Whether by grand design or random coincidence (I suspect in many cases they’re the same thing), people have been reaching out to me, frustrated, because they feel lacking in creativity, spontaneity, even the use of language in impromptu situations.
I have something to say about this topic because 1) I’m a certified Transformational Voice® Teacher well versed in the Cycle of Breath Based Vocalization and proper breathing helps with…well…everything. 2) I’m an actor, Authentic Performance acting teacher and public speaker – all of which require a command of language in artificial or improvisational situations (in which conscious breathing is extremely helpful.) 3) Ever since I learned the concept of the thriving zone from Barry Dennis (see the 1/5/15 blog entry) I’ve been preaching thriving (as opposed to atrophy or breaking) until people may be dozing in their virtual pews.
Based on a couple of these recent conversations, I suspect people are suffering from limited use of the right brain hemisphere (the creative, imaginative side.) I have something to say about that, and I say it in this free two and a half minute video tip. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5kzAP2en7A
Here’s another tip I just read in the September 2015 issue of Oprah Winfrey’s O Magazine. This article interviewing Neuroscientist Berit Brogaard, PhD, is entitled Unlock Your Brain’s Potential.
Thinking harder will not tap into parts of our brain that we don’t consciously use; it will just use the same regions more. To reach new areas, you have to get your brain out of its comfort zone…I believe the easiest [way] is by training yourself in a neurological phenomenon called synesthesia, in which the brain makes unusual associations between things like sounds, colors, and emotions…When the brain makes these associations, it generates new neural connections—and these connections may help to spur creativity and improve memory.
Q: So how do you develop synesthesia?
A: A study in the journal PLOS One found that that it could be activated in as little as two weeks. To get started, consciously associate things you normally wouldn’t, and rehearse those associations until you internalize them. I know it sounds wonky, but it works. I recently teamed up with Johns Hopkins researchers to help a woman unlock her ability to write evocative poetry. First, we had her make a list of emotions (like happiness, love, anger) and match each one with a sound (a thunderclap, the hiss of a teakettle), a taste (zesty, burnt), a smell (fresh-cut grass, smoke from a campfire), and a color. She kept the list on her nightstand and looked at it in the morning or at night. After just a month, she began to experience her emotions as sounds, tastes, smells and colors. When she felt jealousy, she heard a hissing sound and saw a pot of liquid spewing dark magenta. She channeled this newfound way of experiencing emotions into writing poetry like she never had before.
I can’t wait to try it!
What I have to say next brings us to…The Summer of the Cold Socks. This is both a creativity tip and a practical one if your feet get super-hot these warm summer months like mine do. This “fire foot” syndrome, as it’s known around here, can make sleeping difficult.
My partner, George, had this problem the last record breaking hot summer, 2009, in the Willamette Valley. He got tired of sitting on the edge of the bathtub with his feet in cold water or holding ice packs on them, and decided to dampen some socks and put them in a zipped plastic bag in the freezer. Voila – cold socks. You have to de-crust them a little before you put them on, but my goodness, do they help cool your feet! And quickly!
Now, I have a confession to make. George and I laugh so hard, at the silliest things, sometimes I feel embarrassed (I can’t wait to see how I describe embarrassment after doing the synesthesia exercise) to share the things we laugh about with other people. In fact, I usually don’t! But here’s one, because it’s a good right brain creative exercise.
Write a story. You know, your own – instead of reading someone else’s.
It all started one day when George and I were walking, it was hot, we were getting sweaty, and he mentioned that 2009 heat wave. He said, “That was the summer of the cold socks.”
Right then, right there, walking on Inverurie Road, I heard that deep-voiced announcer in my head. You know the one. But instead of saying, “Only through Labor Day,” or “The moment that changed the history of the world…in theaters June 19th” the voice said, “It was the summer of the cold socks.”
That just made me laugh, and keep laughing while I told George why I was laughing. And it begged…begged, I tell you!…for a next line. Which was something like “Dogs lapped their bowls dry, and their heads dropped to their paws.” George was like, “Wouldn’t they wilt?” I was like, “Yes, dogs lapped their bowls dry, and their heads wilted on…” George: “Wilted…listlessly…?” Me: “Yes! Wilted listlessly on…or upon…?” George: “Hmm…Upon, definitely upon.”
With that, I give you, the first four lines (for all I know the only four lines) ofThe Summer of the Cold Socks:
It was the summer of the cold socks.
Dogs lapped their bowls dry, and their heads wilted listlessly upon their paws.
Livestock tails twitched flies in the blistered misery.
The swimming hole beckoned.
And I have only one last thing to say on this matter. Keep two pairs of cold socks in the freezer. When one gets to room temperature after about 20 minutes, put them back in the freezer, and take out the other. Your hot feet and right brain will thank you.
After she is tragically orphaned, young Abella loses the ability to speak her truth and express herself. She is sent to live with a reclusive uncle she’s never met, and her only friend is her horse. Abella endures heartbreak, loneliness and questions who she truly is inside. Eventually, she meets friends and animals who help her not only regain her voice, but also uncover her strength and purpose. Purchase How Abella Found her Voice for $4.95 here: https://laurahandke.com/product/how-abella-found-her-voice-e-book/
Please spread the love and pass this along to a friend!
Get Your Weird Out (or Get Your Weird On or Have You Hugged Your Weird Today?)
You know how a four year old will roll around in the grass, tumble downhill, stick things in their ears, make silly faces, sing nonsensical, tuneless songs, and giggle like no one is watching?
Of course you do. We’ve all been four once! And what’s typically the worst thing that happens? A parent might ask something like, “Are you being silly?” The four year old will giggle, nod enthusiastically, keep on being silly, and the world is right.
Yet we seem to slowly forget how to be silly, starting somewhere around age nine. Can you imagine making faces, singing nonsensical songs and giggling in the break room at the office? On the bench with the other soccer moms? In your dentist’s waiting room? Maybe, just maybe…you might have an excuse at happy hour with three martinis under your belt.
Now, keep in mind I live in a city with the slogan “Keep Portland Weird” and an annual World Naked Bicycle Ride. (Quite a change from where I grew up near Raymond, SD, population 50.) All the same, I suspect most people don’t allow themselves to get weird or silly often enough. I’ve been blogging about creativity lately, and creative outlets/expressions can come across as weird in a society of blue suits in tall office buildings with elevators and video surveillance equipment.
While “Get Your Weird Out” isn’t one of the tenets in my newly completed HOW TO BE MOST FULLY YOURSELF IN ANY SITUATION: The Ten Tenets of Authenticity model, perhaps it should be! Two of my favorite writers, Elizabeth Gilbert and Martha Beck, openly share their weirdness – and Gilbert was named one of the most 100 influential people in the world by Time Magazine in 2008, while Oprah Winfrey calls Beck, who has two degrees from Harvard, “one of the smartest women I know.”
I’m thrilled to report I’m now weirder than ever (or at least since age four.) Six years after my divorce, at the age of 48, I fell head over heels in love. Whether through karma, experience, coincidence or a combination thereof, I suddenly found myself in a loving relationship filled with extraordinary joy, exuberance, weirdness and laughter. Silliness suits George and I well.
I mentioned the Indianapolis 500 Cat Marathon in my blog back on March 18, 2013 and the Summer of the Cold Socks was highlighted August 30. Now, until such time as George and I should get really weird and start a podcast, I give you this…in hopes it will tickle your silly giggle bone.
Our home is graced by the presence of feline Lady Jane. She has sleek, glossy, black fur, is affectionate, determined, and vocal (I should probably take her to Toastmasters with me), treats flies like prey, and likes to eat. We put her on a diet, in fact, when her belly became so large she couldn’t reach around to clean her butt. For a while I did it for her. (With diaper wipes, in case you’re wondering.) That quickly became tiresome, hence the cat food reduction plan. Which worked.
In the meantime, however, an issue developed in our bed (yes, our cat sleeps with us) known as “stinky cat butt.” This would sometimes mean, on said bed sheets, small, somewhat circular brown marks – not pretty to look at, nor to sniff. I washed the sheets often and we were thrilled when Lady trimmed down and was able to bathe herself again without clutching the carpet with vice-like claws on one paw and wrangling her body into very un-Lady-like contortions with the other three.
Yet recently, just as we were preparing to leave for a mini-vacation to Whidbey Island, I found a small brown spot, way down on “my” side of the bed. And I didn’t want to change the sheets right before we left for a few days. I groaned, and said, “Well, at least it’s far down and not where my feet go.”
Whereupon George began singing:
It’s way down below where my feet don’t go
My feet don’t go
No, my feet don’t go
Way down below where my feet don’t go
But maybe someday they will.
You can hear the tune in your head, right?
We were making the bed, at 9:00 in the morning, and I was laughing so hard I could barely smooth the covers. I managed to sputter: “I can’t believe you made stinky cat butt into a hillbilly song!” George: “It’s not a hillbilly song! – it’s a children’s song, you know, like the wheels on the bus go ‘round and ‘round; they go ‘round and ‘round.” Me: “It may be a children’s song, but it’s being sung by a hillbilly band. Can’t you just see the upside down wash tub?, some instrument with one string…” George: “A washboard…” Me: “An old guy with no teeth, a straw hat, and a harmonica.” Welcome to our world of weird and silly. You might like it. Way down below where your feet don’t go. Come join us.
While we’re on a creativity jag…check out this awesome poetry exercise! I love it and I’m not a poet (I do like to engage the right side of my brain whenever possible, however)!
12 WAYS TO WRITE A POEM
-Honor Moore, O Magazine
Make a list of five things you did today, in the order of doing them.
Quickly write down three colors.
Write down a dream. If you can’t remember one, make it up.
Take 15 minutes to write an early childhood memory, using language a child would use.
Write a forbidden thought, to someone who would understand.
Write a forbidden thought, to someone who would not.
Make a list of five of your favorite “transitional objects.” Choose one and describe it in detail.
Write down three questions you’d ask as if they were the last questions you could ever ask.
Write down an aphorism (e.g., A stitch in time saves nine).
Write down three slant rhymes, pairs of words that share one or two consonants rather than vowels (moon/mine and long/thing are slant rhymes).
Write three things people have said to you in the past 48 hours. Quote them as closely as you can.
Write the last extreme pain you had, emotional or physical. If the pain were an animal, what animal would it be? Describe the animal.
This generates a lot of poem material. Moore suggests using one of the questions as the first line, each of the colors more than once, the slant rhymes, and the aphorism with a word or two changed, as Sexton did in “a thousand doors ago”. Just use the material however you want. Between 20 and 30 lines is good to start, with each line 10 or more syllables long. It’s your own little fun invention, not to be forced.
Since nothing could be worse than The Summer of the Cold Socks, here’s what I came up with the first time I did this exercise, years ago. (Actually, now that I re-read it, this might be far worse.) Laugh all you want! Laughter is good for the soul.
Can I rest for a while now?
Three levels to the house and a spiral staircase towards the center
with large stone arches on either side
and wide open walkways on all three levels
An open circle in the lower level with brick pathways
A massive, color indoor garden
Twenty-one shades of green, goldenrod, cerulean blue, stark fuchsia red
Naked, I sit on the cold metal stairs of the staircase
She who laughs last, laughs least, in the bedroom, in the kitchen
in the gold moon glow of soft summer nights,
inside the poignant aching blue of the house
On top the warm, soft, sleek, wonderful smelling warmth of the horse
Lean forward, fingers entwined in coarse mane hairs,
Pushing bare hard heels into her sides, grip tightly with thighs
Tingle and rush in stomach’s pit, golden heart expands
Song on the hazy breeze, flaxen harp strings stretch
Laughing erratically, you blew it, Blue
Shall we choose to curdle and have pure, peppery mold?
or lay forth a platter of cheese, blue, feta, provolone and
the vice like grip of a pipe wrench around a pipe, wrenching and tightening?
I choose the feta, crumbled, plump and muscular
Sitting on the green-flecked futon, in meditation, with canned potato soup
I had so much fun writing that silly poem. Feel free to share yours if you decide to give it a whirl!
Authentically Yours, Laura
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