Friday, 30 March 2012

Courage by Ginny Lennox

Since I began my love of photography, I have resisted learning a lot about the techniques involved in taking pictures. This is very unusual for me because teaching and learning are as much a part of me as is my name. But I knew that at least for awhile I just wanted to enjoy the process and learn by doing rather than by reading or being taught what to do. Last December I finally decided it was time to take a class on how to correctly take a picture. Let me be sure to say the teacher was excellent and very kind when discussing our pictures. Before the class I really liked the above picture. I liked the way the water sparkled and the way the waves curled. When I brought my picture to class to share, I learned that the sparkles were really blown out spots and that there was probably a better way to take this picture. Because I tend to be a perfectionist, this definitely changed the way I viewed the picture.

This Sunday for an online class I am taking, I was asked to choose a picture from my inspiration file for an assignment on Intuitive Photojournaling. As I was looking through my pictures, I was again drawn to the above picture and to the sparkles on the water. That was when I was reminded once again that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What may be a blown out spot to one person can be a sparkle to me. And that's ok! So no more worrying about techniques. For now it is enough to be outside with my camera, taking pictures, and enjoying each and every special moment!

What does the above post have to do with this month’s theme of courage? I think a lot. As a person who tends to follow the rules, it is often hard to be comfortable breaking them. But if I want to see my own individual idea of creativity grow that is exactly what I have to do and that takes confidence and courage. Courage comes in all sizes and shapes. When I think of someone who is courageous, I think of a soldier going to war, a policeman stopping a criminal, or a fireman rescuing a family. I think of a shy person speaking to a large group or a timid person learning to say no. For each of us courage may look or feel a little differently depending on what we are doing or where we are in life. As a person who is learning to be more comfortable with her own individual sense of creativity, it takes courage to say, “My picture may not follow the rules of photography but that’s ok. It still looks great to me!”

Ginny believes that each and every day is filled with special moments to be enjoyed and treasured. On her blog, Special Moments in Time she encourages everyone to recognize and celebrate their own special moments each day.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Be (You) by Aimee Cavenecia

Very little of what you think & do is actually you. Trust me on this. And if you don’t, test it out for yourself. Set a timer for every 30 minutes one day. When the timer goes off, write down EXACTLY what thought you were thinking when the timer went off, & write down what you were doing at that moment as well. You will be sadly surprised to see all of the thoughts that are based on programed or learned untruths, & how much time (or rather, life) is spent focusing on either work (for the sole purpose of making money) or guilt related busy-ness.

Don’t you want to free yourself of this? Aren’t you tired of being someone other than yourself?

You might ask: “What is being me?” or “What is being free?” or “What should I be doing if not working for money or doing things because I should be doing them?”

The first two questions are great, but the last one answers itself.

What Is Being Me?

Being you is beautiful. It’s when you don’t need to do anything, or be anything. It’s when you just know, without question. It’s when you follow your feet & your feet follow your heart (& your mind just tags along for the ride). It’s when you trust that you are supported. It’s when you feel so much love, that you can’t believe that much love is possible! It’s when you wake up in the morning free & empowered & relaxed. It’s when you are free to be! —- To put it simply; your beingness (not your doingness) is you being you. The way you love unconditionally is you being you. When you are silent & at peace, this is you being you. Those moments of freedom, simplicity & bliss are all you.

Now you have another question: “But what about when I’m enraged or angry, this is also me! Isn’t the me that isn’t at peace, or isn’t being love, or isn’t oneness or awareness me as well? What about when I am depressed & I am suddenly able to create great works of art, this is also me! What about when I have lost a loved one & I am in tears, this is also me! What about after I’ve been taken advantage of & I’m full of anger & resentment & fear, this is also me! -- No, that is you under the influence. I don’t argue that those are also beautiful states of humanness filled with emotion. I don’t argue that the contrast of those feelings or experiences bring a richness & a texture to life. I don’t argue that the contrast between painful experiences & enjoyable experiences lead us to a greater appreciation. I don’t argue that the terrible experiences in our lives make us stronger & (hopefully) wiser. I don’t argue this one bit. I’m in full agreement with you. But where I draw the line is by seeing that & telling you that, these are not pure states.

When I say they are not pure, I mean they are forced by outside influences. They were not created out of thin air, something brought them on, & that something was outside of you. The states that I talked about previously, when I described what it’s like to be you truly being yourself, those examples are of you in all of your pureness & wholeness, without anything extra. Without the influence of anything or anyone. —- Example: When was the last time you were completely enraged for no reason? When was the last time you felt cheated by nothing? Yet I can come up with numerous examples of when I smiled or even laughed for no reason at all. -- Do you understand the difference? Truly being yourself is unconditioned, while not being yourself is.

Everyday I get some sort of impression of someone who is suffering. It can either be from the media, or on the street, or from a friend or family member. The one thing they all have in common is that they are suffering over things that aren’t within them. They are suffering over things that have nothing to do with who they truly are. And they continue to carry these pangs or these burdens as if they have to -- & they don’t! Just as simply as they picked them up, they can let them go. But -- only if they can see that they are holding on to something that isn’t real.

What Is Being Free?

Being free is being fearless. Fearless from the guilt & the ties & the programmed way of being that you were raised to live with & live in. The ways that have been ingrained in you that you see as truth (because it’s what you have experienced or seen), but it’s just you playing a record. These songs (experiences, lessons, traumas, or habits) have been ingrained in you like a grove in a record, & unfortunately you can’t help but to play these tunes over & over again.

Like I said before, some of these songs built out of pain are beautiful. These dark experiences have made you beautiful & strong. But they are also painful to carry or play out repeatedly (be it in your head or in your life —- same thing). You are enslaved to these false ideas if you can’t stop playing their tune. They run automatically as a way of being & dominate your life & experience. It’s like being trapped in a vicious cycle.

Freedom is being free to choose. To start from a place of unconditional beingness, of unconditional love —- a place of nothingness. To be able to choose freely & live spontaneously in the moment is freedom. Having clarity, feeling at ease, being self-sufficient, experiencing wholeness, connectedness, love, joy, peace —- to be able to be these under any circumstance or situation is freedom. It’s power! And this power is who you are when you are just being —- you.

Do you want to try it? Do you want to create a radical change in your life? Do you want to unlearn what you have been taught? Do you want to unplug yourself from the outside & tune into what’s inside?

This can happen overnight. This can happen in an instant. This can be a spontaneous realization. But I’m not going to promise you that. I don’t think you or anyone else has any control over it. That sort of instant awareness is Grace. It can only be granted; not bought, not taught, not learned, & definitely not pushed to happen. You can only get it when it is given, & only Grace can give it. That being said, what I can promise you is a gradual uncovering of your own truth. Yes, your own truth. You will know truth when you hear it, or see it, because you will feel it. Not in an emotional sense, or in a dramatic sense, but in a heartfelt resonance sense. You’ll just know without question & you’ll never forget. You may fall back on your programmed automatic way of being from time to time, but you’ll never forget who you are.

[The blog text is an except from my new ebook, Revolutionary Being. It will be released in the spring of 2012.]

[Pssst! After putting together this blog post I found a really great video by Mooji that I feel ties in really well. Please give it a look for additional thoughts on this topic: VIDEO LINK ]

Aimee Cavenecia (also known as AimeeLovesYou) is an author & activist who is currently igniting a Bliss & Self-Mastery revolution through her weekly blog Sunday Is For Lovers. Aimee's life-work is to share her insights on Seeing, Loving & Being (SLB), as well teaching meditation to people globally via the internet.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

It's Okay by Nolwenn Petitbois

I am sharing this page with you because I feel like I was just the tool for the message. The channel so people could read these words. So people could know it is ok to feel whatever they feel. I wondered a lot if I should or should not share this with the World. The page isn’t pretty and people can think I am weird of saying that these words did not come directly from me. Maybe they do come from my Higher Self, my Inner full of Wisdom me. Maybe.

Courage is, for me, about letting go of what people could think of me, of what I do. Courage is the freedom to be myself, to stick to my values and to my beliefs. I used to rely a lot on others, to know how to think, how to act, until I realized I was just a copycat of what they wanted me to be and that it actually was not really me. I am learning that it really does not matter eventually because there will always be someone to think negatively, to judge my actions. And I am not responsible for others’ thoughts, only of my own (and it’s plenty already ;)).

It says:
It's ok..:
to be mad
to be sad
to wanna give up sometimes
to feel like today is the worst one in your life
to have big hope and small dreams
to scream at the top of your lungs just to LET it GO
to smile when you feel like breaking down
to join your hands in a prayer to Whoever would just listen to you
to cry and ask for help
It's ok to have and express whatever emotion pass through you
(it just means you're alive)
Nolwenn Petitbois is a Mixed Media artist who believes in the power of positive thinking and Gratitude. She has for mission to turn sorrow and negativity into something beautiful and meaningful. She loves taking photos of her everyday life to remember, she also is a foodista obsessed with Japanese cuisine. You can find her at Inner Voices, purchase some of her artworks in her shop Inner Worlds) and enjoy her videos on Youtube.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Take Courage on Your Hero’s Journey by Glenda Myles

"When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it." Henry Ford

I’m used to physical discomfort. After a car accident, my physical body was broken, bruised and traumatized. It has taken years to get it back into reasonable shape. I have given up on the idea that I will be the person that I was before the accident. It’s often like that in life changing events. There is your life before the event and your life after the event.

But that kind of discomfort is not the focus on my post today. Recently, my discomfort surrounds change and transformation. I am trying to change my life; to release my fears and thoughts of inadequacies that are holding me back, keeping me from living my best life. These are not external factors. It is all within my own mind. I am the only thing holding me back. Sometimes it takes external forces to force us to acknowledge it.

I have been feeling very uncomfortable these past few months, so much so that at times I wiggle in my seat. I can feel myself getting “antsy”. What’s going on that’s making me so uncomfortable? I’m scared. I worry. “What people will think. I’m going to fall flat on my face. Fail. People will think I am a fraud, that I’m not good enough.” I let that inner voice go through its spiel. Then I sit quietly. I connect with my own Truth. I take a deep breath. And I remember. I have nothing to fear. have been doing this work for a long time and I am very good at it. This I know. Everything is going to change, it always does. That’ s life. Change is inevitable. So, isn’t it better to control the direction of the change? To make it a change that brings into reality a life that you love to live?

We are all on our hero’s journey, whether we want to be or not. Some of us are just more aware than others. Two movies come to mind (both of which I recommend), Finding Joe and May I Be Frank. Finding Joe is about the Hero’s Journey and how all great stories regardless of culture or language are about this journey. It talks about the great work of Joseph Campbell and how we all can live our bliss. And May I Be Frank is a documentary of one man’s hero journey to transform his life not only on the physical plane but the emotional and spiritual planes as well. It centers on Frank Ferrante, a man that is transformed on many levels. It is a powerful story of hope and love.

Transformation and living our bliss takes courage. It takes diligent and persistent attention to our thoughts, words and actions. It is about constant vigilance to ensure that we don’t allow our egos or inner critics to get the better of us. Sometimes we must close our eyes, take a deep breath, and connect with our inner Truth. Then we must move forward regardless of the fear that we may be feeling.

Take courage.

Glenda at Myles Ahead Studio is a professional marketing strategist working to bring more creativity into business and make more ideas come to life.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

What if You Don't Know What Your Dream Is? by Andrea Schroeder

I get this question a lot.

And I think it's a lot less about "What if" and more about "Why don't I know what my dream is?" and probably more importantly "Where can I find my dream?".

If you don't have a dream and don't care about not having a dream - well then you probably aren't reading this anyway.

If you don't have a dream and you do wish you had one - I believe that wish for a dream is actually a sign that you do have a dream... it's just buried under some other stuff right now.

I'm going to share some possible scenarios of what could be happening here and some ideas for what to do with them:

Scenario 1: You know what your dream is, but you are scared to admit it to yourself or to others.

This is completely understandable! Having a dream is scary. Having a dream and going after it means everything could change. Having a dream and going after it means taking big risks. By not admitting that you have a dream, you can avoid all of this change and risk and uncomfortable stuff.

And yet - well, it's still uncomfortable, isn't it?

In avoiding change and risk you also avoid the joy of the dream come true. You avoid the adventure and excitement of the creative dream path. And mostly you avoid doing the thing you really want to be doing.

Your dream isn't a superficial thing. It's important. It comes from your heart and your soul. It's tied to your purpose for being here on this planet.

Avoid the dream and it will not go away. It will only grow more and more difficult to avoid.

But all that stuff you are avoiding? It's real too. And it's scary. Pretending it's not there is not a good plan.

What may work here: Admitting it very quietly by writing it in your journal. Start to give the dream just a little bit of space. You don't have to tell anyone else about it and you certainly don't have to do anything about it. Just give it some space to be and see what comes of that. Baby steps.

Scenario 2: You know what your dream is, but don't believe that you can have it, so it's kind of uncomfortable to think about it.

Awww. First I just want to give you a hug.

Everything I said above about your dream is true:

Your dream isn't a superficial thing. It's important. It comes from your heart and your soul. It's tied to your purpose for being here on this planet.

And also:

Avoid the dream and it will not go away. It will only grow more and more difficult to avoid.

That last part is even more true in this case. Your dream is really important and it is asking you to work through your fear that you don't deserve it or can't have it for some reason. It is asking you to believe.

What may work here: Asking "What if?" What if it was ok for me to pursue this dream? What If if was ok for me to have this dream? And some gentle journaling about deserving - What do I think I deserve? What would have to happen in order for me to believe I deserve more?

Forcing yourself to go after your dream won't be helpful here, working on changing your mind about what is possible for you will be helpful. Taking some slow baby steps towards your dreams may be helpful too - sometimes that "I don't think I can have it" starts to fade when it sees evidence that you really can have it.

Scenario 3: There is so much that you want to do, that you can't pick just one to identify as "your dream".

Well this is actually a fantastic situation to be in, even though it doesn't always feel like it. I really believe it's better to have too many ideas than too few - I always have waaaaaay more ideas and dreams than I can possibly work on.

Sometimes this "I have so much I want to do I can't commit to one thing" is just a way of sabotaging yourself, usually due to one of the fears mentioned above, so you may want to check those out and see if any of the ideas there feel like they may be helpful to you.

If that's not it, then what is happening here is a bottleneck. Too many ideas, too little time/resources and nothing can get through. You relieve the bottleneck by choosing some dreams to work on now and putting the other dreams aside for now.

If the thought of putting some dreams aside makes you freak out a little: look at what is really happening here - the bottleneck is essentially putting all of your dreams aside because none can get through.

If you focus on one or two dreams for now, and actually bring them to life, then it becomes much easier to go back to those other dreams and bring them to life as well. With each dream come true you become more experienced at bringing dreams to life and you open up new possibilities for how to bring your dreams to life.

But still, choosing can be hard.

What may work here: Asking yourself Which dreams am I most passionate about? can help to narrow it down. If you start to work on the dream that you are most passionate about - all of that passion can help to make it happen faster, so you can get back to the other dreams.

Or you can ask Which dreams feel the easiest to work on right now? which is, of course, the easier way to go. Pick the low hanging fruit. Start with the easy dreams and work your way up. It could be that nothing feels easy but something is bound to feel easier than the others.

It can be hard to put some dreams aside. I have a notebook that I put all of my ideas and dreams in. This way it doesn't feel like they are lost, they are waiting for their right time to be brought to life.

And sometimes, because creative dreams are magic, those dreams sitting in the notebook come true all on their own. Because they're been taken out of the bottleneck! Dreams stuck in a bottleneck tend to not come true.

Scenario 4: You really just don't know what your dream is:

Ask yourself: If I could have anything you want, what would it be? If you had no limits. None at all.

Where would you live? How would you live? What would you do? How would you spend your days? How would you feel? What kinds of hobbies would you have? What would your social life be life? Your romantic life? Your finances? Your health? Your creativity? Your spirituality?

Somewhere in all of that there must be something you dream of. Something you want to build in your world.

Your dreams are about so much more than wanting things to be different than they are. Your dreams are how you express your purpose and authenticity and uniqueness. Your dreams are healing. Your dreams can make a huge difference.

So there is is. Four possible reasons why you don't know what your dream is and what to do about it.

Does that answer this question for you? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

With a paintbrush in one hand & a glitter-gun in the other, Andrea Schroeder lovingly mentors men & women who want to lead creatively abundant lives — and do ‘impossible’ things, with ease & joy. Express the greatest parts of who YOU are, at

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Hold Up a Light by Meghan Genge

"If there is one thing that the faithful people of all deep and ancient creeds believe... it is that faith has no timbre and no strength unless... unless one lives it out publicly.// This does not mean jabbering about it incessantly, but neither does it mean denying that one follows a wild and precious soul life - one that helps to keep the lanterns lit high enough to see by, during dark times in one's own life and in the lives of others." Elena Avila, Woman Who Glows in the Dark

lamp post by megg

There are words that hold power over me. When I read them - especially when they are together - I always stop and take a breath. It's like my soul and my spirit remember something from so long ago, my mind has forgotten. It's as if the memories aren't actually mine, but part of a history I have inherited from generations long gone.

One of the first quotes I ever wrote down to taste again and again was a mix-up of an Audre Lorde quote: "For each of us as women, there is a dark place within where hidden and growing our true spirit rises...Within these deep places, each one of us holds an incredible reserve of creativity and power, of unexamined and unrecorded emotion and feeling. The woman's place of power within each of us is neither white nor surface; it is dark, it is ancient, and it is deep."

I remember feeling almost wicked just writing it down. It felt dangerous. I realise now that what I thought was danger was actually a deep connection between my truth and hers. Since then I have connected through time and space with many writers. You know the feeling: you read something that makes you gasp with recognition, and for one tiny moment you feel less alone. It is those moments of true and sacred that keep me reading and writing and collecting quotes.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because I have been blogging for long enough to know one thing for sure: when you are writing, be brave. When I am brave and blog what I am really truly thinking or feeling or longing for, I hear back from people who tell me that they connected to what wrote. When I am afraid and hold back that deep truth out of fear of showing too much, I miss an opportunity to connect. I miss the sacred.

The one thing that we can all do for each other is to keep our "lanterns lit high enough to see by." Please have the courage to say what wants to be said.

Let's show each other the way.

Megg is a writer, a seeker and a believer in magic.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Finding Your Voice by Susan Cadley

“Speak your mind even if your voice is shaking” Maggie Kuhns

Climbing the 12 foot angled ladder on wheels, I held on tightly to the hand rails as I balanced myself and reached deep into the stacked stock shelving searching for the right size, the right color. I would go to great heights to find what the customer was looking for at my first real job; working in a retail store in the men’s dress shirt department. I worked all holidays, kept the stock straight when it was quiet, and I rarely called in sick as I took this job seriously. When it came time for my first work review, I was very nervous, worried and wondering how my manager perceived me. When I read the all “average” ratings, my heart sank as I felt I had been giving it my all. At sixteen years old, I found a place deep with me that would not allow me to sign the form without commenting about the “average” rating. I was extremely shy in high school, and speaking up was a big deal. Very nervously I told my manager that I felt I went above and beyond for customers and even co-workers and that I deserved a higher rating is some areas of the evaluation. She paused and then said the magic words; “I know it took courage to speak your truth, and you are right. You do deserve a higher rating.” And so for me, thankfully, that experience burned into my brain as a reason to take a chance on being heard and seen.

Do you find that you often “bite your tongue” and “swallow your words” so you won’t “rock the boat”? If so, you may need a quick lesson in speaking your truth. Speaking your truth is not about lashing out at others or shaming someone on purpose but instead it is about clearly communicating how you feel, which is difficult for many people. Speaking your truth takes courage because you take a risk; you may or may not be heard. You may not be received well by someone else; they may not hear you or like what you have to say. But here’s the truth, it’s not about them, it’s about you being in integrity with your innermost voice, your soul.

The reasons why the inner voice gets quieted or lost are varied, but mostly stems from how we learned to handle conflict or express/not express our feelings as children. In some families, children are told not to cry, be quiet, or stop being angry. Or if there was chaos and conflict in the household, a child may decide to stay quiet because they are afraid of getting hurt. These early experiences mold how we do or don’t express ourselves in the future as adults.

The benefits to speaking up include increased self-esteem, relaxation in the body, and richer relationships. In order to begin this process, you must decide that you want to improve your communication skills. Then begin to notice bodily cues when you have an interaction with someone. You may have a feeling in the pit of your stomach, your jaw may tighten, or you clench your fists. Noticing is the first step. Next, decide to practice speaking your truth with someone safe who you know will not leave or ridicule you. This practice is like exercise; it takes repetition for this muscle to build. It may feel scary at first, expect that feeling to arise. Here is a quick three-step process to get you started:
  1. When _______ happened or happens
  2. I felt/feel________________
  3. I would like you to___________ or not____________
It’s clear, concise and to the point. If the receiver becomes defensive, go back to the three-step process and repeat yourself requesting to be heard.

The next time you wish you had said something to someone instead of swallowing your words, go back and use the three-step process. It’s never too late to speak your truth or begin learning to care for yourself, and your precious soul.

Susan is a Licensed Psychotherapist and Soul Coach and sole proprietor of Living From Within, LLC. Through counseling, coaching, creative workshops, book studies, and writing, Susan guides you to hear and live the messages of your soul.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

It’s in the Doing: 5 steps to Leaving Fear at the Door By Valarie Budayr

How many times in my life did I say, “ I want to write a symphony” or “One day I’m going to write a book.” Many I can assure you but each time I thought of the idea I had to clean the fridge, the closet, buff and polish the car, and make sure gourmet meals were put on the table so my children were sure to have a wide variety of food exposure. All of this extreme exhaustion because the items I wanted to do were huge and overwhelming. Both items were charted to be regrets and listed on my unaccomplished life goals.

“creativity takes courage”
henri matisse

Until I read the above quote by french artist Henri Matisse I thought creativity was a frenzy of inspiration. It’s only after understanding the element of courage in creativity that I discovered how planned out being creative is.So what did Henri do to create those incredible paintings that I hadn’t quite figured out ? It was when I delved into the world of Matisse that I came up with a few guidelines which have served me well over the years.

1. Make a Plan

When creating a painting, Matisse would always do a very light and rough sketch of his intended work. He knew how large or small it would be and from what perspective. I’m not a painter so I needed to find a tool which could sketch out my intended work, giving me a map to follow.

One of my favorite tools is a mind-map. Taking a large piece of paper, I draw a circle in the center of it labeling it with the name of my project. I then divide my project into major categories and task I’ll need to accomplish. I place each one of these categories inside a separate circle and connect them to the center circle with a spoke. Often, each major category circle has more precise details which I connect with a spoke naming the detail on the spoke thread.

It’s usually at this stage in the process that I spend a lot of creative time thinking about how I want the creation to come about. Tony Buzan is the father of the mind-map and has wonderful resources to learn about mind-mapping. You can make your map simple or very artistic and colorful. The idea is just to get your ideas down into a plan you can follow.

 2.    Make a Daily To-Do List

Now that you have a map about what you plan on creating. It’s time to make a to-do list for each bubble on your mind-map. once this to-do list of action items is finished, decide where you’ll begin and make a daily to-do list for the next week. At the end of the week create another to-do list. As you finish each item mark it off you list. Remember it may not be where you want it yet but you’ll make another pass around. The important thing is to keep creating and keep marking things off of your list.

3.    Plan your Day the Night Before

Before you go to bed on an index card write down what you will do tomorrow. Take a few moments to fully visualize yourself doing this. See yourself doing the things on the list. People who plan their day before they go to bed have a higher success rate of accomplishing these things than people who don’t make a before bed plan. Also, any issues that might come up with your creative process can often be solved while sleeping. It’s quite a normal event to wake up with an idea to move the project along or have a problem solved.

By planning your day the night before, you can start you day off running knowing exactly what you hope to accomplish.

4.    Take Action

Your planning phase is over. It’s time to get doing what you’ve planned and scheduled. Pick up your paint brush. Open the writing program on your computer. Sit down at the keyboard. Take a deep breath, count to 3 and go. Don’t worry about what comes out, just free form it for a few minutes. After you’ve worked out your creativity jitters with your warm-up move onto the first thing on your list.

Valarie Budayr is the founder of Audrey Press and author of the book The Fox Diaries: The Year the Foxes Came to our Garden. She is passionate about making kid’s books come alive and you can find her doing that on her popular blog and website, Jump into a Book. When she isn’t being bookie, she is very happily the mother of three uber creative children, married to a wonderfully patient man who has come to love yarn, and caretaker of one adored cat. Other creative interests are music, travel, knitting (a bonafide yarn harlot), and gardening. She loves living a daily creative practice, where even a good cup of coffee is art.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

The Power of Why by Helen Yee

This year I found myself short of time but still wanting to create vision cards to help me keep in touch with my intentions for the new year. While I saw these simple cards as a temporary solution, until I could dedicate time to find juicy and intuitive images to add power and insight to my intentions for the year, it has turned out to be something I might just leave as is.

I didn't want to just command myself to exercise, or drink more water, or compose, or practice. I wanted to infuse these ideas with something more meaningful to me, more motivating than the imperative "Do this!" I don't know about you, but somehow commands often arouse a deep-seated rebellious instinct in me, as if there were someone outside of myself telling me I "should" do this and that. To dig deeper I wanted to remind myself why I was making these choices.

Why? What is the deeper reason I am interested in this intention?

I simply followed each written intention with an arrow pointing to a powerful Why. Powerful to me, at least. My hope is that each day when I encounter these cards, tucked inside my journal as a book marker, I will reconnect with the essence of what I want create by choosing these actions.

If you find yourself losing steam on an intention or resolution, I invite you to find ways to reconnect with your initial desires. Why do you want to make this change in your life? You might find answers that help you make the little choices each day that point in the direction of those big "Why's."

Helen Yee is an improvising violinist, multi-instrumentalist and composer. Currently violinist for the eclectic string trio, Trio Tritticali she also performs on yangqin with Music From China. She considers the practice of improvisation in all its forms a profound teacher in art and in life.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Courage to See Our Swan Self by Amy Palko

Swan Moon
When I caught sight of them, I had to look twice. It's been so long since they were last here, that their wide white wings spread against the cornflower blue of a January sky took me quite by surprise. My heartbeat pulsed in time with the rhythmic rise and fall of their wings, and my gaze remained transfixed on their long extended necks, held with such perfect poise, gracefully seeking home.
The swans had returned.
I have always felt a really deep affinity with swans. The curl of the swan's neck as it swoops down to the curve of its wing is truly one of the most beautiful sights, don't you think? The way its bright orange beak contrasts with the black markings around its eye. The magnificent profusion of glossy ivory feather upon feather upon feather. The seemingly effortless glide of its movements from one side of the loch to the other. The noise of rushing air as it draws itself to full height and beats its wings as warning.
This is beauty in one of its purest forms, is it not?
And yet, I can't help but remember the story of The Ugly Duckling... Towards the end of that tale, long after the soft, downy, grey, cygnet feathers have transformed into long, elegant, white, swan feathers, the swan still sees itself as ugly. Still feels ashamed of its appearance. Still tries to hide for fear of being shamed for what it perceives as its intrinsic unattractiveness. So much so that, even when he meets the other swans and they recognize him as one of their own, one as beautiful, as graceful as they, he doesn't believe them.
Clarissa Pinkola Estes relates this experience to the inability to receive and accept compliments. She says:
There is probably no better or more reliable measure of whether a woman has spent time in ugly duckling status at some point or all throughout her life than her inability to digest a sincere compliment... If you say how lovely she is, or how beautiful her art is, or compliment anything else her soul took part in, inspired, or suffused, something in her mind says she is undeserving and you, the complimentor, are an idiot for thinking such a thing to begin with. Rather than understand that the beauty of her soul shines through when she is being herself, the woman changes the subject and effectively snatches nourishment away from the soul-self, which thrives on being acknowledged, on being seen. ~ Women Who Run With the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estes
The return of the swans has me thinking about all those cygnets that have transformed into full grown swans, those tender-hearted new birds who still see themselves as ugly ducklings, everyone but them recognizing their true beauty. And it calls me to think how many times we don't see ourselves all that clearly. How we have an idea of ourselves, a vision of how we appear in the world, and how rarely that idea, that vision connects with reality.
I'm thinking of all the times I have refused compliments. I mean, sure, we accept them on the surface with a small smile, a self-deprecating shrug, a moment of embarrassed silence, a mumbled thanks. But do we allow them to penetrate to our soul? Do we allow them to nourish that part of ourselves that 'thrives on being acknowledged, on being seen'?
Next time, let yourself be truly seen, acknowledged, appreciated, complimented. Let it sink deep into your skin and soak into your soul. Let it nourish your swan-self.
Here are some of my favourite swan photographs to help you visualize your swan-self...
The Perfect Swan
Swan Silhouette
Angel's Wings
Winter Swans
Swan Reflection

A true lover of stories, Amy Palko spends her days reading, writing, knitting and dreaming… well, that is when she's not being kept busy home-educating her three kids! She is the creatrix of Virgins & Lovers: Ancient Wisdom for the Modern Goddess, exploring goddess myths and moon cycles through story, journalling, visualisation and creative exercise.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Courage by Alli Vainshtein

I have decided. I am a courageous woman. This is how I define myself. This is who I am. This is how I live my life.

I used to think courage was the life of a martyr. It was living for everyone that wasn't me. It was a way of avoiding myself, disassociating from my own pain, in the name of self-sacrifice. I wasn't genuine. I didn't know my own heart. Every day I moved farther from my soul. I did bold and crazy things without fear. I picked up every hitchhiker I saw by the side of the road. I helped homeless people find themselves, find jobs, and make a new life for themselves. I helped to open homeless shelters and battered women's shelters. I felt proud of myself for doing things to help others. I burned the candle at both ends suddenly, there was nothing left but ashes.

I crashed and burned. Like a phoenix, I remade myself, I was reborn, I recreated my world, my reality and made a new life. This was my fearless life.

As I get older, I am learning that it takes more courage to look within, get to know myself, listen to my intuition, deal with my own fears and my own problems, rather than the problems of others. I no longer avoid myself. I derive my courage from my own heart, my own believes, visions, and dreams. I have found a greater courage in visualizing the solution to the problem, and bringing it to life. I guess as I get older, I have learned to conserve energy, work smarter, and connect with the energy of the universe in a new way.

Have the courage to be yourself. It is so much fun.

Alli Vainshtein is a flexibly stubborn intellectual dreamer, aspiring to be a midwife of creativity. 

Friday, 2 March 2012

Brave by Kelly Besecke

"Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way." - E. L. Doctorow
I had to start off with that quote because it's the only way to be honest about my story. It's too easy, with the conventions of narrative and memoir, to say, "I quit my career to pursue a creative life" or "I decided to move across the country and start a freelancing business" or "I decided that I would work part time for clients and part time on my own writing"--as if I had some kind of plan, as if these "decisions" were conscious conclusions born of logical analysis and practical reason rather than the unanticipated outcomes of inner prodding, sudden intuition, and continual experimentation.

The truth is messy, and E. L. Doctorow's quote captures it perfectly. It's an inspiring quote--it means you don't have to have a plan, you don't have to be able to see that far into your own future to be able to move forward. And it's a daunting quote. As we all know if we've ever driven at night in the fog--perhaps on unfamiliar roads, perhaps through the mountains--it's stressful. You have to be on high alert at every moment, paying close attention, all your senses at the ready to spot the truck that suddenly appears out of nowhere and the turn in the road that could either take you where you want to go or spin you off deeper into the fog.

In 2009, I left my stable career as a college professor and moved away from Ohio, where I had lived for six years. I had no plan. I had only a little savings. What I had were vague ideas. I had been thinking about this change for nearly four years, and I had devoted a lot of those four years to "What am I going to do?" in both its panicky and its practical forms. I had a sense that writing and editing might be good directions for me to go, and also that some kind of part-time or non-career-oriented ("working in a bookstore") job might make sense, too. And that's what I had: no plan, but a set of ideas that felt right.

Now, in 2012, I live in Austin, Texas, where part of my work is freelance editing and writing for clients, and part it is writing my first book, which I sold a couple of months ago to an excellent publisher for very little money. For the three years between then and now, I've been driving through the fog at night. Now the sun is coming up, but the fog hasn't dissipated--or some other metaphor to say that I'm not, at the moment, in a state of high alert and abject terror, but I am still in transition. I still don't know just where I'm headed. I still have ideas.

And so finally I come to the real topic of this post: Courage. Confidence. Bravery. Throughout this journey, kind people have sometimes told me that they think I'm brave. In response, I make my usual joke about the fine line between bravery and foolishness--or maybe I try to explain that I felt like I had no choice; that this was the only way forward for me. But I like hearing them call me brave, and I take it in. It's good for me--a heroic version of my story to counter the sense of bewildered scrambling that's my usual go-to.

This month, "brave" came together for me. Jamie Ridler, the owner of this blog, encouraged contributors to write about courage. Joe, a colleague from my professor days, visited Austin and told me over crepes that it was incredibly brave to break free from academia's "find a job and retire there" culture, to think about what makes me happy, and to act on it.

And then what made it all click: two friends independently reframed the meaning of brave for me. In an e-mail message, Erika told me, "Your commitment to being who you are even when you have doubts, concerns, etc. is what real confidence looks like. Sounds crazy, I know, but the confident ones stay true to themselves even when doubt is present." Colleen said, "People admire you for being true to yourself, even when it is hard. For expressing your feelings, even when there are tears. For saying what is on your mind, and for thinking deeply about your life and what it means."

All this, and Erika's and Colleen's words especially, have made me rethink brave. They've made me rethink insecure, too. Usually, when people say "brave," "courageous," or "confident," I picture some kind of Prince Valiant, dauntlessly going forward with his chest out and his mind clear, certain in his every action and decisive in his opinions. Or maybe I picture a runway model, poised and commanding: "You will admire me." But that's not what "brave" is. That's not even what "confident" is. Not for me, not now.

Years ago, at her PhD defense, my sister Leslie took the opportunity to thank the many people who had helped her along the way. I remember her thanking our parents for their love and support and then adding, with her wry smile, "I just thought of this--I'd also like to thank my parents for a certain stubbornness that I think has served me well in graduate school."

I think that for me, that "certain stubbornness"--a family trait whose friendly face is perseverance, dedication, focus, and commitment--is what brave looks like. The kind of brave I am, the kind of confident I am, comes with a variety-pack of fear, including insecurity, uneasiness, terror, worry, hypervigilance, panic, self-consciousness, and fun-filled images of "old, sick, alone, and broke"--or worse, "burden to my family."

But I'm stubborn. I stick with it anyway. I have an inner pull toward authenticity that won't let go; I'd disappear without it. The path of courage, of confidence, of bravery, for me, isn't about going forward fearlessly. It's about going forward stubbornly--continually returning to the path, continually finding new ways to return to it in the face of life's obstacles. I just have to, so I do it. I find a way.

Brave isn't what you feel--it's what you do. You feel fear, you experience doubt, and you pay attention to what they tell you. But fear and doubt don't run the show. You do. You're true to who you are, and you do what you know to be right for you. You drive through the fog at night because the road calls you. You're yourself--your whole self. And you're brave.

Kelly Besecke writes about spiritual meaning, progressive religion, and authentic living. Her first book, You Can't Put God in a Box: A Thoughtful Spirituality for a Rational Age, will be out in 2013. Kelly is a dreamer, a thinker, and an incurable idealist who loves singer-songwriter music, impressionism, and every dog she's ever met.