Counter Chaos with Coherence

Last month I wrote about how world events affect us even when we are far removed from them.  Today I will explore the concept of coherence as a way to respond to global turmoil.  This post defines coherence, describes a way to activate it and lists some of its benefits.

What is Coherence?

According to Wikipedia:

two wave sources are perfectly coherent if they have a constant phase difference and the same frequency, and the same waveform.1

Figure 1, below, shows three coherent sine waves.   They have

  1. a constant phase difference (their crests and troughs occur at the same time)
  2. the same frequency (the distance between wave repetitions remains constant) and
  3. the same waveform (an identical shape – in this case, a simple down-to-up or up-to-down shape called a sine wave)

Coherent waves maintain a steady pattern in relationship to each other.

Figure 1. Three Coherent Sine Waves

In humans, coherence occurs when we activate and maintain a consistent, harmonious relationship in the wave patterns produced by the mind (brain waves) and the heart rhythm measured by an Electrocardiogram (EKG).  When the mind and heart are in coherence, they work in partnership rather than interfering with each other.

Sound provides an analogy for clarifying the nature of this harmonious relationship.  When musical instruments are in-tune with each other, they work together to create beautiful music.  If one instrument is out-of-tune, its tone creates discord in the overall sound.  When many dissonant sounds happen at the same time, the combination can sound like radio static or white noise.

Similarly, when the mind and heart are out-of-tune or incoherent, their wave patterns interfere with each other.  This creates a mild sense of irritation, distractibility, or in the case of severe incoherence, an inability to make decisions or enter relationships because the mind and heart target two different priorities for life.

How Do We Activate and Maintain Heart/Mind Coherence?

The HeartMath Institute has developed a method called the Quick Coherence® Technique that encourages a consistent, harmonious relationship in the wave patterns between mind and heart.  To activate heart/mind coherence:

  1. Heart Focus: Focus on your heart or the area in the center of your chest
  2. Heart Breathing: Imagine your breath is flowing in and out through the area of your heart. . . . find a nice smooth rhythm.
  3. Heart Feeling: While maintaining heart focus and heart breathing, try to activate a positive feeling. This could be a feeling of care for a person or animal, a feeling of appreciation for the good things in your life, or an uplifting feeling you had at a special time or place.  Without trying too hard, just ease into a positive feeling while maintaining heart focus and heart breathing.2

What Are Some Benefits of Coherence?

Activating a state of coherence has many benefits.  It stimulates positive emotions, calms and energizes the mind and body, increases effectiveness, improves relationships and it generates a positive field of energy that uplifts those around us.   Maintaining heart/mind coherence is a comforting and effective way to respond to tumultuous and disconcerting world events.

1 Coherence (physics). (2017). In Wikipedia. Retrieved November 11, 2017 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coherence_(physics)

2 Quantum Intech, Inc. (2011). emWave2 Quick Start Guide.  p. 11.

Coherent Sine Waves image from Wikipedia

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Current Events Call for Balance and Stability

Look around.  The events of the last several months have caused chaos, fear, anxiety and suffering.  Since August, three major hurricanes have blown through Texas, Louisiana, Florida and Puerto Rico, leaving flooding, destruction and desolation in their wake.  In September, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake shook central Mexico, toppling buildings and killing more than 200 people.  On October 1, a shooter, firing from a Las Vegas balcony, killed 58 concert-goers and injured 546 more.  Since October 8, fifteen fires blazing in California have killed at least 42 people and damaged or destroyed more than 5900 structures.  Since October 15, more than 4.7 million people posted the phrase #MeToo on social media, revealing the sexual harassment, abuse and rape borne by women around the world.

How do these events affect you?  There are many ways to answer this question.  I would like to explore the energetic impact.  To comprehend that effect, it is necessary to understand how energetic fields influence us.

Every person has an energetic signature that broadcasts 24 hours per day.  When people in close proximity to each other experience similar emotions, their energies interact and generate a stronger, cumulative energetic field.   For example, when you enter a room in which one person has been fuming about a problem or situation, it is likely that you can sense that something is wrong, even when that person says nothing about their circumstance.  If you enter a room where two people have been arguing, their combined feelings will generate a stronger energetic field of emotion.

Now imagine the suffering of the millions of people recovering from hurricanes.  Think about the fear activated by nearly 9 million people in Mexico City when the Earth shook.  Consider the confusion and terror experienced by thousands of country music fans in Las Vegas.  Imagine the tremendous sense of loss felt by the residents of California.  Notice the pain of millions of women subjected to sexual harassment, abuse and rape.

When a large number of people feel similar emotions at the same time, their strong feelings create an energetic field that flows outward like waves emanating from a rock thrown into a body of water.  Those waves expand until, eventually, they wash over you.

Perhaps you have been feeling stronger emotions than you would expect from your current circumstances.  Some of my clients have noticed waves of anger.  Others have said they are unusually anxious.  Many have expressed deep sadness.

Since few of us see energy, many of us are unaware of or discount its impact.  However, if you were standing in the ocean as six-foot waves pummeled you, it would require resilience and stamina to maintain your balance and stability.  Although emotional energy is less dense than water, it still disturbs us.  The disturbance is very powerful when it arises from the anguish of millions of people.  World events affect us even when we are far removed from them.

How are you caring for yourself in this time of chaos, fear, anxiety and suffering?

The Scream by Edvard Munch from Google.com

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Autumn Equinox: Finding Balance in the Changing Seasons

Vintage Balance Scale Today is the Autumn Equinox. This annual event offers an opportunity to think about balance, growing darkness and Earthly influences. On the Equinox, balance occurs between daylight and darkness.  During the following six months, growing darkness expands to the shortest day of the year and then turns to lengthening light before equalizing, once again.

Our lives also cycle through experiences and their seeming opposite. For example, we split our time between play and work.  Solitude alternates with companionship and rest alternates with activity. With the hectic pace of our modern world it can be extremely difficult to maintain a sense of balance.

When we can simultaneously hold an awareness of both poles of seeming opposites, we stand in the point of Oneness that underlies all creation.  This additional viewpoint, often called the witnessing self, shifts our perspective from the duality that mimics a teeter-totter to a triangle which is a much more stable platform for relating with the world.

In addition, the Autumn Equinox reminds us that we are creatures of the Earth and her cycles affect us.  As flowers go dormant and trees lose their leaves we are invited into a time of quiet.  When seasons change, weather patterns destabilize.  In people, instability may reveal itself as distraction, impatience, anger or unpredictability.  It can be helpful to accept and relax into the instability, knowing it will pass when a new season establishes itself.  We can also use this period of instability to establish new patterns because changes occur more easily when instability loosens the hold of the current state.

How might your soul reflect the influences of the Autumn Equinox? The following questions provide a starting point for an inner dialogue to nurture the yearnings of your deepest self.

Where in your life do you notice space for quiet reflection?

What (if anything) is out of balance?

How does the transition from summer to fall and then winter affect the different aspects of your being, such as your body, emotions, thoughts and spirit?

How does this transition affect the different aspects of your life, such as your work, recreation, relationships and care for yourself?

What is one way you can use this season to align with your soul’s desires?

May the power of the growing darkness enrich your life and your soul.

 

 

 

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The Creative Process: An Example with Watercolor

Continuing the exploration of creativity that has been the focus of these posts since January 2017, today I describe how I applied the creative process while painting a recently completed landscape of a friend’s front yard and entryway (see Figure 1).

Figure 1
Welcoming, Watercolor by Catherine Grytting

When I design and produce a work of art, I focus on elements such as composition, value, color, focal point, flow, etc.  At the same time, I am aware of the discreet aspects of the creative process.  As a reminder, the factors that have been examined in previous blog posts include:

Setting an intention

Focusing your attention on your intention

Letting go of control and allowing the process to unfold

Receiving what the Universe brings you and

Giving thanks

I started this watercolor project when a friend gave me a photograph of her home and asked me to replicate the image.  I SET AN INTENTION to demonstrate my love for my friend through the act of painting a picture of her home.  Love is one of the most powerful energies in the Universe.  Our creations always benefit from an infusion of love.  To further support my intention, I chose a triangle of words that summarized the states of being I wanted to experience throughout this project: masterful, joyful and beauty.

I FOCUSED MY ATTENTION ON THE INTENTION throughout the entire process.  Many times, as I sat down to paint, I remembered my intention to demonstrate my love.  This frequent revisiting of my desire kept my attention on the intention.

LETTING GO OF CONTROL AND ALLOWING THE PROCESS TO UNFOLD began as soon as I started applying the first wash which lays the foundation for the painting (see Figure 2).  For me, watercolor is a capricious medium.  The water causes colors to bleed into each other.  Salt sprinkled into the mix creates blossoms of light.  Splattering paint generates a mottled texture.  These and additional techniques cause the image to take on a life of its own.

Figure 2
Welcoming, Watercolor by Catherine Grytting, Stage 1

RECEIVING WHAT THE UNIVERSE BRINGS began as I made artistic decisions based on the emerging composition.  For example, I noticed the subtle shapes of the background trees and intensified and nuanced them so that they resembled the photograph.  I also observed the configurations of light and dark that formed the house.  I strengthened and refined these patterns to bring the structure into clearer focus.  I repeatedly made changes, observed how my handiwork affected the painting and then made further enhancements that built on the shapes that had appeared in the first wash (see Figure 3).

Figure 3
Welcoming, Watercolor by Catherine Grytting, Stage 2

GIVING THANKS/Celebration: Although earlier posts emphasize the importance of gratitude, in this case, the final step was celebration.  I gave the picture to my friend for her birthday.  As we honored her special day, I celebrated the conclusion of this project.  I demonstrated my love for my friend, masterfully produced a beautiful work of art and felt joy during the process as well as when I presented her with this gift.  In addition, I continue to feel joy every time I see the painting hanging in her home.  Here, celebration, rather than giving thanks, signaled to my soul the end of this venture, thereby making creative energy available for a new project.

The steps of the creative process map a precise path to successful outcomes.  Whether you are crafting home-improvement projects, tasks for your employer, works of art, friendships, life experiences or anything else that captures your imagination, “[i]f you can imagine it, you can achieve it.”[i]  How will you direct your creative energy?

Special thanks to my art teacher, Joan Archer, who provided feedback on and assistance with this painting.  To learn more about Joan, visit her website at http://www.joanarchergallery.com/about/

[i] https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/w/williamart110017.html

 

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The Creative Process: Letting Go

Pablo Picasso said, “Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.”[i]  Creating something new requires letting go of something old.  The May 26, 2017 blog, “The Creative Process: Receiving What the Universe Brings” focuses, in part, on the idea of letting go (https://cathygrytting.wordpress.com/2017/05/26/the-creative-process-receiving-what-the-universe-brings/).  Today’s post continues that discussion by examining the concept of incubation.

Among other meanings, Webster’s dictionary defines incubation as: the act of keeping an organism, a cell, or cell culture in conditions favorable for growth and development.[ii]  For our purposes, incubation means providing favorable conditions for creating.  Looking through the lens of a garden, setting an intention plants the seeds.  Focusing attention on the intention fertilizes and waters the seeds.  Letting go stimulates incubation.

However, a paradox arises as we hold our attention on the intention and simultaneously let go.  The garden metaphor illuminates a stable stance related to these seeming opposites.  From above ground, incubation is a period of no apparent growth even though much happens beneath the soil before the tender shoot pushes to the surface.  Similarly, when we create, incubation is a time of purposefully letting go.  These mental breaks allow connections to link-up below consciousness until new ideas arise in our awareness.  Just as excessive fertilizer burns plants and over-watering drowns them, excessive mental activity burns-out the mind and crowds the spaciousness that liberates intuitive ideas.  Creating demands that we maintain a balance between holding attention and letting go.

We cultivate incubation when we engage in mental rest.  Some activities that promote incubation include sleeping, taking time with family or friends, being in nature, reading a book, watching a movie, or participating in physical activities such as walking, biking, dancing, showering, etc.  Any pursuit that introduces a gap in our focused attention makes space for incubation.

The story of Elias Howe offers an interesting example of incubation occurring during sleep when a creative solution appeared in a dream:

Elias Howe invented the sewing machine in 1845. He had the idea of a machine with a needle which would go through a piece of cloth but he couldn’t figure out exactly how it would work. In his dream, cannibals were preparing to cook him and they were dancing around the fire waving their spears. Howe noticed at the head of each spear there was a small hole through the shaft and the up-and-down motion of the spears and the hole remained with him when he woke. The idea of passing the thread through the needle close to the point, not at the other end, was a major innovation in making mechanical sewing possible.[iii]

Bedroom interior decor with an old fashioned wooden bed with a red cover with hanging lamps on either side and a window with a closed floor length blind

Just as nature supplies the sun, rain and decaying matter that fertilizes our gardens, the Universe contributes elements that expand the possibilities for our creative outcomes.  Go for a run or take a nap and witness how the Universe partners with you as you create.

[i] https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/p/pablopicas108723.html

[ii] incubation. (no date provided). The American Heritage® Science Dictionary. Retrieved July 27, 2017 from Dictionary.com website http://www.dictionary.com/browse/incubation

[iii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_dreams

Picasso photo courtesy of Google

Bed photo courtesy of freeimages.co.uk

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The Creative Process: Giving Thanks

After months of writing about creativity from a conceptual perspective, today I offer a practical example of how I live these concepts.  During the month of June, I consciously applied the steps of the creative process as I planned, prepared and presented a five-day art camp for eight middle school students.

The steps are:

Setting an intention

Focusing your attention on your intention

Letting go of control and allowing the process to unfold

Receiving what the Universe brings you

Giving thanks

My blog posts from February, March, April and May 2017 provide a brief explanation of the purpose and value of each step.

To begin, I set an intention to craft a creative, expansive and fun camp.  Then I strengthened and anchored this intention by choosing the mental and emotional states I wanted to experience as I organized and led the activities.  I selected qualities of happy, masterful, ease, balance, grounded and clear.  These characteristics established a high-frequency vibratory state for my energy field and the entire creative process.

The next step involves maintaining a consistent focus on the intention.  I accomplished this by setting a regular schedule for purchasing supplies, organizing materials and planning lessons.  Every time I worked on this project I revisited the intention for a creative, expansive and fun camp.

Once the week began, I maintained balance between directing and allowing as I provided instructions, emphasized that artistic license urges artists to go beyond guidelines and encouraged the imaginative ideas proposed by the students.  Unexpected outcomes arose daily and hourly.  These unforeseen events provided opportunities to let go of control and receive what the Universe presented.  I frequently had to revise the process, adjust my expectations or let go of my attachment to an outcome.  The artists were even more flexible.  They showed appreciation for the surprises that arose in their work.  I frequently heard comments such as, “It’s not what I expected but I kind of like it.”

Now that the camp is over, it is time to give thanks and celebrate.  Gratitude and celebration signal the psyche and the soul that this particular creative process is complete.  Completion grounds the energy that was generated before and during the camp.  Completion promotes integration of the learning that occurred during the entire process.  Completion brings forth a void or opening that attracts new energy to support the next creative endeavor.  When we forget to consciously acknowledge the completion of our creations, we disrupt grounding and interrupt integration.  We also limit our access to the energy available for the next project.

Gratitude flowed through our closing ceremony as I thanked the students for their great attitudes and excellent cooperation and effort.  This post celebrates the culmination of my efforts as it honors the artists’ creativity and success.  Every student produced three major works: an enlargement of an image from the Sunday comic section of The Seattle Times; a Batik image on a pillowcase and a silk screen design on a T-shirt.  I hope you enjoy seeing their art as much as we enjoyed making it.  The campers and I experienced a creative, expansive and fun week!

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The Creative Process: Receiving What the Universe Brings

To grow, flowers need sunshine and rain.  To grow our creations, we must cultivate a blend of desirable and seemingly less desirable components.  If we think of sunshine as seeing our intentions come to life, we must also expect downpours of unexpected outcomes.  This is because the act of setting an intention activates a stream of energy that connects present reality with the desired outcome.  Between these endpoints, additional currents enter the flow.  The new streams generate turbulence as they increase the amount of energy.  They also cause disruption as they shift the direction of the flow.  Before they come to life, some of the points between the present and desired realities lie outside of awareness.  We often perceive these unexpected experiences as an endpoint rather than a step along the way.  Turbulence, disruption and unanticipated stepping stones feel like rain on our creations. They often cause us to mistakenly conclude that our desire is beyond our capacity to create. 

When we receive what the Universe brings, the rain of unintended outcomes assists the growth of our creation.  This assistance occurs because

  1. Receiving sustains the flow of energy and
  2. The unexpected outcomes provide feedback about the creative process

In terms of energy flow, when many of us experience an unexpected or unpleasant incident, the first impulse is to resist that circumstance.  However, resistance restricts the flow of energy.  Successful creating requires a strong, consistent energetic stream.  A constricted flow produces a weak, unstable or distorted outcome.  Like martial artists who know how to absorb an opponent’s energy and use it for personal gain, we want to receive what the Universe brings.  Allowing unintended outcomes, free from resistance, permits the consistent stream required for precision in the art of creating.

In addition to supporting the steady flow of energy, a second benefit of receiving what the Universe brings is that unexpected outcomes provide valuable feedback.  They help us refine the intention and they spotlight for us how we are holding our attention.  For example, I work with a client who set an intention to improve her health.  She started a fitness program and altered her diet.  She set a goal to lose 30 pounds.  Every time she lost 10 or 15 pounds, she got excited about her progress and felt confident she would meet her goal.  Unfortunately, situations arose that set her back to her starting weight.  She injured her back and could not exercise.  Her employer assigned new responsibilities that included travel and it was difficult to maintain healthy eating habits when away from home.  Eighteen months passed and she was back at her starting weight.  However, as she looked more closely at her intention, she realized that, despite her weight, the fitness program had improved her health by increasing her strength and stamina.  At the same time, the unexpected outcome of constantly returning to her starting weight helped her refine her intention, specifically targeting her weight.  It also revealed where and how she was focusing her attention.  She was concentrating on the past by thinking of times when she had lost and regained weight.  She was also creating from a platform of worry/failure by believing that this oscillation would always be her relationship with her weight.  Knowing that we create what we focus on, she returned her awareness to the present, released this old belief and replaced it with the awareness that she is capable, tenacious and attractive.  She and I will pay attention to what comes into form with this refined intention and updated perspective.  The new feedback will inform the next spiral of her creative process.

Like the rain that makes flowers grow, turbulence, disruptions and unrecognized stepping stones are an integral part of the creative process.  Eventually a new reality emerges and the energy flows smoothly until ripples of growth reveal that the next creative cycle is underway.

Flower and Stepping Stone images courtesy of freeimages.co.uk

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