Inner180

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How ignoring my Inner Nag got me to Africa.

September 17th, 2009 · 9 Comments

Does she have an Inner Nag?

Does she have an Inner Nag?

Over and over, I’ve been asked the same thing about my recent trip to Africa: what was the best part, the most important thing I learned, my biggest “aha”?  The people, the animals, the landscape, the country, and the African STAR workshop enriched my life in so many ways.  Did one thing stand out?

I puzzled over this, and then it hit me.

The biggest lesson for me was this–I went.  I didn’t take the advice of the whiney chorus of nagging, nay-saying voices in my head intoning “NO-O-O-O. Don’t go.  You shouldn’t do this,” somber as a criminal court judge handing down a life sentence without possibility of parole.

“You don’t have the time,” the clockwatcher crisply noted.  “You don’t have the money,” begged the voice of lack, convinced it’s the only thing between me and a life spent living under a bridge with my worldly belongings in a shopping cart.  “You didn’t plan this far enough in advance,” clucked the practical one as she studied the lists on her clipboard. “The long plane ride will wipe you out,” implored the hand-wringer that thinks danger and injury lurk around every corner.  “Everyone will think it’s foolish/be jealous/won’t like you,” pleaded the approval-junkie that desperately wants to get along well with others.

Is she looking for approval?

Is she looking for approval?

I’d heard them all before, cautioning me not to seize other opportunities in my life.  I’ve listened to their advice many times.  This time, I realized they were just the voices of limiting thoughts that weren’t true.   So I thanked them for their efforts.  And I ignored them.

Oh my stomach still did loops when I gave the airline agent my credit card information.  But I knew my feelings were coming from thoughts fueled by my Inner Nags.  So I bought the ticket.

And I had a fantastic trip with absolutely no regrets.  I was enchanted.  I learned.  I grew.  I shared amazing sights and transformative insights with fabulous people.  I had an adventure.  It felt light and airy and magical and free.  And it still does.

He doesn't seem to be worried about his future.

He doesn't seem to be worried about his future.

The Buddha taught that you can always know the sea because it always tastes of salt and you can always know enlightenment because it always tastes like freedom.

I can recall so many adventures that I’ve passed up because I chose to believe that chorus of hyper-cautious, sensible voices.  This time I listened to the deeper, wiser voice inside me.  “Go,” it whispered.  “This is an opportunity of a lifetime.  Don’t pass it up.  Go.”

Recognizing and listening to that still, quiet voice of truth is the greatest lesson I learned.   And it’s delicious.  It tastes like freedom.

Tags: desire · fear · stillness · thinking · truth

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

Do Doubt and Fear Ever Go Away?

February 21st, 2009 · No Comments

darren-jumps1Is there a point at which we are so sublime and confident, that we can put ourselves into new challenges and not worry, not feel any fear, not have one thought that we might look foolish or screw up  or that our ideas might be rejected? Clients ask me this all the time.  I doubt it.

The diver pictured holds the Guinness Book of World Records title for jumping over 35 feet into a kiddie pool holding 12 inches of water. That’s right–12 inches of water.  His stage name is Professor Splash and I had an opportunity to talk with him a couple of years ago.  I asked him about whether he was afraid when he did a jump.  “I’m scared out of my mind,” he told me.  “I just jump anyway.”  You can watch him set a world record here.

I attended a workshop once with Debbie Ford, a multi-bestselling author who is physically stunning and super-poised.  She asked the audience, “Do you think I am never scared?  I am scared all the time.  I just don’t let it stop me.”

Doubt and fear seem to be widespread human responses to challenging situations.  After we’ve learned to see through our old beliefs, and we begin to develop new ones, those old thoughts lose their power to stop us.  I need approval, I screwed up, the world may think my ideas are wacky—these thoughts may still pop up again, particularly when we have placed ourselves at risk by doing something new, something that challenges our comfort zone.

We feel the old fears, and hear the old thoughts and worries when we take risks.  But we can recognize them for what they are—just thoughts.  And from this place, we can keep going. The fear and worry lose their power over us when we don’t let them stop us.  This is what it feels like to grow.

Tags: fear · risk · thinking