How ideas are born will be the focus of this third post on the topic of Inspiration. See Inspiration 1 and Inspiration 2 to read about its beginnings, along with environments that nurture it.

Born in the dark

In myth, we often descend into darkness to seek treasures and find truths, which can be in the form of ideas. So, how do we go to this place? I think it is often in quiet time, when alone. It may be that seeds have been sown in daylight, during vibrant activity, noise and the company of others. Yet it is in silence and perhaps relative darkness, that they germinate. In meditation and other contexts, some describe this time as ‘sacred space’ or ‘going home’. One friend experiences this as she walks across a field, just her and the dog. I sometimes find this time in the quiet of evening… My husband and I on respective laptops, me writing and him making music… It doesn’t have to be literal darkness though… At times ‘home’ is found in sunlight and warming weather, an hour or two on the back step. The sweetness of birdsong and the buzzing of the bee enhances, rather than distracts thoughts.

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Wild flower in the garden.

Writing

For me, while writing, ideas emerge and develop. Most effective is when I write in, seemingly random, ‘stream of consciousness’ style, aiming for three pages each day. I do this as a kind of journal – I’ve kept one for a couple of years now but until recent weeks I rarely wrote in this liberated way. Now this way of writing has become a daily release (some might say ‘prayer’) and meditation. The writing flows with my thoughts. I don’t worry about mistakes, handwriting, spelling or someone reading it later. There’s no interruption to the current.

‘Stream of consciousness’ writing is advocated by Julia Cameron, the author of The Artist’s Way: A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self. From my understanding, she views it as a basis and fuel for an artistic life. It means the development of an achievable discipline. This is all good in itself, yet as you’re writing down what appears in your consciousness and what you are feeling, some surprising sparks come up from the deep. ‘Sudden clever ideas’ perhaps… I’ve had several ‘Oh yes!’ moments… ‘Oh yes! That’s something I can use for a blog post!’, or ‘That’s an action I can take to enhance a lesson I’m teaching!’ or I might see a solution to a practical problem… A gem of a memory might even release itself. Those memories too, are there to use if we wish.

Dreams

With their extraordinary narratives and images, our dreams show our fears, desires and other aspects of who we are. Wisdom frequently appears in dreams. Through symbolism and strange stories, they tell us things we know deep down. Sometimes they communicate with us directly, blunter than anything in ‘real life’. These truths can be about our reality, feelings we have denied or reactions to events that we have not explored in daylight. They can work in a similar way to deep meditations or shamanic journeying. Dreaming can bring about life-changing realisations, such as the nightmare when I realised just how much work in a state secondary school had affected me. I dreamt that I was being observed by two members of staff that had come down from their ivory tower, one especially icy and cruel. In my dream I felt stress, oppression and finally anger. This anger was a positive force that helped me liberate myself. In my awake state, I had not acknowledged that I suffered to this extent.  I’d been blocking it out.  It was a learning curve and a seed for my exit plan.

Choices

Decision-making needs a mention here, as it involves ideas. I mention this after writing about dreams and meditation as these states allow our feelings (good guides in the decision-making process) to become apparent. I’m talking about the feelings that you just know are telling you about something – intuition we could call it. I’m not referring to those false feelings that are superficial but sometimes intense. We might be giving our energy to these in our effort to cling onto a fairy-tale. Neither am I talking about feelings that stem from learnt reactions and are now being applied out of context. Both these false friends are feelings without facts. If we’re not sure what is what, we may choose to wait a while…

Once we have unearthed our true feelings and acknowledged them, an idea (perhaps an alternative choice) will rise up. Or one of our original options will stand out, there will come a point when we just know it. Sometimes that idea might lead us to choose the ‘wrong’ option. Yet we will reconnect and forge a new path later.

Absorb

Listen

It’s about mingling with others on their journey too. Others who want to grow and blossom. I don’t think I’ve been the greatest listener, but I’m trying to be a better one. Sometimes when I meet with others, I practise the following: a) to only talk at length when I feel I need to get something out or am feeling a bit lost b) to share information which I believe might benefit others and c) to listen (and learn). I apply this now in informal contexts with friends, even if for a limited duration! We like to be heard and the listener will be rewarded with learning (and ideas). It’s a win-win situation.

Look

This is where we step out of our bubble, not that flexible and shifting bubble that protects us, but the opaque one that isolates. For me it is looking away from worries and appreciating what’s around us. Noticing the patterns in nature. Today, seeing three varieties of primrose and bellis, clashing colours, each one chosen by a different member of our little family, reminded me of how nature finds solutions. I went ahead and got this hotchpotch of plants as it gave me pleasure to please the other three (and myself – I wanted that cranberry coloured bellis). Yet, now they’re snug in the earth, the surrounding ivy has settled, creating a deep green backdrop. The plants looked like eclectic treasures in this afternoon’s sun. I even had the idea to mention them here! It’s clichéd, but look and you will find…

Some double, some triple, some single and straggly, some pink tinged. All beautiful.

Recycle

There’s nothing wrong with recycling! Through many kinds of absorbing we all do this without knowing it.  So recycle an idea!

Of course, in some contexts we might ask permission before re-using. In the language school where I teach, many of us share ideas for activities.  I always ask ‘Can I nick that?’. No one has ever said no… And what has actually happened when we’ve blended recycled elements, whether they be strategies, techniques, rituals, philosophies or other pieces of wisdom? We have had the idea to form these particular alchemies.

Step Back…

I mention this briefly as I’ll be writing more about ‘pressing the pause button’ in the fourth definition of Inspiration, which will be the last in this series of posts on the topic. For now, I’ll just mention the importance of ‘standing back’ to gain an encompassing view of a situation or ‘stepping aside’ to see it from another angle. Alternatively, it could be some real time out, perhaps in search of further inspiration, ‘the process of breathing in’.

Now, it’s over to you… I’ll leave you with a question that might help you… It’s another kind of detachment or out of the box thinking, from which you may find more ways to get inspired.  Ask yourself, what environments, situations and things might stifle the apparition of ‘sudden clever ideas’? Once you have your answers, could you strive for the opposite? Perhaps your answer will take you back to some of the suggestions above, or maybe there’ll be something new… Do share your insights below!

Just do!

Sometimes you just need to begin and things (including ideas) will just happen, at random or because they were meant to be …………

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In the garden, this afternoon.