March 9, 2014

Ablaze with Inspiration: How to Find the Flame.

Photo: Josep Ma. Rosell

“Set your life on fire. Seek those who fan your flames.”

~ Rumi

I’m the kind of person who thrives off of inspiration. Wherever I find it, I seize its presence on my path and do whatever I feel would allow it to grow into something remarkable. Once it grabs me, I become its loyal servant; I live to follow that inspiration and breathe life into its potential.

I’m also the kind of person who—despite my inclination to spend a significant amount of time alone—finds exquisite vitality in meaningful human connection. In fact, much of the inspiration I am so fortunate to find lives vibrantly in what I would call some of the most intelligent and generous souls to walk this beautiful earth.

I’ve been fortunate enough to be surrounded by such amazing individuals for as long as I can remember, and the more consciously I remain open to the inspiration that awaits me, the more it sweeps me off my feet and takes me places I never thought I could go.

And it’s not the kind of inspiration that comes in quick fixes; no, these inspirations amaze me regularly, but never seem to run out of ways to do so. They’re marvelously sustaining.

That being said, there have been times when I’ve been so uninspired that I felt empty, purposeless and exhausted.

I have gone through periods that seemed like lifetimes of a void, not a drop of inspiration in sight. I’ve been surrounded by people so harmful and toxic that they smothered the fire in me for a short while, but I kept going—almost mindlessly—perhaps hoping that something would change.

My flame has been low before—almost nonexistent, completely extinguished.

So, how do we find it again? And where do we begin?

First of all, stop.

I know we’re always told to keep going no matter what, but I don’t know if that’s always the best thing for us to do. Our society tends to value movement over stillness, and while this is wonderful at times, it can be entirely counterproductive for what we need.

Sometimes, it’s better to stop and take in instead of do, to observe gently and employ all the senses to get a grip on where we stand, where our flame once was and where it is now. If we’re moving through everything so rapidly that it’s all a blur, it’s hard to even realize that we might be uninspired; in fact, we probably don’t know how spiritless we’ve become until we pause to take a breath and refocus.

Which leads me to the next step: Breathe.

The best time to breathe is when we’re still (though of course, we breathe all the time—or we should, at least). We can relish every moment of an inhale, knowing that this is the force of life and the catalyst for any kind of action—even no action at all. Likewise, we can milk every deepening of the exhale as it completes the circulation of sustenance and release.

The inhale is what sustains us—what keeps our flame aglow—and the exhale is how we give that to the world—how we live it.

Now that we’re still, breathing and thinking essentially about who we are and why that matters, grab a pen and paper, and lose the filter.

Write. Write exactly what the heart has to say: “this is what sets me on fire, and this is what smothers my flames.”

Personally, I’m a big fan of this step, as it kindly gave me the wakeup call I needed when I wrote the words “helping others” to describe what strengthens my fire, only to realize that everything I was doing with my life worked against that.

Be honest and be brave; this is the part where we might find that what we thought we loved is the very thing killing our spirits. This was the hardest part for me to grasp.

But fear not! Now that we’re acknowledging this problem, it’s not really a problem anymore. It’s simply the perfect foundation for change.

So, ask questions.

What exactly needs to change? And more important than figuring out where our flame has gone, where and how can we reignite it? What inspires us to learn, to wake up loving Mondays and to be exactly who we were meant to be?

This is where we create the answers.

And sometimes, the best answers come to us from being completely still, just as we started. Perhaps the answers come from the beginnings of change, from finding that we’ve closed our hearts a little and so relearning to open them up accordingly.

Because inspiration only comes to us when we’re open to receiving it, and once we start receiving it, we start understanding that the answers to our questions are ours to be created.

This is how we can set our lives on fire.

Ask those questions, create those answers, find that spark and follow it. Inspiration often comes to us in ways we never could have imagined, and perhaps through people we never thought we’d meet. Nevertheless, when we find it, we know—and if a blazing flame is what we seek, we should take it and let it lead us.

Watching the fire inside dwindle and fade is horribly discouraging, and the emptiness that ensues feels dismantling on the delicate dreams we once kept. But the good news is that sometimes, one flame dies so that another can ignite—one bigger and brighter than we thought possible—if we open ourselves to the inspiration that awaits.

I know it’s disheartening to find a desolate space where the fire of our souls should dwell, but it can be rekindled. It wasn’t too long ago that I went from bleakly uninspired to wildly ablaze more than ever before. It’s possible—and it’s what we deserve as the beautiful humans we are.

And let’s not forget that the sustaining element of the fire is finding those who fan the flames.

So pause, take a deep breath and be brave. Ask and be open to the answers; you never know what inspiration might come your way—or who it might bring into your life. It’s time to reignite the fire within.

Author note: This article is dedicated to my friend Jenny Boyle, an inspiration to me on many levels. Thanks for fanning my flames, Jenny. I promise to always fan yours.

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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: elephant journal archives

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