Tag Archives: Mindfulness

The Care and Feeding of Muses

Congratulations on being chosen by a muse! With a little forethought, the relationship you’ve begun with your source of inspiration will provide comfort and fresh ideas for your creative endeavours for the rest of your life.

Here are a few tips to get the most out of this relationship. Remember, every muse is unique. It may take some trial and error to figure out exactly what does and does not inspire you to start writing, singing, painting, or otherwise flexing your creative muscles.

The more often you practice, the better you’ll become at it. There is no better time to begin than today.

Caring for a Muse

Luckily, muses are hardy creatures. While mine has temporarily gone dormant when certain circumstances in my life didn’t leave enough time or energy for the creative process, it has always bounced back again once things improved for me.

Be gentle with yourself if you’re not currently able to create new content or if your progress is slower than you’d prefer to see. Think about the cycle of the seasons where you live. You may or may not know winter the way that us Canadians do, but every climate has its own unique pattern of growth, harvest, and rest.There is no such thing as a plant that blooms forever or a tree that creates bushels of fruit without ever needing a break from that process.

The same things happens with creative endeavours, too. Sometimes you will have an abundance of ideas and endless energy to make them come alive as a poem, sculpture, song, or any other number of things. Enjoy these times when they occur and make the most use out of them you can. In other seasons, your mind and muse may need to lay fallow for a short or long period of time before they’re ready to start creating again.

Feeding a Muse

The most important thing you can do for your muse is to feed it a varied diet. Just like a parent wouldn’t allow their child to eat nothing but candy and a pet owner wouldn’t feed Fido fistfuls treats for every meal of the day, your muse needs to be looked after in a similar way.

I can’t tell you what your muse will find useful, but I’d highly recommend giving it as many different types of stimuli  as you possibly can even if some of them might not be what you’d generally be drawn to in your free time. No, these experiences do not have to be expensive or involve travelling far away from home.

In fact, the vast majority of the things I do to feed my muse are free, and the rest often only require a few dollars for a subway fare if I remember to pack a lunch that day!

For example, you could:

  • Visit a local museum on a free or half-price day
  • Go for a walk in the woods or at the park
  • Borrow books from the library
  • Join a community group
  • Explore a new hobby or interest
  • Watch a local baseball game
  • Strike up a conversation with a friendly stranger
  • Go people-watching at a parade, festival, or other event
  • Browse in a store you’ve never visited before
  • Take a day trip to a nearby city, national park, or other imagination-ticking destination

The possibilities are endless. What matters is that you’re exposing yourself to things you might not normally spend any time thinking about during your regular routines.

Inspiration can come from anywhere. Our job is to give our muses a chance to come up with ideas based on the interesting things you’ve done or learned lately and let them do the rest.

Taking Notes and Photographs

I used to carry around a trusty little notebook and write down all sorts of slices of life in it for future inspiration. Sometimes it was a memorable quote from a book and on other days it might have been a funny throwaway comment a stranger made on the bus.

I’ve since switched to taking notes on my smart phone, but the same basic principal remains. If I see something that piques the interest of my muse when I’m out and about, I’ll pause to take a photo or jot down a quick note of it before moving on with my day.

It’s easy to forget these little moments. By recording them for the future, you’ll have a long list of potential subjects to explore when you’re finally ready to write the outline of that book or start sketching.

Balancing Creative Productivity with Consuming Other People’s Work

I’ve found that spending too much or too little time consuming other people’s work has a negative effect on what I’m able to create as a writer.

As Thomas Merton once said, “no man is an island.” Humans are a social species, and this is especially true for us creative folks. The things that your muse comes up with often inspires my own if I strike an appropriate balance between creating and consuming!

Keeping it Useful

The important thing is to keep your consumption useful and to balance it with things that refill your creative tank.

For me this means spending as little time as I can on stuff that I find distracting like celebrity gossip or fear-mongering news stories. (Your mileage may vary on those topics). It also occassionally involves muting my phone and going off into nature for some quiet time.

Obviously, you’re not going to find too many caves or sprawling forests in downtown Toronto, but we still have plenty of quiet green spaces that are great for clearing one’s mind if you know where to look.

I love sitting on park benches and listening to the birds sing in the trees above me. There’s nothing as invigorating as having those experiences without translating them into words until long after I’ve come home again, if even then.

What do you all do to feed and care for your muses?

Mindfulness and Medical Procedures

In saying this, your mind is your biggest ally going into surgery. Your body and mind are very powerful machines–resilient and built for healing. Read on as we discuss the idea of “mindfulness” and share how you can pull the plug on negative thought patterns to set yourself up for success.


Without giving away any specific details, I know a few people who are currently going through various medical situations. Earlier this year I went through my own brief round of testing to rule out a potentially serious illness that turned out to be nothing worrisome at all.

Big WorldMy experience was a drop in the bucket when compared to people who were or are seriously ill. In no way am I trying to say that being tested for a specific ailment is anything at all like being treated for an actual disease or injury.

There’s still the anxiety of not knowing what tomorrow will bring, though. It can easily become overwhelming, especially for those of us who already have a tendency to worry. Searching the internet doesn’t help. If anything, it can make the waiting process worse because of how easy it is to find the worst case scenario online. Somehow those sites even make the common cold or twisted ankle sound scary!

The link I shared above is about joint replacement surgeries, but the advice in it is universal. You could use the same techniques with a broken bone, chronic pain, depression, or any number of other health issues.

I’ve blogged about my complicated relationship with mindfulness and meditation before. Walking meditation works nicely, but it’s difficult for me to sit quietly and meditate for more than a few minutes. (Those of you who are good at it have my deepest admiration!)

With that being said, one of the biggest benefits of these practices shows up when you’re anxiously waiting for news. There is little anyone can do to speed up the healing process, and there’s nothing we can do to make medical test results come back faster. Sometimes you simply have to sit and wait  for days, weeks, or months until you know what the future holds for you.

In these moments, mindfulness and meditation would be worth their weight in gold if they had a physical mass. There is something soothing about living in the moment and accepting that you don’t have the answers and you can’t control what is going to happen.

Do you meditate or practice mindfulness? If so, I’d like to hear how they’ve affected your life.

The Downside to Living in the Moment

Last weekend my better half and I visited a mall that I like to think of as Toddler Alley. As you might imagine, there are 4391* malls in Toronto. This particular one seems to specialize in giving young families a safe place to walk around in when the weather is uncooperative.

The first time I noticed the little boy was when he threw himself onto the floor with a loud wail. He was about two and clearly had hurtled past the outer rim of his patience.

“It’s frustrating to be that age,” I said quietly once we’d passed him. Drew nodded. The boy was so young that living in the moment was all he could do. The problem with that is sometimes the present moment is exasperating, painful, gruelling, or overwhelming. Without being able to see the big picture, all he could assume was that life was terrible and that things will never get better due to the developmental stage of life he’s currently experiencing.

It also made me think about the heavy focus on living in the moment in my meditation routine.

I understand the purpose of it. It’s a valuable tool.

Yet I wonder what makes it so hard for some adults to do it. I tend to struggle more with bridging the gap between what’s happening right now and how things might change in the future. It’s easy to assume that everything will stay the same, whether you’re currently experiencing the best or worst times of your life.

When things do change, I’m often surprised. Intellectually I know that life is full of change, but in this particular instance I empathized with that little boy. Living in the moment isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be.

*Or something like that.

Wild Card Wednesday: The Healing Game

After a severe concussion left her suicidal and bedridden Jane McGonigal invented SuperBetter, a series of daily challenges that improve your physical, emotional, mental and social strength. Some challenges are as simple as drinking a glass of water or taking a walk around the block, others are more complex.

The iPhone app for this game is fun and easy to use although I do find the sound effects a little irritating. You can also play the game on the Super Better website itself.

How to Celebrate the Holidays When You Don’t Have an Extended Family

A new reader recently found this blog by searching for this phrase. It’s a great question, one in which is just as applicable for people who live far away from or haven’t formed a close or healthy relationship with  their extended family.

My family moved several times when I was growing up. For four years we lived on the opposite side of the country as all of our extended family members. When I was a teenager we often ended up attending three or four dinners in order to visit everyone over the holidays.

As an adult I decided to move to another country in order to marry the man that I loved. His parents and siblings don’t celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas so most of time we’re on our own. In other words, I have quite a bit of experience celebrating holidays with and without extended family.

It was a little lonely at first but now I’m perfectly content with our two-person holidays. As much as I love travelling to the U.S. every few years over Christmas there’s something to be said for a quiet day at home on the off years.

The trick is to figure out what makes you happiest. Do you want to be alone over the holidays? Is spending time with one or two other people your sweet spot? Or maybe you want to squeeze as many friends around your dining room table as possible?I can’t answer these questions for you but I can offer up a few concrete ideas as you make plans for the next six weeks:

Go commune with the trees. If the weather is nice go for a long walk. Even in the winter nature is full of surprises and there’s nothing I love more than disappearing into a quiet park, desert or forest for a little while to see what it has to offer me today.

Find people in the same circumstances. Trust me, you are not the only person who will be celebrating alone or only with your nuclear family this year. If you need someone or several someones with whom to spend the day pay attention to what your coworkers, neighbours, fellow volunteers or acquaintances say over the next several weeks.

Photo by Boby Dimitrov.

Start a new tradition. Make your favourite meal. Volunteer somewhere. Pop a fresh bowl of popcorn and rent the least (or most!) holiday-related movie you can imagine. Go see what restaurants are open in your city. Play board games. Stay in bed all day with your significant other – what you two do in there is no one’s business but your own. 😉

Try something new. This tip depends on where you live but here in Toronto there are people from so many different cultures and religions that most holidays are not actually universal. Some areas of the city shut down on Christmas. Others are so heavily populated by groups who don’t consider it holy or special that December 25 is treated just like any other day. Restaurants in these neighbourhoods remain open and provide a wonderful opportunity to try new dishes.


How are you planning to celebrate the holidays this year?


Wind Up That Yarn

Many years ago I read a fable about a boy who discovered he could fast-forward through life by pulling on the edge of a magical ball of yarn. School is boring? Let’s jump ahead to graduation. Can’t wait to have enough money to get married? Skip to the wedding. Tired of waking up with a… Read More

Death and Winter

See more at CollegeHumor The middle of February is the deadest time of the year. Most years those of us living in temperate continental climates have been slogging through cold and slush for two months and have four, six or more weeks left of it. Even the most stubborn trees have been stripped of their… Read More

It’s Never Just Gossip

Originally posted on January 13, 2011. I haven’t been feeling well lately and am taking a short writing break while I recover. Let’s begin with a one-sentence working definition of gossip for the purpose of this post: saying or listening to information (true or otherwise) about someone that you wouldn’t feel comfortable participating in if… Read More

The World Beyond Your Cage

Two of my favourite cartoonists posted strips on the same topic on the same day recently. David Hayward had this to say about emotional cages. Nina Paley added her own twist: Both reminded me of an incident last week here in Toronto. A young squeegee kid and a middle-aged motorist allegedly got into a violent confrontation after… Read More

Enemies No Longer

I no longer want to be enemies with myself. This phrase captured my imagination as soon as I noticed it in the search logs for this blog. Why might someone have such inner turmoil? They have guilt, warranted or otherwise. They’re not comfortable in their own skin. “The face of the enemy frightens me only… Read More