Instrumental: Cultivating Mindfulness (Part Two) by Diana Raab

(Read Part One of Cultivating Mindfulness Here)

Mindfulness meditation, which originated in Buddhist circles, encourages you to focus on feelings, experiences, and internal and external processes in a nonjudgmental manner. It is about being fully present in the moment, thus making you more aware of yourself, others, and your environment. Mindfulness meditation is about paying attention to the thoughts racing through your mind, without obsessing about them or trying to fix them in any particular way. Meditation is one of the best ways to increase self-awareness, calm your mind and your body, and connect with what is happening in the present moment.

Many studies have shown the benefits of mindfulness meditation. Some institutions, such as the Mayo Clinic, have already integrated mindfulness meditation into many of their programs to foster healing in those dealing with mental and physical illnesses. When mindfulness meditation is used to help addicts in recovery, studies have shown that it minimizes the stress caused by the trigger to use alcohol or drugs. The results can be very effective when used in conjunction with other modalities, such as psychotherapy.

Mindfulness meditation forces you to sit with yourself and to accept and tolerate your feelings rather than medicating them. Sitting with your problems and recognizing them with curiosity and acceptance helps you better to diffuse any triggers that you may regularly encounter. One of the many wonderful aspects of mindfulness meditation is that you can do it alone and anywhere. You don’t need props, mentors, or facilitators. It only takes a few minutes, and the results are effective, long acting, and empowering.

Meditation may be practiced either while sitting still or, for those who have difficulty sitting, while walking. Other practices such as Qigong and Tai Chi are also good options. In mindfulness meditation, the idea is to sit still and focus on the breath—breathing in and pausing, breathing out and pausing. Full awareness is kept during the breathing process, even when there are outside noises—such as cars honking, dogs barking, trains passing, or people engaged in conversation. You will notice that, even while focusing on your breath, your thoughts might interrupt you, but your attention should quickly return to the breath.

Before beginning your meditation practice, it is important to sit still on a chair or cushion with your back straight. I like the metaphor one meditation teacher taught me of imagining your head being a helium balloon floating through the roof into the atmosphere. Then, as a grounding force, think of your spine sinking into the floor. This prepares you to anchor yourself in your meditation experience (for how to ground yourself, see step 2).

When I was recovering from breast cancer surgery, my meditation instructor taught me to imagine a ball of white light above my head permeating into the crown of my head and moving down through my body. The idea was to purify any negative energy or thoughts. I had to remind my body to relax. I dropped my shoulders, the part of my body where I hold a lot of my tension. Then, I focused on my breath and said, “Breathe in, breathe out.” I repeated this until I felt a deep sense of peace. Sometimes I even drifted off, but paying attention to the breath is important as a mindset.

For those who have struggled with addiction, mindfulness meditation is an important part of recovery. Noah Levine in his book, Dharma Punx, says that prayer and meditation became an integral part of his life and that it helped him find a sense of purpose in his life. “Being an addictive type, when I find something that makes me feel good I want to do it all the time, so I did, I turned my life toward recovery and spiritual practice.”

One way to achieve bliss through writing is before writing to engage in what Levine calls, “Appreciative Joy Meditation,” where after settling the body, you focus on breathing into the heart center. With each breath concentrate on appreciating all the joyfulness and happiness you’ve experienced in your life. This might be a good time to wear a slight smile on your face. Now offer some intentions to encourage your deep gratefulness.

The intentions you set can be ones you create for yourself or you may use the suggested ones provided by Levine, such as:

May I learn to appreciate the happiness and joy I experience.
May the joy I experience continue and grow.
May I be filled with gratitude.

Writing Prompt

After doing” Appreciative Joy Meditation,” consider writing a few pages on what you are thankful for, presently and in the past. What you are thankful for can pertain to certain individuals who have been in your life, belongings, experiences, feeling, and/or ways of being.

Hanh, a Buddhist Monk and also a mindfulness advocate, wisely says that the breath is the bridge connecting our life to consciousness. It also unites our bodies to our thoughts. When your mind becomes scattered, focus on your breath to get hold of your mind once again. In Hanh’s tradition, zazen, or seated meditation, is a part of everyday life. In Western living, meditating for fifteen or twenty minutes might be all that is needed to calm you, but of course you may do so for as long as you like.

I also like Bernie Siegel’s definition of meditation as a way to focus the mind into a state of relaxed awareness. Relaxation is the key here because, even though the mind tends to be less responsive to distraction during meditation, it can be more focused on certain images or feelings. These images are usually important to us, whether they are connected to healing or peace.

Writing Prompt

After your meditation, write in your journal about your experience. Did you notice any mood shifts or subjects that kept popping into your mind?

What thoughts kept interrupting your attention to your breathing? How did those interruptions make you feel?

Meditation and mindfulness go hand in hand and it’s good to practice both. Here’s a simple meditation exercise to practice at any time:

Sit comfortably in a chair with your feet flat on the ground. Sit as if you are a puppet and there is a string attached to the top of your head. Gently let your eyes close. Allow your body to become relaxed and quiet. Take a deep breath through your nose and let it out through your mouth. Repeat this a few times. Allow your mind to become peaceful and quiet. Let go of the emotional and mental chatter. Expand your awareness. Feel the silence within. Keep your eyes closed for about fifteen minutes; then pick up your pen to write about your experience.

About the Author: Diana Raab

Diana Raab, PhD, MFA, is an award-winner writer, speaker, and educator. She’s an advocate of writing for healing and facilitates workshops in writing for transformation and empowerment. She believes in the importance of writing to achieve wholeness and interconnectedness, which encourages the ability to unleash the true voice of your inner self.

Raab blogs for numerous blogs, including: Psychology Today, Huffington Post, Elephant Journal, Global Thrive, and PsychAlive. She lives in Southern California. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.

Instrumental: Cultivating Mindfulness (Part One) by Diana Raab

Mindfulness is an important practice for the creative individual, and mindfulness may be defined as being in the here and now. This practice is essential for the best writing, because it taps into the messages of your heart and soul. Being mindful entails awareness and interconnectedness between your inner and outer worlds. If we are more awake and alert, we can more easily receive the messages from within us and from the universe.

In her book, The True Secret of Writing, Natalie Goldberg (2013) reminds us of the importance of mindfulness as we move about our day, whether we are writing, doing errands, or engaging in interpersonal relationships. Some of the characteristics of mindfulness also include being nonjudgmental, being patient, being accepting, trusting, maintaining the beginner’s mind, and letting go.

When considering mindfulness practice or how to quiet your mind, try to sit for a minute and think about what calms you and contemplate how you can incorporate those things into your daily life. Even just a few minutes of walking meditation or mindful breathing can bring you into the present moment. In addition to incorporating mindfulness into your day, such as when standing in line at a store, it is good to practice it before sitting down to write.

My day always begins with a meditation, sometimes even before my coffee. Sometimes I do a shorter meditation later in the afternoon to give me a boost of energy.

Goldberg, in her Zen writing retreats reminds her students to anchor their mind to their breath by using paper and pen to write. This helps you stay in the moment, as does the mantra, “Sit. Walk. Write.”—which she calls the “true secret.”

Even though the mind is a wonderful thing, it can sometimes get in the way of creativity, mainly because the voices in our heads can get in the way of what our heart wants to say. In fact, sometimes the voice in our head turns to the dark part of ourselves. This voice can point to feelings of fear, guilt, anger, sadness, envy, and resentment, instead of a sense of lightness of being. It might seem like a nagging parent or spouse.

The ego has the ability to create false thoughts, which is the inner chatter we hear most often. In fact, it is the voice in our heads that we sometimes try to tell to “shut up.” Otherwise, we can become overwhelmed by these thoughts and lose touch with reality.

This is one reason why during meditation it is a good idea to let thoughts come and go, rather than becoming obsessed by them or focusing on any one in particular. If you focus too intensely on your thoughts, the chance is greater for you to lose touch with the here and now. On a trip to Maui for a writer’s retreat a few years back, I met with Ram Dass, who continues to relay his very important message of “be here now,” dating way back to the 1960s and 1970s.

Those who live in the present moment, often come across as being more grounded. As Ram Dass says, “When you meet a being who is centered you always know it. You always feel a kind of calm, emanation. It always touches you in that place where you feel calm,” he says. The more we bring our focus into the present moment, the more we experience the bliss and joy of that moment and what our true essence is.

I want to leave you with a couple of writing prompts to help you cultivate mindfulness for your creative life.

Writing Prompt

 Practice focusing on the here and now. Take a few slow, deep breaths and focus on your belly. What are you seeing, sensing, hearing, or intuiting at this moment? Ask inside your body what you are feeling. Do you feel discomfort anywhere? Does an image pop into your mind? This is body intelligence.

Writing Prompt

Describe the person your mind thinks you are. What do you look like? What do you believe? What is your connection with the universe or loved ones? Have someone else write about you. Is how they perceive you the same as how you perceive yourself ?

Check in tomorrow for Part Two, focusing on Mindful Meditation. There will be writing prompts for that, too!

About the Author: Diana Raab

Diana Raab, PhD, MFA, is an award-winner writer, speaker, and educator. She’s an advocate of writing for healing and facilitates workshops in writing for transformation and empowerment. She believes in the importance of writing to achieve wholeness and interconnectedness, which encourages the ability to unleash the true voice of your inner self.

Raab blogs for numerous blogs, including: Psychology Today, Huffington Post, Elephant Journal, Global Thrive, and PsychAlive. She lives in Southern California. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.

Quick Connections by John Grey

sit quietly with me,
leave your chatter
to the cell phone,
let it talk with other cell-phones
long into the night
while we sit here
and watch the stars.

They’re suns,
they glitter,
not twitter,
balls of fire,
of light,
the two things missing
in our close-connected world.

let it just be me, you
and the heavens,
modest but clear
communication channels
on an age-old frequency.

About the Author: John Grey

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in New Plains Review, South Carolina Review, Gargoyle and Big Muddy Review with work upcoming in Louisiana Review, Cape Rock and Spoon River Poetry Review.

Sunday Brunch: At the Movies

As I write this, it’s 8:30 on Saturday evening, and the temperature outside is still over ninety degrees (that’s a bit over thirty-three to people outside the USA). Even in the Dallas suburbs, where I live, this is unusually hot for the beginning of June. It’s the kind of heat that makes me too lazy to write, the kind of heat where I end up spending more hours in the pool than out of it, the kind of heat where my favorite non-aquatic activity is escaping to the movies.


The great thing about summer – not meteorological summer, but fiscal summer – the weeks from Memorial Day to Labor Day, is that in addition to being conducive to curling up in my air-conditioned living room and getting lost in a book, or spending entire days devoted to perfecting my butterfly stroke, it’s also the season of summer blockbusters at the local movie theaters.

Escaping to the movies, whether to beat the heat by spending a few hours in someone else’s air conditioning or just to break out of the doldrums that even the most creative of us find ourselves in from time to time, has been something I’ve done since childhood.

At five, six, and seven my friends and I were obsessed with Grease (we used deflated balloons to make leather pants for our Barbie dolls) and Jaws (we played “shark attack” in the pool, and actually listened to the life guards at the beach).

At ten, my friends and I were deemed old enough to ride our bikes to the local movie theater. In groups of three or four or six, we’d meet outside the tan, cement building, and head inside where we’d watch kid-friendly fare like Escape to Witch Mountain or The Last Flight of Noah’s Ark. At twelve, in a different city and state, my friends and I saw Annie at least a dozen times (we’d grown up with the soundtrack to the musical), but that summer also gave us a few movies I saw with my mother and the new members of our family, my stepfather, stepbrother, and step-grandmother (Bubbie): E.T. and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Those movie trips made an impression on Bubbie, too. Until the day she died, any time she visited she wanted to know if there was another Star Trek film to see.

As I grew older, my movie tastes changed somewhat, but sitting in a dark theater with popcorn, junior mints, and a soda so big it was practically a tanker was still the activity in between music camp and drama camp and taking original credit classes in summer school. The year I was fourteen, we had Ghostbusters, Gremlins, The Karate Kid, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and, yes, another Star Trek entry (number three, The Search for Spock), but we also had Sixteen Candles, Hard to Hold (which, I’m not above admitting, my girlfriends and I saw multiple times mostly because of Rick Springfield’s naked butt), Streets of Fire, and Firestarter, which is what caused me to become enamored with Stephen King’s writing, thus starting another summer tradition of reading his novels and avoiding cellars and sewer grates.

Later movie experiences often involved more than just the movie.

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home caused a sort of cognitive dissonance every time I saw it, because I expected sunny, hot, Fresno to be drenched in rain, as the end of the film was. A Fish Called Wanda was part of a weekend of adventures during my first year at the University of San Francisco – one that involved ghost hunting at the Lone Mountain campus, and a city-wide blackout.

landmark-s-magnolia-theatreA controversial art film, The Lover, about a French schoolgirl’s affair with a much older Chinese man in 1920’s Saigon, was also the first movie I saw in the middle of a rare, rainy summer afternoon, in a theater empty except for me and my then-lover, who was ten years older than my twenty-one-year-old self.

Star Trek: Generations was the first movie I saw with my now-husband, and the scene of our first kiss. (We met online, and he rode a bus for three days to meet me in person. Let me tell you – that is real love.)

Apollo 13 saved us from an evening in an apartment with a broken air conditioner. A summer classics series that included Casablanca came with gelato. We walked hand in hand through downtown Dallas after seeing Midnight in Paris, and we danced in the parking lot after seeing Mama Mia (admit it: you did, too).

While I love old movie houses and art films, my husband is much more into summer blockbusters full of space battles and explosions. We compromise, of course, trading who gets to choose the movie. Most often, these days, we go to the local Studio Movie Grill, about eight miles from our house – this despite the fact that there are two movie theaters in our neighborhood – because it eliminates the need to decide if we’re eating before or after the film, and where.

I love the old movie theaters in San Francisco, and the modern IMAX theaters in San Jose and Dallas that I’ve been to, but my favorite theaters ever were the Century theaters across the street from the Winchester Mystery House – yes, that one. They’re all closed now, but they were giant dome theaters with only one or two screens in each. The biggest one had seating for a thousand, and if you were among the first four hundred people in the door, you’d get an awesome seat, though, truly, none were bad.

Going to a movie there came with a sense of grandeur that I don’t remember ever feeling at the movies anywhere else, but it was also seasoned with a great deal of fun. When we went there for big opening night showings, after waiting in line in the parking lot for three hours or longer, it was like a party. People would be bouncing beach balls from the balcony to the main floor and back, and one time a gentleman in full Klingon regalia (I think it was for First Contact) garnered applause from the entire house by standing up on his chair and announcing: “I have a cell phone and I am turning it OFF. You should, too.”

Unlike many of my friends, I don’t like empty theaters. Part of the thrill, for me, is grooving on the energy of the crowd.

We haven’t yet been to the movies this weekend, but both Deadpool II and Solo: A Star Wars Story are awaiting our attention. Still, the heat index is supposed to be just as high next weekend, and I’m always up for spending a few hours in cool, dark escapism.

If I’m not in the pool, you’ll find me at the movies.


About the author: Melissa A. Bartell

Melissa is a writer, voice actor, podcaster, itinerant musician, voracious reader, and collector of hats and rescue dogs. She is the author of The Bathtub Mermaid: Tales from the Holiday Tub. You can learn more about her on her blog, listen to her podcast, or connect with her on on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.


Come for Dinner by Patricia Wellingham-Jones

Copyright: <a href=''>bialasiewicz / 123RF Stock Photo</a>


We see each other at the market
as we often do these days.
I’m making soup, say,
Why not come help me eat it?
She says, Oh no,
I don’t go out since Bob died.

I say, C’mon, it’ll do you good
and I’d enjoy your company.

She dithers, guards that sorrow
as if it were a storehouse of gold.
At five on the dot
she’s at my door,
wine bottle in hand.
Her kids cheer.

About the Author: Patricia Wellingham-Jones

PatriciaWellingham-JonesPatricia Wellingham-Jones is a widely published former psychology researcher and writer/editor. She has a special interest in healing writing, with poems recently in The Widow’s Handbook (Kent State University Press). Chapbooks include Don’t Turn Away: poems about breast cancer, End-Cycle: poems about caregiving, Apple Blossoms at Eye Level, Voices on the Land and Hormone Stew.

Sunday Sensations: Family isn’t Only Blood

I’m a mother, but I’ve never given birth.

Two years ago, I became the mother do an amazing boy. It was a role I had wanted for a long time. Even as a young child, I pictured myself being a mom and having a boy as my first child. Some may stress the idea that I’m a “step-” mom, but for my son, my husband and myself, I’m just “mom.”

I’ve never agreed with those who counted family only by DNA. Growing up in a strong Christian home, the idea of adoption is strongly woven into my faith. It’s also a prevalent theme in sci-fi and fantasy (the second strongest influence in my life). In books like Lord of the Rings to TV shows like Star Trek show that some bonds are stronger than blood.

In my personal life, I’ve found this to be true. Family is the people you can count on. They’re the people that show up when you need help. Family stays. Family shows up.

So, when it comes to adding to our family, my husband and I are open to all sorts of avenues to make it happen.

We both adore children. I’ve worked with kids since I was 13 years old. There’s a special warmth and love in my heart for them. Even before we were married, we both felt that we have big enough hearts to bring in kids through adoption. My husband was adopted himself and wants to give another kid a chance like he had. We know that the entire plight of orphans is overwhelming. There are so many amazing kids here in the states and overseas who need help — it’s hard to know where to start.

This summer, we’re taking a step down one of the many roads available for adoption – we’re hosting a child from Eastern Europe for six weeks. This is K.

K is 14, he lives in an orphanage and he loves breakdancing. He is easy-going and a bit shy. Although he has been available for hosting for two times, he has never been chosen. Teenaged boys are always, always left behind while younger kids and girls move forward to hosting or adoption.

100,000+ kids live without families in K’s country. A developing economy and increasing conflicts cause nutritional shortages for their underfunded institutions. Kids like K get little fresh fruit or meat, let alone access to a regular, healthy diet. Pollution from the worst nuclear power disaster in the history still causes a sharp increase in the number of children born with birth defects and their abandonment rate is high. Lack of resources, access to medical care, and training has caused a large problem that many people are trying to combat, but they need help. Programs like the one that K is in give these kids access to resources to give them a better chance at surviving and thriving.

K’s country, among others, stops providing care for orphans when they are 16. They leave the orphanage with no support system, limited skills and education, and the social stigma of being an unwanted child.

Our hearts were touched – and nearly broken – by the fate of children overseas in orphanages. There are kids suffering. We wanted to do something.

Once we have hosted a kid like K, we can be in line to either adopt him or become an advocate for him. Either way, K will be part of our family. If he stays in his country, we can help with planning his future, keep in contact and encourage him as he grows up. We will find mentors, give him presents on holidays, scour for resources and help him every way we can, just as we would our legal kid. We can give him a better advantage that he would have had before. That’s the logistics, and it doesn’t even count the benefits of just being loved and cared about.

He’ll have a family — even if we don’t share DNA.

About the author: Tabitha Grace Challis

Tabitha Grace ChallisTabitha is a social media strategist, writer, blogger, and professional geek. Among her published works are the children’s books Jack the Kitten is Very Brave and Machu the Cat is Very Hungry, both published under the name Tabitha Grace Smith. A California girl (always and forever) she now lives in Maryland with her husband, son, and a collection of cats, dogs, and chickens. Find out more about her on her Amazon author page or follow her on Twitter: @Tabz.

Melpomene at the Gates

Photo by Milan Surbatovic on Unsplash


Melpomene stood with her sisters at the Gates of Imagination, and waited for the Call.

Unlike the others, who could provide artistic or scientific inspiration on a whim, her gifts were reactionary. They had to be triggered. Terpsichore could tickle a baby’s foot and that child would grow up with the gift of dance. She’d done it so many times: Isadora Duncan was a favorite example. And Euterpe – she was always name-dropping. Everyone from Bach to Billy Joel had felt that sister’s Touch.

But Melpomene was the darker Muse. Her lot was to Whisper into the ears of those who had experienced tragedy, suffering, pain, and loss, and help them find the tiny spark of creativity that always managed to survive.

Her sisters worked alone. They were of the light, and their strength was found in sun and warmth, laughter and joy.

Mel (she thought of herself as ‘Mel’ – more approachable, right?) had a team. Trolls and imps and leather-winged nameless beings. They were her agents, ugly on the surface, with grotesque faces and twisted frames.

And yet, they were gentle beings, who only wished to help.

There! A photographer contemplating the way we look when we die is Visited by the imp who guides her camera. Use the light THIS way. Change the focus like THAT.

And there: a woman grieves for her miscarried fetus. The Troll she sends helps turn that tragedy into a brilliant career as a grief counselor.

But over there – Mel shuddered and Summoned her agents to her side. For this disaster, they would be her escorts. Maybe it’s a hurricane, and she would help the suddenly homeless replace places and things with fond memories, or inspire a nurse to volunteer as an aid worker. Maybe it’s a great fire, and her winged Helpers could Whisper to those who would help save animals, provide shelter, build firebreaks for their neighbors.

The Muse of tragedy Walked among the lost and the hurting, identified a need, and helped spark a solution.



Sometimes Mel got to act a little more like her sisters.

The boy who feared a neighbor’s dog and was almost hit by a car was urged to turn his fears into stories and novels.

The young woman who loved to read classic poetry became the adult who set them to music, and went farther, eventually composing haunting tunes about mummers and midnight train rides.

And the child who had the image of a strange man’s face, looking up at him from the street below, engraved upon his memory, turned that fear into an idea, a pitch, a script, and eventually a franchise about a monster who haunts your dreams.

Erato, Clio and the others were lauded for the way they Pushed their charges into music, poetry, dance, and drama.

Mel was often overlooked: The smallest sister. The one with murky moods and a quiet Otherness about her. She could be cryptic sometimes. She meant well, but her power came from the dark.

Still, tragedy struck randomly and far more often than most knew – or cared to – and when it did, Melpomene and her Darklings would be there, ready to help in their own way.

And until then?

Melpomene and her imps and trolls waited at the Gates of Imagination, watching as the other Muses came and went in light pursuits, as they remained, waiting, straining their ears to hear their Call.

Photo by Milan Surbatovic on Unsplash

About the author: Melissa A. Bartell

Melissa is a writer, voice actor, podcaster, itinerant musician, voracious reader, and collector of hats and rescue dogs. She is the author of The Bathtub Mermaid: Tales from the Holiday Tub. You can learn more about her on her blog, listen to her podcast, or connect with her on on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

Sunday Sanctuary: My Creativity Mothers Me

One of the first mothers I connected to in book form was Helen Belden – aka Moms – in the Trixie Belden mystery series. The first six books were written by Julie Campbell between 1948 and 1958 and what I loved was that picture-perfect Americana image of a housewife and mother: nurturing, loving, nourishing, and supportive while also fierce in the way she cared for her family and her children’s friends.

Helen Belden also excelled in creative ways: gardening, canning, sewing, cooking, and painting. She was in many ways the embodiment of what I envision when I think about honoring the art of creative living.

While I have loved other literary mothers in my readings over the years, my mind continues to go back to Helen Belden for this simple reason: in the way she was the perfect mother to remind me that my creativity also mothers me.

Yes, you read right: my creativity mothers me. All the ways in which I see Helen Belden as the quintessential Americana mother character, my creativity does that for me as well.

When I am in need of feeling nurtured, all I need to do is to reach for my journal and a favorite pen. Allowing my thoughts and emotions to flow on the page soothes me and reaches a part of my soul that not much else does.

When my thoughts turn to love, loving others, and loving myself, I turn to the ways in which creating a home holds me. I crawl into my favorite leather chair, pull a blanket over my legs, and read a book when I need the comfort of a loving touch. I tidy up the house, tend to John’s wardrobe, or gather food for meals when I want to be loving towards others. And when I want to love myself, my creativity saves me again: back to the page, to the garden to snip daffodils for tiny vases, or sing in the shower as warm water cascades across my body.

When my body needs nourishment, I turn to the ways in which simple ingredients can be artfully combined to create a meal. When my soul needs nourishment, I seek the words of poets and philosophers across the ages, reveling in the ways their use of their talents feed my heart. When my mind is in need of nourishment, I read yet more words and then take it back to the page to help me puzzle out what a character or piece of research makes me think about more deeply.

When I am in need of feeling supported, my creativity never fails me. I can sing and dance around the house, lifting my spirits. I can turn to other creative friends and share what I’ve made. I can simply walk through my own home, admiring the art we’ve chosen and how the placement of furniture provides a warm and welcoming space.

My creative life saves me in a myriad of ways, so as I’ve begun to see the ways in which it mothers me, it’s easier to devote myself to the pursuit of it.

I’ve also come to realize that in order for my creativity to continue to mother me, I must also mother it. Like Helen feeds and waters her garden and her children, I must also feed and water my creative life.

I need to feed my soul with the good work of other makers: writers, poets, filmmakers, actors, artists, and photographers. I must fuel my mind with inspirational home make-overs, tips for being a better writer, and learning new cooking techniques to make cooking dinner more fun.

I must support my creative life by giving it the right tools for growth. As a writer, that means pens, papers, and easy to use software. As a homemaker, that means a good vacuum cleaner, a favorite fabric softener, and sometimes the support of a cleaning lady to help me tackle things I’m not good at. Or, to simply step in for me to tackle tasks so that I can spend some time with my writing.

Yes, time. Just like mothers want to spend quality time with their children, I must also spend quality time with my creativity. I must sit at my desk and write, not surf. I must make time for good television, inspirational magazines, and music.

Like Helen’s fierceness in loving and protecting her children and their friends, I must be fierce in my protection of my creative life. I must guard it, love it, and ensure that I don’t let it fall to the wayside.

Many of us are in the space of our lives when our mothers no longer are around to tend us. To cook a favorite meal, to offer the words of comfort only a mother can. Many of us are also in the space of no longer actively mothering small children, and that ache of an empty nest is met with a sadness colored with both joy and freedom.

Yet, always within our grasp is our creativity and the way in which we can live in an artful manner. When we see that through the lens of both being mothered – and mothering – we are reminded that the unconditional love a mother has is always within reach.

I think Helen Belden would agree.

About the Author: Debra Smouse

debra_Smouse_mclDebra Smouse is a self-admitted Tarnished Southern Belle, life coach, and author of Clearing Brain Clutter: Discovering Your Heart’s Desire and Clearing Soul Clutter: Creating Your Vision. When she’s not vacuuming her couch, you’ll find her reading or plotting when she can play her next round of golf. She’s the Editor in Chief here at Modern Creative Life. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.


Note: Top Image is a Scan from the 1965 printing of Trixie Belden and the Secret of the Mansion. The artist is Paul Frame. Copyright belongs to Whitman Publishing.

Instrumental: Mindfulness. A Path Toward Healthier Creativity and Balance by Sweta Vikram

Creativity takes vulnerability. Creativity takes courage. Creativity takes honesty. As Brené Brown so eloquently says, “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”

While the process of writing and sharing, our stories can be empowering, the in-between process can turn us writers into wrecks. Writing can sometimes mean opening certain doors from your past you had sealed shut. It can feel like picking on the scabs of a wound until it starts to bleed again. Sometimes, writing can introduce us to the inhumanity and darkness in the world.

I have spoken with memoirists who explore themes of darkness from their childhoods. That often means collecting memorabilia, going through diaries and journals, talking to a few accessible family members and often, their perpetrators. Can you imagine the different ways this path can lead to if they aren’t careful?

People like to believe that distraught, broken, sleep-deprived artists truly lead the creative life. I would argue against that. If you are mindful, your creativity won’t necessarily be nestled in an unstable space all the time.

What is mindfulness? As says, “Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”

In Louisiana Catch, Ahana (the female protagonist) is a marital rape survivor. Though she ends up organizing the largest feminist conference in New Orleans and meets a great guy eventually, she is hurt by her husband. Writing about a marital survivor with respect and authenticity meant interviewing women who had been through this heinous crime; talking to experts and psychotherapists to understand what danger at home can do to a woman; and, reading up immensely on all the information available on rape within a marriage.

I elevated my yoga and meditation practice during this period of creativity as they help lower stress and release happy hormones. Mindfulness meant being aware of what nurtured me and what hurt. For instance, I made sure I didn’t watch anything on television or a film that was triggering.

Think about the authenticity of the story. What I mean is that if you aren’t writing about yourself (If you call it fiction, you shouldn’t be writing about yourself), your character needs to have their own voice of reason and action that might not mirror yours.

I am a social issue advocate and fierce expressionist of women’s rights. I also teach yoga to female survivors of trauma and rape. Ahana in Louisiana Catch is the opposite of me.  For instance, writing about Ahana’s danger in Louisiana Catch was disturbing to me. And there were times, I would find myself talking to my character, “Girl, don’t do this.” Ha ha, spending six years with your characters will make you believe they are real people. Every time that I felt I was slipping and creating Ahana’s responses based on my personality, I would walk away. Mindfulness helped me create healthy boundaries between fiction and reality.

Truth: Researchers have found that writers face a greater risk of depression, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse. Before we reveal our souls to the world, we need to be strong within. For writers, it is extremely important to take care of whatever and whoever helps us keep it together so every little rejection, research, review, and response doesn’t shake us to the core. Geniuses like Sylvia Plath, Hunter Thomson, Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, Yukio Mishima, Anne Sexton, and David Foster Wallace shared stories about the world with us, but when it came to their own lives, they couldn’t cope with reality.

Cultivating a mindfulness practice can gently remind: how much is too much, nudge you to tell truer stories, and introduce you to a healthier and happier space where creativity can reside.

About the Author: Sweta Vikram

Sweta Srivastava Vikram is a best-selling author of 11 books, a wellness columnist, and a mindfulness writing coach.  Featured by Asian Fusion as “one of the most influential Asians of our time,” Sweta writes about women, multiculturalism, and identity. Her work has appeared in The New York Times and other publications across nice countries and three continents.

Louisiana Catch (Modern History Press 2018) is her debut U.S. novel. Born in India, Sweta grew up between the Indian Himalayas, Northern Africa, and the United States collecting and sharing stories. Exposure to this vast societal spectrum inspired her to become an advocate for social issues and also to get certified as a Holistic Health Counselor. In this avatar, Sweta is the CEO-Founder of NimmiLife through which she helps people elevate their productivity and creativity using Ayurveda and yoga. A certified yoga teacher, Sweta also teaches yoga and mindfulness to female survivors of rape and domestic violence. She lives with her husband in New York City.


Typical (Tarot) Tuesday with Dona Murphy

Full disclosure: a typical Tuesday for me is pretty much like any other day of the week.  I am in happily indentured servitude to an elderly cat who has several nicknames including SWMBO (that’s Swimbo) – She Who Must Be Obeyed. No day starts without attending to her needs first. No exceptions. Although I am allowed a quick trip to the bathroom so we’re not both trying to use the litter-box at the same time.

After meeting the physical and emotional requirements of her most exalted and revered personage, my day is then pretty much my own.

Tuesday – or Tarot Tuesday – is the day my weekly Tarotcast gets published. This practice grew out of my Tarot Tuesday live radio shows/podcasts from back in the day. I draw the card of the week at random. The general meaning of each card remains consistent. The real-time astrological aspects of that week are compared to or contrasted with the energy of the card, resulting in a forecast of what we can expect for the week ahead.  The interpretation combines the influences of Tarot and Astrology. I also include power colors, metals and gemstones as well as scents and foods to use that enhance or help balance out the energies of the week. (Home alchemy!).

Spring is in the air at least in theory – the weather hasn’t quite gotten the message yet. So I meditated on the theme of this issue. What does it mean to cultivate? Though not chosen at random, the four Tarot cards that follow show me the ways we grow. Whether plants or people; whether the growth is literal, physical, emotional or spiritual.

The suit of Disks (Pentacles, Coins) in the Minor Arcana of the Tarot represents the Earth element. Perfect for the physical preparation of soil to grow crops or plants!

The Ace of Disks shows us the potential for reaping the rewards of our efforts. With careful planning and preparation, with diligence and patience, our gardens will grow. Food will nourish our bodies. Beautiful flowers and plants will nourish our souls.

The Nine of Disks shows us a lush and fruitful garden. It thrives through thoughtful and careful fostering. The gardener herself has also grown in self-confidence, independence and wisdom.

The Empress of the Major Arcana is the Mother – she is the archetype of fertility and the spring of the year. She encourages her children and loved ones with unconditional love. She furthers their growth and development. In extreme circumstances she will sacrifice herself if necessary, but she isn’t a martyr.   She can make the seed of an idea manifest in the physical world. She fiercely protects newly-born creations.

The Hermit of the Major Arcana is the Wise Teacher – he extends his hand to help others and lifts his lamp to illuminate the darkness. He shares his knowledge and wisdom. He encourages the seeker to study, practice and refine his or her own body of knowledge; then to journey within to develop his or her own wisdom. He is the fulfillment of the cycle of growth and represents the harvest. He is the autumn of the year – when the crops are successfully gathered, the earth goes dormant. From that withdrawal and rest will come rebirth.

This year Pluto will retrograde in the Earth-sign of Capricorn on April 22nd and will turn direct on September 30th. Retrograde planets all create their own unique blend of mischief and benefit. There is no retrograde planet better for getting us to complete old projects, abandon old patterns, and clear up any leftover detritus than Pluto – the planet of destruction and regeneration. Whatever the challenge or problem in our lives that appears insurmountable, irreparable or unchanging – it could turn out to be as insubstantial and fleeting as the April rain and early spring blooms. Here today, gone tomorrow.

Starting with the spring planting, we begin anew. With renewal comes both a touch of melancholy and a spark of tender hope. We are bidding farewell to the past while welcoming a still-uncertain future. In the autumn we reap what we have sown and tended. In between, I do my best to cultivate patience, even when I’m restless – especially then.

Here is Pluto retrograde’s beautiful strangeness described by T.S. Eliot in The Waste Land:

“That corpse you planted last year in your garden,
“Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year?
“Or has the sudden frost disturbed its bed?”

I hope my garden (and yours) sprouts nothing any more (or less) exotic than tulips and daffodils. But typical Tuesdays can be strange days indeed.

About the Author: Dona Murphy

Dona Murphy is the owner of Destiny Tarot. She lives and works in Lake Bluff Illinois as a Tarot reader, Intuitive Counselor and Life Coach. Dona combines her metaphysical and spiritual studies, natural gifts and real-world experience to help her clients solve problems and live their best lives. As she says, “The cards don’t predict your future, they help you create it”.