Sometimes in my creativity coaching practice, my mind flashes to an image of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. It is a pyramid that states what the basic necessities are for people to become self-actualized, i. e., to become our fully-expressed selves. Remembering to care for the foundation of one's pyramid, the first three levels, is pivotal to having the space needed for creativity. I believe that creativity can work inside every stage, but it's hard to
feel excited about cooking a creative meal when you're too tired to
I like to remind myself every day that I need to care for my basic needs so that I can feel free to create from a place of security and not from the place of fear that my needs won't be met. The base biological and physiological needs are: air (breathing!), water, food, shelter, sleep, sex, and warmth. The next level is safety: needs like protection, order, limits, money, and stability. After safety comes the need for belonging and love: affection, partnership, family, community, working with people.
The needs for esteem, meaning, beauty, self-fulfillment, and helping others toward self-fulfillment (transcendence) build upon all those. Covering these needs at each level is really an act of self-love. If you were to design your own personal hierarchy of needs, what would it include?
"Self love, my liege, is not so vile a sin, as self-neglecting."
Do you find yourself repeating behaviors that sabotage your creative work or your enjoyment of life? Self-sabotage started as a coping mechanism that helped us get through something difficult when we were younger. When the situation we were protecting ourselves from chages, we no longer need that coping mechanism. But it can be difficult to see how to let it go.
Try this meditation:
- sit with your back straight, feel your feet on the floor, close your eyes
- take several deep breaths, sending your breath down through your feet and into the earth
- when you feel held and supported by the earth, call the part of you who seems to "sabotage" your best efforts, imagine him or her standing in front of you
- ask gently what their role has been in your life
- thank them deeply for taking on that role, and let them know you're choosing to respond to stressors in a new way
- give them a new job: perhaps they are now a witness or an observer for you
- ask if there's anything else they'd like to tell you, and then send them home
- notice if you sense any shift in your body, and allow whatever is occuring
- take several deep breaths, feel yourself connected to the earth, slowly open your eyes
Integrating all parts of our being and overcoming self-sabotage is sometimes a slow, meandering process, sometimes it happens in an instant. Each of us unfolds in our own unique way, always moving toward freedom and openness, even when it seems the opposite is true. Be gentle with yourself in this unfolding.
"If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion."
-His Holiness, The Dalai Lama
It’s so easy to look at others who have "succeeded" in their careers or their creative work, and compare ourselves and feel like we’re not good enough in comparison. But hindsight is 20/20. Look at how each of your hero’s choices brought them closer to their goal. Where they are today shows how obvious and clear their path was. And yet, at the start (unless your hero is Arnold Schwarzenegger) they had no idea where their path would take them.
I like to look at Woody Allen, for example. I love the trajectory of his career. He began writing for television, then did standup comedy for a few years, then he began writing, directing, and acting in his own films. He’s in his 70’s, and he’s still making a new film every year. But I don’t compare myself to him anymore, because I’ve realized I want to carve out my own path. Each of us, especially people whose creativity is at the center of their lives, makes a beautiful and unique meandering toward our deepest truth. And we do it without knowing if or when or how it will "all come together". This reminds me how we’re part of the great mystery of life!
I’d like to propose that the people you admire were not actually aiming for Success or Getting Things Right or Looking Good so much as really being curious about and exploring themselves and the world around them. They were becoming themselves, and the opportunities that arose came out of a willingness to take the risk of really knowing who they are. And things "all come together" at exactly the moment when you decide you’re ready for it, and when you decide you really really want it.
So, take a moment, look around, and recognize that you have chosen (consciously or unconsciously at a deep, soul level) exactly who and where you are in order to learn something at Earth School. And relax into the knowledge that you are exactly where you need to be on your very own path. And then, make some new choices. Take some new risks. Make some new mistakes!
"The Path that leadeth on is lighted by one fire-the light of daring burning in the heart. The more one dares, the more he shall obtain."
-Helena Petrova Blavatsky