Back from Scotland and my adventures into the mystery of loving self. Things keep getting more hectic here on our planet, more turbulent. I felt an updated skill set in caring for myself would be appropriate. I’m glad I did.
Edinburgh was a beautiful place where it was easy to breathe deeply. I came back with lots of inner space and a collection of non-verbal, not yet painted experiences.
I’ve always thought loving ourselves is a pretty abstract concept. Easy to think and talk about, harder to practice. A quick google search seems to indicate it isn’t an easy concept generally speaking.
It seems to me, loving ourselves is something to be practised, day by day. This way it does increase, helping us to keep center in this ever-changing world of ours.
So while I’m painting my huge paintings around this theme, here in my studio, I thought I would ask my inner crew to give me something more tangible, that can be shared now.
I asked my friends: What is implemented self-love? Here’s the first illustration, T. and Fant style.
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.
It has been quiet here on the blog. This is largely because I have been experimenting with the Empty Space and it is turning into Open Space, moment by moment.
So what does this mean?
Early this Fall, I had the rare opportunity to start concentrating on my bigger acrylic paintings. This work leads away from the verbal, for me. Where drawing and writing are areas of creativity that thrive on insight, the dance of imagination and rational thinking, painting is different.
So my days have been spent in slow contemplation, feeling into the deep rhythms of my life, the issues in our world, meetings with clients and groups of students. Inbetween that I come to my studio and time stands still.
Then colors, images, rhythms, melodies, feeling tones and sensations start moving through my body, until I have an impulse toward a particular tube of preussian, or a brush, or maybe dancing a little. The paintings unfold themselves out of me in a similar fashion as my children did. Words have very little to do with this. They come much later.
Sometimes this is hard to accept. I would like to draw, send out creative insights, write and connect. But everything I know about creativity tells me to surrender to this unusual time in my life and see what happens.
What kind of different modes of creating are you aware of in you life?
I have been enjoying lots of empty space lately. It seems the ideas I like the most, come from simple being and breathing. Last week November Light, this week, who knows?
Sending you lots and lots of deep breaths and faith in the process, whatever it looks like for you. Remember, you only need to listen to the impulse and allow it. Again and again and again. Don’t forget to breathe. <3
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.
I was our writing in a nearby hotel this week. While I was talking to a colleague two swans flew over the river that I was watching from my window. It was a wonderful sight.
A minute later, they flew by again.
I knew it was time to sit with my dearest Lux Aeterna Swans again. I taped a few videos for your enjoyment, should you like to follow the painting being born. 🙂 I have speeded up the time a bit, based on feedback I received about the first videos, in these new ones and would love to hear how that works for you.
In these last hours of creating the swans I got to use a lot of greys. Love that. My mind doesn’t want to understand how filling in grey makes the yellow brighter, but my eyes appreciate the difference.
Painting brings me back to the core, faster than anything else. I think that’s what’s trusting our impulses can do, at best. Help us become aware of who we really are inside.
This morning I woke up at 6:05 am, thinking it was seven o’clock. I was in a lousy mood, with tons of inner pressure building. I cleaned up the whole kitchen, very dramatically and with an air of martyrhood, I’m afraid.
When I walked to my early morning meeting with my new friend Lorella, there were swans all over the newspapers, flying in the sky and blinking at me from a stuffed animal in a shop window. This has been happening for two weeks.
Talking over coffee with my artist friend, a painting flashed before my eyes. The Swan. Suddenly my foul mood, the drama, the overeating of pasta and craving for sweets all made sense. Another painting is on the way.
I was actually hoping to write this blog from Zürich, on my way to Burgdorf to listen to a concert, where my friend is directing the choir. Instead, I was painting all day, layer by layer revealing the essence of Swan that wants to born right now and no later.
My favorite symbolism page said this about swan symbology: “The concept of partnership is further expressed on a divine level in Hinduism, wherein the swan graces vibrant traditions as the Hamsa bird. In the Saundarya Lahari (translated: “Waves of Beauty,” it’s a text filled with beautiful mantras from the Hindu perspective) two swans (Ham and Sa) pair together, swimming around in the divine mind “living on honey from the blooming lotus of knowledge.” Isn’t that a lovely concept?”
I made my first video about the painting process, I hope you enjoy it. Have a lovely lovely weekend.
What kind of signs do you typically get when a new creative project is emerging?
And it is quite a journey. Whoa! So, the next painting was a very different drawing when I started this morning’s work. As I listened to Bon Jovi [again] and painted, ever so often I had to get up and dance. The Engineer sat safely in the kitchen, working through his flu and I was painting in the living room, dancing like mad to keep the shame from paralysing my body. So what you see is as much a “dancing” as a painting.
The shame kept wanting to grow in the painting, so I let it grow into its true form. At some point, though, Fant (the elephant) decided that T. (the tiger) had been alone in the hot spot long enough, so he jumped into the fray to hold his friend’s hand. I am reminded and want to gently remind you, to choose a safe place for anything concerning shame – painting it, expressing it, exploring it, feeling it, sharing it. You’re not alone.
If you want to purchase this as a print, click here.
Shame and art
Shame is s physical emotion. Do you recognize the hot flashes, the blushing, the looking down, the foggy thoughts, the paralysis, the curling into a fetus position, the fountain of sweat, aching tummy, headaches, breath taking anxiety, hot flash of anger? I do.
The two years after I graduated from art school where a walk of shame. I longed to make art, it was almost a physical yearning. Yet every time I grabbed a brush, a pastel or a pencil, self-hatred started gushing.
There was no escaping it. I had a tape of particularly hurtful critiques and comments that I had collected, that started playing in my head, LOUDLY. It seemed that the very act of making art triggered shame, hatred, anger and it was all directed at myself.
For the longest time I blamed art school and the art world. Yeah, like until five minutes ago. Ugh. :/
But I’m realizing now that the fact that my deepest shame and deepest joy were bound together is nobody’s fault. Not even mine.
When my son was three and a half years and my daugher was one and a half years old, I had a moment of panic. Returning to work kept coming nearer and I knew how the demands of generating money could suck all the time from art making, especially if the art maker was crippled by creative self-hatred.
One day I put down a paper on the floor. Armed with colors, brushes, stickers and my little daughter, I started painting together with my little fire cracker. Safe to say, I was so busy with the raging fire of impulses from my baby daughter, I had no time to hate myself or what I was doing.
After this painting, I still felt the yearning to paint. Love yourself. That was the need I kept hearing inside of me. In order to be able to create, I had to start loving myself and creating from where I was. The following week, when my children were napping, I sat down and fervently asked my inner world to help me combine my inner power and ability to love. Stroke by trembling stroke, I painted this painting.
Brené Brown, who researches shame and vulnerability, talks about shame resilience. Because we all have shame triggers and experience shame, the important thing is not to avoid it, but learn to know those triggers and develop shame resilience. Here is what is included in shame resilience.
1. We recognize when we are feeling shame.
2. We recognize our cultural and social expectations and how we react to shame.
3. We make meaningful and empatethic connections to others.
4. We share it with the right people. Shame cannot survive when we encounter it with empathy and compassion.
Today I invite you to bring your shame into this Compassionate Tea Party and share something, it may be just a symbol for the thing you are thinking about. There is tea, sympathy and compassion here for all of our shame.
How can you let yourself gently move through your feelings today?