This week I am delighted to be joined by Claireylove, a lifelong poet and teacher in training who shares her own insights of how she brings more calm in to her everyday life for the Calm Soul Journal Interview series.
Tell us a little bit about yourself...
Above all, I’m a poet who’s fascinated by our ongoing journeys of becoming who we are, and the moments of grace which bless and guide us along the way.
I live in Birmingham, UK, with my husband and our youngest son, who’s fourteen and our three scrappy tabby cats. Our eldest son started university in Scotland in September, so this autumn has been a time of adjustment to this new era in our home life. I call it my wild woman phase.
Like many gentle souls, I’ve written poetry since I was a teenager. But for me, it’s a practice that’s never gone away. I’ve had some success in publishing in small literary magazines, but there have been times in my life that I have found the whole process of submission and the rejection that comes with it, too distracting.
Poetry is about connections and their ambiguity: how meaning, sounds and images create associations and how these associations are interpreted. Writing poetry can help us to make connections about the events and patterns in our lives. It strengthens our intuition and satisfies our souls’ deep need for spiritual meaning
I’ve shed previous roles of daydreaming school girl, riot girl literature student, stay at home mom and dependable but depressive administrator, and now I’m embracing my next step along the journey: training to teach and creating a poetry shaped life.
What does having a calm soul mean to you?
A calm soul means first of all accepting myself ~ my strengths and my weaknesses, my hopes and disappointments. It’s part of a bigger picture. It’s hard to have that moment of peace if you know that you’re in a job that deadens you or your finances are a mess. A calm soul moment is a moment in a life that has clear values and clear direction. You don’t necessarily need to know where you are going, but you need to know your direction of travel.
What does a calm soul feel like? It’s like the gentle, rippling water of a duck pond ~ sunlight dappling the surface, ducks and geese gliding along together all carrying the potential for flight at any moment. When I’m fully present like this it means I am ready to write a poem and learn a lesson.
How do you find calm in your everyday life?
I am learning to go easy on the expectations I have of myself.
As a lifelong, card carrying introvert, I just recently I noticed the weirdest thing: I had become calmer during my ‘outside’ work life, more so than when I was working from home (my work life is split pretty evenly between the two.) This is disastrous, as without these calm soul moments the poetry doesn’t rise to the surface. Anxiety blocks the flow of my creativity.
Unpicking this, I realised that how calm I am depends on how much pressure I put on myself. So, in working outside of the home, my work is fully pre-prepared (on a good day!), and I know that there is nothing else I can do other than deliver well and be positive. However, I’d got into a rut at home that meant daily to do lists were really the size of weekly to do lists and I was putting pressure on myself to be ridiculously productive.
So this is my current practice of calm. I try to have a sense of realism when creating my to do list. I keep in mind the bigger picture of the direction of my travel, rather than scattering myself with lots of little tasks. In those moments when I slip and I realise I am expecting too much of myself, I pull back and remember to above all be gentle with myself. Without the gentlest of expectations of myself, it’s like I chase the poetry away. And there is no poetry shaped life without poetry at its heart.
What happens when you lose your sense of calm?
The hissing snakes of my to do list rise and spit in my mind. I get a sense that I am super human and expect more from myself than I’d ever dare to expect in others. Because I am naturally empathetic, sometimes I find myself trying to be all things to everybody. When my offers of help to other people affect my own work schedule I know I have a problem. It’s not pretty. Especially when I shame myself by thinking of the people I imagine I am letting down.
This is part of my transition from dependable but depressive administrator to wild woman creatrix.
Please can you share any particular calming ritual or process that you have?
A calm soul starts with a calm mind, and for me this means meditative prayer. It’s a recent practice (I started this summer and used Morton T. Kelsey’s ‘The Other Side of Silence’ as a guide). At first, during these moments of meditation, my mind was a writhing pit ~ full of fragments of my to do list rising with a sense of pressing urgency.
I’ve learnt that noticing this mithering, worried part of mind is part of the process of meditation! So, in those first few minutes, what has been dominating my thinking will rise to the surface. I’ll know then what has to be dealt with or challenged and let go of throughout the rest of the day. For the rest of the meditation I ask the Holy Spirit to fill me and guide me throughout the rest of the day. Writing and becoming is a deeply spiritual process
At the end of my ten minutes I will intercede with any prayers for others that are on my heart. I find the best time to journal is just after meditating. It gives me a clear sense of what I need to focus my mind on to move forward.
What one thing/bit of advice would you recommend to others?
If you are struggling with high expectations of yourself and the anxieties that come with this ~ try meditation.
I have a Christian meditation practice but there are so many to choose from which relate to different spiritual practices, or none at all. Do a little bit of internet research and you’ll find guidance for trying a type of meditation that will suit you.
Be prepared to be surprised at what the conscious stilling of your mind will bring up. If you feel that something has been holding you back, then practising meditation is almost certainly going to bring up that mysterious holding force and help you to get a clearer look at it.
I benefit from meditation because it has helped me to see how rotten some aspects of my thinking about myself had become. For some time I worked a job role that expected me to put other employees and the needs of the organisation above any of my own needs. It affected my self-confidence at a deep level of thinking about myself. Improving this thinking through meditation has given me some clarity and is improving my intuition, helping me to own my new path of writer and teacher. It is hard to be intuitive when you have low self-esteem because it is impossible to see yourself clearly. Use meditation as an opportunity to learn about yourself and get a clearer idea of the calling upon your life
Finally though, don’t have too high expectations of what your mediation practice will actually look like!
Even on a good day, meditation might go something like this:
A massive thank you to Claire for sharing so much about her approach to calm living in this interview. I highly recommend her poetry, it's the best soul balm this side of Brum. I especially love Will not accept gravity ~ my favourite poem of last year.
Claireylove is a teacher and poet charting a journey of becoming and moments of grace along the way. She shares her poetry shaped life daily on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/claireylove/ and weekly on the blog www.claireylove.wordpress.com.