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.
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?
Here’s a confession. I’m an heart and soul energy kinda gal. What this means is that if I met you in Maxim movie theater in 1989 and felt connected, we’re friends still in my heart. It does not matter if we talk on the phone every day in 2013, you staid in our home sometime in the nineties from Up With People (that’s you Kim O’Brien) or if we met a few times in 1994-1995 (Beth Hoppe, I’m talking to you) – in my book we are friends.
If you have touched my heart, you have a place in it. Time, place, conflicts, whatnot are of no consequence in the spaciousness that contains my heart that keeps loving beyond all reason.
A few years ago I was in an expressive art therapy symposium in Toscana. We were making an opera. There was no way in the world I could stop crying and I tried to hide my tears. Marcus Alexander walked up to me and simply said: “Feelings are good.”
That is what I’m remembering today. Because I cannot stop crying.
I cry for the friends who are here. I cry for the friends who are absent. I cry for the friends going through hard times. I cry for my mother. I cry for the chaos that life is. I cry for those who have no money and feel powerless. I cry for the ones having money but missing out on love. I cry for the dry, thin, stretched, scarred, close to the breaking point, way past the breaking point, numbed down, held down, trodden, beaten, enslaved by this or that. I cry for the despairing and I cry for the ones dancing on the sharp thorns of worldly success. I cry for everyone who does not feel seen and goes without. And I cry for no other reason that the tears just keep on coming.
Today I do not care if this is mine or somebody else’s.
One of the most liberating insights of my life came at a point in my life when I had studied therapy, coaching and been through various self-developmental processes. I was confused, because there were still times of absolute darkness and inner pain. Although they were shorter, they were no less intense. They were also less easy to pinpoint, didn’t seem to have any substance at all, except the emotional pain they contained and gave rise to.
At that point I started finding literature about empaths, about being so sensitive to other people’s feelings and emotions that you start trying to process them in yourself. I started asking myself: “Is this mine?”
If I had that rootless feeling of not being able to feel the feelings in my body, I started to just let them go. I told myself: “Not mine, not mine, not mine.” Doing something physical helped, running or vacuuming the apartment.
One day, while walking around the small lake near us, I felt awash with joy, this simple exuberance of being alive. Memories of childhood and feeling this same feeling started to jump up like happy puppies and I was filled with the certainty that this joy was mine, had always been mine and would never leave.
So still, at times, when my boundaries start leaking, the human sponge effect starts. With good self-care, equilibrium returns, step by step.
How about you, are you carrying stuff that isn’t yours in the first place?
Silence about the torment
Silencing the regular losing of myself,
that I have come to expect & endure.
But no numbing this experience.
No drugs, thank you.
It is what it is. I am who I am.
I’m drinking it all in. The agony without reason.
The faceless bliss. Everything in between.
My life. My experience. Thank you.
If it frightens you. That is. Fine.
It terrifies me. How identity can melt into
suffering. No catastrophies. No disasters. Just pain.
I do not believe in normal.
Do not sign on the dotted line of appropriate inner
directions and reactions.
To thine own self be true, is a loaded statement. What
it means is a personal journey.
There is too much life here.
Do you know how even a beautiful sound [especially a beautiful sound],
too loud, hurts the ears? So it is sometimes,
with myself and life.
Too much, so loud. That I hurt all over. Lest I keep firm boundaries
around my tender core.
Pad each stimulating event with expanses of
solitude, music, space, physical movement, freedom, love.
Otherwise you find me writhing in pain. Beauty turned excruciate.
Everyday details turned into an elaborate torture of overwhelm.
I don’t understand this woman I call myself.
But dutifully, passionately, I scribe and paint her experiences
With the hope of someday
making sense of all this
happening in the inner landscape of me/her.
It is like understanding the weather.
Why is it raining today?
Why is the sun scorching?
So in the midst of my scribing, I try to remember, how to breathe.
At times like this morning by the traffic lights, breathing
is close to impossible.
Solar plexus moving only by force, doggedly, the air
wanting to hide
at the base of my throat, shy to move.
At times the breath is like a slow tide
I am the scribe.
Remembering to experience
the storms, the lulls, peace.
Remembering I feel everything. I own nothing.
I drew this one day when the gazillion feelings I was experiencing felt like a bit much. Like eating a steak, a chicken salad with feta, then three pastries, one chocolate cake and so on. Too much with such variation and intensity that my whole body was spinning. But then I realized, I can put it all into my creativity. Boom! Relief.
This was a challenging weekend. But if I’ve learned one thing, it is that feelings are good. All of them. The trick is to keep them moving, keep moving through them, keep expressing them. The more they move, the less it hurts.
Do you ever feel like this? I do, frequently. When I do my other job and meet people in art life coaching, I’m amazed at the connection, space and common purpose that can be found, when we dare be vulnerable. Time and time again it gives me hope, that we are more alike than not. That authenticity and sharing is possible.
What is it like to live in the Unknown. When you know. Nothing? No thoughts, no guarantees.
This is the first painting in my Unknown Series, painted in the beginning of 2011 – a peculiar year. One morning in our local Merihaka store, the whales swam out above the cold meats section before my inner eyes. After that, whales were everywhere I looked. Guests brought whale toys, Facebook was filled with whale videos, my husband started getting e-mails about whales. He begged me to start painting already. It took three months to paint this one, because another layer of consciousness and color always opened up.
In the painting, whales help us flow in the ocean of feelings, without exhaustion or overwhelm. Nothing is too intense for the whales to embody. We can use feeling energy as fuel, instead of being afraid of its power or getting burnt out. Whales balance emotional intensity, sensitivity to the experiences of self and others. We aren’t stuck in suffering and then we can sit safe in the vortex of our essence, drinking the nectar of life.
You can buy prints of the painting here, or the original here. Welcome to my shops 🙂
Version one, Crystal Heart
January 2011: This painting is the first of my Body of Consciousness series. This is a set of paintings where I explore my experience of living as a body of consciousness, not anymore a collection of parts, but one whole being at one with essence. Sounds very mysterious and is, in practice as well. It is a lot of fun too, everything seems more alive, less mental. I am less interested in IF something is true and more interested in whether it is true for me. I spend time enjoying my senses in small tangible ways like enjoying cold lake water lapping against my big toe, staring at my painting for hours, dancing without feelings of guilt, eating with relish. Work is starting to feel more like a state of consciousness instead of a series of results.
It is all very ephemereal, intangible and unverbalized at this stage, but I’m hoping to drink the nectar of life daily, like the hummingbird in this painting and emanating some of that in the brushstrokes of this painting.