Vitality 6 Steps to Stimulate Creativity and New Growth in Your Life We all have creative potential. Tap into yours. By Cari Barcas Photo by Kylie Turley I was a creative child. Whether at dinner with family or a social gathering with friends, I was rarely without a notepad on hand to scribble down my latest poem or short story whenever inspiration struck. And it did. Often. But it suddenly occurred to me last year that something had shifted. At some point in my adulthood, I had lost touch with my creative streak, and unfortunately it seemed to have become buried pretty deep. The realization struck me shortly after leaving my full-time job in journalism last summer. I had vowed to myself that once I left my journalism career to pursue teaching yoga full-time, I would also return to my roots of writing for personal fulfillment and self-expression rather than just a paycheck. As it turns out, that was easier said than done. After seven years in a career that often demanded work 12 hours a day and seven days a week, and coming off of a challenging year in my personal life to boot, my creative juices were sapped and I was drained. Many of us are accustomed to filling every moment of our days with work, family, and other obligations. We’re left with no energy to put into new growth and creative pursuits, so our personal exploration and self-fulfillment get put on the back burner. Desires and things we’d like to do regularly take second priority to obligations and things we feel we must do. Over the past six months—since recognizing the rift between me and my imagination—I have watched the slow but sure return of my desire to write and create with the support of some simple practices. It is my hope that they may also help you connect to more inspired work, fulfilled relationships or anything else you desire: Make space for new growth: First things first, remove the weeds to create space for growth on new fertile ground. If you fill up your schedule 100 percent, you allow no room for expansion into something new. When we are constantly exhausting ourselves rushing from one thing to another, it’s hard to be mindful enough to even recognize as new opportunities appear. In both your personal or professional life, remove the filler and relish the emptiness of having space for new creation. Yes, at times it can feel better in the short-term to have your schedule full just so you don’t notice its emptiness, but you have to be willing to sustain short-term discomfort to free yourself up and make room for organic growth and expansion in the future. Live with intention: The areas where you direct attention and energy play a big role in charting the course of your life. The process of restoring creativity involves intention and awareness to consciously spend time on things that contribute to your long-term growth and happiness. Once you identify goals, discern which time commitments support growth in that direction and which ones set you back. Shift your time to prioritize quality and creativity, not only quantity and productivity. As much as possible, commit your time judiciously to prioritize the things that move you forward. Invest in yourself: Make time for the things that light you up. Sometimes you have to say no to obligations and others, so you can say yes to yourself. Whether it’s via yoga, meditation, reading or sleeping in, invest time and energy to care for yourself so you have more fullness and presence to share with others. Be generous with yourself first and let abundance then spill over onto others. Cut the cord: Cut the cord between yourself and your smartphone. If you’re constantly inundating yourself with external stimulation, how can you expect to receive internal inspiration? If you rely on something outside yourself for entertainment every time you get bored, you leave no room for your inner monologue and imagination. If you need to fan the creative fire, turn to the natural, not artificial, sources of inspiration all around you. Devote some part of your day to be completely device-free. Practice the power of the pause: It’s amazing what ideas and inspiration reveal themselves with stillness and silence as you give your mind the clearing necessary for things to reveal themselves to you. Don’t feel the need to fill the pauses in every conversation with others, and be OK in the silent meditative moments with yourself too. These pauses in interactions, between actions and reactions, help foster the perspective and awareness to springboard us into greater authenticity and creativity. Find a balance of effort and ease: The Yoga Sutras suggest balancing sthira and sukha—effort and ease—in our physical practice, but the concept carries into our lives off the mat too. Of course we don’t want to be passive passengers in our lives, but we can’t expect to control everything either. Many spiritual practices, including yoga and meditation, empower us to walk the line between being proactive enough to set change in motion while ultimately releasing control to allow things to unfold. By bringing greater awareness to our actions and reactions, and mindfulness to how we commit and structure our time, we can make subtle shifts to carve out space for creativity and possibility to blossom. — Cari Barcas is a Chicago-based yoga teacher and freelance writer. She teaches public classes and private lessons focused on cultivating breath awareness as a source of stability, grace and ease in the face of challenges. When she’s not practicing, teaching or writing, she can usually be found on a road trip or other outdoor excursion with her husband and their gentle pit bull Lucy. Visit Cari’s website or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.