Today I took a long walk in this lovely park by my house. It has a circular, gravel running path and I go there every other day or so to get some exercise. As I walked toward the middle of the park, I heard the most beautiful sound. There, on a bench, was a young man playing the cello. There was no hat or instrument case open -- there was no pressure of donation, he was simply practicing in the open air. I made it around the bend of the path and started walking back in his direction and stopped for a long while to lean against a tree, close my eyes, take in the sun and his beautiful music. The unexpected combination of the cello and the crisp fall weather touched me deeply. It completely made my day, and I made sure to tell him so.
For me, these last two years have been hardcore, soul-searching times. Throw in the impact of the recession and now, the holidays and that's a whole lot of pressure. But if there's one thing I've learned in my attempts at self-preservation, is that in dark times, it's crucial to seek out inspiration. Every single day.
Inspiration keeps you moving forward, striving and focused on your path, even when you don't quite know what your path is. Inspiration keeps you in the creative mix. Inspiration makes you feel rich even when you're poor. Inspiration is a reminder that anything is possible. Inspiration is a life line.
A while ago, I started by making a list of things I love; things that bring me joy and pleasure and actively searched them out. Then, I took it a step further and started writing down memories of experiences when I cried because I was happy. Specific books, movies, shared experiences with friends, my African dance class, yoga, being in the mountains have all had that effect. It was a big, glaring 'note to self' that I needed more of those types of experiences in my life.
Another thing I've found very hopeful is returning to memories of childhood. The experiences, music, books, toys and television that I loved as a child are great inspiration. It shed light on who I am and what's important to me.
I'm always on the lookout for new things to inspire me. I especially love to read non-fiction about people who've triumphed in the face of adversity or who've succeeded beyond their wildest dreams by bravely being their truest selves in the world without apologies.
Being in nature is perhaps my greatest inspiration - it's my first layer of protection against all the fear, violence and mediocrity in our culture. It's my echinacea or vitamin D. I am a city girl, born and raised, who discovered a love of nature late in life and I'm constantly seeking out-of-the-way green space for walks and quiet reflection. I am someone who tells trees that I love them out loud. Hey, it's not like I have a choice.
I also seek out beauty and bold personal expression in the form of brilliant performances and art. It inspires me to be brave in sharing my own creative contributions to the world. It reminds me that a lot of people society regarded as strange or outcast have made some of the most important contributions to our culture.
Being inspired helps me keep the most important promise of all -- the one I made to myself to never, ever give up.
Here are some ideas and resources that have inspired me. What inspires you?
Search out and spend time with people who inspire you -- who are authentic, healthy and whole; who don't judge and criticize, who encourage and support and aren't threatened when good things happen to you. I find the people that inspire me most are those who have traits I admire and would like more of myself. It's like having the most delicious carrot at the end of a stick.
Take out old photos from the best times in your life and reflect back how you felt in those moments and why. What was present that made you feel so good?
Sit down in a book store or library and flip through photo, art or interior design books. Notice what moves you.
Have a dance break in your living room with the lights out to your favorite music. I do this one all the time!
Choose to mix up one pattern in your life like changing your route to work or getting off the computer when you find yourself aimlessly adrift in Google-land. What else might show itself if you broke up your patterns?
Here are a few videos I find particularly inspiring:
Here, writer Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love muses brilliantly on creativity and genius.
This is a beautifully humanist audio-visual series of stories of New Yorkers from all walks of life called One in Eight Million. Some of my favorites are the blind wine taster and the animal rescuer.
If this doesn't make you feel good, nothing will: Madeline Kahn singing with Grover from Sesame Street circa 1975.I am a huge fan of a very young Barbra Streisand. In these short performances, she's between 23 and 25 years old! Keep in mind, when she started her career, she was considered an oddball. She wore shabby, vintage clothes and was repeatedly discouraged by her mother who ignored her gifts. She would sneak out her bedroom window in Brooklyn to go perform at open mikes in Manhattan when she was under age! These are powerful performances, I hope you enjoy them. Click here for her classic duet with Judy Garland singing Happy Days Are Here Again which I find especially poignant during these hard times.
Lastly, I need to acknowledge my photo, which was taken from a brilliant slide show by Maira Kalman called Back To The Land. It's about what would happen if we got away from industrial food production and got back to the land. It might inspire how you eat day to day...
This is excerpted from the blog Real Food Rehab.
(c) 2009 Dana Joy Altman, Real Food Rehab, Inc.