollins this month!

And when I get to see a successful creative up close and personal, I always listen for hints of the daily structure that supports the creative life.  What rituals does he practice? How does she manage her days? When is the best time for creating?  Does he eat before he writes?  What environmental conditions best serve her art?

I’m not so interested in the obsessive/compulsive things that creep into creative personalities, or the superstitious rituals that some artists practice to summon the muse.  I’m more interested in the load-bearing beams of the life.

Buildings are built on a foundation of several load-bearing beams.  These are the key parts of the structure that must remain in tact for the structure to be strong, sound, and aesthetically pleasing.  If you take down a building’s load-bearing beams, you know what happens:  the structure collapses.  It can get ugly–and very expensive to repair.

Our lives are also built upon a foundation of several load-bearing beams.  These are the habits that sustain us, give us stamina and resilience, and allow mind and body to function in the smoothest, most effective manner.  So think about it, what are the load-bearing beams in your life?  Do they effectively support your creative life, foster vibrancy and receptivity, and open a clear pathway to your deepest wisdom and most useful skills and talents?  Try to make a list of the specific actions that you might call your life’s load-bearing beams.

Here are mine:

1.  Good sleep:  for at least 8 straight hours a night
2.  Good food: real food three or four times a day
3.  Conscious breathing: practice deep, mindful breathing throughout the day; practice breath exercises (pranayama) once a day
4.  Movement: practice yoga, walk, or do strength training every day (when possible add functional movement and recreational physical activity like biking, swimming, gardening)
5.  Meditation and gratitude:  upon rising and again late afternoon.

So these are the five foundations upon which my happy and productive day is built.  These come before anything—before work, before creative practice, before friends and family, before house and garden, before any demands or distractions the world may press upon me.  These five elements have to be strong and secure in my life on a daily basis to experience every arena of my life feeling happy, satisfied, or successful.  These elements give me energy and focus and vision to implement the other important things in life.  They are the foundation upon which the Lezlie house is built.

Yes, I can hear what you’re saying:  “Doesn’t that take a lot of time?  It would be nice to have the leisure to do all of that, but I have a job to get to.”

True, some days these 5 foundational practices to take up a huge amount of time.  On food-gathering days, I go to Costco and the grocery store and the Farmers’ Market, then come home and prep all the veggies and foods I’ve purchased, and then cook some beans or roast some vegetable for use in salads throughout the week.  That can take all morning.  And then add the on-going process of looking for good recipes of healthy dishes   So just the food-beam alone is a big chunk of time in my house.

And then there’s exercise—easily two hours a day, and more if you count drive time and clean up time (which is no small thing if you work up a good sweat).  So if I get up, do a meditation, take a yoga class, make the food run, prep and put the groceries away, then cook (or assemble, that’s more my speed) something to eat, it can be 2 in the afternoon before I see a space to actually do life.  Yikes.

But wait.  I’m not sure this description reflects the right attitude about these foundations.  I don’t want to view these activities as “outside” the arena of real life.  When that happens, I begin to resent doing them. For the most part, I enjoy doing all of these foundational actions because they ARE real life for me.  They are the blood and bones and tissue of the moving, loving, happy, creative Lezlie-entity.  And if I slip into thinking of my work or my play or my social life as the keys to what I’m all about, and get annoyed because these foundations are taking up so much of my precious time, I remind myself:  these are the very actions that allow me to be healthy and vibrant and ready to work.

But sometimes, before that slight attitudinal adjustment kicks in, I get frustrated and slide into a lovely fantasy about hiring a chef to cook for me.  What woman hasn’t been there?  (I used to fantasize about having a husband who does the cooking, but you see, I’ve upgraded that fantasy to having a good-looking chef who arrives at mealtime, serves me a delicious meal, and leaves quietly taking all the dirty pans with him.)

So today, here at LifeArt Studio, I’m wondering how other people balance the foundational pieces of their lives with the deep work they are doing in the world.  It’s all about balance, right?  I just bought an essential oil called Balance by doTERRA, and when I find myself ignoring my load-bearing beams, or getting frustrated because I’m struggling to keep them upright in my day, I rub a few drops into my hand and cup my hands over my face, breathe in and absorb the oil into my system.  It helps.  It also helps to remember what happens when I don’t tend to these foundational practices.  Before the day is over, I’ll feel frustrated, fatigued, scattered and easily distracted, unable to focus, and unable to create.  Skipping any one of the foundational elements is simply not worth it for me.

Balancing foundational practices with creative practices—it’s a challenge.  So tell us, what are your foundational practices, the daily habits that really allow you to flourish in your life? And please let us know your strategies for keeping your load-bearing beams upright!  We all need support in maintaining balance in our lives.

Wishing you an artful day.

Photo credit: drp via Compfight

2 thoughts on “Load-Bearing Beams

  1. Charlotte

    Ah, I love this! I’m so fascinated by these rituals that support the creative life. One of my favorite reads is the Sunday Routine series in the Times. I’m also curious to check out “Daily Rituals: How Artists Work” by Mason Currey.

    My own load-bearing beams are a lot like yours…deep sleep, satisfying food, joyful movement. Time with my hubby and sweet pups is definitely crucial as well, but time alone is the other (and necessary) side of that coin for me. And when things get wonky a visit to LifeArt Studio always helps me find my way back on track! :)

  2. Lucille Younger

    My load-bearing beams are sagging, but I’m beginning to detect slow movement upward. I’ve always been an early riser–between 4 and 5 every morning, but in concentrating on my music (piano and guitar) and picking up the pen again, I’ve begun to use those early hours to practice and write. Reading your blogs have fueled some of this new-found focus and direction. My excuse, of course, is my work schedule: 10 hours Monday through Thursday, off Fridays (which I reserve for tennis) and back again working 9 to 1 on Saturday. Hours like that really do take a toll…please tell me they do!

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