“…soft dreams under hard conditions are no good… in tough times we must have tough dreams, real dreams, those that if we work diligently… will come true.”
-Clarissa Pinkola Estes
When I got sick after college, I learned the power of the creative process to heal. A couple years later, after my mentor suddenly passed away, I became even more clear about how life can end too quickly and I decided I wasn’t going to waste any time. My grandpa taught me to keep adding tools to my toolbox and I thought an efficient use of my time was to get paid to learn new things.
I wanted to be a photographer so I got a job at a commercial photography studio where I paid my dues sweeping floors, rolling cords, and setting up lighting. Then I got a chance to work at The Dallas Museum of Art in the photography department where I photographed and color-correct their works on paper from the permanent collection. Then I wanted to learn how to be a better painter so I got a job at an artist-owned art gallery – he promised to give me painting lessons if I worked there. I kept asking when I could get into the studio but it was never a good time.
When you are willing to do any job at any level, you get to learn a lot about how people treat other people who work in “lower” stations in life. The way people treated me with dignity and respect vs punitive classism, as if I was disposable and sub-human, had everything to do with them and nothing to do with me. I knew my value and identity. I never had an ego about my “place” because I was using all those jobs more than they were using me and I love working hard.
I found yoga while I was working at the art gallery and went ALL IN… I gathered as many tools as I could through classes, workshops, and trainings and structured my time wisely, dedicating my life to yoga.
After about 4,000 classes into my teaching career, I was asked in a staff meeting by my favorite yoga studio owner to create a 200-hour yoga teacher training program. I agreed and wrote a curriculum that would involve all the things I love most about yoga and philosophy. I LOVE lectures and philosophy talks and could totally see myself in front of a white board. I crafted 8 lectures per weekend around a philosophical idea that pulled from many disciplines.
One problem: I had no idea how to give a lecture. An opportunity fell into my lap to teach yoga at a local college so I found myself getting paid to figure out how to lecture. Then a prep school wanted to hire me, then another college wanted to hire me, then another, so I got even more practice on honing in the essence of each lecture to learn what was working and what wasn’t. By the time I gave my lectures to my students in teacher training, I was comfortable with what and how I was teaching.
The kill two birds with one stone method always seemed to work well for me and I still do that today. Recently, I found myself riding my little fold-up exercise bike while reading a book.
Though efficiently using our time is effective, I have found there’s something powerful in doing one thing at a time. It’s like the story of the man who needed to dig a hole for a well… he would dig for a while and think, “Oh there’s no water here, I must be in the wrong place. Let me go over there and dig.” Then he’d move and start digging again. No water. So he’d start digging a new hole… and so on. He never found water. But we learn that if he had dug just a little bit deeper in each hole, he would have tapped the well.
The more we fully involve ourselves in the doing of one thing, the deeper we can go and the closer we come to our real dreams. In yoga, this is called dharna – one-pointed concentration. The body is a tool to get us closer to our dreams and the deeper we go inside to the experience of being in our bodies, the more likely a spontaneous insight will occur that guides us closer to the next step on our path.
Time and energy are our most valuable resources and while we are breathing, how we spend them is up to us. Some days we need to use the two birds method and some days we need to dig deeper to find the well. The art is in knowing which tool to pull from your toolbox and when to use it. And that, my friend, is the essence of the creative process.