George Raftopoulos chats with me about my first book, You are. that is. Creative.
Purchase your copy today : http://spontaneouscreativity.com.au/p…
George Raftopoulos chats with me about my first book, You are. that is. Creative.
Purchase your copy today : http://spontaneouscreativity.com.au/p…
You are. That is. Creative
Finding your way to your greater creative self
By noula diamantopoulos
About the Book
You Are Creative! That is the underlying message of this book which takes you on a journey that unfolds your innate creative process.
I combine stories from my psychotherapy/coaching and art teaching practice and introduce you to ‘your interior map’, a process which helps you to uncover the way you do things and the way you make things – whether you are making art or making a decision. In five short steps you will come to know things about yourself that really matter when it comes to better understanding your innate creative process.
There are three sections in this book and in one of them I write on topics of creativity and self-development and encourage you to be curious and inquisitive. My Quest technique, a dialogue of questions only, is another tool that I share with you in the book. Quest is about suspending the answer and discovering the power of a well-developed question. The book includes art and writing exercises to wake up your imagination, reflections to take your journey deeper within and is written with an engaging sense of humour and honesty which will have you wanting to read more!
Noula has written an article about the topic of ‘Intuitive Art: the creative process and her many voices’ that has been published in Issue 3 of YOKE Magazine.
“Our third issue is an exploration of the many critical elements that make up and impact community. How different cultures interpret community. How we connect and how we are interconnected. How we gather for social good, for pure pleasure and for wellbeing.
We feature artists working in social spaces in different cities around the world. From street art to documentary photography to political activism. We uncover how artists, filmmakers, humanitarians and creatives are inspiring radical change. We meet social activists who are rallying behind wellbeing, sustainability and equality. We gather all of these change-makers together to provoke, entertain and inspire you.” – YOKE Magazine
Click on the image to enlarge and read the article.
I have been struggling with a commission I received. A commission for a mosaic cross. It is the simplest of designs and yet I could not adapt to the flow that this piece wished to proceed in.
I took several steps back and slowed down the process. I had removed the work that I had started and restarted – three times now. I wondered whether this was a way of moving forward. Adding and subtracting multiple times.
I am conscious of my creative process and how I bob up and down in the creative birthing waters of an idea, or in this case a commission. I know that sometimes I end up sitting on the shore line looking out wondering what’s out there, too unsure to make a move. And I know that such distractions have helped me connect with my work at a microscopic level – seeing something previously unseen. I know when I have benefitted from this because the AHA moment has been awakened.
I hit rock bottom with this project when it came to gluing down each piece of cut glass, each dedicated cut, one pentagram, triangle, square, oblong, at time. The glue was changing the nature of the design I had created. I took off the pieces, cleaned each piece with a toothbrush and water and then cleaned and resealed the surface of the cross to start again. I did start again only to have the very same experience. Remove the tile, clean with water and toothbrush, wash down the surface again. And again.
I am giving everything I have to this small commission and I am left barren. I am personally connected to the work. This commission came to me last year from two sisters who’s mum had passed away. They came with their desire to have a mosaic cross inserted into a heart shaped blue pearl granite headstone. A privilege I felt, to be given this kind of work.
Two weeks after I received this commission, my mum passed away. That was a year ago now. I recommenced work on the cross about 5 weeks ago and I am still here with the cross – 15% is now glued down. I have momentarily stepped away, to take my mind out of the process and to listen to what is trying to be expressed.
One night I left my studio feeling inadequate. Usually I would push such no – sense aside. This time I allowed the uninvited guest to speak. And this is what she said.
Your inadequacy comes from not seeing. Not being present from that which wishes to be expressed in your work. You are holding onto what YOU want said through this commission.
I want you to see what you are pushing away.
I want you to see what you are not letting go of.
You are to do the work not be the work. Let go of how you think it should look like. Let it be what it wants to be. Follow each cut. Place each shape down with love and honesty. Let the work surface from your hearts hands. Accept each piece that is placed. Accept me, the unknown, the uninvited.
I appreciate the message from the uninvited – the feeling of inadequacy. I appreciate the strength and courage that is required to look inadequacy in the face and question her to spill her beans.
This commission is for their mother and not mine. This commission is also for the father. It is for both their parents. I am able to glue each piece down now and finish the work.
There is a lot that is spoken and written about Gratitude and her healing properties and indeed I have experienced her rewards.
Modern thought masters like Dr. Wayne Dyer and Deepak Chopra to name only two – for there are many – and workshops and programs like A Course In Miracles, speak of the benefits of experiencing gratitude. How do we do that? A classic method to experience gratitude is to keep a Gratitude journal and simply list ten things that you are grateful for every day for 3o days. Or if writing is not your thing, then whilst lying in bed and before going to sleep, count out ten things you are grateful for – using your fingers to help keep count.
What is Gratitude?
Gratitude is about the small things. It’s about receiving a smile from a stranger who is walking in the opposite direction to you. It’s about feeling safe because you have a roof over your head, a place to call home. It might be about the way your dog greets you, the meal you just had made from the loving hands of someone who cares or simply being present to the giggle of a child’s laughter, These things seem small yet the magnitude of their impact on our state is seemingly disproportionately positive.
And it’s not only our uninvestigated idea that suggests that we are feeling better when we practice gratitude. There are many research based studies that have concluded that thoughts of gratitude produce happy natural chemicals in our brain so we do actually shift to states of joy – physically, mentally and emotionally.
The light bulb
For a while I have been feeling something unusually odd. It’s a happy-sad feeling. A complex combination of two seemingly opposite states. In the beginning it didn’t make a lot of sense to me. How can you be both happy and sad. How can you feel both at peace and a longing for someone that you will never see again. How can these two strong opposing forces converge into one. Is that even possible?
And then it clicked. I am experiencing the state of gratitude. The accepting of what is.
How can I accept sadness? I can accept sadness when I acknowledge why it is that I am sad. It’s accepting the loss of someone or something. It’s a grieving process which brings healing. I don’t want to push it away because I will be pushing away the joy that this memory also brings to me. I will also be pushing away the ability to live with what I am left with when I lose someone or something. What I’m left with is resilience, a deeper sense of compassion a desire to be kinder to all. And for that I am grateful.
I pause and read this question several times before I can realise a meaning for me. I am taken back to my corporate days, when I worked in the oil and gas industry. We took core samples of the earth to learn about what is underneath.
And what’s underneath cannot be known from searching the surface alone. They are simply not the same.
There is rich matter underneath our feet; minerals and crystals and hidden waterways and of course the story of the evolution of our planet. Knowing what’s underneath deepens our voyage on this planet – we get a sense that we are part of some strange mythic story and that, as we live and breath, our participation is part of a natural process that at once picks up from before and then takes this strange mythic story onward.
So we matter?
The idea that I am part of something that was before me and that will continue after me creates a sense of purpose. That I matter. That my journey on this planet is intended. And I, like you, have come here born from the same mysterious unknown invisible energy. We come from the wombs of our mothers. Our hearts are beating the same rhythm of a song neither of us can hear. Our body seeks to heal not harm us. We are bestowed imagination – I wonder why? We have access to other places in our dreaming time. These are all shared parts of our sameness. And from this soup of sameness we bring something of our own self. Something uniquely ours. Our core self.
The core of the question?
As I am part of the earth, as you are part of the earth, we too must have a core. A mix of many things that altogether make up the essence of who we are.
My core is the residence of my authentic self.
There is more to me than meets the eye. There is more to me than my (at times) outbursts and my sense of not enoughness (others are more creative than me for example). We all get a sense of this. We don’t know each other very well or deeply. There’s more to others as well as self than meets the eye.
So my sense of self, my authentic self, my core cannot be seen with my physical eye.
Can I meet myself, my essence? How can I get to know my core? Who do I invite out for a chat?
How would I drill into my core? How could I pull up a sample and then how would I make sense of it? What if I don’t like what I find? I’ll deal with that when I come to it hey!
For me, one of the ways I get to know my core is to explore my beliefs, my views and my perspectives about life. I want to explore what I stand for. Too often I can sit on the fence as I am able to have compassion for all sides of a story. But when I can hold that position (compassion for all sides of the story) and know who I am in all of that, then I feel I have taken a core sample of myself. This knowing makes me stronger. And stronger neither means right nor wrong. It simply means I have a way to navigate through life, a position, a process that allows me to make decisions and not just to follow popular belief or ready made conventions that prevent us from thinking deeply. I go beyond the instant answers taken off the shelf, from the newspaper or posts on FB.
What I do is not the core of who I am. What I do is the way I express my core, my authentic self, through being a daughter, a friend, a teacher, and a psychotherapist. What I do is not who I am. And how I do what I do is my personality. My core is deeper than that, and yet it surfaces, expressed in these ways. I can behave in a way that is at odds with who I feel I am in my core, such as being dishonest with myself, or telling myself that my creativity isn’t important or doesn’t deserve expression. But even if I do behave inconsistently with my core, that tells me more about my authentic self. Knowing what I am NOT has an important message too. Pay as much attention to the ‘I am NOTs’ as you do to the ‘I ams’.
Becoming aware of who I am at the core level means that what I do in life and how I do it is coherent. When coherent, all the parts of the whole sit well with each other. There is no confusion. My heart is not fighting with my mind. There is clarity.
This is why getting to know your core matters.
When I see my clients and students feeling unhappy with some part of themselves and indeed with who they think they are, and when I see them searching for something more inside, and they say “I wish I was more like xxx” then I would say: “Fake it ‘til you make it.” If you want to be different, practice that difference you wish to be. Bring it into your body and life and you’ll make that change happen.
This can be affective and you may have seen it work, or used it yourself. If you play a character or a quality enough, that’s how other people will see you, and eventually how you’ll see yourself.
We tend to seek change in ourselves so that we can be loved or liked. So that we are part of something, included and invited.
Should that be the reason that motivates us to change to become ‘nicer’? Why do we automatically assume that a nicer person is a better person? If that is the reason we pursue change in ourselves, then we’re faking it, and you will make it.
You will become another version of your-not-self. That is, you have invented another model of yourself. An imitation. When we decide that the opinions of others are more important than our own it means we haven’t explored ourselves deeply enough. It means we have suppressed our own knowingness of self and opted instead for the ‘likeable’ views of others.
So, when we want to change to be a better person, we take on a persona. We swap one idea of who we think we are with another upgraded version of who we think we should be and practice it until we become known that way.
We expended that same amount of energy that we would have used to become another non version of ourselves, toward discovering who we actually are? And develop those dormant innate qualities that we have, regardless of popular opinion about how we should be or who we should be. Then we don’t need to fake it – we need to faith it. Faith in self. Faith in the process of self-knowing. Faith that we are all unique and gifted and that we are here on this planet on purpose and the purpose is to discover who we are and then experience the magic of that.
The magic of this process is that faith is replaced by knowingness. All your relationships and connections come from a place of authenticity. So there’s no need for role play – the real challenge is in being your original.
noula diamantopoulos, Wednesday 6th May 2015
Are you feeling stressed at work? Would you like to Stop The 9-5 Stress Cycle? When we feel immense levels of stress, a part of our brain called the ‘amygdala’ lights up, triggering our “fight or flight” response. We get a hit of adrenaline, our heart rate and blood pressure increases, and suddenly we find ourselves making quick, impulsive decisions. Now, this is usually a good thing when we are in actual danger.
But it does not help us in the slightest when we are at work and have a tense moment with a colleague, boss, or client. We end up saying things we wished we hadn’t or saying things in a manner we wished we hadn’t. You can probably recall a time (or two) when this has happened. And to make ourselves feel better we try to justify our position to colleagues and friends because we feel so bad in knowing we were wrong in the situation. This strategy may make feel good for 5 minutes, but you will find yourself repeating the same story many times, just so you can get your 5 minute feel-good feeling!
Too much stress can not only land us in the frying pan, but can affect our physical and mental health, as well as work productivity. The solution?
1. Focus on your message. A major source of stress in the workplace is that we focus on protecting our reputation. That means we do anything to ensure that others like us, affirm us and validate us. Focus instead on your message. What is it do you know? Where do you stand on any given topic? Have you adequately reflected on what you believe in any given situation? Be true to yourself and allow yourself the opportunity to change your mind too. It’s okay if others disagree with you. What’s important is that you understand & respect each others point of view and stop fighting to win for the sake of your reputation.
2. Manage Up. If you are a manager, team leader or boss, you need to be aware of the warning signs of a highly stressed employee before they crash and burn. Be proactive by talking to your staff about how the risks of taking too much on, and invest in stress reduction strategies such as meditation. By treating your staff to a personal or team development session such as meditation in the workplace, you are helping to eliminate low productivity and poor mental health in your invaluable employees, and creating a closer, healthier team environment. They’ll love you for it!
3. Take a Long Pause. This is a tricky one because it’s that very personal comment that has triggered the amygdala to fly into an out of control state in the first place. So here is how you might learn to change from reacting to responding mode. Momentarily shut yourself down. It’s as simple as that. I call it the long pause. Just pause and wait. It might feel awkward at first but what generally happens is that the other person continues to fill the silence with more words. Those extra words can help you understand whether they are being mean and a jerk or whether you just avoided a misunderstanding.
It’s not enough to do that. You must also ground what’s happened and I simply suggest you go for a walk. Switch off. Deactivate. Leave your devices at your desk. Go for a walk to your favourite spot or sit somewhere unfamiliar where no colleagues can run into you. Focus on you. Process the day, the week, or even the year that you’ve just had. You might even want to write some things down so that you can catch up with what has actually happened. That little bit of time that you give to yourself by simply detaching from social media, emails, and phone calls will have an immediate affect on your mental health. You will start to feel lighter and more free, meaning you are more mentally available to not only your workplace, but your friends and family, too.
4. Enhance Your Work Environment. It’s important to be surrounded by things that make us feel good and remind us why we work so hard. Some people mix things up by putting an air-purifying plant on their desk, or pinning up photos of loved ones, holiday destinations and invitations to upcoming events that they’re looking forward to. This can inspire you throughout those stressful moments, bringing you back down to Earth when you feel overwhelmed by things, and triggering a more rational response to bad situations.
5. Take Control and Disconnect. Consider this. The average office worker spends 90% of their time indoors. Most of that time is spent behind a computer. When we leave our desk, we are accompanied by our smart phones, iPads, and laptops that keep us connected to our boss, employees, and/or colleagues. Ironically, this theory of “connectedness” is what separates us from ourselves and can cause a stress overload.
Bonus Tip! Get Help. Too much stress can result in a burnout. When we ignore the warning signs or simply don’t have enough time to even focus on ourself, we may find ourself at sudden breaking point. It is essential that we avoid this. How? Talk to your boss or manager, especially when the stress involves another colleague or a need for clarity in your role and responsibilities.
If your boss or manager is not able to provide you with adequate communication and leadership, approach human resources (HR). Just be sure to not make any rash decisions before you feel grounded and sure.
The new science of neuroplasticity has now proven that the brain can change, and it does so by the way we think. This means you can change your mind (thinking ways) to change your brain (neurobiology).
Team members are expected to work well together. To be cohesive. To resolve their own ‘communication’ problems. Bringing in a facilitator is almost the last and final straw. Let me make a comment about that right now. Personal development is an ongoing and forever affair. It’s not something we do as a one off event. So why does a corporate culture (not all, of course) provide team development opportunities in response to a crisis, or only occasionally? I am not speaking about team events here – companies engage in lots of those and team events have a valuable place in providing a social opportunity to get to know each other outside of work issues.
Back to your trainable brain!
We all know that there’s no ‘i’ in team, but is it really possible to have one without the other? You may not be able to engage a team development facilitator but you can follow these 6 tips on how to build a spirit of collaboration in the workplace by developing a holistic you.
What can you do differently that will improve your relationship with others? And in doing so, you get to grow you, meaning that you are able to transform into an emotionally and mentally strong individual, making yourself an invaluable asset to your team. When we feel good as individuals, we transfer good energy to others around us, making us likeable and approachable. In turn, this makes for a strong and collaborative team.
Change your Mind & Train the Brain
Let’s face it. Most jobs are stressful to some degree. And everyone has good and bad moments outside of work that affect our moods throughout the day. But the trick is to not let those moods overtake us. We need to train our brain, the same way that we train and work out any other muscle.
Your train your brain session consists of 5 simple exercises and 1 great video resource – some are ways that show you how to put the brakes on your emotions (a very necessary and handy tool to have at times) and others are about practicing a new way of thinking.
Here we go.
1. When you are speaking with your team members, remove the word ‘you’ from your dialogue unless it’s followed by a compliment. Using the word ‘you’ followed by said, did, aren’t, etc comes across as judgmental and to your coworker, their ability to listen to whatever comes after the word ‘you’ is coloured emotionally.
2. This is a way to put on the emotional brakes. Wear an elastic band and each time you feel your emotions rising, tweak the band on your wrist. I suggest you wear a thick rubber band. What this action does is to remind you that you are about to react, and the person who is about to react is not truly you. It will allow you to take a breath because of the physical pain of tweaking the elastic band.
3. Go on a short walk and/or listen to your favourite feel-good song at least once a working day. Make it a mindful walk. Feel your feet in your shoes moving and touching the ground. Move your focus slowly from your feet in your shoes, to your knees, etc, all the way up to the crown of your head. Connecting your mind with your body reconnects you – mentally and physically.
4. Grab a pen and write it out when someone or something is bothering you in the workplace. This is a classical journaling exercise. Write it all out. Long hand preferably and then throw the writing away. Alternatively, you can send yourself an email with your journal writing. Sometimes seeing what you wrote a day later will give you insight and clarity about yourself without the emotions that caused the writing in the first place.
5. Suggest a team development session if you feel the energy and mood at the workplace has been low for some time. This is a great way to get everyone in the right headspace when they may otherwise feel stuck. It makes for a great bonding session as it refreshes everyone’s mood and outlook, all at the same time!
6. Watch this TedX Talk on the brain – very cool!
By doing these simple and infallible things, you are in fact training your brain to be proactive in incredibly stressful situations. Rather than reacting irrationally at work, ruining your and everyone else’s mood, you are being the bigger person and in the long run, benefiting your position in the workplace. This means a happier, more enthusiastic team! Collaborate and feel good doing it!
You paused on this title. You are reading these words. Something has already aroused your curiosity about your own creative potential. Maybe you have creative aspirations. Maybe your creativity is blocked and you are wondering how to bring back your zing. Or maybe you are skeptical and are thinking “Really! As if the creative process can be flattened out to be stretched across, like a game of hopscotch – start here – throw a pebble – move there – reach home – woops stumbled! Start again.”
Okay. Loosen up a bit here. Creativity is something we all have. As humans we were gifted with this at birth. We were also gifted with imagination (the thing that inspires us to take action) and the drive to create. So what’s stopping us?
My guess is, our own definition of what it means to be creative. I’ll take it a step further. It might sound like this “whatever I produce will be looked upon by many people. People I love, people I am in awe of, peer people, people of influence and all these peeps have one thing in common – they judge.”
You may wish to read those words above one more time because you already know this, however I want you to recognise some or all of these aspects that may have become part of your automated thinking – what we call our inner dialogue – the one that thinks we need to have gained a PhD in just about everything we do before we can launch into, well, anything! So let me emphasis the word recognise one more time – re –cognise – to see again. The more you re-cognise these inner limiting thoughts the less power they have on you. And for you little gurus out here, yes I am talking about awareness.
So here we go. The following 8 steps to Unleashing Your Inner Creativity are to be viewed more like the circular hopscotch in the image. This is not a step by step, linear approach to creativity. It’s more fluid and fun. Pick one or two of these tips that resonate with you and practice them. Set an intention for each tip and it will create an even deeper experience for you to reflect on upon.
Even for the most successful artist, musician, and entrepreneur, creativity doesn’t always flow like a constant stream of lightning bolts. It is something that we need to set time aside for, plan for, and nurture. But how to make the time when we work 9-5?
1. Meditate – Neuroscience shows that regular meditation increases brain activity in areas associated with creativity. It also helps ease the ‘amygdala’ part of our brain, which is where the brain processes fear (what our inner dialogue causes). Put simply, meditation is the key to unlocking insight and erasing anxiety around feeling vulnerable when trying unfamiliar experiences. When we set time aside for meditation, we are benefiting our mindfulness, allowing us to connect to the creative and imaginative self that we can feel so easily detached from in our day to day life.
Tip – Please don’t make mediation a big hooha in your life. Find a practice that works with you emotionally and time wise. I suggest one that is with music or the soothing voice of guide and something that is say up to ten minutes. That’s it. You can download lots of different types of mediation on your smart phone and let the shuffle pick a different one for you each time.
2. MAKE time – Don’t have time? Make it. This might mean breaking up your routine. Instead of hitting snooze, force yourself out of bed, have a shower, meditate, and get imaginative! If you feel that you used to be more creative but have found the 9-5 routine hasn’t given you much time left in the day, rather than log on to social media (which can consume up to 3 hours of someone’s day), go to an art gallery and look at things that do and don’t inspire you. Take time to research artists, designers, or musicians that make you feel something, then get cracking! We all can have time. It’s whether or not we really want it.
Tip – Julia Cameron, the author of The Artists Way offers this excellent tip. It’s called an artists date, where you take yourself out once a week to experience something cultural ALONE. Go to see an art house movie, go to see some live music, read about the life of an artist that interests you (including business gurus here), doodle for an hour at a coffee shop, buy yourself a small – really small drawing pad and take yourself to some place new and write down everything you notice in bullet point form and watch the ideas spring.
3. Plan Ahead – Encourage a culture of imagination and innovation by planting some seeds while lying in bed getting ready to sleep. Suggest to your relaxed, getting ready to sleep mind to get creative tomorrow. Suggest to your getting ready to sleep mind to feel free to play and imagine whilst you sleep and to go ahead and to dream. You might even wake earlier than usual, feeling refreshed and ready for what ever amazing idea comes your way.
Tip – Keep a dream journal by your bedside. If you do happen to wake during the night then you will be ready to jot down the clues that your dreaming state has for you.
4. Call on the Muse – literally on your phone! Grab images from Pinterest or online or better still take your own photos – make them arty – zoom in, crop them in odd ways, shoot randomly from the hip – just go for it. Make this image your screen saver on the phone. You can also download an app that allows you to add text to your photos – so go ahead and add a word or a quote so that each time you look at your phone you will be reminded to be creative.
Tip – Call on the muse weekly or daily – change the image, change the words. We need to be reminded that we love art and we love to create. Setting a new image on your screen saver daily will visually remind you that creativity lives in everything we do.
5. Spice It Up a Notch – Get ready to collaborate! Try a guided class with your work colleagues to make the experience of unleashing your creativity even more enjoyable. Have a laugh and spice things up a bit. You will experience creative moments that you wouldn’t normally.
Tip – Laughing at our creative endeavours in the presence of others will help break the stranglehold that inner monologue has on our ability to be playful and to make for no particular reason.
6. A Watched Pot Never Boils – If you’re stuck in the mud, stop waiting for inspiration to hit you like a tonne of bricks and do something else instead. This might be a small chore around the house or meditation. Once your mind settles down, it will wander off and start generating imaginative ideas. Once this happens, grab a pen and jot it down before you forget!
Tip – This step is one of the most common mistakes we make as creative beings. Know this. Movement is Chi – life force. Sitting and waiting amplifies stagnancy – go move and when you do make it something repetitive and boring even – then watch what happens – I guarantee you sparks will be flying.
7. Be a Kid – Kids don’t worry about being original, social guidelines, or creative restrictions. They allow randomness, scribble what first comes to them, and often surprise even us with the things that they end up building or drawing. Take a page out of their book and think in, outside, and around the box. Do first. Think later.
Tip – Go on. Play with kids and learn! Or at least watch them play and learn.
8. Better Done Than Perfect – The aim for perfectionism can be a great motivation in a workplace, but does it truly exist when it comes to creativity? Take the pressure off and let your creative side develop naturally. Play some music in the background and let out what ever comes your way.
Tip – Perfectionism is another word for paralysis. Someone said that once but I cant remember who.