The Voice Within
A blog by Mary McDowall
I have to admit that a few years ago the first thing I thought of was the logic game Mastermind by Parker. I'm actually pretty good at it. Then my geeky side would bring to mind, pun intended, the talent of Star Trek’s Mr. Spock and his mind-meld technique.
But before the game and before the science fictional talent, a man named Napoleon Hill coined the term master mind (two words) in reference to "The coordination of knowledge and effort of two or more people, who work toward a definite purpose, in the spirit of harmony." The concept grew and caught on and today people all around the world meet in master minds. Some are large groups, while others are small and exclusive. Today people meet not only in person but also through online groups and with video conferencing.
For some, the term master mind brings forth images of men in business suits, high power and high pressure. For others, what comes to mind are informal groups or circles of people with similar interests and pursuits looking to share information and receive support.
I've had the opportunity to participate in both large and small with varying degrees of formality. And I always felt that something was missing. Something that I couldn't put my finger on. Something that would make the difference in how I could best participate and benefit.
Then at the beginning of 2015, I connected with another Master Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coach™, Kathy Kane. Little did we know then where that collaboration of minds would lead. We met to discuss master minds and how to design one that better supported creative people and the non-linear creative process. That meeting of the minds turned into something greater than we could have imagined. And we both have big imaginations!
The result was a master mind like no other. A KMI Master Mind.
First, we looked at all the things we liked about master minds (connection, community, idea development, accountability). Then we removed the things that didn't feel right. High pressure from unrealistic expectations and a self-imposed sense of feeling overwhelmed by the need to keep up with the Jones.
Next we added in creativity -oodles of it - in the form of creativity tools, idea generation and elevation. We included creativity in the setting and structure with opening and closing rituals that included guided relaxations. We embraced the Kaizen approach of getting things done through small questions and small continuous steps. We found this way to be fun and filled with self-compassion. We found ourselves enjoying the process more and focusing less on a rigid end result. We began to build a steady momentum towards our goals, one that was easy to maintain and sustain.
But that's not all. We wanted to feel a sense of accomplishment during the master mind itself and not leave it with an even longer to do list. So we added Parallel Universe Time™, a tool created by Jill Badonsky, founder of Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coaching™. In each master mind session there is time dedicated to taking action - to taking a small step or two or three. We wrapped all this goodness up in a flexible structure which follows a set agenda but leaves room for creative and intuitive detours.
And there is so much more ... Click here for the juicy details about our upcoming Your Creative Edge: a KMI Master Mind.
Sometimes the voice inside my head is strong and clear. Ideas flow like the purple ink in my fountain pen onto the page. There is no hesitation. The words take on a life of their own, sharing their story. I marvel as they appear effortlessly before my eyes.
Other times, writing is a chore - a task that demands attention, irrespective of creative inspiration or convenient timing.
Today as I write this blog post I’m reminded that writing is a creative process. Being in the creative process can feel fluid and magical like the first example. It’s also perfectly normal, depending on where I am in the process, for it to feel hesitant, reluctant and painfully like a bandage slowly being removed.
One thing that I’ve found that helps me to be and to stay in the creative process – the smooth flowing part of the creative process – is connection and community. The energy held and generated by a circle is simply wonderful. It helps to maintain my focus, clarify my intention and increase my productivity.
In geometry a circle is sacred. It represents “the one” from which all other geometric shapes are derived. Its design lets it expand or contract and still maintain its shape. It is the perfect shape for meeting as it allows all participants to be seen and heard. A circle creates a container for collaboration, communication, connection, confidence and confidentiality. It’s like a cauldron overflowing with creative energy that is accessible to all.
The circle is one of my favourite ways to be in connection with others.
That’s why the 4Rs Circle at The Purple Ink Café is organized this way. The 4Rs: Relax, Read, Review and Research is about coming together to create time and space in your busy day or week to relax and finally tackle that stack of books or backlog of blogs you want to read. It’s about refreshing a topic or skill by reviewing courses and resources you already have on hand. And if you have a presentation, a project or a personal passion that needs some research, this circle is for you too.
Why join a circle? It’s a bit like doing yoga or writing or meditation or any solo activity. You can do all of these on your own, but the structure of a class often makes it easier to show up and the company can make it fun. Even more, it’s the energy of the group that helps to sustain our focus, to hold a pose a little longer, strengthen our writing muscle or push through a block that may have been holding us back.
I invite you to check out the 4Rs Circle. There is a free kick off event Thursday August 18 at 11 am ET on Zoom. Come and experience the energy of the circle.
I’m not a researcher. But Research seems to go along with Read and Review. And if I have to research something, I enjoy it a lot more if I’m Relaxed.
Research isn’t just for academics. When you need to make a major purchase, decide where to take your vacation, even the decision to join the 4R Circle, you will probably want to do a little research before finalizing your decision.
Perhaps you are researching a topic for a presentation you are giving. Or developing a program or product that requires a deeper knowledge base from which to draw? Research is also what can elevate an idea or an inspiration into a passion and, for some, is just a pleasurable pursuit.
Regardless of the reason, your research requires resources and information. It needs your time and focus. And depending on the level of detail or the size and scope of your research you may need a system for capturing and organizing your research for easy and flexible recall.
Along with the need for research may also come resistance. Resistance to get started or even to finish. Kaizen small steps can help by breaking down the task at hand into ridiculously small increments. So small that any feelings of overwhelm, procrastination or self doubt (aka that lovely inner critic we all have) don’t get triggered.
Having structure, a regular time and place to complete your research is also helpful. The 4Rs Circle can provide the time and the place for you to focus in on your research. Being in community with others in the circle offers gentle accountability and support. In the 4R Circle I’ll also be sharing some capture tools with which you can explore and experiment.
A no-cost kick off event is being held on Thursday, August 18 at 11am ET. We will meet at The Purple Ink Cafe via the magic of Zoom. CLICK HERE to RSVP. I hope to see you there.
The third R in the 4Rs Circle stands for review.
Now this might not be the sexiest R word in the dictionary. There were actually a few other Rs that auditioned really well to be one of the 4. Review edged them out and this is why.
When you first read the word review did it trigger anything for you? For me, I thought of reviewing notes for tests and exams. And then work proposals or other people’s work. To be honest, neither of these thoughts, although practical and necessary actions, really grabbed my attention. Well at least not in the jump-up-and-down-I-can-hardly-wait-to-dive-right-in kind of way.
Part of the pull review had was how it relates back to the ‘open loops’ I mention in the blog post R is for Read. So many times I’ve signed up to take yet another course only to lose interest, motivation or run out of time to finish it. The result is a pile of unfinished courses and a basket full of open loops. These unfinished courses often leave me feeling disappointed in myself and let down by whatever promise “said course” was to deliver.
So why did I feel compelled to take all these courses? Some were of interest but were about topics that I wanted to feel more competent, in control and confident about. What a course does is provide structure and an easy way to access the material, which in many cases is often available for free in libraries and on the internet. Courses often come along with a time table, exercises and assignments, audio recordings and or videos to watch. When presented all nicely formatted they appear organized and very doable. But when I try to fit them into life, they can send me into overwhelm.
Why review is important is because I probably don’t need to take another course. I need to review the materials that I already have. I get to refresh my knowledge of the information I’ve already read. I even get to review what is still current and of interest and release the rest.
The 4Rs Circle isn’t another course. It is a way to add flexible structure and gentle accountability so you can begin to close your open loops. It provides a platform that makes it easy to show up for yourself and your work. There is also a connection to creative and communal energy when you are part of a circle that can be channeled into focused action.
If you would like to experience a 4R Circle, please join me for a no-cost kick off event on Thursday, August 18 at 11 am ET. CLICK HERE to RSVP.
Reading is an essential skill in our busy, fast paced, information driven world. We read all the time, sometimes without even realizing it. And yet, sometimes we forget to make time just to read.
If you are a book lover like me, you probably have more books than you have time to read. Perhaps you collect books or can’t pass by a bookstore without going in “just to look”. I love independent bookstores and used bookstores the best. (Though I must admit Amazon is pretty good at getting my attention and my money too!) The result, and with no judgement please, is stacks and bookcases full of unread and partially read books. And don’t get me started on my Kindle list!
Books provide me with many things from information and resources to an escape to new worlds or eras in time. They give me pleasure and comfort, ideas and company. My well worn and well read books are companions to my imagination and my heart. My unread and partially read books are opportunities and adventures waiting to be explored.
These same books can also trigger what David Allen author of Getting Things Done calls open loops. Unconscious or conscious demands for my attention to complete a task; in this case reading those books. They also can be a source of clutter when I get too many books. They begin to feel like clutter when I can no longer easily find and care for them. Or when I keep them just in case I might read them again when I know that I will re-read only a few.
Maybe like me, you also need time to catch up on your reading, or to review training or course materials to refresh your knowledge. Perhaps there is an idea, a project or a decision that needs some research.
So what to do? What if each week you could create some time and some space to relax and to read; to review and to research? How would that feel? How could you make this easier and fun?
My solution is to offer you The Purple Ink Cafe 4Rs Circle. This is a 4 week guided circle that creates time and space in your week to relax and read, review and research. Each circle begins with a guided relaxation to relax the body and engage your imagination and creativity. In each circle there will be a tip or short exercise with which to play or experiment. And there will be focused intentional time to read, review, and research as we “work” independently, while holding space for each other.
Whichever R you choose to focus on, you will feel the benefits of getting something done. But I bet you will also feel Relaxed, Realigned and Refreshed!
If you know someone who also might enjoy this opportunity please help spread the word.
To find out what this is all about join me at The Purple Ink Cafe, Thursday, August 18 at 11 am ET for a no-cost kick off event. You need to RSVP HERE to get the call-in information. If you find it helpful and want to continue, its only $89 and a commitment of 4 more weeks.
Today I Switched It Up (part of a free e-course available at The Purple Ink Cafe). Instead of going straight to my desk and my computer, I took my morning coffee out onto the covered wrap around veranda. I sat at my grandmother’s enamel table with a dollar store notebook and my purple fountain pen and I wrote.
I did my version of Julia Cameron’s morning pages as I steered myself away from complaints and to dos towards appreciation for my life and the options I have just by the virtue of when and where on this planet I was born.
Having choices is more than just opportunities. This morning I chose not to see the endless work and upkeep that living in an old house (circa 1889) includes. Nor the long to do list of personal and professional tasks needing my attention. Instead I took a little time to relax, to connect to my inner world and to my grandmother through the written word.
I don’t write often enough, although I’m beginning to write more with the support and structure of The Purple Ink Cafe’s Writers’ Circle. Meeting just once a week with others to spend intentional time writing is surprisingly powerful and I’m noticing its influence spread into the rest of my week.
The key is to relax. When our bodies and minds are in a relaxed state we can effortlessly tap into the wealth of our inner knowledge, vivid imagination, vibrant creativity and the rich wisdom of our subconscious mind. In this relaxed state, time can stop or slow down and space can open up and expand as we connect with our creativity. We enter into the state of flow. We all experience the state of flow differently, but what’s common is the ease, joy and effortless productivity that results.
Relax is the first R in a The Purple Ink Cafe 4Rs Circle, because who doesn’t want to work and get things done with ease, joy and effortless productivity? The 4Rs is a 5 week guided circle that let’s you relax into your creative flow and find time and space in your busy week to read, review and research. In a shared and supportive space you get to Read that mounting stack of books, blogs and best sellers. It’s an opportunity to spend some focused time to Review materials and resources from courses you’ve taken or are taking. Reviewing keeps information fresh and also allows time for assessment to release materials or books no longer relevant or useful. And if you need to do some Research for a book or a project this is a great time to take action and get started.
Details for The Purple Ink Cafe 4Rs Circle coming to a blog post near you soon.
I recently attended the kick-off event for a Writers’ Circle at The Purple Ink Cafe led by our own Kathy Kane. One of the very first things she said was “If you are here, you are a writer.”
I found this oddly comforting.
I am a writer.
This is not how I would have described myself before. But I do write. I write this blog. I write when I create new courses, website content and even new creativity tools.
I am a writer.
I don’t need to be a great writer, or even a good writer to write. It is the practice of writing that creates good writers. And the Writers’ Circle is an opportunity to hone this skill in a creative and supportive space with other writers.
I found that as I wrote, I could tap into my unconscious thoughts, and ideas began to magically appear. I was fascinated by how my brain effortlessly transformed my thoughts into hand actions that formed symbols on the page. Symbols that convey meaning to a reader and bring my ideas to life.
Before this experience, to call myself a writer felt like a stretch, perhaps even pretentious. But by calling myself a writer, I am not comparing myself to the great authors. I’m celebrating the courage and the patience of creating a habit and building a writing practice to bare my creative spirit. It is about trusting a process; a process so seemingly ordinary in our society that it is often taken for granted.
Writing is a truly wonderful outlet for creative expression. One that I long denied myself because I didn’t think of myself as a writer.
What a wonderful gift to be able to call oneself a writer. What a wonderful experience being part of a writing circle.
Are you a writer?
It’s not too late to sign up if you would like to join the Writers’ Circle at The Purple Ink Cafe. Click here for the details. I hope to see you there.
What do Kaizen and Mouse Poo Have in Common?
Other than being small, Kaizen and mouse droppings were the impetus I needed to tackle my clutter and clear my space.
As an introvert I need my space. I crave space. I long for a special space to call my own.
That special space came to me, via my husband, who gifted me with what I like to call my Studio Cottage. At our marina there are two main buildings. When a long term tenant moved out of one, I moved into their office space ... a room build within a large unheated quonset hut boat shed. One wall is curved with two windows looking out onto Georgian Bay. I painted it bright happy colours and had a new floor installed. I swore that I would keep this sacred space clean and clear of clutter.
Several years later, many projects plus and the selling of my childhood home found that longed for sacred space a repository of stuff.
This past winter for the first time, mice found their way in. They explored every inch and excreted everywhere. Did I mention I have a phobia about mouse poo! Ugh. The combination of cumulated clutter and mouse droppings was too much, too overwhelming, way too big of an energy drain and so I just shut the door and walked away.
But as the weather warmed the space once again beckoned to me.
I decided to use my Kaizen training and start small. First I just thought about how I wanted the space to be. I would mentally rearrange the furniture. Small thoughts are so less overwhelming then big thoughts. Clean one window sill was so much easier to contemplate than cleaning the whole space.
Then I added some small questions. How did I want to feel in this space? Not resentful and angry at the mice but creative, inspired, calm and rested. How could I feel more of the latter and less of the former? The great thing about small questions is they don't require an answer right away. Once asked, the brain percolates and ponders to produce plenty of possibilities.
Next came small steps. Small steps helped me to get started. They helped me to break through the resistance I was feeling about tackling what seemed like such a huge and impossible task. So with broom in hand I began a little at a time over, several days.
I actually started to thank the mice because it made throwing things out so much easier. Those ancient unfired pottery creations lost all appeal once they had mouse poo in them. And so the contaminated objects found their way, one by one, into the garbage bin.
As the space became cleaner and clearer I started rearranging the furniture and fixtures. I took some pieces out and swapped others for items that fit my needs and space better. Is it perfect? Nope. But it is so much closer. And that is really what Kaizen is all about, moving in a positive direction closer and closer to your ideal. The goal is not about reaching an ideal but growing and being enriched by the process of moving continually towards it.
What I find so wonderful about the Kaizen approach is that using it reduces fears that can paralyze or overwhelm us. I can be far more productive taking small actions and celebrating with small rewards, like time in my hammock, then in the past when everything had to be perfect or not worth doing at all.
In the near future, Donna Mills and I will be inviting 4 people to help us test out our creative Kaizen-based approach to clearing clutter: The 10 C's of Clutter Clearing: a KMI Master Minding Circle. The first two C's are curiosity and compassion. If you are curious and are looking for a more compassionate way to clear your clutter drop me an e-mailand I will be sure to send you details about the course.
I'm currently reading Quiet !mpact: How to be a Successful Introvert by Sylvia Loehken. She totally normalizes being an introvert and offers great strategies for different real life situations. One challenge I have as introvert is talking about myself and what I do in the world. The following list gives you a little glimpse about me.
8 Things + 2 About Me
I received a newsletter from someone whose work I follow this week promoting her master mind groups. My response after reading the headline was two-fold. Yay! Someone else is promoting master minds too. And Yikes! She's promoting the same thing I am and at the same time.
As I read further the 'Yikes" began to fade away and lose energy because what my partner Kathy Kane and I offer is so very different.
In the newsletter, the author described what I think may be a lot of people's experience with master minds. It talked about the pressure this person felt being in the "hot seat" and how being in a master mind can be difficult and feel uncomfortable. Even if the benefits outweigh these factors, why would anyone want to even consider a master mind like this? Especially since there is a kinder, gentler and equally powerful alternative; a KMI Master Mind.
The basic premise of a master mind is to gather people together and harness the skills, expertise, resources and connections to form a "super" or "master" mind to advance an idea or resolve an issue. Master minds work and they have been around for centuries. Often they are used within a business context, but just about any area of interest can be the foundation of a master minding circle.
What makes a KMI Master Mind different? A KMI Master Minding Circle is infused with the Kaizen philosophy and creativity. This combination is a dynamic fusion of being in the process and getting things done in ways that build sustainable momentum. It is process focused not results driven; creating opportunities for progress that are sustainable because you won't burn out from high pressure, competition and unrealistic expectations. Instead you get to experience joyful abundance and the fringe benefits, as Jill Badonsky calls them, of being in the creative process.
If you currently lead groups or want diversify your 1:1 offer, I invite you to check the KMI Master Mind Facilitator certification training. The experience is rewarding for both the facilitator and the group members. And I'm not just saying that because I co-created this master minding model. You can find out about the training details here or leave a comment below and we can connect. You can also experience the KMI Difference on our free Mini KMI Master Mind Monday calls. The next one will be Monday, March 21 @ 1pm ET at The Purple Ink Cafe (Zoom room: 847-711-436).
I share how I see the world through everyday topics that connect me to my creativity - my challenge with clutter, master minds, ideas, strategies and process - mostly though the lens of my kaizen training.