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What stuff do you need to be happy?

July 24th, 2009 · 10 Comments

A friend recently posed this question to me:  if I had to live on a deserted island for one year with no possibility of escape or rescue, what five things, other than basic survival things like food, water, and shelter would I want to have with me.

deserted-island1Here’s my list:

The Tao te Ching (unless there is electricity, then my Kindle, but that seems like cheating)
A watercolor kit with paint and brushes
A camera—I know, the electricity thing again, but we won’t be super-strict with the rules.

As I thought about this, I realized I could have fun and stay really absorbed.  And that alone is a happy thought.  I’d keep a journal, of course, and then write all the things I never get around to, teach myself to paint, and take lots of interesting pictures.  My island, as I imagine it, has interesting shells and rocks and birds and plants and driftwood for creative inspiration.

Through it all, I’d read the Tao to keep inspired.  Maybe I’d understand it better at the end of the year.

After doing this little exercise, these questions came to mind:

What possessions really add to our happiness?
What do we really need for entertainment, for inner growth, for self-expression?
What would we be willing to give up if resources were really limited?

What would you bring along with you?  And how would it be to be alone with yourself?  Post your answers in the comments section.

Tags: creativity · desire · happiness

Ten Reasons to be Creative

May 3rd, 2009 · No Comments

colored-pencils1.  It’s fun.

2.  Creativity is associated with positive emotions such as happiness, joy, and love. Contrary to popular myth, the negative emotions of fear, sadness, and anxiety stifle creativity.  Don’t believe it?  Read this.

3.  It’s useful.  When you need to solve a problem, you have more options to choose from if you can access creative solutions.

4.  It helps you access all of you. Creativity uses both right brain, wholisitc and image based brain processes as well as left brain, logical, verbal, sequential thinking.

5.  It requires you to take risks, which develops courage and confidence, and courage and confidence are handy things to have.

6.  It develops efficiency.  When you are comfortable thinking outside the box, you can get to new solutions more easily.

7.  It encourages you to experience “flow,” where you are so fully immersed in what you are doing, that you effortlessly lose your sense of time.

8.  It relieves boredom.

9.  It makes life way more interesting.

10.  Because you are creative.

Tags: creativity · flow · happiness · positive psychology · stillness

What happens to our creativity?

April 16th, 2009 · No Comments

When my daughter was about seven years old, she asked me one day what I did at work. I told her I worked at the college – that my job was to teach people how to draw. She stared back at me, incredulous, and said, “You mean they forget?” ~~ Howard Ikemoto

b0001418-for-webWe do forget don’t we?  What happens to us, to our creativity?  How do we forget that we can draw and dance and paint and playfully express ourselves in thousands of creative, fun, meaningful ways?

I’ve been reading Ellen Langer’s excellent exploration of creativity, On Becoming an Artist. Here’s a rundown of some of the culprits she names as enemies of our creative expression:

–Judging your creative ideas or attempts.  (“Ugh.  My painting sucks.  I’m just no good at it.”)
–Comparing your creations to the work of others. (“My photography is just not as good as Ansel Adams’.”)
–Fear of making a mistake.  (“I can’t draw noses right, ever.”)
–Believing the myth that creativity requires special talent or gift and that we don’t have it.  (“I’d love to write a poem, but I don’t have any talent.”)

If you are telling yourself any of this, notice the effect it has on you.  Notice how you feel.  Are you inspired, do you want to sit at your piano when you are critical?  Do want to pick up a pen?

Where are you judging yourself, comparing yourself, fearing a mistake?  Let it go and just dive in.  Enjoy the process of painting, with no thought about the quality of your result.  Grab your camera, and point it at the light.  Forget about whether a masterpiece will emerge.

Remind yourself of the fun it is to put beautiful color on paper, that practice or a class will improve your skills, and that even accomplished artists spend time developing their gifts.  Find the thoughts that liberate and inspire you.

Take a lesson from Howard’s daughter—remember that you know how to draw.  You know how to paint and sing and dance, too.  You’ve just forgotten how for the moment.  When you put down the thoughts that get in your way, and instead, pick up the pencil, you’ll remember exactly how to do it.

Tags: creativity · thinking