The Big Mess.

My ‘new’ writing corner in the studio.

The ‘e’ on my keyboard sticks. Actually, the tile came off so I crazy-glued it back in place. It works, but requires extra ‘oomph’ to make the ‘e’ appear on the screen. (Unlike the other tiles, it’s a little wobbly.)

Sometimes, I don’t notice the ‘e’ hasn’t appeared until after I press ‘Send’ or print the page.

Like life. Sometimes I don’t notice what I’ve missed or mistakes I’ve made or things I’ve let go or left undone until something else happens and I realize where things have gone off the rails or need attention.

Like in my studio.

When I create, I make a mess.

Over the course of working on the altered book art journal, My Mother’s Prayers, my studio devolved into a big mess.

On the weekend, a girlfriend gave me some fabulous shelving (Thanks Tamz!) and I had no choice but to get busy reorganizing my studio.

My goal… to create both an airy and organized space that feels peaceful, inviting and calm. A place where everything has a place and I know that when I look in that place, what I’m expecting to find there will be in its place!

And that’s the piece about myself I hadn’t really noticed was missing. The honouring of my desire for ‘order’ and harmony in my creative space.

The fact is, the studio was getting so messy I was avoiding going in. Which isn’t all that logical as I know creating every day is good for my soul, my mind, my heart, my life, my world. Plus, I can’t ‘unmessy’ anything until I go in and do the work of unmessying it up!

Avoidance strengthens fear.

And my fear of the mess was getting bigger.

After I wrote my Someday Is Not A Day Of The Week post yesterday, I realized what I’ve been avoiding. The mess.

And that’s the thing. Messes don’t just go away on their own. They don’t magically disappear with the swish of a magician’s wand or the wiggle of an upturned nose and the sprinkle of a few incantations.

Like life, messes need tender care and loving attention in order to find their way back into balance, harmony, flow.

We all make messes in our life. Some big. Some small. And while part of our journey is to learn from our messes so that we don’t create them again and again, some messes go unnoticed until something happens to give us greater insight.

Like the sticking ‘e’ on my keyboard that requires extra attention when I type, the mess in my studio was interfering with my creative process.

It took a gift from a friend to kickstart getting things into place. In the process of reorganizing the space, I discovered how the mess on my worktable was a reflection of something that needs my constant tender care and loving attention for me to live my heart’s desire of a creative life.

Messes happen. Doesn’t matter the size. What matters most is whether or not we’re courageous enough to dive into the mess and do what it takes to allow in balance, harmony and flow.

Namaste

Someday is Not A Day Of The Week.

As human beings, we like comfort. We like the familiar. The well-trod path. Our comfort zone, no matter how uncomfortable.

We develop habits that line the walkways of our life like comfort food at a buffet. We don’t dare try the dish with the unpronounceable name. What if we don’t like it? What if it makes us sick?

And then, to keep ourselves feeling okay about our habitual paths, no matter how maladaptive, we tell ourselves it’s okay. “It’s safer this way,” we repeat again and again into the mirror. “It’s just the way I am. It’s just the way life is.”

And then, we play our cop-out card. “Someday.”

Someday, I’ll quit this job I hate and travel the world like I’ve always dreamt I would.

Someday, I’ll go back to school and finish that degree in art studies I started way back when.

Someday, I’ll stop…. [fill in the blank with a maladapted behaviour]. Drinking. Eating junk food. Hating myself. Having meaningless sex with strangers. Taking risks with my prsonal safety I secretly hope will kill me. Doing drugs. Lying. Cheating. Procrastinating.

Someday…

Years ago, when I first started working at a homeless shelter, I started an art program. Every Thursday night and Saturday afternoon, I’d invite clients to come up to the 6th-floor multi-purpose room and share the quiet of the space and the joy of painting, writing, creating in silent communion with others (Plus! The view of the river valley below was spectacular!)

There was one man who sat at a table on the second floor common area, an island of perceived calm amidst the sea of 500 people who used the area on a daily basis. He would lay his paints on the table beside him, prop a pad of watercolour paper on his lap and create beautiful images of the world beyond the shelter while all around him the room buzzed and vibed with activity and commotion.

“Why don’t you come up to quiet of the multi-purpose room and paint with us,” I’d ask him every time I saw him painting.

“I’m not ready,” he’d reply. “Someday. Soon.”

Finally, after one more repeated, “Someday,” I asked him if he’d chosen a date when someday would come.

He shook his head. “No. Not yet.”

“Then why don’t you just make it today? Why not make today, someday.”

And he did and he went on to paint amazing works of art, to write music and songs and poems and to become a valued and integral member of the Possibilities Project, an art-based initiative I developed at the shelter that incorporated the full spectrum of the arts to provide clients, staff and volunteers an opportunity to explore their human condition and shared experiences through visual and performing arts.

Someday is now.

Someday isn’t in the future. It doesn’t have enough clarity and substance to last that long.

Someday is now.

If you’re struggling with holding on, with not letting go, with not giving up on something that just isn’t giving you peace of mind or joy or laughter and love, ask yourself, “Am I holding on for someday?” “Am I hoping for someday to fix my life, change my outlook, move my perspective?”

‘Cause if someday is on your calendar somewhere, anywhere, make it today that someday comes true. Make today your release from holding on to waiting, wishing and hoping for someday to come and set you free.

Namaste.

_____________________________________

Thank you David Kanigan for the inspiration for this morning’s post!

Be. Here. Now.

I am walking in the woods. Dry leaves crunch beneath my feet. Beaumont the Sheepadoodle bounds through the leaves and grasses surrounding us.

I walk and as I listen to the inviting crunch of the leaves I notice my mind is busy, filled with thoughts darting through my mind like Beaumont chasing a squirrel bounding through the forest.

I stop to watch their dance. Beaumont thinking he can catch the squirrel. The squirrel confident in his prowess and speed.

I stop and listen to my thoughts, trying to capture them but they are fast. Elusive. All I feel is the sensation of their wanting to capture the beauty around me by comparing it to what is happening around me and to how golden, or not, the leaves and trees and forest was yesterday.

“How often does that happen?” I wonder. “This constant comparison and judging of this moment against past moments?”

I think it’s probably a lot.

I step closer to a tree and stand beneath the autumn filled canopy its branches stretched out above me. I reach out and touch its gnarled trunk. “Here I am,” I whisper as I crane my neck and look up through its golden leaves to the clear blue sky high above.

And the tree stands in silent witness to my presence. Neither comparing nor judging how I am and how the world is in that moment.

“Be like the tree,” the voice of wisdom deep within me whispers. “Be. Here. Now.”

And so I breathe and close my eyes and let the presence of the tree fill me with its silence.

“Here. I am. Now.”

Namaste

Fall Deeper

Friday morning. Days turn into weeks. And then months.

Forest fire smoke that clouded the sky has lifted. Leaves are falling as the season turns from summer to golden autumn.

And I find myself curving back into myself, again and again, where I fall, deeper and deeper into Love’s way with every step I take.

How To Nourish Body. Mind. Spirit.

If they can make penicillin out of mouldy bread, they can sure make something out of you.  — Muhammad Ali

It appears that Covid has created some psychic mould. You know, those spaces where rather than nourish my body, mind, spirit, I fall prey to activities that leech away my creative essence and dry up my inner peace.

Like falling into binge-watching past seasons of shows I’ve never watched before on Prime and wouldn’t be watching now if it weren’t for Covid’s insidious presence. Because, you know — it’s not my fault. It’s these ‘uncertain times’ and sometimes the only way a girl can cope is by losing herself in mindless images parading across her laptop screen.

It seems that with Covid’s presence, I can easily be lured from my path of daily self-care day after day. Because, you know, if I let it go one day doesn’t it make sense to repeat it so I don’t feel so bad about doing it in the first place? Yeah. I know. Repetition of what’s not good for me just makes what’s not good for me a habit I’ll live to regret.

Being in a place of the peaceful unfolding of my day, especially with the feeling that Covid’s presence is just waiting to pounce every time I step out my door, can be challenging.

There are times when all I want to do is bury my head in the sand. Because, I tell myself, burying my head in sand will probably be just as effective or even better than wearing a mask.

There are times when I want to throw caution to the wind and just pretend Covid never happened, isn’t happening, will never happen. Because, when I was a child, pretend was such a wonderful game, why not play it now?

Houston. We have a problem.

Self-care is spinning off its axis and I am falling out of control.

Time for some straight talk and radical loving-kindness to fill the empty spaces where peace, harmony, joy… created my beautiful life.

Which brings me to the things I can do today to create more of what I want in my life every day. — Peace. Harmony. Joy.

The practices and things that connect me to joy, harmony, loving-kindness are well-known by my body, mind, spirit. It’s just sometimes, my mind wants to fool my body into thinking it’s okay being left alone. And sometimes, my body wants to divorce spirit so it doesn’t have to be accountable for keeping it moving, uplifted and connected to its essential nature.

Ah… the games we play when first we try to deceive ourselves into believing life is just a game that only needs to be played when we feel in the mood for a little light workout.

Life is not a game. It is in us. Outside of us. All of us. All of all that is within and around us.

Life matters and what we do in and with life matters every moment.

So…. here’s the thing. I’ve fallen prey to the ennui of these times. I’ve given too much mindspace to the notion, “I’m so tired of all this Covid stuff. Make it go away. Now.”

Fact is, now more than ever, I need to turn up for me and all the world around me to ensure, together and apart, we have the well-being to make Covid go away. Not with death but with beautiful, healing, sparkling LIFE.

So… I’ve committed myself to a 21 Day Plan to Embrace All that Is Present when I turn up in Peace, Harmony and Joy.

That means, along with daily practice of writing here, time spent in my studio, my twice-daily walks with Beaumont the Sheepadoodle and my daily skincare routine (Absolutely essential!) I shall be consciously connecting my mind, body, spirit to the essential nature of my human condition through daily repetition of five key practices I know are good for my body, mind, spirit.

Fact is, I seem to have fallen out of the regular committed practice of these vital components of creating more of what I want in my life today through falling prey to critter-mind thinking that… it all doesn’t matter anyway because Covid is stealing my peace of mind and clouding up my harmony and diminishing joy in my world.

Fact is, Covid can’t steal any of my peace, harmony and joy unless I give into the belief I am not accountable for or worthy of peace, harmony and joy in the first place.

So, to keep myself accountable, especially for the next 21 days as I reform the habit of doing these things every day, I am sharing my five daily commitments here:

  1. Meditate for a minimum of 20 minutes every morning.  
  2. Spend half an hour reading something inspirational every day.
  3. Write in my journal at bedtime for 20 minutes.
  4. Take my vitamins. Eat more veggies every day. Cut back on carbs and sugars.
  5. Do something for my community (and that includes writing my blogs as you are part of my community).

Oh! And there’s a few other things that are essential I consciously add into my life every single day.

  • Laugh lots daily
  • Dance
  • Breathe and release. Breathe and release
  • Practice loving-kindness with myself and all the world around me

And, along with the things I will do, there are some things I also need to publicly commit to not doing. The biggest one being… STOP WATCHING SO MUCH NETFLIX and PRIME!!!!

And yes, I’m yelling that to myself because sometimes… I need to shout to be heard above the critter’s insistence it’s okay to lose myself in mindless activities.

It’s not.

And I’m not okay with and within me when I do it.

And to get okay with me again, I need to practice loving-kindness with myself. Stopping doing things that are unhealthy for me is the greatest gift of loving-kindness I can give myself today to create more peace, harmony and joy in myself and all the world around me.

Namaste.

Wednesday Morning Wonders

The view from my desk.

My office view used to overlook a parking lot.

I like my view better now. My lifestyle too.

There is a quiet, slow, lyrical rhythm to my days. A calmness that never existed in the past, no matter how much I meditated or breathed into the moment.

And I wonder…

Is it possible to be ‘in the moment’ when working in an environment that by the very nature of the circumstances of those who use its services, is fraught with drama and angst?

For almost 20 years I worked in the homeless-serving sector. Aside from 4 of those years when I worked in a Foundation, my office was situated in a homeless shelter.

I loved the work. The people. The sense of purpose that filled my days.

I did not like the stress.

And I wonder…

With Covid’s necessity of working from home for so many people, and so many companies talking about reconfiguring their offices to include permanent ‘work-from-home’ opportunities, will stress levels decrease?

And, will decreasing stress levels change the timbre of the world’s heartbeat? Will the earth’s pulse slow down?

And I wonder…

If as a ‘people’ we become less agitated by our busy scurrying from here to there, will we collectively embrace a calmer, gentler way of being present in this world?

The sun is shining this morning. The smoke that clouded the sky for days has lifted.

Sun dances through the leaves that dance to the music of the wind whispering through the branches of the trees swaying provocatively.

The river flows. Steady. A blue/grey ribbon of life moving ever forward. Always eastward to a distant sea.

I sit at my desk and watch a squirrel run across the lawn, its mouth stuffed with edibles its found on its foray through the garden. It leaps up onto the fence, hops onto the closest tree trunk and scurries from branch to branch back to its lair.

It seems unconcerned by Covid’s presence. It is oblivious to my watching eyes. The branches swaying in the morning breeze. The river flowing past or the sporadic traffic travelling across the bridge. It carries its bounty home. It is preparing for winter days to come.

And I wonder…

Does the squirrel’s blood pressure rise as it scurries around preparing for icy days to come? Does it worry about its capacity to survive Arctic blasts of bone-chilling air or, is its mind filled with visions of being warm and toasty, curled up with its den-mates over the long cold days of winter that lurk just beyond the horizon?

Does a squirrel know there is a tomorrow to worry about or does it live naturally in the moment of collecting food to carry home?

Wednesday morning wonders bring me back to earth. To this moment where I sit at my desk savouring the beauty and the loveliness of the world around me. The sun shining, the leaves dancing and the river flowing.

This moment right now. This is where I sit.

Painting Through The Shudders

There is a world of curious ‘mishaps’ beneath this painting. A world of giving into the questions. Like, “Hmmmm…. if I do [this], I wonder what will happen?” Or, “I really like the way it looks now. I wonder what would happen if I let go of the need to ‘like it’?”

Letting go of the need to ‘like it’ is hard for me. I want my art to be pretty. To be pleasing to the eye. To not disturb.

And that’s why I art journal. To strengthen my ‘letting go’ muscles.

I like to create ‘pretty’.

This is the first monoprint – I really, really liked it.

Pretty doesn’t always serve me well. Pretty can mean I’m playing it safe. Playing it for affirmation. Playing it for the outcome – which will hopefully become something I can sell.

Art Journalling isn’t about creating work to sell. It’s about selling yourself on the idea that creating for the pure joy of creating is a form of meditation, revelation and restoration.

This page had a couple of iterations. The first one above, which I really, really liked. The one on the right, which I hesitated to share because it makes my creative nerves shudder. And then the final one which makes me smile.

The Shudders

The really, really liked one got buried beneath the shudders one because I was curious about what would happen if I painted botanicals on top.

The final piece, which is all about experimentation – and a lesson in letting go – is because I felt compelled to cover up the ‘shudders’.

The blue petals are created from the masking tape I used to block off the edges of the page in my art journal. Its patterns were made as I monoprinted on the paper.

When I pulled them off the page after the paint had dried, I didn’t immediately crumble them up and throw them into the wastebasket. The patterns that had developed as I monoprinted fascinated me so I carefully hung them from the edge of my worktable. I didn’t have any idea what I would use them for, or if I would use them for anything. They simply intrigued me so I decided to save them.

It wasn’t until I ended up with ‘the shudders’ on top of the original monoprinted background and thought, ‘Oh my. Now that’s not particularly pleasing,’ that I thought about using the saved blue masking tape.

Which meant, I had to dive in and pull another monoprint of the page and start reworking it. (The white striated background)

And here’s the thing.

How we do one thing is how we do all things.

I was afraid of ruining the monoprint I really liked and hesitated to do anything else to it. But, I also knew my hesitation was fear-based and wanted to confront my fear – which I am very familiar with.

It’s all about that ‘precious thing’ syndrome. Holding onto things because I deem them precious, or because I don’t know what I might do with them and don’t want to let them go because I fear I’ll be limiting my options later.

Like the blue masking tape. I didn’t have a really good reason to hold onto it other than that it intrigued me. Sure, finding a use for it was a bonus but if I step back and reflect on things I’ve held onto because of the fear of letting go was high, I’d find a wealth of material for personal exploration of my ‘fear of letting go’ syndrome.

Like right now. I fear letting this blog post go because I’m not sure I’ve really explored it adequately.

But, I also know this is a lifelong exploration for me. This post doesn’t have to be perfect or beautiful, or even witty.

In fact, it doesn’t need to be anything other than a reflection of where I’m at right now and how I’m navigating these spaces.

The biggest ‘fear’ to overcome right now, is my fear of showing ‘my ugly’.

And the ‘shudder painting’ is all about ‘my ugly’.

I don’t like it. I want to ignore it. I want to pretend it didn’t happen.

Life, like art, doesn’t work that way. ‘The ugly’ is as vital to a rich and beautiful life as the pretty.

Finding value in ‘the ugly’ enriches my life. It creats vibrant, unexpected gifts that keep expanding possibility into sacred knowing of the essence of who I am when I let go of being anything and anyone other than who and how I am in this moment right now.

Real. Vulnerable. Embodied in the present moment. Breathing into the joy held within the darkness and the light. The joy and the sorrow. The beauty and the ugly. The known and the unknown.

Namaste

TO Fall With Grace

As delicate as an apology
exhaled into the hope
of being embraced in forgiveness,
Autumn leaves fall, without regret, 
into the promise
of memory's grace.

I took the photo this morning on my walk with Beaumont. As I sauntered further along the path through the grasses and into the trees, the line, “as delicate as a breath” wrote itself in my mind.

I wondered if I’d remember it by the time I got home.

As soon as I opened the photo, it flowed up and out of my body, through my fingertips, onto the keyboard and then the screen.

Without trying to hold on to them, or make sense of their meaning, or force them into order, I let more words follow.

And I smile. Because without even realizing it, ‘breath’ was transformed to ‘apology’.

The words (and the change of breath to apology) may seem random. Unconnected to this moment right now, but I know they’re not.

I often think there’s an equation for life’s journey. It’s not as simple as A (what we do) + B (what the world does) = C (the value of a life well-lived)

It’s more like,

[A + (Time/Events/Reactions/Unfinished business/Messy places/Wounds and Warts) + (Self-Awareness) + Self-Acceptance]

divided by

Temperment + Environment + Life Skills + Life Lessons + Life adaptations

equals

the beauty experienced in all the moments adding up to a life well lived

Which is really just my very complicated way of saying, Life is messy. Humans are messier. Messes are inevitable. It’s our responsibility to clean up our own messes.

Which is why I had to apologize to my beloved last night for something I’d said that was not delivered with grace or kindness.

And here’s the messy part…

I’d really like to justify my actions with all sorts of caveats like, “But… you said/you did/you were…”

Fact is, regardless of what another person does, I am 100% accountable for my words and actions (thoughts too).

When I am out of line, it is not because of another person crossing the line. No matter how much I’d like to make them the problem, when I respond without integrity, I have crossed my own line of how to live my life. And making someone else’s stuff a reason for my bad behaviour is an excuse to not be accountable.

Ha. Says the critter. But you were in your rights…. You felt….. They did…

Yada. Yada. Yada.

And while all that may be true (the stories we tell on others are often a way to not have to tell the truth on ourselves) I am still and always… you guessed it… 100% responsible for how I respond.

No matter how heated the moment, or how hurt I am, or upset, or confused, or angry, or whatever else I may be feeling, I am 100% accountable for how I respond. And no matter how I’m feeling, I never have the right to be unkind or cruel or mean or dismissive of another or disrespectful or anything that would make another feel small or less than or dispirited or that we are not both fellow travellers worthy of respect and kindness on this messy journey of life.

I acted out of line last night.

This morning, nature beckoned me to fall with grace into the moment. Embraced in the beauty of my messy human nature, the sun shone bright, the trees whispered and the grasses swayed in harmony. And as I breathed into the delicate nature of the morning, I felt myself falling effortlessly into the beautiful messy of life flowing all around, lifted up by the beautiful grace of Love.

Out Of This World – a 49 word prompt

It has been a long time since I played with one of the many word challenges online.

And then, today I read Dale’s response at A Dalectable Life…

And felt moved and inspired.

The word for today’s prompt is “Megalith” (I had to look it up.) The direction is, to create something with the word and use 49 words to do it.

The founder of the prompt is Sammi Cox who posts a prompt every week. You can find all the links to this, her 175th prompt, on her blog HERE.

To read more about the prompt, and to read Dale’s moving and beautiful response, click HERE.

My response–

Out Of This World

There is a place
where birds twitter in trees
and fish swim free
where bears wander wild
and snakes slither undeterred
by man’s intentions
to build megaliths to himself.
 
It is gone. That place.
that used to be
before man’s intentions
drained beauty and nature
out of this world.

The Song Of The Trees

Yesterday, Bernie commented on “Nature Will Always Have Its Way“, “The sound of the leaves has changed and the crickets are silent.”

When I read her comment, I felt something shift deep inside me. Like a recognition, a knowing, a sense of wonder and awe opening up.

The sounds of the leaves have changed.

Later, when I walked in the forest, I stood surrounded by the remains of summer clinging in changing colours to branches and listened deeply to the whispering of the leaves.

Their song is crinkly now. Drier. Like a thousand whispered prayers breathed into the sheer, lacey veils covering the faces of kneeling supplicants at the altar of life.

“Thank you summer, for your warmth and beauty,” they whisper. “Thank you for the heat that encouraged our roots to release its sap. For the warm showers that fed every vein of our being here, standing together in this forest, where we offer shade in the heat and beauty throughout the seasons. For the breezes that blew away all memory of winter’s frost and spring’s slow awkward tendrils. Thank you for being part of our ever-turning story.”

It was a real page turner, the leaves seem to whisper. This summer of Covid. Of uncertainty. Of constant change. Of fires sweeping across vast tracts of land. Of floods and hurricanes and rain pouring down.

Do the trees weep for their burned out comrades? Do their roots ache in sympathy of the dying embers of the skeletal remains of their compatriots who lost their lives to the scorching flames?

I stand beneath the trees and feel my heartbeat slow. My breath becomes deeper. My eyes close and I welcome into my body the song of the autumn kissed trees.

Their song is full of memory. Of connection. Of stories carried by the wind. Of birdsong and chattering squirrels.

Soon, there will be but a few skeletal remains of summer tenanciously clinging to the branches.

Soon, the song of the trees will become more weathered, more seasoned and weary. Their limbs wil stretch out, stark and naked against the winter sky. Their song will be heard in creaking trunks and sighing limbs swaying with the cold air rushing in from the north.

Do trees shiver in Arctic blasts?

Do they feel the sting of frost nipping at their limbs?

Perhaps they are more accustomed to weathering the storms than we humans. Perhaps they trust that the seasons will turn and what once was winter will become spring. Perhaps, in falling leaves they have learned to accept the cycle of life is an unending, constant circle of rebirth.

Their song sounds crinkly to me now, as if their veins are contracting in preparation of The Great Fall.

And I wonder… if I had no sight, if all I could do was hear the seasons turning, would I know it was Autumn by the song of the trees?

I hope so.

Namaste.

____________________________

Thank you Bernie for your comment and the inspiration to wander in wonder amidst the trees listening deeply to their Autumnal song.