Your creativity is waiting for you.

This post first appeared online at Happy Mama

My fingers move over the piano keys, more awkwardly than before. I remember the notes but I can tell I have lost skill. It has been so long since I identified as a musician, as a creative. I wondered if it was possible to reclaim that space. I missed it. Suddenly, a little one plonked alongside me, her small sticky hands pounding the keys “Mama, I play too! Old MacDonald had a…farm!”

Strumming the guitar, singing a song I used to know…a little one climbs up on the bed, “MOOSIC!” she chortles and clamps her hand over the fretboard. Suddenly my song doesn’t sound like the one I used to know.

Turning up the Saturday morning playlist loud (Boy and Bear, it goes well with coffee), feeling excited at the promise of a weekend – belting out “Lordy May” when suddenly Bieber is urging “Let Me Love You.” The little ones laugh in conspiracy – they know how to operate Spotify now.

Sketching a floral design with an inky black pen, feeling expressive and satisfied. I notice my shoulders drop and I breathe a little more deeply and slowly. It’s quiet here at the table. Suddenly, a small voice calls “Hey Mum! Can you draw a Ninja Turtle eating a pizza, but with no pineapple on it?”

Painting an abstract canvas at the kitchen table. I have just enrolled in an online painting course. It’s 10pm and the little ones are asleep. I spread out all the paints and brushes. I listen to music on my headphones as I paint. I feel free and creative. Soon though, I tire and need to pack away the materials before another huge day of mothering. I am impatient and don’t let the glaze dry in time. The painting smudges and my careful marks disappear under the wet glaze.

***

Claiming my creative space and nurturing my creative spirit, especially as a mother, feels essential but at times, barely possible.

When I look at how I would traditionally claim space for creative expression – it’s centred on a pre-motherhood life. A life that is spacious, rested and independent.

I’ve learned that I can no longer use my old references and definitions of what a creative life means to me – because now, as a Mama of three little ones – it simply does not fit in the same way.

But, when I am standing in truth, and honouring the true sacredness of mothering and what it means to me – then I can fully access a creative wisdom and knowledge that was not known to me before.

Georgie James Photography

Georgie James Photography

***

Walking home from the park, we slow to halt. Reaching down, we notice the smooth texture of discarded bark sheafs. They will make the perfect canvases for our watercolours. We throw as much as we can into the bottom of the pram. This is noticing.

Zooming around in the art gallery, they stop and giggle at the nude paintings. I chuckle along. This is art appreciation.

Lining up the chairs for a home grown dance and comedy show in the backyard. This is theatre.

Colouring in and out of the lines.  This is freedom.

Turning our sketching ‘mistakes’ into something new. This is resilience.

Singing to Ed Sheeran in the car on the way to school. This is harmony.

Hanging our projects on the wall. This is pride.

Ninja kicking from the lounge room sofa. This is imagination.

Dancing in the kitchen while Dad makes pancakes.  This is fun.

Gazing at the sky and seeing elephants in the clouds. This is peaceful.

Playing the wrong note at the piano. This is process.

Guessing the instruments in the orchestral piece. This is listening.

Scribbling, then colouring in the gaps. This is creating beauty amidst chaos.

Sharing our favourite songs. This is understanding.

Describing the events from our days. This is storytelling.

Crafting a thank you card. This is connection.

***

Georgie James Photography 

Georgie James Photography 

As a mama, I see the gift and responsibility that is bestowed to me. I can choose to role model a creative life to my little ones. They are watching me.

I let them see me daydream. I let them see me choose creative pursuits, to wonder at beauty in nature, in an art gallery, in their own creations and projects. I let them see me try. I let them see me trust the process and detach from the outcome.

But I know it is they who are teaching me. They are my creative role models.

Together we learn, that creativity is our birth right. We learn that creativity can be expressed freely and without judgement. We learn that it is a portal to deeper connections, within ourselves, our relationships and our communities. We learn that creativity offers us a sense of magic, wonder and mystery – in both the sacred and ordinary. We learn that creativity means taking risks, being brave and innovative in thought, imagination and action. We learn that being immersed in creative expression enters us into a state of ‘flow’ which relaxes us, reduces anxiety, boosts self-esteem and happiness.

Creativity is not waiting for us, in our rare moments of mama solitude.

It is within us, and our children. Shared together, creativity is ignited to be both real and magical.

©Naomi Morrow, 2017.

How to be more resilient: Key learnings from The Resilience Project

“Developing Resilience in Young People” was the title of the event facilitated by Hugh van Cuylenberg of The Resilience Project. The event was supported by Wodonga Council and Gateway Health, through Healthy Together Wodonga.

Here’s my key take away messages of how we can boost our own resilience and that of the young people in our lives by practising empathy, gratitude and mindfulness.

1.     Pain can be transmuted into gold.

Hugh described the devastation and helplessness felt as an older brother witnessing his sister’s battle with Anorexia Nervosa. Years later, whilst teaching in a remote Indian village, he was profoundly struck with the deep happiness described by the residents, many of whom were homeless, orphaned and without ready access to safe drinking water. Intrigued by this village’s incredibly low mental illness rates (1/85) compared to the current crisis facing Australia (1/7 children and 1/4 adolescents diagnosed with a mental illness), Hugh embarked on exploring the topic of resilience and sharing his knowledge with Australian schools, workplaces and communities. His expertise and research knowledge is conveyed with deep passion from his personal experiences. Stories of suffering are imbued with heart felt meaning and inform his drive.

Look closely: consider how you might reconstruct your pain and create something from it.

2.     Noticing moments for gratitude

Gratitude is about focusing on what you already have, not the “If and when” model of happiness – (‘I’ll be happy when I get a promotion/bigger house/ sports car/ top marks/when I lose x amount of weight’). The “If and when” is not a sustainable approach to happiness.

Hugh told a story of a student at the remote village school in India who he describes as ‘the happiest person’ he’s ever met. Stunzin, who was homeless and an orphan, spoke very little English. He slept outside under cardboard for shelter and warmth. He would smile often and point to what he was grateful for, saying “Dis” (This): shoes, despite his feet growing too big and having to cut the ends off to fit; the shop awning for keeping him dry whilst he slept at night on the street; the water he walked for hours to retrieve in heavy buckets for boiling at school and so on. Stunzin noticed and gave thanks for what he had. If you search #dismoment on social media, you will see that Stunzin’s approach to life has inspired many.

Notice: where can you stop and acknowledge what you have with gratitude? #dismoment. This is a practice you can do yourself, but imagine the power as you show others this practice…Your children, work colleagues, friends?  

The sun. Welcomed after a pretty cold and gloomy NE Victorian Winter © Naomi Morrow, 2016

The sun. Welcomed after a pretty cold and gloomy NE Victorian Winter © Naomi Morrow, 2016

3.     The Gratitude Questions

Ever tried to keep a gratitude journal but started to recycle the same responses over and over (eg. my health, my family etc) and got tired of it?

Try answering these questions daily to keep things fresh and unique:

  •                   What is the best thing that happened to me today?
  •                   Who am I most grateful to today and why?
  •                   What am I most looking forward to tomorrow?

Research shows a multitude of benefits for keeping this daily practice going. Keep writing for 21 days and your brain can retain a pattern for scanning the world not for the negative but for the positive.

If you keep going for 42 days, you: are less likely to get sick; have higher levels of energy; feel happier; are more enthusiastic; are more attentive; are more determined; are more optimistic; have a better quality of sleep; and have lower levels of depression and anxiety.

Journal writing on gratitude is a quick, creative, free + effective way to boost resilience.

 4.     Wear your friend’s shoes (or: show empathy)

The audience giggled as Hugh told a story of asking a group of children what they thought empathy meant. One young girl suggested it was when you wear your friend’s shoes. She was on the right track! The metaphorical ‘stepping into another’s shoes’ is the willingness and capacity to try to understand the situation and feelings of another. Showing empathy is a key step to developing resilience.

How to cultivate this? Encourage your child to plan one act of kindness to carry out during the week. Who are they going to help? How? Review at the end of the week. What did they do? How did they feel doing it? Also keep an eye out for an opportunity to engage in a random act of kindness during the week. Give it a go yourself too. Each time you do something kind for others, your brain releases oxytocin (the feel good hormone) – which leads to increased confidence, energy, happiness and positivity. The boost to your wellbeing by engaging in these kinds of acts is long lasting.

5.     Influence the strength of your emotion.

Within seven seconds of hearing your favourite song, you can increase your positive emotion or decrease your negative emotion. Within 30 seconds of exercise you can make a change. Laugh – and the change is immediate.

You know what song you like. You know what exercise you like to do. You know what makes you laugh. Seek out these things and keep them in your bag of wellbeing tricks.

For the young person in your life – what song do they like? What exercise do they enjoy? What jokes, movies, stories make them laugh? Use them.

You can control the strength of your emotion. You can teach your child that they have power over theirs.

6.     Practising mindfulness.

An adolescent brain now takes in the same amount of information in a one week period than 20 years ago, where that same amount of information was absorbed over a whole year.

It is vital that adolescents, children and adults alike have opportunity to practise mindfulness and reduce mental clutter and overwhelm.

Mindfulness colouring can be a way to experience ‘flow’ – that is to experience enjoyment, lose sense of time and not be distracted by worries.

A number of mindfulness meditation apps exist. The Smiling Mind App has been proven to reduce anxiety, depression, relieve stress, prevent heart disease, improve sleep, reduce chronic pain, lowers blood pressure, enhances decision making, improves focus and decreases drug and alcohol abuse.

The problems are complex.

The solutions need not be complicated.

© Naomi Morrow, 2016