Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Our Words Can Create Dreams

"Your word can create the most beautiful dream, or your word can destroy everything around you." The Four Agreements.

This morning my paintings look better than did they when I left them yesterday. Funny how that happens. Today it is my intention to have fun playing with paint, to abandon all judgments, to stay in the present moment. I'm always reminding myself of the same old stuff. It's only paint. It doesn't have to mean so much. It's just paint on canvas. It's not all about me. And on it goes. I need to keep these words loud and clear along with fun, no expectations, no comparing myself with other, and no whining. And it is fun. I'm having a great time and with my cold closer to the end, I'm feeling better today.

Hours and hours later: The internet here is a huge frustration. It's 6:30 PM, I'm at Starbucks now and it's hours since I wrote this blog and I just found out it stayed in draft stage and didn't go out. In the interest of truth, and feeling quite sorry for myself, I want to say that my cold hasn't broken and I feel like poop. I just need to have a quiet little temper tantrum and let you know I'm feeling sorry for myself.

Baruch ata adonai...may I be kind to myself today. May I say the tings I'd like my classmates to say to me. May I have the courage to be free and the elegance of calm acceptance. Today may I be kind to my judgmental side and know she hasn't caught up with the rest of me yet. I embrace her fragility and her desire to do well. Just being here and painting I am already doing well. May I be willing and joyful. And if you can do anything about this cold I'd greatly appreciate it. Amen

Monday, January 28, 2013

I Am Willing to Witness My Fears

On the way to San Miguel, I thought this would be my last trip. It only took me a few minutes of walking, in fact just walking out the front door of Casa Carmen, and I was all over that. I can hardly wait to come back. San Miguel imprinted itself on me early and deep. I was in my early twenties, just out of the university, and ready for the world. The first time I came it was a village populated by Mexicans and some Americans who had come years ago, mostly WWll vets who used their GI Bill at the Art Institute and then stayed. It has changed a lot since then. Mexicans can't afford to live in the central area and their employers often want to pay them in dollars, but the essence is the same. The air, the colors, the energy, the patience and sweetness of the Mexicans soothes and seduces.

As we went around the heart circle and introduced ourselves, we were reminded again and again we all  have similar fears and insecurities. The art we're doing mirrors what each of us brings to it. Flora stresses it is important to let go of anything at any given moment. If it mirrors where you don't want to be, welcome it and tell yourself you have the ability to create anything, any experience you want. This week there will be unlimited opportunities to confront ourselves. I've set up my easel. We begin in twenty minutes.

Baruch ata adonai...There are things I don't know and can't see. I rest in ease and acceptance. Amen

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Won't Be Dragged Down by Fear

For lots of reasons, my dreams of doing a prayer and a separate newsletter faded in the glare of reality. So this week, when I check in, it will be a combo. It wasn't easy getting to you today. The internet connection at Casa Carmen is as balky as a two year old. Now I'm at Starbucks, and a very nice man showed me how to get online. Then the next challenge.  Where the heck is my blog and what do you mean you've never heard of it. I went into and I popped right up, en Espanol.  A lovely challenge on a day I don't have too much else to do. Only three of the painting group of us here and the rest come around seven. The Casa Carmen crew is busy setting up a lovely fiesta atmosphere. It will be wonderful. I may not appear too often this week. I'll aim for a couple of times.

I want to say something about fear. The day before I left, three separate people told me to be careful on the long 1 1/2 hour stretch between the airport in Leon and San Miguel de Allende. It would have been better if my plane didn't come in at 11PM, but that was the only time that would work. If only one person had said something, I wouldn't have been concerned, but after the third one, I got a little spooked. I made a few phone calls and was assured the road is safe. If it hadn't been, I would have stayed at a Holiday Inn in Silao and moved on the next morning. This is my fifth trip to San Miguel and I have never ever had an unpleasant moment here. I didn't think there would be a problem and I followed my new best motto, "Don't get ahead of yourself." The second thing I've been practicing is staying in the present moment. The two are first cousins. If you do one, you are doing the other. The next time you're living in the shadow of fear, check to see if you're also living in the present moment.

Baruch ata adonai...Life is too short to be dragged down by fear. I promise to do my part. I won't be reckless, and at the same time, I will challenge myself to go ahead, even though the fears of others cause me to question my judgment. Be with me in this journey of self discovery and joy. I'm thinking in great gratitude of my friend Mary who introduced me to San Miguel when I was in my early twenties. She is all over this town and in my heart when I am here. Mary, you will be with me forever. Thank you also to the lovely generous nature of the Mexican people. Amen

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A New Look

How do you like the way the blog looks now? If you're reading this on your email, click on the title, A New Look, and it will take you to the blog site. You can comment in a variety of ways now and in general I think it's easier. If you click on comment, a pop up box will appear. Remember to follow the directions for spam detection. I'm so hoping you will comment from time to time and thanks to all of you who do.

Along with the new look, my friend Trevor set me up on Facebook and that is a brave new world for me. I feel like I've arrived in a huge foreign city, maybe Bangkok, where traffic zooms around me and I'm afraid to cross the street. Where are all those friends? Looks like they're too busy to help me. Please add my blog to your Facebook page.

Tomorrow morning I'll be on my way to San Miguel de Allende. New smells. New sounds. New friends. If you don't see a new prayer, you can check for me in the newsletter tab. I want to keep a trip journal there.

I hope you are all well or recovering!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Confronting Myself is Part of the Process

"Art involves a confrontation with oneself that can be surprisingly uncomfortable." Roderick MacIver

In the next week of painting, I know my ego is going raise its hand to be heard. No it isn't that polite. It doesn't even say excuse me, "I have something to say." It will give a few ahems, and if I don't pay attention it will send off salvos of doubt, fear, insecurity, and certainly reminders I have no art training, no talent, and no confidence. It will use all its seductions to bring me back to a place of long ago, when I did live in doubt and fear. I think it's misinformed and doing what it believes is necessary to keep me recognizable, to keep me safe. It's a sorry old thing.

Here's the truth. I don't live in that land of doubt and fear and insecurity any more. That isn't me. What I'm dealing with is the fear that I will slip back into that even briefly, and it will challenge what I know to be true. So when that siren calls me to its shore, I need to step away. I can go for a walk, dance, sing, go to the bakery across the street, sit in the nearby town square and watch people. I can bring myself to a place of peace and beauty. I can plug bouncy music into my ear. I can recognize this is just a blip on the journey. I can thank it for watching over me and update its information.

Baruch ata adonai...please remind me what I know to be true: I have everything I need to paint with joy and freedom. Remind me playing old tapes is just that. Remind me confronting myself is merely a part of the process. Thank you. Amen

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Painting is a Journey

"When we can free up our sense of needing to arrive in a certain place, we lessen the weight of being lost. And once beneath arriving and beneath our fear of failing to arrive, the real journey begins." Mark Nero

Last year when I set off to paint in San Miguel de Allende with Flora Bowley, I knew my inner judge would stand right behind me (and believe me she doesn't know squat about letting go and painting with joy) with her fists screwed into her hips tsk tsking away. I asked friends to write notes of encouragement to take with me, and I incorporated some of their words into my paintings. I trusted them to help me overcome self doubt and it helped a lot. This year I'm not feeling the need to do that. Yipppeeee! I have a much better grasp on enjoying the painting journey wherever it takes me, even if it circles into insecurity.

The painting process I'll be engaged in involves laying down layer upon layer of undercoating. The first layer which be painted over, but not totally, will be words of encouragement and faith in myself: joy, courage, trust, journey, soar and let go occur to me right now. There will be others.

Baruch ata adonai I have a peace about this adventure that I cherish in this early morning hour. Remind me sliding into the past, passing through the arid desert of not knowing, and shivering with insecurity are all part of the process. Raise the volume on the music of joy, then whisper in my ear feeling lost doesn't mean I am lost. I know I will experience all of that, because painting is a journey and I am a courageous traveler. Amen

Friday, January 18, 2013

Being Present in the Present

"It isn't the mountain ahead that wears you out; it's the grain of sand in your shoe." Robert Service

"With Google I'm starting to burn out on knowing the answer to everything. People in the year 2020 are going to be nostalgic for the sensation of feeling clueless." Doug Coupland

My first thought this morning was on yesterday's conversation with my husband's doctor. After mulling that over for a few minutes, my goal for the day popped up: Don't get ahead of yourself. What to do next? Google of course. Lots of people including Mohammed Ali, Winston Churchill and Clint Eastwood had fairly mundane things to say about this, and the New York Times had a good article explaining what the doctor said.

Don't get ahead of yourself has a lot going for it. It embraces my attitude this month though I haven't thought about it exactly that way. Friends ask if I'm excited about going off to paint in Mexico a week from today, and I am, but I don't think about it much. Each day is full of things I want to do. I've done everything I can to prepare for the trip and to prepare for what may come up for my husband. I don't want to live in the future, even anticipating tomorrow. I do need to remember to pack for a short weekend trip though.

Baruch ata adonai...Help me to be awake to hope and humor and connection and love. Help me to keep my thoughts in this very day so I won't miss what it has to offer. Thank you for being with me. Also, I'd like Google to know I'm grateful for it almost every day, except for when I think they know too much about all of us. Amen

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Trust the Very First Thing

"I believe in starting each project with a stated goal. Sometimes the goal is nothing more than a personal mantra such as 'keep it simple' remind me of what I was thinking at the beginning if and when I lose my way. I write it down on a slip of paper." Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit

When I sit down to write a prayer, I trust the first thing that catches my eye, the first thing that resonates is what I need to stick with and write about. I trust that first instinctual reaction whether or not it makes sense to me. Yesterday I opened Twyla's book and the first thing I saw rang a bell. I love it when that bell rings and I take off. Sometimes what I see is something too deep or too sad or too confusing or too personal write about. Since I trust my inner caution, I know it's something I need to come back to, and no matter what I write that morning, I know there is something I've chosen not to deal with.

I've used Twyla's idea when I start an art project. Often that word is trust. Just trust. Trust what? I'm not sure. Trust that I'll find my way? Trust that I'll know when I'm done or trust that I need to stop working on it after twenty minutes? When I do this, when I write it down, when I take that thought seriously no matter how silly it might seem at the time, I am more intuitive in my work.

Tomorrow morning before the lists start, before I get up to write a prayer, I'm going to ask myself what my goal for the day is. Will you try this too? I'll let you know how this turns out for me.

Baruch ata adonai...may I let myself be aware of my intuitive thoughts today before I push them aside. May I be aware of uncomfortable feelings that might be behind untrue thoughts. Thank you. Amen

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Some Essentials on My Packing List

"In every situation at the beginning or end of the workday, you have a choice. You can look back or you can look forward. My advice: look forward. Always think about the next day. Don't go into the studio thinking, 'Hmmmm, let's see, what was I doing yesterday?' It takes more energy to twist yourself around and look back than it does to face forward.'" Twyla Tharp

There's a nasty hairy green verging on black fear roaming around the lowest levels of my slimiest thoughts: I start painting in Mexico and I will have gotten no farther than I was when I left a year ago. "Oh, still drawing circles," my teacher will say. Today's quote resonates because I know I have a choice. I can look back or I can look forward. I can be open to seeing what shows up on the canvas. I can free myself from what's worked in the past and also what hasn't. These thoughts, for example, don't work. I may still paint circles, but they aren't the same.

As I pack my clothes, I must remember to pack how far I've come this year. I'll pack the list of what I've accomplished since I last painted with Flora. I don't want to pack the voice that says anything but, "You have a choice." I'll pack some drawings to remind me how much people enjoy them and how much I enjoy drawing them. And I'm packing Twyla Tharp too.

Yesterday in a New Yorker review of a new production of Annie, the critic says in the seventies when it came out, it suited the times. We were more optimistic. We could afford to look back and make a musical about the depression and believe "the sun will come out tomorrow." Today we are again in a depression, and looking back to another one doesn't cheer us at all. It doesn't work anymore. And neither do my old thoughts about myself. Knock it off!

Baruch ata I go again. I know. I know. You're shaking your head and it really is nuts.  These thoughts are temporarily passing through, and now that I've acknowledged them, I can let them go. You know I'm just working my way through stuff getting ready to go. I pack and unpack until I've got it right. Amen

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

No Matter What

"If we expect someone or something outside ourselves to make us happy, we lose our power....One way to counteract the tendency to look outside ourselves for happiness is to practice No Matter What." M.J. Ryan, "Attitudes of Gratitude"

No matter what, I will not look to see how well everyone else is sucking it in at Pilates this morning. No matter what, I will feel in good caring hands when I go with my husband to his doctor appointment this afternoon. No matter what, I will put a full dose of loving into the preparation of dinner tonight. No matter what I will look upon this weekend's short trip as a source of relaxation and pleasure. Today I will live with peace in the present moment. No matter what.

Baruch ata adonai....I carry within me blooms of gratitude and peace. Amen

Monday, January 14, 2013

This One Thing Might Change Your Day

"How can something so simple be so profound, letting others go first, in traffic or in line at Starbucks, and even if no one cares or notices? Because for the most part, people won't care.... And they won't notice that you let them go ahead of you. They take it as their due. But you will know. And it can change your whole day...." Anne Lamott, Help Thanks Wow

Too often I'm very me first, what I have to say is so important that I need to say it right now. Too often I'm unsatisfyingly smug about letting you go ahead of me instead of merely feeling it is my pleasure to let you go first. Today I will say thank you if you let me go ahead of you instead of taking it as my due. I need to start practicing right now and there's no one up yet. So thank you for showing up to visit with me this morning. You make my day.

Baruch ata adonai...I'm still feeling frazzled after being away last week. Today may I be aware of how I'm treating others and act as if I remember they are standing in line waiting to talk with you too. Amen

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Be the Figment of Your Imagination

"I am a mix of practical realist and romantic daydreamer. But of these two entities, the latter needs the most encouragement." Ann E. O'Shaughnessy

Twelve days from today my romantic daydreamer and I will fly off to paint in Mexico. Sometimes it's hard for me to dream big and beautifully beyond my lack of art training. When people ask me if I'm an artist, I practice saying YES, though a voice inside says, it's common knowledge real artists sell their work and find themselves the star at gallery openings. It's easier to say yes to strangers, than it is to believe it on the inside. And yet, there was a time I had to believe I was a teacher and later a therapist and even harder, a mother. Lots of us raised on "The Little Engine That Could"came to believe we can do what we think we can do. I need to think I am, think I am, think I am an artist. Besides it's fun to say I am an artist whether or not I'm chuckling inside.

Baruch ata adonai...I love the idea of reinventing myself. Parts of me are still voting for the conservative party, the party of tradition and it's always been that way and it's safe. They know they're outnumbered though. It's so much fun to be someone else entirely, to fly away on the wings of romantic daydreams that do come true. Thank you for your encouragement and letting me know you're on the side of figments of imagination. Amen

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Taking Home Away with Me

"...the house shelters day-dreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace." Gaston Bachelard

Each Fall I dream up ways to get away from the dreary melancholy winter weather in my hometown.  I've just returned from one of those dreams, and while away, I found myself dreaming about being home, being in my familiar world, eating plain food, spending the morning in my bathrobe, being unaccountable to time. I can only be overstimulated for so long before I need to tuck my head under my wing and be alone. For next weekend, I'll pack a book to disappear into, a journal, a few art materials to take me into myself. And I need to write a morning prayer. I don't need to be in my home away from home for long, but I do need to remember to honor that part of myself.

Baruch ata adonai...I am grateful to the part of me that knows what I need to do to keep myself happy, and I'm grateful to the part of me that knows I need to protect myself from what I think I need. Amen

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Find Joy at the Edge of Uncertainty

"Traveling...forces you to trust strangers and lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except essential things--air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky--all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it." Cesare Pavese

My first travel experience ignited an unquenchable desire to live on the edge of uncertainty. Looking back it seems pretty tame, but when I was twenty and sailed to Europe for the summer equipped with gutsiness, too much luggage, the original "Europe on Five Dollars a Day"and just short of the right amount of money to last me for two months, I felt like an adventurer. I hosteled, took trains, ate cheaply, hitchhiked, was rescued by strangers when my money ran out, fell in love for a few days and learned I could take care of myself. There were more years of travel on my own, then with my husband and later with the children and after we started taking tours, travel lost it's charm for me. Now as I'm writing this, I think why not. Why couldn't I travel like that again...only without the running out of money part. I'm putting this thought on my list for this year.

This morning I'm off with some friends to the Palm Springs Film Festival where we'll gorge on movies for a few days. I'll be back with you on Saturday.

Baruch ata adonai...may I be healthy as I travel and remember the joy to be found on the edge of uncertainty. Amen

Monday, January 7, 2013

Holding My Hand

"Just because it scares you doesn't mean it's not the leap you were meant to take." Leonie Dawson

Some mornings are like this. It's as if I don't know which foot to start off on. Quotes that resonate with me have to do with fear, and I don't want to start my day that way or to go public with what scares me or even delve into finding out what's going on in my deep unknown. I just thought you might like to know that I'm not sure what I'm avoiding, but I feel comfortable you might know exactly what I'm writing about. So what scares me?

Maybe it has to do with embarking on three different trips in the next three weeks. I spend a lot of alone time writing, painting, and being familiar with who I am in my well known space with my well known friends and my stabilizing routines. I didn't think of these three trips as scaring me, and just because I realize I just might be doesn't mean I don't want to go and won't have a good time once I'm there. It does make me realize I need to hold my hand and let the little part of me know she can depend on me, that I'll be with her, that I need to check in with how she's feeling and be respectful.

Baruch ata adonai...I'm glad I'm working through what might be drawing me to quotes about fear. I know there are other fears, love and death for two, and remembering I need to comfort the little apprehensive girl inside me is so important. I move through my days enjoying what I do and comforted by the routine of it all. She goes along for the ride and feels safe, but now she's letting me know it's time to change gears. She is the bravest boldest part of me and she needs to know I'm here for her. Amen

Friday, January 4, 2013

Let Yourself Swim

"Whatever our path, whatever the color or grain of our days, whatever riddles we must solve to stay alive, the secret of life somehow always has to do with the awakening and freeing of what has been asleep....the soul is a tiny thing that brings us peace and joy when we let it swim." Mark Nepo

The first entry in what became one of many gratitude journals was August 15, 2005. The next day I wrote, "Felt my creativity awakening." Thanks to Oprah, the goddess of daytime television, most evenings before bed I wrote down five things I was grateful for. Gradually in a desperate time, this morphed into writing daily prayers. Slowly and shyly I began sharing these prayers with friends who encouraged me to do something more than keep them to myself. Praying, much less writing prayers down and sharing them, was totally foreign but surprisingly comforting to me. I'm still dog paddling and wagging my tail.

Baruch ata's all true. Slowly but surely, practice, practice, practice, and "the soul is a tiny thing that brings us peace and joy when we let it swim." Thank you. Amen

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Just a Minute, I Have to Interrupt Myself

I've had a hard time getting to a starting point this morning. I've changed the first sentence several times, and also googled two unrelated items still on my mind from yesterday, and also tried to find something else to write about. I started with this quote from Natalie Goldberg."Actually every time we begin, we wonder how we ever did it before. Each time is a journey with no maps," which defines where we all are when confronted by a blank page or canvas or even a day itself. And I want to write about something I read yesterday in The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe who with his mother start a "book club" as her life comes to a close. The point I'm still pondering comes from a book they're discussing by Jon Kabat Zinn who writes about how we know it's wrong to interrupt each other and yet we constantly interrupt ourselves.

So here I am squirming at the intersection of the blank page and repeatedly interrupting myself. I'm leaning toward scrapping the whole idea and not sending out a prayer this morning, but with a mind this disorderly I need to pull together and start the day not with giving up but with moving through. So why do I, we, interrupt ourselves? Why is looking up something NOW more important than finishing a thought I'm meandering through? I can tell you, taking a break to check email or google something really really important didn't help me a bit. I have only a great example of being stuck to offer you today. 

Baruch ata adonai...may I be tender with myself. I know this is how mindfulness works: watching the interruptions. Is this who I am today? Number One interrupter of my life? May I be tender, and gentle, and forgiving even as I push send on this tangle of thoughts. And yes, I will agree to sit quietly a few minutes and not interrupt those few minutes....OK. Amen

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Pushing Beyond Myself

"Push yourself beyond when you think you are done with what you have to say. Go a little further. Sometimes when you think you are done, it is just the edge of beginning....It's getting too scary. We are touching down onto something real. It is beyond the point when you think you are done that often something strong comes out." Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones

The two canvases I'm working on are meant to have many layers: the final painting's back story. But when and where is the final painting? I've stopped and started and put away these two since last spring. My paintings have a lot of color, a lot of energy, and sometimes they feel as out of control as a two year old. They've never felt done, but yesterday, the first day of the new year, the yesterday when I was out of sorts, I began to see something strong coming out of one of them and now I'm more confident about the other as well. Now it's really getting scary. Now I have to check the self talk, the voice that says, "Careful, you might ruin it," and the other that says, "Being careful will ruin it for sure. There's always more paint. There's going to be a happy ending with this one."

I love being on the brink like this, the brink of knowing there is a breakthrough coming, the brink of feeling all the paining I've been doing is adding up to something, something perhaps only a mother can love, but something nevertheless. The painting process is making more sense to me today. It's just like  editing a story which goes through numerous drafts. The painting takes on a life of it's own with it's own timeline, it's own needs and demands. Be still my heart.

Baruch ata adonai...Thank you. Amen

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

We Don't Always Get The Start We Hope For

"The repose of sleep refreshes only the body. It rarely sets the soul at rest. The repose of the night does not belong to us. It is not the possession of our being. Sleep opens within us an inn for phantoms. In the morning we must sweep out the shadows." Gaston Bachelard

Happy New Year Everyone. I'd love to come up with something stirring and inspirational, however on  this first day of the new year, I woke up feeling more than a tad crabby. I think it started mid yesterday when I got huffy about something I'd cooked up in my mind. Ridiculous how I do that. Later two pieces of mail made me really suspicious about the ethics and actions of the company that put new tires on my husband's car. This morning, my body may be refreshed, but the rest of me feels pummeled by a hostile takeover and ready to fight.

Baruch ata HELP. I do not want to spend my day fussing about yesterday's trivia. I do not want to spend even the hour it will take to transfer all my passwords to a new piece of paper less filled with arrows and scratch outs, and yet I don't want to look forward to doing this one more day much less put it off for a year like I did last year. Then I have to take care of all those 2012 papers in my files so the bills and records of 2013 have a place to go. "Ahem. Stop! Want to come up for air? It's early in this brand new day. Do you really want to have a temper tantrum all day long? I didn't think so. So get dressed in your paint clothes, eat breakfast, paint, go for a walk when it gets warmer, and check in with me after you've done all that. And see if you can let go of the tire stuff. They won't be open today anyhow." I don't think I should be whining to you about passwords. Sorry. I'll start sweeping. Amen