Category Archives: Essential Journey

Love Finds Me. Here.

On the kitchen island, sunflowers stand in a white vase. Their yellow heads are beginning to droop. Time is passing on.

In my studio, two cacti blossom. Life’s natural impulse to grow and flower is on display in riotous pink pressed against winter’s presence lying in pristine white outside the window.

In the trees that line the bank between our yard and the river, a squirrel scurries down. Winter is coming. There are preparations to be made.

It scurries towards the birdfeeder hanging along the fence at the back of our yard. It has become a squirrel seed depot.

The squirrel grabs at the tiny lip of the feeder and hangs on. Its body swings precariously from side to side. It steadies itself and opens its mouth ready to catch the seeds as they spill out.

Pouches full, it leaps back to the fence onto a tree branch, scurries up the trunk, sailing effortlessly from one branch to the next until, high up, it reaches a hole in the tree and disappears.

Another squirrel replaces it at the feeder.

I wonder if squirrels have a sound for gratitude?

Do I?

Is gratitude heard in the deep sigh of contentment as I sit in the darkness at my desk breathing in the beauty and wonder of the world around me?

Is it heard in the quiet hum of the furnace blowing warm air into the house?

Is it in the rustle of Beaumont’s body as he moves against the hardwood floor where he sleeps beside me?

Is it felt in the quiet, slow lightening of the day seeping across a nighttime sky ebbing into dawn?

Is it known in the halo of the lamp that lights my fingers as I type or the glowing of the candle on the desk beside me?

Is it tasted in the sip of my latte, foamy milk flowing warm and silky across my lips, down my throat and into my body?

Is it seen in the silent shimmery dark silhouettes of the trees dancing in the morning breeze outside my window, their not yet fallen leaves black against a not quite morning sky?

It is all here.

Filling me with gratitude.

This beauty.

It does not wait for the right season. Better weather. For time to flow from one moment to the next.

This beauty is here. Now.

And so am I.

And so is Love.

Namaste

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My Mother’s Prayers. (Video flip-through)

Front and back cover of altered book art journal — My Mother’s Prayers

It is done. This journal I began several months ago with my mother’s prayer cards. It is done.

When I began my intention was to honour my mother’s life journey through using her prayer cards as a collage element on each page in the journal. I wasn’t thinking about healing. Or growth. Or change.

I was focused on diving into the creative field of creating an altered book art journal with her cards.

And then… Transformation beckoned.

Which makes sense, given that the premise of an altered book art journal is using an existing book to transform it into something else.

Don’t you love how art mirrors life and how when we open up to creative expression, life awakens in all its magnificent hues like a crystal prism hanging in a window refracting and reflecting rainbow shards of sunlight?

Through working on this journal, I have found myself falling with grace into all the colours of my human emotions. Grief. Joy. Sorrow. Gratitude, Regret. Compassion. Denial. Appreciation. Sadness. Joy. Anger. Love…

As I’ve written on one of the pages, “There are no mistakes in the human heart. There is only Love.”

In the end, and in the beginning… there is only Love.

There are no mistakes in my life. No paths not taken I wished I had. No roads wandered I wish I hadn’t.

Every path, every road, every step and word and gesture and action and encounter have all added up to create this space in which I live today. Breathing deeply of the divine nature of life.

It is here I find myself floating on a sea of gratitude, waves of joy and love and friendship and laughter and harmony and grace washing over me as I bathe in the waters of sacred communion with Life.

And so I say the prayer that stirs my soul and fills my heart with gratitude. “Thank you.”

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For the past two days I have been working on a flip through video of the book.

On each page I share the words that are most evocative of that page.

I am pleased. The book has turned out better than I imagined (Yes Jane. I’ll say it. “I did a good job!” 🙂 )

But, more than how the book has turned out, I am so very, very grateful for having taken this journey. I began without expectation of an outcome. I end with gratitude for the transformation that has appeared on my path through stepping into the creative exploration of My Mothers Prayers.

A note on the cover — my mother loved baubles and bling. She always wore sparkly things. On her fingers. Around her neck. In her hair. On her wrists. The original cover was orange – not one of my mother’s favourite colours. I painted it purple, covered that with gold spray paint and sprinkled gold dust over the entire thing. The jewelled pieces were my mother’s earrings and on the back, the embroidered bird is from excess fabric from the skirt I wore when C.C. and I were married. Made of hand-embroidered silk from India, I felt it would bring my mother to our wedding as she was too frail to attend. Underneath the bird is one of my mother’s prayer cards.

Forgive And Grow. Forgive and Grow.

We are, once again in the season of the long shadows. The sun’s light dims and shadows reach far across the earth like a memory that will not die in yesterday.

“How do you forget the awful things someone did to you?” a friend asked me awhile ago.

“I don’t strive to forget,” I replied. “I seek to forgive.”

When we forgive someone, or ourselves, it is not that we are saying the deeds that hurt us do not matter, or that it was right for those things to happen, or that the other is not accountable for what they have done.

Forgiveness isn’t about righting wrongs. It’s about accepting the wrong happened and letting go of the pain of reliving the wrongs day after day after day. In letting go, we become freed of the past. Freed of the past, we are free to walk in the light of today savouring its beauty, wonder and awe without carrying the burden of the past into our tomorrows.

To forget we must be able to wipe the slate of time and our memory banks clean. I’ve never found the magic wand that will do that.

What I have found is the power of forgiveness to take out ‘the sting’ of remembering. Just as when stung by a wasp, it’s critical to take out the stinger so that you can heal more quickly, removing the stinger from the past frees you to embrace this moment without the pain and trauma of what was in the there and then casting long shadows over your journey in the here and now.

Forgiveness takes conscious practice.

I remember when I was in the depths of healing from a relationship gone really, really bad, well-meaning people told me that to heal I needed to write a list of all the awful things he’d done so that I would remember how awful he was.

I didn’t need reminders of how awful those days were. The evidence was all around me. His transgressions were many. My brokenness profound.

I was not powerful enough to make him change or even be accountable for what he’d done. I could be accountable for my role in the debacle and aftermath of that relationship. I could make amends in my life. To do that, I needed to focus on sifting through my brokenness to find myself in peace, joy, harmony, love.

And it all began with forgiveness.

Forgiveness was my path to setting myself free of him. It meant, whenever a thought of what he’d done and what had happened arose in my mind, I repeated to myself the simple phrase, “I forgive you.”

No listing of the countless ways he’d ‘wronged’ me. No remembering of all that had happened. I did not need to recite the litany of his sins. Recitation wouldn’t change them. Repeating “I forgive you,” could and did change me.

“I forgive you” had nothing to do with him. It was all about me. And after almost five tumultuous and devastating years of his abuse, I deserved and needed to make my life all about me.

It also meant I had to forgive myself. To write a litany of all my sins in those first heady months of healing, to force myself into ‘the remembering’ of all I’d done to cause pain to those I love would also have forced me to relive the trauma. And in those early days of healing, I was not strong enough to withstand my desire to whip myself with the lashes of all my transgressions.

I had to rest beneath the soothing blanket of being free of his abuse, until the cold, harsh winds of the self-destructive voices inside my head that wanted to ensure I never forgot how much pain I had caused in the lives of so many, abated.

Just as every spring’s arrival awakens new life, forgiveness awakens gratitude for the beautiful dawning of each new day.

In gratitude, there is no need to remember, there is only the call to forgive and grow. In gratitude. Joy. Beauty. Harmony. Love.

Forgive and grow.

And slowly, like snow melting under spring’s lengthening days, memory will release its hold on dark days and cold nights. As shadows shorten and the sun’s warmth awakens the earth, buds will once again appear and beauty will grow brighter day by day by day.

That Ain’t My Gig.

The words for this page appeared before I began creating it.

“And in the end, when the veil that separated life from death was lifted and she slipped through into the ever-after, all that she left behind were her prayers and the Love that carried her through her life into the eternal grace of God’s embrace.”

This is the final page of the altered book journal I’ve been creating for the past few months with the prayer cards my mother left behind.

When I first began this journey I thought it would be… effortless. Seamless. A traipse through memory sweeping the past clean and closing doors on remembered words and perceived hurts that haunted me in my mother’s silence.

It has been non of that and all of that and so much more.

This deep dive into the power of prayer and my ‘mother memories’ of the rights and the wrongs, the beauty and pain, has brought me face-to-face and heart-to-heart with the quintessential ‘mother wound‘.

Healing the mother wound has been a lifelong journey for me. While it might seem all about a woman’s relationship with her mother, it is bigger than that.

The archetypal mother wound is generational. It is the universal struggle to fit into a world that is constantly changing, yet struggling to transform. It is a world that does not make room for a woman’s exploration of her power and potential because the world itself is constructed by a patriarchal set of rules that do not acknowledge the power and potential of women. It is the fight against the ties that bind while holding onto the apron ties that taught us how to be women in a world constructed in man’s ways.

According to Dr. Oscar Serrallach in THIS ARTICLE on GOOP,

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“The mother wound reflects the challenges a woman faces as she goes through transformations in her life in a society where the patriarchy has denied us ongoing matrilineal knowledge and structures.”

“This agenda tells females not to shine, to remain small, and that if you are going to try to be successful, that you should be masculine about it.”

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I am still searching. Scouring mind and heart for the words that will describe this journey I am on. This journey of reckoning.

With my mother’s passing. The words unwinding. The deeds undoing. The messages deconstructing. The lessons unlearning.

It is a journey of Repatriation. Reclamation. Restoration. Rejuvenation. Of myself.

It is a journey not just through time and space and generational legacies and patriarchal ties that bind me to a way of being that does not fit my skin, my soul, my sense of who I have the right to be in this world. A world that does not know how to create space for the art of the feminine to rise up and be heard and seen and known with grace.

I have come to the final page of this journal I have been creating of my mother’s prayer cards.

I can no longer blame my mother or hold her hostage to my unrealized dreams. I can no longer pray for my freedom from the past, from all that has kept me tied with invisible threads of silence and shame to beliefs and ways of being that do not fit me.

I have come to the time when I must claim my right to be free or crumble beneath the sorrow and rage of a life not lived.

No 5. #ShePersisted Series Mixed Media 2017 Louise Gallagher “Rock the Boat”

My mother has taught me well. Through her silence and her belief it was better to not make waves, I have learned to rock the boat.

Through her insistence I walk with both feet firmly planted in obedience, chastity and faith, I have learned to peer into the darkest night of the soul and see the light within.

In showing me how to be a woman bound to man’s ways she has gifted me the freedom to be unbound. To run wild of heart and free of spirit.

And now it is time.

Time for me to dive into the rising tide full of the song of the soul rushing in to greet me on the shore where I stand in anticipation of life washing me clean of the past. Body arced, arms flung wide above my head, waves crashing over my feet, I dive deeper and deeper into the sacred waters of the Divine Feminine. Into the depths of the great mystery where magic flows free and life dances gloriously unbounded by the conventions of a way of being that is not mine.

It is time for me to hold onto only Love and say to the rest, “The hell with that. That ain’t my gig!”

Yup. It’s time to shine big and dance!

ThE Incantations

“Whispered into the holy night, her prayers were an incantation awakening sacred joy and delight.” Pgs 51 & 52 My Mother’s Prayer altered book journal

My father was a curious man. He read voraciously and always replied to questions such as, ‘How do you spell ___________?” or “What’s does _________mean?” with the response, “Go look it up in the dictionary.”

Of course, I’d try to find a ‘smart alecky’ answer like, “If I don’t know how to spell it how can I look it up?

It never phased him. He’d make me think about the spelling, what I thought it was, and work from there.

Question about the meaning of life, or things or processes were always answered with, “Go look it up in the Encyclopedia Britannica.”

The EB was the fount of all knowledge when I was growing up. If it wasn’t in the Encyclopedia, it wasn’t worth knowing.

Because French was my mother’s native tongue, I seldom asked her those kinds of questions. For her, I reserved my curiosity about God.

“Why would God place a sin on an unborn child? Aren’t we born perfect and whole in God’s image?”

“Why do dead people have to wait it out in Purgatory for prayers of the living to release them? Doesn’t God forgive all sin? Isn’t that why Jesus died?”

To my mother, my constant questioning of God was an assault on her faith and her being.

I didn’t intend it to be but, because so much of what I learned about God as a child was fear-based, I wanted answers so I wouldn’t feel so afraid.

I didn’t like feeling afraid, especially if the adults around me didn’t have ways to assuage my fear.

And I definitely didn’t like the anxiety of waiting for ‘the Hand of God’ to come crashing down from the heaven’s above and knock some sense into me. Which is something my mother often wished for, at least that’s how I translated her entreaties that I ‘be like the others’ (my 3 older siblings) and stop disobeying her constantly.

“God knows everything,” my mother would say. “He sees you and hears you and he is angry at you for being so bad.”

And she would cry and wonder out loud what she had done to deserve such a difficult child as me.

After years of therapy and inner child work and personal development courses and journalling and a host of other practices to make sense of the mess I felt was ‘me’ inside, I understand how my mother and I walked on such unsteady ground.

How could she keep me safe from the world if I was constantly putting my eternal soul in danger by questioning God’s will?

How could she have peace if I was constantly searching for answers to the things she did not want to speak of?

Namaste

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One of the gifts of art journalling is its invitation to experiment. With products, process, perspective…

Awhile ago, I watched a video on using Vaseline with alcohol inks. I wasn’t using Alcohol Inks on this page but was curious what would happen if I used it with acrylic inks.

Magic.

The vaseline acts as a resist so that when I spray onto the page, where ever I’ve applied the vaseline, the ink doesn’t adhere. When the ink is dry, wipe it off and voilá! (Ok. The wiping off takes patience but it’s well worth it!)

The lighter spaces, including within the dark image on the left which was the photo on the page I was working on, remain untouched by the ink.

For me, this page speaks to the mystery of my mother’s faith, of life, of relationships, of the universe.

I see the scrolly piece at the bottom as the filigree frame that separated the penitent from the priest in the confessional.

The lone figure walking towards the lit area of the image on the left is me, searching for answers while staying true to myself — which was not always easy when my path took me far from the Catholicism of my mother’s way.

And the entreaty to, “Be. Here. Now.” is the reminder that the past is not alive in this moment, nor is the future.

Life lives in the now. It is here where the mystery flows with grace into the mystical nature of life, creating magic and wonder in my life today.

Now is where Life happens.

Celebrate it. Cherish it. Create beauty within it.

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There Are No Accidents In The Human Heart

There Is No ‘Us And Them’. – two page spread in altered book art journal, My Mother’s Prayers

My mother was devoutly Catholic. She was also very superstitious.

Though putting shoes on a table isn’t particularly hygienic at the best of times (like if they’re new) for my mother, it was cause for panic. It was a harbinger of impending death.

Stir with a knife. Stir up strife.

Black cat on your path. Look out!

We used to tease her a lot about her superstitions. Here response was to pray for us with another Hail Mary.

And, though her faith was firmly embedded in Catholicism, her roots were grounded in the land of her birth and the Hinduism of Southern India.

In my parent’s home, the Crucifix along with statues of Mother Mary and Jesus Christ dominated. But there was always a place for Shiva and Brahma. And, because my father liked to stir things up, there was always a Buddha or two sitting on a shelf high above our heads. As a little girl, I loved to rub the Buddha’s belly. No matter how high the Buddha sat, I’d climb up on a chair or reach up on my tiptoes and rub away. My mother told me it would bring me good luck.

I still have a Buddha on a shelf in my kitchen along with a statue of Shiva and an elephant with its trunk upturned (its good luck). The crucifix my mother carried around the world with her since leaving India decades ago, sits on the mantel in my studio and yesterday, I carefully placed the figurines of Jesus and Mary that sat on her bedside throughout her life on the side table by the sofa. A tiny Laughing Buddha stands with them.

My parents taught my siblings and me to listen and see and feel and know and honour everyone. Not by the labels of society, but by their hearts. They taught us that there is room for everyone at the table no matter where they came from, where they were going, or what they brought to the table.

If Buddha and Christ could stand side by side on a counter, why couldn’t we sit side by side at a table?

Yesterday, after finishing rearranging and organizing my studio, I delved back into the altered book journal I’ve been creating in honour of my mother. “My Mother’s Prayers”.

It is not an accident that the left side of the page has a prayer card of Mother Mary. Just as it is not an accident that Brahma graces the right side of the page tucked beneath the purple flowers I painted in remembrance of my mother.

As my parents taught me; There is no ‘Us and Them’. We are not our faith, or colour of our skin or land of our birth. We are our hearts and there are no accidents in the human heart. There is only Love.

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.

A Prayer for Present Me

Watercolour and acrylic inks on watercolour paper – 9 x 12″

I didn’t know I was still carrying energy around a long-ago event until my daughter told me about my grandson waking up inconsolable with a fever.

Ah yes. I remember those feelings. That sense of helplessness. Of worry and fear grappling for dominance in my mind.

She was three months old. Thanksgiving. She’d been fussy for a couple of days. I asked Wanda, our next door neighbour who was a pediatric nurse, for help. What do you think? Should I take her to a doctor?

She’s just teething, Wanda asserted.

I wanted to believe her but the next day when she would not stop crying, (Alexis never cried as an infant) I insisted we take her into the Children’s hospital emergency room. We were on our way to my then in-laws for Thanksgiving dinner. Dinner can wait, I told my then husband. This is more important.

I remember when they took her from my arms and placed her on a cold steel examining table.

I remember when they put a tiny IV needle into her scalp.

I remember holding her and trying to soothe her and all the while she is mewling and I am forcing myself not to cry because I need to be calm for her.

She was admitted to hospital that day. An infection. A spiking temperature.

She was there a week.

I only went home to shower and change my clothes.

I could not leave her alone no matter how kind and caring the nurses and doctors.

I could not leave her alone.

I had forgotten about those moments and days 34 years ago until I heard about my grandson. He is okay. Whatever was ailing him passed through and he is once again his sunny self.

I am grateful.

That he has weathered this storm, whatever its source and that I can breathe again through memory, letting time wash away the traces of those moments and days long ago when I felt so helpless, so incompetent and like such a failure as a mother.

How could I not have known when first she started to cry that it was something serious?

How could I not have immediately whisked her off to the doctor?

And I smile.

I remember.

I never wanted to be ‘one of those mothers’ who was constantly dragging their child to a doctor imagining the worst.

I wanted to assume the best. To be calm, collected, thoughtful in everything I did.

Years later, when Alexis was about 12, she’d break her foot climbing the doorframe to the kitchen (I know. It was a thing to do.) Not wanting to foster her assertions that something was seriously wrong after having listened so many times to her cries that a fall had resulted in a break which ended up with unnecessary x-rays, I put ice on her foot and told her if it was still hurting in the morning, we’d get it checked out.

Sure enough, this time, the break was real.

And again, I wondered, how could I not have known? How could I be such an incompetent mother?

I’m smiling as I write that. I think being a mother has taught me more about acceptance of my limitations and fears as well as made me aware of my blind-spots and ego’s need for reassurance than anything else I’ve ever done in my life.

Being a mother humbled me. It still does.

And being a YiaYa has given me the gift of remembering those places where old fears still linger, where charred spots in my psyche can still burn.

And I say a prayer of gratitude. And I say a prayer of hope. And I say a prayer of remembering what it means to be human.

We do our best and our best is all we can do.

Namaste.

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As part of the course I’m taking online with Orly Avineri, the invitation was to take one image and repeat it 3 times in a journal page.

This page in my altered book journal, My Mother’s Prayers, is called, A Prayer for My Inner Child — it became 3 prayers, one for my inner child, my present me and my future me. My mother always lit candles for her children, particularly when something was going on in our lives. I’m pretty sure, 34 years ago she burnt a candle and prayed for Alexis every day.

A Prayer for My Inner Child
May you always feel safe in my arms of Love, free to run with abandon in the garden of dreams blossoming in my heart. May you never fear that I will desert you or put you at risk. May you know peace within me.
A Prayer for My Present Self
May courage be my constant companion, drawing me deeper and deeper into the great mystery of life where I am bound in sacred partnership within the luminous present opening my heart to Love always.
A Prayer for My Future Self
May you feel deeply and passionately connected to the exquisite nature and intimacy of the whole dancing fearlessly in the ephemeral nature of the embodied present. May you dance with life, falling forever into Love.
And so it was.
And so it is.
And so it will be.
Forever and Always.

Do You Believe In Yourself?

“Softly, her dreams took flight on the wings of hope that believing in herself was all she needed to make her dreams come true. And they did.” – Altered Book Journal. “My Mother’s Prayers” two-page spread.

We all have dreams. Big ones. Little ones. Quiet ones. Loud, audacious ones. Dreams of living lives of wonder. Dreams of great adventure. Dreams of discovering far off lands, of creating stories of greatness in our lives.

Sometimes, our dreams come true. Sometimes, we let them go because life happens.

We fall. We face a wall we cannot climb. We trip over a rock that sends us flat on our back.

In our pain and fear of getting hurt, in our concern others will laugh at us or judge us for our failures, we lock away our dreams and continue on our journey taking the safer path, the road more travelled.

We do okay. We create a ‘good enough life’. It’s just not the life we once dreamed of. But that’s okay, we say. Dreaming is for children. We’re “all grown up now”. We have responsibilities. Success. Things. Secure inside the comfort zone of the life we’ve created, we forget about our dreams and carry on living our good enough life.

And then, one day, if we’re lucky, something happens to remind us of our dreams. Tentatively. Hopefully. We unlock the cage inside our heart where we tucked away our dreams long ago and peer inside.

That’s where the magic happens. That’s where our dreams peer back at us and ask, “Are you ready to come alive?”

It’s a big question because if we say yes, the next question we must ask ourselves as we peer into our hearts and gaze at the sleeping beauty of our dreams unlived is, “Am I willing to believe in myself?”

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As with all the pages in this altered book art journal, embedded within the page is one of my mother’s prayer cards. Also included are a photo of my mother and father hidden behind the smaller bird in the cage.

I hadn’t intended to hide them. Initially, I was going to transfer their images to the page with a technique that requires you to rub off the photo backing so that only the ink from the image remains affixed to the canvas. I started the process with the prayer card only to discover, while that technique works well on a canvas, on a book page the vigorous rubbing off required to remove the backing paper can tear the page of the book.

Ooops.

I wanted to quit. To give up. To tear out the page and begin again.

And that’s when this page became something entirely diferent than what I started to create.

Isn’t that what happens to our dreams sometimes?

We start out all excited and open to the journey until we encounter an obstacle or something goes drastically wrong. Feeling dejected, or embarrassed or possibly hopeless, we pack away our dreams and continue on our journey. It’s a little less bright. A little less promising, but it’s okay. It’s a good life and we should be grateful for all we have.

We tell ourselves, “We didn’t really like that dream anyway,” or some such conjured up story that will hide our disappointment. We’re living well so we ignore the ache in our hearts and the yearning in our minds to fly higher.

Until one day, something happens and we remember our dreams. We remember we are brave, courageous, worthy. We remember we are dreamers.

In that sacred, rarefied air of possibility, we take a step outside the confines of our comfort zone and take a deep breath.

We stretch our arms wide.

We close our eyes.

We dare.

To dream.

To believe in ourselves.

To set our dreams free.

Second Time Syndrome

It is a trait I’ve noticed before. One that trips me up easily, reminding me of how delicate and fragile, as well as rigid and pernicious, my ego’s need to look good.

I call it my “Second Time Syndrome”.

The first time I try something new, I am generally very patient with myself. I allow myself lots of latitude for learning, stretching, messing up and not doing it ‘perfect’. The exploration of the craft becomes a vast playground of possibility where I am both awakened and alive within the expansiveness of the creative process and the joy of stretching and tuning my creative muscles.

First time out, there’s no critter hissing about ‘getting it right’. There’s only grace dancing with me in the playing field of creativity.

Second time. It’s a different story.

Somewhere buried deep within my little reptile brain that sits at the base of my skull, the voice of fear awakens and whispers, “Ain’t no room for mistakes, lady. You get it right or you gonna fall flat on your face.” As if, come the second time, there’s no room for learning and definitely no latitude for mistakes or even playfulness and joy.

Second time. I gotta ‘do it right’. supersedes my soul’s craving for being within the creative process and its beguiling flow. Which, in ego terms means there’s no room for growth. There’s only space for ‘perfection’ – and given how my ego already knows I’m going to fail anyway, hopelessness and fear shadow my every move.

Once fear awakens, looseness, ease, grace fall away as I fall into the “Get It Right” trap. Suddenly, focussing on ‘the outcome’ becomes my point of reference. “Forget about savouring the moment and being in the flow of the creative process” the critter hisses. “You gotta focus on the final product. You gotta make it look good! Or else…”

It’s the ‘or else’ that gets me every time. The critter speaks in innuendo. He never defines, the ‘or else’. He leaves that to my imagination — and when I’m listening to the critter hissing, my imagination can go to some not so pretty places!

Case in point. On the weekend, I decided to work on eight more collage pieces using the techniques of the series I worked on last week. (See – Out of the Box)

Again, I used a limited palette (four colours + white – Ivory. Yellow Oxide. Red Oxide. Payne’s Grey). I painted on pages from old books for the collage pieces and painted watercolour as the substrates for the pieces themselves. I drew and doodled and cutout and tore up the painted book pages. And then, I started to assemble the pieces.

I felt stiff. Awkward. Tense.

My head was busy with thoughts of ‘do it right’ and ‘don’t mess up’.

And then, I remembered. Oh wait! This is my second time. I’m worrying about doing it instead of breathing into the pure delight of being immersed within this creative moment.

I had to remind myself to Pause. Breathe. Get Present.

A lot.

Pause. Breathe. Get Present.

Which also brings me front and centre with my ego’s need to protect me from criticism. “Give ’em the caveat,” the critter hisses vehemently. “Tell ’em you know they’re not that good. You’re just practicing…”

Pause. Breathe. Get Present.

“It’s okay, Louise,” the voice of wisdom deep within my belly whispers gently. “It’s not about judgements or making good art. It’s about expressing yourself fearlessly and stretching your creative muscles with grace.”

In grace, self-compassion gives rise to fearless creative expression and the art is not measured by the final product. It’s found in the joy of being within the creative process, allowing, expanding, growing, learning, creating.

I created eight new collage pieces in my ‘Liminal Spaces’ series.

The critter had a lot to say about the process.

My soul slipped lovingly into silence, breathing deeply of the essence of my creative nature.

And I am reminded once again how art, like life, comes alive in all its living colours when I let go of my expectations of getting it right and breathe instead into my soul’s desire to be fully present and embodied in this moment, right now.

Namaste.