Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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Falling Into the Arms of Love (Day 3 – 30 Day Art Project)

Whispers Day 3One of the challenges/opportunities of the 30 Day Art Project is to create a piece within a specified timeframe. Now, I must clarify — the timeframe is arbitrary. But it is important.

I have a tendency to ‘overthink’ (ok it’s more than a ‘tendency’ it’s an affinity/habit). Overthinking in creative practice can lead to over-working a piece, burying its true message under layers and layers of ‘stuff’. It’s also highly possible overthinking in life can lead to over-everythinging which results in burying our hearts beneath all the stuff we layer on in the misguided belief ‘the stuff’ will protect us from getting hurt, feeling sad, knowing grief.

In this piece, I kept to the timeframe of 30 minutes.

It was hard.

I wanted to go back into the piece. To add, delete, change, rework it. But, at 30 minutes, I had to step away. To accept it was done.

And that’s where the real challenge presented itself. I didn’t want to share it. It’s not my best work. It’s not quite right. It’s not…. blah. blah. blah.

My critter/ego mind had a heyday with rationalizing why I should just scrap this piece entirely and start all over again. Or better yet, layer on top of it enough stuff so ‘the beautiful mess’ was hidden so that only what I wanted people to see would be revealed.

My inner voice of wise counsel whispered her wisdom lovingly into my heart, “It’s not about the quality of the piece,” she murmured. “It’s about committing to the process. About learning the art of letting go of ‘perfection’ to delve into the spirtual nature of your creation.”

I was surprised by her comment about ‘the spiritual nature of your creation.” How does creating in a timeframe open me up to that? I wondered. (Or perhaps it was the critter/ego mind expressing its skeptical nature.)

Which is when the truth opened itself up in the light of awareness.

Being present to the canvas (and life) is not a perfect process. It’s not even all that predictable a one. Being present to and with everything is about presence. My presence. Your presence. It’s about our willingness to be real, unadorned, unfiltered, actually present without all the accoutrements of life and our beliefs of who we are cluttering our minds with stories of how we ‘should’ be and how our lives should unfold.

And, it’s about honouring the presence of others, seeing the holy and sacred in one another and celebrating the goodness at the heart of our human essence.

In our presence, the holy nature of our divine essence is revealed through our vulnerability. Vulnerable, we are seen. We are known. We are beloved. In our vulnerability, we live in the joy of being beautifully, perfectly human, in all our holy imperfections, all our humanness, all our beautiful mess.

And that’s where we find ourselves falling into the arms of Love, always.

And that’s where Love catches us, always.

Namaste


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Love is a Beautiful Mess (Day 2)

There is no straight line to love, no map, no go here do this and you will find it buried under the third rock from the moon, or sun or stars or under the lilac bush in the backyard.

There is, only Love.

It is not hiding amongst the stars or buried in the backyard.

It just is, everywhere.

And Love is a beautiful mess.

Once upon a time, I thought I had to search for love. To do A, B, C and it would be mine, forever and always. Wrapped up in its warm and welcoming blanket, I would be happy forever more.

But Love doesn’t work like that. Love doesn’t care for A, B, C’s or 1, 2, 3’s.

Love surrounds us always. It is an invisible field of energy that permeates our beings, our senses, our worlds. To tap into it, all we have to do is exactly what Love asks… Be ourselves.

Because Love is a beautiful mess that does not judge, criticism or grade our ability or response to it.

All it asks is that we Love the mess that we are and get down and dirty with heart’s craving to be Loved, just the way we are.

You don’t need to bring a guide book or a compass to love yourself. All you need is to be present to your heart.

Open. Cracked. Broken. Messy.

No matter its condition, Love is there, always flowing. Always present. Always Loving you, exactly the way you are, where you’re at, no matter what you’re doing. Asking you to do the same, no matter how broken, discouraged, defeated, confused or messy you judge yourself.

The question is… can you Love the messiness of you the way Love does?

______________________________

Painting:

Substrate:

9 x 12 Watercolor paper (90lb)

Process:

White Muslin painted with dye inks affixed to a background painted with ink and imprinted with acyrlic paints on a Gelli Pad.

Collage pieces are Gelli printed and affixed with gloss medium

All layered together in one beautiful mess.

 


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A Heartful Month (a 30 day art project)

Day 1 – 30 Day Art Project
A Heartful Month
“Let Your Heart Sing Out Loud”

An amazing woman I recently met when taking one of her art courses, suggested that if I want to engage in xx# of days of art, I simply pick a subject, a timeframe and begin.

So I have.

For the next 30 days, I will be creating one piece of art a day on the theme of ‘heart’. I’m calling it, “A Heartful Month”. (Thank you Annette Wichmann of Kensington Art Supply for the inspiration.)

The theme is aligned with the half-day workshop I will be offering in October here in my Wild at Heart StudioDiscover Your HeartSong. As I develop the framework for the day, I want to focus on what it means to know my own heartsong; to recognize it, embody it, dance with it and free it through self-expression. Committing to a 30 day project will keep me living with loving attention and curiousity in the exploration of the question, “What is my heartsong?”

As with most projects, I think about doing it, and then hesitate (Dang that critter!). I worry that I’ll look stupid. I’ll fail/fall down. I doubt myself… What if I break my commitment? What if I miss a day?

The beauty of the 30 day art project is that it’s a self-guided process. It’s not meant to be an onerous task. It’s simply an opportunity to make a commitment, challenge myself, and to deepen my understanding of an idea/theme/process/skill. It’s meant to be a joyful, gentle opportunity to explore and create a habit — in this case, the habit of creating one piece of art a day that does not take more than 20 – 30 minutes.

Which is where the real challenge of the 30 day project comes in for me. I tend to get lost in creation, letting go of all concept of time. To give myself a time limit is…. scary.

I’ve decided I’m up to the challenge. I’d better be because one of the aspects of the challenge is to post whatever I create, every day, on social media, and while I may not be posting it on my blog everyday, I shall be putting it up on my instragram feed.  (mlouiseg88)

That’s one sure way to keep me honest with myself!

The pressure is on!

Of course, this upcoming weekend, while I am committed to my 30 day project, I won’t be posting what I created until after the weekend. My youngest daughter and I are hiking in Friday to a remote mountain lodge and I will be unplugging (ok, it’s unavoidable as the lodge is out of cell range and has no electricity). I won’t be ‘coming back to civilization’ until Sunday afternoon.

It promises to be a heartful mother/daughter weekend. All we need to carry in are our clothes, which means I’ll be able to slip in a couple of pieces of watercolour paper and a few watercolour pencils into my backpack!

Yesterday, to welcome in A Heartful Month, I created an opening piece (and yes, it did take me longer than 20 – 30 minutes but Hey! Rome wasn’t built in a day.) I started the piece with the intention of creating a signature piece for my Discover Your HeartSong workshop. (Which is also my excuse for why it took longer than 30 minutes! Signature pieces take time.)

It wasn’t until after I had finished the piece that I decided to create my 30 days of art project.

Which is often how happy accidents happen. I do something, discover a new idea along the way, and then follow that thread to see where it will lead me.

I have no idea what I will discover along my 30 days of art project — I am confident it will challenge me, excite me and open me up to new ideas that will provide other threads to follow as I explore the question, “What is my heartsong?”

What an exciting space to be present and open to exploring!

And… if you’re interested in joining in, jump in anytime!  It would be lovely to have company on the journey! (send me a message and let me know if you are so I can follow your progress too!)

_______________________

I wanted to play with sewing on paper and painting on fabric — so this piece piece incorporates both.

 


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What if… we started talking to one another?

 

It is several years ago and I am working on an awareness campaign with a group of individuals with lived experience of homelessness. They want ‘the others’ to know they’re not all bad people. That it’s the circumstances of their lives that may be different than others, but they are still human beings. They have dreams. Needs. Wants. Wishes. And one of them is, to be treated with dignity.

“But didn’t you spend all your time concocting ways to make ‘the others’ feel uncomfortable?,” I tease one of the men, (I’ll call him Jack) a tall, burly Indigenous man whose life path lead him to surviving 20 years on the streets. “Didn’t you make all sorts of plans on how to create trouble for ‘them’?”

Jack laughed. “Yeah. Right. There I was all hopped up on drugs and I’m spending my time trying to figure out how to hurt some white guy on the street instead of trying to figure out how I’m gonna get my next hit?” He went on to talk about how, for him and his cohorts, ‘the others” were the ones they wanted to avoid. They only caused them trouble, and trouble meant involving the cops and that’s the last thing anyone wants when they’re trying to survive on the streets.

And then he added, “You don’t hear a lot of stories about homeless people killing non-homeless folk. It’s mostly the other way around. Like those kids who poured gasoline on a guy sleeping under a bridge and set him on fire. They weren’t homeless. They came from some ‘other’ neighbourhood.”

I was reminded of Jack this morning when I read David Kanigan’s powerful post, Waiting. At the Star Market. Trying to Bend the Image. on his blog, Live & Learn. (David is an exquisite writer. His posts always provoke deep thinking.)

In David’s story, he is struggling with a decision to sit on a seat at a train station. It’s a couple down from a man who appears to be experiencing homelessness. The story in his head is complex and very human. Should I? Shouldn’t I? What if?

He tells it beautifully and I am there with him. I have had that internal conversation. Felt the eyes of ‘the others’ watching to see what I will do.

Sometimes, I have chosen to sit down. Sometimes, not.

Yet, no matter my decision, it is that very conversation in my head that creates my ‘otherness’.

Charity, kindness, compassion are not committed once we’ve weighed the options, considered the consequences. They are born of the heart, given without expectation of reciprocity. Enacted because we see all humanity as us. Not ‘us’ and ‘them’. Us.

In David’s story, he sat down.

Eventually, the other man walked away. Perhaps he, like Jack, was afraid of ‘the other’. Perhaps he was trying to avoid contact with ‘the other’, because in his world, trouble is all ‘the others’ have caused him.

What if… There are ‘others’ and there are ‘the others’.

What if… Some of us live in ‘otherness’. Privilege. Relative comfort. In homes with running hot and cold water. We have closets filled with clothes. Stories that make up our lives of abundance, or if not abundance, at least enough to get month to month without fearing losing it all.  And, there are others who have stories of lack. Of loss. Of poverty… of things. And not of spirit. Heart. Dreams.

What if… those we view as having nothing, or as being the ‘other’ to our ‘otherness’, are seeking that which we seek? Dignity. Respect. Love. Happiness. Peace. Joy. Connection. Belonging…

What if… we all decided to sit down beside one another or at the same table and didn’t see it as an act of charity bestowed from one to another but simply as an act of making human connection.

What if… no matter where we walk, or stand, or sit, we see each other as the same kind of human, just different?

What if… we stop having conversations in our heads and instead, share… a meal, a moment, a smile… a conversation?

 

 


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Listening to My Heart Song

No. 3 — the Heart Song Series

We all have a song within our hearts. Sometimes, we hear it and let it be our guide. In our busy world, it can sometimes be challening to listen in.

Since leaving the formal workforce two and a half months ago, I am tuning into my Heart Song. it is a lovely, soul-envigorating, life-inspiring process. Some things I’ve noticed as I’ve ‘turned in’ since starting this rejuvenation journey, post-retirement:

  1. My internal clock seems to have reset itself — I don’t wake up at 5:30 anymore. My clock seems to think 7 is a much more reasonable hour to awaken. I totally agree!
  2. My breathing comes more easily — towards the end of my ‘out-there’ professional career, I was having trouble catching deep breaths. The stress has lifted and I feel much more relaxed.
  3. There’s no time limit on creative expression — As an example, I take longer to create my blog in the morning. I’m not as focused on ‘gettin’ ‘er done’ as I am on creating words and images that reflect where I’m at. It’s not that I didn’t do that in the past, it’s just I don’t hurry through the process anymore and now savour the creation.
  4. There is no end to creativity — I’m feeling my creativity expanding, which is seriously exciting for me. I know I’m a creative but in this post-r/rejuvenation place, I am ‘seeing’ the world through much softer, more colour soaked eyes and seeking out beauty where ever I go.
  5. Being a’life learner’ brings me joy — In my ‘courses’ file on my computer, I have several courses I’ve purchased and downloaded that I’ve never gotten around to completing. Time seemed less ‘available’ in the past and so, while I wanted to immerse myself in the learning, I didn’t give myself the opportunity. Now, I’m working through them. Most of them are ‘art’ related and are expanding my creative expression. One course I’ve just started (this week) is a Contemplative Photography course which lasts an entire year. I’m excited to explore the coursework with my fellow contemplatives.
  6. There is beauty in each step — My walks with Beaumont are longer and more energizing. I don’t hurry to the park and home. We saunter and check out the world around us, watch the river flow, the paddle-boarders, the rafters, the ducks and geese. A walk takes as long as a walk takes.
  7. Cooking is another form of creative expression — I am spending more time reading recipes, creating meals, immersing myself in culinary arts. And I am loving it.

Perhaps though, the biggest shift, or transformation as Val of Find Your Middle Ground named it yesterday in her response to my blog, is that I am consciously being more gentle with myself. Rather than ‘give myself heck’ for struggling at times in this rejuvenation journey, I am learning to breathe into the opportunities for growth and to find value in the struggle.

Like a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly, I must first listen to my heart. From the quiet centre of my heart, I create space for my dreams to awaken and grow into the beauty of my life unfettered by inner chatter that would have me believe I must do it all, now, and do it all perfectly.

I am becoming kinder to myself. And that’s a beautiful thing.

___________________________________

Over the past few days I have been creating a series of ‘Heart Song’ paintings. In their creation, I have been inspired to create a half day workshop on ‘Discovering Your Heart Song’.  Stay tuned for more info as I open the doors to my studio to share with others my joy and love of creative expression so that they can discover their Heart Song.

 


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Do you struggle against change?

I am struggling.

Struggling with the sense of not having a purpose. Of not having ‘a job’, something that defines me, that acts like a pin on a map, showing people ‘this is where I fit in’.

It’s an odd place, this place of struggle. I know it’s been less than 3 months since I left the workplace, since I hung up my “I’m a leader, changing the world of homelessness” nameplate, and I know, that’s not a long timeframe.

But it still doesn’t make ‘the struggle’ any easier.

Oh, on the surface you can’t see it. I’m busy, doing things, organizing, clearing out rooms and garages and basements. Setting up my studio, riding my bicycle, walking my pooch, cooking and entertaining, painting and creating.

But I struggle with my sense of ‘meaning’, or lack thereof.

And I know me.

Yesterday I heard about an ED role in an organization that was interesting. And I thought… maybe I should apply!  (Yes I know. Aren’t I fascinating! And amusing.) 🙂

See, when I find myself in the dissonance of my discomfort, I look for solutions out there. I seek soothing from external sources in a quick fix mindset that says, “Here honey. This external recognition/ occupation/activity will make you feel better real quick.”

Reality is — external gratification is fleeting. It seldom soothes the core of inner dissonance, offering up instead transitory mental, in-the-moment of the discord, appeasement.

And I breathe.

Struggle is part of the journey. It is not all of it. It is integral to it though as I learn new ways of being present in my life, new paths of travelling to find grace, patience, joy and wonder in my new world of possibility.

Struggle is good. As long as I don’t allow it to become a means to escape, or deny, or avoid or defend against growth.

Growth is part of living.

Growth is inevitable.

It’s up to me to determine how I grow. How much. In what direction. It’s my job to find its value, meaning, possibilities. I can let it drive me into withering, or propel me into creative expression I never before dreamed of as possible in my life.

I am standing in the dissonance of my discomfort, embracing my struggle and diving deep within to find my path through grace, joy and Love.

I am embracing growth and leaning beyond the creative edges of my knowing who I am today. I am allowing myself to feel and know this struggle as part of my journey and to celebrate its presence.

And for today, I’m into getting down and dirty with my ego as I learn to embrace all I need to learn and grow into so that I can grow lovingly and joyfully into this new way of being present in my world that I am not yet comfortable in.

I am pulling the pin of where I stand on the map of my life and setting myself free to gracefully freefloat in a sea of possibility.

I am struggling and celebrating my struggle. It means I’m growing.

And that is cause for celebration!

Namaste.


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Heart Songs and other Life Journies

I love creating backgrounds and then words to put with the background. What I’ve been noticing, however, is that I am treating my art as ‘precious’. I am worried that to actually paint/write the words onto the image might somehow destroy the image. So I hesitate.

Art-making, like life, is precious. It cannot be experienced or lived fully by being treated like it is ‘precious’. By hesitating at the edge of the field and holding back from stepping completely into the game of life.

Life must be lived in the center of its action, its messy, its hard places and rocky shores, its beautiful landscapes and stunning views that invite you to let go and fly free.

To experience life (and art-making) fully, you gotta take risks, get into the fray and duke it out with your anxieties, fears, hesitations, doubts and face, full-on, your desire to treat it as ‘precious’ when what it really is… is LIFE itself.

Namaste.