every exit is an entry

I saw the above street art last week while walking a new route to work. ‘Every exit is an entry somewhere else’ – yes! I immediately took a photo, loving the random surprises that can happen when I vary my daily routine even just slightly.

In my last week at my previous job, we held a three-day conference for health care professionals. For this event, we brought in vendors to sell some beautiful products. I purchased a pair of unique earrings – one of which unfortunately broke the next morning.

I wasn’t looking forward to asking for my money back, or for a repair (I couldn’t find the missing piece), even though I knew this was the perfectly reasonable thing to do. I was readying myself to approach the vendor, when the thought crossed my mind: Why don’t you make something with this?

The week before, I’d visited a crafts store and purchased a lotus-motif charm. I’d recently been spending more time in such shops, looking at all the different products, soaking up the creative potential in the air. I took apart the earring that night and reworked it to make a pendant. I liked it much better than the earrings I’d originally purchased.

The floodgates opened.

I am now obsessed with making jewelry. Reading about it, watching YouTube tutorials, dismantling necklaces I no longer wear and re-stringing them into bracelets, visiting thrift stores to repurpose items, even unearthing the beads I bought way back in my teenage years.

It’s illuminating to resume a hobby I was passionate about when I was younger. As a teenager, my biggest loves included writing, beading, and being part of a drama (theatre) group. When I look back now, it seems that these activities stopped abruptly, though I can’t pinpoint where.

I’ve been connecting with my teenage self a lot lately; that potent time where I began to discover what I was naturally drawn to. That precious window where I explored my hobbies with excitement and no filters. There didn’t have to be an end product or a known purpose; I was just having fun.

Every exit in an entry somewhere else. I’ve learned a lot in the work I’ve done over the years, and have met so many kind and lovely people…but I don’t think I will ever return to a full-time office job. Being immersed in a truly engaging, creative pastime these past few weeks – staying up late, forgetting to eat, being consumed with making – has made me realize how long it’s been since I’ve felt so much like ‘me’. I want more of it.

Here’s to budding creations, on this new moon and in this new season.

i’m a writer…?

In my new job, I’m surrounded by young visual artists, many of whom are working on their writing. At a staff meeting last week, we were asked to consider the concept of ’the writer’. What does a writer look like? Where are they, and who is around them? Next, we were asked to recall the last time we wrote, and visualize that scene – where we were, who we were with, the sounds around us, etc.

The exercise was telling; for most of us, the scenes of ‘a writer’ and ‘ourselves writing’ were quite different. One woman pictured a Stephen King-type character, drafting a bestseller on a typewriter in an old study filled with mahogany furniture and leather-bound books.

My concept of the writer was more bohemian; philosophers in Parisian cafes recording their observations on human nature, art, and politics. Though this image morphed into a modern-day version of me, it still didn’t match where I actually last wrote: my previous job, a place I was unhappy in, drafting a blog post on my work email between meetings and daily duties.

Writing got me through the day.

a collage

As I shared in my last post, I left that job a few weeks ago, largely because I had little creative juice left at the end of the day to pursue my other loves – those endeavours known and unknown, longing to be explored.

My new position doesn’t require much writing, but I’m surrounded by creative colleagues who are eager to learn more about my personal practice. And every time they express interest in my writing, I hesitate. I’m fascinated by this continual reluctance to see myself as one of these talented, artistic people!

Our meeting activity really illuminated how pervasive and insidious certain labels can be. But it also helped me realize that, when I’m composing a blog post, I am a writer. I’m choosing to write because I love to write. It doesn’t matter where I am, who I’m with, what I’m wearing. It doesn’t matter if I do it daily or how many words I type or who’s writing more or less. In that moment, I am a writer.

I could go further, but I discovered a post from my early blogging days that totally captures what I want to say. It’s a timeless reminder from 5-years-ago me to my present self (I love it when that happens!):

We are all creative.

No labels required.

pleasure and paradox in paris

At the Musée d’Orsay, pressing my face close to a Monet painting, practically inhaling the brushstrokes, I felt a mixture of profound gratitude and nostalgia. The pale pinks, lavenders, and yellows were indescribably soothing. I wanted to merge with the work. Escape into it.

I was mesmerized by the art of Paris to a degree that surprised even me. I’d studied Art History many moons ago at university, but standing in front of certain works – I could easily touch them, were it not for the ever-present security – left me deeply affected.

Until that point, I’d felt somewhat ambivalent about my impromptu trip to Paris. Though I had the time off work, cash saved in the bank, and a great deal from Air France, I questioned my decision to travel to the City of Lights. Surely there were more responsible things to do with my money.

In my hotel room that first night, I tossed and turned as the jet lag (and in-flight wine, no doubt) sank in. Habitual thoughts about work, relationships, and family pounded in my head. Paris, I thought. Why am I here? What can I learn from you?

Pleasure. Presence. Enjoy life, she answered. Be in your body, not your head. You already know this…but I can help you. In fact, you need me to. That’s why you’re here.

You think you’ve lost your intuition, she continued, but you haven’t. Don’t focus on my image or the tourists or the incessant honking and police sirens, or the camouflaged men with machine guns standing on the corner. There is an essence of me that is much deeper than all these things. Be with it.

I didn't make it to the top, but I had to get the Eiffel shot!

I didn’t make it to the top, but I had to get the Eiffel shot!

I spent a week exploring various neighbourhoods in the city. I walked along the Champs-Élysées and the Seine. Apart from food (and chocolate presents!), my only purchase was a 4-day Museum Pass, which I’d picked up at Charles de Gaulle airport upon my arrival.

Viewing the paintings of Monet, Degas, Manet, Cassatt, Morisot, Seurat, and Renoir (and so many more), I felt deep nostalgia. Nostalgia for the time in my life when I initially studied these works. Nostalgia for historical periods of great art, music, and beauty. Most of all, nostalgia for an era where artists truly sat with their inspirations. Focused and present, devoting hours, days, even years to the execution of their visions.

What must it be like to have that kind of patience? It is hard to imagine. My attention span is much shorter than it used to be, a deterioration I blame on technology. All around me, people flitted about with iPhones, snapping photos and selfies. I tried to take some pics, but they never did the moment justice. And trying to capture that moment would just take me out of it.

Jardin des Tuileries - I couldn't resist including this

Jardin des Tuileries – I couldn’t resist

I wondered what these artists would think of this modern world. Would they be disturbed, fascinated, inspired? Life cannot be as it was in nineteenth-century Paris, of course. And even then, things probably weren’t as idyllic as the dreamy vistas suggest. Still, I long to sit in front of a landscape or sunset, or at a cafe, for hours, just absorbing my surroundings. Not thinking about work or emails or how I should be doing something.

Paris reminded me of India, in that it’s a paradox. The Divine Feminine presence, which surely exists and spoke to me that first night, was accompanied by a rough, almost aggressive energy throughout the city. It was an interesting, and often unsettling, experience.

But visiting Paris was very, very good for my soul. In recent months I’d been feeling some grief for so many lost years where I didn’t trust myself as my own authority, where I sold myself short. This last decade in particular – I don’t know where it went. Paris reminded me to be gentle with myself and look ahead. Not everything in life has to happen at once, and my process won’t look like anyone else’s. Nothing is lost. There is still time.

The art, the red wine, the Autumn sunshine, the walks along the Seine…that’s who I am. Sitting in front of a canvas and feeling where the colours take me…that’s who I am. Doing my best to heal resentments, forgive, and live in divine love…that’s who I am. Willing to learn, be humbled over and over again, and create grand adventures for myself…that’s who I am.

Thank you, Paris, for reminding me who I am.

 

the lady in the painting

In honour of Mercury Retrograde, I’m re-blogging a post from my early WordPress days. An extra fun twist is that I now work at the university I mention in the post. I’m loving this trip back in time.

Happy equinox-full moon-lunar eclipse!

alohaleya

Years ago I bought an art print from a poster fair that would visit my university a couple of times a year.  I was so drawn to this painting, which featured a woman sitting at what looked to be a Parisian cafe, a pensive expression on her face, quill and half-glass of wine on her table.  I loved everything about this piece: the setting, the colours, the subject matter, the painter’s technique.  I didn’t even look up the artist for some time, or explore the historical context of the work (which is strange, considering I was an Art History major).  It spoke to me, and that was enough.

The Cafe, Tsuguharu Foujita (1949) The Cafe, Tsuguharu Foujita (1949)

I felt an affinity with this woman, and I wanted to be her, but her world and life were so far away from mine.  This painting created a tension within me.  Of admiring, of relating…but also feeling…

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10 life lessons from mandala painting

Last weekend I stepped out of my comfort zone and into one of the most profound experiences of my life: a 3-day mandala painting course.

It’s hard to put such a deeply healing and transformative experience into words; I’m still basking in the afterglow of it all. It’s not an understatement to say it changed my life. Here’s just some of what I’m very thankful to have learned.

This is Shakti

This is Shakti

1. Everything I need is within. I was the last to pick a canvas. I didn’t rush to get my paints. I was feeling anxious, and had made the conscious decision to be patient and kind with myself. Somehow I knew that whatever was within me would come forth, no matter what external resources I had.

2. I can no longer say ‘I’m not an artist’. This process unlocked the artist in everyone who participated. Many of us were beginners, and each person created their own unique masterpiece. Everyone can do this. We just need the support and tools to draw out our inner creative fire.

3. Mandalas are a portal. We can access deep realms of consciousness when creating or contemplating a mandala. I don’t quite know how it works…but that’s the point. Our logical mind is not in control; we’re perceiving and interpreting from the heart. The process is mystical and ineffable.

4. Art opens people like lotus flowers. It was amazing to watch, and experience in myself, the joy that unfolded over the weekend. I was able to bring forth something that had been waiting for the right moment to express. Everyone was discovering this hidden place within themselves. There was a sense of wonder in the air. New life was being birthed.

5. I created it…but I didn’t. My experience flowed more easily when I let go of thinking of ‘my’ painting, ‘my’ possession – when I dropped the ego. Yes, it emerged from within me…but I like to think of it as a co-creation with a greater essence that is both me and not-me. I couldn’t grip it too tightly.

6. This is life. I felt an overwhelming sense that life could be so much more than mass consciousness programming would have us believe. Being in the zone of creativity and stimulating conversation, free from iPhones and Facebook, was such an immense, life-affirming contrast to the 9-5 matrix I’d become so accustomed to in the past.

7. Mandala painting is therapy. I’m convinced that the act of mixing colours, putting brush to canvas, being in a supportive group, and creating a personal, sacred work of beauty would heal in a weekend what might take years in traditional therapy. The mandala gave me a vision into my own soul.

8. Self-expression is a shared process. Self-expression is not a solitary act. It requires a community to receive it. Creating art with others helped me let go and trust in the group. The group’s presence impacted what I created, whether or not anything was verbally expressed. Communication transpired on an unseen level.

9. Surrender. I became anxious when I thought too far down the line, e.g., the next colour I’d choose and whether it would ‘look good’. There was a fear of screwing things up…anticipating what could go wrong instead of trusting that each layer would be reveal itself in the perfect sequence. I relaxed when I surrendered to what was right in front of me.

10. The Divine Feminine is awakening. She is here. At the beginning of the weekend, we each gave ourselves a name – a symbol for our journey at this point in time. I picked ‘Shakti’. I’d been very much feeling the presence of the Feminine, seeing coral-red colours in my recent meditations. These colours materialized in the mandala without forced effort. Magic!

I am looking forward to painting more…the portal has been opened!

we are all creative

A few weeks ago I met up with my friend, the awesome Eager Beaver.  She looked at me and said, “So missy, you’re a writer.  Where have you been hiding?” (I had recently told her about my blog, and she’d read the whole thing in one sitting.)

My first instinct was to deflect.  I’m not a writer.  I’m not writing a book.  I have a blog.  A blog does not a writer make.  But instead of saying any of those things, I let her words sink in.  I smiled at the compliment – because, in my opinion, Eager Beaver is a great writer.  For her to consider me in that category was pretty cool.

Later, I thought more about my initial resistance.  Where did that sense of hesitancy and discomfort come from? Why the feeling that, in calling myself a writer, I was somewhat of an imposter?

IMG_0819

When I was a child, the response to ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ was always ‘Writer’.  As a teenager, it narrowed down to ‘Magazine Writer’. (Anyone remember Sassy mag? Dream job!)  There wasn’t much else I really wanted to do.

But over time, I absorbed some negative messages: Writing is competitive.  You didn’t go to school for it.  You need connections.  There’s no money there (unless you’re a bestseller).  As a profession, it appeared reserved for a select few.  The joy I derived from writing was replaced with pressure, performing, being judged, and getting paid.  And so, apart from my diary, I buried my words and carried on with more practical matters.

I think there are many of us who feel our deep creative potential, but don’t know how to access or express it.   There is a sense that something profound is missing in our lives; so close, yet so far away.

Even though we know the creative process should be fun and joyful, it is also marked by ambivalence.  We may fear that others will judge our creations (and ultimately us).  But it’s mostly we who judge ourselves.  Our inner critic (ego) is relentless, comparing us to others, measuring us to impossibly high standards, labelling our creations as ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

This can lead to self-sabotage, either through procrastination, or saying we don’t have the time/money/knowledge/skill/whatever to pursue our creative endeavours.   Or we make the assertion that we just ‘aren’t that creative’.  We stop before we even try.

goddess on the rocks

saraswati

A few months ago, I read Wayne Dyer’s definition of creation as ‘bringing non-being into being’.  The truth and simplicity of these words struck me – as though I’d been forever searching for something that was so obvious, and right in front of me all along.

Creativity is totally open-ended.  There are no rules.  It’s not about putting brush to canvas, or pen to paper.  It can be whatever I want it to be, and in any form.

Seth Godin writes: “I don’t believe that you are born to do a certain kind of art, mainly because your genes have no idea what technology is going to be available to you…Our society has reorganized so that the answer to the question ‘where should I do art?’ is now a long booklet, not a simple checklist of a few choices” (Linchpin, p. 77).

I love this notion that our creative potential can express itself with increasing diversity, ever-adapting to social change.  The digital world has transformed much in terms of creation and connection.  There is not necessarily just one thing we were ‘born to do’, and the worlds of ‘art’ and ‘creativity’ become more accessible to everyone. This refines and expands our definitions of who we are, and what we can create.

Our creative spark never disappears.  It sits patiently, latent, watching, waiting to ignite.

Starting this blog was my 21st century response to the timeless creative call within.  I want to cultivate this inner fire, not just with writing, but with other pursuits I’ve shied away from.  We need to nurture our own possibilities, and support each other’s great creations.

I thank the Eager Beaver for this reminder.

aloha per l’italia!

I started a beginner’s Italian language class this week, and I am completely enamored.

Back in my university days, I studied a fair bit of Italian art, memorizing key painters, places, dates, techniques, and contexts.  But though I loved the subject matter, my appreciation was somewhat detached and analytical.  I was concerned more with possible slide exam questions than getting emotionally involved in the art.  I didn’t get swept away in Italy, as others did. The relationship was strictly professional.

Since I didn’t want to work in a museum or teach (because hey, what else can art history majors do?), after graduating I eventually chose a career in administration.  Years later, I find myself doing work that doesn’t resonate with my spirit, or remotely reflect all those beautiful things I once studied.

Image courtesy of http://flic.kr/p/8NA5cS

Image courtesy of http://flic.kr/p/8NA5cS

Underneath my 9-5 facade, my spirit has longed for creativity, art, and joy.  But I have been suppressing this part of myself.  Perhaps not intentionally, and not always consciously…but suppressing nonetheless.  And until recently, things reached a point where I felt I had become, as I often put it, ‘a ticking time bomb’.

Sometime last fall I began to feel a pronounced sense of urgency to change certain aspects my life, intuiting that the consequences of not doing so would be far more serious than the general boredom and lack of vitality I had become so accustomed to.   Having made the recent decision to leave my ‘secure’ job, the past few months have been marked by a growing awareness of my need to dream, imagine, and visualize what I actually want in this life.

And through this process, Italy has resurfaced.  A little whisper inside has grown progressively louder.  What if…what if I just go?  How would it feel to soak up the art, the history, the food, the wine?  How would it sound to be immersed in Italy’s music of passion and joie de vivre (ok, I know that’s French) and sing-songy accents and life?

Though my mind would really love to convince me that this is not practical or possible or feasible, I’m finding it hard to listen.  The language has arrested me.  I’m completely smitten, and there is no logic in this state.

***

I think about my art history days.  Perhaps I never allowed myself to fall in love with the essence of Italy, because I could not access it within myself.

Italy represents what I have been deeply missing in my life, and what I’m ready to experience now…culture, art, beauty, history, pleasure, romance, vibrancy, abandon, amore, and passion.

My Italian class isn’t just about learning a new language.  It is so much more.  It is me saying yes to new possibilities, to doing something for the sheer fun and joy of it.  It is the act of consciously allowing a dream to filter into my ‘real’ life in some (seemingly) small way.  It is testing the dreaming waters, wondering…what might this open up for me?

I hear my own voice differently when I speak Italian. It’s full of laughter and joy.  I smile the entire time.  And this makes me perceive myself in a new light.   In rediscovering Italy, in speaking her tongue, in engaging with her and taking delight in her, I am recovering the hidden gems within myself.  And it is a true treasure trove indeed.