Here’s the second part of 15 Liberating Ways to Live an Inspired Life [Part 1], read part one of this post here.
Be Present, Be Aware
We are each the author of our own life, the artist of our unique masterpiece. In the whirl of our frantic modern lives, taking a moment to step back and observe, to still our centre and quieten our minds and be is nurturing in its simplicity. Awakening to the moment – without resistance or judgement – to whatever each moment holds, allows you to connect with the stillness within you, your inner being, from which all your creative expression flows.
The Buddha, being a mindful sort of chap, extolled the virtues of the present moment. Aside from it being the only moment we ever truly experience, though sadly so many neglect to even do that, being mindful allows you to be entirely present in the present, that is, present in the process, which is where the magic happens. If you never stop, pausing in awareness, the whispers of your soul cannot be heard.
“The secret, or innermost, level of wisdom is pure intuition, clarity, lucidity, innate wakefulness, presence, and recognition of reality. This transcendental wisdom is within all of us—it just needs to be discovered and developed, unfolded and actualized,” says Lama Surya Das in his book Awakening the Buddha Within: Eight Steps to Enlightenment.
Whether engaged in a writing, dancing, standing on your head or sitting back and observing the view, this moment is essentially all there is, in terms of direct experience that is. “Life exists only at this very moment, and in this moment it is infinite and eternal, for the present moment is infinitely small; before we can measure it, it has gone, and yet it exists forever,” said Watts.
Be outside Every day
Wherever you are on the planet, you are connected to nature. Yet as our lives are so frequently lived indoors that connection can become a little frayed and weakened. Because we are part of nature, our bodies and their internal rhythms are tuned to the rhythms of our earth.
The sights and sounds, scents and feel of being outside – whether in a humble garden or a grand national park – can rejuvenate and inspire us quite unlike anything else. If you’re feeling uninspired or a little disconnected from your own adventure, reignite your passion and purpose by stepping outside. Doing so on a daily basis reconnects you to the beauty and majesty of our world.
Limber Your Limbs
A stiff and rigid body can lead to stiff and ridged prose. Loosening and lengthening your muscles – while breathing deep into each stretch – benefits body, mind and of course your creativity too. Having a consistent yoga practice, however slight, you are engaging and connecting body, mind and soul, in a moving meditation. This integration of body, mind and spirit is the key to feeling flow in both your creative work and life.
People are sometimes reluctant to try the asanas of yoga because they believe they aren’t flexible enough but soon find that’s one of the many benefits of yoga practice: being more fluid and flexible. Every new activity is resisted by the body initially but with a little dedication and consistent practice – just ten minutes a day offers many benefits – and even the stiffest of bodies can be loosened, and with that, your inspiration and creativity can be loosened too.
To the Taoists, everything is inherently connected, a part of the delectable whole. Just as our own inner conditions can change and vary, so too does the outer conditions of our lives. Equally, when you choose to look inward and nurture the very depths of your being through mindful movement, whether yoga, t’ai chi, hiking, running or whatever you love the most, your creative expression finds itself all the more free, limber and liberated. Try these: 7 Powerful Yoga Asanas for Writers and Artists.
Flexibility of Thought
Everyone knows someone who is so rigid in their thinking that they are completely closed to new ways of doing things and living, as well as the perspectives of others. Both of which can lead to a very rigid way of life. Keeping your own internal landscape free and unstuck, translates into a more joyful existence no matter the challenges you face.
“Whenever we hear an opinion and believe it, we make an agreement, and it becomes part of our belief system,” says Miguel Ruiz, Toltec shaman, teacher and author of The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom. “The real mission you have in life is to make yourself happy, and in order to be happy, you have to look at what you believe, the way you judge yourself, the way you victimize yourself.”
Maintain a philosophical attitude, a flexibility of thought, and speak kindly to yourself. When you have the humility and flexibility to examine your own beliefs it keeps you free, living lightly, unencumbered by fixed opinions and heavy thinking. As Mark Twain said, “It’s not what we don’t know that gets us in trouble, but what we are sure we know.”
Lama Surya Das suggests a regular meditation practice to help both our thinking and ourselves and loved ones. “By meditating, we gradually learn to be more conscious and make better choices. We develop simplicity instead of complexity, open-mindedness instead of narrow-mindedness, flexibility rather than rigidity. We feel ourselves to be more available to others and to give more generously of ourselves.”
Embrace the Light and the Dark
Like the moon everyone has a dark side but embracing both light and dark is liberating. “Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people,” as Carl Jung said. The Spanish poet, Frederico Garcia Lorca wrote about the necessity of the artist’s intimacy with the Shadow Self in his essay Play and Theory of the Duende.
He defined duende as one of three incarnations of artistic inspiration, necessary for creativity. The darkness, he said, was absolutely necessary for an artist to create. So flow with yourself and let the beast inside have space. As Friedrich Nietzsche said: “One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.” Never take anything – including yourself – too seriously or personally – instead see the joke [and the poetry] in everything.
“Whatever happens around you, don’t take it personally… Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves,” says Miguel Ruiz. “What others say and do is a projection of their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.”
Of course there is also another kind of darkness in our lives which though painful, can offer its own blessings too. “Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.” Mary Oliver said in her poem ‘The Uses of Sorrow’, which was published in Thirst.
Do Something Every Day to Bring You Closer to Your Dreams
We are all on a journey of our own evolution, a journey to know who we are and our place in the world whether we choose to actively follow it or not. You can choose to take charge and make changes or sit back and let others decide your fate. Conditions may never be favourable so it’s a far finer pursuit to act, make a plan, break it up into steps and do something every day to bring you closer to your goals and dreams.
“You can have many great ideas in your head, but what makes the difference is the action. Without action upon an idea, there will be no manifestation, no results, and no reward,” says Miguel Ruiz. In each moment we are evolving and moving closer or further from the person we are and want to be.
When you actively choose to reclaim the power to control your own evolution, however humbly, you lay the groundwork for a much happier, easier and more inspired life. “This is the real secret of life – to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play,” said Watts.
Remember Your Own Power
To find yourself in the grander flow, the greater, bigger picture, is to remember your unique yet universal connection to the source. Remember your own power. Power through your words, actions, thoughts, intentions, and especially your imagination. A strength in spirit leads to strength in mind and that leads to wondrous things.
Everything becomes easier when you are living authentically and in tune with your being. Your creativity flows unfettered by distractions, your expression takes on a far brighter hue, and you soon find yourself flourishing instead of floundering no matter the circumstance.
As Alan Watts said, “The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.”