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 purchase some of the artwork you see below.  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.

Things We Don’t Talk About screening

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I’m extremely honored to be co-hosting Things We Don’t Talk About: Women’s Stories from the Red Tent with the award-winning filmmaker, Dr. Isadora Gabrielle Leidenfrost in October.  I’ve seen this ground-breaking film several times and cannot wait to share it with both the women & men in my community.

Things We Don't Talk About screening comes to York PA

Things We Don’t Talk About screening comes to York PA

Dr. Leidenfrost created this amazing documentary to chronicle the Red Tent movement that was sweeping the United States at the time she was filming.  Just 2 short years after it’s release, the Red Tent movement is now a worldwide phenomenon.  (On a personal note, it’s this movie that inspired me to start a tent in York PA.)

I’m thrilled that men are welcome to the screening, not just because they’ve been curious about what goes on inside the tent but also because they have mothers, sisters, daughters, girlfriends, and wives.  What impacts women impacts men and they need to be welcomed in the conversation about how we nourish each other and care for ourselves in a sacred space.  Though they cannot stay for the Red Tent celebration after the screening, the men will get a picture of what women do once the flap closes and we are sitting in sisterhood.  Briefly put, the Red Tent movement allows women a safe place to share their stories, nurture themselves, hear the wisdom of others, & honor the divine within.

While I’ve written about the Red Tent movement & my role in it before, this screening with Dr. Leidenfrost takes it to a whole new level.  May women and men find the experience profoundly moving and inspirational!

Kundalini Rising

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It started as a dream.  No, it started with an escalating restlessness, an adult version of “growing pains”; then came the dream…

I went up to the counter to buy a snake.  The salesperson grabbed a large one, as wide around as my forearm & shoved it into a white plastic shopping bag.  This took considerable effort as the snake coiled tightly around her arm, struggling against its confinement.  I reluctantly took it & held the bag against my body as I walked to the car, the entire time thinking, “I just wanted a cute little garden variety snake, why am I bringing home this 6-8 foot long powerhouse that could strangle me or even eat my dogs?!  They scare the hell out of me.  Why am I doing this?”  I felt both the weight of that snake as I walked & it’s restless movement inside.

I set the bag on the passenger car seat and stood there staring at it in amazement; the bag wasn’t even tied shut!  I could see the snake’s head, the size of my open palm only narrower.  Again, the doubts banged around in my brain like a ball in an old-fashioned pinball game.  “I don’t have a tank and I wouldn’t want to give it a life trapped in a tank anyway.  Snakes should be free to slither & roam.  I don’t want to confine it.  What am I thinking?”

As it writhed & heaved inside the bag, I decided the only thing to do was take it back to the store.  Quickly, I snatched the open top of the bag, holding it at arm’s length away as I ran.  As I handed the bag back to the salesperson, the snake lunged out of the bag with all its power.  It stayed stiff the way my arm would if I pushed it out straight from my body, parallel to the ground.  Here was the snake, half out of the bag– straight & strong– and half coiled in the bag, ready to push out at any moment.

I pushed the bag forward, in a way trying to contain the snake & trap it inside.  It didn’t work.  I knew then that this was not something to play with.  Holding this snake humbled me.  I should not have this if I don’t know how to take care of it & dare I say, “control” it.  I felt remorseful because I know I take very good care of animals.  I just didn’t think I could manage this.

I’ve been studying the work of Robert Moss, founder of Active Dreaming, and he suggests giving a dream a title upon waking, for the title is often a clue as to its meaning.  I woke with the words “Kundalini Rising” in my head.  I know what kundalini energy is (Shakti energy, the divine source of all energy, the Holy Spirit within) and I know the snake is a symbol of it.  But what is “kundalini rising”?  The term was vaguely familiar but I had to do a little research.

When interpreting a dream,various meanings may come to mind but you’ll know when it’s the true meaning by the way it stirs your soul.  Honestly, it will just feel right.  The description on kundalinicare.com resonated deeply within me.  “… some form of sensitivity and yearning and a talent or quality that stands out to some degree.  Such an individual is more aware of the subtle aspects of life and is unsatisfied enough to seek more from life.  This may develop into an intense longing that urges the individual to find purpose, meaning, and spiritual life, if they are not unduly distracted into less satisfying temporary substitutes in the mean time.”

At this stage in my life, I recognize what’s happening.  I am going through growing pains of a sort. I can either rebel against it, fighting change every step of the way (a technique I’ve tried with immense failure over the years) or I can honor it & go with the flow.  Change is inevitable.  In fact, I desire change right now so I need to embrace it.  And more importantly, not get distracted by trivial concerns.  Be still.  Listen.  And worst of all… BE PATIENT.

These feelings and the accompanying messages in my dreams & awake life signal a time of important growth.  The snake represents my energy and as my boyfriend pointed out, even though I tried to contain it, the snake got out.  Kundalini energy was released.  This is a true calling.  When dreams like this occur or when you experience coincidences (which are, by the way, NOT an accident but synchronicity at work), you must honor them and work with what’s happening as its for your highest good anyway.  Notice I say “you” but actually mean “me”, too.  I’m learning all of this by trial and error.

I’ve finally learned that an important aspect of profound change is saying “Yes” to new opportunities as they arise.  We may know we are on a path but none of us can predict exactly where that path may lead.  It’s our job to stay open to possibilities and accept whatever happens as necessary for our individual evolution.