Do It Anyway

Here’s my little secret for conquering the Inner Critic… Do It Anyway!

When fear threatens to stop you in your tracks, DO IT ANYWAY.

When fear threatens to stop you in your tracks, DO IT ANYWAY.

Each of us contains two small voices– the loud panicky Inner Critic who feeds our fears and insecurities through negative self talk as well as a much quieter, gentler, loving Intuitive voice who is our muse, our biggest supporter, our source of creativity who only speaks through positive self talk.  The Inner Critic is the critical father who never encouraged you, the dismissive teacher who didn’t nurture your talent, the coach who said you couldn’t play sports, and the significant other whose negativity proved he/she wasn’t that significant after all.  The Intuitive voice is your authentic self, your true nature revealed when you pull the debris of the past off of you and let your inner light shine.  Your Intuition is you.

I know this.  I’ve known this for many years as you probably do, too.  Yet, occasionally, that Inner Critic speaks up at times that surprise me.

A little while ago, I ordered a roll of Strathmore Mixed Media paper… 8 yards of it!  It’s beautiful… durable, pure white, and full of possibilities.  I couldn’t wait to unroll it across a long table and play with my watercolors.  What happened next came out of nowhere.  I heard the Inner Critic say, “Are you crazy?  You better not use this paper; it was expensive and you’ll only mess it up.”

Are you kidding me?!  I’ve been an artist my whole life and had a very successful solo exhibit last summer, thank you very much.  Where’s this coming from?  In the past, that negativity might have stifled my creativity.  I might have rolled up that lovely paper and pulled out a sketchpad, working on a smaller space and coming from a smaller place within myself.

I didn’t do that.  I chose to say, “Enough!”  I have jumped out of a plane at over 10,000 feet.  I have moved to an unfamiliar place full of strangers.  I have had the guts to walk away from relationships and jobs that do not support my highest self.  I’m going to let negativity stop me from playing with art supplies?! I don’t think so!

Clarissa Pinkola Estes, in her ground-breaking book Women Who Run with the Wolves, states, ” Negative complexes that arise along the way are banished or transformed- your dreams will guide you the last part of the way- by putting your foot down, once and for all, and by saying, ‘I love my creative life more than I love cooperating with my own oppression.'”

So when fear, doubt, and anxiety try to talk you out of being your adventurous, wild, creative, loving, lovable self, take a deep breath and go from being a Survivor to a Thriver by “Doing It Anyway.”

Art Journaling

Art journaling, for me, is sometimes the end and sometimes the beginning.

Heart Art- journaling for fun

Heart Art- journaling for fun

Quite often, I art journal (if that can be a verb) for art journaling’s sake.  I play with a variety of materials, subject matter, and techniques without concern for the outcome.  The key word here is PLAY.  It’s an activity that reminds me of being a child– joyfully exploring without self-criticism, getting my hands covered with paint and glitter, and feeling limitless because I’ve put no limits on myself.  It’s about the process not a product.  It’s liberating to know that this is a piece for my eyes only, unless I choose to share it.  I’m free when I art journal.

Camper- playing with all sorts of materials

Camper- playing with all sorts of materials

Being an artist who also appreciates the sale of my work and the connection my pieces can make with other people, I also use my art journal as a learning tool.  All of the playing and experimenting help me see new color combinations or envision new compositions for larger works.

The Divine in Me

The Divine in Me

On a deeper level, my art journal is a way to connect with my authentic self in a way I cannot with a written journal that so heavily relies on intellect and grammar.  My art journal is soulful.  It is the place where I can explore personal imagery, dream symbolism, and my spirituality.  The mysteries of my inner life are revealed in my journal.  My emotions are vaildated and freely expressed without judgement.

Focus on the Light- what came out when I found out my brother-in-law committed suicide

Focus on the Light- what came out when I found out my brother-in-law committed suicide

An art journal can also be a seat of power.  A place to set intentions for what I want to manifest in my life.  The art I create in my journal can deliberately reflect my desires or unconsciously expose what is hidden inside of me, much like a vision board.

Dream the Moon into Existence

Dream the Moon into Existence

In my art journal,

I am creator, healer, priestess, teacher, student, celebrant, and eternal child.

Dream Weaver

Dream Weaver

Enso Inspires Art

Inspiration comes from unexpected places when I am open to it.

 When I first saw an Enso, a circular image that holds special significance for Zen Buddhists, it resonated deeply with my soul.  I found that, among other things, it “represents the moment when the mind is free to let the body create”.  The traditional Enso is an open circle created with one or two brushstrokes –receptivity and potentiality, the infinite void where experiences and energy are free to flow in and out.  Space.  Not the space one associates with nothingness but the sacred space where all is possible.  Perfect symbol for me as I navigate the waters of a dynamic, change-filled year!

Enso IV

Enso IV: SOLD

Blue Enso

Blue Enso: SOLD

Enso II

Enso I: SOLD

Enso III

Enso II: SOLD

Enso I

Enso III: SOLD

Enso in Pink and Gray

Enso in Pink and Gray

Focus on What to Bring Forward

As I say goodbye to 2015 and welcome 2016, I recognize the need to let go of what no longer serves in order to make sacred space for two things– the cherished and the new.  But, instead of dwelling on what no longer serves, I’ll try to let go with gratitude for the lessons I’ve learned and focus my energy on the wonderful gifts in my life that I want to carry into the new year.

The Cherished are all the experiences, people, and things that I treasure and want to bring forward with me.  I want more time in nature, time with friends, and quiet time at home with Jim and our dogs.  I crave more time for spiritual pursuits and creative expression…. lots and LOTS of time for creative expression!!!

This page of words reflects what I hold dear and want to nurture in 2016.  It’s a quick little piece that I created in permanent marker, pastel, and yes– GLITTER (glitter is fun and keeps me from taking myself too seriously).  I invite you to take the time to do this for yourself.  Get a sheet of white paper and whatever art supplies you have handy (a box of crayons or just a pen will do).  Quickly brainstorm all the wonderful things in your life that you would like to carry into 2016.  Embellish the page with glitter, stickers, ribbon, or anything else that makes you smile.  Then, hang it up as a symbol of what you want to have more of in the new year.

A quick art journal page to illustrate what I love about my life and want more of in 2016.

A quick art journal page to illustrate what I love about my life and want more of in 2016.

I’m also making space for the New- all those wonderful yet unknowns.  Most of us are familiar with the saying that “only change is constant”.  So for 2016, I’m embracing all the new things I’ve yet to learn, the fun adventures I’ve yet to have, the wisdom to gain, and the new friends yet to meet.  This second piece, from my art journal, represents transformation with a brave and confident woman welcoming the opportunities ahead, secure in the knowledge that she is divine and will continue to grow in strength, wisdom, and love no matter what the new year brings.

Transformation- welcoming in the new. A mixed media art journal piece.

Transformation- welcoming in the new. A mixed media art journal piece.

Thanks to Effy Wild, who in her LifeBook 2015 video, spoke of her preference to focus on bringing things forward rather than dwelling on what she needs to let go of.  She reminded me of something I’ve known practically forever…if I focus on the positive with gratitude and appreciation, I will attract more of it to me.

Happy New Year Everyone!  May 2016 be a year of abundance in all things positive.

 

 

Human “Being” not Human “Doing”

Dear Self,

Just a friendly reminder… you don’t have to do it all.  Yes, I know it’s the holidays and the possibilities to “do” are endless.  You can make homemade gifts, homemade cards, and dozens of homemade cookies.  You can decorate your house inside and out.  You can say “Yes” to every invitation, even two or three in a single evening!  You can continue to go to work, run errands, do chores, spend time with loved ones, and add all the holiday expectations on top of that while continuing to have the same 24 hours in a day that you had before the holidays came along.  Yes, Dear Susan, you can hustle and bustle the holiday season away… or you can be gentle with yourself and let go.  BE.

 

You imposed the high expectations on yourself and you are the only one who can give permission to lower them.  Be realistic, be present in the moment with loved ones, and most importantly, BE.

 

As Lyn Cox reminded me today, we are human BEINGS not human “doings”.   Allow the stillness and tranquility of winter to permeate you.  Rest, relax, and rejuvenate for while the daylight is returning, this is the time to go within.  Trees lose their leaves and the sap slows.  Animals tuck in for long winter naps.  You need that, too.  BE.

With all my love,

Susan

Can I Be Authentic Here?

I just passed a chiropractic office message board that read, “Listen to your body whisper to avoid a scream.”  I want to add two more sentences to that seemingly casual yet profound wisdom…

“Listen to your HEART whisper to avoid a scream.  

Listen to your SOUL whisper to avoid a scream.”

As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, I’ve gone through periods of intense growing pains, as I’m sure you can relate to.  We’ve all been there… some of us more than once!  And we’ll go through even more as we grow in wisdom, strength, and self-awareness.  We are able to recognize our authentic selves and step more fully into the life we are meant to lead.

Label Me 1

                           We are so many things to so many people. Who is the Authentic Self?

The first thing that happened to me is exactly what the chiropractor’s sign said, the whisper became a scream or as I put it in my blog post titled Intuition: Trusting the Voice Within (9/13/2015), the breeze became a hurricane.  Suddenly, I realized that while every situation in life contains positive and negative aspects, the negative in my job outweighed any positive benefits, including money.  I wrote in What is My Tipping Point? (7/10/2015) “When the negative outweighs the positive in our relationships, careers, or other aspects of life, it’s time to ask, ‘What’s my tipping point?  How much will I tolerate before I say ENOUGH?'”

I heightened my awareness of the whispers in my body, heart, and soul.  I more fully honored my intuition.  “To successfully experience life’s constant changes, I must heed the still, small voice within so I can wisely decide what must be done for my greatest and highest good.  In other words, I must TRUST MYSELF.”  That’s what intuition is really… trust in one’s self.  I was at my tipping point and I said “ENOUGH”.

Label Me 2

                      By listening to intuition, we can hear our soul beckoning.

So now what?  At 47, I was asking “What do I want to be when I grow up?”  I felt ridiculous and a failure.  I should be planning my approaching retirement not a new career, right?  Wrong.  The best thing to do when my life feels like a size 8 foot trying to cram into a size 6 shoe is make a change.  And sooner is better than later or not at all.

I knew I wanted to have meaning in my life, find greater joy in what I was doing, and do something that spoke to who I am creatively and spiritually.  I had to be authentic and let my talents and skills shine.  As I considered what to do next, I asked myself what has become the most important question of my life.  “Can I be authentic here?”  If the answer is “Yes”, I am right where I should be on my journey.  If the answer is “No”, it’s not time to panic… it’s time to TRANSFORM.

Label Me 3

                             Peel away anything that gets in the way of discovering who you really are.

We want to be where we belong, where we find meaning, where we experience joy, and where we can be ourselves.  I’m not talking about modifying behavior to appropriately suit a social situation.  I’m talking about having the courage to be who we are.  Instead of playing the role of “the chameleon” to fit in with others, having the self-love and self-acceptance to be authentic and see how life blooms in a richer, deeper way.  Doors will open and opportunities will come your way.

Authentic living is empowered living.  

Authentic living is the life you are meant to lead.  

To be authentic takes great courage and strength.  There is a vulnerability in letting people see that we are who we are.  Once I let my authentic self come out to play, I found a career where my experience as a world traveler, artist, teacher, writer, and spiritual being have a place.

I’m still growing, learning, and trying new things.  I’m making richer, more meaningful connections with those who matter.  And every step of the way, I continue to ask, “Can I be authentic here?”.

Intuition: Trusting the Voice Within

“Overnight success stories” rarely are.  For what appears to be overnight to an onlooker, took years of patience, frustration, hope, doubt, sweat, and tears for the person actually living it.

For me, major changes that I’ve purposefully made in my life are a lot like “overnight success stories”, they took years to bring about.  And while it looks like I did it all myself (no, I’m not Wonder Woman), I am actually co-creating with something much larger than myself that speaks to me through my Intuition.

On July 10th of this year, I published a blog post titled “What is Your Tipping Point?” http://awakenpureyou.com/  It explores my journey from knowing that life needed to change to bravely taking that first step.  Take time to read that before reading this post for a clearer picture of where I am coming from and why I’m taking time to share this personal story.

To successfully experience life’s  constant changes, I must heed the still, small voice within so I can wisely decide what must be done for my greatest and highest good.  In other words, I must trust my Self.

Around 2010, my Intuition was sending me quiet, gentle, loving signals hinting that change was in the air.  It was as subtle as the first scent of autumn wafting into my nostrils on a cool September breeze.  I ignored it.  While I was beginning to feel “growing pains”, an uneasiness with how things were, I justified my situation by saying that other people had it far worse.  “At least I wasn’t working in a coal mine like my grandfather and his father before him.”  I could handle this.  It wasn’t that bad…yet.

Impatient, my Intuition got louder and more aggressive. The “cool September breeze carrying change”, that I mentioned earlier, became a hurricane of drama, stress, and ill health.  I knew most definitely that there would be even more significant consequences if I didn’t listen… NOW!

Why did I take so long to act on my Intuition?  I didn’t trust my Self.   That’s a powerful, humbling thing to admit..I DIDN’T TRUST MY SELF.  And that’s the worst thing we can do when making decisions about our future.

I know early on when a situation isn’t right for me– a job, a relationship, etc…  What I haven’t always known is that I have everything I need within me to make a positive change– strength, courage, wisdom, and my Intuition (guardian angel, gut instinct).

I hesitated to act on the information because I confused my Inner Critic with my Intuition.  I paid more attention to the negative voice that played on my fears.  The voice that weakens, stagnates, and ultimately paralyzes.  The voice that poisons the system with self-doubt and anxiety.  At first, it seemed to be protecting me from doing something impetuous.  But that’s at all what it was doing; it was keeping me from living an authentic life, from being my best self.  I was afraid of being jobless, homeless, and penniless.  I was afraid I would never find the level of security and comfort that I had in my present situation.  A friend asked, “Are you REALLY secure and comfortable?”  That sounds a bit sarcastic but it touched right on the heart of the matter.  No!!!  I was not secure and comfortable.  I was afraid… afraid to trust my Intuition.

Once I was clearly able to feel the difference in my body between Intuition and the Inner Critic, I was able to discern the messages and heed the one meant for my highest good.

How do you know what to do when you aren’t sure whether it’s your Intuition or fear?  In my work with women and girls, I explore a variety of ways to sense the differences using body wisdom based on a lifetime of my own experience.  Every message from both Intuition and the Inner Critic can be felt in different parts of the body.

One technique that has worked for me is to sit quietly and relax.  First, think back on a time when you listened to your intuition.  Imagine the situation in as much detail as possible.  Where were you?  Who else was there?  What was happening?  Play it in your mind and feel it in your body.  Sense what it feels like to listen to your Intuition and have a positive outcome.

Open your eyes, stretch, record the sensations in a journal if that is something you like to do.  Then, repeat.  Only this time, recall a time when fear got in the way.  You sensed your Intuition but ignored it.  Where were you?  Who else was there?  What was happening?  Play it in your mind and watch this scene play out, too.  Feel it in your body.  What does it feel like in your body when you ignore your own inner wisdom?  What emotions and thoughts accompany this feeling?

This is just one exercise that can awaken your Intuition and heighten your awareness so you can act on it more quickly in the future.  But please be gentle with yourself as you do this.  As I remind myself regularly, this is a spiritual practice with the emphasis on the word “practice”.  No one is perfect and faced with a new situation, it’s easy to be afraid.  But with strategies in place, we can get to this intuitive knowing more quickly each time and avoid unnecessary pain.

Imagine how different life would be if we trusted our Intuition more fully!  Imagine how wonderful it would be for girls to learn this at an earlier age than we did!

What’s next?  Once you sense the message your Intuition is sending you, how can you manifest a positive outcome?  This is where Imagination joins in, saying “I’m here to help!”  More on that next time….

 

What’s Your Tipping Point?

“What is your tipping point?”

Years ago, a friend posed this question to me when I was going through a particularly challenging time.  In other words, he was asking me, “How much are you willing to put up with before you make a change?

I’ve always seen life as a hero’s journey, an adventure filled with great challenges and great joys.  It’s not the challenges that defines us, but how we act when facing them.  Do we run?  Tackle them head on?  Or wait to be rescued?  In the end, we all want to live happily ever after, with meaning, joy, health, and security.  Right?  I know I do!

When the negative outweighs the positive in our relationships, careers, or other aspects of life, it’s time to ask “What is my tipping point?  How much will I tolerate before I say ‘enough’?”

The particularly challenging time I faced all those years ago was an unhealthy relationship.  I had spent months trying to “fix it” alone.  He wasn’t going to be what I needed and I couldn’t make him.  The tipping point was the realization that the only thing I could change was me.  Was I willing to put up with his behavior or was I going to walk?  With clarity I saw that failure wasn’t in leaving the bad relationship; failure would be staying where I was crying more than I was smiling.   Ending it took immense courage and strength but proved I loved myself enough to rescue my Self, be the heroine in my own story.

Fast forward several years and the next big obstacle on my life’s journey was a career that was in conflict with everything I value and hold sacred.  It started out small, as many problems do, easy to dismiss as just a bad day or an isolated incident.  Then, the problem grew.  It was harder to ignore but the positive still outweighed the negative so I stayed.  It started to impact my life mentally and emotionally through worry, stress, and dread.  It affected me spiritually, compromising my principals and integrity but still I held on, thinking “It could be worse.”  And finally, because I ignored all of the warning signs, the Universe said, “Ok, Susan, I’ll get your attention with this!!” and I suffered physically- chest pains, insomnia, nausea, lowered immune system…  That was my tipping point.  I felt something powerful awaken in my Soul and I knew I had enough.  My health and well-being had to be the priority.

I resigned from public education in June of this year for reasons that could fill a book, not a blog post.  Suffice it to say that it took everything I have inside of me to make this leap of faith.  I was terrified to leave but more terrified of what would happen if I stayed.   Every aspect of my life has improved since making this decision- physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.

Calling it a “leap of faith” is an oversimplification.  It was a leap of faith based on intuition, intellect, and imagination.  And if I can do it, you can, too!!

So why am I sharing something so deeply personal on such a public platform?

For years, I’ve been leading women’s spirit circles, workshops, and Red Tents with the intention to celebrate, honor, empower, support, and awaken the authentic Self in each woman and girl who attends my events.  How can I continue this purposeful work if I’m not willing to celebrate, honor, empower, support, and awaken my own authentic Self?  In other words, I need to walk my talk and come from a place of knowing.  Otherwise, I’m a fraud and a hypocrite, and that’s not an option for me.

Reaching the tipping point and choosing to change is empowering and scary at the same time.  I know.  But I also know this… people don’t regret leaving bad situations.  They regret staying.  So when intuition says “You’ve reached your tipping point”, honor that still, small voice inside and take the leap of faith… faith in your Self.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s It Like in the Red Tent?

I found last Saturday’s Red Tent event rich in conversation & deeply moving.  I chose the topic “Mothering and Being Mothered” for Mother’s Day weekend… it seemed appropriate.  I’ll never divulge the details for “what happens in the Tent stays in the Tent” but consider how you’d answer these three questions and imagine what the conversation was like among women ranging in age from their 20s to their 70s.

1)  How does your relationship with your mother impact your ability to mother others?

2)  Who (what) do you mother and what forms does your mothering take?

3)  As you give generously in so many ways, how do you nurture your Self?

These amazing women brought their authentic selves to the tent, speaking their truth courageously because somehow each sensed that the tent is a safe, sacred, private place where women can speak without judgement, shame, criticism, or guilt.

For this Red Tent event, I established an altar in the center of the carpet to honor “mother” images from various religious traditions, our own mothers & grandmothers, as well as the ways we mother in our own unique ways.  Each woman brought an object or photo that symbolized motherhood for her and we shared their importance.  This initial introduction of ourselves- women who gave birth, adopted, chose not to have children, & were contemplating having a child for the first time- cast a magical circle of protection around us in some ways, allowing each of us to share deeply and honestly.  I call this circle the Sacred Wisdom Circle because each & every one of us brought the wisdom of our experience to the group for all to possibly learn from.  Each of us was student & teacher in turn.

When I create a Red Tent event, it’s not merely a “gimmick” to create a space that resembles a Middle Eastern tent with red curtains, rugs, and exotic accessories.  I deliberately design it with the intention that I’m creating a space set apart from our everyday concerns so women can rest, rejuvenate, connect with other women, and reconnect with their highest selves.  I want it to look different, feel different, and be different.  I want the women to feel different and be different from how they feel they have to be for husbands, parents, employers, and children.

The Red Tent is a womb– a protective place that nurtures and nourishes.  All who identify themselves as women are welcome here regardless of age, race, or spiritual beliefs.  Every tent is charged with the energy of the participants, be they contemplative, humorous, emotional, lively, or a blend of one or more of these qualities.

Our time together ended far too soon, after meaningful discussion and a reflective labyrinth walk nestled between the memorial wall and the majestic weeping beech at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of York’s campus.  I trust all the women felt refreshed in some way be it physically, spiritually, mentally, or emotionally.  I know I did.

So what’s next?  My next Red Tent event will be an all-day retreat that focuses on Beauty- Inside and Out.  And this time, it will be open to women AND GIRLS ages 8 and up.  Mothers can share this experience with their daughters or come alone for the topic is relevant to all of us.  We’ll explore what it means to grow up in a society that still places too much emphasis on being skinny & young.  Most importantly, we’ll explore ways to be strong, empowered, & full of the knowledge that we are each beautiful in our own way.  It’s time to tell our girls that they are valued just the way they are.

Stay tuned….

 

Little Joys- Part 1

There are so many little joys to be grateful for in life, treasured not for their grandness or “importance” but for the happiness they bring to each moment if we heighten our awareness of the present.  It’s easy to get wrapped up in obligations, multitasking to fit it all in.  But if we can stop and take time to notice, these little joys gift us with peace, a smile, and connection to all that is positive.

I’ve been recording some of the many little joys in my life via Instagram and Facebook but want to share them with my blog friends as well.  What Little Joys bring light to your life?

Art Supplies

My art supplies… always beckoning me, inspiring me, and encouraging me to play.

Birdhouses

My backyard bird haven… plenty of shelter, water, and food. Seeing them flit about happily brings me joy.

Coffee in the Morning

That first cup of coffee in the morning, made even more special by being in a favorite mug.

Crocuses

Purple crocuses bring the message that spring will soon be here!

Daffodils

Sunshine yellow daffodils soon follow crocuses.

Evening Walk with Pups

Evening walks with the dogs. My way to release the stress of the day , transition into my personal life, and take time to notice the little joys in nature with my pups.

Freyjas Soulful Eyes

Freyja’s soulful eyes. This gorgeous girl was once someone’s helpless puppy mill breeding dog but luckily for both of us, she’s been my little girl for 3 years, bringing me joy with every soulful expression on her face. I think we rescued each other!

Rag Rugs

Rag rugs are a great way to salvage scraps of material and give them new life. Each piece has a story. I made this rug over 20 years ago and enjoy the vibrancy and cheerfulness of every color.

Sily Socks

Silly socks… just because.

Warm Cinnamon Rolls

Warm cinnamon rolls with icing drizzled on the top. Comfort food at its best.