“Find a creative practice that works for you,” I tell my clients in classes and coaching sessions. “Something that opens your heart to the mysteries of life. Something that nudges you out of rigid left brain thinking and frees your right brain to meander through spiritual pathways. Something that helps you meditate and feel more fully alive and mindful. Something that begins to heal the brokenness in your heart.”

“Painting, dancing, photography, writing, mandala-making, doodling… any of those and more can help you find your path along the winding, bumpy pilgrimage of life,” I say, and I mean it, because each time I am lost, a creative practice helps me find myself again.

“But I’m stuck,” I hear from so many people. “I don’t know how to create. I’m lost in a sea of inertia. I stare at a blank page and can’t get started.”

“Just start wherever you are. Let go of expectations and limitations that trap you. Don’t aim for a finished product. Don’t set goals.”

“I’ve tried morning pages,” said one client, “but every time I sit down to write three pages, I feel rebellious and get even more stuck.”

“Then let it go,” I said. “Forget about the three pages. Just tell yourself that each morning, you will sit with a pen in your hand for no less than ten minutes. Just that. Open the door a little to the creative muse and don’t put down the pen until the ten minutes are up. It doesn’t matter if you doodle, write, draw stick figures, or write on the walls or just stare out the window holding the pen. Just don’t put down the pen.”

I say all of those things and more because I believe in this work.

But… then suddenly I’m the one stuck. Inertia. Fatigue. A mom dying of cancer. Disappointment. Too many financial worries. Anger. Buckets full of tears.

And I can’t create.  I can’t make mandalas and my paint brushes lay idle. I can’t even hold a pen in my hand without being tempted to throw it against the wall. Some days, I can barely get out of bed.

About the only thing I can do is go for slow meandering walks through the woods – because as much as I know creative practice saves me, I also know that Mother Nature and movement save me.

And so I walk. And lean on trees. And watch geese fly by. And take occasional pictures. And stare at deer. And sit by the water.

And then one day, while I’m sitting by the water, I pick up a jagged rock and place it on another rock. It balances there in an unexpected way. So I pick up another and another and place them, one on top of the other, precariously balancing in odd and unexpected ways.

As I place them, I feel the tension in my hands that tells me “shift this one slightly to the right to help the one beneath it to keep its balance.” Some of them defy gravity by balancing on a dime. Others cling to each other just by the friction of their rough edges. I am amazed and pleased at what forms in front of me. A balancing act that doesn’t seem to make sense, and yet it works.

I walk away feeling lighter. A little more balanced myself.

I don’t know why, but this strange activity draws me back to the water again and again. I balance bigger rocks, with even less logical reason to hold together. I make families of rock people and I sit and watch the sunset with them, in awe of how much less alone and lost I suddenly feel. One night I walk away and turn to look at my creation just before it’s out of sight. A family of ducks has dropped in to visit my rock people. It fills me with such delight, I almost start skipping.

Along the river near my house, I leave behind little inukshuks, marking my place on the journey of life. “I have been here,” they say. “I survived this, and then I carried on. If you see this, trust that you too can carry on.”

When things get particularly hard, I take a day off and drive up to the lake. The day is filled mostly with tears, but once the rocks start coming together, I suddenly find myself singing. It’s been a long time since I’ve caught myself singing. Ringing through my head are the words of a favourite song I’ve heard my friend Steve sing from the stage many times. Here by the water, I’ll build an altar…

Here by the Water
(written by Jim Croegaert)

Soft field of clover
Moon shining over the valley
Joining the song of the river
To the great giver of the great good

As it enfolds me
Somehow it holds me together
I realize I’ve been singing
Still it comes ringing
Clearer than clear

And here by the water
I’ll build an altar to praise Him
Out of the stones that I’ve found here
I’ll set them down here
Rough as they are

Knowing You can make them holy
Knowing You can make them holy
Knowing You can make them holy

I think how a yearning
Has kept on returning to move me
Down roads I’d never have chosen
Half the time frozen
Too numb to feel

I know it was stormy
I hope it was for me a learning
Blood on the road wasn’t mine though
Someone that I know
Has walked here before

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