The Art of Acceptance

Greetings all and happy fall, unofficially.  I’m still celebrating the end of summer myself, but with the appearance of the full harvest moon, one can’t help but start to prepare for autumn.

With the changing seasons afoot, I’ve decided it’s the perfect time to talk about a powerful little word called acceptance.  We have to accept all kinds of things every day as part of life.  We accept going to school and work.  We accept paying bills and taxes.  And late at night in the quiet of our beds we even accept that death will come for us some day.  Actually, that last one is tricky.  Do we really accept it or do we spend our time avoiding it and pretending it isn’t going to happen?

A couple of months ago I started a meditation practice.  More on the specifics of that in a later post!  One of the cornerstones of mindfulness besides staying in the present moment, breathing deeply, and sitting in silence, is the idea of acceptance for all that is.  Now don’t freak out!  Luckily, it doesn’t mean accepting your current situation forever.  But it does mean surrendering to the moment and accepting it just as it is.  For me, that sometimes means accepting that I didn’t sleep well the night before and have a long day ahead of me.

To be honest, I couldn’t wrap my head around this concept at first.  What do you mean accept it?  That sounds like giving up.  That sounds like accepting hurt and pain and doing nothing about it.  On the contrary, it’s the opposite.  When we accept our current situation, we’re guaranteed to feel empowered.  We put ourselves back in the driver seat of our lives.  We allow our feelings of pain to take a passenger seat on the journey, but we do not let them drive.  Essentially, we may experience pain, but we don’t have to suffer.  And that’s a big difference.

“[Acceptance] simply means that you are acknowledging reality,” said psychotherapist Sheri Van Dijk, MSW, RSW in an article on radical acceptance published in Spirituality & Health. “You are acknowledging what happened or what’s currently happening. Because fighting reality only intensifies our emotional reaction,” she said.

And there’s more.  When you take the time to accept something, you gain the power to transform its energy.  Think of yourself as an alchemist, if you will😉  It may not happen today or tomorrow, but your situation will change, guaranteed.  In fact, I bet if you think back, you can come up with some examples from your life.

I’ve been a runner for most of my life, but recently I had to accept that maybe my running days were over.  I’ve been experiencing heel pain, even when I walk, so running was quickly out of the question.  I started swimming instead, but still missed running.  Then I went to see a foot doctor.  I fully expected the worst and even worried about needing surgery, but as it turned out, I have over-developed calves, from running, and needed to work on specific stretches for my heel as well as exercises to help strengthen my other leg muscles.  Then the real surprise.  I was told I could still run.  After I had already given it up.  Just as I was beginning to enjoy my new activity of swimming.  Say what?  In the aftermath, I’ve decided to go for balance, running less and incorporating other enjoyable forms of exercise.  But the lesson is clear.  Things do change.  Often for the better.  But first you have to accept the way they are.

And I know what you’re thinking.  What about when they don’t change?  I came across a great quote recently by Lucille Ball.

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

This resonated with me and I hope it also sparks something in you.

If you’re still grappling with the concept and need something more tangible, try this exercise:

Step 1: Imagine your pain in detail.  Give it a color.  Rank it on a scale from 1-10.  Does it have hard or soft edges?  Where does it reside in the body?  Is it flat or is it 3-D?

Step 2: Focus on your body now.  Start with your toes.  Wiggle them.  Relax your feet.  Move through each part of your body, slowly relaxing it, all the way up to your head.  Release your thoughts and even let your brain relax.  Breathe in and let go.

Step 3: Close your eyes and breathe deeply.  Focus on the present moment.  Imagine your heart is open, filled with empty space.  Imagine only the space.  Then imagine your pain AND the space.  Keep this up.

Step 4: After an increment of time, say 10 min. or more, wiggle your fingers and toes, and then open your eyes.  Now think about your pain again.  Imagine its color, size, intensity, etc.  Has your pain changed?  Does it feel different?  Even if it feels the same, how has your relationship to the pain changed?

Wait another hour and check in with your pain again.  You might be surprised how different you feel!

If you’re interested in more, check out an audio version of a specific dissolving pain exercise here.

Acceptance isn’t easy.  It takes time.  It’s an evolutionary process.  But when we begin to make space in our lives for acceptance, we open a doorway for all kinds of miracles to shine through.

 

 

 

 

 

Meditation: Find Your Power Source

Allie Spring, Missouri in the Ozarks

I’ve been away this summer, spending a lot of time by the water.  No surprise, right, with these balmy temperatures.  Water has a natural calming effect on the body.  Maybe it’s the sound it makes.  Or the fact that the human body is made up of mostly water, and so we connect with it as a life-giving source.  It’s almost impossible not to feel a little zen watching the waves roll in and out in rhythmic harmony.  Even swimming feels like a meditative act, especially when you surrender to the water and allow yourself to float along on the surface.

If you’ve ever had a chance to visit a natural spring, you’ll find the added benefit of soaking up the extra minerals in its depths.  The water is cold, but takes on a mysterious and beautiful bluish-green hue.  The plants beneath its surface are bursting with life and flow along with the current.

But why talk about this?  Because I think water is one of the perfect spots to meditate.  While out for a jog, I often stop at the creek near my house to meditate.  I feel a strong sense of connection there.

Water isn’t the only place where you can feel the healing energy of the earth.  The desert is another favorite of mine.  My husband and I have taken 3 trips to the Southwest and something keeps drawing us back.  Could it be the vibrant color contrasts between the red rock, the blue sky, and the green plants?  Or could it be the twisted trees swirling with energy?  Or just the vast amount of empty space that clears the mind and gives it a rest.

I urge you to find your own power source.  That place that makes you feel all chilled out and totally at peace.  A place where you can reconnect with the earth, with your life path, and especially yourself.  You might not even need to travel very far to find it.  Maybe it’s that weeping willow tree in your backyard, whose branches softly sway in the breeze.  Maybe it’s an outdoor garden, your favorite rosebush, or even a statue carved by an artist out of stone.  Stones have existed even longer than trees and will outlive all of us.

Go there, find your stillness, watch your breath, melt into the empty space that surrounds and connects all of us.  Plug into your natural power source, and let it all go…


Turn Your Routines into Rituals

Happy Summer!  I’ve been away for a while, partly do to injuring my left wrist while paddle boarding Memorial weekend.  But I’m back, and here to talk to you about how you can turn your everyday routines (boring!) into amazing life-changing rituals.

I saw the above quote while on a recent trip to New York City.  You see random stuff like this posted all over the city, and you can never really be sure if it’s advertising, artwork, or just a random rant.  But this one struck both my husband and I so much that we had to take a photo.

We all have daily routines: washing dishes, doing laundry, answering emails, taking the dog for a walk, driving to work.  We do these things over and over every single day, and mostly it just feels like a big waste of time or at the very least a nuisance.  But can we make these trivial, monotonous moments meaningful?  The answer is YES.

Some of my creative rituals include:

  • putting on my blue polka-dot robe to get ready to write
  • listening to Joss Stone’s “Clean Water” while cleaning up my art space to get in the mood to paint
  • giving my lucky Petoskey stone a squeeze before I send out a submission
  • thinking about my characters or plot problems while exercising or washing the dishes

Performing these rituals help me take on the creative tasks day in and day out.  They motivate me to do the work.

I also have rituals before I go to bed to get ready for sleep.  I drink a cup of tea and do gentle yoga or meditate with a special mantra.  Sometimes I take a bath and mull over the day, before letting it all go.  Then I count my thoughts until they disappear.  Just by engaging in this ritual, my  body knows it’s time to unwind.

Other useful rituals I do that you might enjoy:

  • call a friend for social time while taking a walk and listen more than you talk
  • focus on the world around you and experience it with all five senses
  • meditate on different quantities of empty space while staying in the present moment, a technique known as open focus, which allows your brain a break

Rituals add excitement and meaning to your every day.  They feel more like preparation.

So go get ready already!  Because your next big adventure could be right around the corner.

 

 

 

Paying It Forward with Birthday Acts of Kindness

Greetings,  Dear Readers!  For my birthday this year, I decided to do something special.  Instead of simply focusing on me, I decided to do something nice for others.  I read about this concept of “birthday acts of kindness” on a blog called ScaleSimple last year and couldn’t wait to try it out myself.

After purchasing two bouquets of flowers and ten lottery tickets, I headed to the park.  And oh what a beautiful day it was!  A bit hot, but who is complaining when you live in Michigan.  We’ll take what we can get😉  My good friend agreed to meet me for the inaugural event.  We set off immediately, with only an hour to spare, since she was on her lunch break from work.

I immediately realized we had no plan, so I just jumped right in and started handing random people either a flower or a ticket.  Often we chose flowers for ladies and lotto tickets for guys, but not always.  We quickly got in the groove, often telling people it was their lucky day as we handed them a ticket or wishing them a nice day with a flower.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, as the blogger mentioned getting mixed responses from people.  But truly, about 90% of people were very happy to receive the free gift🙂  Only a few turned down the offer, mostly because they were in a hurry or had their hands full.  One guy was actually allergic to flowers, but very apologetic.  We even visited a retirement home briefly, which seemed to brighten the mood there.  A mother and her young daughter accepted the flowers like a treasure.

Before we knew it, we’d passed everything out, and by then, we were in such a groove that we wished we had even more to share!  I’d love to do this again and extend it even further.

If you’d like to try your own service project, here are some possible acts of kindness:

  • pass out flowers
  • give away lotto tickets
  • recycle
  • donate old clothing and other used items
  • pay for people’s parking meters
  • pay for someone’s coffee or lunch at the drive-thru
  • pick up litter in the area (We did a bit of that at the end!)

The list goes on and on!  I can’t speak for everyone, but for me, giving to others and seeing their happy faces was the best gift I could give myself on my birthday🙂

“You may be only one person in this world, but to one person at one time, you are the world.” –Anonymous

 

Get Your Zen On with Zentangle!

Greetings on this lovely Friday the 13th!  I’m sending some good vibes your way with some very relaxing artwork that I just made in a new art class– Intro to Zentangle.

Maybe you’ve heard of it.  Maybe you’ve even seen it printed on t-shirts or bags.  It’s taking the world by storm, so of course I decided I needed to see what all the buzz was about.

It’s the art form described as being for the non-artist.  Why?  Is it because it isn’t artistic or doesn’t require skill?  Well I guess it depends on how you define art and skill.  It was founded by a couple named Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas.  They wanted to practice art that was both creative and meditative but without all the rules and tools required of most other types of art.

Everything you need comes in a little drawstring pouch.  And here’s something to keep in mind.  One of the tools is NOT an eraser, because there are no mistakes, only opportunities.  Don’t you love it already?  The basic concepts involve focus, framing, creating a string, filling, shading, and signing your work at the end.  We learned just a few tangles, but there are many more and you can even come up with some of your own.

But the best part about zentangle is getting into the zone!  This goes along with coloring mandalas, which I mentioned in a previous post, so you can see why I like it🙂  It will be interesting to see how I can factor this into my own art.

Even if you aren’t an artist, you might want to give this a try.  It was designed for you😉  It’s a great way to practice mindfulness–focusing on the present moment.  Imagine what you can create if you put your mind to it and just relax…

Consider their motto: “Anything is possible…one stroke at a time!”

A House for Dreaming Big Dreams

collage, acrylic, ink

Greetings, My Lovelies🙂

Happy Almost-Friday!  I’ve decided to share with you another new art piece that I’m excited about.  This piece helped fuel my inspiration and basically makes me happy every time I look at it.  It opened doorways that allowed me to re-envision an ongoing art project that I put aside for quite some time.  Yata!

What I love about the technology age is that there has never been a better time to be an artist.  Why?  Because we have access to so many styles and tutorials at our fingertips.  No longer must one simply go to an expensive art school to learn traditionally.  There is certainly nothing wrong with going the traditional route, but in today’s fast-paced, modern world, not everyone has time or money for this.  Even if they do, everyone can benefit from additional education and opportunities for growth.

I learned this collage technique from artist nicoletta zanella in this video.  I encourage you to go online and find some art classes or web videos to watch.  Engage.  Be curious.  Take on a new challenge.  See where it takes you and how you can incorporate it into your own personal style.  And in the end, you may find that you’ve expanded your world and you can be more YOU.

Embracing Imperfection with Gyotaku and Cherry Blossoms

ink print

So as promised, here is the artwork I created at the Japanese art class.  The above fish ink painting is inspired by the Japanese art of printing fish known as gyotaku.  We used rubber fish, but typically artists print from the real thing!  The tradition may have started as a way for fishermen to record their catch.  It’s harder than it looks because you have to use just the right amount of ink and then press in all areas evenly.  But boy was it fun to paint a fish!

watercolor and ink

This next piece is considered a Japanese scroll painting of cherry blossoms.  I thought it was perfect for the season🙂  There’s actually an interesting story behind the process of creating this painting.  My friend and I attended this workshop together.  Both of us like watercolor AND controlling the outcome of our work.  But those two things don’t really go together.  The nature of watercolor supports spontaneity and embracing happy accidents.

Well, we finished our blossoms and couldn’t seem to go any further, although the next step was to take a clean, wet brush and paint over the surface to produce a beautiful, loose, watercolor effect.  Were we doing that?  No way!  But then I decided I needed to grow.  So I took a chance…a slightly calculated, slow, rhythmic, in-the-flow chance.  And wow, the world didn’t end and my painting didn’t get wrecked.  Under total surrender, the painted deepened in its value and aesthetic beauty all because I took a chance.  And you know what?  I looked over at my friend who appreciates control far more than I do.  And what is she doing?  She’s embracing water and freedom and lack of control like crazy!  And truthfully, it looked like a perfect storm on her paper for a few minutes.  We could not predict the outcome to save our lives.  BUT as the water and paint dried, there emerged these blossoms as if from a fire of smoke, water, and ashes.  Imperfect.  Beautiful.  Just like life.

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