Pictured above; drawings by my daughter Maggie, who inspired this article.
After a long period of creative deadlock, forced into introspection by recent life events, Maggie remembered she liked to draw. Loved to draw, I should say.
These unique, distinctive and beautiful pieces come straight from her heart, through her hand and onto the paper. It is amazing to see her be in the flow, and to see what happens when she lets herself be there. Oddly, it has been several years since Maggie drew pictures like these, though it brings her profound joy to do so.
Why did I set down my writer’s pen for years and years until I almost forgot I knew how to write?
Why does anyone stop doing the things they love?
We all, at one point or another, get so wound up in moment to moment stuff, we lose our true north. That’s okay, as long as we are open to finding it again. This article should help light the way.
Observe any child on any playground, and they will be doing the thing they are meant to do, whether it be swinging madly from the monkey bars or inspecting an inchworm making his tiny way across the basketball court—or, by turns, both.
Somewhere along the line, I’m thinking around seventh grade, we begin to get bogged down with an endless load of “musts” and “have-to’s.” Some (few) of us will still manage to watch inchworms as we wrestle with that load, but many more of us become so burdened we not only don’t watch, but forget that we ever even liked inchworms in the first place. If we do remember, we might decide it doesn’t matter—hanging out with insects doesn’t pay the rent or put gas in the car, after all.
But there comes a day, and then another day and another, when the rent is paid, the tank is full, and there we are. “What’s the point?” we ask ourselves. “What is the meaning of all this? Surely my whole existence on this planet was meant for more than just paying bills.”
The real challenge of our lives, the real point, is for us to find a way to unfold our infinite petals.
Each of us is a vibrant rose in some state of unfurling—if we never find the secret combination of sun and rain to move from bud to blossom we will wither on the stem and die, never having taken our rightful place in the garden.
The way we sun and water ourselves—and we must do it for ourselves—is to remember, and pursue the things that bring us joy. We should never underestimate the importance of experiencing and expressing joy in our lives—that is our highest purpose, it is the way we realize who we are and become who we are meant to be.
What do I mean by joy? Lazing around in a hammock by the ocean with a rum drink in your hand? No, though there is a time and place for that as well. Joyfulness isn’t about being in a relaxed state, it is being in a calmly energized state, where creativity and insight flow.
Maybe, as you read this, thoughts are already jumping to the front of your mind about the things you like to do (or used to like to do) which make you feel like that. Or maybe you are thinking to yourself, I have no idea what brings me joy.
Either way, the following three steps will help you discover, re-discover or solidify the things that connect you to your higher self. Remember, these things need not be practical, or even seem to have value to anyone but you— they must simply be your things, your true loves.
1) Get very quiet and know that you know.
This knowledge you seek about what brings you joy is no further away than your own beating heart. It is right there, under your skin, a tiny voice (or a loud scream) waiting to be heard.
Find a place to sit still, close your eyes. Breathe in, breathe out. Listen to your breathe—do not try to think. Welcome any ideas or images that come to you, see them and then let them pass.
When a thought or feeling that floats through you seems like a spark—like something very important, know that it is. Pause and consider that thing. If the spark lessens, move on. If it grows, stay with it. Explore it fully, welcome it. You’re probably onto something.
2) Tell your ego to get lost.
As soon as you find a spark, your ego is bound to jump in and go, “Ho there, foolish one! Baking cookies in weird flavors like lavender rosemary sounds really stupid! Don’t you have something more important to do?”
To which you shall firmly reply, “No, I do not have something more important to do. Those lavender rosemary cookies are the most important thing in the entire world, damn it!”
If your ego then tries this tactic, “Well go ahead, but you’re going to burn them and everyone will laugh at you.”
You just say, “I don’t care, I’m making them anyway. And when they’re done and they are delicious you can’t have any!” (When they’re done and they are delicious you may want to give in and share the cookies with your ego in the hopes that next time around she won’t be such a pain in the ass.)
Even if the cookies suck, remember, passion doesn’t necessarily equal talent, but nothing could be less important. It is the process, not the result, that is important. On the other hand, if you pursue your passion shamelessly, chances are you’ll end up with some respectable expertise.
3) Repeat steps one and two as necessary.
Finding and pursuing what brings you joy is an ongoing affair. A lifelong project. As we grow, our focus may change– we need to listen to ourselves well enough and often enough to perceive that. Even if our focus never changes, honoring yourself by checking in every so often can only bring added clarity.
We only have this one short life to play around with—don’t waste it entirely on “musts’ and “have to’s.” Be bold, be brave, be creative and in doing so, rub the tarnish off your edges and let yourself shine.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photos: Author’s Own