Going With My Flow

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I rested.  I reflected.  I reevaluated what mattered most to me.  I released what no longer served me (as much as I could, knowing I’m ready and willing to release even more).

These last several months have been a time of great introspection for me because I feel the familiar pull of a place further down the river of my life and know the best thing to do is to stop, listen, and wait to find out what is beckoning to me.  Am I being called to action or am I being called to prepare in other ways first?  Do something or just “be”?

I check in with my Self- signals from my body, mind, spirit, and soul.  I listen to my intuition– my inner wisdom.  What am I supposed to be doing right now?  When I’m unsure, the best thing to do is be still.  So, I’ve been still for a while.  No blog posts.  No committee meetings.  No activities that I’m not completely passionate about.  Doing my best to have inner quiet and stillness while I outwardly continue the hurried pace of living, finding peace amidst the chaos to some extent.

I’ve bobbed in the Dead Sea and know how serene it feels to let go.  It’s a profoundly simply yet powerful way to fully experience the concept of “surrender”, feeling completely supported and safe, warmly embraced by the water.

The cliche, “Go with the flow”, springs to mind, bringing a bit of anxiety to this woman who likes to know where she’s going at all times.  What flow?  To where?  With whom?  So I coined the phrase, “Go with My Flow”, recognizing that we are at different stages of our journeys and that “one size does not fit all”.  Your flow is different from mine.  I might choose a chubby inner tube bobbing lazily down the river of life while you strap on your helmet and buckle your lifejacket, ready to brave the whitewater of your life. Or maybe it’s the other way around, I’m plunging down a foaming waterfall while you are wading knee-deep in the safety of the shoreline.  It doesn’t matter.

We each have to go with our own flow.

Winged Spirit- Soar to New Heights

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Winged Spirit emerged from the canvas to remind us that we should release our burdens and soar to new heights.

Winged Spirit emerged from the canvas to remind us that we should release our burdens and soar to new heights.

Winged Spirit speaks to me, gently saying “Release what no longer serves so you can soar to new heights.”  Her wings are strong yet nurturing. “Fear not,” she continues, “when you have the courage to take a leap, Spirit will carry you safely on the wind. You will not fall.”  What wonderful advice as we head into 2015, a new year & an opportunity for a new beginning!

By letting go of my preconceived idea of what this canvas could be, Winged Spirit continued to reveal herself.

By letting go of my preconceived idea of what this canvas could be, Winged Spirit continued to reveal herself.

Winged Spirit emerged from layers of acrylic paint playfully applied with a variety of tools- brushes, a spray bottle, sponges, a fork, stencils, stamps, and my fingertips.  I was able to connect with this piece far more deeply than I had with some of my earlier work because I allowed myself to enjoy the process and let whatever was going to happen happen.  Surrender… a new concept for me.

After freely applying several layers of paint without any thought to the outcome, I saw Winged Spirit peeking through the drips, splashes, and strokes.

After freely applying several layers of paint without any thought to the outcome, I saw Winged Spirit peeking through the drips, splashes, and strokes.

 

Early in the fall, I strolled into my local fabric store and happened upon a display of art-related books.  As soon as I read the title “Brave Intuitive Painting”, I knew I had to have Flora Bowley’s book for that’s exactly what I would love to call my painting process.  But I can’t.  Not yet.  I stayed up late into the night soaking up her advice, techniques, and colorful examples, enthusiastically telling my boyfriend, “If I could write a book, this is exactly what I’d want to say!!”  She encourages artists to release preconceived ideas of a finished product and immerse ourselves in the process of discovery… and self-discovery.  The book led me to her website which led me to her e-course called Bloom True.  I highly recommend it for anyone to wants to break free of expectations and allowing the experience of creating art to be a more intuitive process.

The point of taking Flora Bowley’s workshop is not to copy her style.  Rather, the point is to honor the authentic creator in my Self, silence the critical mind for a while, and just BE.

Visit my shop on Etsy to view the art I currently have for sale.  www.etsy.com/shop/PureSusan

Bridges and Boundaries

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Transformation is only possible when we choose to build bridges instead of roadblocks.

Transformation is only possible when we choose to build bridges instead of roadblocks.

I thought I fully embraced transformation–eagerly desiring positive change and building bridges to what I envision as the next phase of my life.  But something has been getting in my way.  Me.  I’m building my own roadblocks as fast as I’m building bridges.

This is a common pattern for me and many others.  We get close to fulfilling a dream and then pull away out of fear, whether it be deepening a new relationship, deciding to move, or changing careers.

I’m grateful for finally recognizing this for it means I am in a position to break the cycle of self-defeating behavior.

What do I mean by “bridges”?  

Bridges are any action or decision you make in alignment with your soul’s wish.  When I decided to leave Virginia, I focused on finishing my masters’ degree, got certified in other states, sent out resumes, made phone calls, and traveled hundreds of miles for interviews.

As I got closer to my goal, I let fear overpower me and I started building roadblocks instead.

What do I mean by “roadblocks”?

Roadblocks are the barriers to success and the awakening of our authentic Selves.  They are any action or behavior that gets in the way of reaching your goal or fulfilling your dream.  When I accepted a position and prepared to move, I began to sabotage myself in three significant ways.  FIrst, I claimed to be “too busy” to follow up with realtors who were trying to sell my house & help me find a new one.  Second, I let perfectionism paralyze me, making the excuse that everything had to be perfectly in place before I’d move forward.  And lastly, I shut down.  I was so scared about the scale of this life change that I couldn’t make any decision regarding the move for a few days.

There are already plenty of roadblocks between us and the fulfillment of our dreams.  Do we honestly need to sabotage our Selves, denying our right to happiness and an authentic life?  Naguib Mahfouz wrote, Fear does not prevent death, it prevents LIFE.”

So what am I doing differently?

Anything.  Everything.  It only takes one itty bitty baby step to break that negative thought pattern.  I am acknowledging my fear and taking the next step anyway.  I am choosing to listen to my intuition more than my inner critic.

To learn more about my painting called Transformation (seen above) or to view my other work,

visit me at www.etsy.com/shop/PureSusan .

Listening to Intuition

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I’ve been craving space, knowing that life, like the earth, has seasons.  Autumn is ending and the last of the crops have been gathered before a period of rest.  It’s getting dark earlier.  Snow will most likely fall tomorrow and there is little else to do outside.  So I eagerly anticipate winter for it symbolizes the winter in the cycle of my life – a time when I can go more deeply within, rest, wait, emerge transformed.  I honor these cycles and learn from them.

I was overdoing it.  The perfectionist in me loved the committees, obligations, and productivity that I had over the last couple of years.  The authentic me, buried beneath the to-do lists, longed to step into the light and just BE.  As my commitments came to an end, I refused to “fill the void” with yet more committees and obligations.  Instead, I chose to sit in the growing space and settle in.  A little space felt good and more space felt even better.  I respected what I was feeling and stretched out my arms, embracing the mystery.  I don’t need to “be” anything other that me.

I have to warn you.  If you are brave enough to try this, some people won’t understand.  They have expectations for you.  They remember the old you and want you to stay that way, for if you reveal your authentic self and come from a place of inner knowing, they have to take closer looks at themselves, too.  Not every one is comfortable with change.  Be okay with that.  And be okay with the fact that some relationships will fall away to make way for relationships that align with who you are, NOT with who you were.

I also have to warn you that like-minded people will suddenly surround you.  Kindred spirits will respond favorably to the change and affirm your decision to be YOU, for they have traveled similar paths.  You’ll be amazed at who appears in your life and the new opportunities that come with your growing authenticity.

This has been my experience over the last few months.  I love the way it feels yet acknowledge a part of me that is uncomfortable with the growing space… that perfectionist who adamantly says, “I should be doing more.”  “I should say yes to all the things people want me to do.”  “It’s selfish to self-nurture.”  Right?  Wrong!!  That’s just fear and insecurity calling out in desperation to be recognized.  That’s the voice I listened to in the past.  But I want something more for myself so I ignore that desire to please and produce and continue to sit in the space I’m creating and nurture myself.

So I’ve stopped saying yes to every request for my time & energy.  I’m only saying yes to things that stir my soul and energize me.  To get back to my nature analogy, the earth goes through periods of birth, death, and rebirth.  So do we.  Some call them “chapters” of their lives.  Some say they are “entering a new phase”.  Whatever you call it, honor it.  Surrender and see where it leads.

My period of rest has given me the time to get to know my true self- Pure Susan.  I like where I am going and I like who I am traveling the road with.

I’ll be exploring this & other related topics in my next several blogs.  How do we create space?  How do we say no to energy-suckers?  When opportunities to fill the space come along, how do we know which will nourish and which will drain?  How profoundly can life change when we say “Yes!” to what stirs our souls?

I can’t shed everything that no longer serves (yet) but by shedding what I can, I create a sacred space for my authentic self to grow and reach for the sunlight of all possibilities.

 

 

The Twins- A Collage on Canvas

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Now that the parents expecting their second set of twins have been given my collage, aptly titled The Twins, I can finally share the images of the piece that I was commissioned to create to honor the babies they’ll soon be having.  I’m very happy with the way the piece turned out, especially the expression’s on the giraffes’ faces.  Here’s the finished piece and a few photos of my process.  Peaking out between layers of paint are some of the words to a blessing I wrote for the babies as well as words such as “Joy, Peace, Love, Serenity, Safety, and Laughter.”  All the things one would wish for little ones just entering the world.

Twins Final

The Twins- my collage on canvas. The finished piece has fabric to highlight the grass and add interest to the spots on the baby giraffes.

Twins 1

I lightly sketch the giraffes with acrylic paint on the canvas to make sure I have the scale right.

 

 

Stencils, stamps, and a turquoise outline add interest.

Stencils, stamps, and a turquoise outline add interest.  This is the layer where I get to play freely and see what wants to happen.

 

Twins 3

I make more deliberate decisions about details such as the grass and leaves on the branches.

Monks Walking: collage on paper

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I took a chance with this one, stepping outside my comfort zone to explore new techniques & a freer style of painting.  I have to admit that I’m pleasantly surprised.  Not all of my experiments go well- that’s what makes them so exciting.  But when they do, it makes up for the many that don’t.  Besides, is any experiment ever a failure?  Or, is the failure in not taking the risk in the first place?

Monks Walking is an original collage- acrylic paint & bits of magazine images on 18 inch by 24 inch mixed media paper.

Monks Walking gently reminds me to be present & mindful.

Monks Walking is an original collage on 18 inch by 24 inch mixed media paper.  If you look closely, left of center is a small section of the magazine picture that inspired my piece.  I love the bold colors, strong natural sunlight, and exotic architecture in the photo- so I used similar colors and painted enlarged versions of the patterns and motifs with loose brushstrokes, creating a piece both strong and contemplative.

Notice the intent focus of the Buddhist monks on their simple act of walking, reminding each of us to focus on the present moment and be mindful of every step we take.

Visit my shop on Etsy to view the art I currently have for sale.  www.etsy.com/shop/PureSusan

Does the dream align with joy & meaning?

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I’ve been intrigued by what I’m reading in Brene Brown’s book The Gift of Imperfection:  Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed To Be and Embrace Who You Are.  “Gosh Susan, why are you reading that?”  Because I’m a recovering Type A, overachieving, perfectionistic, list-maker… emphasis on the word “RECOVERING”.  Years ago, when I was first told that I had type B negative blood, I seriously thought, “Why couldn’t it be an A?”  I’m not joking.  That was honestly my initial thought!

That’s how much my perfectionist tendencies were ingrained in me.  I can laugh at that now but it’s taken a while to see that this perfectionism, while it helped me get where I am today, didn’t just prevent me from enjoying success.  It kept me from enjoying the present.

So I’ve chosen a path of greater self-acceptance & gentleness.  I’m by no stretch of the imagination a “reformed perfectionist” but I’m well on the road to recovery.

If there was a 12-step program for overachievers, it would include:  

1.  Gentleness

2.  Patience

3.  Gratitude

4.  Love

5.  Acceptance

6.  Trust

7.  Surrender

8.  Bravery

9.  Joy

10.  Openness

11.  Passion

12.  Nurturing

Brene Brown asks us to consider whether or not the dream we have for our future aligns with what brings joy and meaning to our lives.  Or, is the dream list merely a list of accomplishments and acquisitions, such as “get a promotion”. “add a new addition to the house”, or “buy a boat”.  Am I driven to follow a path of joy & meaning or is the perfectionism driving me to pursue things that keep me chained to a life of constant reaching, striving, gaining, & reaching for more?  Am I trying to please myself or impress someone else?

Intriguing… and an opportunity for me to make TWO lists!  (I said I was recovering.)  I eagerly grabbed a sheet of loose-leaf paper (the best for list-making) & divided the page into two columns.  The left side was “Joy & Meaning” and the right side was “My Dream for My Future”.

Let’s see how well these two align…  Under Joy & Meaning, the list included my boyfriend, dogs, creative expression, nature, good food, friends, serenity, and my spirituality.  Easy.  Let’s see what’s under the dream category…. more time with Jim, dogs, my art, nature, friends, and spiritual exploration.  (Quite a few that relate to my professional life but I’ll keep those to myself.)  There were no material possessions on that list and no accomplishments outside of the burning desire (need) to have a more meaningful, joyful professional life.  For me, what I dream of having in greater quantities are those things that already bring joy and meaning to my life.  (And having the wisdom, courage, & support to shed what doesn’t.)

“Is the dream you are pursuing aligned with what brings the most joy and meaning to your life?”  

 

 

Use It Or Lose It

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I have a confession to make….my comfortable fall-back position is to look outside myself for guidance when I’m in a period of turmoil, whether it be job concerns, relationship issues, or spiritual questioning.  I grab the nearest self-help books, take the workshops, & listen to all the audio-recordings from motivational speakers & gurus that I can find.  Someone “out there” must be able to help me.  Right?  Not necessarily.

Here’s the bottom line.  All of those are wonderful resources BUT…. if I don’t internalize the lessons & APPLY them to my life, none of them will work.  Would I expect to get benefits from a piece of exercise equipment I never use?  Would I become a better artist if I never picked up my brush to paint?

I’ve learned to ….USE IT OR LOSE IT

Here is a short list of useful strategies I have in place to center myself- tools that both nourish & nurture me.

  1. Meditate
  2. Journal write
  3. Create art
  4. Work in my garden
  5. Go for a walk
  6. Connect with nature
  7. Pray
  8. Listen to music
  9. Spend time with those I love
  10. Read
  11. Take time to be alone
  12. Get a massage
  13. Give or receive a Reiki session
  14. Take a power nap
  15. Rattle or drum to change the energy around me
  16. Use positive affirmations
  17. Hold a smooth stone & get grounded again
  18. Play with the dogs
  19. Focus on the many gifts & blessings in my life

I have a great many tools in my “self-care” toolbox but it’s up to me… and only me… to use them when I need them.

 

 

Create While I Wait

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I’m taking a new approach to situations that usually trigger a measure of impatience in me, such as waiting for the mechanic to finish a car repair or sitting in the doctor’s office because he is running behind schedule.  I’ve tried reading the outdated magazines and I’ve tried to watch whatever happens to be on the television in the corner of the room, neither of which appeal to me.  The phrase, “Do what you love”, inspired me to create a traveling art kit that fits easily into my purse.

Traveling Art Kit:  can hold everything from watercolors to a glue stick & bits of fabric.

Traveling Art Kit: holds my small watercolour set, pens, brushes, & a mini sketchpad.

An old cosmetic bag gets a new life as the keeper of my pens, brushes, and mini-sketchpad.  It’s a treat to be able to take out my art supplies & play until my name is called.  Now, I’m more likely to say that the wait time was too short!

A fun little doodle in shades of Payne's Gray.

A fun little doodle in shades of Payne’s Gray.

I don’t have large blocks of time to explore my creativity on most days but a few minutes here and there can quickly add up.  It’s so much easier to maintain a positive attitude in less-than-ideal situations when I’m doing something joyful.

Zinnia blossom in watercolour and pen.

Zinnia blossom in watercolour and pen.

“Create while you wait!”; the perfect mantra for someone who waits impatiently.