April 9, 2018

How to find the hidden gems within

“Do you have the courage to bring forth this work? The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say yes.”

With these words in her book Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert relayed her experience of meeting the recluse poet Jack Gilbert (no relation) through the memories of his students.

Encountering my courage

Last night I stood in an assembly of my husband’s family, tapped my glass with my fork to get everyone’s attention, and raised a heartfelt toast to Nana, his mother, to mark the occasion of her eightieth birthday. I invited everyone to join me in turn, to stand and express something that they appreciate about this wonderful woman.

Philip’s family isn’t given to displays of emotion. I knew I was asking a lot. A few followed suit — my husband of course, my daughter (bless you, Chloe), Philip’s sister, and her two amazing daughters. But that was about it.

And that’s perfectly OK. Because while I adore Philip’s mother, and while I did it to honor her, I did it also to recognize who I am. And I am the sort of person who likes to stand and acknowledge what is good and kind and loving in others — openly and without reservation.

I did it to access the treasures within me, and it took courage.

Courage is having heart.

Our word courage comes ultimately from the Latin word cor, meaning heart. It takes heart to bring out these gems, whether they be poetry, painting, music, or simply being vulnerable in a room full of twenty-nine in-laws.

But why does it take so much courage? Sharing our gifts should be as natural as sleeping or eating. And here’s why I say that: I believe creativity is simply how we play.

Creativity is playing.

When you look at animals in the natural world, they are usually doing one of four things: hunting/grazing, sleeping, grooming themselves or each other, or playing.

My point here is that sharing our gifts, expressing the unique brand of creativity that each and every one of us possesses, is simply another example of the distinctly human way that we play. We work, we sleep, we look after ourselves and the ones we love, and we play.

That play could be a sharing a heated board game with a loved one, taking a hike, reading a poem, singing a song, or even composing a symphony. It can be almost anything!

After all, we don’t work the violin. We play the violin.

Maybe, when we get to the point where we take life a little less seriously (another theme in Ms. Gilbert’s delightful book), we can be relaxed enough to play, to try our hand at singing, or writing, or toast-making. Maybe then we can realize that there is no downside to this. Creativity is a sacred dance, but it is also delightful fun.

Sanctuary is your place to play.

Does this surprise you? I use my sanctuary as a place to play all the time. A place to create. My sanctuary has become a place where I can approach my whole life as the joyous game that it is, full of wonder, heart-breaking sadness, and inexpressible joy.

Is this how you approach life? Better yet, is this how you would like to approach life? You can start with something as simple as taking that funny corner in your family room, your attic, or bedroom and saying, “This place is mine. I am setting it aside not for any practical purpose other than for the enrichment and delight of my mind, soul, and body.”

This is the start of sanctuary. This is how you begin.

This is how you can bring forth those deeply buried shining gems within you, and share their light with the whole world.

With love and gratitude,


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