Enneagram Creativity Workshop! (Tickets now available)

I'm teaching a brand new workshop on August 11th in Shreveport! Here's why:

It breaks my heart to hear people say, “I’m just not creative.” It actually pains me. 

I’m tired of hearing the Enneagram 6s in my life (all of whom perhaps are more talented than I am) say “I’m not an artist,” and hearing 9’s say they’re not creative when they have some of the most natural creative gifts of us all. Or 3’s wanting excellence in their work but being unwilling to risk vulnerability in the process, or 7’s with brilliant ideas left unfinished, or 1’s too afraid of making mistakes to even start. The list could go on with an example for each Enneagram type (and will at the workshop).

In a basic sense, creativity can be thought of as a way to express who we are. So knowing who we are with the help of Enneagram wisdom can allow us to better express ourselves, which can lead into being known more fully by others and ourselves! Creativity isn’t ever only about expression, but also about discovery. We learn about ourselves, others, and our world in the process of creation. To me, creativity is the art of knowing and being known.

I believe that creativity is an innate human capacity, and we are better off when we’re using it. As Brene Brown puts it, “Unused creativity is not benign. It metastasizes. It turns into grief, rage, judgement, sorrow, shame.” In other words, neglecting to use our creativity is not without consequence. It affects our overall health and well being, the quality of our relationships, and the ways in which we contribute to the world.

In this Enneagram Creativity workshop, we'll look at Enneagram basics with an emphasis on how personality influences creativity for each of the 9 types. 

  • Why is it important to make time and space for creativity in our lives?
  • What sort of content do you naturally gravitate toward making? 
  • What are the gifts and challenges that your personality brings to the creative process?
  • How can self-awareness help in overcoming creative obstacles and freeing you up to make the work and life you envision? 

This is just as much for anyone who has ever said I’m just not creative or I’m not an artist as it is for working artists looking for tools to help get past creative blocks and discover new aspects of your work and talents. Prior knowledge of the Enneagram is not required, but familiarity with your type would be helpful...click here for a brief overview of the 9 types.


Want to come? Grab your ticket now...

There will only be 50 seats available, so make sure to reserve yours early!

Enneagram Creativity Workshop
55.00
Quantity:
Purchase Ticket

When: Saturday August 11 , 10am-5pm

Where: The Agora Borealis

Ticket Cost: $55 (Artists of Agora, use your discount code for $5 off.)

*Ticket price includes a local vegan lunch by Go Greenly, a class workbook for note-taking & further study, and discounts on brand new Enneagram products.

**BYOB to enjoy throughout the day!

Hope to see you there!

More info at sarahduet.com/enneagram or feel free to shoot me an email!

Artful Living : Put the Phone Down, Kid

Some thoughts on responsible relationships to technology

jessica-lewis-512224-unsplash.jpg

It seems that the busier we get in our household, the more our addictions to technology flare up. We technically have less time to be on our phones, yet they become the easiest “go-to” for winding down, waking up, or just getting a jolt of dopamine to keep the energy levels up. So we end up alternating between getting things checked off “the list” and staring into a scrolling screen. This leaves very little room for real presence, contemplation, and living into one of our core values in this house – creativity.

In their book Wired to Create, co-authors Kaufman and Gregoire claim that, “A connection to our inner selves and our stream of consciousness is undeniably what makes us creative.” How do we then foster this connection to our inner selves that fuels creativity while carrying around these always-available distraction devices in our pockets? How do we shift our attention away from what draws us compulsively and toward what we more intentionally choose?

Paying attention is a lost art. It is a skill that we now must develop – like a muscle that tends to atrophy in our society of “constant semi-attention” (as Thomas Merton put it), or in the midst of what neuroscientist Richard Davidson calls our “national attention deficit.” We go to bed with our phones in our faces, and they’re the first thing we reach for upon waking. The average American is spending approximately 11 hours interacting with digital devices, smartphone users check their devices about 150 times a day (or every 6.5 minutes), and someone just invented a flashing nightlight that will alert us to any notifications we might receive while trying to sleep. Great. The busyness of our brains and the pace of our lives is affecting us in every way imaginable, including our physiology. Brain scans show that interacting with our devices activates the reward centers of our brains connected with addiction, and that the same withdrawal symptoms a smoker experiences when quitting cold turkey are present in students who abstain from using technology for only 24 hours.

The access to the mind space we need to create is denied when we’re constantly distracted. Our ability to fully concentrate or connect deeply with much of anything is compromised by our endemic “multi-tasking” – which is actually just alternating our focus rapidly, as it is neurologically impossible to do two things at once. We act mindlessly, often unaware of exactly what we’re doing and even more often unaware of why we do the things we do. We can barely attend to those things outside us without interruption, much less the deeper realities within. 

So how do we re-learn this art of paying attention?

One way is cultivating more responsible relationships with technology. 

I promise I’m no luddite. Our technology makes amazing and important things possible like staying connected with loved ones, connecting with a tribe, creating and sustaining businesses, garnering a group effort for massive social change, pure enjoyment, and making absolutely beautiful, life-enhancing art. But it is a neutral tool in and of itself (and a very young tool relatively speaking) so we must be mindful about how we’re using it and how it’s shaping us. Used mindlessly or for ill will, our devices are just as capable of isolating us to no end and being agents of our destruction as they are of making the world a better, more beautiful place to live. 

So here are a few ideas of how to foster a responsible relationship with the technology at our fingertips:

Maintain screen-free zones. Maybe it’s the dinner table. Maybe it’s your bed. But what will I do for an alarm clock?! (That was my first thought anyway.) Apparently people still sell real alarm clocks. Who knew? Maybe it’s the car. Maybe it’s the shower. There needs to be at least one zone––be it physical or time-based––that is kept screen-free as a ritual and reserved for direct connection unmediated by a device. It’s a built in element of rhythm that requires you to interact with your own thoughts, feelings, and impulses apart from the crutch of the device, reminds you that you are in fact not a machine, and returns you to the human zone of connection that requires observation, conversation, and empathy. Here’s an idea: Remember when phones were in a fixed location, corded into the wall? What if you made a “phone station” at home where you used and charged your phone, and the phone stayed there instead of being an extension of your body at all times?

Screen time limits. These are popular with children nowadays, but adults can incorporate them as well. Dealing with devices that can be addictive, we can’t rely on sheer will power. We have to set up parameters that help us to thrive, and then abide by them religiously. As someone whose vocation requires ample amounts of screen time, I’ve had to get creative with this. I’m moving as many tasks as I can over to paper that I used to do on-screen––like making to to-do lists, calendaring, and writing outlines or early drafts of a project. 

Blue light reduction. This has changed my life. Apple, Google, and other companies have created features that reduce the blue-light being emitted from your devices. Blue light is part of the visible light spectrum that has a very short wavelength, produces a high amount of energy, and reaches deeper into the eye than some other forms of light. It is being connected with damage to the retina, early development of macular degeneration, and reducing the production of melatonin––the hormone that signals to your body that it’s time to sleep. Using “night-shift mode” (Apple’s name for this feature) or wearing glasses that filter out blue light after 8pm may make your screen look more orange than usual for a few hours, but you’ll cause less strain on your eyes and sleep more soundly. Sometimes I just leave it on all day if what I’m doing doesn’t require accurate color matching.

Breathe. Did you know screen apnea is a real thing? Tech expert Linda Stone describes screen apnea as “the temporary cessation of breath or shallow breathing while sitting in front of screen, whether a computer, a mobile device or a television.”* Breath-holding is associated with all sorts of health problems like decreased effectiveness of the immune system, increased pain, higher heart rates, and higher inflammation levels contributing to obesity, depression, and a myriad of stress-related illnesses. It’s amazing how off our breathing gets during screen use. Just pay attention next time you’re on a device and see what happens to the rhythm of your breath. The good news is we can train ourselves into better breathing habits.

One practice that helps with this is contemplative sitting.

The 20 minute sit is a standard meditation practice encouraged by many teachers and spiritual leaders in varying traditions. There are many ways to approach your sit, but here are two of the most basic options. Firstly, you can focus attention on your breath by finding a comfortable position, feeling your breath as it enters cooly through your nostrils and exits warmly seconds later, noting when thoughts or feelings arise, and each time they do, gently returning your attention to your breath. Or secondly, you can engage in the same process by centering your attention on a sacred or meaningful word rather than simply the breath. Some common choices might be mercy, love, God, gratitude, peace, unity, etc. The great news here is you don’t have to begin with a full 20 minutes. You can work up to that in small increments. Try 5 minutes for a week, then 7 the next week, then 10, 15, and eventually 20. It’s important to remember you can’t be “bad” at meditation! It is far more difficult than it might sound at first, and it is challenging even for experienced practitioners. “Success” is only found in strengthening your muscles of attention by returning constantly to your breath or word, and in what you might discover as you notice what arises in you without judgement.

As we strengthen these muscles of attention we gain the power to more freely choose how and when we engage with our devices, and how and when we don’t – making space for attending to the moment at hand, our inner lives, and the creative work that is ours to do each day.


The above text is an edited excerpt from my in-progress manuscript about artful living through the lenses of creativity, connection, and community. More excerpts to follow in this blog series titled "Artful Living."

Artful Living : Curiosity > Passion

Curiosity has been neglected, even though there are few things in our arsenal that are so consistently and highly related to every facet of well-being — to needs for belonging, for meaning, for confidence, for autonomy, for spirituality, for achievement, for creativity. 
— Todd Kashdan, psychologist 

IMG_5093.JPG

People talk a lot about  finding and following your passion these days, but I have to side with Elizabeth Gilbert on this one. Liz – author of Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear – claims that curiosity, rather than passion, is the key to living an interesting, creative life. 

Following your passion is a romantic pursuit, and if you have a passion – particularly one that somehow easily translates into helping you pay your bills – then by all means go for it. But not everyone knows what their passion is, and even if you do know, passions aren’t really known for their powers of sustainability. I think I’ve had about 150 different passions in my short lifetime. Maybe a couple have been consistently present this whole time, but it’s taken me almost 30 years to really identify those.

Passion or no passion, everyone can be curious. Most of us came by this naturally as children. It’s a capacity we can and must recover in ourselves if we are to realize our creative potential as adults. Remember that game you could spontaneously launch into while riding in the car as a kid? The Why Game

Why is the sky blue, Mrs. Betty? 

Well Sarah, the blue light from the sun collides with molecules in the air and….

But why?

Well the Earth orbits around the sun, and …

But why?

The game could go on forever. It was a playful way to be a pain in the ass without getting in trouble, sure, but I was always somewhat genuinely curious about the answers to all those why questions. I’d surprise myself sometimes by how far the string of questioning could go, and sometimes it’d take me into territory I’d never previously thought to enter. The questions themselves were vehicles into new realms of ideas – and more questions.

Creativity isn’t only about expression. It’s just as much about discovery. And to discover, we must ask questions. Curiosity fuels the art of asking questions. It renders your experience of the world interesting and opens our eyes to the value, depth, and complexity of all that you encounter. It feeds into the art of paying attention, kicking our sense perceptions into high gear and prompting us to collect whatever new information we can about ourselves, another person, topic, place, or activity. 

Eventually, following the trail that your curiosity takes you on may lead to finding “your passion,” and that’s wonderful. Though even if it doesn’t or if it just takes a while, you’ll have had an engaging journey with tons of material for creativity, understanding, and maybe some new friends collected along the way. Even the great Albert Einstein claimed to have little in the way of talent, only passionate curiosity…and look where that got him.

Interesting people are interested people.  Conversely, bored people are boring people.

Are you interested in the world around you? What about the world within you? You never have to be bored again. Get a little curious, pay a little closer attention, and you’ll unlock layers of interesting realities that’ll keep you occupied for years to come. Really. I don’t think I’ve been bored in over 10 years.

Curiosity teaches us a few more things that are essential to artful living. First, curiosity requires humility. To readily seek out more information, you have to admit that you don’t have all the information. Saying “I don’t know” can be so liberating and can lead you into a rewarding process of investigative learning. Additionally, curiosity can form in us a habit of perceiving the unknown with positive regard rather than with fear or disdain. Our life can expand as we follow our curiosity rather than shrink around increasingly rigid boundaries of what’s right or wrong, safe or unsafe, for you or against you. The expert on this, Elizabeth Gilbert, even goes so far as to claim that a creative life is “any life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear.” Finally, curiosity forms us in the way of empathy – which begins with asking yourself what it might feel like to be another person. Connection through this curiosity about each other must start with curiosity about ourselves. We must have some honest grasp on our own felt experience to have something with which to relate to another’s experience.

So how do you cultivate curiosity?

Here are two practices that might be helpful:

  • Midrash. I borrow this term respectfully from the Jewish tradition. One type of midrash in Judaism includes investigating a scriptural text by asking every possible question one can come up with about it. This process inspires theological creativity, often resulting in the rabbis writing additional parables and stories to fill in the gaps  of a text or to shed new light on it. No questions are prohibited and no one right answer is expected to surface. The text is the beginning of generative conversation in this tradition, unlike in Christianity where it tends to be the end of conversation, purported as the final word. I find this approach fascinating and invaluable not only in relation to sacred texts. I think this is a practice with which we can engage many things. Are you confused about a situation? Sit down and write out as many questions as you possibly can about it. See where it takes you. Working on a project? Don’t understand a pattern of behavior you keep repeating? Not sure what to believe about something? Making a big life decision? Don’t understand a friend or family member? Midrash it. It takes some practice to build up these curiosity muscles. Sometimes I’m appalled by how few questions I can come up with initially, but stick with it. It’s worth the effort. 

 

  • Beginner’s Mind. The great Christian mystic, Meister Eckhart, once said, “Be willing to be a beginner every morning.” This wise instruction is an echo of the Zen Buddhist concept of beginner’s mind. Think about how you approach subjects or activities when you are a beginner versus when you feel like an expert. What’s different about the two postures? A beginner’s mind lacks preconceived notions, prejudices, and judgements. It is present to the moment, open to the experience, and ready to learn. This mindset breeds curiosity, creativity, and forming deeper connections with those around you. An expert’s mind is fixed. Its perceptions are not easily altered, and it is all but shut down to change, novel observations, or new lines of questioning. Where in your life would you benefit from a renewal of this beginner’s mindset? Perhaps write Meister Eckhart’s quote on a notecard and place it somewhere you will see it each morning reminding you to approach your day as a beginner. See what opens up for you! I'll be doing the same.

*offer good through Jan. 28, 2018


The above text is an excerpt from my in-progress manuscript of a book about artful living through lenses of creativity, connection, and community. More excerpts to follow in this blog series titled Artful Living.