Wednesday, October 24, 2018

What role does inspiration play in your life? Your work?

Reflections from the Community of Practitioners at The Resiliency Center:

Brittiney George –  I'm inspired by my clients...their strength, resilience, and hearts and tapping in to things that personally inspire me helps me to show up in my work and my life with wonder and curiosity and keeps me motivated when things feel hard.

Elizabeth Campbell – What I find inspiring is being on the journey with a client when they move through a challenge that has been a struggle for them in the past.  I also find the joy that children bring to every moment very inspiring!

Rachel Kobin – The only addition to the bumper of my car is a magnet with the word “inspire.” The word itself comes from the latin inspirare, which translates as “to breathe into.” As a leader of creative writing workshops, and as an editor, “ I breathe into the embers of writers’ imaginations to unleash the fire that already existed inside them. Inspiring others is my purpose. 

Elizabeth Venart – Inspiration is the fuel that keeps me resilient in my work and life. I am inspired and awed by the resiliency of people to overcome hardship, heal, and find new meaning and joy following extremely painful experiences in life. I feel incredibly fortunate to have the privilege of doing the work I do. My work inspires me as I witness courage, truth, triumph over adversity, transformation of pain into freedom, peace, meaning, and joy.

Heather Hill - When I witness kindness and compassion between clients in group, clients who are overcoming adversity and demonstrating courageous vulnerability, I am inspired to continue working in this field.  I often get inspired by my individual clients, with histories of childhood trauma and neglect, who demonstrate incredible resiliency and are committed to raise their children with love, devotion, and the fierce belief that they can do better than their parents did. Their courage in working through their traumas and untangling the impact of the past on the present inspires me to work hard and believe that goodness can prevail.

Tracie Nichols - Inspiration is a primary motivator for me in both life and work. 

What Places or Activities Refill Your Well When You're Seeking Inspiration?

Reflection from the Community of Practitioners at The Resiliency Center:

Elizabeth Campbell – Hiking and yoga refill my bucket when I need inspiration.  I often find the answers I'm looking for when I give myself space in those ways.  I also love working with kids, seeing their joy and hard work in play therapy inspires me daily.

Tracie Nichols - Nearly anywhere outdoors refills my inspiration well. I also love lingering in small art museums. They're digestible. Accessible. And the art feeds my visually inspired soul. 

Brittiney George – For little burst of brain inspiration (and breaks), I love Etsy.  It fascinates me all the creative ways people use different mediums, materials, and color.  For ongoing inspiration, I love to play with new movement tools, toys, and classes. And when I need inspiration at the end of a long day, I like to listen to NPR's podcasts: On Being and Fresh Air.

Elizabeth Venart – Looking out at the ocean and listening to the waves, especially a night under the full moon, the light glistening off the water as the waves roll in. Watching a sunset slowly reveal itself and change, marveling at the colors as they open and unfold in all directions. A walk in the woods. Attending a live music event, especially jazz and blues with soulful singers and spontaneous improvisation of sound – seeing people completely immersed in the feeling of the music and breathing life into it.

What Inspires You? - Reflections by the Community of Practitioners at The Resiliency Center

What inspires you?

Heather Hill – I find great inspiration when running.  I do my best thinking then.  Running, a beautiful place in nature or a piece of beautiful music can all clear my mind and elevate my mood to a higher plane.  If I was given the task to find inspiration tomorrow, I would probably head to the Wissahickon or Peace Valley.  I think in nature we can make contact with our deepest selves and our highest wisdom.  

Dean Solon – I am inspired waking up each morning with the great good fortune of being embodied in human form and of being capable of expressing in this world of activity and phenomena. I am inspired by the big sky above and by the ground beneath my feet and by all the beauty that exists between. I am inspired by the resilience of human beings. I am inspired by the multitude of people who are seeking meaning and connection in their lives.

Brittiney George - Kids, art, nature, and human beings. There are amazing people in this world!

Elizabeth Venart – Sunsets and sunrises. A long walk in the woods on a cool crisp autumn day with its tapestry of red, gold, orange, green, and yellow leaves. Spiritual and nature-based poetry by authors like Rumi, Hafiz, Rilke, Mary Oliver, and John O’Donohue. Music – solo and orchestral, lyric story-telling, enchanting melodies, violins, drums, jazz, and world music. Fred Rogers, Carl Rogers, random acts of kindness, spontaneous laughter, stories of people reaching for their dreams and attaining them.

Barbra Danin - I’m most inspired by new experiences, images, and sensations.  I find traveling (near or far) to be one of the most guaranteed ways of finding inspiration, through the novel visual and sensory stimulation it offers. Reading and films also inspire by triggering my imagination.  I constantly seek inspiration by visiting museums, historical sites, novel restaurants and neighborhoods. What is most inspiring, however, are exchanges with others: sharing ideas, information, experiences and feelings and feeling connected.  

Tracie Nichols – I’m inspired by nature in all ways, but especially by examples of resilience. Trees grown huge despite only being anchored to cliff sides or stream banks by gnarled roots. Seedlings popping up through charred understory after a fire. A young broadwing hawk fending off a trio of crows. I'm also inspired by poetry. Both reading it and writing it. 

Rachel Kobin – Beauty in all its forms: a striking landscape; the angles of a sculpture casting intriguing shadows; music that compels me to stop what I’m doing and feel; writing that expresses the bewildering range of human expression, but above all, witnessing acts of compassion. 

Kristin Fulmer – I am inspired by the amazing capacity of the body, mind, and spirit to self-heal. And if given the opportunity, the body can rebalance itself for complete health, harmony, and happiness.  My job is to support others towards their own unique self-correction. As William Wordsworth stated, “To begin, begin”, so just begin your journey towards wellness as the body, mind, and spirit will fill in the rest.  

Jeff Katowitz – Walks with my dog in the park every morning – starts my day off on the right foot (no pun intended), clears my mind, helps me to focus and provides me with clarity and energy to start the day. Listening to music - particularly artists whose voice and song writing touches me in a way where I feel alive internally and literally provides a spiritual awakening where I feel physically and emotionally moved. Working and building with wood – helps me to feel alive and creative. I can get lost in the moment and will end up creating for hours without realizing any time has passed.  I know that in my future, I will have a wood shop and make furniture for my family and maybe even small row boats!

Kim Vargas – I feel inspired by spending time outside. It’s where I do my best thinking and feel most peaceful. Ideas seem to formulate on their own, without my conscious thought, and solutions present themselves to previously unsolvable problems. The outdoors and nature trigger inspiration in ways I don’t find anywhere else in my life. 

Karen Steinbrecher – Practicing kindness inspires me. When participants in my Qigong classes give me feedback about enjoying the positive feelings when flowing in Qigong movements, as well as an improvement in their wellbeing.  My aches and pains, worries, seem to dissipate when we practice together or when alone.  We heal one another; we are all connected. I love to look out into my garden, appreciate it in all seasons, watching the birds, just enjoying nature. Reading poetry or fiction while I drink my Chai Tea Latte. 

Elizabeth Campbell – Nature, stories about people helping others, stories of healing and strength, and play/fun inspire me.  

Michael Bridges - Two areas I continually return to for inspiration & renewal are nature & poetry. I walk, hike or saunter around Wissahickon Park more days than not each week.
Sometimes, I can have the best of both worlds where poetry & nature come together in twin streams of inspiration, as in the following lines from the wonderful Mary Oliver poem Wild Geese (found here:


Ideas for Inviting Inspiration

by Elizabeth Venart

What prevents us from tuning into the muse of inspiration more? Are we perhaps lulled into complacency by our routines and the constant push to get things done and get from here to there and take care of this and that?  Are we too distracted by internal chatter – our shoulds and those we pick up from others – and the noise of social media and media in general? Inspiration can often strike in a moment, so it isn’t necessarily that we need more time but instead a certain quality of time. We may need to carve out space internally, to invite moments of reflection and the courage to ask the hard questions. Here are some ideas to invite inspiration:

1.     Pay attention to what intrigues you. What kinds of books, movies, biographies, television shows do you find most fascinating? Why? Is this perhaps a rope extended to you from the universe, beckoning you forward? A friend in her sixties recently signed up for a local improv class. She had never done anything like it but felt intrigued by the class when she saw an ad for it. She signed up before her reason or fear could talk her out of it, and now, four weeks in, she loves it!

2.     Pay attention to what excites you – especially your most outlandish dreams. If you won the Powerball tomorrow, what would be the first thing you would change about your life? The second? What new adventures or activities might you pursue? Where would you live? Where would you travel? What is stopping you from pursuing that dream now?  Look for signs to pull you forward into a new reality.  What steps can you take now?

3.     Cultivate a sense of whimsy and play. When was the last time you did something truly silly – for no reason at all? Think Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks, cartoon voices, and fun-loving practical jokes. Seriousness can be heavy, and inspiration requires a certain mental spaciousness that play and laughter can create.  Read More [Insert link to:]

4.     Be a beginner again. It’s easy to stay comfortable in all we know, but our life may be inviting us to step outside our comfort zone and try something new. Have you always wanted to play guitar? Learn to tango? Speak Italian? Experiencing what it is to be a beginner again may open the gates for inspiration to enter.

5.     Dare to dive into mystery. Watch a foreign film without the subtitles.  Take a road trip to a town an hour away where you’ve never been, just to explore. Open a book at random to see what sentences leap off the page for you.

6.     Experiment with new ways to expand your social circle. Other people’s perspectives widen our own. Familiar faces often mean familiar conversations. New people can bring new ideas and new insights. Consider volunteering, joining a group of people with shared interests on, or joining a team at a local sport and social club.

7.     Create an “inspiration routine”.  Kristi Hedges in Harvard Business Review suggests people pick a new activity and then create a structure to build it into their weekly, monthly, or yearly routine. Make your inspiration-seeking activities a part of your non-negotiable schedule: yearly writing retreats, a new museum every quarter, a different professional event every month, reading graphic novels every Thursday morning. Whatever calls to you – create a devoted space for it in your life. William Faulkner has been credited with saying, “I only write when inspiration strikes. Fortunately, it strikes every morning at nine.” Showing up and honoring our commitment to our inspiration routine opens the door for inspiration to enter.  

8.     Be curious. Elizabeth Gilbert believes that curiosity is the secret to creative living. She invites: “Do whatever brings you to life. . . Follow your own fascinations, obsessions, and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.” Following our curiosity can surprise and delight us.  

Elizabeth Venart is the Founder of The Resiliency Center. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Certified EMDR Therapist, and EMDRIA-Approved Consultant who specializes in providing counseling and mentorship to other therapists and working to empower Highly Sensitive Persons to heal the wounds of the past so that they can embrace their gifts more fully and experience greater joy. Learn more at


by Elizabeth Venart

What is inspiration? Is the experience universal – or personal? How important is inspiration in achieving our goals? In experiencing happiness or satisfaction in our lives? Is it possible to seek out inspiration – or must we wait patiently for it to simply “happen”? I’ve been thinking about these questions over the past few months, and, in my curiosity, I asked colleagues and friends for input, re-read favorite authors, and searched  online for recent writings on the topic. I will share with you some of what I discovered and invite you to consider your own answers to these questions . . . and maybe discover some new questions of your own.

First, what do we mean by “inspiration”?

Inspiration can bring profound shifts to how we perceive ourselves, the world around us, and our sense of what is possible – and is felt physically, emotionally, and spiritually. In her book Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert describes universal physical and emotional signals of inspiration as “the chills up the arms, the hair standing up on the back of the neck, the nervous stomach, the buzzy thoughts, that feeling of falling into love or obsession.” New York Times columnist David Brooks describes inspiration as moments when “time disappears or alters its pace.” When I’m inspired, I feel emotionally open, happier, and grateful, more connected to something larger than myself, more motivated to take action, to make a difference. I also experience a feeling of spaciousness in my body: my breath deepens, the tension in my body fades, I relax, my eyes brighten, a smile crosses my face. Inspiration clears the fog and debris from my thinking and the “stuckness” from my body.  The experience is deeply personal. As Lynn Doer, a writer, traveler, and volunteer at several local nonprofits, said, “Defining inspiration is as elusive as holding water in your hand, it happens for an instant; you know what it feels like but it is hard to show to someone else.” 

What is the relationship between inspiration and motivation?

Inspiration seems to be the intersection of awe, emotional resonance, and a strengthened internal motivation to create or act. Inspiration provokes an uplifting surge in energy and enhances our sense of capability in taking meaningful action. Doerr described inspiration as “the divine universe whispering to you to take action.” When the energy of inspiration fills her,  she feels as if she will burst if she doesn’t heed the invitation to act.

What inspires you? 

The experience of being inspired is described in similar ways by people all over the world. However, what inspires each individual – and how they answer the call once inspired – is absolutely unique.  What inspires you? A walk in the woods? The story of perseverance and triumph in the face of adversity? Watching a documentary in which someone ventured outside the expected to a new discovery, a new understanding or scientific advancement no one dreamed possible? There are unlimited invitations to awaken our eyes, hearts, and minds to the vast repository of ideas and insights yet to be imagined. What calls to you?  Eudora Welty wrote:The events in our lives happen in a sequence in time, but in their significance to ourselves, they find their own order. . [in a] continuous thread of revelation.” We are all in the process of discovering . . . ourselves, the world around us, and our own meaning and significance.  

Is it possible that depression is the absence of inspiration? And, if so, can inspiration be sought as a balm when we struggle?

Can we use our past experiences as a kind of personal compass, helping to guide us at times when our mood or outlook feels bleak or blah?  Reflecting back on moments when we did feel inspired, can we recreate the conditions that paved the way for inspiration to appear? I don’t know. Maybe. The possibility of that maybe being a yes is enough for me.  I’ll take the leap. I hope you’ll join me.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Open the Window

Source: Love’s Ripening: Rumi on the Heart’s Journey (2008), Translated by Kabir Helminsky & Ahmad Rezwani, pp.94-95.

There’s a street where the Beautiful One
is known to take a stroll.

When a certain radiance is noticed
through the latticed windows
of that neighborhood,

People whisper, The Beloved
must be near.

Listen: open a window to God
and breathe. Delight yourself
with what comes through that opening.

The work of love is to create
a window in the heart,

for the breast is illumined
by the beauty of the Beloved.

Gaze incessantly on that Face!
Listen, this is in your power, my friend!

Find a way to your innermost secret.
Let no other perception distract you.

You, yourself, possess the elixir,
so rub it into your skin,

and by this alchemy
your inner enemies will become friends.

And as you are made beautiful,
the Beautiful One will become your own,
the intimate of your once lonely spirit.

The Invitaton - by Oriah Mountain Dreamer


It doesn’t interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know
if you will risk
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me
what planets are
squaring your moon...
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.
I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.
It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.
I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.
It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.
I want to know
if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.