(originally posted on Chopra.com)
Do you ever just get lost in the moment? Do you get so engrossed in a project or engaged with what’s in front of you that you lose track of time? If you answered no, it’s time for a change! Psychology professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi writes in Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience that those who are able to connect to “joy, creativity, the process of total involvement of life with life I call flow” or to get into a state of consciousness called flow, are, in fact, happier.
One way to practice tapping into that state of flow is through creative expression: dancing, singing, painting, working with clay, playing pretend with your kids, using computer programs, writing, designing clothes, creating theater, gardening, doing crafts, scrapbooking, or otherwise “making stuff.”
In her book Art and Soul, Reloaded, Pam Grout writes, “I want to spend Saturday nights painting on walls, hosting show-and-tells and playing charades. I want to share my dancing, daring, audacious side. For years, I denied this side. . . I was so busy doing affirmations, reading books, and trying to heal this broken-down imposter that I forgot the ‘real me,’ the crazy, quirky, lightning bug me, is the very things I’d been searching for.”
It’s time to play and do more activities that remind you of those wild sides of yourself! Whether art is already a regular part of your life or you’re looking to spice things up, the following ideas will help spark a sense of creativity.
1. Dance Put on some great music and groove! Flowing, free movement appears in most cultures as a way to celebrate life. Gabrielle Roth, who conceived of the 5Rhythms dance practice, suggests moving your body in a variety of ways: flowing, staccato, chaos, lyrical, stillness, and ecstatic dance to move stagnant energy through your body. Practice honing your intuition.
Get in touch with both your body and emotions, and enjoy a moving meditation by taking a dance class, boogie-ing around your kitchen, or blasting the music in your car (shimmy your shoulders but watch the road!). Conscious movement is a great way to connect with emotions, process past experiences, and sweat out whatever no longer serves your highest self in a fun way.
Recommended ritual: Dance every day and everywhere! Get your creative juices flowing with lively movement and fun music.
2. Moon Rituals Take a look up and see where the moon is in the sky. Use the lunar cycle to mark transition and manifest your dreams. Notice when the moon is brightest and allow its fullness to remind you of all that you have to be grateful for, and for the abundance in your life. Notice when the sky is dark (when the moon is new) and allow this emptiness to remind you of all that you wish to manifest, of the intentions you have for your life. Consider pulling tarot cards, writing a letter to your past self, writing a love letter to your body, lighting candles, burning sage or palo santo, and stargazing to honor the cycles of the moon as they relate to your life.
Recommended ritual: Look up into the dark sky each night, make it a playful game to find the moon in the sky during the day, create full moon and new moon rituals, and honor the moon during special occasions.
3. Creative Gift Giving Have you ever received that perfect beautiful, sweet gift? That you know must have taken several hours to create? That looks homemade because it IS homemade, one of a kind, and, therefore, priceless? Then you know how incredible it feels to receive a creative gift! Anytime you’re giving a gift to friend, loved one, co-worker, or yourself, consider what would truly touch that person’s heart and think outside the (gift)box. Make a card, a scrapbook, a playlist, a shared experience, a meal, a bouquet, or a necklace—complex or simple, your intentions will surely shine through the wrapping paper.
Recommended ritual: Who has a birthday coming up? Make his or her day!
4. Cooking Ah, the art of cooking. The ritual of choosing a cookbook, creating a menu, shopping for ingredients, prepping/chopping/stirring, cooking, and (finally!) eating is one that benefits your mind as well as your belly. Consider how the presentation of the finished product can be a masterpiece in itself. Watch cooking shows or videos to get ideas. Invite friends over to enjoy your work. Bonus: you can choose music that will light you up as you cook!
Recommended ritual: Try this as a one-time special event or choose a cookbook to focus on for an entire month.
5. Plant with the Season Do some research and find out what will grow best in your region. Connecting with the earth by digging, watering, and getting dirty helps clear your mind and ground your heart. Consider your intentions and remember that what you plant, grows. So, plant positivity! Plant peace! Plant peas! Bonus: plant on the solstice or equinox as a celebration of the changing of the seasons.
Recommended ritual: Plant this spring to embrace the season of renewal.
6. Journal Open to a blank page and see what happens. Put pen to paper and after a few boring thoughts (“I don’t know what to write” or “I’ve been writing about the same problem for two years!”), you may hit the creative jackpot. Or not. Show up and write either way. One of the tools of The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron is Morning Pages: write three pages in your journal every day; this is non-negotiable. The physical act of writing has been shown to be beneficial and getting those pesky/brilliant thoughts out of your mind leaves space for more insight and inspiration.
Recommended ritual: Journal every day—simple as that.
What other juicy rituals can you think of to bring light to your life? Are there things you already do that allow you time and space to feel creative? Humans are creative beings. The more you allow yourself to find your flow, the happier, kinder, and more adept you’ll be at coming up with creative solutions to the problems faced by the world.
Planning for a year!
My friend Kristin and I have known each other a long time. We met during her yoga teacher training in San Diego not long after I finished mine. We both love Vinyasa yoga, kirtan, mala necklaces, crystals, inspiring books, and good music!! We've spent many weekends at Shakti Fest together, enjoying the music, dancing our hearts out, and figuring out life in the Joshua Tree desert. After Kristin attended my first retreat in Costa Rica, I asked her if she'd ever want to partner to lead a retreat together. She said YES! After a few years (and several Michael Franti concerts later), we chose Soulshine Bali as our retreat location. And so began an entire year of prep, planning, and excitement! I am so grateful for our long, sweet friendship and the amazing professional relationship we have cultivated. What a dream it was to work with Kristin <3
Travel to Bali
Finally April 2018 arrived and we headed to Bali to host 19 brave, adventurous yogis. We went a few days early to acclimate to the time difference (15 hours ahead of California!) and get settled into the culture. It was a long long, long flight (shout out to the adorable EVA Air Hello Kitty plane, the amazing breakfast noodles in Taipei, and the travelers who didn't look at us funny while we did yoga in the airport!) but we arrived safely in Denpasar. First stop: Canggu, Bali, Indonesia on the Indian Ocean.
Desa Seni + Canguu
Kristin and I stayed at the dreamy and delightful Desa Seni village resort for a few days for our own mini retreat. We got to practice yoga each morning and eat wonderfully fresh food. We took a harrowing walk to the beach (Bali traffic is no joke) but mostly enjoyed the beautiful grounds and people at Desa Seni. We were so excited anticipating the arrival of our group to Soulshine that we awoke early each morning (okay, maybe it was jet lag) to plan out our classes and retreat schedule.
Calma + Ubud
Next stop: Ubud! For the two days prior to our Soulshine Retreat we stayed in the town of Ubud. The town of Ubud has long been known as a cultural and spiritual center in Bali and in recent years has drawn foreign travelers and ex-pats. The book and movie Eat, Pray, Love really spurred the trend of vacationers visiting Bali and yogis continue to flock here. And for good reason! Ubud is bustling with art, local crafts, great food, and Balinese tradition (Hindu ritual + kindness + rice fields + monkeys). We stayed at Calma, a little bit off the main drag, and took some exciting taxi rides into town. We laughed at driving on the "wrong" side of the road, even after several days of travel :) We ran into some monkeys in town and decided that the oft-recommended "monkey forest" was not for us. One of the highlights for us was checking out The Yoga Barn. We took a super sweaty two-hour vinyasa class, ate at their delicious cafe, and experienced one of the best pleasures in life: a crown massage! ("what could they do to our heads for a whole hour?" -Lena *sighhhhhhh* "this is one of the best things that has ever happened to me" -Kristin).
Finally we made our way to Soulshine Bali! We got a tour of the property, got settled in, and prepared goodie bags for the retreat guests. It was so incredibly exciting when our guests began to arrive. It's awesome and stunning to see familiar faces after such a long trip and we were glad everyone made it safely. We began our retreat with an opening circle, a yoga class, some dancing to Michael Franti music (we HAD to!), and a delicious opening meal. From there the retreat was off and running. We began each morning with a long yoga practice, meditation, and mindfulness. It was such a treat to practice and teach in the open air yoga pavilion with a view of the rice terraces. Our days consisted of delectable shared meals, lounging by the pool, and various excursions into Ubud and beyond. It was such a fun group of yogis and I loved getting to know everyone better. I most enjoyed the cultural dinner where we tasted the best of Balinese cuisine and got some cool insights into Hindu rituals, the temple tour where we cleansed in the purifying spring water, and our visit to Bumi Sehat where we enjoyed a tour of the birthing center and brought donations. Oh, and also the daily full body massages :) Writing about the retreat now brings me back to the sights, sounds, and sensations of Bali immediately. I'm so grateful for the beautiful souls who joined Kristin and me on this first journey in April 2018.
Before we headed home, Kristin and I checked out the beach town of Uluwatu. We stayed at Mu Bali and recuperated with more daily massages (why nottttt??), fun shared meals with other international travelers, and a sweet, sweaty walk through the Uluwatu temple (on the coast!). We were terrified off of our balcony after one morning yoga session by some aggressive monkeys who stole Kristin's bag and bared their teeth at us! We loved Uluwatu but after that ordeal we were definitely ready to begin our long journey home. Until next time, Bali. I miss you all the time :)