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.
44437_home_heroImage from http://www.aroundyou.com.au

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.

www 123rf com 1Image from http://www.123rf.com

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”

1999 self portrait 2

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…

Country life: snakes alive!!

This photo, taken in my home town, has been doing the rounds on the internet these past few weeks, and well, it looks a bit creepy!

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It’s an image of a carpet python crawling through a gap in a bath room ceiling heat lamp.

We live in a country area, so there are heaps of snakes, including these carpet pythons, and we have the same heat lamp in our bathroom. It has a small bulb and there’s a big gap. Truth is, I’m quite scared of snakes! But spiritual growth involves facing your fears, doesn’t it?

A couple of days ago, after seeing this photo,  i was sitting on the loo contemplating what i would do if a snake came through the ceiling heat lamp just above my head. I developed a great emergency plan. Grab Max, shut him in the lounge, close the doors to the other rooms, open door to verandah, pull down the bathroom magnetic fly screen, grab a broom and encourage the snake out through the verandah door or bathroom window.

I had it all worked out!

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Today was another hot day working on the build. Jim, my father in law, is building a studio extension on our shed. We spent the morning putting up the posts and joists for the verandah section.

IMGP0037About lunch time, I was no longer needed, so i headed to the bottom of the garden to weed and put plant protectors around all the native seedlings planted over winter. An urgent job given how much it’s heated up recently.

IMGP0039Walking back up the garden, sweating, pushing a full wheel barrow, my father in law comes quickly out on the verandah “you have a snake in your bathroom!”

Cause for panic??

Wait a moment, here’s a handy snake evacuation plan that I prepared earlier. I swing into action, Max in lounge, doors shut, brooms in hand, Jim and I open the bathroom door in anticipation. Slowly we look around, but…

There’s no snake!

www clker com

Image from http://www.clker.com

There are two possibilities:

– either the snake has gone back up into the roof through the heat lamp or

– the snake has crawled under the bathroom door (that Jim had quickly shut) AND he is hidden somewhere in my house, RIGHT NOW!

But wait, there’s always a contingency plan. So here it is: take Max, who chases anything that smells and moves, into the bathroom on his lead, let him get a whiff of the scent and then sniff around the house for said snake.

Foiled again, Max goes into bathroom, thinks he’s in trouble and does his submissive floppy dog thing on the bathroom floor! So cute, but no beagle or guard dog be he…

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Jim is quite impressed by the my presence of mind, as most women he knows would have run up the road screaming! What does he expect? I’m an Aussie gal! He compliments me and departs, after kindly checking under the bed for no snake. True story, I didn’t even ask! :o)

I ring hubby, who is skipping yoga and coming home early tonight!  In the meantime, i sit here in blissful ignorance, with an earl grey tea, writing this blog post.

My hope is that i don’t have the same experience as my neighbour, who (so the story goes) was in bed taking an afternoon nap, and a carpet python fell from the ceiling onto the bed beside him!

ww dailymail co ukImage from http://www.dailymail.co.uk

I comfort myself knowing that snakes in this country were on the menu for thousands of years, so rightly, have far more to fear from us than we do from them. Sensibly, they usually make themselves scarce.

I recently decided to do more things that challenge me and take me out of my comfort zone. As they say, be careful what you wish for! :o)

Much love

Sarah

PS We think it was this lovely green tree snake that lives in our ceiling.

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Image from http://www.redbubble.com

We’ve previously seen him or her on our verandah, lying on our window sill and just last week, in the garden. It’s probably a bit disorientated, as all the gardening i did over winter will have disturbed it’s usual haunts. I know, not quite as intimidating as ‘old carpie’ in the first photo, but a good story nonetheless! :o)

Here’s a before and after peek at my new garden bed next to the shed. We’re hosting our neighbourhood garden club in November so we’ve been hard at work!

IMGP0015IMGP0016 IMGP0034IMGP0035PPS Hubby arrived home and headed straight to the cake on the kitchen bench. Smart man! I gotta work on this damsel in distress thing! Too funny!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dare to dream…

 “Our human compassion binds us the one to the other – not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future”. Nelson Mandela

Years ago, when working with young people experiencing homelessness, I noticed that one of their greatest fears was to dream. There was this overwhelming feeling that life and people had let them down. Whilst they often secretly yearned for something different, they were afraid to dare dream, lest they be shattered again.

“It’s always easier to sabotage dreams myself, than to wait for it to happen, the waiting is the worst!” I was told.

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Image from http://www.flickr.com

My heart always went out to them, and secretly dreamed there was an easy way for them to move forward and unlock the life they wanted. A life based on self love and acceptance, nurture and connection, being at peace. In reality, it was a slow process of listening, being respectful, offering practical support and strategies to gently move someone into their future.

The key was to honour the story and its impact, to shift perception, and to gently create and experience a new reality. For example, after listening to a life story of hardship and abuse, we would take time to pause and acknowledge the young person as an amazing survivor. This would often be a new way of seeing themselves, as more than a victim of circumstance.

www keenawareness blogspot com

Image from http://www.keenawareness.blogspot.com

Sometimes there were big shifts, sometimes small, always tempered by the complexity of human beings weathered by unjust circumstances. Even now, years later, i hold each and every young person close in my heart and wish them the very best in their lives. I particularly hope they have created the loving family they often craved.

So how do we gently nurture our hopes and dreams?

In they busy-ness of life, the paralysis of fear or adversity of life circumstances, how do we keep those secret yearnings alive and bring them into reality?

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Image from http://www.flowliving.com

What strategies work for you, especially when you’re feeling stuck or fearful? Perhaps a dream journal, a vision board, a gentle shift in your state of being or another method? What gets you motivated? How do you gently nurture yourself and your dreams?

Love to hear your suggestions…

Wishing you a magical day, to release fears and unlock your beautiful dreams.

Much love

sarah

Books come to life…

The whole of life has been a spiritual journey and if truly honest, and game enough to declare it, the endgame for me, is enlightenment. The illumination of the soul’s potential and oneness with the creator.

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Image from http://www.bigthink.com/21st-century-spirituality/is-enlightenment-the-goal

I don’t really know what enlightenment is and how to get there, but for me consistent meditation practice, gratitude and humility are some of the keys.

On the way, as i meditate, heal, release, learn and grow, spiritual gifts, intuition and awareness have increased or dropped in. These gifts are gratefully received, but never expected. Many years ago, i was instructed that it is easy for the ego to get caught in the illusion of these experiences, and to distract from the core task of spiritual evolution. The raising of the soul’s vibration and the arrival of wisdom.

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Image from http://www.carisroane.com

About five years ago, a strange thing started that i’d not experienced since childhood.  Books started to come to life! Or perhaps books are triggers that bring me to life? Quite literally, when reading particular books, i can feel it’s energetic resonance, it’s vibration. There are a few that have particularly touched me, affected my life and healing, and have given great wisdom. I am truly thankful to the writers of these books.

When this happens, I can experience a range of things.  These include: tingles all over my body; zappy shocks up and down my spine; goose bumps everywhere; my body starts to vibrate and pulse, particularly in the higher chakras; new energies can break through; visions may appear, seeing various colours, flashes of light or images; my ears ring; i can feel energies around me; amongst other things channeled wisdom or messages may drop through. Other things have happened as well, being lifted out of my body for example. Meditation has taught me to observe this occurring, with no expectation or judgement.

Although this video is an exaggeration, these experiences remind me of this scene from harry potter.

This scene always makes me smile!

It’s not something that i can explain. Some might see it as an active imagination, but for me it seems to be part of the process of spiritual awakening, and is stronger when there is something particular to observe or learn. Perhaps it occurs to draw my attention to these spiritual lessons? As i read, it’s like i’m tuning into the energy beneath the words.

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Image from http://www.imgur.com

I understand that this experience is different for everyone, as each individual will resonate with different books.

Have you experienced anything like this? Have you ever physically experienced the energy of a book? I’d love to hear how you experience and explain this phenomenon. Perhaps you experience it as the flight of imagination?  How do you make sense of it? Love to hear your story.

Have a juicy and inspired day!

Much love

sarah

ps I couldn’t fit many in this post, but for something fun, google image search “books come to life” or “magical books” and enjoy all the fab images! :o)

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Image from http://www.mymodernmet.com

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Fragments of joy, part one…

On a whim, we went to Sydney last weekend. We booked at the last minute, using frequent flyers, found a cheap hotel in Potts Point and visited some of our favourite haunts. It was the last chance to catch up with my sister before she heads overseas for 12 months. So the short time was focused on enjoying some relaxing time together and helping her get away.

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Sydney is one of my favourite play cities. I have visited every couple of years since my late teens. Beloved family and friends live there.  We love catching up and indulging the senses in the sunshine, sights, creativity, beauty and sounds that make up this lovely city.

In thinking about this post, an old dilemma resurfaced. Writing about joyfulness, pleasure and beauty – does it present a false picture of my life? Am i entering into that egoic social networking space of “look at me and my fabulous life’? This creates an illusion and can generate a negative backlash.  This got me thinking about the kaleidescope of emotions, especially the ones that are less palatable.

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“A person who wishes another ill, is jealous, envious, or angry towards another person, is said to have the evil eye.”

When travelling in the middle east, we were given similar interpretations of the evil eye. To avoid this, one does not draw attention to successes or blessings, as this may provoke the ‘evil eye’, or envy reaction, in others and bring down negativity on oneself. Instead, one humbly and gratefully accepts the gifts one is given without showiness.

Now most of us quietly admit, that there are times of being possessed, or at least lightly touched by the evil eye or the little green monster. Usually this comes from a place of feeling something is missing in one’s life. This can be generated by negative self comparison and not feeling good enough. Envy is one of the emotions that can be stigmatised, so we often hide it, ashamed and embarrassed.

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Recently I was inspired to read in Conversations with God, that envy is quite a normal human emotion, and to use it as a tool to identify what is missing, and become inspired to create that thing in one’s own life. To see it as a message from the soul about it’s aspirations, and to use it as motivational, rather than destructive energy.

It also helps to examine that which makes us envious – is it a constructive thing, like love and connection, or destructive? Often envy of material things is a metaphor for what that thing represents, eg freedom, opportunity, relief, security, fun, feeling worthy and esteem about oneself, happiness, etc. So it can help to dig deeper to uncover what it is we truly desire which is aligned with our values. This is our personal ethical journey to unravel.

To assist in writing this blog, i drew some wisdom cards to examine it further.

THE SCRIBE AND THE HEDONIST.
scribehedonistImages from Carolyn Myss Archetype Cards

Well I couldn’t get a clearer set of cards that focused on the question of writing about pleasure, beauty and joy.  There is a balance in these two cards, the first is reflective, contained and focused, the second is open indulgence. The blue of communication in words of the throat chakra and the red of the sensual pleasures of the base chakra.

It is a about finding the balance between the two. That to write about joyful things is not done with the intention of a self indulgent boast but rather in a measured way, to reflect, celebrate and inspire.  To value the small blessings that we are all given. The key to resolving this dilemma is authenticity in the intention and manner of the writing.

What stood out for me in the first card was the pages laden with words and information. Everyone has their fabulous gifts to share with the world – one fabulous gift is sharing information about delightful experiences, places and opportunities that can be explored later.

This post is about all that great stuff, but also about the broader emotional landscape, that through its contrast, makes the joyful stuff so special. The truth is that joy coexists with moments of intense darkness – pain, sadness, loneliness, that stuff we all experience. The light exists in contrast to the dark, perhaps our task is to experience it with love and compassion, rather than judgement?

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Brene Brown’s work on shame and wholehearted living, tells us that we can’t selectively numb our feelings. If we choose to engage in the fullness of life, it includes the vibrancy of both the light and the shadows. At this stage in my life and writing, I choose to focus on and share the light, love and wisdom gained from these experiences. It has not always been like this for me, so I honour this and choose to experience without judgement, the whole kaleidoscope of emotions in order to lead a richer life.  It is not always an easy path but it is authentic and real.

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Getting back to the weekend in Sydney, well that’s for part two.

In the meantime, experience the fullness of life with a whole and joyful heart, and be very kind and gentle with yourself during those darker moments.

Much love

Sarah