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Craving guilt-free creativity that makes your heart sing and time fly?

Welcome to your Creative Oasis™!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Mountain Lesson #1 – Oxygen - Ubiquitous, yet Precious and, even Magical

At 9,600 feet elevation, you have a new appreciation for oxygen and your lungs ability to pump it through your respiratory system. I’ve been thinking about this a lot as I take my morning run through the scenic mountain town of Breckenridge. During the first five minutes or so, my lungs experience a slight burning sensation and my brain sends little “are you kidding me – we’re really going to do this?” messages. But, soon, I find my rhythm and the clean mountain air feels great and my mind focuses on the tranquil beauty of the river, bright blues skies and surrounding mountains. (especially novel and amazing sights for a flatlander from Dallas, Texas) My body takes over and does what it’s designed to do without my giving it another thought.

It’s so easy to take something as omnipresent as oxygen for granted in our day-to-day lives. And yet, when we experience something as basic and ordinary as breathing in a new set of conditions (in a higher altitude, as we exercise, or a combination of both) its preciousness becomes more apparent. Even in my everyday life back in Dallas, I sometimes notice that I’m not taking full breaths. When I have this realization and remedy it by taking in a few deep, cleansing breathes, the relaxing and energizing effects are immediate and transformative – an instant oasis, if you will.

A wonderful doctor, Dr. Margaret Christensen, posts as signs all around her office that simply say “Breathe”. I’m always amazed how within the course of a visit with her, I’m reminded to breath a half-dozen times or more and how wonderful it feels. It’s unbelievable really, but most of us forget to really connect with our breath and breathe deeply the majority of the time. It’s as if we have this magical device at our disposal that we neglect to use. Feeling stressed, anxious or nervous? Take a nice deep breath and let it go. Dangerously close to losing your cool with your co-worker or kid? Breathe deeply and feel the calm flow throughout your body. Feeling particularly grateful for something, breathe in and let the positive energy expand within you.

My dear friend, Jane Baldwin, founder of Pranasalara, (which translates to “breathing through illusion to freedom”) leads amazing breathing circles. Using special breathing techniques, she guides you into a state that transcends the usual mind/body/spirit condition and allows you to experience a soul-cleansing release that is truly extraordinary.

So, the first lesson the mountains have shared with me this summer, and my gentle reminder to you is this – remember to breathe. You have the magical power to bring a calm, focused energy to yourself – anytime, anywhere – your breath. How great is that?

All the best from my oasis to yours,

Monday, August 3, 2009

Beach Lessons - #3 – The Creative & Therapeutic Benefits of the Drip Sand Castle

My preferred method for building sand castles is the “drip” technique. You don’t need special molds, buckets or even a shovel. A glorious drip castle can be created using nothing but ocean water, sand and your hands. (thick brownish sand of Texas beaches is ideal –beautiful sugary sands of Florida – not so much)

If you sit right at the water’s edge, you don’t even need a bucket to hold the water. Just dig a little hole in the sand with your hands and let the incoming tide fill ‘er up. Then scoop out handfuls of soft, mushy sand and let it drip slowly out of your hands onto the beach. As you do this again and again, forms begin to take shape that look a bit like termite mounds or reverse stalagmites.

I love the free form way the structures evolve. I love the tactile experience – the way the sand feels as it oozes out of my hand - soft, squishy and warm. (I often give myself a little spa-like foot mud-scrub while I’m at it.) I love the process as much as the end result – which is one reason I find it to be such a satisfying creative endeavor. And, as a bonus - it’s supremely relaxing – therapeutic even.

Sand castles are not meant to last forever. I think their impermanence only adds to their unique magic. Like a sacred mandala, carefully crafted by Buddhist monks in ritualized ceremony, sand castles are meant to be enjoyed during their creation and by onlookers, and then lovingly offered back to the sea by the wind and the waves. (Once the Buddhist mandalas, with their intricate designs of brightly colored sand, are complete – they’re blessed, desecrated and usually released into a body of water to further spread the blessings.)

During my most recent trip to the beach, there were some major, architectural sand sculptures up and down the shore. Enormous castles complete with moats, turrets, bridges and flags. The coolest one was a life-size speedboat complete with bench seats large enough for four adults to sit in.

Mine, however, was more along the lines of the free-form structure that Richard Dreyfuss created over and over again in the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”. I think I remember him using dirt, paper and even mashed potatoes to build it. He had no idea what he was building – but he was inexplicably compelled to do so. Me too!

Drip sand castles are a nice reminder that there are times when process trumps end product, free-form trumps structure, and messy beats tidy and neat! (check out this “Wreck This Journal” post by Pink Heels for another great example of this)

What can you do today to play with a creative process, make a bit of a mess and just have fun with it? I’d love for you to share your creative/therapeutic ideas with me!