Mindful, creative living.

There’s a lot of talk about being more mindful these days.

Such as, instead of just going through the motions of a familiar task, we become truly present in that moment, making sure we are doing what we need to, and not misplacing our keys or leaving the refrigerator door open or trying to remember why we entered a room.

Easier said than done it seems, at least for many of us.  There’s just so many things to deal with…even as you age.  You’d think it might get easier, but at least in my experience, it hasn’t.

Harvard social psychology professor Dr. Ellen Langer has written several books on the subject of mindfulness.  Known as the “mother of mindfulness” over her 35+ year career, she has also touched on how tapping into the creative part of ourselves can greatly enhance our ability to be mindful in the moment.

This can be any moment.  Taking a walk. Bathing a grandchild.  Preparing breakfast.  Doing your taxes. Anything that calls for our attention…and our creativity.

In her wonderful book “On Becoming an Artist,” she explores how anyone—truly anyone—can be an artist.  We all have creativity within us, and if we have the courage to get past the fear of someone laughing or being critical of what we create (and often that person is ourselves), we can discover a freedom and joy we’ve never experienced.

Some of her words from “On Becoming An Artist”:

“I believe that our natural, mindful creativity should be the way we experience most, if not all, of our days.  By engaging in some new activity—whether it is art, music, sports, gardening, or cooking—on an ongoing basis, we can being to experience what it is like to be more mindful.  Most of the time mindlessness comes by default, not by design, and when we are mindless we’re oblivious to being so.  We need to find a way to cue us into our mindlessness. We need a bell that will sound for us, signaling that we are acting mindlessly. When we let ourselves fully engage a new task and see how exciting it feels, as soon as we feel otherwise the bell should sound.  If we remove the roadblocks, we can begin to engage ourselves, again.”

Now if you are already saying, “I’m no artist”, Dr. Langer is very persuasive in her belief that you really are—you just haven’t let it come out.  Fear most likely has blocked you, or at some time many years ago, a misguided teacher or supervisor chided you for your attempts.

It may feel scary, but you must quiet those voices and do it anyway.

As she says in her book, “Can you draw a reasonably straight line?  A curved line?  A thick bold line or curve?  A think line or curve?  Can you recognize different colors?  If so, all that is left to be able to draw or paint is to learn how to see.  To play an instrument, all you need to learn is to hear.  It is that simple.”

And I will add, it can be that much fun.  I know in the past few years I”ve left myself get past the “I can’t do this” mindset to just playing with pastel painting.  Sure, most of it I wouldn’t hang in my house.  But I did frame a few of my attempts, not so much because I think they’re exceptional, but because it was fun to do, I surprised myself, and they represent my being okay with my creativity.

Throughout her book, Dr. Langer explores some of the roadblocks that keep us from discovering our creativity, and embracing mindfulness.  Things like social comparison, evaluation, making choices, and how we must individualize our experiences. How we stroll through a museum and just assume that the breathtaking works of art we see just “happened”…that because Rembrandt or Michelangelo or Renoir had so much inborn talent, they didn’t really struggle like we would.  And that “everyone” agrees their work is awesome while whatever we do is frivolous.

Yet if you study these artists, you learn differently.  They worried. They studied. They failed.  But most likely, when they achieved their masterpieces, it was due to truly being mindful…putting all else our of their heads for a period of time and just being present.

Imagine the freedom!

Even if you’re not interested in developing your artistic side, mindfulness could be a wonderful exercise for other parts of your life.  As Dr. Langer says on her online site:

“The simple process of noticing new things is the key to being there. When we notice new things we come to see the world with the excitement of seeing and experiencing it for the first time, but with the comfort that of our previous life experiences brings to the activity.”

Dr. Langer is definitely a boomer who is rocking the wrinkle!

Maybe give it a try….today….take a regular task and really be present in it.  Feel yourself relax into it, breathe a bit more evenly, take care of it and then move on.

And maybe later, notice how the sun sparkles on the snow, or the bird that just landed on the windowsill.  Pick up pencil and sketch it, just for a minute.  Or write a few lines for a poem.  Or take a photograph.

You might like it.


“Where we are is where we’ve never been.”

Dr. Ellen Langer










How will today change you?

Life is busy.  Life is difficult (as Scott Peck reminded us.)

Life is unpredictable. Life is filled with too many lists.

Too many emails.

Too many distractions.

Too many thefts of our time, our minds, our need to actually live the moment. Weeks fly by and we can’t remember what we did. Yesterday goes by in a flash and we aren’t even sure what we had for lunch.mac-glasses

Yet I’m sure in every 24-hour period, there are countless opportunities when we can think of another person. Be kind to a stranger. Refrain from scowling at a bad driver. Actually notice how the sun is reflecting off a flower petal.

Remember that we are alive, we are fragile, and we want every second to count. Especially as we grow older…we boomers and beyond understand how rich life can be if we are present.

Quaker poet Jeanne Lohmann invites us to pause and just be alive in her wonderful poem, “Questions Before Dark”:


“Questions Before Dark”

“Day ends, and before sleep
when the sky dies down,

consider your altered state: 

has this day changed you?  

Are the corners sharper or rounded off? 

 Did you live with death?  

Make decisions that quieted?  

Find one clear word that fit? 

 At the sun’s midpoint did you notice a pitch of absence,
bewilderment that invites the possible? 

 What did you learn from things you dropped

 and picked up and dropped again? 

Did you set a straw parallel to the river, 

let the flow carry you downstream?”

Jeanne Lohmann

So many good things here. We do, especially as boomers and beyond, live with death. Our friends, our families, our own mortality. But I don’t see this as a depressing thing; more as a call to life.

photo - Version 2Especially when she quickly brings up the idea of “bewilderment”.

To me, that’s a wonderful way to describe the natural world around us. So many miracles. Yet unless we make a conscious effort to see them, we walk right past them.

I love the idea of contemplating how each day changes us. As Buddha said, we never enter the same river twice. And there’s a lot to be said for occasionally noting where we are on our journey.


“Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am.”

            Parker Palmer

Do you have the time?

Time is so precious.  We understand this so much more as we age.   I think when most of us were much younger, we saw the future as a very long road stretching out before us to infinity, with no end or at least one that wasn’t anywhere in sight. We “had” time to play, to make and lose friends, to eat what we wanted, maybe drink too much, not exercise enough, and whatever struck our fancy because, after all, we “had” time.

tEREUy1vSfuSu8LzTop3_IMG_2538Then a few years went by.

We saw a few strange marks on our faces (“are those wrinkles?  Can’t be.”)  We couldn’t stay up quite as late, but we sure tried.  We noticed how some friends seemed to drift away, yet we didn’t work too hard to get back in touch. After all, we were now working hard on getting things right:  our marriages, our careers, our portfolios.  The other things, like peace of mind or emotional health?  Oh, there’d be plenty of time to worry about that later.

And since we were never really going to grow old, it didn’t matter anyway.

Then a lot more years went by, and very quickly.  Much too quickly.

Yet now we are more content with who and what we are because we recognize—this is who we are.  Spending a few hours with a good friend is priceless.  Reading a really engrossing novel is fulfilling.  Watching a grandchild or great niece or nephew giggle is a joy, because we know how quickly they will grow up.  Watching a spectacular sunset fills us with awe and isn’t something we take for granted.  We are still on our path, but we recognize we’re closer to the end…at least on this planet.

We see how fast time goes by now.

Or did it always?

IMG_0600It’s bittersweet.  And depending upon your beliefs, it could just be the beginning, with another path awaiting our spirits that won’t be revealed until we leave our achy joints and bad feet behind.  But regardless of where your heart lies, it’s good to just be where you are, in every moment.  And if it’s not a good place, then give yourself permission to make it so.

Because a moment is just that—and it’s gone so fast.  As boomers and beyond, we know how to make the of them.  2018 is a great time to start.

“Time is the wisest counselor of all.”


Happy New Year



Let’s make it a peaceful one.



“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” 

       Desmond Tutu




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