, Thanks to the support of my spiritual director, I've found great help in understanding myself as one who identifies as an Enneagram Four. The Enneagram is a fantastic tool for self-discovery and has helped me claim and lean into my type. We are known as the "Individualist" or the "Romantic," and are characterized by our deep emotions, introspection, and desire for authenticity.
If you have not already guessed, we Fours thrive on creativity and emotional depth (which I believe makes for a great writer and spiritual director). However, the journey can sometimes feel lonely, and it is indeed challenging at times. On Sunday at worship, a friend asked me how I keep my creative juices flowing for the podcast, books, and other teachings. I told her I could not help it! My brain overflows with creative juices and ideas - more than I can manage. This exchange was after I had written about 10,000 of the 35,000 words for my next manuscript. My fingers cannot always move fast enough to capture everything in my mind. I have paused at 10,000 words because I need time to process and embody what I have written and ponder with God what will be written next.
This got me thinking; I could share tips to help others lean into their creative sides. So here are some tips offering inspiration for your creative inspiration:
As Enneagram Fours, we find solace in solitude. Quiet time is when our creativity can flourish. Get away, take a retreat, or create a dedicated space for yourself at home, whether it's a cozy corner of your bedroom or a spot in your backyard. Allow yourself regular introspection, contemplation, and times of self-reflection, as these moments often ignite the spark of inspiration! Prioritizing solitude is a must if you want to foster your creativity. I'm an extroverted contemplative Four, so this complicates matters! The hardest part is breaking away, befriending myself, and calming my mind, but it is worth it!
Seek Inspiration Everywhere:
Look beyond conventional sources for inspiration. Explore various art forms, music, books, and movies that both challenge you and resonate with your emotions. Engage with diverse cultures, explore nature, and immerse yourself in experiences stimulating ALL your senses. Pick up a very different kind of book or play music from a playlist you have never heard. Take a hike and look for interesting things that capture your attention. Ignite your own creativity as you savor and enjoy the creativity of others and God's creation!
As Fours, our creativity stems from the depths of our emotions. We can often talk about deep things quickly with others. Vulnerability is a gateway to true authenticity, but it is not easy or natural and takes some practice. Allow yourself to be seen and heard, even if it sometimes feels uncomfortable. Express your thoughts and feelings in an appropriate way that works best for you, understanding that your unique perspective holds immense value.
Creativity often comes hand in hand with self-doubt. Hello, Imposter Syndrome! Be gentle with yourself during moments of uncertainty or creative blocks. Practice self-compassion and remind yourself that these challenges are part of the creative process. They actually HELP with what is coming next so try not to fight the pause that comes with creative blocks. Treat yourself with kindness, celebrate small victories (like 10,000 words!), and allow for rest and rejuvenation.
Engage with Like-Minded Souls:
Though we may cherish solitude, connecting with like-minded individuals can provide invaluable support. Seek out creative communities, workshops, or online spaces where you can share your work and ideas. Engaging with other creatives who understand and appreciate your unique perspective can be an incredible source of inspiration and encouragement.
Move Your Body:
Engaging in physical activity, whether dancing, biking, practicing yoga, or walking, boosts your energy levels and promotes mental clarity. When active, your body increases blood flow and oxygenation to the brain, improving cognitive function and enhancing creativity. I firmly believe that movement (large or small) fuels creativity!
What inspires you on the creative journey? Write about it, think about it, or share it with us so we can be inspired too.
Last weekend I traveled free with points (thanks, Southwest) to Jacksonville, Florida and then drove to the most beautiful of places, St. Simons Island. I had visited there as a child but it was my first adult visit at Epworth by the Sea and I LOVED it. I rode a bike in the mornings, walked a lot, and sat at the pier before the Southern Lights Conference began. Pro tip: if you're traveling solo (especially to an island) and have the space, always arrive early or leave late to offer yourself a little extra soul care and/or processing time.
As a writer, anytime I get to hang out with or meet the people whose books I've read and who impacted my journey, it's a treat. I did not ask for selfies, but I did soak up their every word. Then to meet new-to-me authors and Speakers as I did this past weekend - wow, wow, wow. I'm so glad I made time for this conference. And I took book money to spend - hooray!
Idilia Delio absolutely blew my mind (I realize 'absolutely' is an unnecessary word in this sentence but trust me, it is not). Literally, I think my brain is still processing what I heard, and will be for a long time. She is a Franciscan Sister and American theologian writing and teaching about science, religion, evolution, physics, and neuroscience. You would think she was boring - NOPE. Instead, she was an absolute delight and has tickled my brain in ways I didn't know possible. I cannot wait to read my first of her now 24 books!
The brilliant and healing poetry of Pádraig Ó Tuama, read by Pádraig, made poems come alive for me again, or maybe for the first time. His poetry readings invited us to think without telling us what to think. So I'll be listening to more poems this year and anchor my life with poetry.
I met the very kind and wise Christian ethicist Reggie Williams, and fantastic authors Diana Butler Bass and Brian McLaren (superb people). I heard from some brilliant podcasting theologians Tripp Fuller and Grace Ji-Sun Kim. Unfortunately, there's not enough space here to share all I learned from their sharing. Oh and I connected with delightful attendees, there were a LOT of Methodists at Epworth by the Sea, so I likely would have found some church cousins if I looked long enough.
It was noted to me more than once that I was one of the youngest attendees (even at 48). It hit me during communion as we closed, I was so grateful to be surrounded by older adults. Then an 83-year old retired pastor tapped me on the arm as I waited in that line and said, "God bless you, Whitney." Honestly, I was right at home. I need all these wiser, older people in my life. If you're not flocking to those with at least a couple of decades on you, do it. I'm counting on the exceptional longevity of my grandmothers to trickle into my genes, so I can be one of them one day. There is so much life yet to live!
Nudged by an older wiser mentor, I came to this conference after a full season, on purpose. Stewarding a devotional into the world may not seem like much, but it is. I was nearly empty. As a creator sharing your creation, putting it in front of others can be overwhelming. I knew I was tired and doubted myself as I was packing to leave. But I am thankful I found a way to fill back up. We even meditated as a group, I indeed found my people.
I left that beautiful island with a LOT more knowledge than when I entered it and plenty of soul care too. But I realized a few (okay, four) things in particular that feel important to share:
Thanks to Pádraig, I found this poem, and I've been sitting with it since I left the island. It's not really about leaving an island. Whyte wrote these words about his own poem (below), "There are certain vivid days that live on in the memory, carrying not only the extraordinary images of what occurred but a still growing revelation that is an equally growing introduction to our own future. Such was the day last year on Inishbofin when the silence and the beauty of the place, the singing of good Irish friends in a ruined chapel and a perfect company of people brought a sense of perfection, privilege and forgiveness. I left the island half a shade braver than when I arrived, which is, after all is said and done, all that we need."
"Leaving the Island" by David Whyte
It must have been
the slant of the light,
the sheer cross-grain of rain
against the summer sun,
the way the island appeared
gifted, out of the gleam
and the depth of distance,
so that when you turned
to look again,
the scend of the sea
had carried you on,
under the headland
and into the waiting harbour.
And after the pilgrim lanes,
and the ruined chapel,
the lads singing beneath the window,
and the Corn-Crake calling from
a corner of a field,
after the gull cries and the sea-hush
at the back of the island,
it was the way, standing still
or looking out,
walking or even talking
with others in the evening bar,
holding your drink
and laughing with the rest,
that you realized–part of you
had already dropped to its knees,
to pray, to sing, to look–
to fall in love with everything
and everyone again, that someone
from deep inside you had come out
into the sea-light to raise its hands
and forgive everyone in your short life
you thought you hadn't, and that all along
you had been singing your quiet way
through the rosary of silence
that held their names.
Above all, the way afterwards,
you thought you had left the island
but hadn't, the way you knew
you had gone somewhere
into the shimmering light
and come out again on the tide
as you knew you had to,
as someone who would return
and live in the world again,
a man granted just a glimpse,
a woman granted just a glimpse,
some one half a shade braver,
a standing silhouette in the stern,
holding the rail,
riding the long waves back,
ready for the exile we call a home.
So, now for a few questions:
This week, a neighbor asked me to borrow an egg...and I was giddy. Sound ridiculous? Maybe so, but this simple act offered me an opportunity to respond to a question I've been pondering, how can I be a good neighbor?
As a kid, I grew up in a small town where our family knew lots of people. But, we moved homes within our zip code fairly often. So we didn't often develop relationships with those living next door. We rarely got asked to borrow an egg, or watch a neighbor's pet, or grab their mail.
To be a good neighbor, we don't have to become "best friends" with every person next door but we do need to have relationships that offer neighborly love. What is neighborly love and how do we show it? It starts with being kind.
Over and over again, scripture tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves. The Bible gives us many tips on what it means to be a neighbor. It is a privilege to support and build up our neighbors, whether by dropping off an egg, offering a listening ear, or saying a purposeful prayer.
Romans 15:2 in the Common English Bible says this, "Each of us should please our neighbors for their good in order to build them up." If you're unsure how to do that, maybe you could ask? Pray this prayer simple prayer (or some form of your own prayer) today:
God, show me how to be a good neighbor. Give me an opportunity to respond with kindness to a need I can supply and help me build up those around me.
How do you build up your neighbors?
How has a neighbor supported you over the years with kindness?
It may not always be as easy as a dropping off an egg. God may stretch you to be a good neighbor and you may never know how your care and kindness impacts another. I sense the need to end this post with a Mr. Rogers quote. After all, Mr. Rogers is the ultimate neighbor!
“If only you could sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.” Mr. Rogers
Be kind to a neighbor this week. If you'd like some companionship in praying for your neighbors with a walking meditation, listen to this episode of the podcast.
Whitney R. Simpson
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Whitney R. Simpson
Exploring Peace Ministries, LLC