Labor of Love

Labor of Love 

 

Have you ever painted your house?

I believe all worthwhile projects are a labor of love. We are painting our 1910 Craftsman house this summer. It had been badly neglected for years before we bought it. Neglected like humans are neglected. To the point of not knowing who she was anymore. Lost in a land of discontent, shame and embarrassment. Many of us have known that feeling. But the good news is that we can choose to recalculate, re-evaluate and reinvent ourselves. I am choosing for her. I think she will be thrilled!

The plan from the moment we bought the house last summer was to paint her this summer. Now that we are close to finishing the project, I am finding I can take a breath and think (and write) about the process. Not unlike human processing, this has been a bit overwhelming and anticipatory. I changed my mind or questioned my choices of color and placement numerous times before, during and after the painting began. Although I knew that I would become impatient as we went along, just like any art project, I kept wavering. Will I like it when it is done? What if it doesn’t go well. What will people think? The usual misgivings that for me at least, always end in some version of satisfactory if not complete assurance that I made the right decisions. Sigh.

It’s about the process

It always seems to be about the process with me. You too? I am often more obsessed with the process than the result. Whether it be a journal entry, a painting, a yoga practice or my garden. I just love getting in there and making a mess. I get nervous as the project transitions, and then at some point completely hate where I am at. But eventually I finish; am thrilled with the results, and realize that I miss the process the most. That leads me to the next project or being willing to do it all over again!

Don’t get me wrong. The final result is satisfying too. Even the planning. Although I am not the most patient person with a long process like painting a house, the bigger picture is important to keep in mind as well. Her (the house’s) renovation and preservation is always on my mind and remains simply a labor of love. I like thinking about the next step and the next and the next. Planning colors. Problem solving how we are going to get to the top of the eaves, where to go to get window screens, what are the best tools for the job. I think obsession is the right term at this point.

Salvage

For those of you who don’t know me well – I save everything. I don’t mean like hoarding. I mean literally I try to save things from dissolving into nothingness. That includes our house, inanimate objects, antiques, plants, clothing, you name it, I am willing (and sometimes able) to salvage it. Human beings are no different to me. I always think that every human has a lighter, kinder, more empathetic side, and I work to bring that out in others around me. I hate waste and I love problem solving. I am happy and willing to take on a “project.”

The littlest cutting from a plant gets put in water or propagated in soil to grow roots. I re-match earrings to a new partner when I lose one. I save and reuse whatever I can. I am a saver, a repurposer – a recycler. I hate to throw things out. And houses are no exception. I love our old house and I want her to shine again

Back to the process of salvaging and saving her. This old house is still charming. She has “good bones” as they say. But even so, she needed some serious prep work before we could even begin to paint. Removing old gutters, scraping, sanding, caulking, replacing sections of rotted siding, the list went on and on. Four full days just to get her ready for paint. And then lots of TLC as we went.

Choices

And unlike most people. I can’t just use a color for the body and one for the trim. I have to add detail and accent every dang part so she has personality. Her previous owners had chosen hideous colors years ago and she had been stuck “wearing” it shamefully ever since. The neighbors told us that the old colors were ugly. And asked immediately last year if we were going to paint.  (We expected that question) They had nicknamed the house the “cappuccino cowboy.” I thought the old colors reminded me of Halloween candy corn . All orange and brown and tan and yellow. Horrible colors that didn’t go together for any purpose. Hideous in fact.

Before and After

When you see the “afters” it will make sense. But she needed more than just a spit-shine, she needed a complete make-over. Like those people on the morning shows, where they take them backstage, cut and color their hair, do their makeup, put them in new clothes and they look 10 years younger. It has been a long couple of weeks, but she is about ready for her debut. Someone asked my husband if we were still painting. “What is taking you guys so long?”  He answered. “Do you know how many colors we are using?” and “You know my wife…” I think that is a compliment. Really I do.

 

Color List:

  • Body- light gray
  • Trim – white
  • Windows – black
  • Upper shingles and lower trim – dark gray
  • Screen doors and accent molding – light grass green
  • Main doors and porch accent  – deep Bordeaux wine

There is always more!

Outside we have also salvaged the landscaping. Fixed and recouped the lawn. Trimmed perennials back to tame and separated bulbs to replant. We brought in starts of lilacs, tiger lilies and peonies from the family lake place and gathered rocks from the lake bed over the winter for pathways through the garden and larger ones for accents throughout the beds. We brought in over 5000 lbs total of sand, gravel and river rock to make paths and create water runoff areas under the eaves. We even recreated the lattice under the porch. We rebuilt and reattached flower boxes and added hanging plants and other planters from found objects. All in all, most things, other than exterior paint have been foraged, reused, or repurposed saving so much money! It has taken time of course – most of my husband’s vacation, but we are close to the finish line as I type this.

Inside, over the winter we pulled carpet, painted, removed and replaced lighting that didn’t fit the decor and in general gave the interior a facelift. We uncovered a window that had been paneled over, and completely redid the screened in porch as well.

Icing on the cake

But the outdoor painting project this summer is the icing on the cake. Really thick buttercream frosting kind of icing. She is finally going to be pretty again. A proud old lady with a new haircut, color, mani and pedi. All the things any girl needs in her life, old or young. And I think she might be the most exciting art project I have ever created in my life.

So when you look at the befores and afters, and  even though we still have many more projects to do, remember that this old lady is getting younger every day. Like humans, who get to grow and change and learn no matter how old we are. I believe houses also have a long life; a story to tell; inspiration to lend. Both houses and people need others who love us, respect us and nurture our souls. Those who will share and support us as we age – our village. Those that can see through the age and experience to see the beauty inside.

Village

We have experienced such support by all the people who have literally pulled over to compliment our project while in progress. Even taking care to social distance! As if somehow they already knew we would be successful in our monumental endeavor. People have honked in support, walked or biked past and even stopped to give thanks for what we are doing. Admiring. Encouraging, complimenting and sighing. The support has been downright awesome! What a lovely experience to live in a small town where people have taken the time to care. Today a women stopped to invite me to join the “garden club!” She’s not finished yet. I will add more to the slide show later this week but you get the idea. I think this labor of love was worth every part of the process.

Depth

Process this: the depth and breadth of it all is that we long to be more, do more, and ultimately be our best selves. To do that, we need support. We just need a hand up, a little nudge, some inspiration and a paint brush to get us started. Then one day, when the process has run its course, we have sloughed off our old skin and we are new again. I think she appreciates that we cared enough to see beyond the surface and search for the beauty that still lies within. Process leads to discovering what you knew was there all the time. You just have to jump in and do it!

P.S. Next we are tackling the carriage house!

Change and Acceptance

“I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.” – Angela Y. Davis

Change and Acceptance

In light of the current state of the world, I have been wrestling a lot lately with my role. What is the best way to be a role model? How can I increase awareness in my own tribe, reach out, stand tall in my own truth, and listen to others. This quote from Angela Y. Davis, activist, philosopher, academic, and author has inspired me since the first time I wrote it down in a journal after hearing her speak in Salt Lake City a few years ago. Little did I know how important her words would be to me that year, much less how they have spoken to me again in new ways in 2020.

Re-enter the conundrum of Acceptance. As part of my yoga practice, and having gone through my own difficulties that required the journey of processing grief, I have learned to practice being in the moment and letting go of what no longer serves me. But sometimes acceptance seems too passive a reaction to deal with the pain and suffering going on in the world. I long to do more. How do I begin to understand? React? Help?

Understanding Acceptance

Big word. Acceptance. Big and necessary, but also often confusing. Isn’t it like putting our head in the sand if we accept something we are against? Shouldn’t we fight or cry or yell or question? The damn world wants us to “accept” things that we can’t abide, don’t want to hear about, or can’t otherwise acknowledge. This is stuff we have questioned, avoided, or put out of our heads for years! Grievances that have been forced on us by others are particularly troublesome. Yet, how do we know the difference between acceptance that serves us and acceptance that is against our best interest? How do we call out the unacceptable and let go of what we don’t need? What is the difference? When do we accept it is time to move on and when do we stand our ground to facilitate important change?

Maybe we don’t have to choose, we just need to better understand acceptance.

A lot still needs to change.

 

 

 

The Problem with Acceptance

Part of the problem with acceptance is that a lot still needs to change. We don’t understand as a collective society how to use it properly. Acceptance doesn’t require universal agreement. It is by definition a subjective idea. In other words, it doesn’t mean we approve of said situation just because we practice acceptance. Nor does it mean we condone something abhorrent because we accept that it happened and choose to move forward toward change. What does it mean to wrangle with acceptance, especially when it flies in the face of a morally negative circumstance?

Move over passive aggressive BS that doesn’t serve us. Hold onto your stubborn self, because this “acceptance shit” just got real. When some of us were busy avoiding or complaining or blaming others, some others were learning how to apply acceptance. They were growing and changing and healing through acceptance. They were still protesting and calling out wrong doers, but they had accepted in their own heart that change was only possible after acceptance. They weren’t passively accepting as victims; they were actively accepting reality and choosing to do something about it going forward.

Grief and Acceptance

Grief has 5-7 stages depending on what kind of grief you are analyzing. According to the theory developed by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, there are five stages. Both the Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and those researched by psychologists since her theory, have included Acceptance as the final stage. The definitions of acceptance vary. And you are NOT going to like this – but a form of acceptance is inevitable if you want to process your grief and move forward. But what do we do about the things that are still wrong in the world? How do we change things that are unacceptable?

Accepting just to get past something isn’t the goal. Our choice to choose acceptance means we are no longer resisting the reality of our situation. We are now prepared to move forward and make our circumstance different through hope and progress. Real Change happens after we have processed our grief. This is where Angela Y. Davis’ quote lands. Right smack dab in the middle of our battle with Acceptance. What is the difference between giving up and accepting? When and how do we choose to fight? How do we accept without being passive? How do we fight and hold truth to power?

A Life of Acceptance

As humans, we are wired to take life seriously; take it all to heart. We live out loud, bury hard things deep inside our souls and suffer. We go so deep with our anger, denial, shame, guilt or depression that we have trouble retrieving ourselves when the time comes to heal. We are like, “Oh hell, no. I am not going there! I buried that so I WOULDN’T have to answer to it. Get outa here! I am NOT revisiting that chapter of my life.”

The problem with this attitude is that no healing, understanding or change can happen without Acceptance. It is hard to face the past; hard to conquer fear, and even harder to be brave and create real change without acceptance. Most of the time, true acceptance and therefore change can’t happen without being honest, truthful and open to change.

We can wrestle with the idea that Angela Y.  Davis put forward as a challenge to all that is wrong, unfair and hurtful in the world. “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.”  I am changing the things I cannot accept. What does she mean? How can we get through the grief process and then say Yes or No? I believe she is saying that moment is exactly when we have earned the right to challenge for change. When we have seen it all, felt it all, and fought it all, we release, analyze and accept. Then we have the right to label something unacceptable and make change.

Grieving without Acceptance

Definition of Acceptance

I tried processing grief once without acceptance. It didn’t go well. You thought forgiveness was hard! Nope. It’s acceptance that will twist your gut and stifle your healing. Because when a life lesson needs learned, we can’t do it without understanding our role in the madness. Not our responsibility, our role. Accepting that we ALWAYS play a role in our own lives, our own understanding, and yes acceptance is paramount in the healing process.

Therefore, I believe in order to understand the conflicting ideas behind acceptance, we need to understand the definition of acceptance. The form of acceptance you practice is relative to your own perspective and of course the context surrounding the circumstances of your grief or hurt.

Acceptance:

 

Reality

Acceptance as it shapes human psychology denotes a person’s willingness to understand the reality of a situation. The reality can be devastating, something we are not willing to live with. Something that needs to be changed. Again remember, acceptance does not have to mean approval. That is only one definition. Recognizing a process or condition (often a negative or uncomfortable situation) without attempting to change it or protest its existence isn’t acceptance. Acceptance means to identify the problem or situation, analyze it, and then proactively decide not to give it any more power in your life. Call it out. Uncover it. So it becomes powerless over you. This “process” often doesn’t happen without a lot of pain and suffering.

Usually paired with a heavy dose of reality, acceptance is where the real work lies. It is where the messiness manifests and the blame game ceases to exist. We take responsibility, not for the actions of others that caused us pain, but for our own recovery from it. We power up, not down and we stand in our OWN power and thereby reduce the power of the thing that weakened us.

Perceptions

Acceptance encompasses a place of mirrors and solidarity. A time to look at one’s own self without filters and accept the realization that we own it ALL. No one else is responsible for our feelings or our lives but us. No matter what has happened, how we perceive the disfunction in a relationship or how deeply wrong the hurt perpetuated by another, it remains our responsibility, ours alone to heal and move forward. Whatever the pain or problem, we can choose to put it down or to carry it. The hurt will be there when we return if we choose that circuitous path. We can also choose just to push it away. But it will never go away permanently without acceptance.

This realization was hard for me. Like most humans, I was determined to believe that my situation was different. That some things just can’t be accepted; that denying them must be the only path. Not surprising, in my grief, I was wrong about that. Acceptance as the final stage of the grief process does NOT mean approval. It does not mean condoning the act or circumstance you are accepting. Acceptance is acknowledging and owning the existence of the hurt. Just by naming it, looking it in the eye, and accepting its existence, we begin to buy back what we lost of ourselves. We can own the past, our past and then we gain the right to change our lives, and maybe the lives of others going forward.

Finding Acceptance within Ourselves

Oddly, somewhere in the process of acceptance we find ourselves. I didn’t know or understand this for years. Sitting idly by, thinking there was nothing I could do but be a victim of circumstances can become a way of life. But to accept? That seemed backward and ill advised when our lives go awry. Weak even.

The idea of Acceptance seemed to put more emphasis on the pain and made me feel responsible for it. Why would I choose to delve into a world of uncomfortable feelings and take responsibility for something I didn’t do? Apparently anger and resentment are easier than acceptance. But these are reactionary feelings. We can’t heal or change from this vantage point. We can only continue to suffer.

Moving Forward

Open hearted, full throated, no denying it, acceptance is harder, more work. But the load it removes from the heart and soul is a physical manifestation of peace. Peace within and peace without. Peaceful acknowledgement that the world isn’t against us, life is just hard. It is messy and unfair. But we aren’t responsible for that unfairness. We are only responsible for what we choose to DO about our reactions to it. What will we do when we are treated with disrespect and unfairness? Be a victim? Or accept that this is wrong and we can be the advocate for change.

The way of the universe is to remind us that we are all one in our sorrow and pain. But we are also all one in our joy and happiness. We experience things that need understanding in order to recognize where the growth can happen and move forward. There is no escaping it. Humans live in complicated fluctuations that require us to be fluid in our acceptance of it all. Once we understand this notion of acceptance, we can level up to a more conscious understanding of ourselves and others.

Peace

How do we find peace with acceptance when what we really need is change? For me, I write and create in my journal, I practice yoga, I meditate, go to therapy if I need to, but mostly, I strive to stay in the moment. Because I know that if I listen, acceptance will come if that is the right strategy. If it isn’t then I will know to search for a path toward peace and change.

 

Peace flows…

I loved the book by Leif Enger,  “Peace Like a River” not just for his eloquent style of writing, or for the lovely story, but for the way he leads us in a subtle way toward acceptance via truth.

This idea of the path to truth is the genesis of my meditation mantra, beginning with the words, helping to tell the story of my search for truth and peace in my own life.

“Peace flows like a river, peace crashes on the rocks like waves; peace flows like a river, peace rushes towards me and I accept.” Cindi A. Jobe

Truth

To deny acceptance is to deny our existence as Humans. We must embrace our own boundaries and our own set of morals, but we must also examine those boundaries to see if they align with what is good and true in the Universe. If they do not, we must work to change. Acceptance is not meant to be a “giving in” but a “lifting up” of ourselves to more. Once we honor our own boundaries, we realize that acceptance of our past and our role in it, is not acceptance of the wrong done by others, but a natural process of understanding what is necessary to live wholeheartedly in the moment with the assurance that we can only change today.

Life will go on. Tomorrow will come. As we honor a life where acceptance is understood, we no longer need to accept others’ truths but find our own to stand for. A place to nurture change lies in the space we choose to create .

Cultivating a more open minded, inspired, life

Peace, Love, and Understanding

 

Like all of you, I have been experiencing the pandemic, following the protests, watching how the news is unfolding in the media and affecting our personal lives with concern, respect and care. I have reached out subtly on social media, but not powerfully, biding my time to feel out the best way to enter the conversation. What is the best way to share personally and professionally with peace, love and understanding for others circumstances and feelings? When and where do we take a stand or choose to guide by example? 

Healthy change

The world is changing. History proves that change is good and true, important, but often uncomfortable and sometimes painful. Awareness of our own shortcomings, facing our fears, acknowledging our vulnerabilities is hard work. As we travel this path, change may not be comfortable for us. Change rarely is. Even if we see change as positive or necessary; support the cause or are willing to make the necessary sacrifices, raise our voices and stand tall for our beliefs, change can be a difficult journey. We may need help to navigate. Help to understand. Help to find our way. We may need a little more than peace, love, understanding and grace to navigate it all in ways that are positive and productive. We may need guidance and definitely an open heart. 

Enter journaling and yoga: a little more inspiration, a little more grace, a little more understanding – a place to breath, write, create and grow can help. What I am going to share isn’t just an avenue to find more connection between your creative side and your mind-fullness, between your body and your soul, and between the world and the spirit you need right now to be kind, but a way to grow. A way to understand. A way to live a more open-hearted, purposeful life. In yoga, it is called open to grace. In the arts it is called creativity. 

Processing the struggles

We are all looking for ways to process the struggles in our lives. Ways that feel purposeful and worthwhile – some process that helps us to deal with feelings of confusion and frustration, loss and possibly anger. I know these feelings too, and I have been working diligently for the last six months to develop ways to access and nurture growth through our Mind, Body, and Spirit. It is still a work in progress, but I am passionate about the process anyway. Opening ourselves to a more purposeful way to process what is happening in the world, and to practice a more mindful, inspired way to live is important. So I carry on. I have always done this searching and sorting through visual art. But now I am understanding that another practice in my life is also part of the journey. Yoga. 

Every human has four endowments – self awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom… The power to choose, to respond, to change. Stephen Covey

Life happens. Sometimes suddenly in ways that feel more forced than welcomed. Sometimes sneakily, creeping up on us like a cat after it’s prey, only to pounce on us out of nowhere. We realize we weren’t ready for it and feel fear, discomfort and regret. Right now, in spite of our best intentions, the control of our lives may seem to be in others hands, completely out of our control, and much more complicated than we had intentioned. But there are ways to “journey” that can help rather than hinder these difficult times. 

Journeys

My own life-long “creative journey” happened in a similar way, over time, surging in starts and spurts. Uncomfortable sometimes, life getting in the way, crushing my dreams, unplanned, challenging, difficult, unwieldy, exasperating and unplanned. 

Creating, teaching, grasping opportunities as they arose, I always knew that the arts were where my heart was. Whether creating artwork myself or nurturing others creative endeavors, it just seemed to always make sense for me. There was an understanding that if I stayed the course, Life would eventually take care of itself. 

Asanas

My “yoga journey” happened for me in a different way. It’s true value creeping up so slowly over nearly twenty five years, ebbing and flowing so quietly that I didn’t even notice the progression. So slow and steady and pure its pace, that I wasn’t even aware of the importance it had taken on in my life. Yoga began as “exercise.” Seriously. I had no idea it’s power and strength at first. I just went from treadmill or step class to yoga early on. It was part of my healthy regimen at TWC. I loved it. But back then, I didn’t realize it’s gifts. A practice takes many years to develop, and there is always more. 

 

There’s always more

Over time, I realized that not only was there more, but I knew I wanted to find a way to connect the creative parts of my life with the creative, healing, inspiring aspects of my yoga practices. I began to become interested in the philosophy, the Sanskrit names, the types of yoga; there WAS so much more to know and ponder and discover. I read about mudras, asanas, sutras, meditation, Ayurveda and more. Not really studying it at first, just casually gathering information and passion for the connections I was making. More or less admiring yoga’s story, its history, and how it was inspiring me in new directions. I attended a couple of retreats. Took notes. Grew in new ways. Asked more questions in class. But still didn’t realize the impact.

Journaling and Healing

Thinking back, I began to realize more about my own yoga journey and how it was manifesting healing in my life long before I made the connection to journaling. The MIND + BODY + SOUL pieces became inseparable over time for me. My art AND my yoga practice had supported me in hard times more than once, guiding my decisions and answering my needs without me even realizing it. Learning to apply what I learned on the mat in my day to day life was something I had been doing for years. I just hadn’t connected the two aspects of my life as one journey. 

I didn’t appreciate the complete picture of yoga’s profound effect on my creative life until January of 2020. But truthfully it was there all the time. Nurturing me. Supporting me. Physically, emotionally, spiritually bonding me to it, to a lifestyle. Yoga connected me to a great friendship with myself on and off the mat, to something intangible yet stable and warm and substantial. But still, the most important “moment” for me yet in my “yoga journey” snuck up on me. Journaling about my practice. 

As humans we don’t always realized we are absorbing –learning something new that needs to be honored and shared. I knew from teaching visual art off and on for almost twenty years, that this could be the case. Sometimes important information is absorbed slowly, unaware, guiding us without our conscious acknowledgment. And then when we need it most, the “thing” we learned and needed is there. There for the taking, using, depending on its knowledge to sustain us. It jumps right up and says – SEE! 

Yoga Journey 2020

Yoga Journey 2020
But there WAS still another aspect to yoga for me that I hadn’t encouraged or acknowledged- journaling about my experiences. Keeping visual journals had become part of my life. The RAD Fresh Creative Journey was off and running. But I hadn’t realized that my yoga practice could be one of the themes. Then one day I I tried writing about my yoga practice and experiences. My curiosity about the “study” of yoga, MY study, became a new passion, and it was life-changing. Literally like a clap of thunder, I jumped at the shock of the idea in my head. I experienced that “ah-ha” moment when we realize we have discovered an answer to a question in our life we didn’t know needed answering. 

Yoga journaling became a way for me to process and apply all the positive ways yoga was manifesting in my life. Learning about the asanas, Sanskrit, philosophically challenging myself about the pillars, chakras, mudras, meditation. I was enthralled. So much to learn! Who knew? A lot of people knew! But I hadn’t put the practice and the study together before in my own life. I was mesmerized and distracted by its powerful nature. I decided that others might be interested too. And guess what? They were. And the RAD Fresh Yoga Journey was born. 

Visual journaling and yoga journaling

I began sharing about yoga journaling in posts on my blog. I shared in a yoga journaling group in my local studio, Montana Om: how to create a journal, what to write, how to study, and how to take what was taught by our teacher and practiced by us, engaging more with it in a journal format. And then I created a Facebook Group to connect others to this idea. It drew a small following. Friends joined. Strangers joined. Yoga teachers joined. It was real and growing. I was so proud, excited, and terrified! I still have so much to learn. The part I can share is the process, the journey, the suggestions, the lessons. I can take what I am learning within my own practice, from my teachers, and my studies, and I can offer it to others. Share it. Cultivate it. Practice it. 

RAD Fresh Journeys

This yoga journaling process came to me slowly over almost twenty five years, yet blindsided me like a cat catching a bird just this year. But I WAS ready, and that cat has become my confidant. She sits in the ray of light and inspires me to practice, to write, to share and create. I am encouraged to take flight instead of being trapped. The connections I am making, the opportunities i am realizing to share and learn, and the peace I find in the process is magical. I am holding on to this journey as a way to navigate the struggles in my life and in the world, bringing truth, understanding and peace through its process. 

I hope that some of you will join me. It’s pure perfection in the way yoga and art are pure perfection. What we need but different every time we step on the mat, write our thoughts, or create something new. We never find nirvana. We don’t have to. It was there all the time in the practice and in our hearts (and the journaling about the experience). Here’s to learning, creating and growing on and off the mat. Peace to you, peace to me, peace to the world. 

Namaste,

Cindi

The Muse Within

The Muse Within

We strive to cultivate our lives in ways that grow our creative endeavors and honor ourselves just as we are; encouraging our passions and creating good habits is our focus. Messy and undeniably complicated, we can struggle as we try to manage our experiences and limit fallout. It can be challenging to trust our inner selves these days. Not just in terms of making daily decisions and setting priorities, but also as we navigate the unseen and unsuspected. 

Life has a way of getting ahead of us, so we plan and choose and grasp at straws until we feel we have life wrangled into a neat and tidy package. Then we relax, exhale, and it all goes to hell. We inhale again; hold our collective breath and realize that maybe we were wrong. Sigh. The moment wasn’t so bad, and we can salvage a good day from the wreckage. Repeat. Never giving our creative mind –our muse, a chance to shine within the daily grind.

The muse within our own minds is a powerful but at times unwieldy part of our soul. According to the Oxford dictionary, a muse is a person or personified force who is the source of inspiration for a creative artist. He or she is as necessary for our growth as human beings as oxygen. Inspiration is a precious commodity right now; sought after like the last roll of toilet paper. Yet we convince ourselves that we don’t have time for frivolous ideas and unproven possibilities. Inspiration is for the future when viruses have vaccines and children learn once again inside brick and mortar buildings.

There’s More to Life than Survival

What is to become of us as we navigate this brave new world of viruses and excessive hand washing with fear and suspicion? Survival can’t be the only goal. We can’t lose track of the prize –a life worth living. Happiness and joy. Living and loving and expressing ourselves is necessary in order to thrive as human beings. From our social media posts to our jobs that require more and more creativity to stand out from the crowd, we search for the holy grail that is our muse. She is fickle as a three year old and as unpredictable as a squall on the ocean.

cultivating an artistic life

I strive to nurture my muse through my passions. Allowing her to meander down a seemingly unstructured path, I avoid limits that define her. She must be allowed freedom to roam and constant exposure to new experiences. No worries. No boundaries. She must be free to swear, to giggle and to question. Her birthday is everyday and her deadline is never. She runs with the bulls and splashes freely in puddles, never aging, limitless in her joy.

My wish for you is to find your muse within and rejoice in the opportunity to grow as well. A damn fine filly she will be if you don’t tie her down but give her room to run. She will lead you to a meadow of green grass, run wildly so you know you have raced the wind, and drank from a clear running stream if you allow her to be, just be. This lovely image reminds me of a recent day trip that lifted my heart and inspired my muse. 

Life in Montana

Right after our “sheltering in place” orders were lifted in Montana, I visited a friend’s ranch. It spans 80 acres of wild flower meadows and sparsely wooded acreage nestled up against the Mission Mountains. A beautiful spring day greeted us in all its warmth and glory. Much like a big hug – which we desperately needed and couldn’t enjoy yet at the time, we mingled with the horses instead. The worry of social distancing faded with the horses as our only crowd and our only comfort.

Mama horse and her colt

But the delightful “aha moment” was that visiting her ranch was the single most inspirational thing I had done for weeks! Even as I drew and wrote, and painted and gardened over these many weeks before, I felt flat. I continued to practice yoga, took long walks, read, and took and shared photos of my walks. But being in the presence of those majestic horses, some with new colts, some young, some pregnant, made me feel renewed and enlightened. I felt one with the universe again, and lifted up as an individual again, alive again. I felt human in a new way. Almost like a rebirth. I was whole. 

My muse 

My muse has been in a bit of a rut since COVID-19 hit, thrusting our country into this pandemic, seemingly overnight. Like the rest of you, I was already tired  of being at home, worrying about my health and the health of those I loved. Beginning the process of mask-wearing and enduring the never-ending excessive hand washing seemed daunting. With no end in sight, and frankly the realization setting in that we really were in this for the long haul, I was feeling a heaviness in my soul. I listened and read the words of the worried reporters, saw the concern on the faces of the doctors, government officials and scientists, and my heart sank. I have strived to be a good citizen, supporting social distancing, staying at home, wearing a mask, etc. All the while not realizing that my creativity was taking a big hit. I was closing down inside. I wasn’t protecting and nurturing my muse. Even while trying to reach out online, Zooming in yoga, Zooming my book club, Zooming with my family, writing my posts, supporting my fledgling journaling subscriptions on my blog, my muse was quietly hibernating.

Girl Scouts know how important creativity is too!

 

I AM still Creative!

I didn’t realize it at first. This feeling of numbness started to feel somewhat “normal”. Necessity sometimes breeds a sense of purpose and comfort. Doing what we are supposed to do. Helping. Supporting. Being strong and stoic is admired. But it can also be the death of creativity and enlightenment and joy. Our muse needs these things to grow and shine. Our families and our communities and our country need us to protect our humanity. Not let this virus swallow up what is good, and just but also creative and awesome in all of us. Just like our bodies need exercise and healthy food and sunshine, our minds need nourishment too, the light brought by ideas and discussions, brainstorming and creating. Without these infusions, our minds begin to atrophy just like our bodies. Putting our emotional and psychological well-being first is just as important as our physical health. We need to take a breath and realize that what makes us human is what will sustain us through all the fear and uncertainty. Love, joy, creativity, hope, patience, gratitude…to name a few. 

Your Muse as Inspiration

When you finish reading today, I want you to grab a piece of paper, even better – a journal, and write. Write about what your life is like right now in the time of COVID-19. Share your thoughts about the lives of your children, what they are going through. Encourage them to write too. Write about the joys, the sorrows you are living right now. Put down into words those frustrations and fears. What can you say about the future and your wishes for 2021? Take some photos of what inspires you; print them off and hang them on the fridge. Draw something; it doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. Send it to someone you love, in an envelope, with a cheery stamp and make their day!. Sing a song to your husband or your kids or your dog. Even if they laugh, the experience will nurture and sustain you all. Run and play and kick a ball with a child. Read the article “How to Find Your Inner Muse” by MANAL GHOSAIN. 

What to do about it

Do things that inspire your muse to create and grow. And then KEEP doing them. Make a list of things you want to do that aren’t necessary; that you just want to do. And do them. Little things. A walk in the park, growing tomatoes in a pot, trying yoga. Don’t wait for other people to invite you or call you. Invite them. Call them. Send them flowers. Or just do things by yourself. But do them. Don’t wait and don’t complain about boredom or being tired of this “COVID thing”. Instead live. Lots of people are suffering. If you have your health, right now, you are rich beyond measure. Rejoice in what you do have, and what you can do. Be thankful. Be patient. Have hope. Use your imagination. Then when you have spent a week nurturing that muse within, reread this post. And see if I am not spot on with my advice. You can thank me later.

Namaste, and Cheers!

Cindi 

Balance

Looking for Balance

How do we define it? Balance. Is this idea of lifestyle “balance” universal? Even though we would like to think it is, we have to find our individual balance in our own way and our own time. We are told to “find balance” in our lives, to be present, to practice self-care. But how? Where do we go for the answers? Why is it so important to be balanced?

Go inside

It is suggested that balance is a goal to strive for, or a mindset to conquer. But there is no one way to discover balance and no one path to achieve it. Therefore, the definition of “balance” is not where I recommend we start. As Buddhism teaches, balance is found WITHIN. We must mull it over, think about what makes us feel balanced. For each human, life balance is unique and is apt to change over time, even daily, depending on our life path.

Balance and change

My understanding of what constitutes balance in my life now is very different than when i was a young mother and teacher, or when I was in grad school, or when I was under pressure to meet a business deadline for my gallery. But those stressful times still required an honest recognition of what was required to achieve a sense of balance in my life. Balance may be fleeting and intageable and it may require a fluid mindset – one that is always open to grace. For me – that is where yoga and journaling come in.

Balancing through yoga

For almost 25 years, yoga has allowed me to practice balance. And I do mean practice. The practice of yoga requires us to access the mind, body and spirit. I think of this grouping as the three parts of my being. I know from experience when these are aligned, or balanced, I function at a higher level. I stay calmer. I am more creative. I have more patience with myself and others. I take challenges in stride, and even look at them more as possibilities than problems. One aspect of yoga that I love when discussing balance is that it actually physically strengthens one’s balance. The symbiotic relationship of the physical aspect of balancing in yoga meshed with the ability to calm the mind and balance the psyche is profound. It has been a daily reminder for me; that I need balance in my life to honor who I am and what I need to grow.

Trees as one example

Trees: Growth. Beauty. Balance. Rooting. Renewal. Strength. Flexibility. Expansion. Change. Awareness. All words of mother nature, but also of human nature. The art of it all expressed delightfully by Walt Whitman in an article by Brain Pickings. I read this article this morning, after beginning this post a few days ago. I couldn’t let this post go without sharing about trees, because they have come up multiple times in my hikes, my discussions about them in my yard with my husband, as well as in my yoga practice. So the post gets longer, because trees are just so important to this idea of balance that I had to share.

Trees are so like us and we are so like them. Symbiotic. Family in a way. Dependent on each other in a beautiful dance of need, desire and appreciation. A pure sense of being and oneness and yes – balance. Never ending. Always beginning. Balancing our lives, just like tree pose in yoga.

As I said, trees have come up a lot lately in my writing, my art and my daily life. ‘Tis the season of renewal –Spring. The canopy of protection is growing once again. I appreciate more than ever the trees’ warm embrace. But also the renewed challenge to grow and change and branch out. So simple and dependable is the relationship, yet so delicate its balance. Environmental roulette. Climate change. I worry about the slow death of trees and the canopy as we know it, need it, appreciate it. The slow erosion of humanity? I hope not. I choose to believe that our awareness of the plight of trees is simply the slow realization that we are one. To love and to be loved. Protect and support. Appreciate and honor the balance of ourselves and nature.

Self care as balance

There are other forms of self-care and physical activity that honor balance as well. The peacefulness of water has always been a place where I can find balance. As an example, I enjoy gliding along the bay on my SUP. Where do you find balance? I also still run, even though my pace is slower and more deliberate at my age. I write. I journal. I share my thoughts and feelings and observations personally and professionally. All these activities are avenues to finding and preserving balance in my life, but they also nurture connection, and satisfaction that I am one with myself and others.

Where do you find balance? How do you manifest the perfect combination of mind, body and spirit to achieve balance? Is it a constant search for some sort of holy grail, or is it just a sweet spot in your day? I would encourage your search for balance to include focused tasks that bring you joy and peace. I would also support quiet time away from others, physical activity, like yoga and a conscious choice made everyday surrounding time in nature, writing, and creating. Cultivating an inspired, artistic life is my personal mantra; so much so that it has become my personal AND professional focus. It allows me to easily remind myself that if my choices aren’t serving this focus, then I need to recalculate and begin again.

looking for balance?

I recently read, Tips for Living a Well Balanced Life by Z. Hereford. From nurturing and self care to mindset and attitude, this article has some simple basic suggestions that you might find helpful, especially if life balance is a new concept for you. And lastly, I recommend journaling. I have two focused journaling processes that I employ. Yoga journaling and visual journaling. Because these are part of my blogging and professional focus, as well as a personal habit, I often combine them. But either way, I find great creativity, joy and inspiration in these daily adventures. I offer both of these experiences as guided practices. Both with subscription options of monthly or yearly.

The Yoga Journaling subscription is brand new. Read more about it or subscribe in the last RAD Post: Cultivating a more inspired life through yoga journaling.

Ultimately, making a conscious effort to focus more on BALANCE has led to a more inspired, more creative, and more fulfilling life. I am less stressed. I have accepted that I can’t control everything, nor do I need to. I can only invite possibilities and make them priorities based on what seems best in the moment. Making these choices based on choosing BALANCE in my life has allowed me to be present, stay calmer, and find an easier path to peace and gratitude.

Namaste.

Cindi