Feeling of nostalgia

We all feel it sometimes, that elusive feeling that we can’t always pin down or even grasp. Tonight that feeling I understand better after seeing the film “Midnight in Paris” by Woody Allen. A friend of mine raved about the film a few weeks ago and it had been on my watchlist for a while.

The film is based on an author visiting Paris, loving it so much that he wants to move there to write but dreams of the 1920’s as his best era. He has an idealised concept that the 20’s but as the film develops, other characters have their own dream period. Everyone dreams about a different times when people seemed happy and had a life less complicated.

It took me a while to let that sink in, and then, I recognised that feeling. That feeling I have sometimes that life used to be more simple, slower, with less demands on people. I think it may be down to the fact we have access to so many things from our fingertips. We have so much choice. We have convenience and yet convenience has a price. With choice comes the decision fatigue and the feeling we are never quite enough.

I remember being a child and I certainly don’t feel that would be my dream era because I had to deal unusually with other people’s baggage and I never felt I quite fitted in. As I watched the film and his cliché love for the city, what makes people go weak at the knees just does not work on me. And yet and I grew up in that country that so many people love and it never felt home. Childhood never felt quite a safe place to dream either, it was far too real, far too grown up.

So maybe today is the best place providing I let it breathe and give me the voice of what it means to me. Maybe now is the time to listen to that internal voice that was always drowned out. In the quiet comes the inspiration.

Savouring slow

This morning I took part in a Zoom workshop on inner-critic and self-compassion by Helen Kelynack. Funny how I know from the title I had to be there and how perfectly it fitted in my schedule. An hour that was gentle but nonetheless powerful ended by a session of relaxation (she is a hypnotherapist) and her soft voice guided me through thoughts of support to myself.

At the end of the session, I shared a book called “savoring Slow” by the Abundant Mama with the group and Helen asked me to write something about it that we could share with the larger well-being group.

It has been a while since I read it but I made lots of notes but the feeling it gave me was gentleness from a mum to another, the permission to have me-time and breathe in a way that was kind to myself and to my family. The book also contained a lot of very practical things to do to be in the moment and cope with everything thrown at us. Sometimes motherhood or just life for the ones that haven’t got kids can be harsh and it is amazing how we are expected to cope.

So if you have to pick a book for your summer, maybe this one is the one. Have a great summer everyone.

Follow the thread

There are some days when you just have to follow the thread of inspiration. One thing leads to another, and it can feel like stars align.

Flower play today.

Let me tell you about my morning. Still in isolation. Doing things differently. So, it started by watching a webinar online about the sacred geometry in nature. This set my mind of the day. I enjoyed the ideas, ignored the maths (yep not my strong point or my favourite topic). Then I called to check on a friend that is not in a great place right now. This bit is private so I will skip the details. Coming to what follow is she mentioned a webinar she was going to watch tonight. Turns out photography is one topic I love and the idea of learning about extracting stories from images immediately appealed to me. She sent me the link and I have signed up ready for tonight. Oh, but it doesn’t stop there! A link from there was to design a course in 5 days… guess what…. Leading to a short course called Sandpit 101 about the importance of play. There you are. Full circle. The whole idea I set out recently was to play.

This is called serendipity. It is rare but precious. Sometimes the instinct tells you to follow that thread and see what happens and sometimes it is pure magic. All I can tell you is that the feeling from a morning like this is totally amazing. It filled my joy bucket for a while.

There is more I could say as of course this has planted seeds but shush… not yet. Too early for sharing.  I am not finished playing yet!

What is your favourite playtime?  Have a lovely day.

Boost for our mind, a new playground

I don’t know if you know, there is an epidemic out there. I am not talking about Covid. I am talking about the other one, also invisible, also powerful. The mental health epidemic. It is mentioned in the media and of course it is affecting many, young and old, and anyone in between. Some people share it out, some don’t.

For the last few years, I have studied things like mindfulness, forest bathing, forest school and art therapy. I qualified in some. I know about the smaller stuff that completes the bigger things, they all have a common thread, making people happier. I learnt how to help myself and others with mental health, anxiety and coping with what life throws at us and to be honest, we had had a lot to cope in the last 18 months, haven’t we?! I know, this is quite different to the posts I have written in the past, but something is pushing me to write about it now. There is a description of what I believe in and am working towards called “social prescribing”. Putting people back at the centre, looking after them so that they find fresh confidence and get their head back up again. When self-esteem and trust have left the buildings, unless someone put them back at the centre, they will continue to suffer and often in silence.

When I started teaching mindfulness, I kept pretty much to the brief. And then, slowly, I started thinking about mindful living, all areas of living. Now, art is melting back in as I face another crossroad in terms of my career. I am not sure yet what the future is looking like but it is softer and kinder than a few years back. It is making me smile already with that smile I had lost. When I let art guide my hand, I don’t really have a plan. I let myself play because it is not something I have done before. It was all too serious and that’s the problem, life right now is all too serious. Can we use this time to reset and carve time to play? Can we try new things and see what happens? Not the outcome but the process. How does the process make us feel? I know that at the beginning,  I felt tense, worried and all sorts of other emotions. I still occasionally do but I am learning to overcome it quicker. I am investing in myself, in my well-being because it makes me a happier person and a better mum. Before I go back to helping others, I am going to play a little bit more. Here is a group of photos I took yesterday. Enjoy. Oh, and go and play.

When nature looks like art, when beauty is in place we don’t expect, we feel peace.

A funny day to open a door

There are many ways of using the word funny. In this instance “funny” is for the day I got “pinged” by the NHS app and being told to self-isolate for 8 days. This is not a ah-ah funny but more of a “what do I do with this?” kind of funny. So, my heart bounced and embraced the news. I have no choice. I have informed the school and I am told to stay at home even though my daughter is not. So, this is more of a reset moment. A chance to stop again like I did during the lockdown and take stock. It is also a chance to dive head in into the art journey I am on. I have recently read books on create journaling, watercolour (the messy type) and started a course called Fibre Arts Take Two (a mix of time in nature, opportunities to make nature inspired collage, printing, painting and linocut). If you knew me, you would know that I don’t start and finish something neatly before I move on. I do organic. I do flow. I follow inspiration.

Of course, working organically whilst holding a job and the many other things like being a single mum, looking after my house and still trying to pin down my career means art tends to get squished into evenings and weekends if I am lucky. And just because I have time doesn’t always mean I feel inspired then. Ah the life of an artist!

This week, however, is an opportunity to have a few days when my daughter is at school, I have to stay home, and I have time. The way I see it is I have an opportunity to grab this and play. Of course, I have plans for later, but it is important to reset and have a moment to breathe before I plunge again.

My attempt to go to a tidal river beach this morning did not quite work out (before my phone pinged). I had an issue paying for a £4 car park fee at hightide and only planning to be there for half an hour. So, I headed back home. I was going there to pick tiny yellow shells I know this beach has. So, because I am now at home and can’t explore, I will explore within a different parameter: house, garage, garden. I have a lot of stuff in that garage, and I hope (she says crossing fingers) I still have the shells I picked up in the past. If not, I will select something else for my next “pocket of time”. This is a short process of collecting natural things and taking pictures that reflect the moment. My background in graphic design is never far when I do this type of activity. What I know is this is mindful living, taking the time to slow down and recharge the batteries. So, that’s me off rummaging through my beach finds box. Wish me luck!

Part of #fibreartstakestwo course by Tara Axford.
This is called a pocket of time vignette.
The process is mindful and very calming.

 Do you have a box at home waiting for you to have a look through and make art with? Go, you won’t regret it.

What happens when we stay at home

Start typing and see where it goes. It has been years since I have posted on my blog.

We are at home until we figure a way out from the Coronavirus pandemic.

I have just read an email from someone called Louise Fletcher about ideas and artists in residence. Somehow this is echoing in me today after a few days of exploration and a chat with my mentor Lucy (forest school course).

Back a few days ago, I stumbled on Louise’s website and course on getting unstuck and downloaded a PDF of a few questions. This was the spark. Since then, I have questioned why I like something, why makes my eyes stay and what makes my mind take on a journey. I then unearthed some materials from my garage and played around, with a certain degree of frustration as usual because the perfectionist in me was after a specific outcome. However, this time, my mind did not let go and pushed the question further. Why? Why? Why? My mind is pretty stubborn, let me tell you, and not always in a way I like but I jotted a few keywords on a page. Flow, loose, soft, organic, wabi-sabi, and more of course. I thought about the free motion embroidery projects I did, the paper lampshades I made, the macro-photographs I took that became abstract. That meander in my mind was something different though that, instead of looking at past work as a way to be harsh to myself, gave me links and connections between what was there in each one or at the very least lead me to the next piece of artwork whatever the media. I looked back in my experiment and it hit me! That texture created by heat was the connection and my next step.

Some watercolour attempts…

At this time of isolation, I have more time. Well, in a way I do between doing the cores and making sure my little one is coping with the lockdown but also the things I started before, forest school course work, art course and making masks for the community. Guilt kicked in but I did not give in. I explored and found my next link. I explored first on Pinterest with how to paint a water’s edge. I am not much of a painter in case you wondered. If anything, It is my weak point since childhood. I just did not know other words for what I was looking for. One thing leading to another, I saw a demonstration of encaustic art and shellac effects. Now that might not tell you anything but it felt like it made sense.

For the last few days, I gave myself permission to follow my gut instinct and somehow, I have given myself a new challenge. I am afraid of heat and never handled a blow torch. Even learning to start a fire in the forest was a challenge but I got over myself then so why not now eh?

Of course, as everything is on a standstill mode since the lockdown, I can’t just jump into the car and visit a few of my local shops (which I dearly hope will survive) so I have to build this new chapter differently.

My new scrapbook. Illustration by Elise Hurst

Having none of the materials gives me time to decide what I really need. The fact it is an expensive craft means I have to choose carefully and only when I am ready.

Of course, everyone wondered what we would do if we had time. Time for stillness, time for fun, time to wonder.

We have time. Not in a  way we ever thought possible but how can we make that time meaningful so that some good comes out of it?

Having time to slow down is an opportunity and to find glimmers of hope and inspiration.

Being mindful in the world out there

I love what I do. I love mindfulness and creativity and expanding the scope on how to help people.

What I struggle with is the constant pressure out there to perform in order to do so. (call it the promotion wheel or having to be salesperson)Simply breathe deep

Don’t get me wrong. I know the principles and how to apply them. What I don’t know at times is how to do that whole mix of researching, teaching, be a marketing and social media wiz… of and being a mum.

When did the world get so complex that we have to learn so many skills? My CV is extensive. It covers all sorts of areas and things I can do through choice and through circumstances. However, just because I know how, it doesn’t me I want to or can at this present moment. Because unless I do it well, I am struggling to see if it is worth doing at all. This is the reality of many start-ups, many entrepreneurs out there, bombarded everyday with “how to”, “secrete tips and recipes” and the many well intentioned extremely young people posing in front of a beach, always in the sunshine and making passive income. Yep, this is becoming the new norm. We have moved from multi-tasking to multi-braining and skilling. No wonder we feel exhausted and overworked.

Two days ago I went to a talk on self-worth by Steve Neale. A truly inspiring talk that reminded me a key message, be true to yourself and do not try to be a pale copy of anyone else. We forget sometimes how to self-care. We forget that we can’t and should not do it all because unless this is a true reflection about who we are and what we believe it, we are only doing by numbers and following formulas.

You will know from reading this blog that I don’t write often despite really enjoying it, I rarely find the time. However it is therapeutic and is helping in defining the important from the rest. I need to do things for me and reflect what I want.

So how do you plan for something you need but don’t have time for and when your brain is fizzy from too much action?

These are my steps, a healthy mix of old, borrowed and new. Bear with me and don’t judge this list until you get to the ned (or don’t judge at all)

Write my values and communicate about them

Write a list of what I would do if I had 3 months of free time and no restrictions (list A)

Spend time with like minded people and be me

Write a list of what I need to do in my work (list B)

Print extra copy of the following. Put lists A and B side by side and create either a mind map or list with the following sections professional, personal and social. Look at the lists and pick elements that you need the most, the urgent and essential. Don’t worry if you don’t know how or if you are going to ask for help. Then write the ones of “nice to have” but realistically taking too much headspace and diverting your energy. Finally put the other stuff in the middle as “stuff”. Feel free to cross items as they become no longer relevant without judging. Be  kind to yourself as you do this. This is as much coming with a plan as it is a survival self-care intervention.

Pic a small amount of items to put out there on your daily map. Break them down in micro-actions (and set up some on the YOU app if you need help and are happy to share).

And as Nike says, “just do it!”. (don’t let your auto-pilot sabotage this. It is too important and it hates change).

When we get busy, we come last. Items that nourish our body, soul and dreams take the back seat and we end up scarifying what we NEED and do what we feel we HAVE to. Where is the choice? Well, the choice is now.

Happiness radiates energy and energy comes from finding what we love, anything. Beyond the pressure, say “I CHOOSE to”. There, just there in these 3 words there is sanity and wisdom. These words come from a Non-Violent Communication workshop I attended almost 12 months ago. I have picked elements on Ikigai, Wabi-sabi and Lagom not to forget Hygge. I have read many books, blogs and articles that are wonderful in how they can help people. Now is the time to digest it all and choose which part of this goodness and “need” and “choose” to apply to myself.

Accepting our vulnerabilities and saying I need help is not weak. It is the beginning of strength.

I am excited!

Thank you for reading.

End of silence

I like writing. To me it is another mode of expression and another way to show creativity, share emotions and let out steam. I have missed writing  and my last post was April 2017. Why? Because my life has been on a roller coaster and I felt I needed time and space to process the changes before writing or rather blogging about them.

When I last wrote. I was on the cusp of studying mindfulness. I took time out to rest, read and be more gentle  on myself. I spent the time to learn more about myself , others and the world also in a gentler way. I have learnt to leave bad habits like venting and complaining behind and open up to gratitude. I had to learn patience. I stepped out of the rat race, the busy world we live in that tell us what to buy, what to think, what to do… There was so much guilt into what I thought I should do and even be. So almost two years later I feel I am in a completely different place and maybe I am a different person.

So what changed?

Well, losing my dad and my cousin and very recently my brother in law to cancer brought a lot of information, fear, and to be honest, I won’t go there again because it is not a nice place to be but it was part of the landscape. The hardest part of each period was to feel that I had to put my life on hold to a certain extent, to show empathy and support.

I retrained. In mental health awareness. In mindfulness. As a teacher. In safeguarding. In social enterprise… and breathe!!!

Yes all that.

I am a mum to a lovely little girl who is now 7 so that also takes time. The change of direction was very intense towards mindfulness and surprisingly this year has started to bring back a lot of creative work. Almost as I dropped trying, it came back. After being in the circuit of craft fairs and compliments not being a currency that I could use towards paying the bills, I put that on hold too. Actually taking a break is a good thing. Something we rarely do, but something we could do with having more of. Each time I got inspired, I used that energy towards my new classes of mindfulness. I kept on taking photographs and started drawing again after stopping for a long time. I can draw. I just don’t think I am good enough. Most of the time. So I took short classes online, some free, some cheap with a local group to my home. And then when it stopped, some with Tamara Laporte (www.willowing.org). Her style of drawing is very whimsical and I liked that because it came with less “real” rules and pressure of having to be life like. Slowly, my confidence started building, I delivered some sketch classes for a friend and started drawing from a place within I did not know was there. I can’t draw from what I have in my head and it usually takes a lot of research before doing so but this time it came simply and slowly. I will add a picture before I post this.

IMG_20170623_085005002reduced

Now for the biggest change in my life. Here goes.

My husband announced last year he was a transgender in transition. He is becoming she. Processing that was b-i-g.

I was torn between being supportive (strong levels of empathy) and putting myself as a wife and partner on a shelf (that being on hold again) until I knew what that meant for me, us and our family unit. Trust me, it is not a process you can rush, neither airing concerns before you are ready online is to be taken lightly.

Now the dust has settled, there is more clarity about the fact I am not gay so changes are happening. Change has to happen but a lot is still fuzzy and undecided. It goes without saying that my mental health has suffered but the mindfulness training has proven to help tremendously so as I am developing a self-care package for myself, I thought it was time to reconnect, time to talk.

I have missed writing and I hope you will have enjoyed reading this. There will be musing moments, pearls of wisdom and creativity.

My angle has changed. I want to nurture people and to help them. I want them to know it is ok to be fragile and feel life is at times too complex and demanding. WE are all in this together. I can count  great friends that have given lots of words of support and encouragement so this message is a big thank you to them because they helped me through the last year.

So time to say goodbye to this period of silence and say Hello World once again.

The gentle pull of Wabi-Sabi

An artist’s work is not a flat line, one style equation. We get inspired, emotional and question things. We learn skills and combine elements and slowly our work changes.

Mine has taken many directions with some constants in terms of style, ethics and how it serves a purpose within a space or for a person. For the last couple of years, I was lucky to discover new techniques and skills that I had, dormant within me. All that being said, new skills can be both distracting and unsettling because the direction that seemed so clear on minute looks unclear.

But there is a reason why we change. We learn to absorb elements we believe in and that we feel are helpful to ourselves and to others. Last week, the teacher of my Mindful Art course lent me a book on Wabi-Sabi. [Wabi-Sabi is a philosophy embracing the cycle of life through natural materials and embracing imperfections]. I had for the last year or so collected images and elements linking to this Japanese philosophy but reading in depth about it shone a light on how much deeper some of my work wanted to go. Colours, textures, environment… all contribute to the direction of bringing mindfulness in how I work and soon on my teaching. Now the fact I tend to avoid bold colours makes complete sense. Or the need to improve environments to impact how people feel within them which has been with me for as long as I can remember. Funny how sometimes we know a feeling, emotion or impression but we have no words for it.

Wabi Sabi the Japanese art of impermanence

Wabi Sabi the Japanese art of impermanence

It is always worth to explore our hidden depths and feelings because they inform so much of what we do. We create from emotions which are sometimes bigger than us and it is good to know more where they come from. This book is not for everyone but if some of the peace explained within its page can shine through my work, I am happy.

Wabi-sabi a tranquil alternative

This morning I ran a Sketch group session (thanks to Eve the wonderful organizer of this drawing group in Falmouth) and I mixed wabi-sabi and one line drawing together.

First let me set the scene by explaining that this strange word means. Wabi-sabi is a Japanese philosophy a few centuries old that embraces natural materials, the cycle of life and imperfections. Do not confuse this with wasabi which is the spicy green stuff you add to your sushi. This could not be different. It is calm and beautiful in  an understated way.

wabi sabi 1

The group of about 28 people (not exactly sure but this was the largest workshop I have delivered so far).Now I find sharing skills and knowledge gives me a real buzz. When I came across it a about a years ago, I did not realized how well it fitted with my work but reading a book about this week has given me in depth knowledge  that goes a log way to explain why I strive for unique works, muted colours and a gentle and calm approach. In a world of bold designs, I am clearly standing on the edge. But the magic is when it gets combined with other things like one line drawing that led me to embrace whatever happens. It is a wonderful tool  that I would almost qualify as a life skill in a fast moving world.

Ribbet collage

Wabi sabi is about taking a pause, not rushing and looking. Taking in the essence of what is there and honoring natural materials.

Finding out more about who we are through meeting people, learning about other cultures and taking in new information forms who we are and become. I am now a very different person to when I dew as a teenager and I had hardly any techniques in my tool box. This has changed and the last 2 years have been especially great in teaching me new perspectives. So much that I can wait for the next discovery…