Cracking your life code: Some thoughts on life purpose…

Over forty years, I’ve done a lot of thinking about life purpose and meaning.

I grew up with 5 siblings, three older and two younger. My three older siblings, (my main formative influence) are creative, intelligent, focused and motivated people. From a pretty young age all three appeared to know exactly what they wanted to do – medicine, art history and music, and they moved towards it with passion and clarity of purpose.

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I assumed this was normal, to know from a young age one’s life’s passion and to work tirelessly toward it.*

Truth is, i had no idea what i wanted to do. What was my passion? Let alone the focus of my life’s work. From my youthful perspective the one thing on my immediate horizon was to have a partner, build a solid economic base, and in the distant future, the conventional dream of children and a settled life into old age. This seemed the secure path.

My second life was a creative anarchic life. To follow my curiosity and my passions, to feast on the experiences of life, to create, to be happy and do what i loved. In my youthful eyes, these lives didn’t seem compatible and i was not secure enough within myself to risk chasing my creative dreams. The second problem was, what did i love? That didn’t always seem so clear.

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Over many years I caught myself in a head trip between these conflicting lives – the secure path and the creative life. I also believed I needed to ‘find my life purpose’ and ‘to find my life passion’.  I felt lost and inferior because it just wasn’t that obvious.

After finishing school, i took a year off to work and experience the world, hoping this might crystalise my focus. I worked about 8 different jobs over the year (bar work, waiting tables, admin, delivery driver, martial arts instructor, etc), none of which i found fulfilling or engaging of my passions but from which i learned the value of education.

This motivated me to go to university. My choice was between a creative arts degree and the more ‘sensible and secure’ commerce degree. I chose the secure path and put my creative life in a box. Of course, i was a square peg in a round hole. Accounting, economics, marketing all left me feeling empty. The second part of my degree was populated with politics, law and Italian language subjects (i ended up with what i call a COMARTS degree!)

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At 19, I fell into doing part time youth work engaging my passion for social justice, whilst the ‘sensible and practical’ commerce studies could establish a base to build my career. (A concept I later abandoned). I learned an enormous amount from these studies, and whilst a helpful detour, it never felt like my path. I became a shadow artist, stuffed away my creative side, locked down with fear and self loathing. Not surprisingly, my twenties were characterised by depression, escapism, self destructiveness, isolation and brokenness.

Twenty five years later, and gradually awakening to myself and my dreams, I’ve now completed the decade long and unsuccessful journey of creating children, the death of my other big dream. The most painful losses are those that challenge your identity, your sense of self, to not be a mother is a huge loss of part of myself. So how does one move forward?

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How does one build a creative life with dead dreams piled at your feet? Here are some things that helped me…

First – Acknowledge the bigness of the loss and feel it deeply, intensely, wholely – don’t buy into the story of the mind but sit with the feelings of the heart
Second – Learn how to care for, nurture and love yourself
Third – Know that you are not alone, that every human experiences grief and loss, this is our shared heritage
Four – To practice gratitude for that which you do have, particularly the love and support of others
Five – When you’re ready, to gently imagine a future life, one that honours the bigness of your grief but also allows you to move forward.

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What has this journey taught me about life and life purpose?
Here are some key questions I’ve asked myself in building a creative life:

1. How would you like to feel in your life? Don’t get lost in the detail, ie what your life should look like, instead start with how you’d like your life to feel.

2. What relationship would you like to have with yourself? Who are you? What make your flourish? What are your interests, skills and talents?

3. What lifestyle would you like to create? What is truly of value to you? Your beliefs, passions, what resonates with you and what doesn’t? For example, what does abundance mean to you? Is it possessions, creative expression, time, money, status, career success, family, friendships etc

4. How do you want to be in the world? I’ve found the key to life purpose is not about the doing, but the being. How do you want to experience the world?

5. How can you find your way back to yourself and your essence?

6. How do you create you life with spirit so that all you do is an expression of your essence? How do you listen to your inner wisdom, your intuition, gut instinct, the messages of your wise self? How do these guide you?

7. What are you curious about? If you’re still not sure, gently follow your curiosity.  Follow the bread crumbs.

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I’m reading the book “Essentialism” by Greg McKeown, and came across this insightful letter extract from Peter Drucker to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi…

“I am told I am creative – I don’t know what that means… I just keep on plodding… I hope you will not think me presumptuous or rude if I say that one of the secrets of productivity (in which I believe whereas I do not believe in creativity) is to have a VERY BIG waste paper basket to take care of ALL invitations such as yours – productivity in my experience consists of NOT doing anything that helps the work of other people but to spend all one’s time on the work the Good Lord has fitted one to do, and to do well.”

This struck a chord because it’s so easy to get caught up in supporting or helping the work of others and lose focus on ourselves and our work. So I asked myself the fundamental questions “what is my life’s work?”

I meditated and pulled some oracle cards from Collette Baron Cohen’s deck The Wisdom of the Oracle. I use oracle cards as catalysts to access my own inner wisdom.

IMAGINE and CO-CREATE

The core message I received is to use my imagination to work with spirit to build a creative life.

That seems very airy fairy, but it feels like an awesome life purpose for me. Perhaps it’s not to do an actual thing, but to experience life, to feel and to be at peace with myself and my uniqueness?  I’ve used the questions above as prompts to focus my thinking.

I’d love to hear how you have grappled with these questions in your life.

Dreaming and imagining can be a hard and brave thing to do, especially if you have been hurt. This week, I’m going to start in the place of IMAGINING and wish for you some sacred moments for your dreams as well.

Big love
Sarah

* A clear life purpose from a young age is not the case for most people. Liz Gilbert beautifully articulates this in her talk “Flight of the hummingbird: the curiosity driven life”

http://www.supersoul.tv/supersoul-sessions/elizabeth-gilbert-flight-hummingbird-curiosity

Paint, paint, paint…

One of my cherished early memories is of my grade 3 teacher, Mrs Webb. We had a special bond. We shared a passion for the creative arts, especially painting. She saw this in me and nurtured it.

I remember her classes in the art block at school, the old desks covered in paint splotches, the heavy wooden easels, paint tubs, brushes, paper, art materials etc. All the dark furniture squeezed into a overfull room, loaded with possibilities and excitement.

1985 school pic 6fI would become totally absorbed in her classes. Entering a trance like state, i succumbed to the sheer delight of splashing away, mixing up colours, boldly and fearlessly scribbling, brushing and blobbing away on the page.

Mrs Webb encouraged me. She entered one of my paintings into a United Nations art prize, which won me $50 (a huge sum back then) and my painting was displayed in an exhibition at the local shopping centre.

1977 girl 2I had a second painting on display called “Keep Australia beautiful like a pigeon!” (yeah, i know, seven, huh?!)  I have such profound love and gratitude for Mrs Webb and the special interest she took in me.

My parents also nurtured my interest in painting and the arts. In grade 6, attending a year of Saturday morning art classes in Kelvin Grove, Mum and Dad came to one of the pottery sculpting classes.  I still have the figurines we created together. I keep them in my display cabinet, a loving reminder of us three.

IMG_20151111_135347I loved a whole range of creative projects.  The absorption into the process of creating is just as important as the outcome. I did sewing classes, played music, and other creative art forms. I remember a giant mural i painted after i saw the movie “Grease”, yeah i was an Abba chick too!

As i grew into adolescence, i started to fall away from myself, and pushed my love of art to back of the cupboard. I chose not to do art as an elective in high school, a decision that i changed by mid year 10. I have such clear memories of the euphoric day i switched back to the art stream.

2001 kite girlBut truth is, i really struggled to embrace art on my own terms, particularly the competitive nature of exams, assessment, comparison, internal pressure of performing to a high standard. I always rated myself so poorly that doing art became a stress that played with my inner demons.

So i became a shadow artist.

1994 badtrip 2Over the years, i dabbled here and there with art and other creative projects.

The boxes of half finished objects and art materials stored under the house, for knitting, sewing, painting, craft etc. These boxes travelled with me from house to house, and I lived in creative paralysis, neither creating nor giving the materials away.

Professionally, I worked alongside community artists to encourage homeless young people and young artists to develop their skills, express their perspective on life and find a place of belonging in our community.

community arts bys (1)The heart of my journey with art can be summed up in one phrase:

SELF LOVE (or the lack of it).

The core healing for me has been the journey into worthiness. To shift my internal beliefs that i deserved to live a creative, expressive life and that i was capable of it.

IMG_20151111_114408Walking, vulnerable and open, into the healing process, i have come to understand that each of us has or can create a cornerstone self loving habit. This is some activity, that when done on a regular basis is like a gauge that monitors self love practice in our lives.

This self loving cornerstone habit is totally different for each person. It could be going to the gym, meditation, cooking, swimming at the beach, playing music, or whatever it is that is both nurturing and makes your heart soar.

IMG_20151111_135215For me, that self loving cornerstone habit is painting. I’ve run from it for years, yet picking up a paint brush, mixing up colours and painting is a healing balm for me. The outcome is irrelevant, it’s the process that means everything.

What is your cornerstone self loving habit?

The thing, that when you’re doing it regularly, you know that you are caring for you.

Do you struggle to name it? find it? or do it regularly?

I’d love to hear your story.

Wishing you the very best today!

Much love
Sarah

Creating local connections…

Max (my moodle) and I go on lots of walks, but once a month, we go on a really special one. We walk around the local streets delivering invites.

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A few years ago, our neighbours started a social gardening club. The challenge of managing an acreage property was one of the obvious connections in our community.

At the end of every month a different neighbour hosts a Sunday afternoon event. We all bring a plate of food, something to drink, and cuttings or plants to share. The emphasis is  social. Instead of doing actual gardening, we tour the host’s garden, glass of wine in hand and celebrate recent projects, plantings and achievements. On the way we swap gardening tips, anecdotes and wisdom.

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I love being able to look out from my deck and think, “ooh that salvia came from Jan!” or “that suggestion to remove the climbing asparagus fern with a mattock made it so easy!”

It’s so fun! The first time i went to gardening club, (sans hubby), i rolled back down the hill after 9pm rather jolly on wine and cheer after a bubbling social evening.

During the second garden tour, we were shown a vintage E type Jaguar under restoration. Kev isn’t the only vintage car restorer on the block, so he’s been a regular garden clubber since! We’ve seen some amazing old cars, including an original 60’s race car!

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And that’s just the start of the commonalities, there’s the yoga teacher who runs classes from her lounge, the tai chi class on the corner, the neighbour writing a book on mental health and philosophy, musicians, drummers, painters, artists, families with young children and horse owners galore! Many retirees with diverse backgrounds, who have lived all over the world, including out bush! Such extraordinary stories and wisdom to share!

I love the diversity in our neighbourhood. Some folks have lived here for over 50 years and others are new arrivals. We have a variety of ages, cultures, nationalities, personalities and interests. But we share one thing, we love to garden, or at least have undertaken the challenge of maintaining a large property. Living on acreage really is a lifestyle that involves a commitment to regular gardening.
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Since its inception, most neighbours have hosted an event. It’s a joy getting to know each other, our homes and sharing a bit more about our lives and families.

We emphasise minimal stress! It doesn’t need to be a show garden, but hosting it is a brilliant incentive to get projects moving.

Kev and I have hosted twice. The first, our garden was a mess, so we invited our horticulturalist friend J to show everyone tips on weed management.

IMGP0005By the second one, hosted last April, we had made significant progress on our site.

IMGP0009Coming into winter, i brewed up a big cauldron of mulled wine and tasty treats, comfortable seating, house relatively clean. We toured the just completed art studio, kev’s shed, the newly planted cottage gardens near the house, and the native revegetation work down the hill.

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One of the shifts from full time work has been less organic workplace social contact, so i’ve been intentionally creating these connections. This group is just one avenue for this. I now know most of the neighbours and feel a much richer sense of connection and belonging in my community.

In the last couple of years, with a bit more time on my hands, i volunteered to keep up the mailing list and send out the promotional flyers. I love this one simple thing that i can contribute to the club.  Now i don’t claim to be the doyenne of community networking, in fact in previous homes, i’ve barely known the names of my neighbours. But it’s different here. Connectedness is not inherent to the suburb, we have chosen to create it.

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Now i have an ideological perspective and belief system about community and connection. The old saying thinking globally and acting locally. The healing of humanity through  inclusion and belonging, but this just feels pretty simple. Just caring about and connecting with the people who live around me.

A gardener’s work is never done and we’re looking forward to hosting again next year.  There is even talk of regular working bees on the properties of neighbours who could do with an extra hand. And our first garden club baby is on the way!

So each month, Max and i wander the streets.

“Ooh look at Eddie and Wilma’s camellias in flower!” or “Wow Claire and Nathan’s new horse fencing looks great!” or “Look how Adrienne and Peter’s native plants are coming along!”

At each house, we stop, i smile, (max often pees), and we deliver our wee blessing as we amble by.

IMGP3618I’d love to hear how you connect with your local community or is this something that doesn’t really happen in your neighbourhood?

Wishing you much love and connection

Sarah

Stepping into the void or the terror of creativity….

Yesterday, for the first time in months, i logged into this blog, the spiritual homemaker.

I’m not sure why.

Partly, feeling guilty that i hadn’t written in a while and thinking that perhaps i should.  But more importantly, i felt that gentle, quiet voice wafting up inside me, the urge to create.

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Sometimes this urge is a raging torrent. An urge, that if unmet, leaves me steaming with emotions, anger, guilt, self doubt…

Bubbling, bubbling away, this energy gently requests attention, quietly purrs, taps, patiently waits. Left unattended she grows cranky, impatient, screaming for attention, steaming away, burning away my insides, leaving me to tend the charred remains.

2002 self portrait

Self portrait, 2002.

Don’t get me wrong, i have been creating, these past few months, my focus has been in the garden. Imagining, listening, observing, designing, planning, acquiring new plants, weeding, planting, mulching, watering, leaving new life to nurture itself. It’s been hard work, but in these stunning autumn and winter months, the place feels amazing!

Yesterday was different.

Words were calling me…

So i logged into my blog…

And i got nothing…

Not a word, not an idea, just a vast empty space stretching out before me, the void, the no-thing-ness, the space between, nothing….

nothingnessImage from the Osho Zen Tarot.

In the past, this space has terrified me.

My mischevious, steaming, creatively unattended brain, would fill this space with self demolishing thoughts…

“who was i kidding, how delusional am i to think that i am creative, that i could make something or flow with ideas that are unique, interesting etc etc”

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Self portrait, 2002.

But yesterday was different.

Perhaps it’s the result of the healing journey into my own truth, perhaps the inspiration of connecting with other women artists, perhaps that full moon and right timing, perhaps, perhaps, perhaps…

Whatever it is,

It just is…

I gently reminded myself that this is the creative process.

For me, the void and it’s terror, almost always precedes creation. In fact, creation often starts with nothing, no form, that is the platform from which it launches. On a metaphysical level, it feels like the universe needing to express itself through me. Creativity is also my way, my language for connecting with the universe. We are all creative, but this process seems particularly acute for artists.

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Whatever that thing is, it doesn’t matter, whatever it is, it just needs to be done. Focus on the process, that’s the thing, showing up, experiencing it, being present, that creates the outcome.

This morning, i woke up in the pre-dawn, my brain awake, the full moon light washing though my window and streaming into my bed. When insomnia happens, my brain paces and i often wallow in the problem.

But not today…

Today, instead, i simply embraced being awake, here i was, brimming with ideas for new blog posts, stories waiting to be told, ideas wanting to be expressed.  I am awake and honouring them. I was basking in memories of the pre-dawn moonlight blossoming over the old city of Fez in Morocco. Contemplating how the moon, in her changeability connects us all.

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Being awake today, is definitely not a problem.

So i sit with my warm cup of earl grey tea, watching the sun rise, listening to PJ Harvey, and writing…

It’s been a while.

Been a while since i’ve seen the dawn…

Wishing you whatever you need today, be it gentle nurture, fun, adventure, fertile creativity, what ever feeds your soul. Just loving today!

Much love

Sarah

PS Here’s one of the inspiring creative women in my life…

Painting a colourful easter…

The first three months of this year have been busy. In addition to homemaking, i did some consultancy work for a local council, started a business course, and the development of a new online business. Now that involves a whole new layer of thinking and challenge which is the stuff of future posts, but this one is about following your intuition and listening to your fatigue.

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I’ve just come back from a five day break at Point Lookout, North Stradbroke Island. I feel a strong spiritual connection with this place. When i was little, my godmother gave me the book “Stradbroke Dreamtime” by Oodgeroo Noonuccal, a Quandamooka elder, and i learned to read with it. I’ve been to Straddie for regular holidays for over 30 years. I love the beaches, the land and sea, the many moods of the tides, the fabulous wildlife – the birds, wallabies, turtles, dugongs, dolphins, whales, mantarays etc etc So many family and friendship memories in this place.

IMGP0086As soon as we drive onto the car ferry i can feel the tension fall away and the energy of the island infusing me with her healing balm. On arrival, we fell in a heap and easily slipped into the holiday routine.  Morning swims, luscious home cooked meals, a long walk each afternoon with max, reading, naps and long peaceful sleep. Truth is, I had no idea just how tense and exhausted i was feeling.

Working from home sometimes feels like your not actually working, so the stress and fatigue can deceptively sneak up.  We left Straddie before the Easter rush, but it felt too soon. There was still more unwinding and relaxing to get to the deeper layers, healing that long term exhaustion.

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Arriving back, i’ve had an emotional couple of days. Old grief and sadness has seeped in at the edges and i feel split in two. My head thinks it’s a good idea to get back into working on the new business, but my heart is saying no, stop, rest, play…

Instead of pushing through, my heart has won out. This is breaking an old pattern – so yeah!!  Heading up to the studio, i’ve pulled out some canvases, paints and brushes and i’ll spend the next few days painting and playing with colour. I’m not yet sure what will emerge, but that’s not really the point, it’s the joyful expression that counts.

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Perhaps it’s the energy of easter? The breaking of old patterns, releasing and letting go of the old in order to transform and create the new? Is this a familiar energy cycle for you at Easter?

Wishing you a most delightful break following your heart’s desire.  Listen to what ever it is that you need right now. Most importantly, i wish for you gentle kindness as you go through your day.  Know your own heart’s wisdom and the perfection in that.

Much love

sarah

 

Holy guacamole….

I love food! No, no, no, that doesn’t capture it, i really really love food!!

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That’s not new or anything, but it is one of my passions.

The tragic dilemma for me, is that i love eating food but i’ve not been the greatest fan of actually making it. I’m certainly no chef, but there’s few bits and pieces that i can put together.  One of the things I’ve learned over the last year is to enjoy the process of food preparation.

For 2015, I’ve set the intention to learn to truly love the art of food preparation and to allow it to flow with ease from my essence. To enjoy the process of imagining, experiencing, researching, investigating, gathering ingredients, sharing ideas, learning techniques, preparing, eating and celebrating healthy food.

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I love recipe books. I love gathering ideas from others about food that is both tasty and nourishing. My mother has a delightful habit of lying in bed most evenings perusing a recipe book for ideas. I’m convinced that the act of flicking through a recipe book and experiencing the recipes is an act of healing.  You can feel it in your body! Being in the kitchen and preparing food using inherited family recipe books is an amazing place to connect with the love, nurture and wisdom of ancestors.

The body is this incredibly complex and wise entity. When we are in tune with it, it is capable of giving us really clear messages about what nourishes or harms it. I suspect that we have only just started to understand on the complex connection between mind and body. The more we go into the silence and listen to the wisdom of our body, the clearer and stronger this connection becomes. The intuition of the body is very powerful.

I particularly love quick, simple and easy to prepare recipes. Here’s one that is dead simple and always tasty. The recipe is a mishmash of tips gathered from various lovely friends who’ve shared with me over the years. I made this for a snack and the next day i had left overs for breakfast.  The children totally devoured it!

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Guacamole

2 x avocados

1 x dessert spoon of sour cream

1 clove of crushed garlic

1 x dessert spoon of sweet chilli sauce

juice of 1/2 a lemon

salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and blend together. Vary the amount of each ingredient according to personal taste.

Serve with chopped vegies for dipping, such as cucumber, carrot, celery, fresh beans etc.

In my local neighbourhood we have a buy/sell/swap for people growing fruit and vegies. The cucumber, lettuce and beans came from my friend Rachel, they are amazing, so fresh and tasty!

What do you add into your favourite guacamole recipe? Love to hear your thoughts…

Much love

sx

 

 

A little update on finding me…

It has been a while since i last posted. There has been so much going on…

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Completing the art studio build, de-cluttering, cleaning and redecorating the whole house, oiling and polishing furniture, sorting through boxes and boxes of stuff, working on the garden, hosting my family for christmas lunch, and loads of personal growth, leading to vulnerability and breakthroughs.

Truth is by the end of Christmas, I was totally exhausted…

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What an interesting path we travel through this life!

December 20 came and went, the twelve month anniversary of leaving full time work. What at journey this year has been, not always an easy ride, but a beautiful journey into wholeness.

At this point I am overflowing with gratitude, feeling more grounded and whole, which also includes more openhearted, fragile and vulnerable. The journey into love, self acceptance and peace has been tough, but totally worth it.  As i’ve embraced this life, my body is feeling so much better, my intuition is on fire and i am loving my role as homemaker and creator.

Friends came to lunch recently and asked how i was travelling. Tears welled up in my eyes, embarrassed to admit that i felt lost, overwhelmed, at sea in emotions, unclear of the horizon and lacking clarity. After 12 months shouldn’t i be starting to get it together?

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I’ve noticed that the most disconnected and vulnerable times often happen before the big breakthroughs.

So i just decided to be kind with myself, gentle self nurture and learning to love and accept the place where i am. After weeks of sleepless nights full of painful dreams, i went inside and listened to the quiet voice within.

Seeing, owning and shining a light on shameful negative patterns has allowed them to dissipate. Speaking this shame to a safe, trusted and caring friend has been the perfect healing balm.

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I admitted to myself what my heart truly desired and opened myself to creating that in my life. Now i’ve moved to a place of clarity, peace and allowing.

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If you can relate to this, then know that i am standing in love and solidarity with you!

May you be filled with kindness, love and self compassion.

May you be open to healing, breakthroughs and clarity.

And most importantly,

May you be totally loving and accepting of whatever space you are in and where ever you find yourself.

The whole thing is absolutely perfect! Know this.

Much love

sx