February 18, 2012


At sunset the light has a lovely, soft quality. It's golden and makes everything beautiful (in a from-the-inside-out kind of way). The special light of sunset makes me feel bathed in warmth or wrapped in a blanket of acceptance. On Thursday, I walked home during the sunset. Besides taking fun shots with my camera, I also reflected on my mood, the light, and my surroundings.

The soft, accepting light of sunset is a great model for me. It models the gentleness with which I want to hold my own heart and the hearts of others. The light at sunset is never harsh or rigid or unkind. It is soft, accepting, and generous. On days when I feel overworked or fearful or blah, it's often difficult to access that special sunset light. Yet especially on those days it's helpful for me to be gentle and accepting of myself and others. 

Sharon Salzberg is a meditation teacher and expert on loving-kindness practice. She often speaks about the end-of-day-replay we do in our minds. Her spot-on comment is that we typically focus--with a laser-like beam--on the one "dumb" thing we said or the unfinished to-do item or some other negative aspect of our day. Her question: Did anything else happen today? That question is like shining the soft light of sunset on the actions of your day. What good things happened? What connections were made? What made you smile? What mistakes did you learn from? What insight (minuscule or huge) did you gain? In what small ways did you make your life or someone else's life better?

There's always some nugget of happiness, growth, kindness, or strength in every one of our days. We just need to pause and soften enough to see it. But when we do, it's bathed in sunset-quality light.

February 5, 2012

Creativity & The Fine Line

This weekend Mark and I were in Door County for his company's annual get-together (very little work & much play). We spent part of Saturday at a magical place called Hands On Art Studio. It's a space for genuine reflection and authentic creation. Although I was initially overwhelmed by the options in the Jewelry Cafe, I took my time and slowly put together a bracelet. It was pure fun, with no judgment or doubt.

There's often a fine line between enjoyable, creative activities and harsh, get-things-done tasks. If I'm not mindful, I can easily move from one side of the line to the other. For example, my photography is generally a flow activity for me--completely enjoyable and creative. But when it comes to processing photos on the PC, I can easily fall into get-everything-done-now mode (and sometimes I even yell at the computer). In my life, there are many examples of the Fine Line: thoughtful class preparation turned to micro-managed handouts; playful digging in the dirt turned to must-completely-redo-my-entire-garden-right-now; heartfelt card writing turned to a check-list slog.

Many times I begin an activity with positive intentions and creative energy, yet find myself stuck in ego and judgement by the end. If I'm really aware, then I can see the Fine Line from one side or the other (pull the plug just a little early or just a little late, and everything is fine). Mark and I have started asking each other, "Are you still having fun?" anytime one of us is at the computer. It's a lovely reminder question that we forget to ask ourselves once we're churning away. In fact, that's a great question for me right this moment! I'll walk my talk by ending this blog post while I'm still having fun. Just as I did Saturday at the Jewelry Cafe: