The Practice of Creativity

Posts Tagged ‘autumn

“The fruits of the harvest are gathered and stored. The trees shed their leaves and reveal their true forms. The days grow shorter and darker, reminding us of how brief our time on earth really is.  It’s autumn:  a season for reflecting on what it means to be truly alive, and for giving thanks for the gifts an authentic life bestows.”
Alan Jones and John O’Neil, Seasons of Grace: The Life-Giving Practice of Gratitude

Although the weather is still warm for many of us, autumn is here and requests our attention. Autumn invites us to reflect on the fruits of our harvest and make sense of a way forward. We know the fallow period of winter is not far away. I love this time of harvesting, gathering and reflecting. Around this time of year, I also find it much easier to reboot my gratitude jar practice if it has fallen off track. Keeping a gratitude jar is like rocket fuel for your creative life. Don’t know what a gratitude jar is or how to fill one up? Here’s my post on this amazing practice.

Here are some writing prompts to feed your creative impulses as you explore the gifts of fall:

-Look at the following two words—autumn and authenticity. What connections between these two words do you sense? (Authors Alan Jones and John O’Neil note that both of these words share the Latin root aut-, meaning “to increase or grow”.)
-What are you harvesting this fall?
-Write about a time when you felt bountiful.
-Write about the bounty of your writing and/or creative life as it is right now.
-Write about what you’re most grateful for.
-Write about what you feel like you should be grateful for, but aren’t.
-Write about the gifts from summer. What came to fruition? What didn’t? What are you letting go of for fall?
-When do you feel the most authentic? Alone? With others? At work? In nature?
-What are your favorite autumn flavors?
-What was a ‘back to school’ ritual that you loved as a child? What rituals do you enact during fall as an adult?

 

 

 

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Have you noticed a slight chill in the air? Have you been marveling at the changing colors of the leaves? Have you started to think about unpacking your fall sweaters?

Autumn is here and it requests our attention.  At each change of season, I turn to Seasons of Grace: The Life-Giving Practice of Gratitude by Alan Jones and John O’Neil. Seasons of Grace traces gratitude through the metaphor of the four seasons, encouraging readers to practice gratitude in new ways.  It’s a remarkable book that has taught me so much about the power of gratitude as a foundational practice.

I have found that gratitude is a creativity enhancer. The more that we can cultivate gratitude, the more we can withstand the ups and downs, the boons and dry spells of a creative life.

autumn-leaves

They begin their chapter on autumn in this way:

“The fruits of the harvest are gathered and stored. The trees shed their leaves and reveal their true forms. The days grow shorter and darker, reminding us of how brief our time on earth really is. It’s autumn:  a season for reflecting on what it means to be truly alive, and for giving thanks for the gifts an authentic life bestows.

It’s no coincidence that autumn and authenticity are linguistic cousins. Both share the Latin root aut-, meaning “to increase or grow.” Autumn brings the harvest bounty:  the earth’s increase. Authenticity brings the reward of increased self-knowledge and awareness, of a life augmented (another word cousin!) through integrity. As autumn represents the ripening of the crops, so authenticity represents the coming into maturity of our characters. The link is gratitude, which allows us to ground ourselves in humility and recognize our authentic nature. When we live gratefully, we become more truly ourselves.”

autumn09_large

Autumn presents us with an opportunity to reflect on our inner and outer harvests. Here are some writing prompts to feed your creative impulses as you explore the gifts of fall:

-Look at the following two words—autumn and authenticity. What connections between these two words do you sense?

-What’s most authentic in your creative work right now?

-When do you feel the most authentic? Alone? With others? At work? In nature?

-Write about the gifts from summer. What came to fruition? What didn’t? What are you letting go of for fall?

-What is your creative bounty?

-Finish the sentence:  If I were living more authentically, I would…

-What are the 10 things you’re grateful for right now?

-Explore the list of seasonal words and phrases below. Pick one or two words or phrases that carry the most energy for you and free write about them for 5 minutes. Then choose one or two words or phrases that carry the least energy for you and free write about them for 5 minutes.

I’d love to hear your reflections on any of these prompts!

Seasonal Words and Phrases

Inner and Outer Harvest

Fruit

Light and Shadow

Waning light

Yearning

The out breath

The in breath

Change of color

Change of form

Surrender

Yield

Journey

Marvel

Inner equinox

Wheel of seasons

Going Within

Cyclical

Spreading

Season of preparation

Fallen Leaves

Opening

Closing

Balance

Turning

Radiate

Joyful completion

Roots

Autumn Light

Abundant core

Living in gratitude

Deepening

Mellowing

Maturing

Bountiful

The harvest is stored

Labor

Lady of the Sunset

Blessing

Harvest Moon

Revision

Practice

Letting Go

Seasonal Change

Ripening into autumn

Gathering and storing

Bird migrations

Wonder and Awe

Winds of Change

 

 

 

 

“The fruits of the harvest are gathered and stored. The trees shed their leaves and reveal their true forms. The days grow shorter and darker, reminding us of how brief our time on earth really is.  It’s  autumn:  a season for reflecting on what it means to be truly alive, and for giving thanks for the gifts an authentic life bestows.”  Alan Jones and John O’Neil, Seasons of Grace: The Life-Giving Practice of Gratitude
Bountiful-Harvest-150x150

 

Yesterday was World Gratitude Day. Did you celebrate it? World Gratitude Day was officially started in 1977 by the United Nations Meditation Group. The idea for it was seeded some years before at a dinner with spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy. World Gratitude Day provides us an opportunity to express appreciation to others and reflect on what we’re grateful for in our lives. How nicely the reminder to practice and extend gratitude leads us into the marvel of the first day of fall.

Autumn requests our attention in a way that feels different than the other seasons. Autumn invites us to reflect on the nature of our harvest and make sense of a way forward. We know the fallow period of winter is not far away.

Here are some writing prompts to feed your creative impulses as you explore the gifts of fall:

-Look at the following two words—autumn and authenticity. What connections between these two words do you sense? (Authors Alan Jones and John O’Neil note that both of these words share the Latin root aut-, meaning “to increase or grow”.)

-When do you feel the most authentic? Alone? With others? At work? In nature?

-What is in your harvest?

-Write about what you’re most grateful for.

-Write about what you feel like you should be grateful for but aren’t.

-Write about a time when you felt bountiful.

-Write about the three most authentic people you know. What do they have in common?

-Write about the gifts from summer. What came to fruition? What didn’t? What are you letting go of for fall?

Creative Harvest Meditation:

Sit in a comfortable position. Rest your hands on your belly. Take several deep breaths noticing how the belly expands on the in breath and contracts on the out breath. As you settle into your body allow yourself to imagine (in your mind’s eye and through sensations in the body) a feeling of great warmth flooding through the stomach and low back. Breathe in the feeling of expansion. Let your mind’s eye experience the different colors associated with fall: blazing yellows, scarlet reds, pumpkin oranges, rusty browns and deep majestic purples.

Feel the richness of your inner landscape with each breath.

Slowly repeat the following phrases to yourself (in your mind or aloud, whatever feels right in the moment)—The harvest asks of me, the harvest intends for me, the harvest gives me…(you can also substitute ‘autumn’ for ‘harvest’).

Invite the energy that has gathered in your core to offer bodily wisdom. Repeat these phrases over a few times and then freewrite the first responses that come to mind.

 

With Thanksgiving almost upon us, we find ourselves naturally turning toward counting our blessings and perhaps beefing up (or beginning) a gratitude practice. At the beginning of the fall season, I wrote about slowing down long enough to tap into the wonders of gratitude.

Recently I thought about using gratitude as a lens into character development and got very excited. What if I played with the concept of gratitude in my characters’ lives? Are my characters grateful people? If so, in what ways do they display gratitude and for what reasons? How might exploring gratitude in their lives help me know more about their motivations? Gratitude is part and parcel of strong emotions including love. We, of course, can also be grateful that something bad we thought was going to happen to us didn’t. Gratitude seems like ripe territory for developing a character’s emotional life.

Running with this idea, I turned to Lorraine Simmons, a main character in my novel. Lorraine is a twenty-something African American woman and the disillusioned founder of the People’s Corner, a community center in the midst of a troubled Brooklyn neighborhood. Receiving an anonymous call about a mystery virus in her area, she initiates her search for the truth and clashes with enraged local leaders who spread rumors about a medical conspiracy.

Since I know Lorraine’s interior landscape pretty well, I thought it would be fun to explore how gratitude operates (or doesn’t) in her life. I sketched out some questions:

-What are the moments of grace that have shaped her life?

-If she died suddenly, what are the five things she’d be grateful for?

-Is there anything in her life she feels like she should be grateful for, but isn’t?

After freewriting answers to these questions, I landed on a scene in the novel where I think I can explore gratitude more explicitly.

There’s a pivotal moment toward the end of a chapter where Lorraine is lost in an old hospital basement. She has spent the last week chasing down a number of frustrating leads that yielded nothing. She’s lost and disoriented both physically and emotionally.  In the snippet I share below, a deaf hospital worker finds her:

The man, with a gray and black goatee and big ears, signed back, “You are on the bottom floor. All construction. Oldest part of the building. Follow me.”  He offered her his hand and helped her get to her feet. She shuffled alongside him. I have been lost for sometime, huh? How does one find herself? she wondered. None of her friends were lost. Pitzer, Pepper, and Lila–they were more themselves than ever, she reflected. Everyone seemed to becoming more and more of himself or herself while she was losing herself. This is the biggest paradox in my life, she thought. How long had she been lost?

He tapped her gently, “Be careful, this exit leads to the back of the hospital and there’s lots of junk lying around. Could really hurt yourself.”

The scene goes on and the hospital worker unknowingly provides a clue about the mysterious virus. The scene ends with Lorraine making an important decision:

The sky was still as gray as it had been when she entered. Across from her some construction workers sat on a long concrete bench eating lunch. Their contents displayed around them, Sunny juice, bits of aluminum foil, roast beef sandwiches, a hard-boiled egg, shells littering the ground.  One waved at her and she smiled, happy to be back in the continued gloom of the day and released from the dark cavern. She could see that she was on the left side of the building and would have to wind her way back to the bus stop. She’d walk back through the green wilderness once more, but she wasn’t alarmed anymore. The lost feeling left her and allowed her to concentrate back on the issue at hand. Rosa’s grandmother and aunt were lost and so were other women from the neighborhood. She would not admit then that it was easier to focus on those lost people than her own lost self, but it was what she could hold on to for now. The question itself curled back into Lorraine’s being. Yes, I am lost, but I am determined to go on. For them, if not for me.

In my rewrite, I’d like Lorraine to display more gratitude to the hospital worker and more importantly, later in the novel, I want to draw on the gratitude she feels for her resolve to go on. Gratitude can become a bigger touchstone for Lorraine’s emotions, especially as the crisis heightens.

If this concept intrigues you, I encourage you to assess how gratitude operates in your characters’ lives. You might just be grateful you did.

 

Photo Credit: http://mentalhealthnews.org/practicing-gratitude-enhances-well-being/841903/


Michele Tracy Berger

Michele Tracy Berger

Author, Academic, Creativity Expert I'm an award winning writer.

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