30 Apr 2011

April 2011: Inspiration Alert! Imagination very alert!

In my head, this spring blog was to be about creative inspiration. However, it seems that Imagination would like a mention and some attention too, and who am I to refuse? My findings and fumble-upons have certainly brought my awareness to both notions that are new and knowtions familiar but forgotten…like an old, holey sock stuffed down at the bottom of the drawer. And so it is that odd socks I lay before you. Perhaps you will find one that matches your own (head-nod remembering) or you’ll sock-swap stripes for spots, spots for stripes or you’ll simply shut the drawer. Whatever your pleasure, here is this month’s offering:

April began. I contemplated creativity. I watched with curiosity as I diligently set up hurdles to action: “I need a good clear run at Creativity. I need hours to get creative.” I knew this was not the case, although it is arguably a view that many of us hold. Often other work takes priority over our artistic passions and when sacred space to create does appear suddenly, somehow, the hoovering or laundry demands our time. Creativity goes to the back of the line. It became apparent that April was to be a month of finding little ways to play, acting upon them and also sharing these with others. I began by observing and appreciating the small ways in which I was being creative in each day. Habitual acts became happenings and experiments. At breakfast, I became a sorceress of smoothies, swirling tastes of different types into my bubbling, speed-blended splendid pot. General cooking, too, became more creative the more conscious I was to this element within it. As did no-cooking: a raw food snack was too fun to make without sharing it online with friends:

Inspiration Alert! Try this raw food truffle treat: blend/whiz up 2 cups raisins/dried fruit with 2 cups nuts, teeny dash of fruit juice. Shape mix into small balls and roll in cocoa powder/shredded coconut! Magic! Creative and VERY tasty!

This boomerang came back as a friend in Australia, Angie, posted her own variation of  this recipe:

I used dried cranberries, apricots, dates, raw cashews, raw almonds, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds! It was really, really yummy!!!

A daisy-chain of delight was forming. Another friend made the raw treats for his family. Creative acts continued. I gave flowers to the local hairdresser instead of a tip. Wonder was at work for that very same day, flowers were gifted to me too. Artist and creative adventurer Natalia Dawidowicz Mahabeer posted notes on what was inspiring her:

[…] nature, and everything being reborn, born, recycled and created, a lot of dance […] Van Gogh […] I seem to be in that enigmatic world of lines and intensive yellows and blues. Poetry, poets from varied cultures. And Twiggy :)
Natalia is also allowing me to share with you a link to her artwork online, perhaps giving you insights into other worlds or ways of being. As you open up her webpage, you pull back the curtains to a hideaway place, filled with secrets and soul-glow:

Entering other realms is a tantalizing prospect indeed, but how often do we entertain this game? I think it’s time for another –

Inspiration Alert! Flex your imagination like you're 5! Sit outside a closed door. Imagine that on the other side lies a whole new world: your own ocean, with narwhals come to greet you! A wibbly world of jelly! Upsidedownland! What's there? When finished imagining, walk away from the door. Know that when you next open it that fantastical rainbow world will still exist, somewhere, even if for now, it's only in your head!

In someway, this exercise brought me closer to the imaginary friends of my childhood: a sheepdog, a pig named Figaro and small dinosaurs who were also friends with my siblings. I wonder where they are now? The dinosaurs that is, my siblings are real and their locations known. I also experimented with imagining certain people were behind the door too, which was comforting. Although a number of people commented on the activity, I’m not sure if anyone actually explored it or at least consciously so. Later that week, as I was off to a meeting, I soon came to re-see that we make up worlds all the time, and in such detail! I was certain of the scenario:  I was right, they were wrong. They were opinionated, they had ‘issues’, they were blocking me, they, they, they – ooh, creatively cooking again, I simmered myself up into a right old bother.  The meeting in reality: we met. All was well. The world I had imagined never existed beyond my bonce.

April trotted on and I opened up a book* and saw far more fully that the imagination is a key that can open doors to a world of liberation, even when the reality of a person’s circumstances is so horrific that most minds would struggle to comprehend the atrocity and cruelty experienced. I read of the experiences of Victor Frankl, a psychiatrist and a Jew, imprisoned in the death camps of Nazi Germany:

Except for his sister, his entire family perished. Frankl himself suffered torture and innumerable indignities […] One day, naked and alone in a small room, he began to become aware of what he later called “the last of the human freedoms” [...] He could decide within himself how all of this was going to affect him. Between what happened to him, or the stimulus, and his response to it, was his freedom or power to choose his response.
          In the midst of his experiences, Frankl would project himself into different circumstances, such as lecturing to his students after his release from the death camps. He would […] give his students the lessons he was learning during his very torture.
          Through a series of such disciplines– mental, emotional, and moral, principally using memory and imagination– he exercised his small, embryonic freedom until it grew larger and larger, until he had more freedom than his Nazi captors. They had more liberty, more options to choose from in their environment; but he had more freedom, more internal power to exercise his options.

Author Stephen R. Covey suggests that Frankl used the human endowment of self-awareness to discover ‘Between stimulus and response, man has the freedom to choose.’ He also notes that the other uniquely human endowments within that freedom to choose are: imagination, conscience and independent will. Covey argues that these ‘[…] lift us above the animal world. The extent to which we exercise and develop these endowments empowers us to fulfill our uniquely human potential.’ Frankl’s strength, great heart and empowering choices in such degrading, apalling circumstances, arguably demonstrate just how powerful a tool the human mind is and how we can choose to use the qualities and gifts we have been given as humans, for good.

Although we humans may be very different to animals, aspects of our nature are not far-removed from our brothers and sisters, the beasts. Sometimes I like to think of the mind as an energetic sheepdog. We can keep it content, healthy and bright-eyed if we put it to work well, have it jump the agility circuit, run in wide, open fields to return home exercised and fulfilled. Or we can stay at home and watch as it chews the table-leg and become neurotic, barking as visitors walk through the door. Bear with me as I tell you about an uninvited visitor who did not enter through the door this month. Imagine: I am home alone. It is one a.m. and I am woken suddenly by

heavy breath
door flung open
window open
heavy breath
bedroom door open
bedroom window open
heavy breathing
someone is in the room
a man is in the room
standing in the alcove around the corner
from my bed
I can hear him
heavy breathing.
Panting, panting
exhausted from his climb.
Any moment, he’ll make his move.
In the shadows
I can see him
greasy hair, stained sweatshirt, baggy clothes hang off him.

I grab the glass from beside the bed, ready.
Do I run?
Am I fast enough?
Street below: male voices shout
my slumber-encumbered brain shouts
What is going on?
Heavy breathing
now wheezing
turns to
motorbike revs up and
revs off
voices leave the street
The Intruder leaves the room.
My imagination
is panting, panting
heart fast
still afraid
very afraid
of the never was.
Too shaken to sleep
I stay awake.
For some reason I
imitate his breath
to check it sounded as real as it sounded
which scares me even more.
Heart fast.
Stop imitating. Switch landing light on. Close window.
Just in case.

The next day I decide, once and for all, it is probably best that I put my active imagination to good use.

How would it be if each of us were to take responsibility, gently, quietly and triumphantly, to observe our thoughts and watch where we let our mind-puppy wander?
By wandering on my own this month, I have also re-realized that that which we put our attention on, really does grow. It’s time for another Inspiration Alert! Time to take a Flower Walk:

Pick a route, ideally a route you’re familiar with – that way you can really enjoy seeing it anew. If you have a camera, bring it along, if not, blink your eyes and use the camera of your mind, sniff what you see and store this in your scents memory. As you walk your chosen route, mindfully bring your awareness to each and every blossom and bloom you come across.

It is springtime here and the trees and green friends are displaying their finery for us. On my flower walk, I stepped out with a woody ones in mind, en route, that I knew were veritable pompoms of pink and white. Even before I’d reached the main road, I saw weeds sprouting hello halos of gold petals, I spied a bank of daffs I’d previously bustled by. No more than a minute passed before I paused to sniffseesnap what was before me. I was surprised to see far more flowers than I imagined I would. What you focus on, you see more of. Simple as that, if we can remember. With my eyes wider and mind more open too I walked back home and I started to see people as flowers. Some, seemingly flourishing in the sun, others, with petals shaking, clinging on to their inner and outer stalks of support. How humbling and heartening that we are as nature is; all of us in need of the right soil, light and shade. Humans as flowers: achingly fragile and boldly brilliant by turns. May you spot blossoms of all sorts and species on your own flower walk.

And should it seem a little tricky to see the sparkle in each day, here’s a happening that will make your heart smile: the 365 Grateful project. In 2008, Australian Hailey Bartholomew, was feeling really down. She consulted a nun who was also a life-coach and counsellor. The nun suggested that the secret to happiness was reflection and gratitude. The nun asked Hailey to write, each night, something about the day that she was grateful for. And this grew into the 365 Grateful project http://365grateful.com/original-365-project . You can view Hailey’s gratitude photos via:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/poppysmiles/sets/72157604663676256/ . It is a testament to the project’s positive power that people all over the world have since created their own gratitude projects because of it. And so another daisy-chain of delight grows around the globe.

This month, may you see those ever-present treasures that call for your awareness. May you bring your attention to blessings, find the real in the unreal, and reunite with long-lost socks.

Spring Flower Walk: Hello Halo

*The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey.


  1. Love it Al - a very inspiring and blooming blog! people as flowers is the vision i'm going to use today... ah there is so much colour, shape and beauty walking around everywhere now! (because these are beautiful friendly flowers and no man-eating trifids of course!). Am going to share my flower pics on fb of a recent trip to compton acres, it was snap snap with camera and eyes/mind as soooo gorgeous. Thank you for your colourful and heartful sharings. Big love xx

  2. Thanks Louisa! Yep, people as friendly flowers sounds grand. A people-as-flowers walk would be a fun one too; I think I'll try that tomorrow, focussing on what type of flower-people are all around tomorrow. I look forward to seeing your pics too, thanks for sharing! x