Radiant Practice #4: The Artist’s Date

One of the most inspiring things I took away from reading Julie Cameron’s game changer “The Artist’s Way” was the concept of the artist’s date. As part of each week’s assignment, we were told to take ourselves out on a date. It didn’t have to be fancy or expensive, just a time once a week to go on an interesting or inspired outing.
At first, the dreaded “shoulds” came up. “I should be working right now, instead of taking myself out” or “I should hurry up and get this date over with since the house is so messy” or a bunch of other negative self-talk. The idea of taking myself out on a date seemed silly, extravagant even. Especially since we are struggling with money, spending even a small amount of it on just myself seemed selfish.
But I took on the challenge whole-heartedly. I began taking myself on outings. I would scour the internet to find free or cheap events, discounted museum days, outdoor places I had never been to and just about anything out of the normal routine of my work/school day. I penciled them into my planner as if they were important meetings and I stood by the commitment (even if it meant leaving my “real” date buddy home!) As I began to take these dates more seriously, I began to take my self-care more seriously as well.
I realized that I didn’t spend much time just listening to my intuition, body, desires and heart. During the dates, if I wanted to stop by a store and spend an hour just perusing the goods, I did so, without worrying about the time constraints I would have felt had I not been solo. If I felt an intuitive pull to walk down a certain street I would follow, not having to advise someone else about the new plan. If I desired to eat a doughnut while watching a really silly movie at the theater, I enjoyed it, without feeling embarrassed or defensive about how I sometimes like to spend my down time.
The process of the artist’s date allowed me to respect time by myself, to understand what I need on a regular basis and to begin to provide for those needs, in a fun, creative and inspiring way.
Previous artist’s dates have included:
 
fun magazine reading and a chai out in a rose garden
practicing walking meditation in a sacred labyrinth
taking a peaceful nap among the trees, soaking in the sun on a comfy blanket
I have been practicing this ritual for about a year, although there have been windows of time where I have either been too busy/stressed/sad to go on one or where I completely forgot. And even throughout this difficult time we have had since we moved here, the artist’s dates have been my comfort, my joy and my creative leap into a little piece of the unknown.
What do you think about the artist’s date? Do you take yourself out and if so, what kinds of things do you do?

Radiant Practice #2: Daily Outdoor Time

I consider this daily practice one of the most important ways to restore health and happiness. Being outside in nature does so much for your spirits and your body. When you develop a regular practice of spending time outside, you become more aware. Of the birds chirping, of the wind rustling, of the warmth of the sun shining upon your face. This awareness boosts our vitality, our presence in this world and actually changes the chemical balance of our bodies! When we spend time in mindful awareness, especially outdoors in a natural environment, our neurotransmitter levels shift, flooding our systems with serotonin (“the happy hormone”) and reducing our levels of cortisol (“the stress hormone”). This balances our GABA levels, allowing for more restful sleep and a stronger immune system.

On a more emotional level, getting outside (especially when you are down) can help tremendously with issues and problems you may have in your life. I know from personal experience, when I am feeling really depressed I don’t want to go outside. But those are the times that you should definitely be out and about! Taking a walk to my neighborhood park or by the surrounding area of redwoods by my old house (boy, was I lucky in Berkeley!) did wonders. When you participate in nature, you begin to remember our part in this Universe and suddenly, your problems don’t seem so soul-crushing anymore. It gives the great gift of perspective and when done on a regular basis, can restore your outlook on life in many important ways.

What about if you live in a city? Well, for me (now living in downtown San Francisco), finding just one spot that I can go to is all I need. I retreat to my (tiny) back yard and sit on a wicker chair. I close my eyes, bask in the loving energy that the sun radiates down to us and practice deep breathing. Being aware of all that is around me and of my place in the macrocosm of the Universe, I am able to process my emotions, feelings and experiences in a healthy and healing way.

So try it out. It may just be a walk around your block while you notice little flowers by the curb. Or it may be to sit in your favorite park, or the garden of your local house of worship. Even practicing this exercise while waiting on a busy street for the bus can be extremely beneficial, as the incredible gift of our planet is always and forever surrounding us with love and care.

 

[incredible photo of Oregon from Bliss Blog ]