Creativity is Good Medicine

Report on my 1st Secular Sabbath I deem to be a success:

Basically, I managed to do without devices, from Midnight Saturday until 4:30 Sunday afternoon. A hi-light of the day was my two hours in the Arboretum with my granddaughter Sophie. The trees were exquisite, the conversation engaging and the joy of being there with nothing tugging at my heels calling out, “do this.” Of course, the downside arrived when, on the way home, I suggested we order a little Sushi for pick-up and realized I had no way to do this. And we both burst out laughing when shortly afterwards I said, “darn it,  what can we do? I know!! I’ll call Mom and get her to place the order.” You get the picture. Hence, there is a learning curve when you hand in your smartphone for the first time.

Part of our musings as we tromped through leaves and over bridges was how to prepare for the time change, and winter, in the time of Covid. How can we make the best of this?

One of the common slippery slopes of a cancer diagnosis is the tendency to put our life on hold. Consequently, everything grinds to a halt and we plan for when we are well again, when treatments are over and side effects are gone. Only, after all of that,  will we finally get back to normal. However, cancer patients and others going through serious and prolonged illness learn that we don’t go back to our old normal. We will eventually have a new normal but in the meantime we can easily miss one or two years of living.

Similarly, the same holds true for life in a pandemic.

When will we get back to normal? Maybe next spring? Summer?  Will there be a vaccine? Who will get it first? Who knows?

It’s true when we go through treatment, there are many things we may have to forego, and equally so with Covid-19. There are  restrictions and sacrifices for our benefit and also for the benefit of others. The problem is, if we mostly look  longingly at things we miss, there is a good chance we won’t notice what today has to offer.

So, Sophie and I discussed how we might prepare to still live a good life and not succumb to inertia and despair. Part of my plan involves Sunday as a day for creativity. I have all these things I want to do and have put them off due to lack of time. Going forward, I now have one day a week to explore, try new things, make mistakes, and enjoy myself, focusing on the expressive arts. I already have one date. The first Sunday of November.

Part of that day will be to learn how to hand-draw a sun mandala. A lovely woman in the Netherlands learned of my interest, after I saw her mandalas, and offered to teach me on Zoom. Voila! This time has never been better to learn new things. Many of them for free or minimal cost.

Creative Arts

For years I have been teaching  the benefits of the creative arts for people struggling with illness, ageing and other curve balls that get flung our way. As I think about this winter, I believe it will be tough for many people. Conversely, doing things with our hands where we create, however clumsily, can bring a spark of joy. This goes for making music, baking bread,  taking photos, writing, wood working…whatever appeals to you.

As luck would have it, I found this excellent article yesterday. It seems all arrows are pointing towards consciously taking this opportunity and making the most of it. I hope you do too, even if there is just the slightest tug to try something new.

Creativity is Great Medicine,  by Dr. Susan Massad a retired Doctor of Internal Medicine of 51 years. She continues to lead workshops and conversations… on creative aging, health and wellness and issues of dementia, death and dying. 15 min photo

Notes

Note 1:) Dr Graham Pole, suggests: “We make a clear distinction between art that patients and clients passively enjoy and art that participants create themselves. Participation is more effective in the healing process of illness both physical and psychological because the more involved patients are in the creative expression, the more able they are to take charge of their situation.”

Note 2:) I hope you are all doing the best you can do, dear readers. I think it’s good to notice the beauty, find a few good words, laugh with others, lend a hand and offer a hand. We get through things together. 

Note 3:) Tonight I made an apple crisp for the family, from apples that came from my cousins in NB, and using a recipe like my Mother’s. The taste of comfort and the wealth of memories that each bite provided was a gift.

Note:4) Last but not least the warmest thank-you’s for coming by here. Some of you are suffering and I think of you everyday. Please take care, stay safe and send me a note if I can do anything for you. See you next Wednesday. As always, Trudy

 

 

 

Take Back the Secular Sabbath

Ok. I am going out on a limb and suggesting that we take one day a week off from our usual obligations and obsessions. I can only speak for myself and I am starting again this Sunday.  Sunday, was always my day, as I wrote in Moodling Time and I am reclaiming the entire day again after 30 years of letting it slip slide away.  I am convinced that I/we need a break from our e-mail, texts, news, cleaning the garage and catching up on our work. A secular Sabbath is a day you set aside to do the things that aren’t part of your usual obligations. I don’t know what it will be for you. I hardly know what it will be for me. But I am sure it is worth the effort and probably is on the creative and moodling side and most likely will involve nature.

If you say you are too busy, then, you are the one I am really talking too.

I really am suggesting that we take back the sabbath – having one entire day a week to rest, play, have fun, bike, walk, reflect, turn off our devices and breathe.

Since I do everything I suggest you do, I almost changed my mind. “Where will I get the time,” I fret.

The problem is we won’t  “get” any time to do this. We must make it. There will never be enough time because there are always more and more things to do. We are squeezed in every direction and that isn’t good for our health.

We need to plan, in order to take a day for rest, inspiration and refreshment of body, mind and spirit. This isn’t selfish. Consider this essential. This is one way to remember who we are. What matters to us. What makes us human. We need slow time for that.

I don’t believe in the over arching myth of “the good old days.”

Times have changed, and will continue to change, but our need for non-digital refreshment hasn’t. Scientists who study the brain know that we desperately need music, gardens, forests. We need time in nature. Time with each other. Time to meditate, and time to pursue our unpaid interests.

Let’s create a routine for one day a week to attend to our neglected hobbies, friends and family, and leave our phones alone.

Maybe consider the spirit of this challenge and wholeheartedly see what will work for you. There is no formula.  And then come back  and tell us about it here.

Now I will go and figure out how I can do this and block that time in my calendar.

Notes

Note 1:) Pico Iyer, Author of The Art of Stillness is an advocate of the Sabbath.   Iyer writes: “Doing nothing for awhile is one of the hardest things in life for me; I’d much rather give up meat or wine or sex than the ability to check my emails or get on with my work when I want to. If I don’t answer my messages today, I tell myself, there will only be more to answer tomorrow…if I take time off I will be that much more hurried the rest of the time. Whenever I finally force myself away from my desk for a day, of course, I find the opposite: the more time I spend away from my work, the better that work will be most often.”

Note 2: ) Growing numbers of people are testifying to their practice of a “secular Sabbath” of this kind. Mark Bittman, a food columnist for the New York Times, swore off his devices one day a week after realizing he was a “techno-addict” and six months later wrote of how transformative the experience was: “This achievement is unlike any other in my life.”

Note 3:) This is a crazy time for all of us. And yet we remember how much we have to be grateful for and how things could be worse and of course how they could be better. But here we are and we cultivate our adaptive and resilient minds to figure out the next step and then the next. We are all equipped to go through difficult times and co-exist with uncertainty. Keep your eye on what matters most, which is the people in our lives.

Note 4:) Please know how much I appreciate you all, dear readers. Stay safe and do your best. Warmest wishes, Trudy

Something to Praise

Let’s do it: I borrowed a leaf from Rob Walker, author of The Art of Noticing. I love the title of his book and newsletter and although I am not a faithful reader, tonight I paused and noticed what he wrote. It was right up my alley and a variation on a theme that I have written about.

“I often give students or workshop participants a double-sided assignment: On your next walk, or over the next week as you go about your business, make an effort to notice a problem that can be fixedand (other side of the assignment) something, anything, that deserves praise. Obviously, I mean non-obvious things; stuff that nobody else seems to pay much attention to.

Honestly the “problem” examples are usually more interesting. Often I address design folks, and they’re wired to find and solve problems.  I don’t know about you, but I feel like we’re awash in problems these days. Problems we have to face, and solve.

So I’d now like to suggest an altered version of the assignment:

On your next walk, or over the next week as you go about your business, make an effort to identify as many things as possible that quietly deserve praise, that others seem to have overlooked.

I’m not suggesting living in denial. I’m suggesting a bit of balance.”

 

Somehow this fills the bill for me tonight. Short, practical and doable. I would love to hear what you notice just as he encourages his readers to get back to him. We all have a lot on our minds right now and I like this simple practice and will do it myself. I think it would be even better if we write a few things down at the end of the day.

Let’s do it: something, anything, that deserves praise that is often overlooked. It is a great attention exercise.

Notes:

Note 1:) Thank you Rob Walker. Your newsletter tonight with this simple exercise deserves praise from me. The book is here.

Note 2:) And a special thank you to Dr. Jinroh Itami, thanks to whom I have something to offer and to live by. Always to Wellspring Calgary and The ToDo Institute.

Note: 3) I am grateful every week that I get to pen a few words here and wonderful people known and unknown stop by to read them.

Note: 4) I am teaching a month long program starting next week for the ToDo Institute in Vermont. It is not demanding; hopefully useful and encouraging; a guided self directed method with a live weekly themed webinar for  four weeks. Some of you have been asking me and you can find more information here.   Don’t hesitate to write to me if you have any questions. No obligation –  just for your information.

Note: 5) Finally, I wish all of my Canadian readers a very special Thanksgiving weekend, coming up. It is my most favourite holiday and gives us a chance to formally count our blessings. I am thankful for all of you. You keep me company as we navigate this tender, wondrous and oftentimes difficult life. We need each other to help and be helped, as our circumstances change. Your encouraging words are heartfelt and appreciated. Please accept mine, as we cheer each other along.  A deep bow. Warmly, Trudy