Don’t wait for inspiration to come to you

Inspiration, “the divine influence or action on a person”, “the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions”, as defined by Merriam-Webster, can uplift us from the ordinary to extraordinary human beings. It has the ability to energise our inner life to the point where we start taking action and bring the best contributions to our family life, work place and indirectly, society. The secret is to relentlessly look for it, even when we get tired and numbed by stress.  

Muses are still on demand

The Greek mythology speaks about the nine Muses, daughters of Zeus, who were the source of inspiration for humans creating poetry, literature, music and science. Poets and writers of Renaissance and Neoclassical era would invoke the presence of the Muse, usually embodied by a woman, for inspiration.

In the modern society, we all need our sources of inspiration, irrespective of what kind of job we perform or what kind of life we live. We need someone or something that triggers positive changes in us and makes us perform at our best.

This June, I attended the Elevation seminar where 70 people from 18 different nationalities participated. It was a three-day event during which, the running nose and hoarse voice didn’t prevent me from chatting with the other participants, with different professional backgrounds – technology designers, real estate agents, bloggers, business executives, rap musicians, academics, stay-at-home moms.

Their stories had a common element – the need for inspiration! And we were at the right place, with the philosophy professor Esa Saarinen whose lectures aimed at helping us reflect on what uplifts us.

In every day life, when routine kicks in and the stress dulls the mind, it’s easy to loose sight of what’s the most important in our life and profession.

We let ourselves sink into the ordinary. It’s perfectly fine and human to be ordinary now and then. The problem is that when we stay for too long in the realm of the ordinary, we miss out the opportunity to surprise ourselves with how much we can achieve by aiming at the extraordinary.

We need a person or an event to brighten the day, to help us get in touch with the extraordinary side in each one of us.

“The ‘Muse’ is not an artistic mystery, but a mathematical equation. The gift are those ideas you think of as you drift to sleep. The giver is that one you think of when you first awake.” – Roman Payne

In order for the Muse to serve its function, we may want to develop the habit of thinking about it and actively looking for it. Here are a few ideas where we can find our modern Muses:

  • Personal heroes – Childhood stories are known for enriching children fantasy. Kids are introduced to a world of supernatural characters where anything is possible and the good wins.

Children become fond of the heroes, they admire them and they may even try to behave like their favourite story characters.

We may forget that we were ever kids. But, if we take a closer look inside us, there is a tiny bit of Peter Pan in each one of us – the boy who never aged.

The way Peter Pan interacts with mermaids, fairies and pirates, the Peter Pan in us can help us keep our heart and mind open to being inspired by people from different areas of life.

Our grandmother, elementary school teacher or a stranger about whom we read in a book or newspaper, can become inspirational figures.

For example, my latest hero is Mendeleyev’s extraordinary mother, stoic and determined. Dmitri Mendeleyev coined the Periodic Table, helping chemists to have some order and clarity in the chemical elements.

He was born in 1834 in western Siberia, in a very large family. His mother not only that she gave birth to fourteen children (seventeen, according to other sources) but she was the only supporter of the family. Quite extraordinarily for a woman of those times, she became the manager of a profitable glass factory!

When the factory burned down and the family was left penniless, she hitchhiked with her youngest son, Dmitri Mendeleyev for 4000 miles to St Petersburg to enrol him at the Institute of Pedagogy. She died soon after that. (Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything)

  • Stories about people – There is another aspect of hearing stories about others: they remind us of what’s important and valuable in life. At the Elevation Seminar, professor Esa Saarinen shared an emotional story about a prominent figure in the Finnish history, general Mannerheim.

The inspiring aspect of such story came from general Mannerheim’s wisdom to cultivate human connection with his soldiers, thus uplifting their moral.

Each morning, the general – who didn’t smoke – would walk among soldiers with a cigarette in his hands. When a soldier would come to lit his cigarette, Mannerheim would start a small dialogue with the respective man, whom he would ask, “Where’s your house, soldier?”.

  • Be around inspiring people – feeling accepted and appreciated by someone else can have a tremendous drive on everything else that we are doing.

A strong hug, a heartfelt smile or a compliment can make us excel at our tasks.

Have you noticed that there are some people in our network of friends and acquaintances that have the beautiful gift of making us blossom when interacting with them? The chemistry or the natural connection results in bringing into light sides of ourselves we were not aware of.

Magically, we become funnier, more incisive, smarter, wittier, etc. This kind of human beings can effortlessly help bring the best in us.

  • Relaxing – Another wonderful effect when interacting with this special group of people is that they can make us feel relaxed. Their presence helps us forget about everything and focus on the present with them.

When they are not around, we can use another trick to relax and find the inspiration that comes from within: meditating for 10 minutes under the window wide open, each morning. The fresh air connects us to the source of life and revitalizes the body, soul and mind.

  • Inspirational quotes, such the ones in Hugh Prather’s Morning Notes, should not be underestimated. They take a few seconds to read and they can help keep the inner balance throughout the day!

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” – Albert Einstein

One of the biggest miracles is the inspiration that a person can give to another person.

How about you? Where do you get your inspiration from?

Let’s be kind to the emptiness inside

Emptiness is one of the feelings that most of us have experienced. Knowing the cause of this feeling is less important. It is more important to know how we can cope with it.

Talking about the durability of the new constitution, Benjamin Franklin wrote to Jean-Baptiste Leroy, “…but in this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

When we turn our attention towards our inner world, the feeling of emptiness is certainly something that every human experiences to different extent, many times during a lifetime. Wikipedia defines emptiness as “a sense of generalised boredom, social alienation and apathy.

Think of these potential life situations:

  1. We are madly in love, hoping to spend all our life with the loved one. One day, we realise we need to start walking separate ways.
  2. We’ve recently attended the funeral of a loved one.
  3. We reached a goal after years of endeavours and hardships.
  4. Our life is missing someone close to us to love and care for.
  5. We made a huge leap of faith, leaving behind the safety of a job and plunging into the unknown of a new professional start.

In any of these cases, emptiness may grow inside until the only feeling we are aware of is the void, which carves our soul and numbs it.

Should we be afraid of the lack of aliveness?

Just like Winter is a natural and important season in some climates, the same with emptiness, it can be a natural part of the changes we go through in life.

Apparently, nothing happens inside us when we feel it. But if we contemplate more on it, we can see that a new start is on its way.

Instead of fearing it, we can embrace it and let it stay in us for a while.

Should we just lie down and wait?

The sun still shines and warms in the Winter. In a similar way, we owe it to our soul, that is momentarily void, to carry on with activities that can have a healing effect.

People are the most effective way to help our soul in transformation, especially those persons we truly connect with. Simply being by their side suffices to soothe our soul and sluggishly charge it with aliveness.

Assuming we don’t have any such person in our life, listening to music can be an equally good choice. Any type of music will do as long as it resonates within us.

Watching theatre performances can have miraculous effects on our soul. An actor’s gesture, facial expression or a fleeting line can touch us and lift us up. Or stand-up comedies can make us laugh the emptiness out.

Art exhibitions have a similar effect as theatre performances. I remember visiting one of Picasso’s exhibitions in Helsinki. I was watching one of his paintings when I uttered with admiration, “What a genius mind, thinking to paint a face based on the personality of that woman and not on her physical traits!”

Hardly did I know that the impact of Picasso’s painting was deeper than a one minute admiration. The moment I stepped out the museum I felt that I can do whatever I want. In the following days, I found the courage to truly love.

If arts are not our cup of tea, then maybe sports can help to move on from emptiness to the next stage of personal growth.

If none of the above-mentioned activities are appealing, then it may help the thought that at the same time with us, there are others who feel the same. And we can imagine that we all gather under the moonlight and watch it in silence.

The sun will shine tomorrow again.

How about you, what do you do when you feel emptiness?