Coming back to our senses. Coming home to ourselves.



Creative practices and experiences invite all of us to come back to our senses and come home to ourselves. I’ve known this to be true for as long as I’ve been a maker, which is my whole life. And yet, the prospect of opening my maker space has me thinking more deeply about these twin concepts, to consider more fully what they have to offer as I design the curriculum for The Well Within Workshop.

To begin, what does it mean to say that creativity invites us to come back to our senses? Here’s a recent example: I’m sitting here now, writing this post on Wednesday at 2:40 pm CDT, fresh on the heels of learning via email only moments ago that the government-sponsored financial support for small businesses has just run out of funds. My husband and I applied for this support. And by applied, I mean to say that we spent the past 4 days in a frenzied scramble to pull together tax documents; payroll paperwork; bank statements; health insurance premium documentation; all against a disjointed soundtrack of contradictory messages and missives from the Small Business Administration; our local banks; our inflammatory news media; fellow small business owners; interspersed with loving phone calls of care and support from family. We found ourselves relying on bank portals that didn’t work; getting texts from anonymous bankers whom we’ve never met; and realizing that the weekend we’d planned to use in more gratifying ways had now evaporated. We did all of this because we needed to. As small business owners, both my husband and I qualify for these loans, offered in response to businesses whose ability to cover payroll has been devastated by the virus. While not as vital for me, as I am the only employee in my company and still able to generate income, my husband has been paying his company’s crew out-of-pocket since mid-March while unable to work due to the hazards of Corona, a plan that he recognized would soon become unsustainable.

All to learn only moments ago that these efforts were for naught. The funds are gone. The government may authorize additional funds but no one really knows for sure.

But where was I? Oh yes—creativity as a way of coming back to our senses and what this actually means. I’ll tell you what it means to me. To sit down here now and compose this post, to bring all of my thoughtfulness and attention right here, right now, offers an astonishing antidote to the dizzying effects of the past 4 days, with respite that I can feel almost immediately. I’m calmer, clearer. With my spirits lifted, I’m eager to keep writing. My earlier distress and scatteredness have all but evaporated. Out of the corner of my eye I see emails arriving and while there’s some inclination to shift attention—Maybe it’s the bank!—why would I step back into that world of unending reactivity and tension? In the 30 minutes that I’ve spent writing this post, I’ve landed on an activity that’s delivered something as vital as a government-sponsored loan—self-possession. Sovereignty over my time and attention. Something to show for the effort.

Creativity offers this to me so dependably, again and again, and maybe to you, too. I take particular sanctuary in creativity’s ancient through-line. Our ancestors built and baked, wrote and painted their way through life-threatening plagues, pandemics, wars, and complete financial devastation. They signaled slaves to safety via hand-stitched quilts; healed from the horrors of combat through written accounts of peril and survivorship and responded to deadly diseases with the creative co-armament of medicine and music. That we’re all here is living proof of the power of creativity to play an instrumental role in buoying the human spirit and better ensuring not only survival but sustenance. It just did this for me now. I bet it happens for you, too.

I feel better equipped to face the next round with the government and the bank, having tapped this creative well within. Colloquially speaking, I’ve indeed come back to my senses, in this instance, through writing. In future posts, I’ll explore in more literal ways how the act of coming back to our senses relates to creativity more broadly, and how the particular creative experiences and practices offered at The Well Within Workshop encourage and promote this energizing, life-affirming and health-promoting return to our senses in a way that feels like coming home.  I’ll also take a deeper dive into the notion of coming home to ourselves in a farther-reaching way, with its many possibilities and potentials.

I’m wishing you and your loved ones good health, good spirits, and a willingness to reach for whatever creative practices feel most comfortable for you and available to you–I have a handmade quilt at the workshop stitched many decades ago by Elizabeth Kuhns, who cut up her husband’s old suits. It’s well-worn now and of course completely beautiful, as all hand-crafted things that carry history are.

Post Script: My husband tells me that he got an email from the Small Business Administration just now, letting him know that while funds for small-business loans have indeed been depleted, his application came in just under the wire and was approved, that he’ll receive support in the next 10 days.