Developing a Flexible Mindset When Uncertainty Reigns

MindsetHere we are in a persistent time of uncertainty and change. The months continue to go by in succession. One of the most needed things as we move forward is developing a flexible mindset in a time when uncertainty reigns. It’s always an asset, but now essential for our mental health.

What is a flexible mindset? It’s not being wishy washy or indecisive. It’s being able to bend without breaking. You can change your thinking to overcome obstacles and challenges without failing or breaking down. A flexible mindset allows you to explore more options. You can see multiple solutions to a problem or new situation and examine the impacts of each of them.

The situation of the past months of the pandemic have forced all of us to be flexible and make changes not necessarily of our own choice. Whether you see yourself as having a flexible mindset or not, you have had to respond and adapt to changing circumstances.

There are strategies to proactively develop that flexibility rather than be forced into it. Here are a few to consider as we move forward:

Embrace the Unknown. When an obstacle appears, think of this as an opportunity rather than a defeat. What could you learn from this, if not immediately then in the longer term? This is a reframing of your thoughts and automatic reactions. Try out some new ideas and look for the benefits rather than grudgingly complying with a solution imposed on you.

Let Go of Old Ways. These past months have interrupted our habits and routines in ways we could not have imagined. Our brains use the same neural pathways and connections over and over in our daily and weekly routines. It’s comfortable. Perhaps you are still feeling resentment over some specific changes that is preventing you from being open to new ways of doing things. Letting go of them opens you to being creative about current and future options. We may never to back to “normal” as we remember it.

See Obstacles as Opportunities. These times give us the opportunity to look at new possibilities that indeed can be better and healthier as we move forward. Even simple daily tasks might be done differently. Developing a flexible mindset means that you can try out things you’ve never done before. This can be applied to just about any situation. You might look at additional options for things that have been imposed upon you.

Recognize the Benefits of Developing a Flexible Mindset. As you go through this process be sure to recognize the impact on your life that developing a flexible mindset is having. You will likely feel more creative and confident in solving problems and situations you face in the future.

Our mindsets deeply affect how we handle life. If you would like to learn more, I recommend this book by Carol S. Dweck:  Mindset: The New Psychology of Success: https://amzn.to/32H90A2

 

A Thanksgiving Like No Other: Resources For the Celebration and Cultivating Gratitude

A Thanksgiving Like No OtherThanksgiving 2020 is a Thanksgiving like no other. In the midst of a wildfire of COVID-19 which has spread across the country, it is in the interest of ourselves and everyone else to take a pause. There will be another Thanksgiving. We will celebrate with our extended family and friends again. The risks of people being infected, getting sick and even dying are severe.

Let’s embrace this Thanksgiving like no other  by following the medical and local leadership advice and planning a celebration at home with only those in our immediate circle.

Last Thanksgiving I shared a collection of online resources to engage and entertain children and the whole family for the day and the entire weekend. There are great things to download and print, games, learning opportunities, recipes, and more. Plan for enjoyment:   https://carolbrusegar.com/thanksgiving-free-online-resources-entertain-family/

Through these past months of the pandemic, everyone has had their life disrupted in some ways. The severity of that impact has varied greatly. All of us feel loss of a variety of people and things. There’s a lot of pain and sadness, depression and anxiety. Many of us will find it more challenging to be thankful right now. Yet the very intention to identify, acknowledge and celebrate can be therapeutic in the midst of extraordinarily challenging times.

Gratitude is powerful. It can shift our thoughts and mindset and open us to more positives. It can inspire us to do things to enrich others’ lives. Expressing our gratitude to people who have enhanced our lives and supported us through difficult times helps both us and those to whom we communicate.

Adela Rubio describes 3 reasons that gratitude shifts our energy: It shifts your focus to the present moment, creates a new orientation, and establishes a indelible connection with Source. “Gratitude is a powerful transformation tool. It changes you and the world you live in!”  https://adelarubio.com/3-reasons-gratitude-shifts-energy/#

Perhaps there is no more important a time than this to structure a gratitude time into our lives. It can be as simple as having a small notebook or some paper clipped together where you write five things each day. As the days pass and you look back, you can see where you have been and what has touched you. Another approach, recommended by Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD and professor at the University of California Riverside, is a weekly gratitude exercise. Once a week, perhaps Sunday evening, reflect upon and write down five things for which you are grateful. For some, daily expression becomes boring and routine; weekly can be more meaningful.

Or you can take a more structured approach with prompts for you to write about each day (or less frequently but regularly). I offer you this free, directly downloadable 30-day Gratitude Journal to get started (or to resume a left-behind practice).  http://carolbrusegar.com/30daygratitudejournal

Z. Colette Edwards, MD, MBA has written a post that includes multiple aspects of gratitude. It was written this year and reflects our current reality in the midst of the pandemic.  Dr. Edwards is a physician and life/executive/wellness coach who blends traditional medical and integrative perspectives in her work.

Dr. Edwards includes a list of 20 Ways to Celebrate Gratitude which focuses on things we can do to express our gratitude to others, which has benefits for both ourselves and the recipients. For example, “Email or text notes or drawings to healthcare workers” or “Verbally thank the grocery store clerk who is stocking shelves non-stop or checking one customer out after another, and thus putting themselves at risk.” Here is the full post: https://peopletweaker.com/hcr-blog/gratitude-during-difficult-times/

Yes, it is a Thanksgiving like no other. Cultivating gratitude in yourself and encouraging it in others can be a powerful positive force now and for the weeks and months ahead.

Here’s a book with 105 short essays on gratitude. Each is written by a different author with a unique perspective and story. It’s a great thing to pick up and read an essay or two when you need a boost.  A Gift of Gratitude

 

 

 

The Power of Sound to Calm and Heal

Power of Sound

The power of sound to calm and heal has been known for centuries. Sound is extremely effective for helping us manage stress, overwhelm and anxiety. Music is one category of sound, and you may find certain kinds of classical or jazz music calming. While driving my grandchildren from school recently, the local classical radio station played some lovely music and my twelve-year-old grandson commented at least twice about how relaxing it was and asked how to find the station. I was a bit surprised and delighted to hear that.

Nature sounds are another category – waterfalls, bubbling brooks, chirping birds, falling rain, and ocean waves are all calming. Of course, actually experiencing them in nature is wonderful, but recorded and simulated versions are readily available. Perhaps you have used sound machines to help a baby, child or yourself get to sleep. They generally have a similar selection of options to choose from in addition to white noise. Use of a sound machine can be part of sleep training for children that establishes lifelong patterns.

As you noticed in the list above, water is a common inclusion. Taking time alone to simply breathe and allow the calming effect of water to permeate your mind can be powerful. You have probably noticed large water installations in commercial building lobbies. As you walk in, it has a visual and auditory impact. A waterfall or bubbling brook can be included in a yard or garden to add to the ambiance if you have a large space and the resources to do it. There are many options for small indoor fountains/waterfalls that can be used in a bedroom, meditation room, office or any small room at a range of prices. Indoor Water Installations

Discovering the Sounds That Work For You

As with so many things, what is effective for one person may not be for another.  If you would like to try out different sounds to see what is most calming, relaxing, and/or sleep inducing, here are two options:

+ Amazon.com has a variety of CDs, many of which offer a “Listen Now” sample that you can experience immediately.  Some are also available to stream if you are an Amazon Prime member – no CD required. Check it out here: Sound Therapy CDs

+ Free apps are available here, as well as in other places:  https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/10-calming-apps-destress-clear-mind/ Discover what works best for you.

Trying Frequency Sounds to Calm and Heal

The power of sound is reflected and verified in scientific studies. Advanced techniques like frequency sounds which include both healing sounds and binaural beats are available to explore through recordings and apps too. They are effective in reducing stress and in healing. An article in AwarenessAct.com points out that “Frequency sounds can be used to help us as human beings calm down. This is especially important since we’re facing a lot of stressful things right now. We’re seemingly stuck within a huge crisis and it feels like things are going to get worse before they get better…Sound healing, for the most part, is something that uses vibrations through vocal measures or even instruments like gongs to get music that can really work to calm.”  https://awarenessact.com/frequency-sounds-to-calm-you-down-during-times-of-crisis/

At the above link there are several videos holding different healing sounds and binaural beats. Some are hours long so you can have them playing in the background during the day or through the night. Please note the instructions about whether or not headphones are needed to get the full benefit of a particular video.

I am hopeful that this introduction to the power of sound to calm and heal has been helpful and has ignited your interest in using it for yourself and others. Try something new and share what you discover.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Developing the Art of Staying In

painting watercolors

Autumn is here. The temperatures are moderating just about everywhere and signs of winter may be appearing. Autumn brings unique pleasures and treasures, but this is a unique autumn. The pandemic has affected everyone. Let’s take on the challenge of developing the art of staying in safely this autumn and winter!

Earlier, I offered some ideas for fall that included getting out in nature for activities of various kinds: https://carolbrusegar.com/celebrate-and-enjoy-autumn/ Now let’s focus our plans and activities on things we can do at home safely, possibly with a small number of friends or family.

The art of staying in begins with focusing on activities and pleasures we may not have taken time for in more active seasons. Some will take some time, others are just tweaks of things you may already be doing.

Being Healthier By Using Spices

Many of us are tiring of cooking at home much more than we used to. We may be eating the same few things over and over. New recipes can perk up the rotation; even just adding additional spices can enhance a dish or a beverage. And here’s a bonus – besides tasting great, certain spices are widely considered as “healing spices” that can boost the immune system. Anything we can do to strengthen our body’s ability to fend off colds, flu and other seasonal ailments is especially important this year.

Turmeric is one of the top spices in this category. It is closely related to ginger and has been used for its medicinal benefits for more than 4000 years. It is ideal in rice and chicken dishes. Here’s a simple recipe to try: https://www.food.com/recipe/turmeric-lemon-chicken-19687  Turmeric can be used in teas and other warm beverages. For example, Turmeric Golden Milk which also includes honey and pumpkin pie spice.  https://www.yummly.com/recipe/Turmeric-Golden-Milk-2226958

Cinnamon is a favorite flavor and is used in many fall recipes, especially baked goodies. It is also an antioxidant powerhouse.  Experiment with additional ways to consume more of it this fall. Try adding cinnamon sticks to your water – I like to combine them with apple slices in my infused water – and to hot beverages like apple cider or coffee.

For ideas about using some other immune-boosting spices, go to https://carolbrusegar.com/use-healing-spices-to-boost-immune-system/ .

Scents of Fall DIY Projects

Making your own scrubs, bath salts, candles, etc. is a great self-care activity. The process is enjoyable; the results provide relaxation. In addition, these items are great gifts for others. To get some ideas and “recipes” go here:  https://carolbrusegar.com/scents-of-fall-diy-projects/

Did you make Clove/Orange Pomanders when you were a kid? I did. They add scents of fall, too, and can be artistic projects as well. Check this out for ideas for designs, ways to make them last longer, and ideas for using them. https://www.almanac.com/content/how-make-pomander-balls

Learn Some Watercolor Painting Techniques

At my granddaughter’s birthday party, we had a painting party utilizing a YouTube video to guide us. It was great fun and expanded my interest in similar resources. I found that Jay Lee Painting has a variety of videos teaching watercolor techniques using simple trays of watercolors. You can use heavy art paper rather than canvass and have a relaxing and enjoyable time alone or with others.

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=watercolor+painting+jay+lee

Take Advantage of Online Arts and Other Events

Early in the pandemic, I was intrigued with the number of concerts that were being given online so that musicians and other performers could stay connected with their followers and boost the spirits of anyone who watched. I anticipate a surge of such events as we move into the holiday season. Watch for announcements, check on websites or social media platforms for offerings and enjoy them. For example, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is having its first-ever Virtual Winter Season, December 2–31, 2020. In the spirit of making dance accessible to all, it will be free for everyone to enjoy. What a treat!  For more information: https://www.alvinailey.org/blog/announcing-aileys-virtual-season-dec-2-31 Festivals and other such events are often virtual these days. Find some you are interested in and see what they are planning.

For all of these events, enjoy them alone/with your household, or have some friends tune in at the same time and share the experience by connecting electronically during it.

Developing the art of staying in can be enjoyable and open new vistas and interests at the same time. It can boost your spirits and transform the time at home.

How the pandemic is affecting us continues to change. I invite you to be journaling through these changes if you are not already doing that. I created a free downloadable and printable journal a few months ago at the beginning. It can still be useful.  You can print additional pages as you wish. I also invite you to join this Facebook Group:  http://carolbrusegar.com/Journaling-a-Tool-For-Life

In the journal, I provide some questions/prompts that can help you zero in on your experiences and questions.  So that it is most flexible, those questions/prompts are in list form and you can write about what seems most useful on any given day. Or perhaps you just want to do daily reflections as you go along.

Here’s your link to the direct download: http://carolbrusegar.com/Journaling-Through-Crisis

Celebrate and Enjoy Autumn

No matter what the year has been like up to this point, I hope that all of us will celebrate and enjoy autumn! Various polls over the years have indicated that the season most cited as “favorite” is autumn/fall. There are a variety of reasons for this: relief from extreme heat, beautiful fall colors as leaves turn, return to school and fall schedules, the multiple holidays of the season, and more. Even in this most unusual year, there are reasons to celebrate and enjoy this time of the year. And perhaps it’s even more important than ever to do that.

A part of taking care of ourselves when there is much uncertainty and stress at many levels is to find and create ways to relax and renew our bodies and minds. It can be alone or with loved ones.  We often think of self-care as routines and practices. In addition to those, identify and choose some activities outside of your normal daily and weekly patterns. Here are a few autumn-specific ideas to celebrate and enjoy autumn.

Enjoy Nature in All its Autumn Glory

One excellent thing to do in the fall is to enjoy nature. Wherever you are located, the change of seasons is evident. It is more subtle visually in some areas than others, but changes are everywhere. If you are fortunate enough to live in or be close enough for a visit, the annual changing of leaf colors in some parts of the country are certainly worth a drive. Taking photos of the beauty and sharing and/or printing them for display are ways to bring enjoyment to yourself and others. Here’s a link to a fall foliage map for 2020 where you can see by date, through November, where the colors will be best. Fall Foliage Map 2020

Engage Friends in a Virtual Activity

As we continue to demonstrate caution in interacting with others during the pandemic, our creativity is our best ally. Choose an activity, set a time and guidelines, and invite friends and loved ones to participate. Use Zoom, Google Meet, or other group platforms to gather at the appointed time to share the results.

Here are some options; add any that you think of.

  • Pumpkin carving or decorating (paint, glitter, etc.) – have each participant prepare ahead of time and share the results, or connect on your virtual platform for a specified period of time to do the carving or decorating together.
  • Share a favorite family recipe that you especially enjoy in the autumn. Show both the prepared item and have a recipe to email.
  • Autumn wreath making – send out suggestions of materials to gather ahead of time and make the wreaths at the same time while connected on your virtual platform.
  • Share ideas for adding autumn scents to your home – invite people to share and possibly demonstrate their favorite ways they do this. (candle or oil scents they love, potpourri they put together, etc.)

Visit a Local Apple Orchard

Most apple orchards and pumpkin patches have adapted their offerings to make them safe for participants this year. Check ahead of time to make sure you are comfortable with them. In some cases you can pick apples, in other cases you will be able to walk through the orchard and choose apples to sample and buy. There are usually apple treats to take home, and perhaps recipes to make at home.

Head to the Pumpkin Patch

Grocery and other stores offer pumpkins for purchase and it’s so handy to just pick up what you want there. But why not go to an actual pumpkin patch? Many cities and towns have big pumpkin patches where you can walk around and look at all the various sizes and shapes of pumpkins to pick out your favorite ones. Besides those for carving and/or decorating, purchase some of the varieties that are best for baking or cooking and experiment with fresh pumpkin recipes at home. There’s an added bonus at a pumpkin patch – it’s a great opportunity for some photos with pumpkin backgrounds with the family.

Have a Fall Picnic

Identify a place where you can enjoy the fall weather and scenes and pack a simple picnic lunch. If you want to try outdoor exercise, you can do some hiking too. Or you could picnic in your own back yard. If you have a fire pit or grill to use, roast hot dogs and marshmallows. Marshmallows = S’mores for many of us; add the graham crackers and chocolate for that favorite treat.

There are many things we can do to celebrate and enjoy autumn and still keep ourselves and our families safe. Make some plans now and have a great time. Here’s a link to a free instant download of a Fall Bucket List form to use as you plan. Fall Bucket List 

 

 

When Leaving Things Behind Provides Unexpected Gifts

moving

Photo by HiveBoxx on Unsplash

Moving is a momentous event in almost everyone’s life. It may be to another part of the town or city, to another part of the state, or another state – near or far. Regardless, it is stressful. And the question of what particular THINGS mean to us is inevitably raised. We are always leaving things behind.

The value of the THINGS is joined in the struggle with other attitudes about using and reusing rather than disposing, of waste, etc. What we learned as children about all this is deep in our psyches. Given these factors, it’s no wonder we struggle with these decisions when on a tight timeline and stress is at a high level.

In my recent move from Nashville, Tennessee to Southern California, I went through all of this. I wrote about some aspects of it here: https://carolbrusegar.com/personal-liminal-space-a-cross-county-move-in-the-space-between/

Now that I have arrived, although what I shipped has not, I look at the process of leaving things behind  with a sense of wonder and gratitude. In unexpected ways possessions that didn’t go with me have been welcomed and will be enjoyed by a wide range of people. Some of them I knew, some I had just met and some were handed on to people I don’t know at all. I had not expected the re-connections and new acquaintances made in this process to be so pleasant and meaningful.

Things That Were Left Behind

A piano that had been used for practice by my daughter and by me in my role of church musician in past years, but which had not been used for quite some time, went to friends of mine. They had just decided they wanted to get a piano so that the partner newly retired – who had played in performance groups extensively in the past – could play. Their excitement soothed my conflicted thoughts about releasing this gift from my mother and warmed my heart.

A desk and matching file cabinet that I used extensively in the past couple of years but just didn’t fit into the truck went to a young teacher now teaching virtually. He had no desk and was making due with a table and subsequent crooks in his neck and shoulders. His joy in having a serviceable desk was palpable. He also took an elliptical that had been in my garage since I moved in – something I never used and he was glad to have.

This same teacher notified a couple with two sons learning virtually but without actual desks about my two additional desks. When they arrived to pick them up, she brought me a gift – a candle and and infinity scarf – in gratitude for the gift of the desks. I had a collection of crochet and latch hook projects my mother had made laying out at the time, and she was very interested in them. I had taken photos of them and was ready to let them go but didn’t know where or to whom. I offered her any items she would like and she took them all, saying she and her family would enjoy and use them. In a subsequent text she assured me she would take good care of them. She has invited me to visit their home and enjoy some Egyptian food when I visit back in Nashville.

A small white wicker nightstand was a treasure to someone I previously attended church with. Her first baby is due in January and she had been unable to find a similar item of the right size because things are backordered and out of stock these days.

Two file cabinets and a nightstand to be assembled were claimed by young people in the neighborhood looking for such items.

I learned in this process that entertainment centers aren’t in much demand these days! This was a tough one. I finally found a friend with a large enough vehicle to deliver it to a resale place, and his employee who came along to help was eyeing the piece with great interest. I asked if he wanted it and he affirmed that he did. So it went to a family connected to a friend.

I sold a nearly-new bunk bed to a couple who turned out to live just a couple of blocks away and are just beginning to serve as foster parents. The bed will be for them – children in difficult situations needing a caring space, caring people and a cozy bed.

And finally, a buffet that belonged to my parents for many years. It was not up to being shipped again and I determined I could let it go. A friend who needs more storage for materials for her home sewing  business (currently focused on beautiful face masks) was delighted to get it and pledged to take special care of it as a family treasure. She generously gave me five of her beautiful masks as a thank you for the buffet.

Beyond these meaningful re-homed items, a friend who is a genius re-distributer moved out additional miscellaneous items and got them to people who needed and appreciated them. They went to individuals and to a resale store. Knowing that so many of my things will be used by others is a great feeling.

Leaving things behind provided emotional and psychic rewards.  Sharing with others minimized the sadness of letting go of things I had used and enjoyed and even things with special meaning. I am grateful for these gifts in the midst of a busy and stressful time leading into the beginning of a new era of my life.

 

Personal Liminal Space – A Cross-County Move In the Space Between  

movingI’ve reflected on the liminal space we are all experiencing during this pandemic here: https://carolbrusegar.com/liminal-spaces-in-between-time/  It is a time between the ‘what was’ and the ‘next.’ It is a place of transition, a season of waiting, and not knowing. Now I am in a specific personal liminal space. Within a few weeks, I will be moving from Nashville, TN to Cypress, CA to be near my family. They moved from Nashville to California four years ago and I am delighted to be joining them.

Preparing to Move in Liminal Space

The liminal space begins with the preparation stage – not what it used to be and hopefully not what it will be in the future. The differences from previous moves begin with paring down belongs as we typically do. All the precautions must be followed; so trips to donate boxes of books to a library’s used book sale mean masks on both sides, a cart that I must load and leave at the door. When I make deliveries of donated items to Good Will, I must unload the boxes and bags filling my car into bins. Their employees aren’t allowed to gather items or help in any way. Some things that I might have sought out places to donate to – magazines, for example – don’t seem worth the additional hassle and go into recycle bins. I won’t ask or accept offers of help in the packing process from friends to eliminate risks. When I must have people in for a moving estimate or to remove furniture that is donated or purchased, it will be with utmost precautions.

As departure time comes closer, there won’t be any in-person gatherings to say good-bye to groups of friends or others. Even if they were done carefully, following all the recommended precautions, we couldn’t hug each other. So we will have a Zoom gathering instead. This makes it a rather strange departure. Hopefully the future holds something better.

All of the details of safe reunion with my family after I have traveled across country also need to be worked out. It will be a challenge to reunite after nearly eight months with no visits in a responsible, safe way. (Normally I see them every 3 months.)

The Challenge of Downsizing Memorabilia

Another aspect of this process, which would have happened regardless of the external circumstances, is the significant downsizing of the memorabilia of my life. Perhaps because of the context of 2020, I am thinking of this process in a liminal space framework also.

I have carried many boxes with me through two moves – a collection of things that only certified pack rats (or treasure keepers in gentler terms) would continue moving. I have eliminated things in each of my past two moves and what I still have are some of the most precious. These include items from my mother who died 18 years ago: costume jewelry, her crochet and latch hook projects, table linens, aprons.

Then there are letters she wrote me over many years and over 60 years-worth of her diaries. The letters and diaries will be used for writing I plan to do and thus will make this move too. I am taking photos of many of the other things as remembrances and letting go of the physical objects. I am paring down remembrances from other family members and friends as well as 40 years of print photos. I feel as though I am in a space of letting go at a deeper level than before. The connection to the physical things that connected me to the people is in some way changing.

Hanging on to so many physical items has been my past mode of operation. The process of letting go of these keepsakes is a physical manifestation of the letting go of some of the other things I have had to release for the past several months. Some of them will never return in any form. Some will be recreated. All will stay in my memories.

Preserving the Meaning Without All the Objects

As I move through this, I am motivated and inspired to capture and preserve some of the memories and reflections for the future. I kept things in boxes and brought them along because they were valuable to me. How can the meaning of such things be captured in ways that will sustain me and touch or inform members of my family or others? How can I honor and share the meaning and lessons? That is my challenge and another opportunity from the liminal space of 2020!

Perhaps you, too, are exploring how to capture your experiences, your story, your memoir in writing. There are many books available to assist us in this process.  https://amzn.to/3gSo6bo

Here’s one that has a unique approach that I have found to be helpful:  https://amzn.to/32OyHiH  The Stories We Leave Behind: A Legacy-Based Approach to Dealing with Stuff by Laura H Gilbert

Liminal Spaces in Our Lives – the ‘In Between’ That Continues

Unknown, liminal, doorI certainly didn’t imagine a few months ago that the pandemic and its myriad impacts would still be affecting us on a daily basis as we move into September! I hadn’t thought much about such occurrences, and I must admit in retrospect that I wasn’t really affected mentally or in any other way by the most recent H1-N1 or Ebola epidemics. It was on my radar, but it didn’t impact my day-to-day reality.

And here we are entering the fall months, still in this space between – this liminal space. This description from https://inaliminalspace.org/ is helpful: “The word liminal comes from the Latin word ‘limen’, meaning threshold – any point or place of entering or beginning. A liminal space is the time between the ‘what was’ and the ‘next.’ It is a place of transition, a season of waiting, and not knowing. Liminal space is where all transformation takes place, if we learn to wait and let it form us.”   I wrote about this concept earlier here: https://carolbrusegar.com/using-liminal-space-next-phase/

As the months have passed, more and more things have been revealed, not only directly related to the pandemic, but to all the other crises we have faced. I hear people pondering what it will look like when we have come to the other side of this – whenever that may be.

Eileen Button wrote an interesting post, “Welcome to Liminal Space” https://flushingview.mihomepaper.com/articles/welcome-to-liminal-space/  in which she invites us to use this space to be open to examination of our lives and reality on a broad level and as it applies to us personally:

“This season asks us to notice and evaluate what we’re doing to the Earth and all its inhabitants. It begs us to examine how we collect and distribute our wealth. It demands that we not only notice the vulnerabilities of our neighbors, but to work to change the systems that keep them oppressed. And it pleads with us not only to thank those whom we have labeled “essential,” but to ensure that equitable adjustments will be made so that our resources are placed where our gratitude is.

“In short, this liminal space is illuminating. It’s shining a light on us, which is sometimes unflattering as it shows us harder truths about ourselves and the society in which we live.”

Everyone Has a Role to Play 

How can this reflection and examination happen? Surely businesses and organizations are looking at some of these questions. Hopefully citizen groups and networks are or will be as we move into another season. Our elected officials on all levels are faced with the issues in stronger ways and must respond.

And we individually can reflect, write/journal and discuss it with others. Perhaps a virtual gathering on Zoom, Google Meet, etc. with specific related topics can be stimulating and generate some creative ideas and directions. Invite friends and acquaintances and try it out. It’s a process in which we all have a role to play.

If you are interested in learning how to use Zoom, there are lots of resources at Amazon.com https://amzn.to/3aZg3sb  or available through a Google search.

Journaling is an incredible and flexible tool and has so much to offer during times like these. If you would like to explore ways to use journaling, check out my free online course that introduces several uses: https://carolbrusegar.com/journaling-explore-the-possibilities-with-my-free-ecourse/

 

 

Using Liminal Space to Create the Next Reality in America

unknown, liminal, tunnel“It would be difficult to exist in this time of global crisis and not feel caught between at least two worlds—the one we knew and the one to come. Our consciousness and that of future generations has been changed. We cannot put the genie back in the bottle.”

Those words by Richard Rohr, author and theologian, articulate something many of us are feeling. It has been several months (for lots of us) of being under “stay at home” orders  or other restrictions so that the infection rates can be reduced and our health care systems can be likely to handle what comes in the long haul. The more that we hear about what is to come, the more caught between we can feel.

There is a word that describes this position.  Not a common word, but one that grasps the essence of what lots of people are feeling.  We are in liminal space. The word liminal comes from the Latin word ‘limen’, meaning threshold – any point or place of entering or beginning. A liminal space is the time between the ‘what was’ and the ‘next.’ It is a place of transition, a season of waiting, and not knowing.

Richard Rohr addresses this directly: “This global pandemic we now face is an example of an immense, collective liminal space. The very vulnerability and openness of liminal space allows room for something genuinely new to happen. We are empty and receptive—erased tablets waiting for new words. Liminal space is where we are most teachable, often because we are most humbled. Liminality keeps us in an ongoing state of …calling so-called normalcy into creative question.”

I see this perspective as helpful in providing a framework for the days ahead. The most significant things we can do are to use this time to examine what opportunities this massive disruption of our “normal” can offer.

What about our personal normal of the past do we consider important and life-giving to ourselves and others in our immediate circle? What things would we like to modify, change significantly or eliminate?

Then there are the larger questions within our communities and country. This crisis has revealed (to some) and amplified (to others) some of the ways in which our country is not life-giving and nurturing to everyone. The obvious examples are these:

1) the disproportionately high infection and death rates among our African American, Latino, and indigenous groups

2) the high infection and death rates in long term care facilities – nursing homes, assist living facilities, etc.

3) the dire effects of lack of health care services, facilities and insurance among people in rural America as well as among the communities of color mentioned above.

As we view these things – among others – in this liminal space, what do we want to do about them? There is so much pressure to “get us back to normal” which is not going to happen quickly. In fact, it will never be the normal we had several months ago. There are ways in which that is good. To simply return to what was is not in the interest of many, many Americans.

We are having an extended time to look at how we will live, work, educate our children and ourselves, take care of the vulnerable, and make our country a more just and lifegiving place for all of our fellow citizens.

Liminal space is where all transformation takes place. We are on a threshold and we will be here for a while. How will we use this time and space to ponder the next phase for ourselves, the organizations of which we are a part, our communities, and our country?

Journaling is an incredible and flexible tool and has so much to offer during times like these. If you would like to explore ways to use journaling, check out my free online course that introduces several uses: https://carolbrusegar.com/journaling-explore-the-possibilities-with-my-free-ecourse/

 

 

 

 

 

Nurturing Creative Thinking in Challenging Times

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“Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.” ~ Mary Lou Cook  

“Creativity involves breaking out of expected patterns in order to look at things in a different way.” ~ Edward de Bono

Our ability to be creative has been called upon so much during these times when everything is different, changing and unpredictable. It’s required for each of us to navigate daily life. And it’s absolutely necessary for anyone involved in leadership and management of a group or organization of any kind. “Necessity is the mother of invention” has new meaning and significance!

Sometimes we tire of the pressure to come up with new solutions in so many areas of life and feel as though we don’t have much left creatively. Perhaps that is you right now.  There are a few practices to consider which could re-ignite your creative thinking. They are simple and may not be new – but I have found it easy to forget or set aside some of these helpful tools in the midst of everything swirling around me.

Our creativity is needed for small, daily things that come up like managing the disappointments and desires of children (or adults in the household) who are frustrated and unhappy about restrictions. And it is needed for finding ways to navigate the larger and longer term things such as the future of your work situation and managing your home space longer term with changing use – work at home, distance learning for students, etc.

These approaches can condition your brain to tap into your creativity easily. Give these a try:

  • Expect yourself to be creative. Nurture the mindset that there are ways to address whatever you are facing that will be positive and fulfill the needs expressed. In other words, don’t give up.
  • Start an Idea Catcher or Idea Journal. Capture ideas you have about anything, whether they apply to immediate situations or not. By doing so you are reinforcing your recognition that you are creative – and you will also have things to consider acting upon in the future.
  • Have a virtual sharing session with a few people. We can be inspired by others and inspire them in return. This takes it a step beyond one-on-one conversations you may be having. Use whatever tool or platform works for you – Zoom, Google Meet, etc. You may want to choose a specific topic like how each of you are managing some shared concern or situation. Or it could be a sharing session about how each person/family has innovated to meet the changes of the past few months. There is value in naming, acknowledging and celebrating what you all have done to manage and thrive!
  • Have a virtual brainstorming session. Invite people who are dealing with or anticipating the same situation, for example ways to provide support for distant parents when travel is not advisable. Or creative ways to celebrate upcoming holidays safely. These interactions and exchange of ideas can help you re-focus on the creative ideas that work best for you and help you narrow down your options.
  • Focus on fractals for a few minutes one or more times a day. Take photos of some you see in nature and post them where you can see them regularly. It can both relieve stress and free your mind to be creative. (See my blog post here: https://carolbrusegar.com/use-nature-and-fractals-to-reduce-overwhelm-and-stress/ )
  • Practice asking yourself “What if….” questions that focus on positive possibilities like “What if making dinner every night is a positive, interactive activity for the family?” (The alternative is “What if making dinner is another disaster of complaining and whining?”)  Or if you are alone, “What if I learn a new craft that I enjoy?” (Rather than “What if I sit here in front of the television all day again every day this week?) The positive questions shift our thinking in amazing ways and ideas can flow easily.
  • Meditate for 5 minutes, using whatever technique works for you.
  • Deep breathe throughout the day. https://carolbrusegar.com/deep-breathing-for-stress-relief/

We are by nature creative. By nurturing our creativity we can enhance our lives now and in any situation in the future. As we look forward, creativity is going to be necessary on every level. This reality shaking time opens up possibilities for innovation that can be life affirming at all levels. I, for one, intend to expand my creative skills to take advantage of this.  Two resources I recommend are the following:

Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. If you are feeling fear about the future and your ability to creatively live in the coming months and years, this can be inspiring and helpful.

The Creative Habit, Learn It and Use It For Life by Twyla Tharp.  Included are simple exercises that can expand your creative thinking as you go about your daily life.