Meeting ourselves, meeting our self-expression

I’m rather proud of this photo I took yesterday down by the canal in Frampton-on-Severn.

It reminds me of what Julia Cameron (author of The Artist’s Way) says about paying attention to the details in our life:

People frequently believe the creative life is grounded in fantasy. The more difficult truth is that creativity is grounded in reality, in the particular, the focused, the well observed or specifically imagined…. it is there, in the particular, that we contact the creative self. [Creativity] lies in the moment of encounter; we meet ourselves and we meet our self-expression.

 

A beautiful passing

I saw death this week and it has made a big impression. A beautiful, graceful and loving lady – a neighbour and aquaintance of mine, – “H” – died last week of breast cancer. She was in her early fifties and has left behind 3 amazing children and her loving husband.

Yesterday was her funeral. It was easily the most beautiful send-off I have ever witnessed. Friends and family reminisced about treasured moments in H’s life. Many songs were sung. At one poignant moment H’s husband sang with a quartet in his wonderful bass voice. The choir from the children’s school sang H’s favourite song.

I saw H for the final time that morning in her open coffin made entirely of beautiful cream felt with embroidered flowers on top. No longer H. really – just her earthly container – but an honour to be a witness to this most touching of passings.

Later, H.’s closed felt coffin was placed in a circle of flowers in the woods and we all wrote notes on paper leaves and hung them to a tree.

The subject of death for many is something to be avoided, feared and endured. Being at this inspiring event has made me realise once again how consciousness – the art of paying careful attention in a loving, open-hearted way, can facilitate a kind of magic. The magic of connection. H. had the time and, more importantly an incredible  generosity of spirit, to whole-heartedly plan all the details of her funeral with her family. It seemed as if everything was anticipated with an eye to what we as the mourners needed – honouring, celebrating, laughter, song, ritual, beauty and community. We all shared an inspired few hours together and it is typical of H. that she should facilitate this because she, of course, is all of those things.

Farewell sweet H. you will live on forever in so many people’s hearts.

 

 

Drawing meditation

As I explore the art of paying attention I have just become  aware of Mandalas. I tried one today for the first time and here’s my very modest result.

 

Mandalas are rooted in the traditions of Tibetan Buddhism and Native American spirituality. Modern psychologists also use mandalas to have patients explore their inner sense of self.

 Why not give it a go? It’s very soothing and your inner child will have a ball at the same time!

Here’s a step-by-step guide to how to do it.

 

 

Keep your loved-one on a pedestal

Now that I’ve started running my Artist’s Way workshops again I’m going to be much more conscious about doing Artist’s Dates. These are basically about taking yourself off for about an hour a week just to have fun with you and you. They are meant to be playful, nurturing and fun – as if you were taking a child out on an outing.

My Artist’s Date today is probably no surprise for many of you – I took myself to the cinema – my favourite ‘me’ thing to do! The movie was “Hope Springs” and it struck me how well my new consciousness theme is embodied in it. The story basically follows a couple going through hard times and having therapy. (It’s a real testament to the screenwriter and the actors that they could make such a potentially agonising situation so poignant and funny). But the point is it highlights that the trouble with this older couple, who have been married for 31 years is that they have become UNCONSCIOUS of each other. Here’s a clip:

 

Long ago I realised something in my marriage: I must always do my damndest to keep Guy on a pedestal. What I mean by this is that I must do what it takes to take my gaze off the strange bathroom habits, the forgetfulness of conversations held only an hour ago, the constant losing of keys etc. etc. and focus resolutely on what makes him special – his handsome face, his humour, his love of his family, all the hard work he does on our behalf and so on. I know his faults (as he knows mine) so it’s not about ignoring them so much as saying: “that’s part of the package but I choose to make a conscious effort to keep my line of vision on the pedestal – because if I don’t, then smelly socks can take on way more significance than they should!

 

How conscious do I dare to be?

So, it’s now Year Two of this Happiness blog and, as I mentioned in my last post, I’ve taken on the fresh challenge (hence my new tagline) of daring to be more conscious. This is why….

Reality – the ‘what’s-so’ of things has always appeared to me as a bit of an inconvenience – something to be tolerated whilst I get on with the more serious business of dreaming my life into existence. I’ve shied away from anything that smacks of that ghastly word ‘discipline’ because I have a rebellious-child’s resistance to it. Why should I do anything that feels like a ‘should’  – surely I’m the one in charge of my own life?

As many of you know, I’m a big fan of Julia Cameron’s work ‘The Artist’s Way(and in fact I run workshops on it). Well now she has a new book out called ‘The Prosperous Heart‘ and in it she asks you to count evey penny you spend and receive in a little book. “What? No way! I don’t want to be wading around in the mud of my finances. And surely that’s all rather anal and sad?” I’ve also thought that in Law of Attraction terms this kind of attention to the minutae of things is misdirected – keeping your life small.

I’m realising now that I may have been missing a trick or two.

  • My weight and health have always been best when I’ve been counting what I eat and how I exercise.
  • I am very disciplined around organising my children’s school life, feeding the family, running my workshops, working with my clients etc. – it’s just I dont see it as discipline.

Abraham-Hicks talk about the importance of “loving what-is whilst reaching for more”. I’ve always read this as being OK with things not going the way I want whilst dreaming big. Not quite. I see now it’s about really meeting my reality honestly – i.e. not avoiding it – interacting with it, whilst maintaining a full expectation of growing into my desired future.

By avoiding the tricky subject of money and body weight in the name of attracting better things I was in fact only keeping resistance in place.

So now I am resolved to spend a year exploring this new concept of consciousness – being with what-is – even though I sometimes want to fight it in the name of positive thinking.

The name of the game is to ENJOY being with how things really are. I’m not embarking on this exercise of counting everything I eat and every penny I spend as a way of wallowing in lack and self-loathing – on the contrary I’m doing it to say: “This is worth paying attention to. This matters to me and I value my relationship with it.”

My very wise friend and coach Karen Hood-Caddy said to me this week: “It’s all about understanding how things work and then working inside of that.”

Yes! I think I’m starting to get it. Money, body weight etc. operate in a certain way. When I pay attention to that and work inside the parameters of that I, paradoxically, experience much greater control and therefore greater freedom.

I’m reminded of Stephen Fry’s great descripton of poetry. It is not, he argues, a restrictive form. When you write a novel you have so much choice about how you structure and shape it, it can be utterly overwhelming to begin; but with a poem the rules (mostly) are laid out and, now that you don’t have to worry about the structure of it, you can enjoy the freedom of playing with it as you will.

So constriction, discipline – whatever you want to call it – can be freeing. Yet more evidence of the Universe’s love of Paradox – (my favourite being: in order to have something you have to let it go). Paradox is everywhere and that makes being a human being so fascinating and wondrous.

I embark on this year’s challenge with excitement!