The Art of Strengths Coaching

M is for Spending Time With Your Muses


Giulio Romano – Dance of Apollo with the Muses

What are the things that inspire you? You may feel inspired by walking in the woods, listening to music, being beside water, reading about remarkable people or other activities.

Different people have different sources of inspiration. In ancient mythology, for example, people were often inspired by the Muses. These were the Goddesses of literature, science and the arts.

Below is an introduction to the Muses from the Ancient History Encyclopedia website. In it Mark Cartwright provides the following background. You can discover more via the following link.

In Greek Mythology, the nine Muses are goddesses of the various arts such as music, dance, and poetry and are blessed not only with wonderful artistic talents themselves but also with great beauty, grace, and allure.

Their gifts of song, dance, and joy helped the gods and mankind to forget their troubles and inspired musicians and writers to reach ever greater artistic and intellectual heights. They are:

Calliope traditionally the most important (beautiful-voiced and representing epic poetry and also rhetoric),

Clio (glorifying and representing history),

Erato (lovely and representing singing),

Euterpe (well-delighting and representing lyric poetry),

Melpomene (singing and representing tragedy),

Polymnia (many hymning and representing hymns to the gods and heroes),

Terpsichore or Stesichore (delighting in dance),

Thalia (blooming and representing comedy),

Urania (heavenly and representing astronomy). 

Other people have other muses. Some artists, for example, seek out a person who inspires them to write, paint or make music. Some people spend time in certain places or focus on certain experiences that inspire them to be creative.

Looking at your own life, are there any people, places or experiences that act as muses? You may love to meet certain people, be in the garden, spend time beside water, go for a walk, read certain kinds of books or do other things.

What do you get from these experiences? They may give you time to do some slow thinking, stimulate your brain, inspire you to be creative or whatever.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific things – the people, places, books or other experiences – that feed your spirit and act as muses.

Describe the specific benefits that you get from these things.

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Elizabeth Gilbert describes a similar source of inspiration in her well-known TED talk that is posted below. In it the author of Eat, Pray, Love describes how the ancient Greeks and Romans believed their Daemons were the sources of their creativity.

Deep into the talk Elizabeth describes how our gifts are on loan to us. They do not belong to us. She believes that being humble and honouring these sources can liberate us to be even more creative.

This can be a remarkably freeing approach and fits with the idea that we are here to serve. Here are the relevant passages from her talk.

In ancient Greece and ancient Rome people did not happen to believe that creativity came from human beings back then.

People believed that creativity was this divine attendant spirit that came to human beings from some distant and unknowable source for distant and unknowable reasons.  

The Greeks famously called these divine attendant spirits of creativity ‘Daemons’. Socrates famously believed that he had a Daemon who spoke to him from afar.  

The Romans had the same idea but they called that sort of disembodied spirit a ‘Genius’ … which was great because the Romans did not actually think that a genius was a particularly clever individual … 

They believed that a genius was this sort of magical divine entity who was believed to literally live in the walls of an artist’s studio … and who would come out and invisibly assist the artist with their work and who would shape the outcome of that work.

Maybe [artistry] doesn’t have to be quite so full of anguish if you never happened to believe, in the first place, that the most extraordinary aspects of your being came from you.

But maybe if you just believed that they were on loan to you from some unimaginable source for some exquisite portion of your life to be passed along when you’re finished. It starts to change everything. 

Let’s return to your own life and work. How can you spend more time with the things that feed your spirit? One approach is to be open to the learning and also do some slow thinking.

Carl Honoré popularised the idea of slow thinking through his books In Praise of Slow and The Slow Fix. He is not against speed and actually wants some things to go faster. Many of our epiphanies, however, come from slow thinking.

Why? Fast thinking can help to generate the pieces of the jigsaw. But slow thinking may be needed to make sense of the whole picture.

Different people choose different ways to help things fall into place. They may go for a walk, take a few minutes thinking time, put themselves in a calming environment, enjoy a good sleep or whatever.

Carl believes that in a fast moving world we sometimes need to slow down. This can help us to see things in perspective and, as he says, join the dots.

He explains this approach in the short video below. This was filmed at the Wisdom 2.0 conference. You can discover more about his work via the following link.

Looking to the future, how can you spend more with the people, places or experiences that feed your spirit and act as muses? How can you make good use of these times? How can you then use the learning in your life and work?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific things you can do to spend more time with the things that feed your spirit and act as muses.

Describe the specific benefits that you will get from doing these things.

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