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stepping out

Eleanor taking a d

I’d just sat down with my paints and a cup of water when Eleanor decided that she’s like a drink. This wasn’t my plan. It was much cuter.

As I read the wonderful comments from yesterday’s blog, I feel compelled to add something that I didn’t say in that post. The new opportunities that had presented themselves to those of us who “lit up” with the new ideas, were not exactly what we had imagined. In all cases, things were actually better than we had imagined but also different enough that our first reactions were sort of, “Really? Am I capable of doing this? Could this truly be possible? Should I go this way?”

It’s important to have a vision but just as important to hold it loosely so the magic of this Universe has a chance to present something beyond our wildest dreams. I’m past the point of thinking that my conscious mind can figure out how things will happen. As a matter of fact, I’ve come to the conclusion that if I can figure out how my life will unfold, then the plan/vision that I have is way too small. I’d rather trust. I’d rather have faith in the unseen part of myself that works with, through, and for me (and for all of us) at every moment of every day.

Our “work” in all of this is simply to imagine ourselves happily living life. When we do that, the “particulars” of what we need to fulfill our creative desires, will “light up” on our paths and then “our work” is to say, YES. As one step is presented and we take it, while dismissing the fearful thoughts that we’re being led down a dead-end path or that we’ll be dropped in the middle and left scrambling for our lives, another step lights up. It takes courage to step when we cannot see where the next step will take us, but it is what the adventure of life is all about, and to me, this is the essence Faith.

The human mind plans the way, but God//the Field of All Knowing/The Spirit of Love/Our Divine Self, directs the steps. Proverbs 16:9 (my translation)

This entry was posted on March 27, 2015. 7 Comments

imagine that!

This painting is a work in progress. I don't know where it is goin

This painting is a work in progress….I’ve never shared a painting here on the blog, with so little of it finished. I don’t know where it is going but I show up everyday and ask. The first day I found an antique tea-pot (on-line) and painting that, but not the flowers in the center. “The Path” showed up yesterday. Then the acorn fairy guide appeared, then the happy dragon (who just got glass scales this morning!)

Several months ago, a group that I am closely involved with gathered for a meal and at the end, we challenged each other to grow outside of our normal comfort zones. The wonder (and agony at times) of being with people who know us so well, is that they can see our strengths but can also see the places where we are not growing, where we might be hiding, and then point these out to us.

Almost everyone there committed to doing one new (and somewhat frightening) thing in the next six months. I could see that the people who really imagined themselves doing “that thing” were already a bit uncomfortable. I know that I was, but I also believed enough in the vision of that group, and what I felt was the love and goodwill there for me and for my growth, that I overroad that part of me that was saying, “They don’t know how hard this is to do. I don’t think that is a good idea. They don’t really know my path anyway. They are just being mean”, and I made my commitment.

The changes that have happened within this small group over the past 3 months have been astounding. One of the guys who was not actively seeking new work was called, apparently out of the blue, by a huge company in his field to take a job which involved being in front of the camera instead of behind it (more details on this to come!). His challenge had involved being in front of an audience.

I thought that I was moving in the direction of more writing but was “noticed” by the creative director of a large company and was encouraged to see myself as an artist and painter in a much more focused way. This change has brought me so much happiness that I literally cannot wait to get up in the morning to start painting.

As I was getting up this morning, a clear message came through and it was this, “Notice what happened when you just imagined yourself differently. All of you who truly committed to this change “lit up”….and I really mean that; you lit up. Now you are “visible” in an energetic sense, to those who are looking for you. I had begun to take an action on my committment, but the other man who I spoke of hadn’t yet done anything “on the outside”…he just imagined doing it.

We, and I certainly put myself in this category too, just cannot comprehend the power of our minds to bring us opportunities, but we don’t “light up” if our minds (and our mouths) are filled with gloomy scenarios, thoughts of failure, begging for help, or pleading with god to change us. We can change ourselves. We can see ourselves in a new light and when we see ourselves differently, we are seen differently.

 

The greatest achievement was at first and for a time a dream. The oak sleeps in the acorn, the bird waits in the egg, and in the highest vision of the soul a waking angel stirs. Dreams are the seedlings of realities.” ~ James Allen

 

teacher recognition day

Jack sharred his spaghetti with a grateful friend

Jack shared his spaghetti with a grateful friend

We’ve all heard the saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”, and I believe this. I’ve also come to see that we ourselves, are both the student and the teacher. When I really want an answer to any situation that seems to be troubling, or beyond my understanding, the answer is already there. The solution to the “problem” that I am struggling with isn’t hidden from my view, as a matter of fact, it is so clear that I don’t see it as a limiting personal/group belief that I’ve accepted as truth, I see it as “reality”.

Like many of us, I was raised in a home and religious tradition where divorce was considered wrong, bad, and a sin against god, so when I knew in my heart that my first marriage was over, and that I wanted a divorce, a part of me couldn’t accept this. If divorce was wrong/bad, and I got divorced (and even worse, it wouldn’t be  flung upon me so I could feel like an innocent victim) then it would make me wrong/bad. Just the thought that I wanted a divorce reinforced the idea that I was a bad, flawed,  and unspiritual person.

I began to have dreams that I was about to walk down the aisle to get married and as I stood in the back of the church, I’d realize that I didn’t have to do it and would feel elated until I also realized in my dream that I was already married, then I’d feel depressed. Night after night, year after year, I’d have this dream; a dream that tortured me, until I made the decision to get a divorce, and then I never had that dream again.

The teacher that I needed was coming through in my dreams, since I wouldn’t listen to her in my waking hours. She was showing me that I’d accepted a “rule” made up by some other person/group in some other age, as my rule and then I lived within the confines of that rule/cage: hating captivity but fearing the horrors of hell if I escaped. I also began to see that before I’d had the courage to get a divorce, I’d been one of the most judgemental and critical people regarding it. I looked down on those divorced ones as less than moral.

I can usually spot a limiting belief/rule/cage now by how I react to others. If I find myself being hyper-critical then “my teacher” is very aware and actively trying to say, “Look there Mary and see yourself.”  Our limiting beliefs are not hidden away in some dark recess of our minds or psyches. They are as plain and clear as our critical judgements about ourselves or others. When I am ready to see, I see.

It’s also important not to beat ourselves up when we finally do see these not-so-pretty sides to ourselves. We’ve suffered enough by not seeing ourselves clearly and projecting our garbage out on others. See it, own it, accept it and release it…and then, if you can try to smile at yourself…maybe do a little victory dance. Be easy. We are all learning, and if you are brave enough to face yourself, then you are a courageous being who deserves a little recognition from the teacher. Give yourself a gold star today!

 

cupcake Jeezum crow 2 (one of my new paintings)

Jeezum crow 2 (one of my new paintings) on MY ARTWORK PAGE

Late bloomers…what kind of flower is this?!

a new painting

a new painting for sale on MY ARTWORK PAGE

There was a segment on the program, Sunday Morning, yesterday that brought me to tears. It was entitled “Late Bloomers” and as Jack and I watched it, we both were filled with deep emotion. For me it felt like hope and an affirmation that life is truly meant to keep expanding, as we ourselves are.

For many years, I’d believed that the depth of our talents and creative abilities would surface and grow as we aged. It seemed like evidence of this was rare, but I still felt it, and it seemed to be connected to the way we perceived youth and beauty. I even wrote a paper about this, over 20 years ago, when I was a student at Harvard Divinity School. But at the same time, I was experiencing a huge inner struggle as I felt I’d lost my youthful appearance. I was 35 at the time.

When I was younger, I was obsessed with looking good and gaining the attention of the opposite sex….and I got quite a lot of it, but that began to change in my late 30’s and with that decline in attention, I experienced disorientation and a questioning of my value. “If I couldn’t attract a man, what good was I?”, was a question that, even though I don’t like admitting it, consumed a lot of my time.

Much of my creativity went into keeping my body in shape and trying to maintain a youthful appearance, and I felt there was a war of sorts going on inside as deeper and more meaningful parts of me were emerging and begging for some “air time”. I was fighting becoming “old”. I didn’t want to be unattractive (and as un-politically correct as that sounds, it was my belief that old was not pretty, at all) and did not believe that my inner self, talents, and abilities, were as attractive as my outer shell, which was now, to my horror, slipping away; sagging, bagging wrinkling, bulging, and greying.

But some part of me also hoped that there was something inside beyond my looks, something which was rich and wonderful and that glimmer of belief was like a golden thread that led me through a very necessary change from focusing on my outer self to allowing my inner self to emerge…and I like it…a lot.

Focusing on the body can become an unhealthy obsession, whether it is on our beauty, or even on our “health”. Eat right, exercise, sleep, do yoga, take the right vitamins, drink plenty of water…all of these things that we are told are “good” for us, can also make us to forget that we are so much more than bodies. How many times do we ask someone, “How are you?” and the answer is about health, the state of their physical bodies, or the “health” of one of their family members. Few people think to say, “I am a wonder!” or “I am opening up in a way that is delightful!”, in response to that question.

But it is a good question. How about answering, “I am growing, I am expanding, I am becoming aware of new thoughts and revelations that have only just been revealed to me.” We are more than our bodies, but where we focus is where we will be led. I want to honor my body but not worship it or make a Herculean effort to preserve it and prevent it from changing. I hope to hold it lovingly, let it go its way, and keep my focus on what I want to experience more of in this life: love, happiness, creativity, and the sense of wonder that comes with change and growth which is what this life is all about.

“When your ideas about yourself change, so does your experience.” Seth, from The Nature of Personal Reality

P.S. My ideas of beauty and youth have also changed as I have come, more and more to accept myself. I look at Judi Dench and Maggie Smith and think , “I love the way that those women live and look!” and this is, to me, a sign of my own growth.

walking blindly on the path..trusting the next step will be there if I don’t turn back

"ADVENTURE" for sale on MY ARTWORK PAGE

A new painting for sale on MY ARTWORK PAGE

I attended a workshop at the Highlights Foundation this past weekend. I’d originally signed up for it on what felt like a whim since I had never seriously considered writing children’s books, but something felt right about it. Part of my mind had already decided that this must be the Divine’s way of opening up a new path for me. “Maybe I’m meant to be a children’s book writer”, I thought. I liked the sound of that.

Then people who I’d told about the workshop suggested I think about illustrating as well and I was not as open to this idea, even arguing, “Illustrators have a different style than I do, I cannot see myself doing that…” I had a lot of reasons why this wouldn’t work for me but the week before the workshop, one of the faculty was looking at my website and emailed me asking if I’d like to speak with the Creative Director of Highlights while I was there. WOW, I thought, she must see something that she likes in my art. Maybe I am meant to be an illustrator too! OK.

I arrived at the workshop with two new paths beginning to stretch out in front of me. Since the paintings that I do are on wood, I had brought with me a large, heavy, canvas, bag with about 7 of them to show when the time was right. After everyone gathered, I spotted the faculty member who’d contacted me about my painting, talking with some of the other participants. I was sure she’d say something to me like, “Hello Mary, did you bring your artwork? I cannot wait to see it!” or some other equally enthusiastic response. But she did not seek me out. I waited, mingled, tried to not be over-anxious about “my work”, tried to remember that there were lots of people there too, but I started to feel deflated.

I finally introduced myself and she was very nice, informed me about the meeting she’d set up for me the next day, but said nothing about my art. I went to bed on Friday night with a mixture of anticipation, hope, and discouragement, all vying for my attention. It was a huge challenge tying to keep my mind from going to the scenario of seeing my work scrutinized with a pleasant, polite, and slightly uninterested, response the next day.

I knew what I had done. I’d planned a future and it didn’t appear to be working out the way that I’d imagined it, and now my over-tired, over-anxious, mind was scrambling for some sort of firm footing, even if that firm footing was not happy ground. The thought, “This was too good to be true”, was something I’d experienced before, and I felt like I was heading there again. Truly, a part of me wanted to run away; take my toys and go home, or take some drug and fall asleep so I could get relief….but I knew better…and in times like this, I just barely know better. All of the depressing and discouraging paths that seemed to be beckoning to me looked like little life rafts saying, “Take me. This way is easier. It might not be too exciting, but at least you’ll be safe.” But I didn’t want “safety” if it meant going backward and I knew this deep down. I just didn’t know where to go.

I also “knew” that the only problem was what my mind was telling me. I “knew” that I had the ability to change my gloomy, pessimistic thoughts, but I didn’t, in that moment, feel the truth of this. In that moment, I had to rely on what I know are spiritual truths: There is no problem unless I think there is one, everything is unfolding perfectly, and help is always available.

I decided to re-read the response from an email that I’d sent a friend earlier in the day. This woman is not only supportive emotionally, but she also loves my work. She articulated what it was about my painting and writing that made a difference to her, and her words “reminded” me of why I do what I do…And I began to say, to myself, alone in my little writing cabin, “This is happening for me….stay open…this is happening for me….trust…stay open…this is happening for me…”  and I fell asleep.

Waking up on Saturday morning, I felt like a new person. I still didn’t know how the day would unfold, if the Creative Director would have any positive to say about my artwork or not, but I had refocused. Meeting with the other writers and illustrators at breakfast that morning was a very different experience from the night before. I began to feel like I was on an adventure and when it came time to have my meeting with the Creative Director at 3 p.m. I was ready.

I pulled out my paintings and waited. The first word out of her mouth was, “Stunning!’

A flood of goosebumps shot through me. The next 15 minutes flew by. She offered some suggestions, not about how to change or improve my art, but about stepping into being an artist in a larger way. She pulled up the website of a very well-known artist who is pretty “out there” and said something like, “Why not consider a direction like this? You’re good enough.”

I was laughing inside when I left that meeting. A part of me was saying, “Well, you didn’t expect THAT did you, Mary?” No, I certainly did not. And now a new path has, indeed, opened up but I am not going to make it into a “career path” by over-thinking, over-planning, and trying to tweak it into a vision that makes sense to me. I am going to continue to trust that I will be shown, step by step, moment by moment, what to do. I am being called to trust in the larger part of me in a new way. I am ready.

“Security is mostly a superstition…Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing”. Helen Keller

 

 

 

All are welcomed here

our backyard with some welcomed guests enjoyi

our backyard with some welcomed guests enjoying their breakfast…we don’t have bird feeders, we just spread seeds and vegetables on the ground and watch in delight as an assortment of  critters show up

I used to dislike squirrels and be quite afraid of them. One day, my cousin reminded me that when we were little girls, a squirrel bit me. I then understood my feelings…but that didn’t change how I felt about squirrels; I still professed to dislike them, cringed when I talked about them, and told others the reason for my feelings. “My story” about squirrels became one of drama and past trauma. I’m not sure how interesting it was, but I liked to tell it.

One day, I realized what a foolish thing this was and decided to change. Why dislike a being who is such a part of my world and landscape? Why have a trauma story that doesn’t in any way serve me? Why “get a kick” out of having a phobia and shiver when someone mentioned squirrels, just to get attention? Suddenly, it seemed really dumb and so I changed it/me. I began to say that I liked squirrels and I began to like them….just like that.

There is so much talk about trying to understand our negative pasts so we can get free of them, but I don’t believe that this is necessary…..or even true. Sometimes finding out why we react the way that we do just makes our present, restricted, situation even more “legitimate”.  If I want to “argue for my limitations” I can do that and I can hold onto my trauma stories and keep myself from changing and growing.  If I truly want to be free of the negative past (or my conception of a negative past) then I can be, and I will open myself up to new ways of seeing, feeling and experiencing the world…and I will welcome all Life into my life.

 

 

A new perspective

A new friend to our yard (happily eating the carrots I put out today)

A new friend to our yard (happily eating the carrots I put out today)

One of the areas that Jack and I had the most conflict around was money. It seemed like every time we got into an argument, each of us was trying to convince the other how much we did and how underappreciated we felt. These arguments usually began as fairly reasonable discussions but soon deteriorated into, “I do this, this and this…and you never seem to notice or think that it is a big deal”, pissing contests…and nothing ever changed.

One day, we sat down together, looked at this unhappy pattern, and made a decision do something about it. We decided to tell each other what we noticed and appreciated about what the other one did without interjecting what we did. It was a challenge. At one point I felt like I was sitting in class, wiggling in my seat, with my hand raised, saying, “I also do this, this, and this, too..!” I wanted to be appreciated for the things that I thought were important so much so, that I almost wasn’t listening to Jack tell me about the things that he appreciated about me. He noticed the same pattern within himself.

We decided to make room for the, ” I want to tell you what I don’t think you are noticing about what I do and I am dying to tell you!” at the end of the “exercise”, but for the moment, we were only to tell and listen, to each other. At the end of this we both agreed that it had been the best discussion we’d ever had around money. But it went beyond money. Later in the day I thought about some of the things that I appreciated about Jack, and felt so much inner happiness. Is there any feeling more divine than genuine gratitude? A surprise feeling also popped up; I felt a new love and appreciation for myself.

When I was feeling unappreciated, angry, and resentful, those feelings informed my life…especially around money.  When I really let myself feel appreciation for Jack and for what he did, the feelings naturally spread out to me and my life…especially, but not exclusively around, money.

When I look for what someone (including myself) did wrong in the past, that is what I will see in their (and my) present.

To look backward for the source of current problems can lead you into the habit of seeking only negative episodes from your past, and prevent you from experiencing it as a source of pleasure, accomplishment, or success.” From the book by Jane Roberts, The Nature of Personal Reality.

 

bunnies are in my life in a new way these days!

bunnies are in my life in a new way these days!…one of my new paintings

 

A new visitor to our backyard

another new visitor to our backyard