How to accept the things that we cannot change

We all know the serenity prayer with the line: ‘God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.’It makes absolute sense, if we can’t change something or influence the outcome then why would we waste energy trying to do the impossible?  And yet this is what we find ourselves doing again, and again, at least it was a pattern for me.

As this is a blog about the inner journey of the creative, I am going to focus on the things that creatives cannot control in their creative journey, and how to live peacefully accepting this fact. Creatives create. We pour our heart and soul into our work; what we cannot control is how our work is received when it goes out into the world. Authors, artists, songwriters, and performers suffer whenever they release new work. Waiting for critics, agents, publishers, or the public to respond can feel torturous.

S. Hermann & F.Richter – Pixabay

 Through meditation, I learnt how to live peacefully during these periods of uncertainty, letting go and trusting God. I have used the word God because that is what I believe however, replace God with the Universe or anything else that is meaningful to you. What is important is an acceptance that there is a higher power.

I think of it like this. My job spec is to create – to produce the best work I can. Improving my craft, getting feedback, striving for excellence – these are all within my control. My boss – the higher power, has a different job. He (she /it) governs the universe, is the creator of all things, and knows exactly what is required and when. I believe that God is working in my best interests so that I can fulfil my life purpose according to his plan for me. You might reword this to say that the Universe or your higher self knows your purpose and will manifest what you need to become the person you are meant to be. 

So, imagine you have this boss who has the power to make anything happen – to perform miracles, who knows everything – what is, and what will be. With a boss like that, we can safely let go of control. All we need to do is keep the lines of communication open so that we see the opportunities presented to us, and follow our intuition. I truly believe this and it has brought me peace. If things do not go the way I had hoped or expected then I accept that there is a bigger picture and in time I will understand.

AllNikArt – Pixabay

 We are driven by what is in our heart and I believe that seed has been sown for a purpose – it is what we are meant to pursue. How and when that dream comes to fruition is out of our control but everything in the Universe works in perfect harmony. When I let go, believing that what is meant to be will be, I have more creative energy, insight, and clarity. I am not wasting my energy interfering in what is God’s business – I am getting out of my own way so that good things can happen.

It is human nature to try and control everything in our lives, especially when it matters so much to us. Of course, I have moments when I am fearful and question my faith, what if I am deceiving myself? At these times I think of myself kindly and talk to the inner child. A child has a limited perception of the world. I try and reassure this part of me from another place that has greater understanding. I think that having the serenity to accept the things we cannot change is perhaps one of the greatest challenges for creatives. 

How to get Published Mindfully

I have brought together four blogs previously published into one guide and updated them with what I have learnt since. 

March 2019

It was Lent. My emotions were all over the place and my anxiety levels high. I had been plucked from the slush pile by a leading literary agent the previous year and after months of rewrites and edits, I was either on the brink of stardom or would soon be flung back into the sea. That was how I saw it then. All or nothing. My imagination would run away with me as I envisioned every scenario. It’s what we do as writers.

That day, I made one of the wisest decisions of my life. I committed to meditate every day for the Lent period. It is 2021 and I have continued to practice daily meditation. At first, it stilled my mind and helped me to manage fluctuating emotions, now, two years on I have greater insight, self-awareness, and positivity. My life has transformed. I am sharing my experience and learning with you so that you:

  • Are happy and fulfilled with where you are right now in your writing journey.
  • Are excited by the myriad of possible outcomes that will lead to your success.
  • Recognise and are open to opportunities when they present themselves.
  • Make full use of your time and energy to learn, grow and fulfil your potential.
  • Lead the writing life that you dream of.
Pixabay

March 2018

Eight hours after sending a query letter to my dream agent I received this response:

I’ve just read the opening of THE BORROWED BOY as your letter immediately stood out. I am absolutely hooked by your voice and the original premise, and I’d love to read the rest.  

Please do send at your earliest convenience – I’ll be waiting on the edge of my seat. 

Who wouldn’t be over the moon to get an email like this? I have read excited tweets from writers announcing their joy at getting a full manuscript request. It is something to celebrate indeed but important to keep present and not allow your imagination to run ahead.

I sent my manuscript after reading the whole thing through yet again. A couple of days later I received a response. I have included a few extracts from that email here:

Thank you so much for sending me the full manuscript of THE BORROWED BOY. It is absolutely compelling, one of the best novel openings I have read in a long while with a stand-out premise that really sets this book apart.

Editorially, I do have some thoughts …..

I would love to sign you to my list and work with you editorially, if you would be interested in editing along these lines? 

We work extensively editorially with a lot of our authors, to really make sure their books stand out and shine and are snapped up by editors – which this book absolutely deserves. So, I’d love to hear if you might be in tune with these ideas, and whether it’s something we can work on together. 

I’ll very much look forward to hearing from you.

Exciting stuff. Of course, I accepted and worked with the agent and editor to get it ready for submission. Each time I sent back a revision that had addressed all of the editorial comments I was hopeful that this was it. I had finally succeeded and was about to be launched as a hot new talent. 

So, with an agent and in-house editor’s valued guidance, I wrote and rewrote and rewrote again, each time getting more pages of comments. Then, just before Lent, I received an email that made me think if I didn’t ‘get it right’ this time, then I would have thrown away my one and only opportunity to get published. Terror. I was going to fail. 

Physical signs of stress which I hadn’t experienced for a couple of decades returned: eczema, IBS, migraines. I would wake up at three in the morning unable to go back to sleep. Relationships suffered, as I was irritable and over-sensitive.

Pixabay

Learning to let go

Then March  2019

I started with ten minutes of mindful meditation each day. Just keeping my mind from wandering or dropping off to sleep was a challenge. But I found with practice, that for just a few minutes, the constant noise of the voice in my head was silenced. You know how it is, all the what-ifs?

Mindful meditation made me feel grounded and focused, whereas before, my thoughts were skittish, either wildly excited that I was on the brink of success or full of doubt, telling myself that I was a fraud and my agent was probably regretting taking me on. The calm experienced in meditation expanded and I felt back in control.

 I realised that no amount of worrying about what might happen would make any difference. It’s crazy how our mind hangs on to something as if things stop happening when we stop willing them to. Accepting that I had no control and letting go was a challenge but those ten-minute meditations helped. 

Now

Looking back, I can see that my intuition was telling me that things were not right.

 I had invested too much in a particular outcome. I had no control over that outcome but it was just one possibility. My agent had not signed me or met with me. We had not even spoken on the phone. I greatly valued the editorial input but this was not enough. If I had been open to other opportunities and maintained a calm and inquiring mindset, I might have sown other seeds, entered a short story competition, started another novel, networked on social media. Instead, I wasted my energy in a constant state of anxiety and despair.

Photo- Deborah Klée

Learning to be patient

Then April 2019 

I sent the next draft of my novel to my agent and tried hard not to stress about her response. I knew, in my heart of hearts, that if this draft of my novel didn’t meet with my agent’s expectation, then we might well be saying goodbye. Although I had been working with this agent for over a year, I still hadn’t signed a contract, met her, or even spoken on the phone, although her in-house editor did have a very helpful phone conversation with me early on in the process. This agent is one of the best, many of the authors she represents are international bestsellers. Her agency was growing and changing. It’s no wonder that she could spare me little time and was slow in replying to emails. 

Writer friends cautioned me but I was willing to accept these terms as I was gaining a lot from the editorial comments on each draft of my manuscript. In my head, I likened it to dating. The same feelings of excitement and apprehension as I waited impatiently for her reply.

Now

I realise that I was looking outside of myself for affirmation that I was good enough. I had invested this agent, who I hadn’t even met, with responsibility for my happiness and fulfilment. Only I had that power and I was woefully neglecting myself. Today, I am happy with who I am and where I am in my writing journey right now. Through meditation, I feel real gratitude for all that I have achieved and the myriad of opportunities that are waiting for me. Every day I sow new seeds of possibility through the connections I make, the actions I take, and the conversations I have. There is an abundance of possibilities waiting to happen.

Photo by Deborah Klée

If that one thing would happen – my life would be different.

Then May 2019

I needed meditation more than ever. By now, I had progressed to longer meditations. 

Tara Brach www.tarabrach.com generously shares hour-long seminars on meditation practice. I would listen to these whilst ironing or making the evening meal, headphones on. In one of these seminars, she said something that struck a chord with me. I’m sorry but I can’t remember which one it was. Anyway, it was something like this: 

We believe that if this one thing would happen, maybe meet the right man/woman, get a promotion, or in my case get published, that everything in our world will be better. We give this monumental importance. Just as we do in fearing something really bad. But, when this ‘thing’ actually happens it’s just a blip up or down in our state of being. Think about it – that job you finally got, getting pregnant, meeting the man or woman of your dreams. Or, the bad stuff, being made redundant, having your manuscript rejected. There’s a short period of euphoria or depression and then life resumes. It doesn’t change everything. 

So, when my agent responded in May to say that she loved the changes that I had made to my manuscript and with just a couple of tweaks, she would be excited to send it out to publishing editors, I was of course thrilled. My journal reads, ‘It has finally happened. I have reached a milestone – jumped a hurdle. My novel is to be sent out to publishers and an amazing agent wants to represent me.’ I checked that she really was my agent, just in case I had been deceiving myself, and she confirmed that she was. I told my writer friends on Facebook, did the edits, and sent it back. My agent said that she would send me her marketing strategy and so I waited. 

I don’t know whether it was Tara Brach’s influence or my meditation practice but I was very calm. I think as writer’s we take tiny steps. I imagine us all hiking up a mountain, the path curving around and upward, like a spiral. Each step is small, it’s only when you look down that you see just how far you have come. 

Maybe, it’s watching or reading about dramas, great personal success stories, that we crave the elation of those dizzying heights. The reality is, change is more often gradual. But that doesn’t make for a sensational story.

Now

By being present I have found joy in everyday things. As a result of lockdowns, we have all learnt to appreciate the things that we once took for granted. When we are impatient for something to happen, we miss what is happening right now – the lessons we need to learn, the actions we need to take today to bring us closer to our goal. 

Your B Pixabay

Meditation to help generate new ideas

Then June  2019

Through meditation, I was able to be more productive whilst waiting for responses from my agent. Before I started my meditation challenge, I was just too critical of my work afraid that I didn’t have anything else to offer. Now, with the benefit of meditation, my mind was more open to new ideas.

 I found an excellent meditation for creativity and on one occasion, I did it before going to bed. At around four in the morning, I woke up with so many ideas, I jumped out of bed and wrote them down. My second novel came to me so fast I couldn’t stop writing. I forgot to worry about not receiving a publishing plan from my agent. Until July when I prompted her.

Now

That second novel was Just Bea. Meditation has become part of my creative process. Early morning meditation, writing morning pages (Julia Cameron The Artists’ Way), and running all help to stimulate ideas.

Meditations for disappointment

Then, July 2019

If hearing the news that my novel was ready to go out on submission was a high, then it was followed by a low. Apparently, there had not been a great response to ‘the pitch.’ It was going to be a challenge to find a home, as it wasn’t ‘on trend’ right now and editors were being cautious in the current market. This was before the pandemic and I suspect times are even tougher now for debut authors. Meditation came to my rescue again.

Whatever you need meditation to help you with, type it into the YouTube search engine. It’s an amazing resource. I typed in guided meditation for disappointment and found a guided meditation for healing disappointments. 

I have used it again and again. It’s very effective.

Now

I have learnt not to attach myself to one particular outcome. It is hard not to but the truth is that we do not know what our path to getting published will look like. Whatever it is it will be right for us and will happen at the right time. I believe this 100% and have absolute faith that what is for me will find me – so long as I am open to receive it.

Jill Wellington – Pixabay

Attracting abundance

Then – August 2019

My agent’s marketing strategy was to first send my novel to one of the big five publishers on an exclusive. This means that they have first refusal, rather than having to bid against other publishing houses. 

I overdosed on meditation. Instead of driving myself crazy imagining different scenarios, I meditated with vengeance. I meditated to invite abundance into my life. There are lots of meditations on using gratitude to create abundance, the theory being that when you are thankful for the good things in your life you attract more. I had a lot to be grateful for – my ‘cup over-floweth.’ In fact, I felt as though I already had too much and I was wrong to want more. But I did. I desperately wanted a publishing contract. 

Some of the meditations on abundance are about using meditation to create prosperity and wealth. I avoided these at they didn’t sit well with me. I was struggling with my faith as I felt I was being punished for seeking fame and fortune. That I had already had more than my fair share.

Now

I truly believe that we never have too much. We have enormous potential and it is our responsibility to use it to make a difference. I am grateful for the wonderful life I have lived but as long as I am still on this earth I have more to achieve. My heartfelt desire to write and to be read was planted in my heart for a reason. The universe is abundant. My success is not at the expense of another. There is more than enough for everyone to achieve all that they dream of. In fact, we are all interconnected – made of the same stuff. Together we are changing the world – making it a better place. 

Photo by Edana Minghella

Trusting the journey

Then- September 2019

It didn’t work. By September, the editor who had my manuscript rejected it and from her comments, I don’t think she could have read it. But there was a plan. My agent resolved to get my novel into the hands of the right editors and proposed a list of thirteen. We waited until after the Frankfurt Book Fair in October. And waited.

I really believed that good things were going to happen for me. I had absolute faith and confidence. When I wobbled, I repeated my mantra, The right thing will happen at the right time in the right way. You are exactly where you are meant to be right now. I had reason to be optimistic, I had a brilliant agent and my manuscript had been sent out to a number of publishers. There was nothing I could do except concentrate on writing my next novel, which was progressing well.

I am a bit of a control freak. This served me well in the past, as I founded two successful businesses but I needed to learn to let go and trust the process. My daily meditations now included ones to help me do just that.

As weeks passed without any news, I managed my anxiety by imagining that I was in a rowing boat. I pulled the oars inside and lay back to allow the boat to take me along the river. When the boat got caught on reeds, I waited patiently knowing that the flow of the river would dislodge us and carry us to the ocean. It was a soothing thought.

‘If we haven’t got an offer by Christmas, we’ll meet to discuss the next steps’, my agent reassured me. So, there were next steps. This wasn’t the end of the journey. Equipped with positive affirmations, I clung to the sides of that little boat and willed the river to carry us onward. 

Now

I am truly grateful to that agent for believing in me. She was true to her word and despite having a very full and busy list she brought my MS to the attention of publishers. I wasn’t wrong to have faith in her and to stay the course. However, I did need to do this mindfully and this is what I learnt through meditation. Looking back, I wonder whether this happened for a reason as my experience in 2019 strengthened me. I became more resilient and self-sufficient. I have learnt to be happy and content whilst losing sight of my goals. 

Larisha Koshkina – Pixabay

A revelation

Then January 2020

As I waited and meditated, I realised that I hadn’t fully understood the law of abundance. I was using meditation to wish, like a talisman. If I meditate enough, my wishes will be granted. It was no different from the early days, before meditation when I constantly fretted about the future. 

Meditation taught me that abundance is about inviting what we need into our life. When we are very still and not distracted by our noisy thoughts, we are more observant of things that come our way: the comment made by a friend, a social media message that attracts our attention, something we thought might come in useful but had forgotten. These are like breadcrumbs that lead us to the right path. When you are curious and open to ideas and opportunities, things start to happen. Meditation helps you to see more clearly, to understand what you truly want, and opens your heart and mind to receive what comes your way.

I started out wanting validation as a writer. By picking out my submission from the hundreds that are sent to her every week, my agent had done just that. The wonderful rejections from top publishing editors that glowed with praise were also validation.

What I truly wanted now was to reach out to readers, in the hope that my stories would have some positive impact. I wanted to connect with readers in a meaningful way. Fame and fortune were never my goals. 

Maybe, I was just preparing myself for disappointment but it didn’t feel like that. I didn’t want to rely entirely upon this one agent, who despite her best intentions to serve me, was incredibly stretched as a result of her success and brilliance. How could I be open to new possibilities, if I wasn’t looking around me and making connections?

What next?

Eventually, I was forwarded four rejections. Two of them gave such glowing reviews that for a while I pinned these above my desk. However, the bottom line was, they didn’t know how to market my novel. I didn’t hear anything from the other nine, maybe my agent did but she never said.

I had completed a second novel, which would be appreciated by fans of the first, but I suspected, would have the same problems with marketing. 

My agent and I agreed to part company for the time being, so that I could pursue other opportunities to get my two novels published. 

Photo – Deborah Klée

Reaping the rewards of meditation

At the start of my meditation journey, I would have been devasted to think I no longer had an agent and was back to square one. It was my biggest fear. Now, it was liberating. I had been set free! No more waiting for responses, waiting to be chosen. I chose ME. And it felt really good.

It was then that things started to happen. New people came into my life to support me, I came across resources and ideas that excited me. I realised then what inviting abundance into my life really meant. 

Now

In August 2020 I self-published The Borrowed Boy. It has received three awards to date and great reviews. In February 2021 I self-published Just Bea. I commissioned the same editor who worked with my agent.

As an Indie author entrepreneur, I started a weekly blog and a YouTube channel and Podcast Castaway Books.

I have written a third novel Misdirection and will be submitting it to agents and publishers this summer.

I have loved every moment of my writing life. I’ve met some amazing people through social media and feel as though my world has opened up – and that’s in lockdown! 

Daily meditation and journaling are integral to my writing life. I’ll just keep on working, sowing seeds, and trust the creator of all things to give life to those that are meant to be.  I am finding joy in all that I do and have stopped feeling anxious about what may or may not happen.

I hope that some of what I have shared speaks to you. 

My D.I.Y. Spa Day

Last year I posted a blog, on how to  Restore and renew your creative spirit. In this blog, I talked about the importance of self-care to prevent burnout and suggested several ways to achieve this including a Spa day at home – given the restrictions of lockdown. 

The right time

This weekend the opportunity for me to enjoy a D.I.Y. spa day presented itself at the perfect time. The perfect time because I was at a low ebb:

  • A recent bereavement
  • A heavy workload
  • Recovering from a migraine and vertigo.

My thoughtful daughter sent me a package of destress goodies for Mother’s Day because she knew that arranging my father’s funeral and other associated matters was taking its toll. This wonderful gift included: Soft fluffy socks, destress bath oil, scented candles, a moisturising face mask, a bottle of Prosecco, and some luxury chocolates. The chocolates did not last long and the Prosecco is waiting until we can invite guests back into our home, but the other goodies were perfect for my spa day.

My yoga teacher was offering a two-hour restorative yoga session live on Zoom Spring Radiance Retreat on Saturday 10th April – so that had to be the day of my D.I.Y. Spa.

An honest account of the day 

I dedicated the whole of my day to self-care and relaxation. It was exactly what I needed. This was yesterday and I am still in the zone. So, in the spirit of continuing to be kind to me, I am writing this week’s blog on my experience, rather than attempting to create something new. This will be an honest account, complete with unflattering photographs. 

The night before, I had a dream about my spa day – I was that excited! In my dream, a couple of dear friends and my daughter turned up to share the day with me and although I was pleased to see them, I was a little disappointed that I did not have the day entirely to myself. 

The morning

7.30 am – I sat at the computer in my nightclothes with a cup of tea and wrote for a couple of hours. Always a great start to the day.

9.30 am – My husband got out of bed – my signal to stop writing and join him for breakfast. We prepared smoked salmon with scrambled eggs and I made a cappuccino. We often enjoy a special breakfast at the weekend. I knew that it would keep me going until late afternoon and I would have time to digest it before restorative yoga at 3 pm.

11.00 am – I went for a walk by the sea, as it is walking distance from my door. Tempting as it is to share a photo of the beach as it was this morning, tide out – an expanse of sand and bright sunshine, it would not be an accurate record. That morning the sky was overcast, there was a bitter wind, and the tide was in. I walked along the Greensward rather than risk coming into close contact with other walkers on the promenade and cut my walk short.

Preparation

Back home. I gathered together all of the things that I might need for my spa day. I felt as though I was a child again setting up an imaginary game. We are fortunate that we have two reception rooms and so I have taken over the front room for yoga, meditation, and Zoom. This is what I thought I might need:

  • A couple of rolled-up towels and fleeces to use as bolsters in yoga
  • Aromatic oils to roll onto my skin
  • Scented candles
  • Eye mask
  • Yoga blocks
  • Cleanser and moisturiser to prepare for head and face massage
  • Moisturising face mask
  • Nail manicure and polish things
  • Laptop – for Zoom classes
  • Kindle 
  • Journal and pen

I used everything except the nail manicure and polish things. In addition, I set up scented candles around the bath, bath destress oil, and matches to light candles.

That all took some time to gather together. I gave strict instructions to MOH not to disturb me and that if anyone phoned, I was not available. I found some Spa music on YouTube and used my phone to play it through the TV.

After a mug of camomile tea – not my usual choice but I thought it would be more calming than a caffeinated drink, I was ready to go.

The afternoon

1.00 pm – Head and face massage. 

I had a recording of a class on yoga facial acupuncture led by my yoga teacher Jocelyne Leach. You can join her virtual classes and sign up for the next virtual restorative yoga retreat here: https://www.facebook.com/corevitalityyoga

However, there are free facial acupuncture demonstrations on YouTube. I found this one:

The head and face massage took an hour and was incredible. I had experienced it once before and remembered that it made me very relaxed and sleepy. It was a great way to start the spa part of my day and did wonders for the last traces of a migraine.

2.00 pm – My daughter had sent me a moisturising face mask by Simple as I have dry and sensitive skin. I had not used this before and didn’t know what to expect. It was a folded, heavily moisturised mask in a sachet. I unfolded it as instructed and placed it over my face. Set my phone for a 15 min alarm and then I lay back and relaxed. The spa music was playing through the TV and by then I truly felt as though I was at a spa.

2.15 pm – Originally, I had planned to have a relaxing bath before restorative yoga but I was so relaxed I didn’t want to rush around. Instead, I reclined my seat and relaxed with a book. I am reading Jo Thomas My lemon Grove Summer perfect escapism.

2.50 pm – I prepared for the restorative yoga class which started at 3 pm. Jocelyne’s Spring Radiance Retreat was excellent. It didn’t finish until 5.15 pm but I have no idea where the two hours went. All of that time was spent in relaxing poses, just being. Unless you experience this yourself, it is hard to imagine just how uplifting and restorative it can be. I had a journal with me but was too relaxed to record anything. I recommend Jocelyne’s restorative yoga classes and retreats but you can also find some shorter classes on YouTube and add a Yoga Nidra class.

The evening

5.30 pm – I was starving. I had intended to prepare a healthy salad but with my bones turned to jelly and not having the inclination to stand I just grabbed some carbohydrates – a sandwich and a bar of chocolate. Next time I will prepare a meal in advance that I just have to microwave. MOH had fended for himself so I didn’t have to concern myself with preparing a family meal. 

6.15 pm – I ran a bath, poured in the destress oil, and lit candles. I don’t know how long I lay there but by the time I got out, dried, and put on my snuggly pyjamas I was totally relaxed.

My evening finished with a Romcom – Notting Hill.

In Summary

Anyone can create a D.I.Y. Spa day. What you include will be personal to you. Make sure you protect your time and space by:

  • Turning off phones and removing batteries from the doorbell, and/or asking others in your home not to disturb you.
  • Avoid all social media – however tempting it is to share a record of what you are doing. 
  • Wear cosy, comfy clothes that do not restrict.
  • Make the space relaxing with candles, music, lighting.

It was the next day – this morning when I went for a run by the sea that I realised some of the benefits. Before my spa day, I was feeling anxious about work and overstretched. Running by the sea I had absolute clarity about my work, ideas for new projects, inspiration for my creative writing, and a feeling of peace and tranquillity.

I won’t wait so long before booking my next D.I.Y. stay-at-home spa day. 

And as promised a very unflattering image. I may use it for this year’s Halloween card.

Scary!

How to feel grounded in times of uncertainty

Recently, I had a dream. The ground had fallen away in my garden, exposing the roots of plants and shrubs, and if that wasn’t bad enough, somebody had moved the fence reducing my garden to a fraction of its former size. It is an easy one to translate, given the fear and uncertainty surrounding the pandemic. On a day to day basis, I think I am fine coping with the changes to my life, and I am taking good care of myself and loved ones. My dream tells me otherwise. This is a challenging time for all of us, and we need now more than ever to practice feeling grounded.

In the UK we have just heard that we are to have another full-scale lockdown, following other countries such as France. Although this is not a complete surprise, I understand fully the fatigue and distress this will cause for many people. It is as though we have been running a marathon and just as we think the finishing line is in sight we find out we have miles yet to run.

Everybody’s situation is different. You may be afraid about your future income and paying the mortgage or whether your business will survive. A health professional working at the frontline exhausted from treating patients in the first wave and facing an even harder winter. A single person living alone without the company of work colleagues and friends, concerned for your mental health. Or separated from a loved one who is in a care home wondering whether you will ever see them again. It is tough. It is painful and it is frightening. 

The turmoil created by uncertainty and fear makes us unsteady. We find it hard to concentrate, sleep badly, feel panicked, and anxious. I get migraines and eczema, my body’s way of telling me that there is an imbalance in my body that needs attention. This is what it means to feel ungrounded.

Photo by Felix Mittermeier on Pexels.com

To be grounded is to feel connected with your body and/or the earth. It is about being fully present. To have a clear and calm mind. It is difficult at this time, but essential if we are to take care of ourselves and our future. When we have a clear mind, we are more receptive to ideas and opportunities. We are better able to plan and to take control of the things we can influence. 

There are practical things that we can do to feel more grounded.

  • Go for a walk where you can get close to nature. I love to walk in the woods. The smell of leaf mould, rich dark earth soft beneath my feet, and ancient trees, it is a great way to feel connected to the earth and forget for a while about any worries. If you live in an urban area, any green space can offer similar benefits. 
  • Try mindfulness meditation. If this is new to you the HeadSpace app is a good place to start. You can find a 7 day free trial at www.headspace.com The meditations last no longer than ten minutes. With practice, you can learn to still your mind. Even if it is just for one minute, you will start to feel the benefit of regular practice. When I was new to meditation I would find ten minutes each day, even if it meant sitting in my car when I had a short break at work or listening on the train. My blog on Meditation Challenge Part one explains how learning to meditate helped me to feel grounded when experiencing a challenging time in my life.
  • Exercise. Something that focuses you on your body and stops your mind from wandering. For me this is yoga. There are yoga classes for being grounded on YouTube. Try Yoga with Adrienne. If you don’t enjoy yoga then dancing, Pilates, running, swimming – anything that helps you switch off your thoughts and connect with your body.
  • Relaxation – using a guided visualisation or listening to calming music. Try to focus inward and ask yourself what you want and need. Then honour yourself with kindness. If you need more sleep, get an early night. Try and reduce the pressure on yourself. In my blog Restore and renew your creative spirit, I suggest how you can enjoy a spa day at home.

To feel grounded, we need a solid foundation. I imagine myself as a tree. My roots go deep into the earth, holding me firm, and my branches reach up, the leaves absorbing energy from the sun. I am strong. I am grounded. This is my mantra and affirmation. 

When you feel fatigued and overwhelmed, try thinking about it this way: The experience is making you stronger and more resilient. As you learn how to still your mind and draw on your inner resources you are growing as a person. You are becoming a warrior and will be better equipped to face future challenges. 

A mind in turmoil is of little use but a calm mind will help you to spot new opportunities and solutions to problems. Control the things that you can by focusing on what needs to be done, and let go of the things you have no control over. 

As this blog is about the inner journey of the creative I will use an example from the writer’s life. You can write and publish a novel to the very best of your ability using all the resources and expertise available to you, but you cannot control who buys your book or what the reviews say. Sure, you can spend time and money on marketing your book but that is all. Despite this, all writers angst about sales and reviews. It can make a writer feel panicked and anxious – sure signs of being ungrounded. Comparing yourself to others – feeling inferior or superior, are signs of being unconnected to your body and true self. Stay grounded. Be consciously present. Focus on the things you can control and let go of those you cannot.

I hope that this helps you to find ways to stay grounded. Keep safe and be kind to yourself.

How to lift your mood in lockdown

We have all experienced those dark days during this pandemic. The days when it feels as though it will go on forever and you mourn all that you have lost. Your independence, freedom, social contact, hugs, travel, and adventure. Many people have lost loved ones and/or their livelihood. We have endured months of this challenging time and like marathon runners, we sometimes hit a wall.

Last week when I popped into the little grocery store on the corner of my road, the owner, an Asian woman who always greets her customers with a smile and kind words, seemed distracted. She wasn’t hearing what I was saying and she was making mistakes. When I asked what was wrong, she told me that she was afraid of the consequences of this third lockdown (in UK) on her, her family, and her business. I reminded her of how well she had managed the last two lockdowns and how we had all relied on her shop.    She said, ‘That was because in the first lockdown we didn’t expect it to last more than two months and so it was easier.’

            I replied, ‘When I’m running and feel as though I can’t run another step, I follow Paula Radcliff’s tip. I tell myself that I just have to run to the next lamppost. That’s easy. Then just one more. Could you think of the lockdown like that? Just get through one week or a month at a time?’ 

            I didn’t think I had offered much comfort but she paused and I could see she was giving this some thought. Each time I pop into the shop she reminds me of what I said and tells me that it did help. So, I am offering it up here as just one little tactic that might help to change your mindset.

When I experience a particularly dark day, I practice gratitude. It is not the gratitude I learnt as a child, ‘Think of all those who are less fortunate than you.’ When we do that it can make us feel guilty for being miserable and that does not help. 

Hans Braxmeier Pixabay

Gratitude, love, and joy generate feelings that lift our spirits. Even when we are feeling low, we can find those emotions. Writers have to do this all of the time. We remember a feeling so that we can describe it accurately and in doing so experience it again from memory. A good writer conveys this to the reader triggering their emotional memory.

On a dark day, this takes a bit of effort but some techniques can help you to go inward and experience feelings of gratitude. 

Imagine yourself as a young teen or older. This younger version of yourself is given a glimpse of your life now- what you have achieved, where you live, the people in your life. How does that feel? I know I would be overwhelmed with gratitude that my life worked out as it did. Take just one thing that you never thought possible that you once desired with all your heart – something that is now part of your life. Feel the gratitude as if you are that younger self looking into the future.

We very quickly take for granted the good things in our life. Last week I noticed that my diamond eternity ring had slipped off my finger without me noticing. I was frantic. The ring represented a special time in my life and was a symbol of a long and happy marriage. As I searched for my ring it felt impossible. It could be anywhere. I kept telling myself it was just a thing, not a person and so I should not be so materialistic but I won’t lie I felt sick. Then, miraculously I found my ring in the wastepaper basket. It slipped off my finger when I was wiping away excess hand cream with a tissue. I said a prayer of thanks. The gratitude for finding my ring was powerful. I held onto that emotion. Think of a time in your life when you were thankful for what felt like a miracle. Or remember a time when you regained full health after a period of illness. We have a deep sense of gratitude but it is fleeting. By remembering how it felt you can generate the uplifting power of that emotion.

Travelling, meeting with friends and family, hugs and kisses, going to the theatre and exhibitions, these are all things that are missing from our lives right now. Instead of mourning the temporary loss of these privileges focus on how lucky we were and are (because they will return to us). Feel the gratitude for these gifts. We may think that we will never take them for granted again but we will. 

I have suggested a few ways in which you can generate a feeling of gratitude on a dark day when you perhaps do not feel that you have anything to feel grateful for. Similar techniques can be used for generating feelings of love and joy. Meditation gurus and yogis believe that these three emotions vibrate on a higher frequency which has a positive impact on our physical, emotional, and mental health. I know that when I practice gratitude in the ways that I have described it is very effective in lightening my mood. 

I hope that you find something here that is of benefit to you. An earlier post Feeling grounded in times of uncertainty may also be of interest.

I did not want my post to be all about me so I saved my news until last. Today 1st February is publication day for my 2nd novel Just Bea. I am extremely grateful to you for reading my books, the writing community for your support, and the amazing book bloggers who work so hard to read and review books so that they can introduce them to new readers. If you would like to join my launch party this week or follow the blog tour then head over to the Just Bea page to find out more.

Five ways to get what you want

Through prayer and meditation, we learn to ask for what we want and need, and teachings tell us that we will receive. But how? You might ask. If only it was that simple. I think it could be that simple; if we learn how to stop putting obstacles in our way. 

There are different sorts of asks and I have described these as three wishes: The Heartfelt wish. The Fairy godmother request, and the one-minute miracle.

The Heartfelt wish

There are the big asks, for example, to become a published author, or to get the career progression we long for. I know all about those longings. The hours spent in meditation and/or prayer, writing in my journal. In my lifetime, I have had three big asks. When I was a teenager, I desperately wanted to train as an occupational therapist. It wasn’t just a career option, to me it was as much a dream as the contestants on a TV talent show seeking fame. I really, really wanted to get accepted for training. As it happens, my application was rejected, as I hadn’t chosen the right options to study at school. I left school without taking my exams, and then a miracle happened because I was called for an entrance exam and interview and got a place as a result of an administrative error. It wouldn’t happen today, but I qualified and worked for twenty years in the NHS.

In my thirties, I was frustrated because my career in hospital management was not progressing in the linear route that I had planned. It took a while before I realised that my destiny was another path, one that brought me greater satisfaction. 

And then, there was my dream to become a published author, and my writer friends know all about the angst of that longing.

Curtesy of Sarah Ritcher Art Instagram

The Fairy godmother request

These are the cries for help when we face an impossible task because we don’t have the skills, time, or money. We all have different skills and knowledge. When we don’t know how to do something there is always somebody who does, but we have to ask. It is not a weakness to ask for help, and most people are glad to assist, so long as it is not always the same person and we reciprocate by helping others. 

A few weeks ago, I was feeling exhausted mentally as I had worked hard on getting my debut The Borrowed Boy published and then preparing my second novel, Just Bea for publication. My cover designer was ready to complete the full cover and needed my blurb for the back of the book. I had written so many versions of this book blurb over the past two years, but I couldn’t get it right. I sent my final attempt to a couple of writer friends, both of them said it needed work. I went to bed feeling overwhelmed by the task as I had nothing left to give. 

The following morning, I opened my emails to find that my wonderful writer friend Ellie Holmes had taken my poor attempt and like Rumpelstiltskin had spun straw into gold. The perfect blurb was waiting on my computer in an email that she sent at around 6 am with a message that it had come to her during the night. What an amazing friend!

Curtesy of Aline Dassel Pixabay

The one-minute miracle.

You know the every day asks: Please let me catch this bus. Let there be a parking place outside the school. My grandmother had rheumatoid arthritis and lived alone in a ground floor flat. She didn’t have any family living close by and depended on care services for meals, getting dressed, etc. My grandmother told me that whenever she needed help with something, she would send up a prayer and within minutes a kind neighbour would happen to drop in as if in answer to her request. The angels appear exactly when needed.

I have experienced a few of these angels myself. In my blog, Life changing decisions I told the story of how a stranger came to my rescue when at nineteen I flew from London to Arizona to surprise a pen friend, forgetting that I only had his PO box number. I found myself in Tucson at 3 am, 80 miles from Bisbee where my friend lived, with no phone number or address. 

I believe there are five rules to getting what you want.

Big or small the same rules apply when asking and receiving.

1. Ask and believe

When you ask for something, whether that is through meditation or prayer to God, the universe, your guardian angel, or whatever power you believe in – have faith. Believe that you have been heard and that your needs will be met.

2. Forget about timing

Your request may not be answered immediately and you may think it never will. Be patient and trust that the timing will be perfect. Not a moment too late or too soon. 

3. Relax and be present

Let go of anxiety and be tranquil knowing that your prayer will be answered. It is only when you are relaxed and calm that you will recognise when it happens.

4. Expect the unexpected

The manifestation of your desire may not be in the way you perceived it to be. Be open to new possibilities however unlikely they might at first seem. 

5. Give thanks

Remember to give thanks. Show your gratitude by helping others. Pay it forward.

I hope that all of your dreams and wishes come true.

How to de-clutter the mind

A period of lockdown seems the ideal time to clear out cupboards and drawers. It is a job that I hate but I always get a sense of satisfaction knowing that I have thrown away things I no longer need and created some order to help me find the things I do need. It must be four or five years ago that I last went meticulously through all of my personal belongings to do a clear out. Since then, I have emptied my parents’ home and so more things have found their way into the eaves of my house, to sort out later. The trouble is, later never comes and every time I open certain doors, everything comes tumbling out.

Clearing the home of a person who has died or is moving permanently into a care home brings into sharp focus the amount of stuff we acquire in a lifetime, most of which we do not need. It is of course much easier to decide what to throw out and what to keep when we are doing this for someone else. We hang onto things because of the memories associated with them because we might one day need this thing, or just because letting go is hard.

As I look in dismay at the disorder of my once organised drawers, cupboards, and the eaves of my house, I cannot help but draw an analogy with the clutter of thoughts that cram my head. Just as physical clutter creates visual stress, mind clutter creates emotional and mental stress. We cannot find what is important because it is lost in our jumble of thoughts. Sometimes we need to declutter the mind so that we have more clarity over what is important to us and can work on letting go of the thoughts that no longer serve us.

Let’s start with the surface clutter: the to-do list, and the distraction of social media. The thoughts that have us darting our attention from one thing to another and achieving very little. Call it our sock drawer! 

Make a list of what needs to be done, break it down into tasks for the months, weeks, and days. I have a marketing plan for my novels. There is so much I want to achieve that I have a to-do list that realistically will take months if not years. Every time I find a marketing tip, something that I should do to promote sales, I add it to my long list. Then, I prioritise for the month setting an achievable goal. Each week, I work towards this goal, breaking down the steps. My desk diary has tasks for each day. I stick to this. Every time I think of something else I should/could do, I add it to the long list and return my focus to that day’s tasks. Before I established this discipline, my mind was like a bluebottle buzzing from one thought to another never settling long enough to complete anything. 

Socks paired and sorted – time to tackle the knicker drawer. Social media can rob us of time and drain our energy unless we create some order. I turn off notifications when I am working so that I am not distracted by pings and messages. I love spending time chatting with Twitter and Facebook friends but I try to set boundaries around the time spent on this. Scheduling tweets for the week using Buffer helps. Also, a system such as Tweet deck. When I am being very focused I set a timer and interact on Twitter from Tweet deck where I can be intentional in the way that I network. I also indulge in a bit of chatter when relaxing, but I recognise that I am making this choice over other relaxation activities so that it does not become a habit.

Sorting out our drawers is the easy part. Now, we will go a bit deeper and tackle the cupboards. Open the door and thoughts come tumbling out. The constant chatter that replays past events finding fault, and worries about the future. The to-ing and fro-ing from past to future leaves us feeling giddy and ungrounded. We need to be mindful of the present, to still our mind. Exercise helps as we focus on our breath and become aware of the physical sensations in our body. Being close to nature is also good. If you practice mindfulness meditation for a few minutes each day you will soon take back control of these troublesome thoughts.

Now, into the eaves of the house. Maybe you have an attic or basement. It’s where you have stored long-held beliefs and memories. Part of you knows that they are there, waiting for your attention – much like the treasures I brought back from my parents’ house. The thoughts that we feel an attachment to and are reluctant to let go of. Maybe it is a childhood memory. A past hurt or grievance. Or a negative belief about ourselves. Sorting through these thoughts needs time and care. Let’s take one of these thoughts at a time. We will sit quietly where we are comfortable, safe, and cannot be disturbed and then lovingly unwrap the thought. Why have we held onto it for so long? Is it serving us or holding us back? Maybe we thought we would need it one day; how else would we remember not to make the same mistake again? If it is time to let that thought go, do so with compassion for yourself. Meditation has helped me to discover these thoughts and to let them go. I have found Tara Brach’s talks and meditations particularly helpful. 

Decluttering the mind is an important part of self-care. Just as our homes can become disorganised, so can our minds. When we spring clean our home, we throw away what we no longer need, and tidy the things that are important to us so that they are easy to find. We feel energised and more in control. The same is true when we manage our thoughts. 

Restore and renew your creative spirit

Superpowers of creatives

As creatives, we are passionate about our art. A desire to share our work with other people can be all-consuming. We drive ourselves harder and harder to succeed. Does this sound familiar? 

Writers, artists, musicians and entrepreneurs have some character traits in common. These can be both a blessing and a curse. This blog is about recognising our superpowers as creatives and nurturing them with self-care so that they serve us well.

Creatives are sensitive people. As we regularly tune into the right side of our brain to create, we further develop our intuition.

I suspect that many of us are empaths. An empath is a highly intuitive person, who senses the feelings and emotions of the people around them. We absorb other people’s pain, as we try to ease their suffering. 

Creatives are perfectionists. We are self-critical, and that inner critic can sometimes prevent us from expressing our self for fear that our work will not be good enough.

We tend to be good and loyal friends. Our emotional intelligence means that we are often successful in the workplace, and are caring and supportive of our staff.

Our drive to succeed makes us self-starters. As entrepreneurs we put everything into our work, striving to achieve the best we possibly can.

These attributes are amazing superpowers, but they need to be treated with respect, or we risk burn out, writers’ block, feeling overwhelmed, or emotionally and mentally exhausted. 

Burnout

A new project gets one hundred percent superpower. We are flying high. For example, you have finished writing a novel. You have self-published and spent weeks marketing it. The steep learning curve has been worth it because you have received fabulous reviews and your friends and family are proud of what you have achieved. Or, you have set up a new business and after months of work, you have launched with a fanfare.

This is when we are most at risk of burn out, if we do not recognise how to look after our superpowers. There is likely to be an adrenalin slump after the work and excitement of a launch. We will be vulnerable to our self-critic when we look at how far we still have to climb, and our energy levels will be low. 

I have noticed on social media that a number of creatives are experiencing low energy levels and poor health. It is not surprising as we are trying to adjust to and cope with a pandemic.  As empaths, personal stories of heartbreak and loss, and those we hear from friends, and the media affect us deeply. This is another reason why we need to take extra care of our mental and emotional health at this time.

Self-care

If you are anything like me, you will be very good at giving advice to friends, telling them to take care of their emotional and mental health but may fail to look after yourself. 

A holiday or a spa day away from home may not be possible, at this time but you can create this at home. Find a day when you are going to be alone for all or part of the day and plan some treats. This will be different for everyone, but this is what my retreat day would include:

  • A guided meditation for chakra alignment or deep relaxation. There are several on YouTube. I favour Deepak Chopra or The Honest Guys.
  • Restorative yoga. Again, there are workshops on YouTube, but I subscribe to Core Vitality Yoga, and recommend the virtual retreat, I equip myself with a couple of pillows, a bolster or rolled-up towel, a throw/blanket, a face mask, and soothing oils, for this.
  • A light lunch made up beforehand. This would include a delicious salad, fresh fruit, and maybe a smoothie. 
  • A walk where you can enjoy nature.
  • A warm bath with scented oils, and candles. I might put a conditioning mask on my hair, or include other beauty treatments such as a face mask.
  • Put on comfortable clothes to lounge in and read a book or listen to music.
  • Manicure and pedicure if you feel inclined.

I have enjoyed a couple of home retreat days like this. It is important that you have a complete break from work and social media on this day. Do not let anything interfere with this special time. I promise you, it will feel good.

On a day to day basis, we can take care of ourselves by slowing down. How many of us obsess about being active on social media? I love my Twitter friends, and because of that, I do not want them to feel pressurised into constantly responding to me. Mindfully monitoring the time that we spend on social media can be beneficial to our emotional and mental wellbeing.

Find time to do things that you enjoy. I have been so intent on getting my debut published that I have neglected other interests: riding my bike, walking in the woods, crafting, and baking. I am going to make time for these things, and when I do engage in them, I will try to be one hundred percent present. 

A visualisation

Finally, I will share with you a little visualisation that helps me. I imagine that we are all climbing a mountain. Some travellers are ahead and others behind. When I look down, I am surprised at how far I have come. Small steps each and every day have had an impact. However, I am tired and I still have such a long way to go. I sit at the side of the mountain and rest. The view before me is beautiful. It is momentary – the exact fall of the light, the little bird that has alighted at my side, the flowers in bloom. I rest in the moment. 

‘Why do you need to carry that heavy backpack?’ a voice says. ‘Everything you need will be provided.’ And so, I let go of my load. 

There is a well of crystal-clear water and I drink my fill. As I rest I help others on their journey. I know that when I need a hand or a word of encouragement there will be others to help me. 

As I set off again I feel lighter and restored. Instead of worrying about the climb I enjoy the sun on my back and remember to admire the view. 

These are techniques that help me. I hope that by sharing them I have given a hand to you on that mountain path. 

You are not what you think

Cognitive dissonance

When I was a young occupational therapy student studying psychology, I was delighted by the word cognitive dissonance and it’s meaning. In simple terms, it’s when you are not sure that you are doing the right thing and so you balance reasoning in favour of the action you have taken. Like convincing yourself that the dress you bought was a good buy because although it doesn’t fit right now, it will when you lose that additional weight, and it was half price in the sale. It’s human nature that we always want to be right. In our quest to be right, our brains work overtime coming up with all the reasons that we are doing the right thing, even when our gut says we aren’t. 

Head or heart

In my blog Meditation challenge part two,  I was working with a leading literary agent to get my novel ready for submission to publishers. There are other times in my life where I have been led by my thoughts and not my heart, but I am going to use this example as I have learned something from the experience, that I would like to share.

I can put my finger on the date when I should have paused and taken stock. It was my birthday and I was out having lunch with a girlfriend when the email I had been waiting for showed up on my phone. Two weeks prior to this, I had submitted my edited manuscript to my agent. I was excited, as I believed I had responded to all of the points raised, and I was really pleased with what I had accomplished. This email was going to be BIG. She would love it! What if she didn’t? My hands trembled as I opened the message. It was a holding email; my agent was busy and would get back to me in a month. In fact, it was four months before I got a response. 

Thoughts are just thoughts

Our thoughts can drive us crazy, as we use them to try and make sense of our world – confirming our worst fears or imagining the reality we want to believe. Thoughts are not the reality, they are just thoughts. My thoughts at that time were: this is my only opportunity. Everything hangs on this agent’s response. When I didn’t hear back, I assumed the worst. I judged myself and started to lose confidence in my writing ability. My thoughts imprisoned me in a false reality.

Psychology tells us that our thoughts are not always rational. I got stuck in a loop where my thoughts resulted in a fear of failure. My emotional response to  perceived reality triggered further irrational thoughts. If only I could have broken that cycle by realising that they were just my thoughts. 

We always have choices

A good friend suggested to me that by not meeting with me or getting me to sign a contract, my agent was avoiding any attachment so that she could more easily drop me if we didn’t get a publishing contract. I didn’t disagree, all that my friend said was true. I was acting with my eyes open. However, this is where cognitive dissonance came in as I convinced myself that I didn’t have a choice. I reasoned that it didn’t matter because my agent was going to bring my manuscript to the attention of top publishers. She had an amazing reputation and I was lucky to have her representing me. I had nothing to lose. Besides, what if nobody else wants to represent me? a little voice in my head whispered. I didn’t think I had much choice. 

Feeling stuck

So often, we get stuck in a situation that is not serving us well, but we convince ourselves that there is no other way.

When we feel stuck it is often because we are believing something that is not true. There is always another way. Sometimes it feels as though there isn’t, but we just have to use our imagination – and that should be easy to us. We are creative people. 

Instead of trying to justify our actions or inaction by building a wall of perceived truth, we need to listen to our hearts. My heart was telling me that I wasn’t happy. If I had honoured myself with kindness, and acknowledged that although they felt real, my thoughts were just thoughts not reality, I might have broken free sooner. 

Sometimes we knock ourselves out by repeatedly hitting against a wall when all we have to do is walk around it. There is always another way.

Going forward

Looking back, I can understand now that my agent’s success at that time led to changes in her working life that she had not anticipated. When we parted company, she explained that her world had changed significantly since we started working together. I realise now that her lack of communication was no reflection on my writing ability, and wasn’t personal. I had responsibility for myself. There were other options. The editor who was working with me at that time also worked freelance. Since becoming an Indie author, this editor has worked with me on my next novel, and I hope that we will continue to work together.

It was fourteen months after receiving a holding email that signalled a change in my working relationship with my agent that I suggested it might be better for us to part company. I have had no regrets since, but I could have saved myself the misery and self-doubt of my negative thoughts.

Of course, I can still list all of the positives that justify why I stayed with that agent for a year longer than I perhaps should have done. Cognitive dissonance is a powerful thing. But, I have learned from this experience.

Lessons learned:

  • When something doesn’t feel right, listen to your heart (gut/intuition)
  • List the thoughts that are limiting you and then let them go.
  • When negative thoughts stick, be kind to yourself and allow time to shift your thinking.
  • Honour yourself with courage and respect, you are responsible for your destiny – nobody else has this power. 
  • When we still our thoughts and listen to our heart, a greater power reveals itself. 

No more writer’s block

Writing, painting and, playing music are like meditation. You know that feeling when you’re in the zone? For me, it feels like slipping into a quiet place in my head, where ideas flow without me having to think too much about it. 

Using the right side of the brain

I came across Betty Edwards, Drawing on the right side of your brain, when I was practicing life drawing, several years ago. She explains that the left side of our brain is concerned with logical thought and the right with creativity. Betty Edwards, can explain this much better than me, see her website and blogs https://www.drawright.com

When we are writing or drawing and allow the right side of our brain to lead, we allow our creativity to flow unchecked. The left side of our brain wants to analyse what we are doing and judge how good it is. When I was worried about whether my debut novel would find a market, my mind went blank. I didn’t think that I had another novel idea in me. Everything that came into my head, I dismissed. The left side of my brain squashed any glimmer of creative thought.

Writers’ block

 Writers and artists need to have a business head, selling our work is a business. But we have to separate this from the creative process. When a person complains of writers’ block, I believe it is because they cannot quieten the left side of the brain and tune in to their creativity using the right side. 

Meditation Writing Exercises

This is where meditation helps. The deep relaxation of meditation stills your mind. That feeling of being aware but also in a dreamlike state is similar to being in the zone. If you can prepare to write by first meditating, you may find that ideas come more easily and you switch off the critical part of your brain that tries to censor what you write. 

Julia Cameron introduced Morning pages in her book The Artists Way (1992). Check out Julia’s blogs on creativity https://juliacameronlive.com/basic-tools/morning-pages/

Morning Pages are a daily practice of writing first thing in the morning, allowing a stream of consciousness to flow, to stimulate creativity. This exercise is making the most of your body’s relaxed state on waking, to tune in to the right side of the brain. 

Try writing something immediately after your meditation practice. Don’t worry about grammar, spelling, or sentence structure. Just write. I use notebooks for these and never travel without one. When I read them back, I’m sometimes surprised at the beauty of the writing. If I had set out to write in that way, I wouldn’t have been able to. It comes from somewhere deep inside and I need to be in that relaxed meditative state. 

You might also try a guided meditation on creativity. There are a few but I recommend Mind Valley’s one, see my blog Meditation Challenge Part Two.

The Artist Within

I started this blog by saying, writing and drawing are like meditating. To improve any of these skills, you need to practice, ideally a daily routine. When you first start to meditate you will find that your mind wanders and you have to gently bring it back to the present. It’s the same when you’re writing. You want to focus inward but the left side of your brain keeps trying to tug you back, distracting you with daily trivia or criticising your inner voice. That’s okay, just as in meditation, you patiently refocus until you find yourself in the zone. 

Namaste

At the end of a yoga class we say to one another ‘Namaste’. This, as you no doubt know, means, ‘The divine in me bows to the divine in you.’ 

I think that as writers and artists we are connecting the divine in us with the divine in others. Creating from the heart, we are offering up something of ourselves. It will be received and interpreted by others, as it touches something in them, this could be excitement, empathy, joy or inspiration. A good book makes you forget the outside world as you absorb yourself in an imaginary world. Art and music can touch us in a profound way.

Keep yourself in brackets

When I was learning how to facilitate group work as a health and social care professional, a wise mentor said to me, ‘You need to keep yourself in brackets.’ I think that we have that same responsibility as writers. If the divine in me is to connect with readers on an emotional level, they need to believe in the world I have created and not be jarred into the present by an awareness of the writer. That can be a narrative tone, which is like the writer looking over your shoulder explaining why they wrote a particular line or too much disclosure on social media. There is a fine balance between getting to know a writer and maintaining a sense of mystery and awe. I hate it when I love an actor in a particular role and then I find out that they are not a nice person. 

And so, I will refrain from telling you about the contents of my laundry basket and instead wish you Namaste, until next week when the topic will be how reading and writing can help us to develop greater empathy. 

Meditation Challenge part four

If you have been following my journey in the past three blogs, you will know that I used a daily meditation practice to help me to manage the emotional highs and lows of the path to publication. Lots of other things were going on in my life, but I have used this one example to show how meditation changed the way I responded to things. If you have taken on this meditation challenge, please tell me how it has helped you. 

My novel was out on submission at this stage in the story.

A revelation

As I waited and meditated, I realised that I hadn’t fully understood the law of abundance. I was using meditation to wish, like a talisman. If I meditate enough, my wishes will be granted. It was no different from the early days, before meditation when I constantly fretted about the future. 

Meditation taught me that abundance is about inviting what we need into our life. When we are very still and not distracted by our noisy thoughts, we are more observant of things that come our way: the comment made by a friend, a social media message that attracts our attention, something we thought might come in useful but had forgotten. These are like breadcrumbs that lead us to the right path. When you are curious and open to ideas and opportunities, things start to happen. Meditation helps you to see more clearly, to understand what you truly want, and opens your heart and mind to receive what comes your way.

I started out wanting validation as a writer. By picking out my submission from the hundreds that are sent to her every week, my agent had done just that. The wonderful rejections from top publishing editors that glowed with praise were also validation.

What I truly wanted now was to reach out to readers, in the hope that my stories would have some positive impact. I wanted to connect with readers in a meaningful way. Fame and fortune were never my goal. 

Maybe, I was just preparing myself for disappointment but it didn’t feel like that. I didn’t want to rely entirely upon this one agent, who despite her best intentions to serve me, was incredibly stretched as a result of her success and brilliance. How could I be open to new possibilities, if I wasn’t looking around me and making connections?

What next?

Eventually, I was forwarded four rejections. Two of them gave such glowing reviews that for a while I pinned these above my desk. However, the bottom line was, they didn’t know how to market my novel. I didn’t hear anything from the other nine, maybe my agent did but she never said.

I had completed a second novel, which would be appreciated by fans of the first, but I suspected, would have the same problems with marketing. 

My agent and I agreed to part company for the time being, so that I could pursue other opportunities to get my two novels published. 

Reaping the rewards of meditation

A year ago, possibly even six months, I would have been devasted to think I no longer had an agent and was back to square one. It was my biggest fear, in The Meditation Challenge part one. Now, it felt liberating. I had been set free! No more waiting for responses, waiting to be chosen. I chose ME. And it felt really good.

It was then that things started to happen. New people came into my life to support me, I came across resources and ideas that excited me. I realised then what inviting abundance into my life really meant. 

A guided meditation around this time told me that when bad things happen, our body’s natural defence is to avoid getting hurt again. I must admit, that my first instinct after parting with my agent was to not put myself out there again. The thought of trying to find another agent depressed me. Then, as a result of meditation, I considered again, with a calm and rational mind. I wrote to a few agents who I thought might be interested in representing me, I contacted a few independent publishers and I investigated Indie publishing. This time, I did not attach myself to any one outcome, I just threw out some seeds to see what would happen. I could not have done that a year ago. 

So, how has a daily meditation practice helped me over the course of a year?

  • No more headaches or eczema
  • I am no longer agitated and distracted and so I can savour each moment of my day
  • I am excited and positive about the future
  • If I do feel anxious, I know that meditation will calm me
  • New people, resources and ideas are already coming into my life 
  • My relationships are healthier and happier.

I will offer you one final meditation, The Honest Guys Positive Life Affirmations.

You may even write a few of your own. I have my favourites, and repeat them when I’m running!

I wish you the best in your writing journey, wherever you might be. I hope that you have found these blogs helpful, whether or not you are a writer. 

In my next blog I will talk about using meditation to develop creativity. 

Part one

Part two

Part three

Meditation Challenge part three

Blue boat photograph with kind permission of Edana Minghella

In The Meditation Challenge part two, I told you how the wise words of Tara Brach helped me to gain a perspective on the outcome of submitting my novel to publishing editors, and how meditation helped me to be more creative (I will dedicate a future blog to using meditation for creative energy). My agent had said my novel was ready to send out to editors but I had heard no more, and so I asked for an update.

Meditations for disappointment

If hearing the news that my novel was ready to go out on submission was a high, then it was followed by a low. Apparently, there had not been a great response to ‘the pitch.’ It was going to be a challenge to find a home, as it wasn’t ‘on-trend’ right now and editors were being cautious in the current market. This was before the pandemic and I suspect times are even tougher now for debut authors. Meditation came to my rescue again.

Whatever you need meditation to help you with, type it into the YouTube search engine. It’s an amazing resource. I typed in guided meditation for disappointment and found. Guided meditation for healing disappointments. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hyUDFlCjLog  

I have used it again and again. It’s really effective.

Attracting abundance

My agent’s marketing strategy was to first send my novel to one of the big five publishers on an exclusive. This means that they have first refusal, rather than having to bid against other publishing houses. 

I overdosed on meditation. Instead of driving myself crazy imagining different scenarios, I meditated with vengeance. I meditated to invite abundance into my life. There are lots of meditations on using gratitude to create abundance, the theory being that when you are thankful for the good things in your life you attract more. I had a lot to be grateful for – my ‘cup over-floweth.’ In fact, I felt as though I already had too much and I was wrong to want more. But I did. I desperately wanted a publishing contract. 

Some of the meditations on abundance are about using meditation to create prosperity and wealth. I avoided these at they didn’t sit well with me, but I did enjoy The Honest Guys, The Wishing well of Abundance https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8MPpGZf8wjA

Trusting the journey

It didn’t work. By September, the editor who had my manuscript rejected it and from her comments, I don’t think she could have read it. But, there was a plan. My agent resolved to get my novel into the hands of the right editors and proposed a list of thirteen. We waited until after the Frankfurt Book Fair in October. And waited.

I really believed that good things were going to happen for me. I had absolute faith and confidence. When I wobbled, I repeated my mantra, The right thing will happen at the right time in the right way. You are exactly where you are meant to be right now. I had reason to be optimistic, I had a brilliant agent and my manuscript had been sent out to a number of publishers. There was nothing I could do except concentrate on writing my next novel, which was progressing well.

I am a bit of a control freak. This served me well in the past, as I founded two successful businesses but I needed to learn to let go and trust the process. My daily meditations now included ones to help me do just that.

Meditations for letting go

  • The Mindful Movement – Trust the Journey
  • Jason Stephenson – Surrender Meditation, letting go of control. This one is also good for disappointment or coping with life changes.
  • Honest Guys. A guided meditation for letting go.

As weeks passed without any news, I managed my anxiety by imagining that I was in a rowing boat. I pulled the oars inside and lay back to allow the boat to take me along the river. When the boat got caught on reeds, I waited patiently knowing that the flow of the river would dislodge us and carry us to the ocean. It was a soothing thought.

‘If we haven’t got an offer by Christmas we’ll meet to discuss the next steps’, my agent reassured me. So, there were next steps. This wasn’t the end of the journey. Equipped with positive affirmations, I clung to the sides of that little boat and willed the river to carry us onward. 

In the fourth and final blog of The Meditation Challenge, I will tell you where the river took me.

Meditation Challenge part two

Learning to be patient

In The Meditation Challenge part one, I told you how mindfulness meditation helped to still my mind so that I could stop fretting about the approval of a literary agent and instead focus on writing my best work. If you are having a go at meditation to help you manage similar anxieties, I would love to hear from you.

I knew, in my heart of hearts, that if this draft of my novel didn’t meet with my agent’s expectation then we might well be saying goodbye. I should add here, that whilst I had been working with an agent for over a year, I hadn’t actually signed a contract, or met her, or even spoken on the phone, although her in-house editor did have a very helpful phone conversation with me early on in the process. This agent is one of the best, many of the authors she represents are international bestsellers. Her agency was growing and changing. It’s no wonder that she could spare me little time and was slow in replying to emails. 

Writer friends cautioned me but I was willing to accept these terms as I was gaining a lot from the editorial comments on each draft of my manuscript. In my head, I likened it to dating. The same feelings of excitement and apprehension as I waited impatiently for her reply.

I needed meditation more than ever. By now, I had progressed to longer meditations. I particularly liked:

If that one thing would happen – my life would be different.

Tara Brach www.tarabrach.com generously shares hour-long seminars on meditation practice. I would listen to these whilst ironing or making the evening meal, headphones on. In one of these seminars she said something that struck a chord with me. I’m sorry but I can’t remember which one it was. Anyway, it was something like this: 

We believe that if this one thing would happen, maybe meet the right man/woman, get a promotion, or in my case get published, that everything in our world will be better. We give this monumental importance. Just as we do in fearing something really bad. But, when this ‘thing’ actually happens it’s just a blip up or down in our state of being. Think about it – that job you finally got, getting pregnant, meeting the man or woman of your dreams. Or, the bad stuff, being made redundant, having your manuscript rejected. There’s a short period of euphoria or depression and then life resumes. It doesn’t change everything. 

I have just discovered Daniel Nussbaummüller’s  blog  https://embraze.org/how-our-thoughts-make-us-suffer/on Thoughts Make You Suffer, says a similar thing. 

So, when my agent responded in May to say that she loved the changes that I had made to my manuscript and with just a couple of tweaks, she would be excited to send it out to publishing editors, I was of course thrilled. My journal reads, ‘It has finally happened. I have reached a milestone – jumped a hurdle. My novel is to be sent out to publishers and an amazing agent wants to represent me.’ I checked that she really was my agent, just in case I had been deceiving myself, and she confirmed that she was. I told my writer friends on Facebook, did the edits and sent it back. My agent said that she would send me her marketing strategy and so I waited. 

I don’t know whether it was Tara Brach’s influence or my meditation practice but I was very calm. I think as writer’s we take tiny steps. I imagine us all hiking up a mountain, the path curving around and upward, like a spiral. Each step is small, it’s only when you look down that you see just how far you have come. 

Maybe, it’s watching or reading about drama’s, great personal success stories, that we crave the elation of those dizzying heights. The reality is, change is more often gradual. But that doesn’t make for a sensational story.

Meditation to help generate new ideas

Whilst sending off each rewrite of my novel and waiting for my agent’s response, I had gone back to two of my unpublished novels trying to rework them in readiness for my agent’s approval. That was before I started my meditation challenge and it hadn’t gone well as I was just too critical of my work. I was afraid that I didn’t have anything else to offer. Now, with the benefit of meditation, my mind was more open to new ideas.

 I found an excellent meditation for creativity through Mind Valley www.mindvalley.com. It is free to access on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NSqEYFsF3w8

 I did this creativity meditation several times. On one occasion, I did it before going to bed. At around four in the morning, I woke up with so many ideas, I jumped out of bed and wrote them down. My second novel came to me so fast I couldn’t stop writing. I forgot to worry about not receiving a publishing plan from my agent. Until July when I prompted her.

 In next week’s blog I will tell you how meditation helped me to manage my expectations and anxiety when my novel was out on submission ie. being considered by publishers.

Part one

Part three

Part four