Two Steps Forward & One Step Back = A Giant Leap Forward

We’ve all experienced times in our life when it feels like everything is going in the wrong direction and you can’t turn around without facing another obstacle that seems impossible to overcome. Then, when you least expect it all of the pieces fall into place and both the present and the future are bright and beautiful.

Things got off to a rough start in 2014. I can’t say it was much fun to experience the major winter storms, a terrifying blow out on the interstate, three separate power outages, multiple nights without power, more than a few unexpected (and expensive car repairs), and last but not least a pair of broken eye glasses.

It  would be an understatement to say I was less than positive after the long winter, I was downright depressed. I’m affected by seasonal depression and this year the state of sadness lingered well into the spring. Thankfully I learned about the teachings of Louise Hay just when I needed it most.

If you’re not familiar with Louise Hay, she’s a metaphysical lecturer and teacher who believes we all have the power to heal what’s broken in our lives and attract positive outcomes by changing our mental patterns. Positive affirmations are an integral part of her teachings and work.

Her book inspired me to find a positive way to cope with my feelings of depression and hopelessness. It started as a personal challenge to create one small piece of artwork and focus on a positive thought for each day. It somehow morphed into an online journal and 125 consecutive days of writing.

My early entries into the art journal were direct quotes from Louise Hay, author of “You can Heal Your Life.” In fact the original plan was to use one of her direct quotes as the message for the day. After about five or six entries into the project I changed direction and began using her affirmations as inspiration and wrote a positive saying of my own. Each piece of art also has an accompanying journal entry that ties into the saying.

I am Perfectly Imperfect

In addition to changing my approach to the actual words of inspiration, the process for creating the individual pieces of art started one way and ended up being completely different. It didn’t take long for me to realize that it wasn’t very practical to paint the card and create the artwork one at a time, so I changed my approach and started to paint anywhere from 10 to two dozen at a time.

water color backgrounds

For the most part I used every piece I created without trying to make each one “perfect.” I used my mistakes as opportunities to create “happy accidents.”

I accept a helping hand

I was able to correct a fair number of misspellings by turning the letter into a flower or butterfly, however there ended up being more than a few that couldn’t be used. In some cases the background was too dark and in other cases I just didn’t like my choice of words.

Initially I ripped up the pieces that didn’t work and tossed them into the trash because I didn’t want to be reminded of the mistake and the lack of forward progress. Then one night it occurred to me that there might be some value in them and I began to store the tiny pieces of colored paper in a plastic sandwich bag.

Trees were a recurring theme throughout the project so it seemed appropriate to find a way to create one final tree out of the scraps. My original idea was to draw the tree trunk in ink and create the leaves out of the paper fragments.

Tree of Dreams Sketch
As tends to happen in art (and in life) the plan changed with new information and experiences. As I experimented it became obvious that the entire tree was meant to be created in the form of a collage.

Tree of Dreams and

3
The next step included glue – not for the feint of heart. The process took several nights of gluing, patience, and guts. I was happy with the outcome but it didn’t feel quite finished.Tree of dreams without background
At the risk of ruining several hours worth of work, I decided to add a background.

13
After the first installment I was certain I’d made a critical error and my choice would result in ruining the beautiful tree. The orange was “too orange” and nothing felt like it was blending together in a way that made sense. After all of the forward progress I was back to wondering whether or not the collage would turn out well.

I seem to be wired to keep going even when it feels like there’s no hope in sight and so I kept gluing. The final outcome couldn’t be further from my original vision and I also couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.

Tree of dreams final

I’ve learned a lot about myself and life through art. It’s not about where you start or even where you finish. It’s how we handle the collection of steps along the way that sometimes feel all wrong but end up leading us to exactly the right outcome.

I Am Perfectly Imperfect

I am Perfectly Imperfect

A couple of summers ago, I received an email that may have changed my life. It was from an artist friend of mine and it started out like this,

“Hi,

Due to a surplus of various kinds of pulp, I am holding a couple of papermaking open studio sessions and papermaking classes at my studio.  I have Japanese pulp, casting pulp, high shrink flax, abaca and pigmented pulp for painting.

I had no idea what was involved, but the opportunity was clearly too awesome to pass up. I learned all how to make paper and I fell in love with the process. Something about it appeals to my tactile senses, which is odd because I normally don’t like doing anything the least bit messy.

In first stage, the pulp feels wet and sort of mushy but strong. After suspending it in water, the fibers become soft and feathery. You use a frame lined with a screen to scoop up the fibers and create the foundation for a piece of paper. I like to imagine that it’s like panning for gold to pick up the tiny wet fibers and drain off the excess water. Once the fibers settle, you carefully peel the wet sheet off of the screen and layer it between pieces of a special fabric until the entire stack dries.

When all was said and done, none of the edges of my pieces of paper were straight, the thickness varied from sheet to sheet, and many were lined with interesting creases and unintended patterns – but they were all beautiful to me. I wasn’t sure what I would do with them, but after the assorted sheets of paper dried I sealed them in a gallon sized baggie to protect them from the humidity.

I’ll never be sure what prompted me to pick up a pen and use it to make a mark on one of my pristine pieces of hand-made paper. I’m very tentative when I draw in pencil, I draw lines so light you can barely see them and I’m fairly certain that in the beginning of each drawing I spend more time erasing than drawing.  There’s something inside of me that “needs” for it to be “perfect.”

Ink is permanent and each piece of my handmade paper was one of a kind. The thought of using ink on them was completely counter – intuitive.  I’m a perfectionist, if there’s a chance that it won’t turn out right; I’m more inclined to not even start than to make a mistake.  So ink, particularly on my handmade paper seemed like an unlikely creative outlet. In reality, it’s taught me a valuable life lesson.

Drawing on these imperfect pieces of paper was difficult because the texture wasn’t smooth, the creases presented both a challenge and as it turns out an opportunity.

Trees are my default doodle so I guess it’s no wonder that’s where I started. I took advantage of the texture in the paper to create depth in the trunk and branches.

ink tree on handmade flax paper

The strokes of my pen grew bolder and my designs became more elaborate, detailed, and colorful with each tiny work of art. The addition of watercolor pencils and brightly colored ink transformed the imperfections in the paper into something beautiful and completely unexpected.

Colorful Ink Drawing on handmade flax paper

When you draw in ink, if the pen slips and goes in an unintended direction there are two choices. You can crumple up the drawing and give up, or you can find a way to make it work. More often than not, there’s a way turn the mishap into a part of the drawing; my dear Google+ friend Jennifer Broderick refers to this as“knowing how to resolve the lines.”

I still find it strange, but I no longer dread making mistakes because I know they often-times turn out even better than the original idea after I take a step back and think about how to make the “oops” work in my favor.

It doesn’t work every time, and that’s ok too, it’s all about recognizing the difference between an opportunity that might be different from what we planned and also knowing when to cut our losses short and move on.

I am Perfectly Imperfect

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If you want to check out the series of drawings, you can see them here

-> http://bit.ly/1zPdb7P

I Speak for Myself

I Speak for Myself

It’s hard to believe that this art and journaling project is winding down and will be concluding within the next few weeks. Unless something gets in the way, I will end up writing the final entry on my birthday.

It started as a personal challenge to create one small piece of artwork and focus on a positive thought for each day; it has somehow morphed into a journey of personal growth.

My early entries into the art journal were direct quotes from Louise Hay, author of “You can Heal Your Life.” In fact the original plan was to use one of her direct quotes as the message for the day. After about five or six entries into the project I changed direction and began using her affirmations as inspiration and wrote positive thoughts of my own.

water color backgroundsIn addition to changing my approach to the actual words of inspiration, the process for creating the individual pieces of art started one way and ended up being completely different. It didn’t take long for me to realize that it wasn’t very practical to paint the card and create the artwork one at a time, so I modified the process and started to paint anywhere from 10 to two dozen at a time.

I take things quite literally, and when I first started creating the actual entries ahead of the next day felt like I was cheating the process and the goal to “focus on one positive thought” for the day.

What happened in reality is that it freed me up to focus on my writing. Writing a journal entry for the saying on each piece of artwork was also not part of the original plan.

The only thing that was actually part of the plan was to share the thought for the day along with the inspiration and maybe say a few words about it.

Over the course of the past 113 days and 108 entries, my writing has grown and changed from high level observations and interpretations. It’s become much more personal and “real.” I’ve found great joy in expressing myself freely and honestly. My creative confidence has increased and I believe it is reflected by the difference between my first entry

I release the pattern in me that created this. I am at peace with the world. Louise Hay

and my most recent ones.

There are Always Options

I Speak for Myself

The project and the process has kept my head in a positive place during some difficult times and has been a great reminder that we can use negative energies such as fear, anger, and doubt to create something wonderful and worth sharing.

We Create Our Own Reality

I Create My Reality

What do Mahatma Gandhi and Ray Kinsella, the character played by Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams, have in common?  One man is real, of great historical significance, and influenced people around the world. The other is a fictional character who hears “a voice,” builds a baseball field in the middle of his farm in a film which is described as fantasy-drama.

Gandhi stood firm in his conviction that the British would leave India, Ray Kinsella followed his instincts and did something that seemed crazy.  We all know people who have achieved great things that have nothing to do with being famous or wealthy.

From everyday heroes to world leaders the thing they have in common is that they were not only brave enough to have a dream, they believed in it, they followed it, they inspired people, and they made it happen. I’m sure that even Gandhi had a restless night or two and felt doubt creep in between his head and the pillow, but when morning arrived he was true to his beliefs and didn’t waiver in his pursuits.

On a much smaller and maybe more practical scale, what they do is what I like to think of as creating their own reality, which for me means choosing to look at things in a positive way and not from a negative perspective. If the thoughts that are constantly going through our minds are things such as:

  • Why is life so hard?
  • Why do “these things” always happen to me?
  • I’ll never get ahead”
  • If only “this” hadn’t happened…

You get the gist. We all know people who are all doom and gloom and on the one hand it maybe seems understandable because they have a lot of bad or difficult things going on in their life. But on the other hand maybe they are creating their own reality.

I actually started experiencing the power of words and how they affect our reality many years ago. I was working at a job in which I was very unhappy, felt overlooked and under-appreciated. I was “hoping for the best” and sitting back and doing nothing to proactively better my situation.

My passwords rotated every 90 days between things like “life sucks,” “my boss is an ass,” and worse. One day I noticed that every time I signed onto my computer using one of these passwords I immediately went into a negative state, even if something positive had just happened.

I’m not sure what prompted it, but I decided to try something new and I changed my password to “new opportunity.” Believe it or not things started to change. I started getting emails from recruiters, which led to interviews. Internally things seemed different as well. People were listening to me and doors were opening.

From that point on I’ve used what I call “the power of the password” to help me create my own reality. It’s gotten more difficult in the age of special characters, capital letters and numbers but I still find a way to keep my passwords focused on the direction I want my life to go and not on what’s wrong with it.

My point isn’t so much about the power of using a positive password as it is about how we create our own reality through our thoughts and the messages we send ourselves throughout the day.

I wonder what people like Mahatma Gandhi did to help them stay positive and focused on their dreams and not on the obstacles in their path. In the end it doesn’t matter what we use to do so, as long as it works for us.

Negative thoughts create a negative reality and positive thoughts create hope and opportunity.

I Create My Reality
Inspired by: “I am the creative power in my world.” Louise Hay

Author’s note: I stole the introductory paragraphs for this post from one I wrote a couple of years ago, they just seemed to fit. 🙂 If you want to read the rest of the post, you’ll find it here.

Release Fear and Embrace Life

I Release Fear

I’m just about at the half-way point in my daily affirmation project. An affirmation is a positive statement that reinforces the good things in life and about ourselves as individuals. They can be used to help re-frame they way we view the person that looks back at us in the mirror.

I’ve created and shared  50 affirmations; my original intent was to share an inspirational quote by Louise Hay on a daily basis, using the affirmations I circled in the back of her book You Can Heal Your Life. As it turns out, the journal has taken on a life of it’s own and has become a book of personal art and positive statements by your’s truly, inspired by Louise Hay and Julia Cameron.

Today’s affirmation is “I am perfect as I am.”

I am Perfect as I Am
Inspired by: “I rejoice in my own expression of life. I am perfect just as I am. I love and approve of myself.” ~ Louise Hay

There’s clearly a trend here in my daily affirmation project and it’s centered around letting go, forgiveness, self approval, and living life fully.

What’s really cool about this body of work is that the source of inspiration for both the art and the words found me at exactly the right time in my life. If we pay close attention this happens far more often than many people realize.

It just dawned on me that the very first entry sums up what this affirmation project is all about, it’s about releasing patterns and behaviors that cause us to feel bad about ourselves and have a negative outlook on life.

I release the pattern in me that created this. I am at peace with the world. Louise Hay
I release the pattern in me that created this. I am at peace with the world. Louise Hay

One of the major themes is one of self acceptance and seeing yourself through loving eyes.

I don’t know why we’re so hard on ourselves. I think we all have different reasons. In my case, it started when I was a teenager. My first boyfriend liked to tell me things like “you’re lucky that I’m going out with you,” which at the ripe old age of 15, I interpreted as “you are unattractive and undesirable.”

The experience, combined with others resulted in nearly a life-time of self-doubt and low self-esteem. Thankfully, I have had many positive experiences and people come into my world in the past few years who have helped me see myself through their eyes and not the eyes of my doubting and unforgiving self.

I am Beautiful
Inspired by: “I am now willing to see my own beauty and magnificence.” ~ Louise hay

The phrase “I am beautiful” does not refer only to physical beauty it also refers to internal beauty. When we look at ourselves in the mirror we do see our physical presence  but I think we also see our internal imperfections as well.

Seeing yourself as a beautiful person is part of the process of accepting and approving of yourself. It isn’t vain to recognize our own beauty and magnificence. In fact I think when we do embrace it rather than reject it we can ultimately be more positive and giving to others.

Affirmations can also be a great catalyst for change and personal growth. By creating a positive thought process, we’re more inclined to do the things that contribute to a feeling of well-being. We being to realize that we have the ability to create our own lives.

I create my life
Inspired by: “I am protected by Divine Love. i am willing to grow up and take responsibility for my life. I forgive others and I now create my own life the way I want it. I am safe.” ~ Louise hay

Creating our own lives doesn’t mean we can control what happens, it’s more about taking responsibility for our actions and reactions. It’s also about letting go of blame, excuses, and being brave enough to live our lives the way we want to and not the way others might expect us to.

In order to create our own lives we need to remove the limitations we place on ourselves and be willing to try new things.There are no limitations

Inspired by: “I go beyond other people’s fears and limitations. I create my life.” Louise Hay

I actually kind of cringe when I read things like “there are no limitations,” the reality is that there are limitations. Age, education, physical ability, intelligence, talent, and economic means do play a role.

It’s unlikely at the age of 52 that I’m going to become the world’s wealthiest woman, a famous artist, or a world-class athlete. But because I’m 52 doesn’t mean that I should limit my options or my exploration of life.

I think that sayings like “there are no limitations,” really mean that we should allow ourselves to explore the unknown and to try things that we might not think we can do and often-times we will be pleasantly surprised.

Many times we don’t try something new because were afraid of failure and we’ve defined our own personal limits based on a false definition of success. It may also be because we’ve allowed ourselves to be limited because of past events. My third grade art teacher told me I couldn’t draw, it took me until the age of 50 consider the possibility that she was wrong.

We, as human beings, are capable of far more than we realize. Many times are limitations are self-imposed.

Don’t define the outcome; enjoy the process of trying something new.

This project is also largely about reinforcing thoughts about having faith, choosing harmony, and being present in the moment. These three ingredients coupled with self-acceptance and forgiveness are the keys to living a full and joyful life.

I Choose harmony
Inspired by: “Harmony surrounds me. I listen with love to the pleasant and the good. i am a center for love.” Louise Hay
I have faith
Inspired by: “I accept Divine guidance and am always safe.” ~ Louise Hay
To Forgive is to Live
Inspired by: “I forgive others. I forgive myself. I am free to love and enjoy life.” Louise Hay
My world is joy-full
Inspired by: “I create only joyful experiences in my loving world. Louise Hay

I can honestly say that this project is having a positive affect in my life. These are things I’ve been working on for a while: self acceptance and self forgiveness, letting go of past mistakes and being kinder to myself in all ways.

One of the most significant shifts inside me is that I’m not obsessively worrying about everything in life. I’m aware of my legitimate fears and concerns, but I’m not constantly focused on it. I feel a greater sense of calm and a stronger feeling of faith that things will all work out just fine with hard work and a focus on doing the right things for the right reasons.

I’m learning to release fear.

I Release Fear
Inspired by: “I relax and let life flow through me with ease.” ~ Louise Hay

It’s not possible to completely remove the worried feelings we have as human beings, but perhaps it’s possible to embrace our worried energy and turn it into creative fuel.

Julia Cameron and others believe that “restlessness is a good omen.” It means that destiny is getting ready to knock and prayers will soon be answered, although not always in the way they think things are going to unfold.

Maybe things do happen for a reason, and maybe that reason is because we finally acknowledge our fears as well as our dreams and in doing so we quit clinging to Plan A and we become open to Plan B or C or even Z.

I know that when I look back at major breakthroughs in my life, they are almost always preceded by a time of doubt, discontent, and fear.

Although we all encounter negative emotions like fear and uncertainty along our own journeys, we can combat them, wait them out, and use them to our creative advantage, and most importantly remember that self-acceptance and self-respect will help lead us to our destination and to embrace life.

I am at ease with myself
Inspired by: “I move with ease through time and space. Only love surrounds me.” ~ Louise Hay
Live LIfe Fully
Inspired by: “It is my birthright to live fully and freely. I am worth loving. I now choose to live life fully.” ~ Louise Hay

 

Life Life Fully and Freely

Live LIfe Fully

It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost exactly two years since I read “Walking in This World,” by Julia Cameron. It would be an understatement to say that it changed my life; although would probably be more accurate to say it was a catalyst for change.

It took me more than 12 weeks to finish the book, but as with most things in life the outcome was better because I didn’t force the process.In my final essay, I summed up what I’d learned:

  • Savor life – live with humor, joy, and passion.  Use feelings as fuel for creativity and creation.
  • Make something of yourself – do something, be something, make something.  Be who you are and continue to strive to become who you were meant to be.  Don’t be afraid to try, don’t be afraid to fail, and don’t be afraid to succeed.
  • Accept yourself– be yourself, trust yourself, be childlike, own and understand your relationships, be aware and follow your instincts, be accountable, and last but not least, be kind to yourself.
  • Have faith – ask for and accept help, be teachable, life is spiritual, art is spiritual and it is healing. Follow your dreams and treat them as real.
  • We commune through art – when we create from the heart and not from the ego we experience a clarity of purpose and feelings of joy.

I continue to learn about synchronicity, serendipity, and faith. I don’t think it’s any mystery that many of the teachings of Louise Hay are congruent with the teachings of Julia Cameron. One of the concepts they both teach about is the concept of living life fully. Julia in particular reminds us to remember our inner child and to create time to play as an adult.

For some reason when we “grow up” we forget about the wonder of life we, forget about curiosity, and we take things too seriously. I know that happened to me. Life became about the schedule, the goals, and the perceived expectations. I had a career to build, a family to support, kids to raise, and an image to uphold. I thought I had to be “perfect,” I didn’t allow myself to be “me.” I worried about the future, re-hashed the past, and forgot to be present in the moment.

I’m re-learning the lesson that, being in “child at heart” doesn’t equate to being irresponsible or un-adult like, it means it’s okay to do something just because it delights us.

And now to share my most recent little art journal entries 🙂

letting go of the past is the path to the future