This weekend I spent a couple of hours with my friends Crafts Without Borders - an initiative to bring migrant and local women together to meet each other and share crafts. This time we made lovely felt bowls. Mine is top right - blue with yellow inside. When you put them altogether, they look lovely - a representation of shared time and what can be achieved as a collective. It’s a lovely example of how repetition creates beauty. Repetition also creates patterns - for better or worse.
My teenage sons laughed when I proudly shared my bowl. “Are you going to put your soup in it?” they mocked. “What can you use a felt bowl for, Mum?” Well, I found a great use for it this morning. I’m going to put my self-doubt in the bowl while I get on with my work. I’ll have a listen to what it needs to say later in the day, for maybe 15 mins. But for now, it’s safe and warm in my felt bowl.
My self-doubt is a repeated pattern since early childhood. And I am lucky enough to have had a lovely childhood in many ways. But still self-doubt travels with me. All those times it has repeated its message of ‘not good enough’ have worn a path in my brain - a strong neural network trying its best to protect me but holding me back instead.
To counter such strong patterns of thinking/feeling/doing/being, I have tried many things. Meditation helps. Therapy has been helpful, when I can afford it. But the best thing is to look after my own mind/body which means nourishing my nervous system. If I don’t get enough sleep, exercise and nourishment in my daily life, then I become frazzled. And when I’m frazzled, I have no reserves to manage my self-doubt and as a result I am less able to be creative, or to do anything that requires courage and calm determination.
So I try to create patterns out of processes that nourish my nervous system. And that is essentially what the Feathers Project is about. Pattern creation. Supercharging the creation of new neural networks through repetition. And making that reptition more enjoyable and durable by creating an artwork in the process.
So what would you do if your self-doubt was put in a felt bowl for the day?
My work focuses on living WholeARTedly.
Part of living wholeheartedly is being able to experience the full range of our emotional life. Let's look at the word emotion: It has the same root as the word motivation and that's because our emotions are there to motivate our actions. The limbic system of the brain, including the amygdala, is the body's inbuilt remote control system to help us move away from danger and towards reward.
Of course, we also need to be discerning about which actions are the most effective. And that's where the cognitive part of the brain comes in. However, if our nervous system is shot due to stress or trauma, and we are caught in fight, flight or freeze, it's a lot harder to access the pre-frontal lobes of the brain.
Creativity is a great way to bring our thoughts and our feelings together. 'Making stuff' requires head, hand and heart which is why it is so healing. And it helps us to get moving again. When we are stuck it is often because we have come to fear our emotions and in so doing, we resist letting our emotions move through us. If we are not moved by our emotions, they are not able to motivate us and so we become stuck.
So my approach to coaching creativity is to first calm and nourish the nervous system, using creative processes that engage the whole mind/body complex, and then to explore what my client is drawn to emotionally and visually.
Creativity is not about 'art'. It's simply the process by which we make new things happen or bring newness into the world. Science is as much about creativity as art is. Healing ourselves is being creative. Likewise, creating innovative solutions to the many challenges that face people and planet - all of this is creative.
So the coaching and courses I offer are not about making 'pretty art' - they are about getting back into the flow of life. Because by nourishing ourselves we begin to feel creative again and this allows us to regain a sense of agency: We move from feeling stuck to feeling excited and able to take action again (or even for the first time).
The first web-course that will go online (hopefully by mid August) is the Feathers Project because this is all about nourishing the nervous system so we can get from feelings of burn-out to experiences of flow. After that I will offer courses that explore specific emotions such as Self-Doubt, Grief and Gratitude. That way you can choose a course that feels most relevant to you.
I'd love to know which courses to prioritise so please fill in the survey below - it only takes about 30 seconds. Thank you.