Friday, February 10, 2012

my dirty little secret

Do or Do not. There is no try. - Master Yoda

I tend to shy away from notions of either/or preferring gray areas which some view as uncertainty, but I believe is a place of possibility.

Still the wisdom of Master Yoda seems to have become the new mantra around our house and I have become aware of the power of decisiveness. And doing.

A confession here: I am pretty much a "do-er" by nature. I know, surprise huh?

I've been thinking about all my doing and wondering about the motivation behind all my busyness. I know there is the danger of doing as a means of avoidance and distraction but honestly, I don't believe such is true in my case. Usually.

No, the reality is - and here is my dirty little secret - I am a very disciplined person.

I know, I know. Discipline is such an un-sexy concept. Generally it is considered the opposite of spontaneity, freedom and play. It is not something wild Creatives talk about very much but I am here to set the record straight.

I work hard. That is my magic formula. I absolutely love Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit for her words echo my experience: "The routine is as much a part of the creative process as the lighting bolt of inspiration, maybe more." She comes down firmly upon the side of hard work as the genesis for creative action.

The danger of course is discipline for discipline's sake. I know about that as well having been anorexic as a teenager I was nothing, if not extremely well disciplined. My determination to be in total control almost did me in. It wasn't until I started studying yoga that I learned how to balance discipline - known as tapas in Yoga - with surrender.

Thinking about creativity it makes sense that there needs to be some fire - another translation for tapas - to overcome inertia (known as tamas in yoga) but that fire needs to be handled with care and some control lest everything go up in flames. There is doing but then there is an aspect of allowing - the dancing with inspiration and spontaneous action that breathes vitality into our work. In my case, there is a lot of surrendering to those happy accidents which transforms what I am doing into something unexpected, new and often insightful.

But it all comes back to doing. Showing up for the work. Putting some energy into it.

And that is my other "secret" if you will - energy. I try to think about things in terms of energy. Energy created, energy expended. Often I come to the end of my day tired and ready to shuffle off to the couch for some mindless television. There are times when that emptiness is exactly what I need in order to recharge and refill the next day. But there are times when I know to put in an hour on a project that has been on my mind will, in the end, give me an energy boost exceeding the energy needed to overcome my initial inertia. This is where discipline and having developed a "habit of creating" help out. It's kind of like the expression "you never regret having gone to the gym." Once done, I feel better for the work achieved.

I jealously guard my energy. I don't go out a lot, I know I can only handle so much social exchange before I feel wiped out, and I try - I try really hard - to monitor how much energy I give to online time. I play attention to how diet, routine, and people affect my energy. I have had to erect strong boundaries in certain relationships lest I be sucked dry by another person's emotional needs. In some cases, this has meant letting go of the relationship when I no longer was willing to fulfill that role.

Discipline really is another way of saying commitment. And I've made a commitment here - to myself and my family. By identifying that, I understand my discipline not as slavish behavior but action motivated by higher ideals of love, self worth, and celebration. For much of what I do is to record our family's life, to preserve our stories and discoveries and to honor my own growth and understanding. And to partake in magic. Always I am seeking the magic in those moments.

Next time you catch yourself saying "I'm going to try to get to that project today" think of Master Yoda's words: "Do or Do not. There is no try." Which is to say make a choice one way or the other and then commitment to your decision. Give all your energy to one thing - work, play or rest - and see how doing so affects you and how your full attention affects what you do ... or don't do.

Things I am choosing this weekend: to finish compiling the photo book of my 365 selfies (self portraits) from 2009 - 2010 (only 30 images left to put in!); work on the shutterfly scrapbook for Cowgirl (I have photo albums for the first 3 years of our family and am now committed to catching up by making photo books for the last 2 1/2 years ... I am loving this template in shutterfly from Becky Higgans); my Book of Days (of course); and time to make some valentine's with Cowgirl for family and friends.

and then there is this adventure Cowgirl and I are eagerly anticipating ...

a golden oldie from the archives -
almost 3 years ago and very little has changed

See work ... play ... they are not either/or propositions for me. The one folds into the other ...


  1. Lis - I love this post - so timely for me. Thank you. I was thinking of balance today - of the phrase - 'everything in moderation' - for my mantra and flow for my days. When working on a project, I usually expend a ton of energy like a tornado - whoosh and then fall flat onto the couch for replenish. Today - moderation, simplicity, an hour here, another there and bit by bit...putting it together....(so the song goes) hugs and thanks for this wonderful post! :)

  2. i feel like you wrote this post to me! i have really been struggling with my lack of energy and perseverance. as an introvert, i also get worn down very easily and after taking care of everyone, have little left for myself. you mentioned diet and i believe i need to be more aware of what is fueling me. please let me know if you have any tips. i hope you are enjoying a wonderfully relaxing (and productive!) weekend.

  3. This is awesome:) I can relate on so many levels, as always... And who doesn't enjoy a good Yoda reference?

  4. Love the wisdom of Yoda Lis, shall carry it with me today and try it on for size ;) Also love Moose's delicious paws! Thank you soooooo much for your lovely mail, you are a star and I am so grateful for your friendship xxx

  5. I read this at the perfect time.. just would I needed to hear today.. wise words from you lisa and the yoda master!