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Be Inspired Has Moved

January 19, 2011

Change is the one constant in life!

I am in the process of combining the Be Inspired blog and my photography website under the name – 365 Days of Inspiration. If you have subscribed or bookmarked this blog, please click through to the new location and re-subscribe there.

I appreciate your support and inspiration!

What Questions are you Afraid to Ask or Answer?

January 12, 2011

Question mark in Esbjerg

This post is about questions, but it’s really about dealing with fear and criticism.

Last week, two phrases came up separately that had to do with questions. In a way, these phrases are like zen koans – little mysteries that need to sit with you for awhile before they can be figured out.

The first came from my reading of Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk; I am studying his work all this year. In the prologue for his book, No Man is an Island, he begins by saying,

Anxiety (or fear) is really  “the fruit of unanswered questions.

Since my theme for this year is to be fearless, this really struck  me. Whenever I feel anxiety or fear, what questions I am not answering?

For example, if I am afraid to make a career move, usually the basic fear is one of failure; the question is, “What if I fail?” Maybe the real unanswered question is, “What if I succeed?”

If you try to answer the first as in what is the worst that could happen, it doesn’t compare to what would happen if you actually succeeded. And failure is not necessarily a bad thing. It gives valuable information that can be used in taking your next step. So, looking at these questions realistically helps you get past the fear. Danielle Laporte speaks the white hot truth in tackling this exact example in her article, Fear Management vs. Fear Leadership.

The second phrase came while watching an interview with journalist Diane Sawyer. Someone else said to her in an interview,

Criticism is really just a request, so why not just ask?

To me, this sounds like the secret to a good marriage, or any relationship for that matter. When you feel like criticizing or are being criticized, what question is not being asked?

For example, if I criticize my husband for watching yet another hockey game, what question am I really asking?

When are you going to spend time with me?

Now, this is true that my husband likes to watch hockey, and he works really hard so this is relaxing down time for him. But I have a valid question too, so why not just ask for what I need? And, by the way, he’s pretty good at making time for me too. But, as Oprah told one husband who watched an extraordinary amount of football, “Pretty soon she’s not going to care anymore. Is that what you really want?”

The second phrase is like the flip side of the first. The first has to do with answers and the second with the questions.

Interesting, don’t you think?

Try paying attention this week to these two instances of fear and criticism and ask yourself what questions you haven’t answered or what questions you need to ask. What happens?

Related Reading

The Inspirational Thomas Merton

No Man is an Island (Amazon)

The Inspiring Music of Tierney Sutton

January 10, 2011

If you are a jazz lover, you probably already know about Tierney Sutton. If not, she may just convert you.

As a big fan of Frank Sinatra, I have heard Tierney Sutton’s music regularly on Siriusly Sinatra at XM73. Her unique voice and song interpretation always makes me take notice. Sutton is based in L.A. and I never thought that I would get a chance to hear her in person. Until last week, that is. On Tuesday, my Indianapolis Arts and Entertainment email showed that she would be appearing Friday and Saturday at The Cabaret at the Columbia Club. I immediately bought tickets for Friday night.

To say that she exceeded my expectations is an understatement. Jazz is best heard live, not on radio. With three of the finest musicians in the world, Christian Jacobs on piano, Trey Henry and Kevin Axt on bass and Ray Brinker on drums, and Tierney Sutton on vocals, this band weaves a tapestry of harmony in song.

Sutton related that, over the 17 years they have been together, they have compiled more than 150 arrangements uniquely their own. You will never hear the same set list twice. When they arrive at a venue, they get a feel for the place and then decide what they will play.

Their latest album, Desire, is up for a Grammy – best vocal jazz album – and it is the third year in a row they have been nominated in this category.

There is a spiritual aspect to Sutton’s singing that is felt. As she says in the article highlighted at the end of this post,

“When we take to the stage, we’re basically engaging in a spiritual process. We’re meditating. Sometimes at the end of a set we can’t remember consciously what happened. And the goal of any performance that we do, or any time we play together, is basically to have a transcendent experience.”

Transcendent is a great word to describe their music. It is amazing the freshness they bring to songs written decades ago and recorded many, many times. It is a true example of creative collaboration. Hear for yourself.

Related Reading

Tierney Sutton: Not a Material Girl

Tierney Sutton Official Website

Friday Photo – Breathe

January 7, 2011

My friend Carol is doing a weekly creative project based on one word. She is choosing the words by going through the alphabet. So, the first week in January the word was alien and this week it is breathe (will be posted Sunday, Jan. 9). When I think of the word breathe, I think of calming myself and what is more calming than morning on a lake.

For a daily word to inspire creativity, follow flying_spark on Twitter or visit Gumnut Inspirations for fantastic drawing and painting challenges.

Why To See “The King’s Speech”

January 5, 2011

The movie, The King’s Speech, has everything a good movie should have – a compelling story, incredible acting, and an underlying message.

The Story

Many people I talked to after seeing this movie had never heard of it, despite the fact that it is pretty universally rated with four stars.

The story is a piece of history. It is about King George VI (of England), father of the current Queen Elizabeth. His name was Albert and he was the second son of King George V and was not expected to be king. The story most of us have heard is of his older brother, who became King Edward VIII, in 1936 and abdicated the same year to marry Wallis Simpson, a divorcee. This made Albert king leading up to World War II. But the new king had a lifelong problem with stammering and was suddenly in a position where he had to speak to millions of people.

The Acting

The lineup includes Geoffrey Rush as speech therapist, Lionel Logue, and Helena Bonham Carter as Albert’s wife, Queen Elizabeth (known to us as the Queen mother), and the real star, Colin Firth as King George VI. Firth not only portrays a man who stammers, but all that goes along with it – frustration, inner turmoil, and a deep desire to communicate. I have no doubt that Colin Firth will follow up last year’s Oscar nomination with another.

The Message

This is a story about courage, determination, and the power of friendship. Bonham Carter plays a wife who truly loves her husband and sees his potential. She is the one who finds the speech therapist for him and is literally the wind beneath his wings. Rush, who is also the producer, plays the speech therapist who just wants to help people. He uses unconventional methods that really work, but it is the friendship that develops between the two that gives Albert the confidence he needs.

Truly inspiring! Here’s the trailer.

5 Online Sources of Inspiration

January 3, 2011

I am so excited about this new year. How about you?

My theme for the year is to be fearless – recognizing fear when it shows up and blasting right through it. This is the year for me to thrive as an artist, which is why I joined Melissa Dinwiddie’s Thriving Artist Project. We are a group of artists helping each other and discussing the content provided by Melissa.

If you would like to be inspired, to be creative, to follow your passions, to thrive this year, there are all kinds of resources online that can help.

Here are 5 of my favorites.

1. 365 Days of Genius – also by Melissa Dinwiddie, this site just launched on January 1st. Join a community dedicated to discovering the genius in each one of us, with genius resources, a blog, and free e-course on creativity.

2. TED talks – Riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world. If you have not heard of TED Talks, you are in for a treat. These mostly 20 minute talks are available for free online, and if you ever need a dose of inspiration and have 20 minutes to spare, this is the place to go. May I recommend Steve Jobs commencement address at Stanford University, How to Live Before You Die? (15 minutes)

3. On Being, a radio program on NPR – A one hour interview program with host Krista Tippett and some of the most fascinating people in the world. They discuss the big questions in life, the latest in science, and evolving faith.  I have a women’s group that listens to these talks and then discusses them together. I have the podcasts automatically downloaded to iTunes and listen to them on my iPod. Their are also online resources to go with the interviews. I recommend “The Inner Landscape of Beauty” with poet and writer John O’Donohue.

4. Follow any one or all of these inspiring blogs – White Hot Truth with Danielle Laporte, The Art of Nonconformity with Chris Guillebeau, Conversations at the Crossroads of Work, Play, Entrepreneurship and Life with Jonathon Fields, Zen Habits with Leo Babauta.

5. Integral Life – Inspired by the work of philosopher Ken Wilber, Integral Life offers a challenging exploration of the evolution of human consciousness and spirituality. The site says, “Living integrally means a life where things finally make sense through broader and deeper awareness.” There is free content as well as in-depth content with a paid subscription. I do not have the paid subscription but I really get a lot from the free content plus I have purchased some integral life books.

Well, no excuses now. You’ve just been given five options for inspiration online. Do you have favorite sites for inspiration online?

A Year in Pictures

December 31, 2010

If you love photographing like I do, it’s fun to look back at your pictures from the year, and whittle them down to a representative few. Here, I picked one  image from each month. Overall, it gives a pretty good picture of the year.

January – The death of my father-in-law brought an unexpected trip to an icy Niagara Falls, Ontario. This was the most traumatic experience of the year.

February – Highs and lows; the glorious joy of music in New Orleans, combined with an Indianapolis Colts loss to the Saints at the Superbowl.

March – The end of our son’s 13 year hockey career; both a loss and transition to new things. He was going to a College where there is no hockey team.

April – Tapestries in Oregon! We were able to drive from wine and redwoods country in California and through the incredibly beautiful State of Oregon.

May – The unbelievable therapeutic effect of horses on humans; this on a farm in Orillia, Ontario.

June – My dog, Daisy, at 10 years old, still my constant anam cara (soul friend).

July – Folk dancers in the amazing city of Prague in the Czech Republic.

August – Discovering a field of sunflowers on my way home.

September – A wonderful road trip across the U.S. with my daughter, Michelle, culminated in a visit to Frank Sinatra’s grave site in Palm Springs, California.

October – Back to our Canadian roots. The Parliament Buildings in Ottawa, Ontario, showcased by the colors of autumn.

November – One of the highlights of the year in Indianapolis was the opening of the Art and Nature Park at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. This photo was taken there.

December – More tapestries in nature. First snow at Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis.

We get so locked up in what’s going on at the moment that sometimes we forget the fullness of our lives. In looking back at the year, I see that I was very lucky to have had several opportunities to travel. The year began with the death of my husband’s 91 year old father. He was ready to go but it was still a shock and I witnessed much love in that family. Throughout the rest of the year, we were able to experience the beauty of our home in Indianapolis, our roots in Canada, the western United States and European culture.

We saw our kids in transition, each moving on to new stages, and moving out of the house. This meant that we also experienced a transition, as empty nesters and a chance to redefine our relationship.

Life goes on and change is constant.

If you’re not a picture taker, you could look over your journal or your daily calendar and sum up each month that way. What were the major events of the year and how did they affect you and those around you? What were the small moments that stand out for you? What was not so great? Can you let go of that? What did you not do that you’d like to in the coming year?

Here’s to a happy and inspired new year!

8 Things that Don’t Inspire Me

December 29, 2010

In my last post, I asked you to make a list of things that inspire you and things that don’t. Sometimes, you can determine what does inspire you by looking at your list of things that don’t; just figure out its opposite.

Here’s my list of uninspiring things:

1. Apathy

2. Ignorance

3. Fast food

4. Throwing trash out a car window

5. Hateful comments on blogs

6. Talking on a cell phone when someone is waiting on you

7. War

8. Verbal Abuse

Pretty judgmental, I know. Am I guilty of some of these things some of the time? Of course! But that doesn’t mean they’re right. Being aware that you’re doing them is the most important thing.

Awareness is everything!

So, if these are things that don’t inspire me, then maybe I can look to their opposites to see what inspires me. Because then I can choose to do its opposite.

Apathy – Actually caring; loving life; knowing you can make a difference if you put your mind to it; inspiring others.

Ignorance – I should have said “making pronouncements about things for which you are ignorant,” because everyone is ignorant about some things. Ignorance is just not knowing and I am ignorant about many things. We can’t expect to know everything, which is why we need to be open to learning something from every encounter. I would hope that if I am ignorant about something, I would say that I am and try to learn more before I speak or speak in a manner that invites learning.

Openness is everything.

Fast food – Personally, I try to avoid fast food as much as possible. I know that if you have little disposable income, fast food may be your only choice (or is it?) With the exception of a very few items, fast food does nothing for me, health or taste wise. I know what really good food tastes like, and really good food energizes me. Like lunch today, a small squash, halved, filled with nuts and apples, and baked. Yummmm, and probably the same price as a hamburger.

Throwing trash out a car window – The epitome of “it’s only about me” non-thinking. There are probably trash cans where you’re headed to, and maybe even recycling bins. Patience, people.

Hateful comments on blogs – This one really drives me crazy. A way to get depressed real fast is to read blog comments (on certain sites). Makes you want to stay off the net.

At John Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity, he gave an award to a woman who had asked President Obama a question at an event. She had some tough questions for him, but she first introduced herself and welcomed him with respect. She asked her tough questions without attacking him, and for the most important part, she actually listened to his answer. What would the world be like if we all wrote comments on blogs or treated people with the same dignity?

See Blog Comments that Inspire.

Talking on cell phones when someone is waiting on you – Showing respect for humanity. To me, this is just dehumanizing to the person waiting on you. Your life and that person’s will be better if you acknowledge each other as human beings. There is no phone call that can’t wait 30 seconds.

Relationships are everything.

War – Well, that’s a no-brainer. The opposite of war, of course, is peace. Like Gandhi said, “Change has to begin with you.” All we can do is look at the war (violence) in our own hearts and work on being a peaceful person. Peaceful people inspire me.

Verbal Abuse – Like the hateful comments on blogs, the power of words can be deadly, almost worse than physical abuse. Verbal abuse is bullying and the opposite of bullying is having compassion, empathy, understanding, really putting yourself in another’s shoes and acting accordingly. Compassionate people inspire me.

Compassion is everything.

What doesn’t inspire you? What is its opposite?

Related Reading

The Everything Series

How Will You Be Inspired in 2011?

December 27, 2010

I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions. They tend to go by the wayside very quickly.

However, it is natural at this time of the year to look back at the year and assess. What went well, what didn’t, and where should we be re-focusing our efforts? Being a Gemini, my restless mind can quickly go in a million different directions. It is important to establish some focus on what is most important.

Since this blog is about inspiration, one of my goals will be to actively seek out inspiration.

#Inspiration is not a permanent, tangible commodity; it slowly evaporates once separated from its source. Tweeted by @wisdomalive

Actively seeking inspiration may seem counter-intuitive. Inspiration is often seen as something unexpected, a pleasant surprise. However, I do believe that we can be more proactive in making these surprises come more frequently and to do so will enhance our lives.

Here are some ideas for seeking inspiration.

1. Pay attention. Notice what makes you come alive. By consciously paying more attention, you may find that inspiration is everywhere.

2. Exercise your freedom of choice. You can actually choose to be inspired.

Here’s an exercise. Write a list of things that you absolutely know inspire you and a list of things that definitely don’t.

Once you have it in front of you, reflect on how you can bring more of the inspiring things into your life and get rid of the uninspiring. Of course, there will be some uninspiring things that cannot be avoided. In these cases, notice how you react when confronted with them. Can you choose to react differently? Can you inject some compassion or generosity into the situation? If, for example, you have to sit in traffic every morning, could you use the time to listen to a good book? There may be some things on your uninspiring list that you can avoid. For example, if TV news gets you down, can you get your news somewhere else?

On the flip side, look at the list of things that do inspire you and figure out how you can actively choose to have them more frequently in your life. If music inspires you, make a commitment to experience great music on a regular basis, whether in your own home, or at a concert hall.

3. Start each day with a dose of inspiration, whether that be meditation, a daily inspirational quote, spiritual reading, a book by someone you admire, a walk in the woods, or a great piece of music.

Here’s one suggestion for creative types. Start your day with 365 Days of Genius, beginning January 1st with Melissa Dinwiddie.

4. Study the work of someone who inspires you.

I read recently that poet and farmer, Wendell Berry, was inspired by a man named Harlan Hubbard. After Hubbard died, Berry decided to spend the next year studying Hubbard’s life and work. This gave me the idea to spend the year 2011 studying the work of one of my heroes, monk and writer, Thomas Merton. Merton was a photographer, prolific writer, and deeply spiritual person who studied both Eastern and Western religious thought. He lived in a hermitage near Louisville, Kentucky. My plan is to start my day with readings from Merton and to attend a retreat on Merton and the poet Mary Oliver in Louisville.

How will you actively seek inspiration next year?

Recommended Reading

How to Hack your New Year’s Resolutions – Quests rather than goals by Peter Shallard

5 Great Ways to Find Inspiration – From Inspiration Source

The Little Guide to Inspiration – by Leo Babauto

A Merry Christmas for Anyone

December 24, 2010

I’ve been hearing a lot of Christmas music this week, and was thinking about the number of beautiful songs inspired by Jesus. Whether Christian or not, I’m sure there are many out there who love these songs.

What does Christmas mean to you?

I would bet that if you ask that question to 100 different people, you would get 100 very different responses.

There are committed Christians who believe that Jesus is their Savior, that God became human, and was born of a virgin mother to redeem humankind. There are those who believe in the spirit of Christmas, that it is about love and giving and relationships. There are many who are not able or willing to celebrate Christmas because of their circumstances or beliefs. There are those who are disillusioned by Christmas, by the materialism that often overshadows the original meaning of Christmas. There are those who are lonely, without meaningful relationships, and experience sadness at Christmas.

I, for one, was brought up celebrating Christmas as a Catholic Christian, attending Mass and being with family. I have not experienced loneliness or lack at Christmastime. My beliefs have evolved over the years and, this year, I will celebrate with my family, but not in a church home. I have been thinking a lot about what Christmas means to me this year and, I think, there is a way of seeing Christmas that could resonate with just about anybody.

Whatever you believe about Jesus, God or not, real or not, the person of Jesus is pretty amazing. His whole life was about love and forgiveness, and he seemed to have a mystical connection with life and God, however you see God.

I see a baby, born in the humblest of circumstances, with infinite potential. A being of pure light, whose purpose is already established, yet who has the option of fulfilling that purpose or not. In Jesus’ case, he did fulfill that purpose and he saw that light of pure potential in everyone and everything he encountered.

What if we were to see ourselves that way? What if we were to see everyone and everything else that way?

Would we experience the true meaning of Christmas?