Abruzzo, Italywise

Photo by Jed Smith ©2016

I’ve been staring at a blank page (for this week’s post), and a blank canvas (for my next painting). Both are usually intimidating, and I still can’t quite get over asking myself “Do I have it in me to do this again?”

I certainly hope so. But, as I start any new creative endeavor, I’m learning to ask myself a very important, and helpful, question: “What are your intentions?” And, even though this post is written with an artist’s perspective, I do believe this question can be a valuable tool in all areas of life.

I picked the featured photo in this post because, for me, it aptly represents moving through life with intention and purpose. When I’m cruising into my nineties (yes, I plan on living that long) I want to be able to look back on my life, and say that I didn’t shrink from heading into the metaphorical mountainous terrain of life and the wilderness of the unknown.

I also want to know that I didn’t move through my life unconsciously. I want to have lived life with passion and intention.

So here I am, solidly past my half-century mark, and challenging myself to spend more time checking in with my heart (not my head) to understand if my intentions will result in a life of authenticity.

Some of the questions I pose to myself are:

Am I doing this for love?

This one’s the mother of all questions. You know why? Because I think many of us are taught to feel a tad (or a lot) guilty when we’re able to do something for the pure love of it. Which leads me to the next question….

Am I doing this because I think I’m supposed to?

Now, this is where I get busted – a lot. A sure-fire creativity killer is being overly influenced by what you think other people want or will like. When it spills over into everyday living for me, I realize that all too often I still bow to the belief that I should always be the nice, polite southern gentlemen my parents taught me to be. In other words, don’t misbehave. But, I’m learning that behaving is way over-rated if you’re serious about taking the road less traveled.

Am I doing this to get approval?

Ouch. Maybe this is another way of asking the preceding question, but I ask it nonetheless as a cross-check. I’ve been an approval junkie much of my life. Do I want to go to my grave thinking I’ve done a stellar job of getting people to give me the thumbs up at the expense of living authentically?

Am I doing this to try to chase away bad feelings?

I’ve realized that self-medication can come in many forms. Doing something because we think it will make us feel better, even though drugs or alcohol aren’t involved, still can be misguided. If we’re feeling insecure, there’s nothing like a good shot of praise and approval to yank us out of the doldrums. Warning – it’s only temporary, and like any drug, we have to go back for more, sooner than we think.

Am I doing this because my soul is excited?

I believe getting a solid “yes” from your heart is essential, and I don’t believe that “yes” will come in the form of words. For me, I bank on a feeling of lightness and excitement. And, a butterfly sense of entering the unknown often is present when my heart is urging me on. Conversely, if my thinking brains tries to edge in on the action and starts telling me why something is a good idea, then I’m pretty certain I’m on the wrong track.

Am I doing this to uniquely express who I am in the world?

This one can be tricky. I believe a lot of people can be overly focused on trying to be unique – and instead come across as contrived or gimmicky. Just trust that your voice, when it comes from love and authenticity, will reflect the one-of-a-kind fabric and texture of your soul.

Are you willing to be less-than-perfect? Are you willing to fail?

For me, saying “yes” is essential to this. Otherwise, I’m paralyzed by a need to get it right (whatever that means) and have a successful outcome. The biggest paradox for me is that being willing to fail or be less-than-perfect drops some pretty powerful learnings in my lap – learnings that help me course correct and keep going in a more satisfying direction. In retrospect, I have been grateful for many paths that have led me to understand that something wasn’t fulfilling, or even a dead-end. Painful at times, yes – but ultimately really, really helpful in finding the path that feels right and true.

Uprooting my “American” life and moving to Italy has been a journey full of gratification – even though at times it has been full of uncertainty. While I believe I have so much more to learn about trusting my internal compass, I do believe my intentions to move to Italy were guided by my heart. Gladly I followed its urgings. Now to expand that to my full expression of living and creating – and not beat myself when I veer back into the perceived safety of old conditioning.

The featured photo is this blog post is from my recent trek with shepherd in Abruzzo. I highly recommend visiting the area and experiencing the raw beauty and profuse hospitality of the people there.

Sulmona is a great place to make your center of operations in Abruzzo. And, Novelia Giannantonio, who lives there with her delightful husband Peppe, knows everyone. She introduced me to Nunzio and orchestrated my day on the mountain. If you’re looking for a place to stay contact Novelia about her lovely spacious two-bedroom Casa di Cuore, which she rents out. She and Peppe will make sure you’re pointed in the right direction about things to do.

Welcome to SulmonaAnother wonderful resource, which covers so many things about Sulmona (including other options for accommodations) is WelcomeToSulmona.com. It’s the best English language resource guide to Sulmona.

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