What Inspires You?

Declaration:  I am a thief!  No, this is not part of a process in which I’m atoning for pasts transgressions.  I’m proud to say I do it on a regular basis. 

You see, I’m not talking about objects, jewelry, money, cars, etc.  I’m talking about ideas and inspiration. (Believe me, my articles aren’t original.) I’m continually on the look-out for ideas to explore, theories to ponder, discoveries to investigate, views to inspire me.

I hunt for discoveries that stimulate or motivate me.  I examine my habits and those of others, I people watch, I eavesdrop, and I ogle nature.  And I steal ideas to write these articles each week, to develop practices and exercises for clients, and to inspire my writing.

I’m not talking about plagiarizing or claiming an idea or theory espoused by another as mine.  (That was drummed out of me in grad school through fear.) I’m talking about inspiration.  Merriam-Webster defines inspiration as:

  •  “a divine influence or action on a person believed to qualify him or her to receive and communicate sacred revelation
  •  the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions
  •  the act of influencing or suggesting opinions
  • the act of drawing in; specificallythe drawing of air into the lungs 

Two of those definitions address what I’m talking about:  influencing and drawing in.  We are all influenced by others; educational institutions, social and political organizations, media, our family and friends.  We generate our ideas from the influence of others and our community.

However, in our fast-paced, sound-bite, faction-charged, multi-screened, information-overload world, I’m not sure we pause enough to be inspired, to view something from a different perspective or to imagine an object as something else entirely.

It’s difficult to feel inspired or allow your brain the “down-time” to generate ideas when you are operating at “ramming speed.”  One of my favorite true-isms (yes, I know the word should be truths, but I like the sound of true-ism) is “you need to slow down to speed up.” 

A friend related to me how excited she was to learn that research on creativity validates her practice of “percolating,” allowing herself the time to mull over ideas, concepts, partial visions, etc. before she creates a design for a client.  She intuitively knew that she needed to slow down to be able to “produce” an inspiration.

The view of a Himalayan valley patch-worked with rice paddies, the sight of deep crimson flowers that looked like lips ready to be kissed, the spectacle of the rainforest canopy from a small plane, and the colors and complexity of ancient altars have inspired me. 

Meditating in an eighteenth-century monastery or on the top of a sacred mountain in the rainforest, I remembered that many had performed this same act before me and was inspired by my connection to unseen predecessors. 

I recognize that traveling to a foreign country is a luxury not available to all.  However, the possibilities for inspiration can be found at home, at work, in your community and in nature.

To be inspired takes practice.  I search for ideas and am on the daily hunt for random acts of kindness; the scent of a flower; the unusual form of a cloud; the complexity and shape of a leaf; the laughter of children at play; and the actions of people who step across imaginary boundary lines to connect with someone who has a different point of view.

At a time when the world can feel uninspiring or overwhelming, what would happen if you paused for just 30 seconds to look for an inspiring act, to observe the unusual pattern of your half-eaten food on the plate in front of you, or the sensual effect of lacy Japanese maple leaves revealing a blue sky background?

Like trying to observe the Japanese countryside from the window of the bullet train, it’s difficult to discover inspiration if you don’t slow down enough to find it (or for it to find you). 

What inspires you?  What would happen if you paused for 30 seconds just to take-in something that is inspiring?   How often do you ponder the ideas of others?