Tag Archives: awareness

SelfLove365, Year 2, Day 57: Awareness

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I stop and sit, breathe and listen, and I am aware.

How often in my day am I really aware? Even now, I question how much is really reaching my awareness. There is so much more, infinitely more, to be aware of, and I am only recognizing a fraction of it.

A fraction of infinity.

But the quantity doesn’t matter. How deep into my awareness can I go?

Can I crawl under the slight tipping of my heart to see what lies beneath? Am I willing to listen to the sound of tears or laughter or rage that is waiting to be heard? Maybe today, or maybe I’m not ready. But I am aware.

Sacred Space and Trust

Last night, I realized I didn’t trust my friend, B. He told me he would do something, and I questioned him. Then I apologized for being suspicious, but realized it goes deeper than that. I just don’t believe him.

When I started to think about this, I realized that it isn’t just him that I don’t believe, it is everybody. I don’t trust anybody. This becomes readily apparent when I receive compliments or positive feedback. B told me many things last night: He loves being with me, and is so happy he knows me. In the moment of hearing these things, I felt warm and fuzzy, but the insidious voices in my head were already creeping back in to tell me that this is all false. So really, it’s not that I don’t trust him, but rather, I don’t even trust myself. I don’t trust that my being can be good enough, loveable enough, or wanted enough for these messages to be true. I should add here that I do also have a deep (as in buried really, really far down) knowing within myself that I am good enough, loveable enough and wanted enough, and this part is at my core, but very easily covered over by the dark fog of memories and hurts that are easily triggered during my life.

From Project SelfLove365

From Project SelfLove365

Several days ago, B suggested to me that I smudge my mental body. Doing this visualization was wonderful – I was able to really see my mental space, and all its dark and dirty corners. As I cleared it out, I felt lighter and the space became cleaner and brighter. Eventually my mental body became a bright open room, with sun streaming in the windows, and a beautiful crystal hanging from the ceiling, reflecting rainbows on all the walls. Immediately after clearing the space, those insidious voices I spoke of tried to creep back in (they became dustballs with eyes) to dirty my mental space again. I quickly realized how much work it takes to keep this space clean.

I recently separated from my husband, so I decided I would also smudge my house (I am speaking of my actual physical house now, not some imaginary thing). This felt cleansing, especially after opening all the windows to air it out afterwards. It seemed to me that by smudging my mental body and my house, I am treating these spaces as sacred. I have the intention to keep these spaces clean, knowing full well that I may let things slide once in awhile and will then need to do some more heavy work.

From Project SelfLove365

From Project SelfLove365

Thinking about sacred space made me realize that I have not been treating my body as sacred space. Some of my decisions in the past few days have pushed my body to follow its desires rather than its needs. When there is something I want to do, I have a tendency to ignore my body, and to not check in to see what it needs first (especially sleep). By not listening to my body’s physical sensations, I am not allowing any sort of positive feedback loop to occur (only the unwanted one in which I keep ignoring my body and then I get sick). By not allowing this to happen, I am also not giving myself the chance to trust myself. How can I really be a “HELL YES” to something if my body is saying no? If I am not really a “HELL YES”, then how can anyone trust my answer, especially me, if I can’t even trust it? If I can’t trust myself how can I trust anybody?

This is worth repeating.
If I can’t trust myself, how can I trust anybody?

So, how can I trust myself? I am beginning to ask my body the question and listen for the response. It will come. Right now, my body wants to dance.

Nude Modelling (!)

Figure drawing has always been one of my favorite artistic activities. There is nothing I find more interesting to draw than the human form. While taking many figure drawing courses and classes over the last 25 years, I often wondered what it would be like to model. Many years ago, I put nude modelling on my list of “1001 Things in 101 Days” (a sort of bucket list), thinking that it would never actually happen. More recently, the wondering became a wanting.

In the last few months, my friend Deseré Pressey (an amazing artist – check out her work) began the Off-Beat Figure Drawing sessions in Calgary. There are several models at these events (read about one male model’s experience here), and the atmosphere is relaxed and fun. When Deseré decided to host a special woman-focused session for International Women’s Day, I knew this would be the perfect opportunity to make my first attempt at modelling.

There were two reasons I had for wanting to try nude modelling. First: my meditation practice has been more regular in the last few months, and I look for opportunities to try longer practices. This seemed like the ultimate meditation practice (nude, in front of strangers, with long poses). Second: my journey to fully and completely accepting my body is far from over, and it seemed to me that exposing myself in front of strangers would either push me further into acceptance, or at least, allow me to learn more about my process of acceptance.

The session was held at the beautiful Wolf Willow Studios, and was an intimate gathering of women, with accompanying harp music by the amazing Eily Aurora. I had been excited all day, which flipped into nervousness in the hour before dropping my robe. Luckily, a more seasoned model was willing to give me tips and she helped me feel more comfortable before we began.

Turned out that there were women attending that I knew, but I didn’t allow that to freak me out. I noticed that I thought I “should” freak out about it, but I wasn’t really feeling it. The hardest part was dropping the robe, but that was easier once I saw that the other two models had done so already.

During the first few poses, I noticed that I felt a bit closed off from the group, and I think my poses expressed that somewhat. By dropping my physical protection, my mind gave me a mental protection, a kind of barrier. Eventually, as the night went on, I relaxed and was able to drop that feeling.

photo by Michelina Bamford

photo by Michelina Bamford

The modelling portion of the evening went well – I didn’t choose any poses that I wasn’t able to hold, and none of my body parts fell asleep – YAY! I did notice, though, that because I have been an artist at figure drawing sessions, I have preferences about what I enjoy drawing (women more than men, and women with more folds and curves more than angular, thin women). These preferences influenced the way I thought about my body during and after the session. My usual feelings of not measuring up because of the way society tells me I should be (flat stomach, clear skin, thin, etc), completely flipped around to feeling like I wasn’t good enough because I wasn’t large enough, wasn’t curvy enough, didn’t have enough folds – basically, not interesting enough to draw.

Fascinating how the mind works, yes?

Instead of feeling not good enough, I would love to come to the place of fully accepting that all bodies are beautiful. I understand it, I just don’t completely feel it yet within myself. Getting there, though. And I’m a lot closer than I have ever been to really knowing this.

So many people commented to me that I was brave for doing this. This hasn’t completely sunk in, or I maybe because I have done it, I no longer think of it as that big a deal. Or maybe, I didn’t quite understand the sentiment. I don’t think it’s necessarily brave to stand naked in front of strangers, but I do think it’s brave to try something that is completely new and a little scary, whatever that may be for you.

Drawing and photo by Deseré Pressey. The two central figures are me!

Drawing and photo by Deseré Pressey. The two central figures are me!

Rejected.

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Two of my paintings (above and below) were not accepted into a juried art show at a local art gallery today. Just like last year. Last year, I told myself it was only because of the canvases (the edges were too thin, I was told). This year, I have all sorts of reasons:

I’m not a real artist (whatever that means).

There are words on the paintings and the jury didn’t like words.

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My work is too “pretty” (I have heard this statement before), too colourful, trying too hard, too much like somebody else’s work, too this, too that.

OK, I get it, I get it: I suck.

Before you go commenting to tell me this all isn’t true, I want to assure you that I know this. I know the voices in my head are lying to me. I know they are trying to keep me safe (in a weird way), that they aren’t working for me, etc. I get this. And the whole time I think these thoughts, I also have a witness inside of me, that is completely non-judgemental, and knows that none of it matters, none of it is true, none of it is real. I know.

I’m still crying my guts out.

Rejection is giving me ample opportunity to feel my emotions, to be in touch with what is going on for me, to see what is real, and what I am feeding with my energy. As much as I would rather be jumping for joy that I got into an art show, I am also grateful for the chance to feel so deeply. This rejection is stacking onto another rejection from over a week ago – a more personal one, but one that gave me a huge jab in my core; I hadn’t realized just how low my self-esteem was until that day. I’m still not over that one, and now this double dose of rejection has been difficult, to say the least.

You know how lots of self-help books and websites say, “You can’t love others until you love yourself”? I’ve been thinking about this, with reference to rejection. Is it true that I am actually rejecting myself, and that maybe I don’t love myself enough? At first I thought so, but then I realized I was just trapping myself in my old perfectionist ways again. What I was really saying was,

“I’m not loving myself enough. I am not good enough at loving myself”.

I have realized that in reality, I am very good at loving myself. I cry when I need to cry. I call my husband when I need to hear a loving voice during my shitty day. I ask for hugs. I take myself out dancing. I blog (sometimes.. haha!). I ask for what I want.

I also listen to music when I need to listen to music. During my rejection experience last week, I noticed I wasn’t really in touch with “sadness”, even though I felt sad-ish, and knew I would be sad later. I knew I needed a cry, it just wasn’t happening yet. Music to the rescue: I instinctively played Sigur Ros in the car, without really knowing why, and BOOM! A flood of tears, all day long. A few days later, that sadness turned into anger, and Nine Inch Nails has been helping me feel that and move through it.

You know what? I like my paintings, I really do. I have fun making them, I even like looking at them afterwards (except after a few months – I start to cringe if they hang around too long). I am grateful for all the people who like to look at my art online, whether on my blog or my Facebook page. I am especially grateful for those who send me supporting comments and feedback, and the people who purchase my paintings. As much as I do paint for myself, I don’t want to work in a vacuum, keeping it all locked away for nobody to see. I want people to see my work and to enjoy it.

But not everybody will, and that’s alright, too.

Let’s remember the good stuff.

work in progress

work in progress

Have you ever noticed how people tend to focus on the negative. If someone asks you how your day is going, does your mind come up with the good stuff, or all the little crappy things? Isn’t it interesting how one little crappy thing can overshadow all the good?

On the weekend, I watched a review of the book I contributed to, “Journal It!“. The review was positive overall, and the reviewer recommended the book to her viewers. However,there was one part where she’s flipping through the pages, and while showing my page, she says something about it being the same old stuff. I admit, I was hurt.

But then I remembered how cool it is to be in a book, and how proud I am of what I did contribute to it. And I remembered how one of my goals is to inspire people to create, and while my art may not inspire her, it will hopefully inspire someone else. I remembered that her voice is but one voice, and I need not let it ruin all the positive energy I feel around this book and my work. Also, she is encouraging people to buy the book, which is great!

So, I guess this post isn’t just about remembering the good stuff, but also about remembering how good WE are. When things like this happen, it’s a reminder to me about how fragile my self-esteem can seem, and how I still take other people’s comments way too personally. It hurts in the moment, but I have noticed that I bounce back a lot faster than I ever used to. I’m sure that says something about how I’ve grown, and I’m glad for that.

Do you tend to focus on the positive or the negative? Do you let a negative comment ruin your day?

Remember to enter my “Journal It!” free book giveaway

When artists look for validation.

When artists look for validation outside of themselves, things can get yucky.

For the most part, since April, I have been happy with my painting, and really enjoying the process. I almost always enjoy the compliments I get (I say almost because I’m still working on really taking them in, rather than dismissing them).

Participating in the Gorilla House Live Art battles is really giving me something to work on, as my dear friend Tietje pointed out. Last night, after the auction, and after a fun night of painting, instead of being happy that my two paintings were bought by Valda, a lovely woman who was eager to purchase both, I was instantly bummed that my pieces sold for the lowest they ever have (in a total of four auctions) while other works were getting up to five times as much as mine. As Tietje pointed out, I am allowing the purchase price of my paintings determine my self-worth. I don’t care so much about going home with cash in my pocket, but low sale price seems to equal crappy art, which logically means crappy artist, or not an artist. See how my mind works?

Having had a morning to mull it over, I would say that there were a bunch of little things that ended up in me perhaps not turning out my best work: the themes were not ones that I could immediately relate to; I tried something a little different towards the end of one of my paintings; and I had to pack up my stuff about 10 minutes early to get out of the way for the auction. Being the first adult to auction paintings probably didn’t help much, either, but now I’m kind of looking for reasons why my paintings weren’t the problem.

Things to work on:

It’s OK to have bad days.

It’s OK to produce bad art. That doesn’t make me a bad artist.

It’s OK to feel bummed sometimes. I don’t even have to look for reasons why.

It’s OK to want validation, because without it, aren’t we producing art in a vacuum?

Validation, or lack of it, doesn’t define who I am.

“Success isn’t permanent and failure isn’t fatal.”
Mike Ditka (like my brother says, “Art is just like football. You either win, or you lose.”)

Fitness Commitments

I’m still going with last week’s Fitness Commitments: drinking 2L of water a day, and running (on my way to 5K). Yay, me! Here’s where I’m at with the running:

Two more days, and I’ll be half way there, according to this program. It’s a bit hard to believe. Well, two things: it’s hard to believe I ran 4 minutes straight today (that’s never happened before), and it’s really hard to believe I’ll be running 5 K in 4 more weeks. Woah. I’m starting to appreciate the sports psychology profession a lot more now. A huge part of running for me is the mental games I play while I’m doing it. Some of the time I want to give up, and other times I am coaching myself along. I have also experienced running as meditation (really, anything can be a meditation…so true, isn’t it?) It’s great to have my hubby doing the program almost at the same time as me – he is 2 days behind.

So… I am adding new commitments for this week!

1. No more eating when I’m bored. I’m going to check in and see if I am actually hungry. Then I’ll drink water. If I’m hungry after that, then I’ll eat, but I’ll check in with my body to see if I really need that spoonful of Nutella, or would a peach taste just as good right now? I am making this commitment right now, for a week while I’m at home, knowing full well that I’ll have to renew it after our vacation!

2. I am going to go to bed when I am tired. No more staying up late on the computer, or playing Bejeweled HD (just one more!). I have so many books I’d like to read and am always disappointed when I didn’t get to read more of them before bed. Again, this one is for a week, since I’m not sure how things will go while I’m on vacation!

I would love to hear what you will commit to this week!