I was just sitting, having a morning tea date with the Engineer (sometimes, when we’ve gotten the kids to school, we take a moment for ourselves), talking about a trip abroad that he had been planning. There were some really affordable tickets to the Caribbean, he’d been eyeing.
Then he said, the plane would leave tomorrow and I felt that little inside jump of joy that I feel, when adventure comes near. So I asked him a few questions and the next thing I knew, he was ordering the tickets (there was just one left).
The whole messy kitchen was brimming with aliveness after this. He’s leaving for an adventure, I have the nights for myself to ponder this luminous vein in my artmaking and I feel that Something New come closer and closer.
What would you do today, if everything were possible and filled with ease?
P.S. I have so many things I want to write to you about, but they are deep slow rivers in the wilderness of my imagination and there just seem to be no words. The words I have, I usually write in my Instagram feed, when I post the painting progress of the day. Maybe I will see you there? <3
Monday, in Taekwondo training, my considerate instructor said it was time to test me for the yellow belt. The others had done the test before Christmas, when I was lying in bed with fever.
All my inner walls slammed up. I wanted to flat out refuse. I wanted to cry. I wanted to run away.
Instead I disconnected my brain and just waited for the test to start. I wish I could tell you that I aced it. Did not. I was pretty bad. But I did it. Tomorrow I get my belt.
What I learned during the lesson was that when I’m afraid, I tense my shoulders into a knot. I try to push myself into succeeding. It doesn’t work that way. Instead I prevent my body from doing what it knows how to do.
I went walking and running on ice yesterday. My intention was to explore how fear moves in my body. Just spend some time with it, experiment. I found a nice spot, a dirt road covered by bumpy, wet and slippery ice. Yellow sneakers, trembly knees, strong breaths out. Despite my mind’s screeching, fantasies of a broken nose and panic, my body knew what to do.
Relaxed, yet alert, my body, supported by my conscious breath, walked pretty normally. My feet kept slipping and sliding and correcting the balance with the appropriate movements. My shoulders kept trembling and numbing with the force of fear running like electricity through my muscles. But it was just sensation. An experience.
My taekwondo instructors keep telling me that the fear is normal, the bumbling around is something everyone does and the answers are inside.
I take their words to heart and bring them with me into the studio. Here I throw everything into the inner fire.
And paint for my life.
What are you afraid of? What would help you stay relaxed and alert in the midst of feeling your fear?
I hope this year will be filled with unexpected blessings, illuminating insights and lots of beautiful ordinary moments for you. <3
In the midst of the kid’s holidays I wanted to come tell you about the amazing developments that have taken place, after making room for Empty Space and then making the decision to commit to art.
Traditionally the three weeks around Christmas and New Year have for me been times of intense introspection, pierced with birth family drama and old patterns jumping up. Often I have felt helpless before my own life, before what I have created in my reality. While it has lead me to further delve into my inner landscape and into what it is that I would like to create in my life, it has been intense.
This year, it’s been vivid. But in a completely different way.
Choosing to throw caution and doubt in the wind, has opened up inner doors to art, rapid fire. I found James Elkins’ book, What Painting Is. He is an art historian multipotentialite, who understands art making on a visceral level. When he talks about painting being “life’s blood: a substance so utterly entrancing, infuriating, and ravishingly beautiful that it makes it worthwhile to go back into the studio every morning, year after year, for an entire lifetime.” he is describing the room that my soul dwells in.
Every day. Since I made the Decision to just make art. Has been so filled with life, crystal clear moments, enjoyment that words feel trite as I try to describe it. When I prod, jab, scratch, gouge and slash the canvas with my brush, my blood cells sing, my muscles flow with endorphins and I feel like I am at the center of my universe, doing exactly what I was made for.
Now, there is a new ingredient here. See, one thing that kept me from pursuing art, for real, was that I suspected I wasn’t very good. For a long time I thought it was just my perfectionism, but now I realise it was the wish to do better, to have the skill to express what is growing out of me. What I appreciate most is that now I’m open to learning that. The mixing of grays, a balanced palette, a liveliness of brushstrokes, a moving feeling body painting its unseen onto the canvas. A new gear is on and the books, people and ideas I need are flowing into my life. It is as if a dam has broken. As if art was waiting outside of the door, just waiting to bust in.
I’m happy. The ecstasy that so used to freak out my parents is back, the passion that makes me feel like an embodied song of Pavarotti inside is here again. And it has a place to go. My studio is just the right fit for all of this that can be so difficult to cram into everyday life; the bliss, the excruciating sensitivity to stimuli, the intensity that can ignite fire, the ocean of feeling.
This is short, but I wanted to tell you.
In the case that someone who has an impossible, irrational, crazy dream is reading this. What’s good about dreams is that they are really tenacious and when you dare to choose them, just that choice changes everything.
I read something beautiful this weekend: “The unknown cannot be structured.”
It sums up the essence of the creative path. In order to create, you need a structure. Yet that which you are creating, the unknown still being born, cannot be structured. It can only be allowed and surrendered to.
These days, it seems that change is mandatory, whether we want it or not.
Breathing helps. Allowing what is helps. Being present in the body helps. Keeping energy moving helps.
There is someone I’ve been wanting to introduce to you, for some time already. This is my friend, Rational Mind. He’s conscientious, hard working, polite, well-rounded, a worry-wart and highly perfectionistic. He works closely with my imagination and through the years, they’ve learned to respect each other. There’s one thing, though. He does. not. like. transitions, insecurity and change.
He tries his best, bless him. But at times, when surrounding structures crumble and the Unknown rushes into all the empty space that is left, Rational Mind goes “POP”. When he doesn’t understand a new direction I’m taking, he tries to translate what is happening through things that have happened in the past. So, sometimes, my imagination and I send him to Aruba, just to rest for a while. This is one of those weeks.
This week is all about art. No meetings, no budgets, no worries. The world of art and imagination have room for any human expression, experience and feeling. There is a surrender and trust that exists in lines drawn on paper, an arm expressing a turn of rhythm, words giving form to a moment of grace, clay expressing a mystery, or whatever it may be. No words are needed. No analysis needs to be conducted. There is just experience, sensing, living.
Rational Mind needs not be the only one responsible for things like money, housing, food, paying bills. But the processes are different. When Imagination gets to lead, we start in the wilderness, knowing nothing, feeling everything. The practical solutions are born out of this.
Rest well, Rational Mind. See you next week.
What does your Rational Mind need today, to feel safe?
There comes a time in each time of change, when the tension between the old and the new grows too intense. It is like standing with one foot in the old and one foot in the new, with the gap between them slowly growing. At one point, you need to make the decision to let the old go, turn toward the new and take action. Otherwise you fall deeper and deeper into limbo, confusion and anxiety. We can all choose where we put our focus.
Remember to honor and acknowledge the long journey that led you to this point in your life. You did it. You’re here.
What do you appreciate about the new in your life today?
It’s been a bit quiet for a while here on the blog. I have been dealing with some suprising and sudden changes. So I thought this blog post could be about dealing creatively with adversity.
– Allow yourself to feel everything, uncensored, no matter how conflicting, crummy, hateful, wallowy, self-pitying or bitter the thoughts may seem to your rational mind. Let the feelings move. You do this by simply observing and feeling. When you feel tempted to judge yourself, go back to sensing what your ear feels, what you see around you in the room, how the soles of your feet move on the floor or in your shoes.
– When your thoughts are racing over hurful comments or rehashing what has happened over and over in a hamsterwheely fashion, choose a word that’s neutral to you and doesn’t awaken any strong feelings (oatfield, cucumber, rice or truck work for me) and repeat it to yourself, fast, over and over again. This reboots the thinking process for a while. You may need to do this a few times to change tracks.
– Allow many versions of reality to be true at the same time. The adversity you are facing may be a closing door and an opening window to a new opportunity, at the same time as it pisses you off.
– Take lots of naps, use all of your relaxation techniques and tools, read uplifting books that you can connect with, listen to angry music, break a few dishes in the sink, watch movies where people go through big challenges and come out on the other side.
– Move your body. It doesn’t matter if it’s yoga, running, dancing, walks or horseriding. Your body wants to help you get through this.
– If the adversity you’re facing pushes your money buttons, try two things: Write a to do list about everything you need to do financially, the bills you need to pay, the people you need to contact, everything. Then take a time out. When panic hits, look at the to do list and reassure yourself that you are taking the situation seriously and responsibly. Then, with a conscious choice, move your awareness to your now moment and your basic needs. Are you bodily safe? Is your belly full? Do you need to sleep? Take care of your immediate needs and reassure yourself that this moment, you are in a safe space.
– Ask for support. Dare be vulnerable. Say no to obligations first and then share as much as you want about what has happened and how you feel about your situation in this moment. People will support you more than you can ever believe.
– To the people closest to you, describe what you are doing to cope. Sometimes we look perfectly competent on the outside, although every moment is a struggle. When you tell your loved one what you are doing to remain active solving problems and not crashing, it is easier for them to support you in loving yourself, because the inner work you’re doing becomes visible to them.
– Remember that your point of power is in the present. No matter what has happened, right now you can choose to be your own friend. You can appreciate yourself, take care of yourself and let yourself feel whatever it is that is happening in you.
– Last but not least, remember that you can always draw, paint, write, mold, sing, dance, vocalize or in other ways express what is happening inside of you. The mere act of getting it outside of yourself can give you clarity.
Do any of these tips resonate? Is there anyone you know, who is facing difficulties who could find this blog post useful?
Creative frustration is something I’ve been struggling with for a long time. At the same time as I’ve understood it is a natural part of creativity, I’ve experienced enough frustration for a life time. Do you recognize how the butterfly feels inside the cocoon, in the above drawing? Knowing it is important to incubate, grow, be patient and at the same time jumping up and down with frustration and urgency?
Frustration is a sign of wanting things to be different than they are. You want to develop faster than you really are, want yourself to be proficient when you’re still learning or you want to be having insights, when in reality you’re still incubating ideas.
Here’s what helps ease the tension. Become fascinated. It doesn’t matter what you turn your focus to. It may be the play of color in your Christmas ornament, the talent of a favorite actor, or how the hair grows on your arms. Let your fascination lead you back into this moment, into where you really are.
Scribbling down a few things you’re grateful for and telling someone how you appreciate them will nicely finish this process and have you flowing in ease in no time.
We often think about change as something coming from outside of us. But, if you listen closely, change starts way before that. There is this antsy feeling, a restlessness, yearning, an inner sense of urgency, yet there is nowhere to go. This pressure can sometimes get very uncomfortable and be projected outside on different more or less deserving subjects like loved ones, family members, work situations.
I’ve started to grudgingly appreciate these bombastic signs of impending change. This Friday, I put on lipstick and wheeled my little turquoise suitcase to the hotel across the Hakaniemi market, feeling like a little girl playing dress up with Mommie’s clothes. It was nice, though, to have a room just for myself. The internet refused to work, so I had ample time to play around with markers, dance, write, read through notes starting from 2006 and choose what I want to take with me into the yea 2014 that is coming closer.
This way of art making allows for a way to move with the Unknown. There is no need to be poised, suave, skillful. What matters at this point is the inner experience, letting the next step emerge in the moment. Step by step, something tangible starts to take form. A space for receiving inner information in a grounded way has been prepared.
So, after writing about this experience, I suddenly had an impulse to paint with the kids who jumped in, both feet first. We got some clean card board from the trash, put on some lovely music from Sås och Kopp and started painting. Magic. Instant. magic. A mentor, long ago, said if I’m ever stuck in painting [or anything] just to paint with our children. He was so right.
All the pompousness, seriousness and weighty stuff poofed in the air, in our dancing to a song about an imaginary jungle, the rhythm of the colors. Aliveness, exuberance and clarity. So easy.
Which activity could makes something you’re pondering right now hilariously easy?
This week, the feeling of approaching change is strong and visceral. I dumped the contents of my private notes, image journals, photos, work papers on the living room floor and started making my way through the circle of the past. The fastest way I know to invite in change and movement, is getting rid of old stuff that doesn’t resonate anymore and also seeing the stuff that still matters more clearly.
So much art, so many encounters, so. much. life. Twenty-two garbage bags of past, out the door. So much past processing, stuff that I can let go of.
Here’s a toast to no more processing, just living, moving and making art instead. I think I’ll go take a walk in the rain and just enjoy these clean open spaces for a while. I feel a bit like someone organizing a party, everything is ready now for the Unkown Guest – Change.