December Newsletter - Pruning Trees, Words, & Life

Dear readers,

My land here in Hawaii is bordered by a guava thicket. The first year I lived here, I gathered entire buckets of the round, fleshy fruit, and spent many happy afternoons making juice and jelly. The following year, I eagerly awaited the return of guava season, only to discover that the harvest was rather smaller. The third year, I hardly gathered any guavas at all—the ones I found had all fallen from a great height, smashed open on the ground, and rotted. 

I was puzzled by this change in my guava fortunes. The trees were healthy and fast-growing. Why wasn’t I getting the abundant fruit which had so delighted me in Year One? 

After consulting the internet, I found my answer: Guavas only grow on new branches, not on old wood. With every passing year, the trees were growing taller, and the new branches were appearing higher and higher off the ground, until the fruit was so far out of reach it was as if the trees weren’t fruiting at all. 

 

 

I researched how to prune them. I felt some trepidation about cutting off so many apparently healthy branches. But the sources I consulted were clear: when it came to getting healthy, accessible fruit, the old wood had to go. I added some bar oil to my smallest, handiest chain saw, sharpened my loppers, and went to work on my guava thicket. Before I knew it, I was standing next to a pile of branches nearly as tall as I was. Where the thicket had been dense and impenetrable, it was now airy and open. I could see the sky where the over-tall trees had blocked it before. Returning my tools to the shed, I felt a flicker of nervous excitement. What had I done? Had I gone too far? Would this really work? 

I thought it would take months to see new growth on the guava trees. But a flush of new branches appeared almost overnight, skinny and smooth and shining with clean new leaves. I picked some of the young leaves, which are highly medicinal, and brewed them as tea. Meanwhile, I waited for the next crop of fruit to appear. When summer came, the new branches had thickened, and round yellow guavas appeared within easy reach of where I stood on the ground. Far from damaging the trees, the heavy pruning had stimulated them to grow. 

Sometimes, the fruit we long for is waiting to appear—as soon as we cut off the old wood. This is true in life as well as in horticulture. I think often of the times in my own life when I’ve pruned old wood, whether by moving away from a beloved town, leaving a relationship in which I’d invested heavily, or setting aside a project which had consumed my energy for years. I remember the trepidation I felt at the prospect of each pruning: How can I take down that branch? What if I kill the whole tree?  

It took me a long time to understand that, just like the guava trees, my life would not only grow back, but flourish in the wake of every shock. We tend to think of loss as a negative thing, but skillful deletion is a highly creative act. Empty spaces hum with potential. Although the forms of life can be altered or destroyed, the force of life remains undiminished. Life wants to grow back. All we have to do is let it.  

 

 

As an editor, I’m keenly aware of the ways that courageous pruning can allow a book’s true message to emerge. Sometimes, we have to bravely wield the saw, cutting off entire sections of a manuscript which may have been necessary in the first draft stage but are no longer serving a purpose in the final version. No matter how interesting or well-researched a given section may be, it needs to go if it’s not giving readers something nourishing, memorable, and necessary—in other words, the branch gets pruned if it’s not producing fruit. 

Just this week, I took a two-hundred-and-eighty-page manuscript and trimmed it down to a hundred-and-seventy-five pages. Even though I am confident that this pruning will result in a beautiful, focused, productive book, I must admit I felt a few moments of vertigo as I watched the word count dropping precipitously with every cut. Would the author be shocked when she saw the enormous pile of branches I’d removed from her tree? Or would she trust me when I told her that the tree was now stronger, healthier, and soon to be overflowing with fruit? 

As a project moves along, the prunings become more subtle: a sentence here, a word there. It always amazes me how even these subtle deletions can dramatically alter the feeling of a book, lifting unnecessary weight, injecting lightness, and allowing the beauty of the language to shine through. It’s tempting to think that an extra word or sentence won’t make any difference, but as the extraneous material falls away, I swear I can hear a book breathing. 

 

 

This Thanksgiving, I was invited to stay on a remote piece of land in a part of Hawaii that few people get to see. Accessible only by helicopter, it is the site of an ancient Hawaiian village, and has many beautiful waterfalls and archeological features, which a small team of stewards are restoring. One of the stewards took me for a walk around the land, showing me the rock walls he’d rebuilt, the agricultural terraces he’d restored, and the ancient stone walking path he’d uncovered from under layers of brush. 

This person had lived and breathed this restoration project for several decades. His knowledge of plants, aquaculture techniques, and archeological features was exhaustive. I commented on the fact that he seemed intimately bound to the land, to the point that I could scarcely imagine the project going on without him. I was stunned when he shrugged his shoulders and replied, “Nah. One of these days, I’m going to walk away, and they’ll carry on without me just fine.” 

It was humbling to listen as this master stonemason explained to me that when he rebuilt a wall or restored a terrace, that was it—he was done. Why hang around and gaze at his creations, impressive as they were? Those branches had fruited, and were now spent. It made no sense to linger for the sake of lingering, to hang on to what was finished when life is constantly urging us to begin again. His love for the land was deep and genuine, but he had no fear of leaving it, knowing there were an infinite number of places he could love. 

 

 

 

I realized that the artists and spiritual teachers from whom I’ve learned the most all share this quality of detachment. It’s novice writers who cling to the words they already have on the page, not trusting themselves to generate equally good or better material to replace what has been deleted—master writers can cut with confidence, knowing there’s more where that came from. The spiritual masters on whose books I’ve been lucky enough to work at Hierophant emphasize the importance of embracing change. They remind us that our lives come with us wherever we go, and whatever we do.  

This quality of detachment requires a deep trust in life. At the same time, practicing detachment is the best way I’ve found to gain trust in life, if you don’t already have it. Cut a paragraph or chapter from your book, and you’ll find that you do, in fact, possess the skill to write something even better. Accept a change without resisting it, and you’ll discover that life rushes in to fill the empty space. When a thing is complete, bow and move on. By learning to let go of specific things, we embrace the infinite, discovering more and more to love. 

 I look forward to pruning my guava thicket in another month or two, and I look forward to puttering around in the garden of words here at Hierophant, tending the many excellent books we’ll be releasing in the upcoming year. May you all be happy and safe, and may your buckets always overflow with fruit. 

 

Hilary Smith, Senior Editor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking for guidance for pruning your own thicket of words? Check out Think Like a Publisher by Hierophant President Randy Davila. This detailed guide for authors explains the basics of the publishing industry in clear and concise language, including what publishers (and readers!) look for in a manuscript, the importance of a good editor and how to find one, author platform building, marketing strategies, and even how to find the right self-publisher for your manuscript.

November Newsletter: The Magic of Nature

Hello dear readers!

As I mentioned in last month’s newsletter (which you can read here if you missed it), I am the new senior editor at Hierophant Publishing.

One of my first tasks in this role has been to familiarize myself with our catalogue by reading as many Hierophant books as possible (which gives new meaning to the quote, “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.”). And while I eagerly devoured books like The Mastery of Self by don Miguel Ruiz Jr. and Warrior Goddess Training by HeatherAsh Amara, when I saw that Earth Witch: Finding Magic in the Land by Britton Boyd was next on my review list, I must admit I was a little reluctant.

Before reading this book, I would never have thought of myself as a witch.

True, I live deep in the forest of rural Hawaii, in a strange little cabin I built by hand, and can often be seen gathering herbs and mushrooms, a handwoven basket slung over my arm. I spend a suspicious amount of time conversing with trees, stones, and bodies of water, and am partial to candlelight, incense, and dark, windy nights.

But a witch? Never.

Like many of us, I associated that word with my fourth-grade teacher’s Halloween costume, pointy hat and all, or with certain trendy Instagram accounts wherein witchcraft consists of skincare routines and home décor. I’ve never, to my knowledge, cast a spell.

Indeed, witchcraft has always struck me as dizzyingly complex, with its elaborate tables and charts—moon phases, obscure qualities of herbs and gemstones, the proper combinations of ingredients for various workings, etc. If you challenged me to either cast a spell from one of those manuals or change the head gasket on my truck, I’d probably have better luck with the head gasket.

Please let there be no charts, I thought as I downloaded the manuscript onto my e-reader and got down to business.

Snuggled up with a pot of guava leaf tea, rain falling on the metal roof of my cabin, I began to read:

 

Magic lives in the soil, in the backwoods, in the bones of the dead, and in seemingly desolate places in nature.”

 

 

 

When I read those words, something in me nodded in recognition. Just that morning, I had dug up a fresh ‘awa root to share with some visitors, the soft and fragrant soil falling away to reveal the pale white lateral. Nearby on the Pali, or hillside, the bones of my neighbors’ Hawaiian ancestors have been resting for hundreds of years, rocks piled carefully to mark the sites. The forest where I’d gone mushroom hunting the day before was lonely and storm-tossed, with many broken branches littering the trail, its towering trees charged with mystery. What was the feeling I experienced when I spent time in these places, if not magic?

A few pages later, I highlighted these words:

 

“It is only with time and an erotic merging of the land and ourselves over many seasons that we can experience something real and profound.”

 

 

 

I recalled the many times in my life when I moved: from British Columbia to California, California to Washington, Washington to Oregon, Oregon to California, California to Hawaii. With each of these moves, I felt a sharp loss as the land, plants, and animals which had become dear to me were taken away. In each place, I had to undergo a sometimes-difficult process of getting acquainted with new land, new plants, new animals, and new magic. It took many seasons to complete this erotic merging: many seasons of slow and intentional practice before my body was at ease with the coldness of the river or the current of the ocean, my eye adept at spotting the shapes of the herbs in the forest, my tongue familiar with the taste of the berries, my nose quick to identify the scent of wildfire and mugwort, candycap mushrooms and rotting cedar, night-blooming jasmine and wild ginger.

I’ve never felt quite at home in a place until this erotic merging is well underway. Until that point, I feel lonely and disconsolate, excluded from the web of connection which is so central to my well-being.

This was especially true when I first moved to Hawaii. The tropical plants were utterly inscrutable to me; lush and beautiful as it was, the natural world felt like a locked door, and I couldn’t find my way in. Although I lived in the forest, I couldn’t feel the forest. I was a stranger there, and this state of separation was painful to me.

One day, my next-door neighbor came over to visit. She had a question for me. “Do you talk to the land owners?” she said.

“The land owners?” I said, thinking perhaps she had mistaken me for a renter. “No, I bought the land from—”

My neighbor shook her head. “No,” she said, “the land owners. You have to talk to them. Give them offerings. Tell them why you’re here.”

It took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out that when she said land owners, she wasn’t talking about the people whose names were on a title chain down at the county records office. She was referring to the real land owners—the spirits of the ancient, sacred land we were lucky enough to call home. My neighbor explained that the land owners were always watching, always listening; it was important to ask their permission before entering a new part of their domain, and to pre-emptively ask forgiveness for any clumsy mistakes I might make while I was there. It was good to leave gifts for them, too—they were partial to strong liquor—but mostly, it was important to talk to them. To be in relationship with them. It would be both odd and rude to cut through my neighbor’s yard every day and pick fruit from her trees without ever acknowledging her presence; failing to engage with the land owners was just as anti-social.

The next day, I took a walk in the forest. “Hello, land owners,” I said out loud. “My name is Hilary. I honestly don’t understand how I ended up here, but I’d like to do a good job of living in this place. Please teach me how to live here. I’m sorry for all the things I’ve already done wrong.”

I felt something inside me change when I said those words. Some little tendril of connection became established. Suddenly, I wasn’t a stranger anymore. I had introduced myself; no matter how shyly, I had entered the web.

From that point on, the erotic merging I craved began to happen. My ears picked up the many different moods of the stream running along the edge of my land, telling me if the water was high or low. I began to sense when it would rain, moving my laundry inside just seconds before a downpour. When I walked in the forest, edible and medicinal plants made themselves known to me, and I always came home with my basket full of exactly what I needed. I found myself talking to the land owners more and more frequently, pouring out tea for them in the morning, or wine at night. This magic had nothing to do with charts and tables; it was as natural and obvious as talking to my “regular” human neighbors.

As I write this now, another natural and obvious fact is staring me in the face: I’m an earth witch, and have been one all along.

Real magic has little to do with gemstones and magic wands; it’s in the quality of our attention when we move through the natural world, and in our capacity for relationship with neighbors both seen and unseen. I’m grateful to Britton Boyd and her fabulous book for calling these facts to my attention, and reminding me that whether or not we identify with the word “witch,” we can all engage with the magic of nature, give ourselves joyfully to the service of the earth, and walk a path of connection, communion, and reciprocity with all forms of life.

I’ll share more of my journey next month, and until then, I encourage you to find the magic and mystery in the land you call home, wherever that may be.

 

Hilary Smith, Senior Editor

 

 

 

 

 

Earth Witch: Finding Magic in the Land by Britton Boyd

Interested in exploring your own magical connection to the sacred land around you? In Earth Witch, author Britton Boyd invites you to seek out the deep and mysterious connections with the earth that lie at the ancestral roots of witchcraft. This book provides those new to witchcraft with foundational practices on which to build an organic spirituality rooted in the natural world, and challenges seasoned witches to renew the ancient relationship with the earth that lies at the heart of their craft. Packed with stories, spells, and rituals, Boyd encourages all of us to live in service to the planet we call home.

Learn more and read two free chapters from the book here.

October Newsletter: The Hawaiian Tradition of Pau Hana

Hello! My name is Hilary, and I’m the newest editor at Hierophant Publishing. Over the coming months, I’ll be working behind the scenes to bring you fantastic books from some of your favorite Hierophant authors. You’ll also be hearing from me in our new monthly newsletter. I am thrilled to join such a passionate community of readers, writers, spiritual seekers, and creatives, and I can sincerely say that this is my dream job.

I live off-the-grid in rural Hawaii, where the daily tradition of pau hana still holds strong. Pau hana can be translated as “stop work” or “work finish,” and that’s exactly what it means: it’s not a break from work or a brief respite before catching a second wind and cranking out a few more hours, it’s stop work. Although in urban areas pau hana can take the form of an American-style happy hour at a bar, in my tight-knit farming community it refers to the time when everyone wanders over to the circle of chairs under the monkeypod tree — beer, ‘awa, kombucha, or sugarcane juice in hand — to talk story and let the dogs run around.

 

 

It took me a long time to become a pau hana devotee. Coming to Hawaii from the mainland, I had little concept of “stop work.” Even as a teenager, I would rise at five AM to practice piano, then go to school, attend sports practice, do homework, then practice piano again. My parents would work at the office all day, then spend the evening getting a jump on the next day’s tasks. From my perspective growing up, it was as if the point of life was to squeeze out every last drop of work your body and mind could manage.

When I saw my neighbors gathering under the monkeypod tree each evening, I used to wonder what they had left to talk about day after day. Hadn’t they already caught up on each other’s news? Wasn’t it a little much to hang out every single evening? Sometimes, I’d be tempted to join them, but then I’d think to myself that I should really mow the lawn, or finish painting the shed, or tackle the next item on a never-ending list. Yet all of my neighbors had off-grid homesteads to take care of, too. I wondered why they didn’t meet at seven instead of five, thereby squeezing out two more daylight hours in which weeds could be whacked, boards painted, and fruit picked.

There I’d be, banging away on a project, the only person still spinning the wheel of work while everyone else had transitioned into relaxation. The dogs would be chasing each other through the stream, my neighbors would be gazing contentedly into the sunset, and I’d be up on a ladder with a hammer or paintbrush, putting those last hours in—while oblivious to the importance of the ritual on which I was missing out.

Then one evening, I was firing up the weed whacker when I spotted the pau hana circle in the distance. It occurred to me that the last thing any of my neighbors needed to hear after their own long days of farming, carpentry, or truck repair was another roaring machine, reminding them of the physical labor they’d just set aside for the day. Not only was my insistence on working through the pau hana hour obnoxious, it was also oblivious: my neighbors had all been living this lifestyle for many decades. If they observed pau hana every day, it must serve a pretty important function. Life in our isolated stretch of island can be tough—maybe pau hana was the key to my neighbors’ strength, resilience, and closeness as a community.

 

 

I began to join my neighbors under the monkeypod tree, bringing a jar of water, some treats for the dogs, and a headlamp to help me navigate the stream crossing on the short walk home. It was like joining a table of bards. The stories flowed without end, each person’s memory complementing the others. Night after night, the neighbors invoked a web of shared references: cousins, grandparents, employers, long-dead pets and broken-down trucks fondly remembered, earthquakes and hurricanes collectively survived, weddings, funerals, and other notable events. They also talked about current events—who was putting in a new lo’i, or taro pond, who had gone to the last meeting about the road, and so on.

Sitting under the monkeypod tree, we shared fruit and other snacks, developed inside jokes, and made plans to help each other out with homestead projects. How could I have been so blind? It was clear to me now that the “work” taking place at pau hana was far more important than sneaking in a last round of weed-whacking. By placing appropriate limits on work, my neighbors had carved out space for social bonding, celebration, and the pure enjoyment of life.

Throughout history, humans have relied on community rituals to mark the division between work and rest. In India, people gather by the banks of the Ganges for aarti, ringing bells and chanting at sunset to mark the end of the day. In Spain, siesta is a non-negotiable block on the daily calendar. In elementary schools, the ringing of the bell announces recess—a time to let loose, bond with friends, and generally direct one’s attention to anything but work. These unmistakable divisions allow us to truly relax and let go, which in turn replenishes our souls (and our ability to be productive when the moment calls for it).

Whether you live in Hawaii or elsewhere, you can embrace the spirit of pau hana by going for a walk or run at sunset, getting together with neighbors, attending a yoga class, or meeting friends at an outdoor café. Socializing with friends and neighbors doesn’t need to be a rare event, but can be a daily source of sustenance and pleasure. Formally acknowledging the end of every work day restores us to our full humanity, reminding us that health, friendship, and the capacity for joy are the true wealth in our lives.

 

 

As an editor at Hierophant, I look forward to helping bring inspiring, enlightening, and life-changing books into the world. By day, you’ll find me poring over manuscripts in my studio—but when it’s pau hana time, I’ll be sitting with my neighbors under the monkeypod tree.

 

Hilary Smith, Senior Editor

 

 

 

 

The Grind Culture Detox

If the crushing urgency of work is preventing you from experiencing the healing tranquility of pau hana, check out The Grind Culture Detox by Heather Archer.

Grind culture refers to the false belief that to be considered valuable or worthy in our society, one must be productive. Lurking in the shadow of capitalism, grind culture is accepted as normal, even necessary, and most people aren’t even aware of the harmful ways it impacts us.

In The Grind Culture Detox, author Heather Archer exposes grind culture in all its complexity. Utilizing nontraditional approaches such as somatics, sound healing, herbalism, and more, The Grind Culture Detox is an invitation to experience an inner revolution—one where you recognize yourself as a sacred being and acknowledge you are worth far more than what you produce.

Heather Archer

Heather Archer is a workplace wellness coach with a mission to help others achieve work-life liberation. Learn more about her online workshops, speaking engagements, and sound healing sessions at www.thrivingwithheather.com.

Books by Heather Archer

The Grind Culture Detox

Your Worth Is Not Measured by Your Production

Grind culture refers to the false belief that to be considered valuable or worthy in our society, one must be productive. Lurking in the shadow of capitalism, grind culture is accepted as normal, even necessary, and most people aren’t even aware of the harmful ways it impacts us.

Now, in The Grind Culture Detox, author Heather Archer exposes grind culture in all its complexity. Beginning with the history of grind culture in the United States, Archer explains how the poisonous legacies of stolen labor (chattel slavery) and stolen land (manifest destiny) have led to the exhausting workforce culture we have today.

While facing that history is an important first step, Archer goes further by offering a blueprint for how we can radically reorient our lives and fundamentally change our relationship with work and production forever. Utilizing nontraditional approaches such as somatics, sound healing, herbalism, and more, The Grind Culture Detox is an invitation to experience an inner revolution—one where you recognize yourself as a sacred being and acknowledge you are worth far more than what you produce.

Awakening Astrology

Unlock the Transformative Power of
Your Five Personal Planets

Every astrological chart has wisdom to offer, but the array of planets, houses and signs can be bewildering. In Awakening Astrology: Five Key Planets for Personal Transformation, professional astrologer and bestselling author Molly McCord offers an accessible path that is both easy to grasp and full of potent information. In clear and concise language, McCord takes a deeper look at the five key planets that influence the most important areas of our lives:

The Sun: How you present yourself outwardly to the world.

The Moon: How you move through your daily life and respond to others.

Mercury: How you think, communicate, and digest information.

Venus: How you share and connect with others.

Mars: How you assert yourself and your needs.

With just these five planets, you can unlock a deeper and more meaningful relationship to your true self, as well as a more profound understanding of your personal needs, mental processes, and ongoing areas of self-development. Even those who already possess experience with astrology will benefit from this deeper look into their own potential for expanded self-awareness.

The stars and planets influence us every day of our lives. Now, with the assured guidance offered in this book, you can tap into the incredible potential of astrology to inform your journey towards a life of purpose and authenticity.

Inner Peace, Outer Power

The Secret to Living a Life of Purpose

We all have dreams and desires, but how do we know which one is our true purpose?

It often seems that no matter what path we choose, reality confounds our expectations so that we are constantly having to reassess and rediscover meaning within the unpredictable stories of our lives.

Shaman Nabeel Redwood has experienced this himself. Stuck fast in the pursuit of success, he found himself caught in a tangle of alienation and depression. What he found next, however, changed his life and set him firmly on a new path filled with meaning and joy. He found Shamanism.

Now, after serving thousands of clients as a Shamanic healer and teacher, Redwood reveals the keys to uncovering this affirming and powerful way of being for yourself. Offering an array of exercises and practices, Inner Peace, Outer Power will help you unlock the secrets to living the life of a happy warrior, one who is able to meet life’s ups and downs with equanimity, and pursue goals and dreams with focus and zeal.

According to Redwood, this path is open to everyone – let this book be your first step towards a life of personal power and authentic inner peace.

The 7 Energies of the Soul

Who am I? What am I here to do? How can I find happiness?

Spiritual teachers throughout millennia have taught that the answers to life’s biggest questions lie within. Meditation instructor David Gandelman has helped thousands access their inner wisdom through his online and in-person classes. Now, for the first time in book form, he explains how the key to answering these big questions and others like them can be found in understanding the seven archetypal energies that are inherent in each one of us:

While most people easily identify with one or two archetypes, according to Gandelman we actually possess all seven, and until we learn to access and nurture each energy within us our life can feel out-of-balance or unfulfilled.

The 7 Energies of the Soul offers a detailed guide to each of these critical energies and includes exercises and meditations that can help you evaluate your energetic strengths and weaknesses, find balance, and create a life that you love in the process.

Read this book and see yourself and others in an entirely new way.

The Mastery of Life

Creativity goes well beyond making stuff...

Cultivating the Art of Aliveness

by Flora Bowley

 

I often say that creativity is an essential part of being human.

To understand this, quickly take a moment to imagine life without it. We would miss out on things like music, poetry, dance, literature, theater, new inventions, and so much else!

However, there are also more integrated and subtle ways that creativity shows up and elevates our day-to-day experiences—things you might do naturally without considering them to be creative acts at all.

For instance, imagine walking down the street and reveling in the way light and shadows dance across the sidewalk. What about composing a letter or text message to someone you love? Or arranging the items in your home to reflect more of your personal style?  How have you used creative problem solving to come up with new solutions in your personal relationships?

Creative adventures don’t need to be fancy, groundbreaking, or even take a lot of time to be effective. In fact, simple acts of creative expression and innovation woven into daily life have an incredible way of soothing, stirring, and reminding us what it feels like to be alive. In turn, flexing our creative muscles fortifies our ability to be more tuned in, observant, and adaptable in all parts of our life.

In my experience, creativity goes well beyond making stuff. It’s a mindset—a way of being that is the opposite of productivity for productivity’s sake. Creativity synthesizes our life experiences and inspires us to dream things into being. Take a moment to reflect on the many ways you already infuse your daily life with creativity:

Of course, many of us have what I call “creative wounds,” or times when courageous creative endeavors did not go as planned. We might experience shame or be discouraged from pursuing our creativity any further. These tender experiences can lead us to stifle our impulses in certain areas, or even abandon creative pursuits altogether.

If you’re reading this and feeling disconnected from your creative spirit in some way, I invite you to begin the journey back to it. When we engage in creative practices, we move the energy of life that is within us. When this energy is sparked, we can’t help becoming more open, present, and connected to possibilities that exist beyond the obvious options laid out before us.

I’ve seen this happen time and time again in the painting retreats I teach. A student arrives feeling disconnected from her creativity and source of inspiration. She begins the process of midwifing a blank canvas through rich layers of color and mark, dark and light, feeling and sensation. Through the dance of letting go and allowing back in, becoming unstuck, and breaking through, a spark returns to her eyes. With each brushstroke and sway of her hips, the flickering remembrance of a primal creative capacity makes its way from her hands to the working surface. As she brings a painting to life before her very eyes, she’s reminded that she also has the innate ability to bring herself to life.

While painting provides a tangible way to meet ourselves in the space where hand, paint, and canvas collide, living a creative life doesn’t require any art supplies at all. Creating the work of art that is your life is available to anyone willing to embrace the tools of aliveness, even if your hands never find their way to a paintbrush.

Cultivating the art of aliveness means choosing to be courageous, intuitive, spontaneous, and discerning. It also means embracing contrast, being willing to start over, taking one small step at a time, and allowing space for the mystery of the moment to unfold.

It means choosing life.

If your innate creative potential, either in art or life, feels buried beneath years of old stories, stagnant patterns, or forgotten dreams, please know that it’s never too late to remember and revitalize these parts of yourself.

To support this process of remembering, I invite you to do some dreaming with me. Without feeling limited by logistical or earthly constraints, take some time to get comfortable and dream into the most realized creative version of yourself you can possibly imagine. This is a time to dream big. Don’t hold back. Don’t move to the back of the room.

In this practice, anything and everything is possible. Let these prompts get you started and see where your imagination wants to wander. I encourage you to have fun with it! You don’t have to commit to anything, make it perfect, or even believe it’s a good idea. Just try these ideas on and see how they feel.

In your most wildly creative dream life, where do you live? What’s the view like there? What are you creating? How does your body feel when you wake up in the morning? What kind of clothes make you feel the most inspired? What kind of food feels the most nourishing for your creative practices? Who are you surrounded by and are they creating things as well? What kind of impact do your creations have in the world? What do you do for fun? What kind of thoughts do you tell yourself to support your creative process?

While your most realized creative life might not be entirely doable for one reason or another, it’s important to let yourself dream big in order to discover what’s lurking beyond your more rational and limited ways of thinking and being. Maybe you didn’t even realize you wanted to live on a cliff near the sea, wear only red velvet jumpsuits, make abstract sculptures out of clay, and eat fresh fruit from your trees. When you allow yourself to get a glimpse of these bigger dreams, you can begin to orient yourself in their direction and start taking small steps forward. On the other hand, if you never let yourself imagine these things in the first place, it can feel challenging to even remember what’s possible.

Just like painting or any other creative practice, creating your life is an act of perseverance, trust, and letting go. Each day presents new opportunities to wake up and catch yourself from sleepwalking through this grand creative act.

After all, there are only a certain number of colors on the color wheel or musical notes on a scale, but there are infinite ways to combine them. The same is true with how you create your life. My book, The Art of Aliveness, A Creative Return to What Matters Most, is about remembering your options.

The canvas of your life awaits.

The above was adapted from The Art of Aliveness, A Creative Return to What Matters Most , by Flora Bowley, available now anywhere books are sold!

Also, Flora Bowley, along with an amazing lineup of other artists, writers and creatives will be offering workshops in two upcoming events you won't want to miss!

Painting, Writing and Inspiration

An interactive online weekend event

April 16-18, 2021

and

The Gathering of the Creatives in Santa Fe, NM

September 3-5, 2021

Click the links above for more details and registration info for these amazing events!