She flows. I open. Myself. The floodgates. The doors. The windows. The entrances to my heart, my mind, my body, my being present. Here.
And in all that is opened up I lose the need to know what word, what thought, what idea comes next and simply allow. The word, the thought, the idea to appear.
This morning, I sat at my desk. My final eggnog latte of the season steamed in my Christmas mug, (final because the container is empty). Beaumont the Sheepadoodle curled up at my feet, piano music played softly all around, the furnace hummed, my husband slept in our bed.
Outside my window, the sun was kissing the night good-bye with rose-streaked kisses.
I sat at my desk and welcomed in the morning with a soul-satisfying breath. It sank, deep, deep into my belly. Softly, silently, it flowed with ease into my lungs, down, down into the crucible of my body, And as I breathed in, then out, I felt my conscious mind sinking down, down into the presence of the sacredness of this life-giving ritual of breathing. With each breath, in and out, I felt my entire being expand into every cell of my body bringing me effortlessly into the hallowed nature of this moment at the edge of day dawning.
Snow Falling At DawnLouise Gallagher
Sometimes, on mornings like this,
when the sky is gloomy grey
and snow falls softly
as the world rests lightly
in the lingering tendrils of night's embrace,
I stand outside in the still quiet space before the dawn
and close my eyes
and turn my face up towards the sky
the cool slick wetness of snow
falling against my skin.
I listen to the river flowing
to the sound of geese stirring
on the far bank
where they rest upon a gravel bar
throughout the night.
A quiet honk, a rustle of wings
only the sound of the river flowing.
In the distance,
I hear the sibilant hiss of tires
followed by the more gutteral thrum
as a car crosses over the bridge.
For a moment,
my mind will stray
and I will wonder
about their direction.
To work? Or coming home?
Were they at the hospital all night
Tried? Weary? Exhausted?
Or are they on their way
fresh faced and eager to greet this day
where they will serve
in a multitude of ways
those of us who venture out
only for necessities.
And then, I’ll take a little breath
say a quiet prayer of gratitude
for whomever it is crossing the bridge
and in that prayer
I will remember all those who have crossed over
their final bridge
and all those who will cross over
on this day that is just beginning
which will become their last.
Tenderly I hold the silence
in the sacred nature
of my heart
in this darkness
before the dawn
and let my mind settle
into the still quiet spaces
of morning awakening
beneath the tender light
of snow falling at dawn.
Today is my birthday.
It is a day full of gratitude. Grace. Generosity. And above all Love.
My heart is full.
And though the world around me is locking-down in an effort to stem the flow of this virus that is reaching out in ever-widening waves to infect more and more people and cause more and more hardship, gratitude remains at the core of all I feel and know. All I welcome in and all I bring to this day.
I am thankful for my beloved. His heart and kind-spirit. His constancy and Love.
I am grateful for my daughters. For their tender mercies and love that has never faltered even when I have fallen on the road of life and lost my way.
And for my step-son and daughter who remind me always that love can expand in never-ending ripples of joy and laughter in this sacred space of being family.
I am grateful for my sisters who hold my heart and memories with such grace and who share theirs with endless generosity. And for the men in their lives who stand with us in all kinds of weather.
I am grateful for my friends. For those who have been on this path with me for many years and those who have only recently started walking beside me. Your presence illuminates my path, no matter the times.
I am grateful for all of you. For visiting me here. For being part of my journey. For encouraging me and seeing me and acknowledging me on this path.
There are many paths to find joy, contentment, happiness, peace. I am so grateful you are all at the heart of mine.
I am finding these times disturbing. The uncertainty and dismay hang around in the back of my mind like drunken party guests who refuse to leave. There’s no talking reason to them. No interrupting their disruptive nature with quiet, measured words of calm reassurance that it will all be okay. If they just go home to bed everything will look better in the morning. Going home to bed is the last thing they want to do! They want to party like there’s no tomorrow.
I think the disruptive partying going on in my head these past few weeks kind of believes there might be no tomorrow.
It’s okay. I haven’t resorted to drinking too much. Except… my drink of choice is ‘The News’. I circle back to it again and again throughout the day as if just one more drink will make it all come clear. Will make it all go away.
I’m a little drunk on disbelief right now. It hasn’t all gone away.
And so, I head to the studio because, whenever I am feeling disgruntled or unfocused, time in the studio pulls me out of disbelief, dismay and uncertainty. It brings me back.
To myself. To the moment. To beauty.
It is where I desire most to be present.
Years ago, when I was in the beginning days of healing from a relationship that almost killed me, I often caught myself saying to myself, “I can’t believe he…” “I can’t believe I…”
I had to stop myself from saying, “I can’t believe…”
The “I can’t believe” was a crutch. It was a mindblock that was keeping me trapped in despair and anxiety. It was a cop-out phrase that held me captive to its disenfranchising nature. Saying, “I can’t believe” meant I didn’t have to face reality and most importantly, The Truth.
And to heal, I had to face the truth and deal with that. Not the make believe.
In these times, I often hear people saying, “Can you believe this is happening?”
My response has become, “I have to.”
Playing the game of make believe, buying into disbelief, is too dangerous.
But what can I dooooo? the voice of fear and disbelief cries out within.
Today, on someone’s IG feed I saw a meme that made me wonder…
“I’m not sure if I should wear a mask, buy a gun or a generator.”
Someone recommended the generator and gave them advice on what type of guns to buy.
That buying a mask was not mentioned astounds me (I have many and wear them diligently). But, the reality is that for some, not wearing one is the option of their choice.
That buying a gun was considered an option to resolve the uncertainty of these times also astounded me. But, the reality is that for some, it is.
And as to the generator? Well, power goes out so why not?
Except, I think the generator option might be based on something more insidious than a storm downing power lines.
And I look out of my window at the river flowing by, the last leaves of autumn clinging to the almost bare limbs of the trees that line the riverbank. I watch a squirrel race along the fence line and take a flying leap onto the bird feeder trying desperately to grab the last seeds as they fall.
A few cars pass over the bridge. A flock of geese fly by. Beaumont the Sheepadoodle lies under my desk and watches it all.
And I breathe and remind myself that I must trust.
Trust in this moment. Trust in the universe. Trust in myself and this beautiful world around me.
And I breathe again.
I struggle to understand those who think mask-wearing fits in the same box as buying a gun because… I can’t believe people believe a gun will keep them safe.
Fact is. Some people do.
It is my disbelief that is my problem.
And the only way to resolve my problem is to allow compassion to be my guide.
The path to peace of mind is found in the very things I believe to be essential to create a more kind and loving world – Tolerance. Empathy. Respect. Compassion. Fairness. Equality. Acceptance. Truth. Trust. Love.
Not just for those who think like me or look like me or act like me. For everyone.
It’s hard to live in that space when I’m judging, criticizing, condemning the spaces I can’t believe are also present.
They are all present in the here and now. And it is here, in the here and now, that I must find my peace of mind, my understanding, my compassion and my joy.
And so, I go for a walk in nature. I dance in my studio and spill paint everywhere. I read and write and watch the river flow by and I breathe. Deeply. Filling my body, mind and spirit with life-giving oxygen.
I do the things I know work for me and trust that in so doing, I am adding a little bit of joy and beauty into the world around me. Beauty that will create peace of mind and heart within and all around me. Beauty that will remind everyone I encounter on my path of the power of Love to bring us closer together. To create bridges of understanding, tolerance, unity, dignity, fairness, joy…
And, held captive within is powerful embrace, to remind each of us of our human capacity to Love one another. Fearlessly. Fiercely. Freely.
For the past few days, I have been experimenting with my Gelli Printing Pad, using inks and watercolours to create greeting cards – (seasonal and general).
I have packages of blank cardstock (and packages) I bought several years ago when, as a fundraiser for the homeless-serving agency I worked at, I decided to make Christmas cards to sell. The proceeds went to the agency and I got to play with glitter for weeks on end!
I also got to clean up glitter for months on end but that’s another story.
It is all part of the ‘Frugal Fall Challenge’ I’ve created for myself. It’s an invitation to explore what can happen when I limit the art supplies I can use and/or purchase. In this case, I am not allowing myself to purchase any paper products, including canvases, until November 21st.
I’d originally made it ‘no art supplies’ but realized that if I wanted to set myself up for success, I had to make the challenge realistic. Believe me, going cold turkey on not buying any form of art supply was simply a recipe for failure before I even started! At least limiting myself to no paper and canvas purchases for three months gives me a modicum possibility of success — I have lots and lots of paper and canvases in the storage room at the back of my studio. Not being able to buy more was an invitation to explore what I have on hand and use it!
And that’s what I’m doing.
Engaging with my whole body in the art of letting go.
See, letting go isn’t only about ‘releasing’. It’s about engaging with all that you are, all that you know and all that you have in ways that ignite your imagination, inspire your creativity and invite you to wander new and beguiling paths that lead you into deeper knowing of yourself and how you are in this world.
I have a habit of buying art supplies. Some may call it an addiction but I’m not into labelling it. Know what I mean?
My habit means I have a storeroom full of supplies and ephemera some of which has sat around for a long, long time.
The Frugal Fall Challenge is my invitation to myself to explore new ways of being present – in my studio, in my life, in myself.
Too often, when I engage in the practice of ‘letting go’ I make it all about the release and don’t stop to explore the breath within the spaces created by letting go.
It’s as though in getting rid of all that ‘stuff’ I feel uncomfortable with the empty/calm spaces and so, rather than sit with them, I start filling the space up again.
And I wonder… am I uncomfortable with the empty spaces of my life (read body, mind, spirit) and so, keep acquiring stuff (read knowledge/information/techniques/new ways of doing things, being present) so I don’t have to face the silence of the open spaces inviting me to rest and breathe and be present with and within all that is already here…?
Now that’s a heady question for this rainy October morning. Perhaps, rather than seeking answers, it is time to heed the words of Rainer Maria Wilke:
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
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.
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:
Meditate for a minimum of 20 minutes every morning.
Spend half an hour reading something inspirational every day.
Write in my journal at bedtime for 20 minutes.
Take my vitamins. Eat more veggies every day. Cut back on carbs and sugars.
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
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.
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.
When I sat down at my studio worktable yesterday morning, there was one phrase that kept drifting through my mind, “And her prayers became the song the night sang to sing the stars awake.”
I pulled out the altered book journal I’ve been working on with my mother’s prayer cards and gave myself over to the muse.
It did not start out well…
You know how you can be working on something and think, “hmmmm…. It’s okay but I’m not really sure what I’m doing here…”
My first instinct is to quit. To paint over. To tear it up.
My deeper knowing is to keep deliving into it. To allow myself to work through the ‘yucky’ to get to whatever is looking to be expressed.
When I do that, it happens. Like magic. There’s this moment where I feel so connected and so immersed in it all that my heart sings and my soul dances and my body sinks deeply into gratitude.
Yeah? Well, yesterday, that happened.
There I was, feeling stuck and blah when without thought, I felt my entire being sink effortlessly into that place. Breathing deeply, I felt the silence expand between my heart beat’s steady tattoo as my soul seemed to hang suspended in time. I felt as though I was floating in harmony with the universe and all of life surrounding me. My senses awoke to the moment and I sighed and whispered to the sun and the clear blue sky and the breeze drifting by as the leaves whispered their incantations of love and ease and bliss, “Ohh. I see you. I feel you. I know you. Here I am.”
And in that moment I felt the breath of my mother’s prayers wrap me in their sweet tender embrace and the world felt oh so precious, oh so sacred, oh so new and fresh. And I felt embodied in the present moment, connected, in partnership, part of and all of the trees and the leaves, the breeze and the sky, the river floating by, the chickadee perched on the birdfeeder and the squirrel spinning in acrobatic grace through the branches of the trees.
In that moment, I was embodied in ‘the now’. At one. Complete. Part of. All of. Connected. Whole.
“And her prayers became the song the night sang to sing the stars awake.”
And then, later in the afternoon, my dear friend Jane came over to paint outside. And it happened again. I was one with the embodied present. Whole. Complete. Filled with a sense of harmony and peace.
That’s what creating is — it’s not about outcome, or style, or technique or saleability.
It’s about being present within the journey of creating. Being connected and whole.
And it’s about community.
Both these pages were created as part of two different courses I’m taking. When I shared the spread from My Mother’s Prayers on my Instagram yesterday, an artist friend wrote back,
“My spiritual community both soothes my soul and lights new fires.” Tracy Brown
“I put my Instagram artist friends in this category”, she said.
Being present is about connection, community, coherence.
Thank you for being part of my community. For taking this journey with me. For illuminating my path with your light and making it easier to see in the dark.
Dust motes dance with the lissome grace of fairy dancers swathed in shimmering gowns of sunbeams streaming through the window. I stand in the light and open my arms, welcoming the sun in. I feel it. Warm. Against my skin. My face. My hands. My body. Effortlessly, it warms me with its grace.
I sit at my desk and watch white fluff drift lazily through the air. A delicate dance of grace floating down towards the ground. The poplar trees are casting off their spring buds. Snow falls in June.
Pink honeysuckle scents the air. The glossy green leaves of the poplars that dance above their blossoms rustle and whisper, redolent with the stories of the wind as it moves effortlessly through their branches.
The river flows past. The wind drifts through. I sit and soak up the beauty of this morning, my body embraced in the sacredness of the world around me.
Here. I am.
I breathe. Deep. Soul-nourishing breaths that ground me here, in this moment.
I imagine my toes digging into the rich soil that nourishes the grass and shrubs and flowers and trees. I imagine the soles of my feet sinking. Down. Down into the bedrock. Deep. Deep within the earth.
I keep breathing. Slowly. Deeply.
I sense myself coming to rest deep within the core of the earth. Connected. Supported. Grounded in Mother Nature. Mother Earth.
Here. I am.
The morning breaks itself open to day.
The sun casts light into infinite space.
The river flows past.
I sit at my desk. Silently embraced in the grace of morning’s awakening.
I am the temple girl carrying water from the well to wash the feet of the holy women gathered to sing the praises of Mother Earth. To dance in honour of the sun rising, the moon setting, the dawn breaking.
I am the initiate dancing in the light of dawn bathing her naked body in early morning light.
I am the priestess supine, body stretched out in supplication before the altar of Mother Earth’s beauty.
Here. I am. I whisper.
And Mother Earth wraps her being around my body and gently, lovingly pries me open. I am broken open and I weep in gratitude, joy, Love.
My heart sighs. I take a sip of morning’s glory bursting with the promise of this day. I take another and another and am filled with the wonder and awe of being here, where I am.
Here. I am. I whisper to the morning and the sun and the trees and the flowers and the birds and the river and the grass whisper back. Here. We are.
I completed the back inside page of my Sheltered Wonder Art Journal yesterday.
I played and experimented and let it be what it is without fussing over my thoughts of – “Oh no, I could have…”. “I wished I’d…”. “Why didn’t I…”
Like the river, I flow forward. There is no going back to the moment that just passed.
Looking forward, there is only Love.
One discovery I carry with me out of the journey of creating this page, and ultimately the journal, is the one where I choose to recognize my power to choose. Love. Always.
When I see this moment as a portal into the next, Love invites me to cross-over, leaving all my fears, worries, insecurities, doubts, behind. Being human, I struggle to let them go and so, they cloud the present moment leading to the next. They obscure the Love that is the wholeness of everything.
“What if…,” the wise woman within asks me, “what if you choose to trust?”
Seriously? Trust that I’ll be okay without my fears, worries, insecurities, doubts… Trust that Love is enough? That I am enough?
Is Love enough to embody all my human stuff?
And I smile.
Creating this journal has been a labour of Love. It has held me under its thrall for the past month, inviting me to let go of my self-criticisms and worries and doubts to fall, effortlessly and with grace, into the wonder and magic of the creative process (which is Life).
It has taught me to trust in the process. To trust in Life.
If life is the process of moving from one moment to the next, when I choose to see it is Love that invites me to let go of this moment to step into the next, then I must trust that is enough. That I am enough. Or, as in this case, this page is enough.
In an ideal world we would all choose to cross from one love-imbued moment into the next, leaving our fears, our worries, our insecurities, our doubts that cloud the present moment and all the Love it contains, behind.
What if… we chose to do just that? Every moment of every day? To carry only Love? And trust, Love is Enough.
About the Page:
I intentionally printed the profile facing outward from the page (my first attempt she was facing inward. I thought, “That works.” The muse had a stronger vision. I reprinted her so that when she was affixed to the page, she was facing outwards) — She is (I am) looking forward, directly at Love.
As I wanted to play with some sewing and ribbon in the journal, (to symbolize ‘threading it all together’) I drew and cut out the profile and then monoprinted it onto cloth that I affixed with ribbon and glued it at the top, onto the page.
Under the fabric, within the whiteness of the profile, a page with the title of all the blog posts I’ve written about each page is affixed, just visible through the profile.
As I only affixed the cloth at the top, it can be lifted to reveal the page.
For me, this symbolizes how we can intellectually understand that Love is the Answer, but until we lift the veil of our human condition to face and honour our doubts and worries and concerns, as well as our lack of trust, we cannot ‘see’ how we have the choice to simply choose Love, again and again and again.
Until we are lovingly willing to peer into the mysteries of life and embrace our own mystery and wonder, and trust that we are enough, we will carry our doubts and worries through time.
Letting go is essential.
And letting go only happens when we trust Love will greet us at the doorway and welcome us in, again and always. In Love, we will be enough.