Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Hope and Capability



Today I honor fusion and confusion
beginning again
trusting what has passed.

Today I honor hope and capability,
embrace forward movement.
I'm only on the five thousandth try
with five more to go.

Today I honor brokenness 
and tolerance of change
as just another
life variation
not a road block
not a rude heave ho
off the path.

Today I honor wearing myself out
before I remember to stay
in the here and now.
I balance hope and
my current capabilities,
my life in this
present moment. 

I am a month and six days into my morning five minute writing challenge. Now I'm not skipping any days because I forget to write. Now I feel incomplete if I don't sit down first thing in the morning and begin the day with finding out who I am before the day shaped by the calendar or art challenges convinces me I'm someone else. I've been writing for years. I've done this before. I hope I don't stop this time.

Do you know "The Humans of New York" blog? Brandon Stanton spoke in my home town last week and reminded me yet again that it takes a lot of work to be as good as your ambitions. And he's only 30. And darling. And his book is a best seller. And he's been at it for four years. And in those four years he went from not owning a camera to taking pictures every waking moment to the point he has taken hundreds of thousands photos and humbled himself and worked along until he honed his craft to wonderful captures of life. 

Baruch ata adonai...I am aware I am not hard on myself now as I paint or draw or challenge myself to use new art materials. Sometimes my work disappoints me, but I'm aware that I've done the best I can do at the time, and that everyone goes through this crablike progression of moving onward while seeming to stagger backwards and lurch sideways as long as they continue taking one step after another. I do not doubt the rest of me is watching my progress to see if I can make it work in other parts of my life. Thank you for being with me on this journey. Amen









Monday, March 31, 2014

Upon Awakening




Upon Awakening

Listen
this spring morning
to dew drops
sunshine
blossoms opening
noise on the freeway.

Listen
for back stories
echoes of relationships
loops between words
how I'm changed
by friendships

It takes a little while
when I awake
to invite myself to this
new day
to reassign labels
I gave myself yesterday.

I'm feeling a bit anxious...
breathe, stretch
say good morning
wait for the dance to begin
trust my muscles
know the steps.

I haven't written poetry for a long time. This is the fruit of one of my early morning five minute writings...not born exactly this way, but the framework was there when I wrote intuitively without an idea of where I was headed. Several times lately, when I've realized I can't get places with my thinking brain, I've found my way when I trusted my muscle memory, built over time, to get me there. It's such an interesting experience.

Baruch ata adonai...The past two weeks I've burst with creative energy or felt dry dry dry, and I've been acutely aware they are only cycles. If I wait, I will bloom and I will fade. I'll feel indolent and then suddenly awake with possibilities. I ebb and flow with inner tides. Now I know I am at peace.  Amen

Monday, March 17, 2014

Create Your Best Days

"The universe supplies exactly and absolutely what you perceive your reality to be, that is to say, what you believe in." The Art of Manifestation


Each time I stand in front of a work of art that resonates with me, each time I look at a tree tricked out in spring bloom, each time I meet with a friend and feel a spark of recognition fill the hidden spaces between us, I am changed and enriched in a way that fills me with joy. As Gary Zukov said, "Every intention sets energy in motion whether you are conscious of it or not," so why not set that energy in motion on purpose.

Recently I have been thinking of things I'd like to manifest in my life, simple things  I can recognize when they happen.  The first day I set the intention of manifesting lots of contact with friends, and that came to pass the next day: two emails from people I haven't connected with in a long time, phone calls and an invitation to lunch. I felt embraced with love. The next day I paid it forward and called my friend, the Glorious Grandma Glad for her 94th birthday and emailed a few people I was thinking about.

Yesterday I searched for a lost library book, due today, one I hadn't even gotten around to reading. I began systematically cleaning up one room after another: the bedroom, my studio, the kitchen, my office. Everything looked immaculate, but I still hadn't found that book. I emailed a friend and asked her to manifest me finding it because she's good at that sort of thing, and then I thought I would test this whole manifestation idea and see what would happen. I set the intention of finding it easily and not worrying about it if I didn't. Shortly after, I walked into my office, put my hand on the books above my desk and fingered each one. There it was, and then I remembered putting away a stack of books a couple of days before and jamming them in empty spaces.

I don't believe this happens with furrowed brow, a grim determination to wish something into existence, and preparing yourself for failure.  I think it happens when we hold our intention lightly like listening for the sounds of birds and then continue on our way. What I've found since I've been doing this is that everything seems like a gift.

Baruch ata adonai...thank you for the richness of my days, the opportunity to create art and the balm of friendship. Amen






Monday, March 10, 2014

Art as Metaphore

"What is fundamentally beautiful is compassion for yourself and those around you. I had begun to enjoy the seduction of inadequacy, but flowers keep blooming inside me." Lupita Nyong'o


The activity in last week's Life Book 2014 online art course was to celebrate connections in life while at the same time continuing to learn how to draw a face, create transparent layers using collage, gesso, stamps, writing, and applying paint over and over again. The first task was to find a face in a magazine to use as a base and then make it our own by completely changing it. Wow. Isn't this just like real life. If you peeled off your layers, wouldn't find you find something completely different underneath, an entire back story? This week's project is a metaphor for life: create a face, change it, try on clothes, change a hair color, collage over the rough spots, get a new wardrobe until you've got your very best look. Then with compassion, change your thoughts as well.

Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong'o, winner of the supporting actress award for 12 Years a Slave, is an amazing inspirational speaker and writer. "I had begun enjoying the seduction of inadequacy but flowers keep blooming inside me." I love that. I know about that. Peel back my layers and you can see all the times I've lived that seduction, but not now. Now I'm getting better and I'm gentle with myself. Lovely combo.

Baruch ata adonai...I am so blessed to live a long enough life to look back and appreciate my many layers with compassion and love. Amen


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Let Go of Rules to Get Moving

"'Synchronicity is there when we're ready for it.' It's like the first rule my father taught us about surfing. You have to be moving to be moved. It's one part labor, one part grace." Jeff Nunokawa


Baruch ata adonai...writing today's blog has been an exercise in patience. It has taken me hours. Because I haven't been writing, I'm rusty. I'm going to begin writing everyday for five minutes first thing in the morning. I used to do this and I want to begin again. I am grateful to myself for coming back to this piece over and over until I finished. Amen - See more at: http://morningprayerblog.blogspot.com/#sthash.ZgKQknq9.dpuf

At the end of my last blog, I committed to writing five minutes each morning to stretch my writing muscles. I pulled out three thin volumes by poets Mary Oliver, Wislawa Symborska and Billy Collins so they would be ready for me to open to a random page in the morning. Years ago I worked my way through Genesis and Exodus in this way. That night before going to bed I leafed through an old New Yorker and read about Jeff Nunokawa, a Princeton professor, who does exactly the same thing I'm doing and has done it for years on Facebook. It was hard for me to fall asleep. I wanted to Google him and could hardly wait to begin writing. He too finds a writing prompt, writes on it for five minutes or more, and publishes it on Facebook.The next morning I emailed him to say how amazing it is that I should have had this particular magazine for so long and only last night read about him. I concluded, "Synchronicity is there when we're ready for it." He wrote back, "'Synchronicity is there when we're ready for it.' It's like the first rule my father taught us about surfing. You have to be moving to be moved. It's one part labor, one part grace."


I Go Down to the Shore by Mary Oliver.
I go down to the shore in the morning
and depending on the hour the waves
are rolling in or moving out,
and I say, oh, I am miserable
what shall--
what should I do? And the sea says in its lovely voice:
Excuse me, I have work to do.

If I am miserable, it doesn’t matter if the waves are moving in or moving out. It doesn’t matter if I say I should. It doesn’t matter.  If I am miserable should I simply be miserable? Allow that to happen? What a waste of a day. Waves do what they do. And for me, writing. If I want to or not. If I feel inspired or miserable, or too busy. I’ve set myself just five minutes to play in the waves. I can consider it my work or I can consider it my chance to play unfettered by rules or purpose other than to write. My internal waves come and go, in and out, and I too have work to do. 3/4/14

I could edit this endlessly, but the thing about a five minute writing is that I don't. I love it because I learn something I wouldn't learn in the endless loops of rethinking and rewriting. At the end I have recommitted to the next day. I love it because it's imperfect and I get to leave it just that way.

Baruch ata adonai...writing gives me such joy when it is freely received by me and written down without my brain commenting on anything at all. I begin writing before it is awake enough to make kindly suggestions or do an eye roll. It's as if I'm in love all over again. Amen









Baruch ata adonai...writing today's blog has been an exercise in patience. It has taken me hours. Because I haven't been writing, I'm rusty. I'm going to begin writing everyday for five minutes first thing in the morning. I used to do this and I want to begin again. I am grateful to myself for coming back to this piece over and over until I finished. Amen - See more at: http://morningprayerblog.blogspot.com/#sthash.ZgKQknq9.dpuf
Baruch ata adonai...writing today's blog has been an exercise in patience. It has taken me hours. Because I haven't been writing, I'm rusty. I'm going to begin writing everyday for five minutes first thing in the morning. I used to do this and I want to begin again. I am grateful to myself for coming back to this piece over and over until I finished. Amen - See more at: http://morningprayerblog.blogspot.com/#sthash.ZgKQknq9.dpuf

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Can't Wait for Inspiration

"You can't wait for inspiration. Sometimes you have to go after it with a club." Jack London 

"Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird." Anne Lamott

Given a choice, it's a no brainer. I want to live in the world of WOW NOW. I want to stride from peak to peak, to be effortlessly inspired, cheerful, full of seeing things for the first time and knowing my heart is full and I am present. I want to look out my kitchen window and always see the full rainbow that arced across the sky yesterday. I want everything to come easily. I want to write and paint effortlessly. Don't we all!

Entering the unknown of the blank page or canvas takes a lot of wandering in the wilderness. It takes a lot of practice to bring something out of nothing. It takes a lot of faith and a lot of work and given a choice, I want cut to the chase and start with inspiration. But when I start out knowing where I want to go and stick with that, I limit myself. I'm in the land of easy, of tried and true, not on the road to discovery.

We all have limiting beliefs. One of mine is that for most creative people art and writing come easily. I know this isn't really true, but there is this nagging belief; since it doesn't come easily to me, it means I'm not very good. And then Jack London appears. Thanks, Jack. The truth is I love the process of discovery, of not being so good and getting better. I'm so in love with those aha moments. The most important thing is to do a lot of work even if it's not very good work, because I know my work has gotten better. It takes a lot more time than any of us want to become competent in almost anything.

When I get bogged down on the creative path, I realize I am also way low on the gratitude scale. The more I feel grateful, the more willing I am to see the blank page as an opportunity for discovery rather than a stab in the dark.


On my desk is a lovely gratitude box. Around the edges are the cards below, little recycled remnants of art projects and motivating messages.


Card by card, I will write on the back of each one a few words about people and events I'm grateful for.


There are very few whoopdeedoo wowzers in this box. The cards are appreciations of lunch with friends, a good movie or concert, finding something I've lost and found, good food, community, a productive time in my studio. Forty-seven little cards so far this year. I look at that little box and those little cards and know card by card I'll fill that box to overflowing in another couple of months. It helps me to pay attention to the smallest joys, joys that can be written about in a very few words.

Just as I expect too much of myself as a beginning artist, I sometimes forget to remember the power of gratitude. It all takes time and practice. As much as I've been working on this, sometimes I forget how easy gratitude is and how good it makes me feel. Perhaps a few words on little cards in a lovely box will work for you, too.

Baruch ata adonai...writing today's blog has been an exercise in patience. It has taken me hours. Because I haven't been writing, I'm rusty. I'm going to begin writing everyday for five minutes first thing in the morning. I used to do this and I want to begin again. I am grateful to myself for coming back to this piece over and over until I finished. Amen
















Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Possibilities of Gratitude

"The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention." Oscar Wilde
"If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, 'thank you,' that would suffice." Meister Eckhart

Prayer Flag (Acrylic on Denim)

Sunday I received a gift, a most wonderful email, one that has created within me a deep warm feeling of well being. Each time I think about it I smile. It begins, "Barbara...you have been on my list of people for which I am grateful, since 2011, and have wanted to thank....Periodically I search the net to see if I can find contact info for you. To my delight this morning [I found it.] You never know how large the ripple you create is.

Several years ago I showed prayer flags and bookmarks with colorful pen and ink drawings I'd made  at a local open studio art show. For me, this series of bookmarks are visual prayers. It was a leap of faith for me to participate in that show. I had never gone public with my drawings and flags, and yet with all my uncertainty and a sense of being in heady company, I felt a strong impulse to be there.

One of the bookmarks was bought by a very thoughtful and receptive woman. "You will never know how much your Our Lady of Possibilities kept me focused on the positive when I was battling a now defanged autoimmune disease." She loved that bookmark into weathered raggedness and now keeps it in a safe place.

If gratitude were to have a symbol, it would be the sign for infinity. No beginning and no end. In this case it was a blessing to the person who gave and the person who received and then it worked back the other way.

Thank you notes of any form resonate long after they are sent. I like to think I always write them with a full heart, which probably isn't true. Today I know, when they are written that way, they bounce around like echoes and go on long after I've stamped and sent them, no matter how long it takes me to mail them off.

Yesterday and today I awoke from dreams that could have left me sandbagged for the day, until I thought to be grateful for them because they reminded me I'm not like the person in that dream any longer. I'm not a Pollyanna, though she had a lot going for her in bad situations, and more and more I believe there is gratitude to be found in more situations than I ever thought possible. When I do work my way to gratitude, it is though I had stretched and released in a way that allows me to breathe more freely than moments before. Gratitude works.

Baruch ata adonai...whenever I hear people my age referred to as old, which seems to happen more and more, I laugh. Today I am healthy and strong. Today I can laugh and cry and I know that's because I'm a whole person. I'm brave and move on through fear and doubt, and I'm very happy to be alive. Amen