Tagged creative transformation

Isabella Acosta Barnajumping ©Cristina Acosta

Build Resilience by Finding Your Edge Then Pushing Past It

The word edgy has gotten a workout the past few years. Originally describing nervous and jumpy people, the word has morphed to include daring, provocative and trend setting. Transformative ideas are often described with attributes of the edge: Leading-edge, cutting-edge, pushing-the-edge.

Though edges are often paired with  thrill seeking, intellectually, physically or emotionally – thrill seeking is only one aspect of the practice. Consciously working with your edges with positive and compassionate intentions can increase your resilience. And resilience is one of the keys to a fulfilling life.

Resilience is the strength we use to pick ourselves up and move on from the stumbles, falls and blows of life. Resilience gets us past the bad things that happen to us and puts us on the path to our best life. Resilience transforms surviving into thriving. If you want to increase your resilience in any way; emotionally, physically, intellectually, practice working with your edges, whatever they may be.

Finding edges is an adventure in itself. It doesn’t have to be all difficulty and pain that bring us to the edge (though that is certainly one way), joy, curiosity, adventure and love also can challenge our edges.

Life gives us plenty of accessible ways to expand our edges and increase our resilience. Formal education and self-study can help us transform and grow intellectually as we push the edges of our intellectual skills and comprehension. Sports can do the same for us physically, the efforts resulting in a body that can do more than ever before. Cultivating compassion towards ourselves and others can help us expand the edges of our consciousness as we grow emotionally and spiritually.

Whatever the edges are within yourself that you identify and seek to expand, remember that one person’s edge is not another person’s edge. Edge-finding is not a competitive sport.

Here’s an example: I don’t like heights. Several summers ago I took my daughter and her friend on a float down the Deschutes River, where it meanders through the town of Bend, Oregon. Floating the river through town, we stopped to climb onto a footbridge arching the riverbanks. A small group of young people and kids were climbing onto the bridge railing to jump into the river below. My then ten year old daughter and her friend joined in. They jumped in, swam to the edge and jumped in again about three times before I jumped even once.

It took me about twenty minutes to jump off of an eight foot tall span of bridge. A very long twenty minutes. And I was proud of myself. My daughter and her friend were polite about my excitement, but didn’t understand it. Their edges were somewhere else entirely, not even on this trip.

Playing with your edges consciously and compassionately is a form of spiritual practice. Finding those edges and pushing at them in small and large ways keeps them flexible and open to growth.

Practice playing with your edges and not only will you have a new set of adventures to experience, you’ll be developing your resilience.  Your capacity to thrive and enjoy your life despite the tough stuff will increase. Make playing with your edges a part of your consistent practice and the choices you have in all aspects of your life will expand and deepen.


Calligraphy by Cristina Acosta

Midlife Transformation – Using Old Letters to Create New Words

Midlife transformation is inevitable for women. Menopause is irrefutable and for most women, a defining experience. Whether a woman has had children or not, reproduction and nurturing as defining metaphors in our lives are now replaced with reinvention and renewal.

And all of that change and midlife transformation requires a new vocabulary of a sort. A reinvention of new words from the same old letters we’ve been working with our entire lives. An anagram for renewal, real and new can define this new phase of our lives if we allow ourselves the opportunity.

I’ve been thinking about this idea of reinvention quite a bit as I’m in the middle of the biggest reinvention phase of my life (so far). Much of my life as I knew it has changed these past few years and I’m starting again. A situation that is exhilarating and energizing as well as depressing and scary.

While trying to  stay focused on exhilarating and energizing this past week, I found myself visualizing calligraphy. For about ten years of my art career, I painted signs, paying for my art degree at the University of Oregon and then transitioning into a career as a billboard lettering and mural artist until the trade ended with the advent of computers. One of the foundations of sign painting is calligraphy, the hand drawn art of letterforms.

I found myself thinking about the twists and turns of line I could create with the motions of my body transforming brush and paint into meaning. There is a lovely sensual pleasure to brush calligraphy, a quality that varies with each letter and each grouping of letters as they form words. Surprisingly, actually feeling the visual forms a word takes enriches the feeling the word invokes, even when the feeling of creating the word with line is counter to the meaning of the word.

Those memories in mind, I realize that the midlife transformation I am going through now offers me the opportunity to reform the letters of my life. Those letters being the skills, experiences, wisdom and attitudes I’ve developed over the years, and re-ordering them into new words, creating new meanings for myself.

New words and meanings denote a new reality. Here are a few examples: I have been making art, painting or drawing for decades, but now I have different thoughts and feelings about the process and different (fewer) expectations . I have been cooking for even longer, filling in for my single mother of seven when I was a young teenager, working in restaurants, then being a homemaker and mother. But now, when I cook I see more than a quick meal or a beautiful spread, I understand the connections and spiritual qualities of food much differently than I have in the past. Life feels richer.

There is an old Zen proverb that goes something like this: Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. Midlife transformation can be a type of enlightenment, a time when the familiar meanings and perceptions of the shapes and forms of our lives transmute into new beginnings.


Transformation is Radical Change

Most any magazine cover offers transformation:  Lose up to ten pounds in 10 days; look years younger in one week; five fast money secrets to easy street – transformation is presented to us as an often quick and easy change.

But here’s the truth, radical change hurts. And transformation is radical change. Implementing radical change requires clarity, consistent effort and conscious faith. It gets boring. And, conversely, it gets scary. The excitement of the decision to change quickly gives way to the often tedious, hard work that the change requires. And then when your hard work reaps benefits and the changes you’ve envisioned happen, a whole new set of fears can come up.

Lose weight and suddenly the new attention you’re getting threatens your sense of security. Become suddenly wealthier and you might be negotiating some difficult social ramifications of your new financial status. Look radically younger and you find yourself dealing with your own and others changed perceptions.

Clarity wrenches us from denial and wishful thinking. Consistent effort takes time away from other activities. Conscious faith requires mindfulness. It ain’t easy.

You can lose your friends, your job, your marriage, your home, and more. But you can gain deeper friendships, more fulfilling work, and a richer, more magical, happier life.

I know this, because it’s all happened to me. What I’ve learned is that change is inevitable, but conscious transformation is optional. I take the possibility for magic most every time.

The Courage to Change Begins with the Courage to Start

Life is change. That’s a given. When we’re young, everything is new and different and change seems to naturally flow. But with maturity comes stability (of one sort or another if all goes well), and that brings a different challenge.

Stability offers the comfort of the known. Change can get rough. Life is harsh. By middle age, most of us have weathered more than a few storms and some of those storms left scars. When I’m in the midst of one of life’s storms and a little stability comes my way like a lifeboat, I grasp it and heave myself into it.

The trick is to remember that a lifeboat is not a houseboat.

Stepping out of that lifeboat and to a new life on a distant shore takes courage. And middle age brings new shorelines and new lands, some I expected and some I never dreamed of.

The courage to change begins with the courage to start. Starting, continuing, stopping, each action demands renewed courage. The courage to change is the courage to continually accept that I must meet life head-on, with love and clarity and do the work. Continually. That’s the operative word. Change is not a been-there-done-that action, its continual.

Though what I’m describing is the human condition at most any age, middle age and later require a more focused energy. The puppy energy of youth and young adulthood is past. There isn’t the same time or energy to run in loop-d-loops while still going down the trail.

For me, the courage to start guides my changes. When the unexpected happens, I know that if I make myself start again and I keep moving, I will be fine. At least I will have introduced the possibility for change, and that brings with it the possibility for success as I define it.


Leaning Into the Hill Helps with Balance

On a bike or a pair of skis, you quickly learn that big, steep hills can be scary whether you are going up them or down them.

This past few years I’ve been in the midst of some very big life changes. My twenty two year marriage ended, my nest became empty, I moved out of my home and I lost several significant people in my life to change and death.

In the midst of these changes I’ve sought to keep my balance.  I exercised and meditated most days, which helped. And on the days when I felt whelmed, I often thought about hills. Lately, my inner landscape has been full of steep mountains that go on into a misty horizon without a break.

I’ve been fortunate enough to be a lifelong skier. My dad had been a ski instructor in the 1950’s and taught most of his 10 children to ski. I was 9 years old when I learned.

I wanted to be good at skiing and realized that the only way to develop more skill was to push myself a bit beyond my abilities, balancing fear with possibility. I loved the sport and I would push myself to go down steeper and steeper hills. I certainly scared myself more than a few times.

One lesson that I learned from scaring myself while skiing was to “lean” into the hill with my first action. With my skis poised at the top of the hill, the front half of them off of the snow (because the hill was so steep), I would launch  myself.

If I let fear prevail and I held back with my launch, resisting the challenge, my skis would turn sideways and I’d often fall. But, if my first action was to embrace the challenge and I leaned forwards into the fall-line of the hill when I launched myself, I was often much more successful.

Of course, accidents can happen (nothing is fail-safe), but this method of leaning into the hill has been far more successful than not. And I’ve fallen a lot. A few of those falls were epic and scary, but I always got back on the snow eventually, even when I wasn’t able to get up right away. Some runs were tough. I’ve wondered when it would be over and gutted it out, but I’ve also had runs that were unexpectedly magical and joyful.

Resisting versus embracing. Embracing vs. resisting. Leaning into the hill when I am poised to move. Or, resisting the hill. These are my choices.

So, these recent few years, when the latest “hill” seems like just too much to go up or down, I think about my skis, poised on the brink of a mountainside, the tips thrusting into the empty air and pointing far beyond my current position.

I’ve learned that the best possibility for a joyful life is to embrace the hill. I lean forwards.