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Time Out for a Commercial Message

I have just published Animals Have Feelings, Too: Bach Flower Remedies for Cats and Dogs. The book costs $1.99 and is available at amazon.comYou can also get it at Smashwords
where it can be downloaded in .mobi, .epub, .pdf, and other formats.

Topics include:

How the Bach Flower Remedies Can Help Animals and Humans: An explanation of how energy healing works.

Understanding Our Animal Companions: Animals, especially companion animals have emotions. Because they don’t speak the same language as we do, they often communicate through their behavior. Learn to crack the code by observing your pet carefully.

My Cat/My Dog/Myself: Sometimes animals mirror our own emotional upsets. You’d be surprised what you can learn about yourself from them.

Abuse and Abandonment: These animals need special understanding and treatment.

Some Common Conditions and Remedies for Them: An annotated list.

My inspiration for writing this book was the large number of people who’ve written to me over the years with questions about how they could help their pets. Many of them requested consultations, and their feedback demonstrated how helpful the Bach Flower Remedies are.

I wanted to make this information more widely available; hence the book.

The big challenge for me was the high level of technical work needed to bring this creative project to life. Formatting for the various formats listed above is the kind of thing I usually try to flee, saying I want to be creative, not get bogged down in technical work. That was exactly the kind of attitude that made the technical work difficult.

Once I discovered that I was the main obstacle in my path and that the nature of the obstacle was my fear of failing, I worked at changing my attitude. I submitted the book after deciding that if I failed a few times, it was okay. I did need to submit it a few times, and once I was successful, I had the satisfaction (after a few more submissions) of knowing I’d learned what I needed to learn.

The next time I format a book, I’ll be bolstered by my success with this one and by knowing that not getting it right the first time doesn’t have to devastate me. This, in turn, will boost my willingness to launch further creative projects.

The moral: If one has the right attitude, it’s all creative.

Prioritizing: Step 4 Where Are Your Choices Taking You?

β€œIt is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
– J. K. Rowling

Random choices are like randomly deciding to turn left or right. Your choices will get you lost if you don’t know where you’re going.

Unlike a physical journey, your journey of choices doesn’t have to detail every step of the route. Being creative means allowing for the unexpected, whether this comes through inspiration, information from the outside world, offers of help from others, or any kind of surprise that may assist and guide you on your path.

However, you can’t prioritize unless you know whether a choice leads you closer to your goal or takes you further away from it.

For example, I have the goal to have my novel, Big Dragons Don’t Cry, and its sequels be widely read. That doesn’t mean that everything I do in my life is related to that goal. Many of my activities are orientated to the normal maintenance of life. Others are geared towards income production. I choose some on the basis of relaxation and agreeable people.

However, it does mean that I make a lot of my choices based on whether an activity will contribute to the achievement of my goals.

I had recently joined a message board that discussed books of a certain genre. After a month or so, I realized that I had other outlets for book discussion, and this board wasn’t helping me learn what I really needed to know: about marketing and promotion and other areas related to getting my book better known.

I left the group and joined an authors’ group. In this group I can not only learn but have found many ways in which I can give support and encouragement, as well as making contributions that help others. Mutual assistance is an important part of my journey.

In that theme, since 1987 I have been writing articles about well-being and spiritual growth for two reasons: because I believe I have something to contribute in these areas and because free content has been a way to give back to people who supported my business enterprises.

Recently, when my time became a little more constricted, I needed to make prioritize and decided to stop writing for another publication. I didn’t feel a strong connection to the audience, and I realized that continuing to write in that setting was doing nothing to further my goals.

It may help you to visualize a circle. See your goal at the center. Many roads can lead to it, but some can take you out of the circle itself. When you need to prioritize, ask yourself if the decision you make will bring you closer to the center or take you away from it.

Prioritizing: Step 3Getting Specific

I recently saw a video that said you should always do the thing you hate most to do first. My first reaction was that this was the worst suggestion I ever heard. For me, it seemed to be a recipe for oversleeping in order to avoid doing THAT THING.

My second reaction was that maybe it was a good idea. If you’re going to spend all day dreading that worst thing, you’re not going to get a lot of pleasure from doing the things you ordinarily enjoy. That messes up the day.

At the same time, I don’t want to do any worst thing if I haven’t worked my way up to it. By that I mean:

I’ve gone through Step 2 (in the previous post). I figure out why it’s the worst thing. I hate to make a dental appointment because they’re going to hurt me, and it’s going to be expensive. I’m going to feel victimized and angry.

Notice these are my expectations. Regarding the dental and financial pain, I can choose how I react to each. I’ve noticed that I’ve learned a lot about my attitudes towards by money whenever I experience pain about spending. So I can tell myself I’ll be learning a lot from the experience. It’s not the most lighthearted experience, but I look for what value I can get from it.

I have control about whether I feel victimized and angry. Here’s where I go back to the subconscious mind. What benefit do I get from feeling victimized? If you ever had a sibling hit you and you ran to your mother to blow the whistle on the perpetrator, you might find some clues. Anger can protect us from the vulnerability that gets aroused by pain.

I conclude that doing the worst thing first is only a good idea if you’ve taken some of the charge out of it. Otherwise, it’s like turning on your car engine in subfreezing weather and revving up to a high speed immediately. Bad things can happen. Don’t let them happen to you.

Priorities, Part 2

In the last post (June 27), I wrote about how a sense of priorities can get distorted by what we learn about our parents’ and other significant adults’ expectations of us in that area.

Because so much of what we learn as children resides in our subconscious minds, it takes awareness to recognize that programs are running us that we absorbed without any selective sifting. Because of that, we may not recognize that we have two basic sets of responses to accomplishment: the desire to please and the desire to displease.

The desire to please is the desire for approval and reward. (Sometimes the approval is the reward, but sometimes we’re looking for more substantial and material gratification.) Essentially, we don’t know we did well unless we get the gold star, the gold ring, or some other form of outside approval.

The desire to displease is the desire for autonomy. We don’t want our accomplishments to depend on the approval of others. We do everything we can to make sure we don’t get that approval. However, that resistance is as much a reaction to outside forces as the submission of the approval seekers.

I think that most of us have both kinds of reactions in varying degrees. Some may be approval seekers most of the time, with occasional moments of rebellion. For others, rebellion dominates.

Neither mental condition leads to making sensible and creative choices about what we want to accomplish.

This is step two of prioritizing: Ask yourself why you want to or don’t want to do whatever is on your agenda? For example, does the idea of paying your bills makes you want to gag (assuming you have the money to do so), or do you feel such anxiety that you pay all bills weeks ahead of time? The advance payment is fine, but the force that drives you to do it might be a problem. Are you either compelled or revolted by a grim parental voice telling you that responsible people pay their bills?

If you hesitate about the creative writing course you want to take, do you hear a parental voice saying that creativity will never pay the bills?

Listen for those voices. They have a lot to tell you.

Priorities: Part I

Do you ever get paralyzed when you have more projects than you can count on your fingers and toes? This is how a creative mind can degenerate into chaotic explosions.

It happened to me today. I thought about the two minibooks I’m working on, one a guide to pet care with Bach Flower Remedies, the other a collection of short stories, and several other projects I am doing. One is the second volume in the Dragon’s Guide to Destiny series.

I could feel myself inching towards panic mode. I will never get this done, I thought. Then I thought, Maybe I won’t. So what?

With the second thought, I realized how, at least for me, creativity can run amuck: when it collides with the accomplishment ethic. In itself, that ethic is fine. Completing what we start gives a feeling of satisfaction. Trouble starts when the urge to accomplish becomes burdened with a lot of baggage. This isn’t the baggage you chose to pack for your journey through life. It’s what others gave you to carry.

Labels on this baggage include “You must accomplish more than is humanly possible in order to be a worthy human being,” “Do that, or I won’t love you,” “Only struggle and suffering yield worthwhile results,” and other heavy burdens.

If you’re carrying that weight, knowing it is the first gigantic step towards dumping it. In recent years, children and young adults have taken the radical step of divorcing their parents. A less drastic step could be to divorce yourself from those of their beliefs that don’t serve you.

I’ll write more about doing that in the next post.

Baby Time

This time of year is best described as the parade of the baby animals, in which fawns, baby raccoons, and tiny turkeys march through the back yard.

This year the fawns have been first, wobbling through the grass with more enthusiasm than grace. Their excitement is contagious. I can almost imagine the world through their eyes: “Sun! Grass! Leaves! Movement! Mom!”

To see the world through new eyes is perhaps one of the most creative acts possible. When we clear away old prejudices and ways of both being and seeing, new possibilities spring forth. Even if they enter our awareness with a fawn’s awkwardness, their liveliness is irresistible.

They remind us that once we, too, were new to the world.

Last week another baby opened his eyes for the first time, my grandson, Lyric. His father (my son) and mother are ecstatic and exhausted.

Welcome to the world, Lyric, and may you find it a creative playground.

You Don’t Have to Know What’s Wrong to Make it Right

You Don’t Have to Know What’s Wrong To Make It Right

The other day I was trying to fix a page on one of my web sites. (I do my own html coding.) No matter what I did, the correct version of the web page wouldn’t upload. It was getting towards the end of the day, so, despite my temptation to beat this problem to the ground, I left it for later.

The following morning I fixed the problem with no difficulty. I never figured out out what technical problem had caused it to not work the day before, but I decided it didn’t matter, as long as the issue was resolved.

Now I have to learn how to apply the same casual attitude to life’s problems.

Maybe because so many of us are indirectly influenced by Freudian thought, we believe that in order to solve a problem, whether it’s physical, mental, or emotional, we have to burrow down to the deepest roots and discover the what, when, and why of the original problem.

Sometimes that’s a good idea. A person who becomes traumatized every time she has to drive on a bridge will most effectively overcome this issue if she can discover and dissolve the original trauma. (This is a foundational practice of EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), which I employ every day.)

Sometimes, though, rooting around in the past and reliving just how awful it was can have a negative effect on our ability to create in the present and the future. I’ve known too many people who decided they were so irreparably damaged that no amount of self-help, rehabilitation, or positive thinking could pull them from the quicksand of personal history.

To get stuck in such beliefs robs us of our creative abilities. It says that forces outside ourselves have greater power than we do. It stains the bright colors of possibility with the dark hues of what was.

I don’t recomment pretending the past never happened, but letting it pull us back prevents the future from pulling it forward. Don’t let the past overshadow the promise of what is to be. Yeats said it far better than I could in the poem, The Two Trees:

Gaze no more in the bitter glass
The demons, with their subtle guile,
Lift up before us when they pass,
Or only gaze a little while.

(The complete text of this poem is at http://www.poetry-archive.com/y/the_two_trees.html

Gaze instead into that which inspires and encourages you. Again quoting Yeats:

Beloved, gaze in thine own heart.

At any time, we always have two choices: fear or love. Fear shreds our ability to joyously create. Love is the great enhancer of all creativity.

What are you choosing today?

The Creative Path Has Potholes

The creative process, no matter what you’re creating, encounters moments of discouragement. It is at such moments that we often feel most alone. We know that, while others can sometimes shine a light to help us through the darkness, ultimately this process, in both its high and low moments, comes from within us.

I post this quote as a reminder that even in the moments of feeling alone, we tread a path where others have passed.

“And you know of course that many times before I finish this book I shall hate it with a deadly hatred. I shall detest the day when I started it. It will seem the poorest piece of crap that was ever set down. This feeling will reach a fine peak on about the 500th page. Once I pass that I will continue to work in a state of shock. And when it is done I will be lost for a long time.” John Steinbeck, from Journal of a Novel, his detailed account about writing East of Eden

If you’re interested in reading this book, it’s available at http://www.amazon.com/Journal-Novel-East-Eden-Letters/dp/0140144188

Filling in the Blanks

This week brought a milestone in my life. My partner and I have decided to close our business, which has been on the Internet since 1996. I intend to continue with the courses and consultations I give. I will also continue writing the nonfiction and fiction that’s been central to my life for a long time.

I’m hardly contemplating idleness, but I’m feeling the sense of a big gap from where I’ve been to where I’m going. In a lot of ways this is the essence of creativity.

Creativity is all about the gap, the emptiness, and the uncertainty. If not effectively harnessed, it can be about fear, the “what’s going to happen now?” feeling.

Yet it can’t be any other way. Going back to the days of the typewriter, if I have a piece of paper that already has type on it, I can’t use it to write something new. My new typewritten words will blur into those already written. I need a fresh, blank piece of paper in order to create something new.

I remember that whenever I rolled a piece of paper into the typewriter, nothing intimidated me more than the vast emptiness of that paper. It’s the difference between “what’s going to happen?” and “what am I going to create?”

The second question empowers us. It reminds us that we do have the ability to shape our worlds. It prompts us to know that every choice we make begins to fill that blank page.

I have made many choices by default through sloppy thinking and by allowing fear to dictate my decisions. Today is the perfect day to remind myself that I can be deliberate and creative in my thinking. I can imagine what I want for the future and make choices that will bring my vision to reality.

What choices are you making today?

The Bear Walked By

Yesterday evening, as I sat at the computer, I noticed a dark, shaggy form in the yard. I was sure I knew what it was.

In early June, yearling male bears are evicted from the family home and sent off to start new lives elsewhere. For reasons unknown to me, my back yard is on their route.

Upon confirming that it was indeed a bear, I went upstairs to make sure it didn’t topple the big garbage can that sits at the beginning of the driveway. It gave the can a sniff and proceeded on its way.

What does this have to do with creativity? When I first moved to the Catskills in 1993, I was, due to a traumatic encounter with a bear in Yellowstone National Park, terrified of bears. The idea that one could lounge in my own yard literally immobilized me. Now I’m pretty casual about a siting–not that I plan to turn one into a pet.

Imagination makes the difference. In the past, I imagined the worst, envisioning many creative forms of death. Last night I used my creativity to wonder what it might be like to be a young bear, still small in bearish terms, alone for perhaps the first time in its life, unsure of its future.

We can create anything with our imagination. What did you create today?