Several years ago, I became more aware of my appreciation for life’s Little Joys. I actively sought them out. I didn’t have to look far or put much effort into finding them. They were, and are, around me every day. These treasures come bundled in gratitude, reverence, nostalgia, and humor. At times, I capture some in photographs and post them to Instagram and Facebook; at other times, I write a blog post like the one titled Little Joys Part 1 from April 2015. More often than not, I just stop, allow my Self to be fully present, and imprint the moment on my heart and soul. These memories later flow out of me and into my artwork.
STOP AND SAVOR THE MOMENT
Some treasured experiences are so fleeting that all I can do is stop and savor the moment. After a playful session in my art studio, I laugh at the rainbow of paint on my hands and most likely, somewhere on my clothing, too. A single leaf flutters past on the crisp autumnal wind; I float with it. Sunlight dances on a sycamore’s mottled bark; I let my eyes dance over it’s surface wishing my hands could touch it, too. The snow falls with the distinct sound of silence; I let the silence wash over me and fill me. As I dress, I pay attention to the feel of various fabrics against my skin- the practical warmth of wool, the snuggly comfort of polar fleece, the luxurious softness of velvet, or the heightened femininity of lace. The strong, bold taste of coffee in a ceramic mug delights all my senses; the feel of the mug warms my hands as the coffee warms me inside. Obviously, my list goes on and on with all the Little Joys that reveal themselves to me!
MY MOST TREASURED MOMENTS ARE SMALL
While I love life’s big adventures, my greatest appreciation is for treasured moments that are “small”. Julie Cameron writes in her bestseller Finding Water, “Life is made of small sweetnesses, and they come to us when we are willing to be little, instead of big.” She goes on to say, “Sometimes, we must play the sleuth with ourselves, asking ourselves what makes us eager. We must follow our noses and allow ourselves to pursue curiosities.” I agree with Julia, that at times we may be out of touch with ourselves and need to ask, “What makes my heart sing?” But for me, more often than not, I don’t have to analyze my Little Joys. I need to step out of my own way and simply allow them to be. They having a way of finding me!
TO FIND LIFE’S LITTLE JOYS
When life is super-busy, it’s easy to miss the Little Joys. I’m preoccupied with to-do lists, obligations, and errands. I’m reflecting on the past and planning for the future (as every good teacher does). It’s at these times that life gives me a reminder (sometimes a friendly reminder, sometimes a not-so-friendly kick in the pants!), saying, “Be still and notice what brings you joy. Fill your life with more of that and savor each precious moment! Take time to share your little joys with the special people in your life.”
This week, I’m sharing how “saying yes” in my creative process awakens possibilities beyond the realm of intellectual decision-making. Last week’s blog post “Saying Yes Leads to the Next Yes” explored how opening to possibilities in life as they speak to me on a soul level, can create space for profoundly wonderful things to happen. The same is true with my artistic process. Sometimes, I start with an idea or sketch which makes its way to the canvas or paper. Other times, I like to sit in the stillness and wait. Rather than put my idea on the surface, I want to see what will reveal itself to me. Being receptive rather than being “in charge”. Allowing rather than controlling.
INSPIRATION THAT AWAKENED MY CREATIVITY
Several weeks ago, I decided to do something I had never done before. This isn’t news. I love trying new things! Sounds of Spirit was performing nearby and I had the opportunity to attend. I had never heard of them before but their website intrigued me so off I went with a sleeping bag, my journal, and a water bottle. It was a spiritually moving and creatively inspiring experience. The group uses a rich variety of instruments, nature sounds, and human voices to transport the listeners to a different place. The outward experience of being in the space with them led to an inward journey for many of us in attendance. I was so deeply moved that I bought their CD and listened to it over and over as I worked in my art studio.
ALLOW MYSELF TO BE A CHANNEL
On the day I created the sketch above, I turned up the volume on my CD player and let the music wash over me and through me. I kept my eyes closed until imagery started to appear. Then, I opened my eyes and simply transferred those images to the paper. I felt like I was a channel not a creator at that point. I said “Yes” to one image, which informed the next, which informed the next. I allowed the process to happen freely without interference from my analytical mind or pesky inner critic.
I started with the 3 large repeated shapes in the background. Then, the larger seated figure wanted to appear. Then, little images around her began to tell their own story. These figures informed the border and smaller symbols around the edges. Each “yes” lead to the next “yes”. The same thing happened when I chose my first color to wash over the larger areas. Each choice naturally flowed into the next.
BEING BOLD MEANS BEING VULNERABLE
Who said being bold meant being confident or certain? Not me! Having the courage to be bold is also having the courage to be vulnerable and exposed. Being bold doesn’t mean I’m always going to get it right in art or in life. It means I have the courage to try. There is a measure of risk in creating art that is a genuine reflection of who I am and where I am on my journey. There is even greater boldness and vulnerability in allowing others to see it. For I’m aware that those who truly look at my art with open minds and hearts will have the ability to catch a brief glimpse inside the soul of the artist.
After many hours in the studio and many layers of pencil, gouache, and ink, AWAKENING was complete. I was awakened to the possibilities created by saying one “yes” after another. I hope this piece awakens something in you, too.
“When we aren’t sure what to do, saying ‘yes’ to the next right thing will lead to the next right thing after that.” This is the nugget of wisdom I shared when the topic of change came up in a recent conversation.
Several days ago, I had the good fortune to spend time with some very interesting people. As we chatted, we learned that the majority of us were in a period of change… major change… as in “New Chapter in Life” change.
An artist friend of mine shared that nugget of wisdom with me (and reminded me in the same moment of all the times in my life when this had worked) when I told her that I felt restless, like change was just over the horizon. I couldn’t yet clearly identify it but I could sense it coming closer. I enjoy my job; I have meaningful relationships; my art is better than it’s ever been before; I love my cozy little house and yard; I’m healthy. In fact, things are going really well. I have an opportunity for professional growth. There is a viable way for me to supplement my income by updating my skills at a nearby college. There may be a new avenue for showcasing my artwork. Each taking time, money, and commitment. When I can’t possibly do it all, what should I do next?
That’s when she told me to “Say yes”. Say ‘yes’ to what intuitively feels right. Say ‘yes’ to what makes my heart sing. Say ‘yes’ to what makes me feel more alive inside. It’s this ‘yes’ that will inform the next ‘yes’ and the one after that. It is the best advice I’ve ever had for finding one’s purpose and enjoying life along the way.
A True Story Where Saying Yes Made All the Difference
Close to 15 years ago, I had a similar restless feeling. I lived in Virginia, taught school, had meaningful relationships, satisfying hobbies, and a charming circa-1918 home to call my own. There were nature trails and the river nearby, perfect for dog walks. I could sit on the dock and watch the moon’s reflection shimmering on the water. One evening, I sighed deeply, recognizing a restlessness. What did I want? I wasn’t sure. I just knew that I didn’t want “this” anymore. I missed Pennsylvania and felt it calling me home. Things were changing at work, relationships were not as satisfying in lots of ways, and Hurricane Isabel all but wiped out the forest where I loved to walk. Doors were obviously closing. But where was the next open door? Hell, I’d take an open window!
Intuitively, I knew to say “yes” to what intrigued me and pulled at my heart. I got certified to teach in Pennsylvania and put out over 40 applications to various school districts across the state. A district made me a very generous offer, which I accepted (the next “yes”). I put my house on the market and it sold within one hour! Something larger than myself was at work here. I knew I was on the right track. Although, to be honest, the thought terrified me. I was getting what I wished for! The power of that is a might bit scary. Things were falling into place so quickly. I know from experience, that’s what happens when one starts to say “yes”. The Universe responds.
Saying Yes Again
Once in Pennsylvania, I hired a realtor to find me a new home. She began as the cold voice of reason but soon became the dark cloud of pessimism. I’d have to settle for a house with old wiring or no air conditioning or no space for my dogs. “You can’t afford the house you want”, she declared. If she didn’t have faith or hope, she certainly couldn’t be of any help. My instincts told me that I needed someone who believed in possibilities. I said “yes” to the desire to hire a new realtor.
We met in her office where she showed me a website I could use to begin house-hunting. When I found some I liked, she explained, I could contact her and she’d set up viewings. Cross my heart, the first house she pulled up on the website made me gasp. “That’s it. I want to see that one!”, I declared. She made the appointment and within a couple of hours I made an offer on the house I’m still living in- a cute rancher with modern wiring, air conditioning, a fenced yard for the dogs… and more than I ever imagined! I didn’t know it would work out like that but that’s what happens when I say “yes”.
When I’m Not Sure
Sometimes saying yes rises confidently from me without involving heart or head. It just is a clear and resounding “YES!!”. At other times, it’s not so easy to hear. I’m not so sure. Some things I do to help when that happens…
Listen. When I meditate or just sit in silence, I can more clearly hear that small soft voice inside. “Yes” may be a loud exclamation of delight or a gentle coaxing whisper.
Be Still. Stillness opens the space for possibilities.
Be present. Set aside fear, doubt, and anticipated outcomes. Stay in the moment.
Do what is possible then surrender the rest. I could send out resumes. I could get another realtor. But then, I had to surrender and allow.
Julia Cameron, in her National Bestseller Walking in This World, writes “…restlessness is a good omen. … Being alert to the possibility of change opens our ears and eyes to receive psychic signals more often and more quickly. Irritated, restless, ready for change, we snap, ‘Goddammit! What is it?’ when destiny knocks. But destiny does knock, and it can be colorful and expansive if we will allow it to be. When we are restless and our lives feel colorless, it is a clue and a cue that they are about to become colorful- if we cooperate.”
I’m going to go out on a limb here so I hope I don’t lose you, kind readers… Julia goes on to say, “… it is my experience that when we are willing to be irrational and intuitive- even when we despise those words- we are rewarded by promptings, callings, that come to us from some mysterious and deft sources that guide and encourage us toward what might be called destiny.”
Did I lose you with talk of destiny? I sincerely hope not!
Bottom line is that I know from experience that this is true and I must now take my own advice. This website is a “yes” for me. I hope that if you have stayed with me through this rather long blog post that you will continue to accompany me on this mysterious journey through my writing, my art, and/or upcoming workshops. I look forward to traveling with you! And I look forward to reading about your experience in the comments. Namaste!