Dancing with the muse

The finished front cover – “Grow only love in the garden of your heart.”

You know when you do something and think, “Well that turned out better than I expected!”?

That was my day yesterday.

The original notebook.

In preparation for the workshop I’m leading on Art Journalling at  Kensington Art Supply, November 19th, I am testing different ways of creating an art journal. Yesterday, I took an inexpensive scribbler and transformed it into the beginnings of an art journal.

The process includes gluing and taping together with masking tape every 3 pages so that they are stronger, masking taping the spines and creating a more sturdy cover. I’ll also gesso (a medium designed to strengthen the page’s ability to accept paint without soaking it up) all the 3-page layouts I’ve taped together as well as the cover so that we can begin to create and journal without spending time waiting for the paint to dry!

My process yesterday was all about painting the cover as I’d spent the evening before taping the pages together and affixing the heavier paper to make the cover.

Let’s just say, I’m pleased with the outcome – which is quite different than what my original ‘vision’ for the cover had been – and that’s the joy of art journaling. There’s really no destination other than where the muse, and your willingness to be open and present to the process, takes you.

Now my goal is to have several pages of the journal completed by the workshop so that I can use them as examples, and to have journals ready for the participants to begin painting. Each participant will be provided with a journal that is ready to paint — that means the cover and the first 3 page layouts.

For the workshop I will also have a journal example where rather than painting the cover, I’ll have glued paper to create the design. I’ll use papers I’ve already printed/painted and affix them to the cover – at least that’s my ‘vision’. We’ll see what happens when the muse and the creative process meet up on the cover page!

Art journalling is about the freedom to flow and be present to the moment. It’s about living the questions, not the answers or things you tell yourself you know.

Questions like, ‘I wonder what is calling within me to be expressed?’

What is the most brave thing I can do right now?

What am I not saying?

What if I give up thinking I know and allow myself the freedom to be present? 

Or, ‘I wonder what will happen if…?’

If I spread some teal over this pink paint and then use a stencil and babywipes to rub out some of the paint?

If I cover this area in gesso and let the images beneath peek out?

If I stop trying to make the page ‘look like something’ and just let it become what it is yearning to express?

Art journaling is all about expression, not perfection.

It’s about experience the freedom to create all over the page, not creating in a box.

And it’s about being present in the moment, letting what is appear without fearing what will happen if you just let go.

The muse and I danced together yesterday. I am grateful for every step of the dance we created together.

Namaste.

Sleeping Beauty Wake Up

“Sleeping Beauty:”  1899 – Henry Meynell Rheam
[Public Domain]
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Henry_Meynell_Rheam_-_Sleeping_Beauty.jpg
I am sound asleep when my beloved’s alarm clock rings.

What? 7:50? How can that be?  I set my alarm for 7am! Why didn’t it go off?

Oh. Right. I put it for 7PM not am.

I scurry out of bed, throw on some clothes, take Beaumont for a quick walk (productive but, for him, not very satisfying), load him into the back of my SUV and drive to the Vets.

He leaps out of the vehicle. Prances into the Vets offices, greets the cat sitting on a chair by the door with a big tail wag and an attempt to lick which was not well received.

He, wisely, backs away.

Ten minutes later he is weighed in and I hand the leash over to the vet assistant.

Beaumont the Sheepadoodle is having surgery today to remove a lump on his backside. We believe it is just a fatty deposit but it’s been getting bigger and to be on the safe side, we’re having it removed. Two years ago he had a pre-cancerous one taken out and, while this lump is radically different, we’d rather not risk ‘the unknown’.

Life is filled with unknowns. One of the biggest being what Buddha called ‘the small death’ which we encounter every night when we go to sleep. We close our eyes with the assumption we will open them in the morning. Our faith usually pays off.

Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, wrote, “Those who are awake have a single and common world, but in sleep each person turns away from this and enters their own world.

There are nights when my sleep feels filled with dreams and messages. Some I remember. Some I don’t. And then there are those that linger, that repeat themselves in nights far apart, as if in their repetitive appearance, they are coaxing me to wake up and unravel some great secret about my life.

I am under the thrall of just such a dream. I remember its first appearance many years ago. At the time, I woke up from its occurrence and thought ‘what an interesting (aka disturbing) dream’.

It let it go, tucked it away in a secret compartment of my mind, and went back to sleep. It never really left me even though I thought placing it out of the light of day would save me from having to delve into its mystery.

Over the years it has revisited and each time I have tucked it away.

It has returned. Still as interesting (disturbing) and beguiling. Still as provocative.

This time, I am open to its entreaties and mysteries. This time, I’m allowing that dream to awaken the writer within as I delve into what my psyche is telling me the dream is revealing to me about my voice, women’s voices, the feminine journey and the reclaiming of our identities.

This time, I am not falling back to sleep.

Namaste.

 

 

Colour Me Excited

Last Saturday I christened my “Wild at Heart Studio” with six lovely women who came to explore, create, play and shine.

It was wonderful!

On November 19th, I am leading my first workshop @KensingtonArtSupply – a huge step for me – to offer an art workshop outside my own safe space! In this case, it is an art journalling workshop — Art Your Heart Out!  Colour me excited!

There was a time when I said I couldn’t paint. I had no artistic ability.

And then, I discovered how wrong I’d been about something I’d told myself all my life. (I was in my mid-forties when this revelation came to me!)

Hmmm…. I wondered. If I’m wrong about that, what other limiting beliefs am I holding that might be keeping me in place, stopping me from doing things outside my comfort zone?

Delving into artistic expression has been a life-giver. It has created space for me to explore my world in all its many colours, textures, shades and shadows. And, it’s enriched my life by giving me the inspiration to create opportunities for others to find their own creative expressions.

Years ago, when I first started working in the homeless-serving sector at a large adult homeless shelter, I started an art program. A church had donated funds for art-making that had sat unused for two years. I went out, bought some supplies and then invited clients of the shelter to join me on Thursday evenings and Saturday afternoons for creative play.

That program connected us in ways we could not imagine. It shone a spotlight on our humanity, our shared human condition and our capacity to create even in the face of abject poverty, sadness, loss. Providing space for others to delve into their creative core in the otherwise stark and soul-crushing world of homelessness was healing, affirming, possibility-filled.

That space was an opportunity for everyone to reconnect to that which homelessness crushes down — our humanity. Rather than being identified as the label “homeless”, both participants and those who volunteered in the studio, who came to our art shows and other productions were connected through the creative process to that which makes our world more caring, kind and beautiful — the creative expression of our human condition.

That program gave me a creative outlet and an opportunity to invite people to engage with individuals experiencing homelessness in more positive and supportive ways. It also taught me about my own human condition; its frailties, blind-spots, glory.

Just as back then when I started that art program I did not know where it would lead, (it resulted in some amazing other projects and creative expressions I could not have imagined if I hadn’t simply stayed present to the possibilities), I do not know where my creativity workshops will lead me. I do know, I’ll go nowhere different if I do nothing.

Yesterday, as I reorganized my studio and then spent time playing, I felt myself coming home to myself with all my being present to the beauty and wonder of the moment.

This morning, as I sit at my desk in my studio, looking out at the snow-covered grass, the bare branches of the trees lining the river, the sun shining on the waters flowing past, I feel myself connected to the amazing ordinary grace of this moment.

I breathe deeply into the wonder and awe, revel in the ordinary and extraordinary life that flows through me and say a prayer of gratitude.

Ah yes. This is life.

Beautiful. Joyful. Filled with awe and wonder, inexplicable moments of sadness and sorrow, breath-taking moments of radiance and light.

This is life.

How blessed I am to feel it flowing through me, connecting me to this world of limitless possibility.

Namaste

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Thank you JT, JD, JR, SC, WC and BB for creating such glorious magic in this space.

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As part of the workshop I created mini art journals for each participant and then demonstrated how they could create their own. As well, eveyone painted salt dough hearts I’d prepared and spent time just playing with ink, paint, water, paper and medium. What fun!

 

 

A Prayer for Mother Earth

When my daughters were little we would lay beneath trees and I would tell them stories of the wind captured in the branches.

We would run in fields of wildflowers, gather leaves and rocks and cherish each step we took upon Mother Earth.

And then the days of childhood passed and I let go of lying beneath the trees and running through fields of wildflowers.

And in my letting go, I forgot to cherish Mother Earth with every breath and every step I take.

It is not too late to remember.

Not too late to give thanks for her bounty and to join the many others calling out for change, for healing, for kinder ways to walk upon this earth so that together, we can save our world from self-destruction.

It is not too late to remember that we are not ‘on’ this planet, we are of this planet. We are each irrevocably connected in a delicate life-giving web of nature that nourishes, nurtures and sustains us.

We are each one and all of this planet we call our home.

Namaste.

Suspended

 

Suspended
I hold onto nothing
but nature.
Suspended
nature flows
through me.

In the nature of all things

I am standing beside a tree, its branches denuded of leaves, its limbs exposed to the elements. I lean into it. Place my hand against its gnarled bark. Lean my body into its strength.

The tree and I become one in felt relationship.

I feel it embrace me with its loving grace. The sap within it flowing into my veins. The wind’s stories etched against its limbs merging with mine.

I know peace.

As a group we had come outside to experience one of the fundamental exercises of The Embodied Present Process – The Elevator. The process is about consciously bringing your awareness down into your body, deep down into the pelvic bowl where your entire being comes alive to the mystical nature of life and then, from that place of grounded connection to the earth, to let your curiosity lead you on a walk through nature.

As part of the exercise, we were invited to repeat out loud a memorized verse of our choosing. The purpose of the memorized text is to release your mind of thinking as you connect, not through the meaning of the words, but through your senses expanding out to connect with the world around you in a ‘felt’ relationship.

My verse is a prayer.

I am hesitant to repeat it. I feel immense resistance and know, deep within, I must go here. And so, I begin to say the prayer out loud.

“Hail.” I stall after the first word. I feel my body begin to shake. To quiver. “Hail Mary,” I feel tears gathering at the edges of my eyeslids. I hear the tree inviting me to lean into it. I lean and I feel its strength.

I say the prayer out loud and grace embraces me.

Years ago, when I was released from a relationship that was killing me by the police arresting the man who had promised to love me ’til death do us part and was actively engaged in the making the death part my reality, I was completely lost. My identity, the person I’d known as ‘Louise, had become completely submerged into his identity as I jettisoned everything I knew about me to the terror and horror of being in that relationship. By the end I had become an extension of his identity, or as he would tell me, his creation.

Prior to meeting him, my connection to the spiritual, in particular to the Blessed Mother Mary sustained and guided me. That connection created beauty and texture, depth, tranquillity and peace in my life. I felt whole.

Through being in that relationship I lost that connection. In some ways, I felt betrayed by the spiritual and struggled to reclaim the freedom of aliveness it had imbued into my life after he was arrested and I got my life back.

Since being set free of that relationship I have tentatively stepped back into the spiritual waters of life, searching for the path to reclaiming what I told myself I had lost. I believed I could think my way home.

Yesterday I discovered it, nor I, was lost –  I just hadn’t released my thinking I could find my way home through my head. Yesterday, my body lead me home to my essence.

We think we can think our way through to where we want to be within ourselves, using the brain as the intelligence to get us where we want to ‘be’ and treating the body as the vehicle to get us there.

The body is an integral element of our aliveness. Its senses come alive to our being present when we release ourselves from thinking our cranial brains know the way.

We cannot think our way home to our innate brilliance, magnificence, beauty. The way home is through our senses. It is embodied in our being present, in the moment, to life.

I found my way home yesterday. In that journey I received the healing grace of the wind whispering in the trees, the grasses murmuring exaltations to the sky,  the autumn fallen leaves rustling words of encouragement into the earth upon which I walked as I took each step home.

II felt supported, cared for, Loved. I felt alive. I am alive and so very very grateful.

 

 

Infinite Possibilities

I am breathing.

Deeply.

Mist enshrouds the trees that line the road across from where I sit in a blanket of soft billowy white. Mysterious. Ethereal. Beguiling.

I am here to immerse myself in The Embodied Present Process.

I am here, curious, open, resistant and accepting. I am here. All of me. However I am.

We live in a world of infinite possibilities. Limitless until we define them and limit them by our beliefs of what is possible.

Yesterday, as I travelled across the country, I overheard smatterings of conversations that reflected our human (cultural) beliefs of what is the right way, and the not so right way, to ‘do’ life.

“Put your bag on the conveyor just so,” the computer flashes at check-in.

Follow the yellow line,” the sign at security reads. “Show me your boarding pass.”  And then, once checked against the computer’s files, you pass and continue on to the next gate, the next checkpoint, the next place in line.

Line up here for coffee. Sit here to wait.

We are loading by Zone. Don’t get in the wrong zone.

You’re in the wrong zone. Go back and wait.

Everywhere, there are signs and reminders on how to behave, where to go, what to do so that we can keep life organized, controlled, systemized.

And then life happens and its happenings brings us face to face with the limits of our beliefs on how things ‘should’ be instead of our capacity to accept ‘what is’ with grace. Trapped in the belief it should be another way, or there is no other way, we struggle to make sense of what is as we attempt to outthink our circumstances with the very same thinking that has us trapped in our circumstances.

Frustrated, frightened, confused, we struggle to find the right tools to use to fix it, change it, reorganize it into something we can live with. Never realizing the tools at our disposal are limited by our belief of what tools will work in our life.

In the process of sorting out what to do, we become trapped in our head’s belief it can make sense of whatever’s going on if it just keeps re-working the story. Or, it can at least make everything fit into a box of our understanding if we just keep re-telling the story as we know it.

I am relearning how to live my life this week from deep within my body. I am learning to breathe. To be. To feel.

I am learning to release my thoughts of all I think I know to move out of my headspace deep into my body.

I am moving into the stillness within, finding myself grounded deep within my core as I move down, down down, out of my head deep into my body where life is calling me to awaken to living through all my senses deeply connected to the beauty and wonder of life and all its limitless possibilities.

It is a journey of wonder. Of hesitation. Of leaping first, thinking next. Of leaning in. Of curving back.

It is a journey worth taking.

Namaste.

What I Can Do

I cannot know what it feels like to walk in your skin, different than mine, walking on the same streets where I pass freely
To feel the shame of having your body slammed by words of condemnation or sexual connotations fit for no one. Words that fall on you like acid rain as you pass by
Or experience the barb of the slurs you’ve heard slung at you like daggers to your soul screaming at you to go back to where you belong, that place where death stalked your every breath and fear was your constant companion

I cannot know your journey.

I cannot know the terror of gun-toting wild-eyed men invading your village and burning your home and stealing your children and raping you as an act of war
Or the hunger that gnaws at your bones as your children cling to your sides begging for food when your hands, and your belly, are empty
Or the deep all-consuming grief of burying your sons and daughters beneath the blood-red soils that claimed their lives because others coveted the land you love

I cannot know your story.

I cannot see the courage it took to trust strangers with what little money you had as you and your children huddled in a boat to take a perilous journey across seas you could not know for sure any of you would survive
Or feel the faith you had no choice but to hold onto as you lay beneath the mud that covered your home as you waited for rescue or death, whichever came first, to embrace you

I cannot know your tragedies.

I can stop minimizing the shame of those who sling words that make your walk a hellish passage where dignity lies struggling for breath beneath every step you take
I can stop judging you for our differences, shaming you for your lack of means, blaming you for your situation
I can stop condemning you for leaving your war-torn lands or storm-ravaged towns far away to seek refuge here to become my neighbours on this land where I live but do not own. This land that is not our land but everyone’s land, for no one can completely own something that is part of everything that is this planet upon which we walk.

I can acknowledge your journey is different than mine. That I do not know what you know but can learn from you how to be courageous, brave, kind, even in the face of fear.

I can start believing you without insisting you repeat your story again and again.

I can start listening to your story and honouring it as your truth so that all our truth has room to breathe in freedom.

And I can let go of my judgements so that together we can find a more peaceful path to living side by side on this planet spinning through space where each of us is searching for our place to belong. This planet all 7 billion of us call our home.

I can do this. I know I can because I am learning from you what it means to be human.

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There are mornings, like this one, where the muse awakens and writes her way into being heard, seen, known.

I am grateful on these mornings when I let go of my agenda, my ‘knowing’ of what I will write and give her full reign.