A Letter to Creativity

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Dear Creativity,

I’m sorry it’s been so long. You were my saving grace in childhood, before I dismissed you so callously and without consideration. I saw you in me as being somehow less than you in another. I disowned you by discounting myself as worthy enough to be graced by your presence. I ignored you and thought you were for the weirdoes, the underachievers, and the crazies. I curtailed my curiosity for fear of insanity, and ignored inspiration. I’m sorry.

I’m sorry I stopped drawing and singing, writing and crafting, doodling and fiddling with everything my hands could find. I’m sorry I stopped playing music and embracing silliness and daydreaming to pass the time. I’m sorry I stopped making up poems and plays and attempting improbabilities. I’m sorry I rejected the beauty of bewilderment for timidity and boredom for the sake of conventionality. I’m sorry I tamed my imagination and stopped taking risks. I’m sorry I exchanged adventure for the comfort of safety, and traded vitality for security.

But I want you back. I want reckless abandon and childlike wonder. I want to write. To innovate. To inspire. To create. To risk. To explore. To expose. To embrace. So let’s go somewhere we’ve never been. Let’s blaze a trail, explore a whim. Let’s dance and eat and fall in love all over again.

I promise I will do my best to nurture you, to hold you close, albeit loosely. I promise to love you, to cherish you, to savour you. I promise to unhinge the shame from my creative process. We don’t have to make amazing art, or amazing anything. We just have to make. We don’t have to wow the world. And we don’t have to be perfect. We just have to be.

We can be public or personal, poem or prose, primitive or sophisticated. We can be clean and proper. Or we can push the limits. We can be sensual and witty, and entirely extraordinary. But let’s run away together. Because the monotony of safety will be the death of me.

And dearest Creativity, thank you for finding me again. Thank you for giving me another chance and believing in me and helping me believe in myself.

So today, I reinstate you as part of my identity.

Your very own,

BGJ, Creative Soul

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Healing Practices: Walking

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It all started with this iPhone app I downloaded last summer that tracks the number of steps I take in a day. My goal is 10,000 steps a day, which is what the app recommended for weight control. And so began the long walks, which quickly became a favourite summer activity, whenever I was able to make it happen. Ten thousand steps usually takes me about an hour and a half of walking and/or jogging, on top of my regular (mostly sedentary) day.

If you think that walking is boring, there are ways to make it a fun and interesting activity. One thing I like to do while walking is listen to podcasts. There are so many good podcasts out there and such a wealth of information. (I’ll write a post on my favourite podcasts soon.) If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that another thing I like to do on my walks is stop to appreciate the flowers and sometimes take pictures of them. I also like keeping an eye on the sky because clouds and sunsets take my breath away. When I’m walking a trail, I like listening to the sound of birds, the crunch of dirt on the path under my feet, the water rushing downstream, the leaves blowing against each other with the wind, and whatever else happens to be in the soundscape.

Long walks are rejuvenating for your body and your brain. Research shows remarkable mental and physical health benefits to taking walks. They help declutter your soul, bring clarity to your mind, and are good for your heart (both your physical heart and your emotional heart). And it’s a great problem solving activity. Sometimes, when I’m working on a paper for school, after I’ve done all my information gathering and just before, or midway through, the writing process, I leave everything and take a half hour walk. This activates a flow state and my papers turn out better than if I had sat there and worked straight through. Usually when I’m walking to help clear my mind or problem solve, I don’t listen to podcasts, instead I turn my attention to my surroundings and practice being mindful and completely present where I am.

I’d encourage you to find some time, today or this week, to leave your house, pick a direction, and walk. And while you’re walking, be in the moment and enjoy your surroundings. You will feel lighter, happier, more alive, and accomplished. And don’t take just my word for it. Steve Jobs walked. Beethoven walked. Darwin walked. Dickens walked. Jesus walked. Poets and prophets, gurus and pundits, business people, inventors, engineers, artists, scientists, musicians, the unemployed, and many other brilliant people made the practice of walking a part of their lives, and they were better for it.

Grace and peace.

Healing Practices: Yoga

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In the midst of everything that has been going on in my life (transformation, transition, deconstruction, etc.), I have been utilizing a handful of what I like to call healing practices to help my soul recalibrate and find center again. These healing practices, or centering rituals, or whatever you want to call them, are the activities that I am building into my life in this season in order to maintain balance and sanity. I will share each one in a different post and they will be part of a series that I’m calling “Healing Practices”. This one is about my path to participating in the practice of yoga.

My journey with yoga hasn’t always been a fond one. Growing up as a charismatic-evangelical-pentecostal-Christian kid, and my parents being Indian, yoga was strictly frowned upon as being derived from Hindu and New Age religious practices that would invite demons into our lives if we ever tried it. (I’m not even joking.) This (mis)information has kept a lot of people missing out on a valuable practice.

When I started working in the field of mental health five years ago, I learned that yoga is incredibly effective in treating trauma. Trauma is held in the muscles, bones, joints and sinews of our physical bodies. Traumatic experiences literally live in the body’s implicit memories, and is often experienced as chronic pain or other chronic conditions. The focus on body work, breathing, balance, etc. are all effective techniques for healing the damage of trauma and alleviating symptoms of anxiety, depression, and a number of other mental health related problems. But I was skeptical. My fundamental Christian worldview stood as a giant barrier to considering otherwise.

Eventually, I started hearing stories about people’s experience with yoga and noticed that none of them appeared to be demon possessed. And in fact, it was a great addition to their fitness routine and useful for coping with stress. So I considered trying it.

My first experience with yoga was joining a giant Sunday morning class a couple years ago at the Lulu Lemon store in the Yorkville area of Toronto. It was enjoyable in general, but my wrists (still weak from an old Starbucks injury) simply couldn’t handle all the downward dog poses. And, quite honestly, it seemed like white, young adult, hipster females had hijacked the practice, and I wasn’t too interested in joining the trend.

My second experience with yoga was when my sister invited me to go to a class with her. She had taken up the practice and found it calming and rejuvenating. I wasn’t convinced. But I went with her anyway because I had read and heard about all the theoretical benefits to yoga, and I trust my sister. This yoga class was less hipster but I couldn’t keep up with its pace and my wrists still hurt. I also didn’t feel very connected to the practice and mostly just felt like an imposter. At that point, I decided that yoga wasn’t for me and didn’t bother with it for another six months. Even after I took up meditation as a regular practice, I kept yoga at a distance.

About a month ago, I purchased a fitness membership at my local community centre. My plan was to swim, work out in the gym, and maybe take a couple group exercise classes when I was feeling brave and up to it. The first class I signed up for was half and half of low impact cardio and yoga. I will write about my experience in some of these classes in another post, but the ½ hour yoga practice was truly sublime. It connected with me in such a profound way that I had to seek out more. I found another yoga class the next morning and went to it. Even with a different instructor, it was soothing to my soul. So basically, I’ve attended a yoga session four out of the last six days. And my plan for this week includes a yoga class almost every day.

The most intriguing part of the process for me has been how it flushes out pent up emotion from my system. It helps me unwind from work and sleep better. It helps me process my thoughts in effective and positive ways. And it helps to clear and calm my mind. Sometimes, the slowing down and breathing process as I enter into a practice period is enough to move me emotionally. And as the session continues, I literally work and stretch and squeeze those emotions out of my body and out of my mind. Sometimes, at the end of practice, as I’m driving home, I’m overcome with tears. But they are tears of cleansing and renewal and healing. It’s beautiful and I am now a believer in the power of this ancient practice.

If you’re looking for something to work your body and mind, to promote balance and strength, and bring healing to places of pain or bad memories, I highly recommend trying a basic yoga practice. Sometimes, you need a few introductions before you get to know someone, and few roadsigns pointing to the path before you get to walking along it. I hope this can be a sign along your path. And I hope to keep yoga in my repertoire of healing practices for as long as it serves me.

Grace and peace.