Tag Archives: Art

EXPRESS YOURSELF!!! Do You Let Your Inner Artist Out?

“To be creative means to be in love with life. You can be creative only if you love life enough that you want to enhance its beauty, you want to bring a little more music to it, a little more poetry to it, a little more dance to it.” –Osho

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” –Maya Angelou

Hello friend,

I am an artist. I am an artist!

Gosh, that is really hard to say!!! It makes me feel as though I am boasting! And perhaps, if I am deep-down honest, it makes me feel insecure as to whether I am telling the truth, whether I am good enough to measure up to the term. Artist. Artiste! But I am working hard to say it with conviction. “I am an artist.” I am.

I have a much easier time saying–to myself and to you–that I am a writer. I have the ink stains to prove that claim. Clearly, I write to you on a regular basis. I wrote a book. I qualify as a writer. Before I started Journal of You, I was already writing in my journal every day for 17 years. During those years, however, I didn’t necessarily consider myself a “writer” because I wasn’t sharing my words with the world. I wrote every day because it made me feel good to write. It connected me to myself. And to my higher Self. Writing liberated me at the same time that it taught me who I was. It brought me out while bringing me in. It was both a form of expression and discovery.

Stop there. Back that up a few sentences.

Even as I was just typing that explanation of why my early writing was not “writing” or “art,” the words coming out of my fingers were telling me that that was exactly the kind of artistic outlet–call it Art or Creativity or Imagination or Soul Connection or Self-Expression or Divine Inspiration or whatever you want–that I needed then and that I think we all need throughout our lives, whether or not we ever intend to share our “art” with the world and call ourselves artists.

Sometimes I think it is the terms themselves that hold us back from exploring these outlets that allow us to feel alive and uplifted and whole. Call something an “Art class” or a “creativity exercise” or a chance for “self-expression” or “imagination,” and most of us shut down entirely. “I don’t have a creative bone in my body!” we say. Or, “I’ve never been artistic.”

So, we don’t take up our buddy on that offer to teach us the guitar. We don’t join our friends who are going to take a one-night painting class together. We don’t go out dancing. We don’t sing karaoke (or even in the shower). We don’t draw pictures, even though we used to love that when we were young. We even ignore those new “adult” coloring books. We don’t pick up the pen to write that poem or short story that seems to be rattling around in our brains looking for an outlet. Heck, we don’t even write that first journal entry, so certain are we that we “have nothing to say” (I hear that one all the time, believe me!).

Why do we squash that? I think a lot of it is FEAR and SHAME. We think that if we try something “artistic,” that we will inevitably be found out and then judged on our performance. Judged harshly. We think people are going to be whispering, “How dare she think she is good enough to perform in public? She’s not a REAL…..(insert whatever you like: dancer, singer, actress, painter, musician, writer).”

Beyond just the criticism of our (lack of) talent, I think there is also that self-consciousness and insecurity around being thought of as childish for doing something as whimsical, imaginative, and brave as art is, even if just done in private.

Somehow, as we leave childhood and enter that ultra-self-conscious stage called adolescence, we tend to cut out anything that is not “cool” or “grown-up,” and we certainly stop doing anything we are “bad” at. The potential judgment of our peers stifles so much that made life fun and engaging and meaningful and inspiring. We mute ourselves. Our clothing choices become less personalized. We stop singing out loud. We don’t draw or paint or color. We don’t make music. Performances stop. Even personal writing ends. That fear of sticking out or, worse yet, being “bad” at something, snuffs out so much of our beautiful light. It is tragic.

The real tragedy, though, is that by the time we are ready to slip the chains of adolescence and emerge as independent, mature adults, this muted existence that we have exiled our true, glorious Self to has become habit. It is your new normal. And not just yours, but everyone else around you, too. Whimsy, inspiration, and connection to our artistic souls seem lost on the adult crowd. It is why I see, at the local sledding hill, the kids howling gleefully as they fly down the slope, gulping fresh air and exhilaration and Life, while their parents stand at the top of the hill and make small-talk. Or why those same parents–and I am guilty of this one, too–spend their money and time on getting their kids to music lessons to learn the piano or violin or whatever (because it is vitally important to raise well-rounded kids), but wouldn’t dream of signing themselves up for lessons.

By adulthood, we have so internalized that fear of being criticized and that need to fit in and be “adults” instead of being “childish,” that it is simply–and unconsciously–expected that we don’t have creative outlets in our lives. So, rather than write or sing or dance just because it makes our soul feel good or lightens our load, we skip it altogether and continue carrying that baggage. We don’t even realize how much of what makes us vibrant and interesting and alive and free is simply hiding under there, lying dormant. Unimaginative and muted are the adult normal.

But dormant means it’s still alive in there, right? Hibernating. Waiting for the right conditions to emerge and flourish. Waiting for its moment to shine.

Well, why can’t NOW be that moment for you? Seriously.

I am asking myself that. Why not now? At this very moment, I am doing some of what makes me feel creative, connected, and inspired. Writing this letter to you definitely has my adrenaline going and is tapping into something my “normal” self doesn’t access. I so appreciate that sensation.

But what else can I do? Music. Last year, I started teaching myself to play the guitar. Fifteen minutes here and there and I was getting just a tiny bit of a feel for it. I loved it, though, as I always knew I would, all those years I spent dreaming about playing by a campfire. But I got busy on a writing project and let it slip. I miss it and realize now that I must get back to it without delay. My other two long-term musical goals are to learn the piano and the harmonica, probably in that order. I have them in my house, too, so it is just up to me to make the time. The mere idea of it excites me, though, even as I am certainly the first one to claim, “I don’t have a musical bone in my body.” I don’t care. I love it! And it gives me all of those amazing and surely Divine tingles that I have been talking about. Even just singing–as I do often with my horrible but passionate voice–makes my soul fly. And someday, when I am done paying for all of my kids’ lessons, I am going to pay someone to help me to learn all of these beautiful things. And I won’t feel guilty about it!

I can totally see myself as being the king of Adult Education classes when my kids leave the house. I would truly enjoy learning to paint, draw, take photographs, write poetry and fiction, and whatever else they are willing to teach me. I could see myself trying out for a community theatre performance someday, too. And I am certain that I will keep writing: journals, blog posts, books, whatever. I want to make art until my last breath.

For now, I just want to make sure I am scratching that creative itch as often as possible. The writing is a huge part of it, but I realize I need more. I am here and now committing to a return to the guitar practice. I think I will borrow some of my kids’ art supplies, too, and just see what comes out of me. Even adding a few minutes of meditation every day–which is not specifically artistic or creative–can help me touch that realm of connection and inspiration where art resides. I am happy there. I am committed to putting myself in a position to touch that magnificent realm more often.

How about you? Do you have creative and artistic outlets in your life? Open up your journal and consider the moments when your soul finds its way to that place that ordinary existence doesn’t make room for. Where in your life are you allowed to let your imagination and creativity free? Do you have creative hobbies? What are they? Is there some aspect of creativity in your job? What else? Do you sing in the car? Do you ever pick up a musical instrument? Do you draw or paint? How about those “adult” coloring books? Do you write poems or short stories? Are you just reading my letters, or will you write a journal entry, too? Do you have any apps on your phone or tablet that you use to create, such as Garage Band? Do you get creative with your camera? Do you have the audacity to call yourself an artist? Could anything get you to that point? If there is nothing like these outlets in your life, what do you do that lights up your soul? How long has it been since you truly felt the light of imagination and expression inside you? What do you sense that you are missing out on by going without, if anything? Are there substitutes for that deep connection and release that art provides; perhaps things like yoga, meditation, religious ceremonies, or walking in Nature? What works for you? Why do we stop doing whimsical, creative things? Is it out of fear that we are acting “childish” by trying something like an art? Is it out of fear of being judged harshly for our lack of talent or skill? Do we think art would seem too decadent or self-indulgent, even a waste of time? Are creative people more interesting to you? Do you think they are actually more courageous than the rest of us, or are they just genetically predisposed to trying difficult things and putting themselves out there? Does the answer to that question matter to you? Do you think trying to stretch your artistic or imaginative skills could help you to grow in self-confidence or courage? Do you think it could help you become more empathetic? More open-minded? More playful and free? How else could creative pursuits improve your life? Could they improve the lives of the people around you, too? In what ways? What is one creative endeavor that you would like to add to your life? How soon can you do that? Will you? Leave me a reply and let me know: How do you feed the artist inside you?

Liberate yourself,

William

P.S. If this letter resonated with you, I invite you to share it with your people. We could all use a little soul stirring.

P.P.S. If this type of questioning appeals to your sensibilities, I hope you will check out my book, Journal of YOU: Uncovering The Beauty That Is Your Truth, at your favorite online retailers.

Is Self-Care Selfish? How Do You Show Yourself Some Love?

“You cannot serve from an empty vessel.” –Eleanor Brownn

Hello friend,

This week, for the first time in years, I took a yoga class. It stirred something in me, reminding me of something important that I once let slip from my grasp.

The other day I was talking with my neighbor about the types of therapy he is doing for his ailing back. He mentioned physical therapy, electronic stimulation, lifting weights, and acupuncture. Then he said, “But what has helped the most is yoga. It is healing my back, but mostly I feel it healing my SOUL.” He glowed as he talked about how this nightly, 30-minute video routine makes him feel inside. I thought to myself, “This guy has learned a secret he must never forget!” I told him how I have always been a huge proponent of yoga. I realized as I was saying it, though, that my endorsement felt a little hollow.

I first tried a yoga class about 20 years ago and fell instantly in love. It felt so good to me on so many levels. My body felt healthier than ever. My mind was calm and clear. And there was something more, something spiritual. My soul felt good. Yoga made me feel like I was caring for myself, doing something that made my life better and allowed me to show up better for the world around me. I told myself I was in it for life. There was no way I would stop.

I stopped.

I can’t even explain why. I just got out of the habit. That sounds really lame to me now, knowing that I never stopped working out over all these years. I also never stopped telling people how wonderful and important yoga is. I was like the paid endorser who doesn’t really use the product.

I guess I just didn’t make it a priority. Not a high enough one, anyway. I never seemed to make the time to add it to my schedule or trade it for one of the other things I was doing. Oh, I brought it back a few different times over the years for short stints—and I loved it each time—but it never stuck. I suppose that, subconsciously anyway, I considered it an overindulgence, like I just couldn’t give myself that much of a treat. I was not worthy of the extra hour just for personal growth or soul therapy.

It is not as though yoga is alone in this neglect. I have long been aware of the wondrous effect that reading books has on my soul, and yet I almost never allow myself dedicated reading time (I let myself do it when I am falling asleep at night or on an exercise machine). Music is the same way. Meditation, too, I have always sworn by yet rarely followed my own advice, even for just ten minutes per day. I have no excuse.

I have always tried to be so conscious of my time and not wasting it, and yet somehow in my haste to be productive, I seem to have regularly forgotten to feed my soul its fill. I haven’t taken the best care of what matters most.

Oh sure, I have done quite well on some fronts. I have kept up a fitness routine, and that has been at least as good for my peace of mind as it has for my body. And of course, my daily journaling practice has stood strong for 20 years. That is a huge pillar of my self-care. It is clarity and sanity disguised as a blank book. I also make a point of spending a ton of time with my kids. They put wind in my sails.

And that’s about it for consistent self-care for me. In other areas that feel important to me, I either make an occasional attempt or fail completely.

One of the areas that I recognize now more than ever is getting outdoors and spending some time in Nature. This never fails to help me to reconnect to myself and to the Divine. Whether it is a walk through the forest or a quiet contemplation by a lake or stream, this is my nearest approximation of a church. It makes me feel whole again. And I just don’t do it enough. I am better about it in the Summer, even if it is something as simple as laying in my hammock and listening to the birds sing and the leaves rustle. I know I do best, though, when I get out away from the paved roads and buildings, and that is something I just don’t make the time for very often.

Something that I have improved on a bit in this last year is sleeping. Starting from the time my daughter was born almost nine years ago, I have really struggled in this department. I had an excuse for a few years when the kids were little, but I became too accustomed to being raggedy. As soon as they started sleeping better, I started using that extra time for personal growth things that I had put off, like taking classes and starting these letters to you. I was running myself into the ground trying to get it all done, going on the fumes of a mere four or five hours of sleep per night, every night. As I said, just in the last year I have made a more concerted effort to bring that number up closer to seven hours. I don’t always succeed, but I feel better when I do.

Nutrition is another one that I am just getting started with. After a lifetime of pretending I could eat mostly whatever I want and still feel good, I have lately started to pay closer attention to the ways different foods affect my energy and my comfort. I am beginning to cut things out of my diet. There is a long way to go, but it feels like the right direction for my long-term health and happiness.

The one thing that I haven’t tried but that consistently tugs at my thoughts is the inclusion of more art and creation in my life. Writing these letters to you is about as close as I get to that, and Writing Day is the most fulfilling day of my week. But I want more, and I want variety. Specifically, I feel music calling out to me. I mentioned earlier that even dedicated time for listening to music lifts me up, but what my soul is itching for is to learn how to play it. I own a guitar and a beginner book, but I have never given myself permission to take that time. The same goes with the piano. Even when I touch the keys briefly as I am cleaning the house, my spirit does a little dance. I know the signs are telling me to play.

These musical longings speak again to this issue I seem to have about indulgences. Somehow, somewhere along the way I seem to have confused self-care with selfishness. I allow myself time to write in my journal, and that feels like all I deserve. I give myself permission to exercise daily, but only if it is while the rest of my family is still sleeping. I offer all of my energies to my kids—which I love doing for me—because I can claim it as good for them. I can justify adjustments to my nutrition because it is not taking up any more time or directly affecting anyone else. If I let myself go to bed earlier, I have to write less.

That thing about wasting time and being inefficient—combined with these feelings of unworthiness and guilt about selfishness—is exactly why I don’t allow myself the other self-care activities that I know would do so much for me. Meditation. Nature walks. Learning the guitar and piano. Reading books. Listening to music. These are all things that require time that I seem to feel I don’t deserve. As though care for my soul is not reason enough. This realization saddens me. I want to think I am worth more than that to myself.

This is why I was pleasantly surprised when I found myself granting special permission to go to yoga class this week. You see, I think a big reason yoga left my schedule is that it usually doesn’t feel like as much of a pure workout as lifting weights or running or something like that does, so I had a hard time justifying yoga instead of one of those (my efficiency hang-up at its most glaring). So it was a big deal for me when I substituted a cardiovascular workout for the yoga class (even though I did have to get up even earlier to make it). I consciously prioritized the benefits to my mind and spirit.

Whoa! It seems really strange even to type that thought! I just don’t do that very often, apparently.

And though I felt guilty for missing the cardio workout, oh my, how good that yoga class felt! It was a genuine treat. I was working at it, but it still felt like a pampering for my soul. I can still feel the effects on my mood even days later. What a discovery! This is what self-care feels like! I think I could get used to this. Well, you know, after a few visits to the shrink, maybe!

How about you? What does self-care look like to you? Walk yourself through your weekly slate of activities. Which items on your itinerary are aimed at getting yourself feeling connected, engaged, and at your best? Which ones are, like my journaling, your most ingrained habits, things that are a normal part of your life? How long have you been practicing those things? Could you imagine letting go of those habits? Which of your self-care practices is most important to you? Why? What practices have you tried and liked at some point but never made a part of your routine? Do you envision yourself returning to them? What will it take? Which ones have you had high expectations for but turned out to be just not your thing? Do you have any, like my guitar learning, that you haven’t tried but that your soul seems to be calling out for you to try? Why have you ignored that call to this point? What will get you to begin? Are your self-care activities more often done alone (e.g. meditating or reading) or with others (e.g. coffee with a friend or a yoga class)? Do you allot a certain amount of time each day that you proclaim as “Me Time” and really own it, or are you generally unaware of when you are taking care of yourself? Are you worthy of that dedicated time just for you? Are you only good at justifying it in the flow of your everyday life (e.g. nutrition), or are you good at claiming bigger chunks of time (e.g. a spa day or girls’ weekend), too? Is self-care intertwined with self-worth, i.e. the more we value ourselves, the more we care for ourselves? If so, what does your level of self-care say about how much you value yourself? How can you move that needle more in the right direction? How does it feel to be renewed from within? What best helps you get there? Leave me a reply and let me know: What does self-care look like to you?

You are totally worth it,

William

P.S. If this resonated with you, please pass it on. We are ALL worth it!

Free Time: Imagine the Possibilities!

DSC_0042“If you’ve got the money, honey, I’ve got the time.” –Willie Nelson

Hello friend,

A week ago, I came up with a wonderful new idea to write a book about. I was so excited! Immediately I started brainstorming and working on an outline. Next I had to do some hard bargaining with myself as to whether I am willing to temporarily suspend the other project I am working hard on now, a project that means so much to me. But this new idea is time-sensitive and must be addressed now. As I started to buy into the new project more and more and got to the point of committing to write the book, it suddenly struck me: How am I every going to find the time to do this?

 Sneaking in a few tired minutes of writing at the end of a full day of work and kids is not the way to take a deep dive into a topic, not to mention finding the artistic inspiration to make it all come out right (trust me, I’ve tried it many times!). I need several hours in a row of focused work for days and days on end. Hmmm. Those hours don’t seem to exist in my upcoming calendar of events. If I want to sleep at all, I simply don’t have the time.

This is when my escapist fantasies begin. These daydreams typically come in bunches over several days—usually a few different times per year–when I get really excited to take on a new project and then am hit with the reality of my schedule. Usually these fantasies take the form of me winning the lottery and never having a care about money again. That, of course, means I would never have to hold a job ever again. That, for me, would be absolute BLISS.

I always thought this extreme anti-job thing I had was that I simply didn’t like working. I mean, hey, who likes working, right? I just thought I had an extreme case of it. I have marveled about this many times in my journal, wondering how I got so spoiled. Lately, though, I have realized something about myself. I realized that, more than anything else, I just don’t like to work for someone else. I don’t like my work polluted by other people’s agendas, and I don’t like to be told what to do and when (and certainly not how). Simply put, I have never, EVER wanted to hold a job. That is, until the day I realized I just wanted to be my own boss.

I want to work—I’m dying to work—on my own projects on my terms. I want to choose the things I take on and how the work is performed. For those conditions, I am willing to work hard every day until my life ends. I don’t need retirement because I love what I choose to do.

So, it turns out I am not as lazy as I thought. Spoiled maybe, but not lazy. What a relief!

But that still doesn’t solve my problem. I work my current job because it brings in just enough money—combining with my wife’s income–to keep my household running and allows me to be here for my kids whenever they are here. It is a busy lifestyle, but our arrangement manages to just keep the bills paid and all of us happy and grateful for the time together.

But still pent-up and wishing for more.

More time and more money would be ideal, of course. That is where my usual fantasies of winning the lottery come in. But this week, as my soul was stirred up into a frenzy by this new book idea and my eagerness to dive into the writing of it, I realized something different about the tone of my fantasy hypotheticals.

The pleas suddenly became much less greedy, much more sensible. Instead of “If only I had 500 million dollars, I could really do what I want!” my visions have been more like, “If only I could keep my simple, paltry income but not have to put in the time to do the job and commute, I could do enough of what I want to keep me fulfilled.”

Maybe I thought that if my request wasn’t so gigantic, the wish-granters—there is a local branch of the Wizard of Oz in every town, right?—might somehow find a way for me. I am not asking to be rid of my usual financial balancing act and the tension that comes whenever I spend money. I will happily carry those burdens if only I am granted the TIME.

Yes, TIME is what I am really after. I just want those hours that I spend from the moment I leave for work to the moment I arrive back at home. If I could have those hours, along with my current income, I would not ask the wish-granters for any more wishes (I say now).

What would I do with the hours? WORK! My work. I would spend every one of them writing. In the short-term, I would write the book whose idea is burning in me right now. In the long-term, I have many other things I want to write, too, including more of these weekly letters to you. Believe me, I could keep myself occupied with the many ideas that inspire me to help make the world a better place.

I feel like the painter who has the perfect painting in mind and his paints and brushes ready to go, but he is waiting for his canvas to arrive. Waiting impatiently.

Every artist needs a patron. I started saying that when I was a young actor, having first realized how much energy it takes to create and perform one’s art consistently well. I experienced how that energy and inspiration can get muted in the drudgery of making a living doing something that is not your passion for most of the day simply to get a small window of time to pursue that passion. I am convinced that most of the world’s great art has gone unproduced due to the world’s artists lacking the requisite time and energy to create. Because I dare flatter myself by calling what I do a type of “Art,” I feel this pain. I ache for that time and energy. And thus my fantasies.

Those obligation-free hours are so alluring to my imagination. Of course, there are a million ways to use them. I know it would be wonderful to use the time to read all of the books I have on my list and take up all the hobbies I have ever aspired to. I can see myself easily passing the day between guitar practice, yoga, and some Hemingway in my hammock. It is a vision that warms my heart.

It wouldn’t last, though. What drives me is the writing. Trying to string together words that will make a difference in people’s lives. I can’t make it very long without returning to that.

So yeah, at the end of the day, if you let me keep my current income but allowed me to quit working, what would I do? I would work! (MY way.)

How about you? What would you do if you were guaranteed your income without the time commitment? Open up your journal and imagine this amazing opportunity. How would you use it? Maybe this essentially becomes a question of what you prioritize at this point in your life, not just what you like to do. Is there something that you highly value but that you have not had time to devote to with your current schedule? Is it something that you can see yourself making a habit of and keeping in your life long-term? Would you use the time to cultivate a hobby or rather something that would become a new career for you? How widely would you spread your wings? How much would you simply kick back and take life easier than you have been? Would you intentionally have no agenda at all for a while? How long do you think you could go without any job before you became either bored or stir crazy? Is this even a deal that you would take? Perhaps you would prefer to keep doing your current job, whether for social reasons or connections and opportunities to keep climbing the career ladder in your field and building a bigger income than you have now? Whatever your choice, I hope that the things you prioritize—the things you might fill your newfound window of time with—are things that will leave you feeling fulfilled. I would love to hear what you choose. Leave me a reply and let me know: How would you fill the time that is truly free?

Think big,

William

P.S. If this letter had you re-thinking about what you really prioritize at this point in your life, pass it on. A little clarity could do us all some good!

Is Awe Still In You?

DSC_0601“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”  –W.B. Yeats 

Hello friend,

A couple of weeks ago, I brought my kids downtown to see the skyscrapers. As suburbanites, I often point out “Big City” in the distance as we are driving, but never in their lives had I taken them there to see the tall buildings up close. We parked the car just out of downtown so that we could walk through a sculpture garden and park on the way to the buildings. To get there, though, we had to cross a walking bridge high above a busy freeway. We got to the top of the steps to cross, and my 3 ½ year-old son’s mouth dropped wide open. He stared in wide wonder as, right below him, cars and trucks went speeding by in several lanes side-by-side. He was absolutely mesmerized by the entire scene. Awestruck.

The look on his face was priceless, like a brand new world had just opened up and was flooding his senses. He was stunned, but giddy at the same time. It was, for me, one of those moments when time slows down and every image gets etched into my heart and mind. I was so glad to get to share in a really cool moment in his life that instantly became a really cool moment in mine, but for very different reasons.   For him, it was that he was being blown away by this amazing world and all of its magnificent offerings—like cars and motorcycles racing right under your feet—and for me it was pure gratitude: for him and for the idea that I could provide this jaw-dropping moment for him. The thought that really grabbed me in that moment–and hasn’t let go of me since–though, was “Oh, to be so lucky! To be completely in awe of so many things in this world that the rest of us walk right by. What I wouldn’t give to have the WONDER of a child. The susceptibility to AWE.” 

If you spend any time around little kids, you quickly learn how amazing our world is. They are excited about almost everything. Even when we don’t even leave my house and yard, I can’t tell you how many times a day my son hollers for me: “DAD!!! You GOTTA SEE THIS! This is TOTALLY COOL!!!” He could be talking about a leaf, or, just as easily, what he has just created in the toilet. But beyond mere excitement, this sense of awe is nearly as common. Children are so good at staying in the moment that so many things feel brand new to them every time, and that sense of novelty is the key ingredient in awe. You can stare in wide wonder at a world that is new to you and full of magic.

Regarding the Yeats quote I mentioned at the top, I think kids do a better job than us adults at keeping their senses sharp, i.e., being present and open to the magic that fills the world around us. Where and when do we go wrong, though? When do our senses dull? When do we stop being so awestruck by this place? Is it simply the repetitive nature of our lives, the fact that we see and do the same things over and over? Is it in how terribly busy we get as we grow, our minds trying to keep ourselves organized rather than stopping to smell the roses, or even noticing their presence?

I am trying to think of all the times I have been in awe as an adult. Sadly, it is a challenge to come up with examples. I was completely awestruck by my daughter when she was born. Simply her presence in the world, that this little living thing was breathing and crying and melting my heart when only moments before she was living inside my wife’s abdomen. That was truly amazing to me. I was in awe of her every development, in the first couple of years especially. I remember vividly, in the period of 18-24 months, being completely dumbfounded almost daily by the new intellectual feats. Human development is an astonishing thing. In the old days, when I spent all of my time on personal/spiritual enrichment and didn’t have a care in the world, I found many moments of awe in the Universe, most frequently when I was in nature. Put me by the ocean or a glacial lake in the mountains of Montana, and I ooze awe. What a wonderland we have been gifted with in which to live! Other moments of awe, for me, have happened at concerts, when the music and the artist stir my soul into a frenzy. The last one that comes to me is the head-over-heels falling-in-love phase of a relationship, being in awe not just of the other person but of the utter magnificence of existence now that you have found the key to the whole thing.

Babies, Nature, Art, and Love. These are the things that have dropped my jaw in adulthood. Four things? My son’s list is longer than that before breakfast! So how can I be more like him: amazed and excited by nearly every thing he comes upon? I think a big part of it is presence: simply staying in the moment and appreciating what is. I can also do better at taking an attitude of gratitude, being more mindful of the intricacy and interconnectedness of all Life in the Universe. When I consider the most minute details of how this place runs and all the conditions that had to fall exactly into place so that I could sit here and write this to you, I cannot help but be in awe. That awe makes me feel so much more alive. Einstein had it right when he said, “He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.”

So, how about you? What makes you “pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe”? Get out your journal and start writing. When was the last time you felt that wonder, that awe? How much do you envy children for their wide-eyed approach to the world? What is your biggest trigger, the thing that makes you most likely to feel amazement? What can you do to put yourself in position to feel it more often? Do you think it declines steadily with age, or does it rise and fall with your attitude and life circumstances? Be honest: do you sometimes think you might never feel it again? Leave me a reply and let me know: Is awe still in you?

Let your inner kid go out to play today,

William

The Movies That Charm Me Every Time

DSC_1409Hello Friend,

I LOVE movies!  I always have.  I love them so much that I moved to New York and Hollywood to study acting when I was young.  There is just something so magical about them.  I think it must be that a movie is one giant piece of art that requires so many different types of artists to make: writers, directors, actors, costume designers, set designers, composers, musicians, and more.  When all of these things come together in just the right way, the result is two or three mesmerizing hours of pure enchantment and escapism for me.

Sadly, since having kids five years ago, a few consecutive hours of quiet are extremely rare in my world.  So, my beloved hobby has been temporarily put on the shelf along with other friends like golf, reading, and meditation.  I still allow myself the guilty pleasure of watching the award shows (Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild, and Oscars) as my one link to this hibernating passion of mine.  I say hibernating, because I will definitely be back.  I love movies too much.

I have to admit to being a bit of a movie snob (I even call them “films” a little too frequently in conversation).  That little movie that film critics like but that only plays at the little art-house theater because most folks won’t sit through it: that one is probably just right for my tastes.  In my pre-kids days, I made a point of seeing all of the films—see, I just did it—that were up for the awards.  On the other hand, I never made it a point to see the giant blockbuster that everyone in the world had seen at least once (I’m that one guy who has never seen “Jurassic Park” or “Mission: Impossible” or the modern “Star Wars” trilogy, to name a few).  I wasn’t intentionally avoiding them; they just didn’t appeal to me.  Generally, if there are a lot of explosions, aliens, superheroes, car chases, or jokes, I am in a different theater.  The closest I come to an “action movie” are films about war, which I love in a way I can’t explain (because they make me sick as I watch, but watch I must).  I tend to go for a drama–something with some gravity–that stirs me up in a deep place.  I am the guy who sits in the theater until all the credits have rolled and the lights come up, because I need all of that time to process such a serious work of art.

So there I was today, in front of the cabinet of my favorite DVDs, taking a stroll down memory lane.  As I looked through the titles and considered each movie, I realized that certain ones had me grinning.   I love all of the movies I own—most have landed on various “William’s Top 10” or “William’s War Favorites” or the like over the years–but somehow a whole new category of favorites was being created as I perused.  What was it, though, that was causing this grin on my face?  What separated these favorites from the others?  At first I thought it was just that these movies were not as serious as the others, not as typically “dramatic” as my usual favorites.  That was part of it.  Indeed, I was not grinning as I passed most of the war movies. But that wasn’t the big answer, wasn’t the common denominator.  But what was the defining element?  What was making me grin?  It took me awhile to pin it down.

It was charm.  I realized that during the many times I have watched this handful of movies, I probably had a subtle grin on my face, or at least a lightness in my heart, all the way through them.  I thought about the effect that charming people have: they are captivating yet keep you grinning, as though under a spell.  They make you feel a little happier, a little more alive.  They connect with you and also tickle you a bit with their sweetness.  They charm you.

These are the movies that touch my heart in just that special way:

  • Stand By Me—This has been on my short list of favorites since I was a kid, and still I enjoy every sweet, poignant minute with those boys from Castle Rock.
  • Almost Famous—There is an innocence and purity about this movie for me.  Both with the musical choices—I dare you to try to NOT sing along on “Tiny Dancer”–and the genuine humanity, it strikes just the right note.
  • Cinema Paradiso—If you have to read subtitles the entire time and are still as completely smitten as I am with this movie, it must be charming.
  • Beautiful Girls—There are so many flat-out funny lines and monologues in this one, but it is the tender, truthful scenes that keep it among my all-time favorites.  The young Natalie Portman is absolutely captivating.
  • American Beauty—The fact that a film with so many dark, disturbing elements can make it on this list is a testament to its amazing director and cast.  This is a great movie!
  • Home for the Holidays—Much like “Beautiful Girls”, there is a lot of straight funny in this one, but that is mixed so beautifully with honest, sad truth-telling.  And it is about family, so of course it touches a soft spot in me.
  • Life is Beautiful (La Vita e Bella)—I told you I love war movies, so I had to include one!  Despite covering a horrific topic, Roberto Benigni managed to bring a love and sweetness to this one.  (Added props again for making this list despite subtitles).

There they are: the movies that charm me every time I watch them.  I am grinning just thinking about them.  That is the power of great art!

So, which movies charm you every time?  Get out your journal and write the first titles that come to your mind when you think about the charm factor.  When you come up with a few, write about them.  What is it about them that sticks with you?  What about them keeps that subtle grin on your face the whole way through?  What is so special?  As you explore your mind for that answer, you probably will find more old favorites popping into your head.  Write them out.  See if you can find similarities among the favorites on your list.  The answer can give you some terrific insight into what makes you tick.  Then—PLEASE–leave me a reply.  As I said, I love movies and any discussion about them, so I would really appreciate hearing which ones have charmed you.  What is on your list?

Keep mining your inner treasure,

William