For about eight years, every work day in my life, every moment on my own, has been framed by the needs of my children and family.
This summer the boundaries of this framework are wider than every before. While the beaches are filling up with roasting people, our parallel insight stages of our creative processes have given rise to a new rhythm. One day with the kids, one day at the studio, one day with the whole family. Rinse and repeat.
And I am so grateful for the unyielding restrictions that have surrounded me until now. All this space is pretty terrifying. The need to fill it up with distractions is palpable.
Until I remember,
I don’t need to do anything.
It’s okay to walk from tea cup to tea kettle.
Listen to silence. Wiggle my toes. Eat a pistachio nut.
Feel my skin.
The impulse that leads me to the next step in the body of work before me always comes. The emptiness is like cold water that I dive into, head first and the initial shock jars me to my bones. No matter.
June was chock-full of client work with interesting, dedicated people who threw themselves into making art and learning about their creativity. Now I’ve been winding down to holiday mode, spending time in summerland with my children. Time is starting to loose its meaning and I have difficulty remembering what day it is. Lovely!
On a more personal note, I have been exploring what it means to be an empath. This year, I’ve been working with Molly Gordon and Caroline van Kimmenade, both of whom I can heartily recommend. It all started out with the intention of checking out what is going on with the profitability in my company, my sense of having one foot on the break and the other on the gas and the recurring phenomenon of ending up either broke or exhausted.
With Molly, I have learned to instantly access my core, my deep trust in the goodness of life. I am now able to look out into the world and feel supported. No matter what is going on, I KNOW it is all alright. Nothing has gone wrong, I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.
The program “From Suffering Sponge to Sensitive Savant”, that I’m enrolled in with Caroline is a bit different than traditional coaching. This is pure training for an empath. I’ve learned to understand my ability of being able to viscerally feel what others are feeling, discern what is mine and what isn’t and what to do with inner phenomena that originate from someone else.
So far, I feel like someone has given me an encryption key to my life experience. Everything makes so much sense now. So, I’m vacillating between accepting where I am and making small changes in my everyday life.
The changes I’m noticing this far are:
– It’s easier for me to make art, take&make time for making art and hear what I need [as opposed to taking care of everyone else and ending up resentful and exhausted.]
– Although I am still super-sensitive and aware of emotional fluctuations, I am able to discern what is mine, what isn’t and I know what to do in both cases.
– I now KNOW, beyond all doubt that I was never broken.
– The exuberance, joy and lightness that I remember from my childhood grows stronger every day.
– Being with my own intense kids is so much easier, because my inner clarity is now a stable flow. I can maintain the loving kindness that they thrive in.
The challenges I’m aware of are:
– It’s a LOT of work. I get immobilized with an influx of emotional static and it takes a whole lot of sifting, sorting through, writing, jogging and breathing to organize all the sense-material coming in [but it is infinitely better than it used to be].
– It’s lonely. I used to morph out to meet people, like an emotional Barbapapa, always finding the facet of my own experience that fit what my empath senses were telling me was appropriate. Now, I’m getting used to a whole new way of communicating and just being me. Scary!
– I’m way off my comfort zone, practising something completely new and not doing it particularly well.
But you know what? It’s so worth it. Because for the first time in my life, I can genuinely say that I am starting to feel this affectionate regard for myself. Not awash with the feelings of others anymore, I can differentiate who I am and I like what I see. There is a sense of inner logic to my past, I can see how things have led up to this point.
I’mwishing you a sunkissed summertime, with lots of goodness and gentleness.
This empath elephant is the first in my SummerFreeFlow 2014 collection. I have also started to post progress pictures of my watercolors, on Instagram, Flickr and Pinterest. Some lovely people have been telling me it’s nice to see how the paintings are born, impulse by impulse.
Sometimes I think such a big part of creativity is the ability to stomach tension.
There is the tension that starts building an hour before it is time to get the kids from school and the meter is running out on work time. There is the pressure of making room for imagination, art and creation, while money is needed, the bills are piling up and responsibility is weighing down on the shoulders. There is the balance between the ideal vision and the messiness, imperfection and humanity of the reality that is born out of the vision.
When you don’t take the sometimes considerable force of this raw energy personally, you can learn to let it all slosh around in your body, keeping the energy moving, letting it all mix together in divine chaos. Then you pour it all into what you are creating.
What could help you keep the tension and energy moving today?
The Loving Offer. Did you know you can buy my work?
A long time ago, I read that when we are in touch with who we really are, with our essential self, we fly like a butterfly through our beliefs, over our obstacles, through any inner or outer barrier.
Today my suggestion to us is to let art be our butterfly.
So when the world is going crazy, make art.
When you are going crazy, make art.
When the mind is dying, make art.
When those in power fall down, make art.
When the intensity is getting the better of you, scream.
and. make. art.
When stuff is falling from the sky,
radiation is polluting the water,
the earth is quaking,
Making art moves energy. Making art flows intensity.
Making art brings relief, helps us breathe.
So the next time anxiety grips you, sorrow moves you, terror paralyzes
you, joy wakes you, exuberance makes you bounce – make art;
Ogres are born when our gifts are sent into shadow
These days, I believe each ogre, demon and gremlin, no matter how intolerable, have an ecological place inside of us. There is a reason they exist. They can be expressed, known and, with time, accepted – even embraced.
When I was little, I was very clear sighted and a born empath. The problem was, there were lots of secrets around that were not very safe to see and they were definitely not to be expressed. All those things were put into shadow, one by one. By the time I was an adult, the ogre telling me that seeing and expressing were forbidden had grown very strong and loaded with destructive monologue. Scary to look at, intolerable to listen to and very uncomfortable to live with.
Art makes inner wisdom visible
The blessing of art is that nothing is too big or horrendous for it. So I spent years, painting, dancing, writing, singing and sculpting my ogres and befriending them, while I started understanding my history and letting go of things that didn’t belong to me to begin with.
What turned my ogre into a gremlin – much more manageable and cranky rather than terrifying – was allowing myself to become present. When I realized that my truth was the only one that could help my art come out into the world, things started changing.
I went to the canvas or paper, as I go into my coaching practice – empty, open and allowing. Impulse by impulse, breath by breath, step by step, the work was born. What came through was what came through. My technical prowess, or often lack of it, was a non-issue in the act of creating. I allowed the artwork itself to be my teacher.
It was as if someone had turned on the tap. My imagination was flooded with ideas for paintings, stories, animal cartoons. When I allowed myself to be where I was, no more, no less, I could suddenly produce.
Getting to know the gremlin, ogre, monster, whatever
So these days, when a gremlin turns up, or even an ogre, I get curious. I ask:
Who are you?
Where do you come from?
What color are you?
How fast do you move?
Do you have a sound?
Where do you live?
What do you eat?
How big are you?
When I have this new aquaintance there on the page, I can talk to it, interact with it and understand it better.
You imagine – I draw
There is a lot of drawing going on here, behind the scenes. The offer still stands, I will draw your gremlin, ogre or whatever it is that is awakened. Or, better yet, if you want to draw/paint/sculpt/write your own and share it with me, I welcome it. No strings attached.
(I don’t know if I’ve told you, but I love the space where two imaginations meet . <3)
No matter where you are and no matter how the champions and gremlins of your creativity make themselves know to you, they can be made into art.
Some time ago, I published this drawing on my Facebook page.
Many people contacted me through different channels to comment, tell me about their own creativity gremlins. This inspired me!
My coach recently said to me that I will find more and more people with whom we can meet in the lands of imagination. Would you join me?
I would like to draw your gremlin(s)
If you describe your gremlin to me in the comments of this blog, or in an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org (subject: gremlin) I will draw it and post it on the blog.
What people have done with the description is that they have described how they imagine the voice that nags them when they want to dare greatly, create something big or small or make a change. I usually ask questions until I receive an image or images in my own imagination and then disappear, only to return with a drawing or several.
Drawing your gremlin, as it appears to me, would be an honor. <3 Leave me a comment or send me an e-mail and let’s get to work.
Later, should you feel the inclination, you can buy the original. Just send me a line. The rights to the art work stay with me.
Here is the first triptych of a gremlin called “The Voice of Doubt”:
It is from a Finnish client, so the name is in that language in the drawing.
So welcome to the gremlin party, all critics, fears, doubts, resistances, angers, frustrations, distractions, shadow comforts, shadows in general, shame, guilt and anything you can come up with. Let’s draw and move some energy together.
… but you can definitely become more and more immersed in the now moment.
Starting with a big vision, then working toward it in small steps, impulse by impulse
For some reason, filling in the contours of this giraffe today, I was reminded by my final presentation in art school. My “thesis” [hah!] was a big sculpture of a tiger. It was made of pieces of superlon, torn from mattresses we got to play with as children, or use for pyjama parties when we were a bit older. The pieces were sown together with red thread and I worked on the sculpture all year.
Although I had a vision, the artwork itself grew, piece by piece.
Having your work seen by collegues and mentors
At the presentation, one of the teachers looked me straight in the eye, one artist to another and said:
“Ah well, I can’t imagine anyone but an artist getting up in the morning and saying – Today I think I’m going to make a giant tiger out of superlon. Welcome to the art world, colleague.”
Which part of your vision can you work on today, piece by piece?
I sat down in the hot spot today, feeling grumpy and aware of how much my throat is hurting. Artistic rejection has been on my mind a few days now, because I’m applying for a variety of grants and form filling awakens my fears, doubts and resistance like nothing else.
Recognizing my need for extra support, I’ve asked for the help of a few great friends, sent a text message to my mentor and drawn an imaginary waiting room outside of my studio area for all of my gremlings.
Handling rejection is a professional skill for artists of all kinds
As I’m just beginning to realize that handling rejection is an artistic skill, much the same as drawing or knowing how acrylic color works, I thought I would draw a bit on this.
Caprino: Some people seem to let rejection roll off their back. How do they do that?
Lerner: If you're an authentic , open-hearted person you won't be immune to the feelings of shame, inadequacy, depression, anxiety and anger that rejection can evoke. Rejection is a fast route back to childhood shame. It's not just that you went to a party and no one made an effort to talk to you. It's that you feel you're essentially boring and undesirable, and so it is and so it will always be. It takes a huge amount of maturity, and self-worth to not take rejection quite so personally, and understand that rejection often says more about the person who does the rejecting, than it does about you. I have yet to meet a person who enjoys being rejected. Of course, I have not met everybody.
Caprino: Any advice about lessening the pain of rejection?
Lerner: When we acknowledge that rejection isn't an indictment of our being, but an experience we must all face again and again if we put ourselves out there, rejection becomes easier to bear. You can also succeed by failing, meaning go out there and accumulate rejections whether it's asking someone for a date, making sales calls, trying to get an article published or approaching new people at a party. The only way to avoid rejection is to sit mute in a corner and take no risks.
Create a safe space for your vulnerability
Making art [no matter what your medium of expression is] always involves the risk of being vulnerable. Expressing inner wisdom, for no other reason than that it wants to be born is a tremulous process.
What helps me is to make my studio space safe, sacred, quiet, with lots of room to listen, feel and create.
Shipping your work as a way to gain momentum
Then there is the shipping part. That is where handling rejection comes in. That is where I aim to ship often and with a routine that helps me focus. This is where, with time, I hope rejection can become a driving force to clarifying my niche, always being able to describe it better and better.
So, four ideas that can help build the skill needed to handle rejection:
1. Make your art space safe.
2. Celebrate each minute, hour and day you have spent making art. <3 Every step forward is worth acknowledgment.
3. When you do things that awaken your fear of rejection, ask for help and support.
4. Ship, publish and share your work often. The feedback (and possible rejection) can often give you further clarity on who your niche is.
What steps taken on your art path can you celebrate today?
This morning, sitting down at work, distractions were all around. I was hungry, still thinking about my breakfast date with the Engineer, pondering my e-mails, feeling tempted to find someone to take care of, fast.
Another way to put this is:
I was wimping out.
Sitting down with my art is the scariest thing I know and I resist it. It’s also the most wonder-fabulous-enjoyable-joyous-exuberant way of living that I have experienced. Somehow it is much much easier to hold the space for others – students, coaching clients, loved ones.
Do you recognize this from your own art making?
Our art, whatever it is, deserves first place in our life. It deserves our fresh thoughts, our breathing space, our first focus.
I can promise that after you have given your very own art fifteen minutes, three hours or even just five minutes of listening, everything else falls into place.
And you’re going to be okay. <3 Art has room for everything.