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!”

The Power of Our Heart Vibrations

Let me just dive in! Our heart is more powerful than our brain. Did you know this? 60 times greater, according to the article “How to Change Our Self-Limiting Programs” on Uplift. Powerful stuff! Both organs vibrate and generate energy as part of the electromagnetic field that makes up our body. But the heart has a far greater amplitude. And with the heart, the vibes are always positive and far-reaching. So why not just follow these good vibrations?

Our brain is running unconscious programs that we learned since birth. These vibes can get in the way of our happiness…if we let them. By thinking negative thoughts, we attract negative energy into our lives. This may manifest as a negative event or illness. We may also attract negative people into our lives. People that are simply reflecting the same energy that we put out there. The more positive people and experiences are vibrating at a higher frequency. But how do we make that same leap?

It’s simple really. Just follow your heart. More specifically: follow your heart’s vibration. The best way to do this is to find your center. Be calm. Go inside yourself. Stay in the present moment. That is where you find your divine bliss. Ultimate connection. Creativity. Universal spirit. Love.

Stop analyzing, over-thinking, worrying. Just be. That’s when you get tuned into the right frequency. The heart frequency. It can take you places, manifest your dreams, and even heal you.

Seem too simple? Not convinced? Try this experiment by molecular biologist Bruce Lipton. Take two guitars tuned the same and pluck the A string on #1. Then watch #2, which also vibrates. All because they are tuned to the same frequency. We can train our brains to do the same by thinking positive thoughts. Or go a step further and follow the stronger and truer vibration of our hearts.

So start harmonizing your thoughts.  Tune in to a different, more positive broadcast. Change your story. Attract what you want out of life. Let the vibrations of your heart create your reality. Starting NOW.

“People will leave the old story when they see a new story working. Every individual who changes their own story, is changing the vibrational environment within which we all live.” –Bruce Lipton

 

Notan: Harmonizing Darks and Lights

I’ve been taking some art classes this week.  While studying composition, I came across the Japanese term, “notan” which literally means “dark-light.”  It’s a fascinating design concept centered around the idea of creating harmony in a drawing through value contrast.  When darks and lights are dynamically balanced, the result is a more pleasing work of art.

More specifically, dark shapes are placed against light shapes and light shapes are placed against dark shapes.  Relationships are formed through this interaction of dark and light.  Neither white nor black dominates.  Consider a portrait drawing done in grayscale.  Notice how the effect of the drawing improves when a dark background surrounds the lit part of the face and a light background surrounds the shadowed part of the face.

According to Dorr Bothwell’s book, Notan: The Dark-Light Principle of Design, the way that positive and negative space interact has meaning.  Both shape and background have equal importance.

This design principle can be used for all types of artwork including painting, pottery, and photography.  One of the simplest and most well-known representations of the concept of notan is the yin-yang symbol, which depicts the dual nature of the world and literally means, “dark-bright.”

Imagine your life in terms of notan.  How might you see the world differently?  Notice how the stars stand out in the night sky or how your shadow stands out on the wall.  The beauty of dark and light is all around us.  As artists, we must have the courage to draw it.  And in life, we must be willing to see it.

“Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.”   — Anne Frank

 

To learn more about the Japanese concept of white space, termed “yohaku,” see my post here.

 

Tidying Up = Letting Go = Inviting Miracles

A new year is all about a fresh start, right? Well, what better way to start off the year 2016 than by cleaning up around the house.  Sounds kind of boring, doesn’t it?  I thought so too, until I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.  Actually, my husband and I listened to it on audio. We both have a habit of holding onto our possessions, long after they cease being of value to us. But what good is it to be surrounded by so many things that you aren’t even sure which things you like and use and which things are just there simply because you can’t let go of them or, worse yet, forgot they even exist.

Ms. Kondo wrote this New York Times bestselling self-help book on tidying primarily for Japanese people who need to organize small living spaces, but the book has taken the world by storm and its popularity continues to grow.  Why?  Let me share some of the great tips and insights I learned from this book that changed the way I view cleaning and organizing. Don’t be surprised if you suddenly feel like tidying up your space too.  The best part is, if you tidy all at once now and really put your things in order, you’ll never have to tidy again. What could be more appealing than the idea of never having to spend time straightening up or decluttering again?

First things first. Know that you will come away from this experience  with more than just a tidy house.  This book promotes cleaning as a way of restoring balance to your life.  How cool is that?

Here are just some of the ways tidying up will affect your life:

–The moment you start, you reset your life.

–You discover what you were really meant to do in life.

–You surround yourself only with those things truly important to you.

–Letting go allows more good things to come into your life.

–You gain confidence in your decision-making ability.

–You become more zen.

–You can truly see what you have and appreciate it.

–Your health and vitality often improve (like a detox).

–You are forced to confront your choices, which is cathartic.

–Tidying can increase good fortune.

Tips

–If you tidy only a little each day, you’ll be tidying forever.

Apparently my mom had it right years ago when she had my sisters and I “overhaul” our basement/play room rather than just straighten it up.  But at such a young age, I couldn’t fully appreciate this concept.  To us, “overhaul” simply meant getting rid of some of our favorite toys (and they were all our favorites), never mind we were probably too old for some of them and didn’t play with half of what was down there.

–Ask if something truly brings you joy.

–Remember everything wants to be useful.

This means that if you are holding onto a vase that you don’t like because your Great Aunt Zelda who passed away gave it to you, but you never use it or take it out of the box, then it isn’t serving its purpose.  Give it away and let it “spark joy” for someone else.

–Realize that some items fulfill their purpose the moment you receive them or purchase them.

You know that sweater you bought that made your bad day better but ended up not looking that good on you?  It’s ok to discard it.

–Most items are kept based on an attachment to the past or anxiety about the future.  Keep only that which reflects and supports who you are today.

–If you discarded something useful, you can usually recover it or get over it.

–Own only what you love and need.

–Organizing is not the same as decluttering, so discard first and then organize what you have left.

–Declutter by category, not place.

–Best order of decluttering: clothes, then books, then papers, then misc.  Save mementos for last.

Feng shui is about living in accordance with nature, so put your house in order in a pleasing way that makes sense for your life.

Favorite quotes from this book:

“One theme underlying my method of tidying is transforming the home into a sacred space, a power spot filled with pure energy.”

“The lives of those who tidy thoroughly and completely, in a single shot, are without exception dramatically altered.”

Real World Application:

My husband and I put the KonMari method to the test.  Last weekend we started by cleaning out our closets, first realizing that we had clothes in several closets but with no apparent order whatsoever.  I would say between the two of us, we’ll probably discard at least 6 bags.  And we still have all the clothes we want and need, now arranged all together in a satisfying way. So all I can say is, what’s next?

As for you, I recommend you go out and get this book.  But don’t take it from me.  Try it for yourself.  If you want to get your life in order, start by getting your house in order.  See what happens.  Trust that by letting go, the release of energy will come back to you in a new and surprising way at just the right moment.  Maybe in the form of a miracle.

PS: Stay tuned for more results from me about this life-changing experience!

 

 

 

My Word for the Year: 2016

Happy new year!  It’s that time again.  No, not resolutions.  We have enough of those to keep us occupied and sometimes frazzled and guilt-ridden.  What I’m talking about is something that sets the tone for your year.  One word to inspire, motivate, and sometimes even surprise you.

Here’s a list of my past words:

2013: possibilities

2014: confidence

2015: change

It’s amazing how a single word can create an entire mindset for the year. I started out with something really open and positive and then moved towards words that would challenge me and help me grow, sometimes in ways that were not always comfortable.

My husband has also enjoyed choosing a word for himself each year.  Since he just graduated with two master’s degrees while working full-time, he decided his word for this year should be: reignite.  As in, he wants to reignite his hobbies, exercise routine, and friendships.  Sounds perfect!

As for me, I’m taking a different track this year.  My word is…

Miracles

To get me started, I’m going to focus on some mantras related to this word.  Two of them come from one of my favorite meditation CDs, Meditation Moment.

“I open myself up to miracles both large and small.”

“Miracles happen every day.”

The third mantra is from SARK and can be used when you find you need a little help from the universe.  Fill in the blank below with whatever you need.  I especially like to use this one when I’m trying to find a good parking spot 😉

“________ miracle find me now.”

(i.e. Parking miracle find me now.)

You’ll be amazed at the results of inviting miracles into your life.

But don’t stop there!  Come up with your own unique word for the year.  Something to excite you and get you all fired up.  A word that not only defines your entire year, but also each moment of each new day.

Go for it!

 

 

New Mantra: “Pursue Excellence. Ignore Success.”

The Atlas Slave was an unfinished work by Michaelangelo.

I’ve been a fan of Deepak Chopra ever since I read his book, The spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire: Harnessing the Infinite Power of Coincidence, which is all about synchronicity.
Earlier this year, I came across a great article, “Deepak Chopra: A Life of Fullfillment,” where Chopra talks all about success.  Given that he’s both a spiritual leader and a highly successful individual, I was excited to hear what he had to say on the subject.  As expected, he had many wise words.
 –
To start, here is some sage advice:
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“If you focus on success, you’ll have stress. But if you pursue excellence, success will be guaranteed.”  –Deepak Chopra
 –
To go along with that he  says, “Try hard and you will succeed.
 Try too hard and you will fail.”
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I think this is especially important for artists to remember, although anyone who is a perfectionist at heart or an over-achiever can benefit from these words.  Sometimes when we want something, we try so hard to get it that we end up not getting it.  It’s important to remember to relax, enjoy life, and take your time.  In other words, don’t take life too seriously!  😉  That doesn’t mean avoiding hard work or showing up every day for the task.  Rather it means, be kind to yourself if you have a down day or don’t complete as much as you hoped.
 
Chopra says, “Being locked up in your own mindset means being locked out of the world around you,” and as artists, that’s the last thing we want.
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If pursuing excellence sounds a little too much like pursuing perfection, you can look at it a different way and pursue fulfillment.
 
Here are some other strategies.
  • Create something of value that wasn’t there before.
  • Focus on:  “Creativity, imagination, insight, intuition, conscious choice-making, love, compassion, understanding…” rather than instant gratification.
  • Adopt a growth mindset and see opportunities rather than adversity.
  • Engage the “unfriendlies” and dissect their point of view until you find the inherent value.
  • Remember that true creativity requires an open mind and curiosity.
 “I define success as the following,” Chopra says. “No. 1, the progressive realization of worthy goals. No. 2, the ability to love and have compassion. No. 3, to be in touch with the creative source inside you. And No. 4, to ultimately move from success to significance.”

Dynamic Meditation

Those of you who know me know that I practice yoga, if not consistently. I also try to meditate.  Key word sometimes being “try.”  For a person who prides herself on her deep thoughts, this can be especially difficult! 😉  But for those of you in the same boat, fear not.  Let me introduce you to something different.  Something with a little more action in it.

Dynamic meditation isn’t a new concept, but it is new to me.  I recently read an article about it.  An Indian spiritual leader, Osho, taught this practice, which involves reaching a meditative state through dance.  But keep in mind that you can’t simply dance and consider it meditation.  When you are aware of yourself, it is exercise.  Still good, but not spiritual.

“Forget the dancer, the center of the ego; become the dance. That is the meditation. Dance so deeply that you forget completely that ‘you’ are dancing and begin to feel that you are the dance. The division must disappear; then it becomes a meditation.” —Osho

I decided to give it a try, following the guided meditation offered in the article.  The instructions suggest that you can listen to music while doing this exercise.  As a beginner, I was grateful for that!  The music that I chose was quite uplifting, so it was relatively easy to develop my own body rhythms in response to what I was hearing.  Even so, I still felt an awareness of self.  But after a while, I noticed my movements getting bigger, becoming more fluid and a bit more daring.  Afterwards, I felt both energized and calm.

“With a mad dance, you begin to be aware of a silent point within you…”

I’m not sure that I reached a constant state of silence, but I know I glimpsed moments of it.

According to Osho, meditation doesn’t necessarily need to be a spiritual practice, either.  He believed that it could be used for self-realization or as a way of healing the mind and body.

Maybe it was the music I chose, but I certainly felt more empowered after my meditative dance.  So, in a way, I healed myself.

But what about healing others through the dance?  Is it possible to send good vibrations out into the world simply through moving our bodies dynamically?  I don’t have the answer to that.  But given the recent events in Paris and other parts of the world, I think it is worth a try.  Rather than feeling sad, scared, or powerless about a situation you can’t control, why not get up and move.  Offer your healing energy to the world and see what happens.  Let’s dance, dance, dance our way to personal empowerment, freedom and world peace!

“Remember: life is a rhythm between day and night, summer and winter. It is a continuous rhythm. Never stop anywhere! Be moving! And the bigger the swing, the deeper your experience will be.”  —Osho

 

 

Finding Your Center

What if I told you there was a spot on Earth that marked the world’s center.  Would you want to go?

The axis mundi is known to be the world’s center point connecting sky and earth where all four directions meet.  There are actually many symbolic representations of this point including structures like lighthouses (no wonder I love them!) and natural formations like mountains.

I was lucky enough to encounter several of these on my recent trip to Italy.  One was at the Pantheon in Rome.  It has a concrete dome with a central opening (oculus) to the sky.  And what a view!  The height to the oculus measures the same as its diameter–142 ft.  And if you stand in the center underneath it and look up into the sky, you certainly feel connected to something higher.

Another axis mundi was seen on a hike in the Cinque Terre from Monterosso to Vernazza.  I couldn’t ignore the spot where the earth and especially the sea met the sky.  It was like I was staring at the edge of the world.  Or perhaps it was the center.  I could not tell, only that it was breathtaking.

A skyscraper can also serve as an axis mundi.  I just saw the movie The Walk about Philippe Petit’s walk between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.  I dare say he was experiencing a divine moment when he did that.

One of the greatest symbols of an axis mundi in literature, religion, and myth is the Cosmic Tree or Tree of Life.  Like all trees, this tree exists on three planes–heaven, earth, and underworld (where its roots are)–and symbolizes immortality.  It makes you look at trees just a little bit differently, doesn’t it?

I was also delighted to discover that the mandala represents an axis mundi.  No wonder they’re such a powerful tool for meditation and centering one’s self!

Even more mind-bending is the notion that the human body itself can serve as an axis mundi.  The Renaissance image of the Vitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci symbolizes the axis mundi.  Furthermore, many religions view the human body as a temple and prayer as a column from earth to heaven.  Do you see the connection?

Now, what if I told you the world’s center was right where you stand?  Strive to connect with heaven and earth in this moment.  Then you will find the center inside of you.

“At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want.” –Lao Tzu

“I want you to be everything that’s you, deep at the center of your being.” –Confucius

 

Trusting the Heart-Centered Voice Within

“…while I pondered, weak and weary…” –from The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe

When taking an unmarked path in life, sometimes it’s hard to know which way to go.  But remember, you always have an internal compass: your inner voice.  You might have to pause and listen quietly to hear it, but it’s always there, waiting.

I read something recently that suggested your inner voice is your career partner and manager.  It’s easy to fall into the trap of looking elsewhere for advice and forgetting to trust yourself, your resourcefulness, and your intuition.

The best way to find your inner voice is by meditating.  But I think there are other ways.  Any time you are doing something you love, you are connecting to self.

Lynn Newman wrote a post on Tiny Buddha where she talks about finding the greatest happiness and freedom while at meditation retreats. She talks about letting go and “juicing up [her] heart.”

She then lists 10 Simple Tips to Live Happy, Wild, and Free.  Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Write a list of simple things that bring you joy such as eating a juicy piece of fruit, watching the sun set or rise, taking a bubble bath, or drinking a cup of tea while reading a good book.  Make sure to engage in these activities several times a week.  Remember, it only takes a moment to experience a blissful state of mind!
  • Take a cold shower (especially rejuvenating in the summer)
  • Talk less and practice heart-centered listening
  • Enjoy nature and appreciate its timing.  This will help remind you that your path will lead you to the right place at the right time.  (Remember you are growing at this very moment!)
  • Affirm your authentic self (ex. I am enough, I am worthy, I am a success)

As we chug along in life, it’s easy to feel caught up in the day-to-day struggle to get ahead.  But when we stop struggling, we realize we can float.  Taking time to relax and let go helps us rejuvenate and reconnect with our inner core of strength.  And in that moment, when our inner voice speaks to us of our deepest desires, we know exactly what to do.

“Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakens.”– Carl Jung

 

 

 

 

 

Quote for the Day: Happiness

We all want to be happy.  The pursuit of happiness is mentioned in the Declaration of Independence.  Will Smith even starred in a movie about it.  But what does it really mean to be happy?

I recently watched a TED Talk that offered another model for this ideal.

“The happiness of pursuit”

Instead of always trying to accomplish something in order to find happiness, we might want to consider finding happiness as we try to accomplish something.

Shawn Achor says in his talk entitled The Happy Secret to Better Work, “Every time your brain has a success, you just changed the goalpost of what success looked like. You got good grades, now you have to get better grades, you got into a good school and after you get into a better one, you got a good job, now you have to get a better job, you hit your sales target, we’re going to change it. And if happiness is on the opposite side of success, your brain never gets there.”

So go after what you want.  But instead of viewing happiness as a destination, see if you can find happiness along the way.

 

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