When we find a place in the world to be ourselves and let everything else go for a while we are truly fortunate. My place is the sea.The last few days have been blissful- a time to wander and explore. To build memories with close family and discover even more of the natural wonders and people around me. Magically all this time my mind is working in the background to replace my negative learned behaviour with positive experiences that will continue my journey to better health.
Neuroscience assures me that in future when my brain finds itself in situations that mirror these times my reactions will not be stress, panic and freezing helplessly on the spot. Let me share an example, a sudden crowd of people around some rocks on the beach automatically triggers my ‘fear, fight, flight’ response. My instinct defaults to, ‘go as quickly as possible in the opposite direction- encounters with strangers are painful and embarrassing! ‘. Fortunately now my most recent memory of a crowd is : of the sun warming my skin, the smell of the sea and the sound of waves crashing on the beach. This added to the story behind the crowd- of ‘the Blue Pool’ where locals follow tradition to jump into its clear, deep water just as they have for generations. Then there is the story of the lady who told us about this tradition… All of a sudden my respons to a crowd is more positive.
The words of a long forgotten tutor suddenly come to mind. As he finished a mind bending explanation of chemical titration equations which at the end of a long laboratory session had once again left me frustrated and dispondent . He would scribble quickly on the page, rearrange my result figures and then triumphantly declare, “There, you see? QED!” At the time I never thought of his calculation method as Qite Easily Done. However time and life experience perhaps brings true understanding of his comment. Maybe his real meaning was, ” Yes I know it is difficult, but keep going, keep practicing and eventually it will become second nature!” Why do humans never say what they really mean?! So then, keep going to the beach, keep making good memories and eventually experiences will become positive. Perhaps even one day …QED!
Walks are my sanctuary during good times and bad. Sometimes, on rare and wonderful occasions an onrdinary morning for no particular reason turns into a special day.
This begins with a tingle of expectation as the glorious serindipity of small things coming together hits me. What does that mean? Simply that I will spot a beautiful flower and notice it’s stunning beauty. Then I will notice why: it is a’colourwheel’ contrast to it’s surroundings meaning of course that it is displayed to its absolute best.And all of course by chance?! On such days it is as if the senses are all on overtime and an inexplicable feeling of oneness with nature -a peaceful ‘knowingness’ almost that I am in collaboration with the universe and I am in on all it’s precious secrets.
Too much? Maybe, but I get the sense that there is so much in our world that normally we are unaware of as we charge almost blindfolded through the day. An extra dimension that in our business we just don’t see. There are so many unacknowledged truths that could make living so much easier, if we could take the time to experience it. How? If you don’t already do this try it- stop for a moment- breath in (… yes and out please) –just where you are stand perfectly still and stare. I promise the blinkers of pressure and schedules will drop revealing the beauty in the street or the view you can see from the office window. Escape outside. Let the delicious sensations of the breeze brush your face. Listen for a bird and allow its song to shut out the usual drone of the traffic. What is it telling you in that one moment? Not the past, or the future but now- for this is where life is lived.
Learning to live in the moment is something that I have become acutely aware of lately- the discipline of thinking predominantly about what is happening now,not the future and certainly not the past. This is a work in progress but has been liberating and rewarding, and yes, making me healthier and happier!
This is easiest for me to do in my photography. Where ever I am ‘looking’ for a photo opportunity focuses my senses:on smell; colour and tone; sound and perspective. Those who know me will be aware that I spend my walks peering into flowers and crouching on the ground to get a better view. The thing is this wonderful world is even more incredible the closer we really look!
The mind however is a peculiar beast and in my case completely omitted creative practice from the present moment process. That is until references to artistic freedom – creative living in the moment- began to crop up everywhere. Psychologists call it ‘selective attention’ and the lay people among us prefer the ‘red car syndrome’ (you know- buy a red car and suddenly there seem to be red cars everywhere because you n
otice them more). Whichever- it has convinced me to take risks and go with serendipitous ‘mistakes’ and chance happenings in my painting rather than doggedly sticking to the original plan at the cost of originality. I am naturally stubborn and resistant to change so it has taken much time and many hard knocks to persuade me to trust in something other than myself. Photography seems to have helped me to accept this process as I naturally look for strange angles and quirky shots. My husband calls them ‘Maggie pictures’! Anyhow- here is to artistic freedom and being brave enough to embrace it … and show the results 😉
Zoom in and take a close peek at the snail.
I love close ups of spider webs.pictures in puddles.
Nagotiating life’s twists and turns
Picture the scene- the day after returning from a wonderful relaxing holiday. Which way do you turn? What do you do first when there is a pile of unattended mail, holiday clutter and perhaps even a heap of laundry the size of a small mountain, all crying for attention? What is worse my head is buzzing with thoughts and my sketch book is quivering with anticipation willing me to capture up all of my germinating ideas before they fade. Ideas are nurtured by undivided attention and beginning to sprout during the time away but die too quickly if we neglect and smother them under the chores of daily life. The thought occurs to me that life often gets in the way of me. Too easily I become focused on tasks necessary to keep self and family going and I forget to nurture the spiritual part life- my creativity. However it seems increasingly important to me that I achieve a balance. It is my spiritual awareness that brings contentment to my overstressed and sometimes disillusioned sense of being. Without it I feel and act as an incomplete person not grounded and very grumpy.As a typical woman any time ” for me” brings a sense of guilt but without it I am a bit of a monster like the diva in the snickers advert .
So my post holiday resolution is… to stop for a while each day, breathe and be aware of the beauty and life around me.
If this all seems a bit ‘tree huggish’ let me explain what I mean by:
Spirituality- the gut feeling I have deep down that acknowledges the connection I need to make to something other than my own desires for my life to have meaning.
Grounding- my sense of right and my ‘ base line’
Gosh… recently life has been a whirlwind.The more I think if it the more I can compare myself to poor old Dorothy ( but please no, not the pig tails and cute dress) ! Life has been my tornado spinning me round and round and finally depositing me somewhat bemused at the start of a journey down my equivalent to the yellow brick road. I have stared off with a purpose and met friends along the way… You get the picture I imagine. Well, there I go skipping merrily along until part way in I run out of the initial excitement that has propelled me thus far. What do I do?
I have two choices:
- Return to my default habits, convince myself that my dreams are unrealistic and stop
- Find strategies to carry on, fight my doubts and lack of self belief and hang in there until the moment passes. Then I can carry on making myself happy and fulfilled doing what I love best- dwelling in possibility!
As I am still posting I hope it is obvious which choice I made!
During a conversation with my husband yesterday I was reminded again that nothing beats quality time absorbing creativity from what is around. Just to ‘be’ and let it all wash over me. As we spent time talking in the carparks of a well known fast food chain this stunning animal emerged tentatively from a bush. We were surprised by its boldness and calm demeanour. Mr fox was definitely in charge of the moment as he stared straight at us before trotting off unperturbed.
Nature was once again leaving its unique mark on me. The fleeting few seconds when that beautiful creature locked its’ searching eyes on us was quite magical. It remains with me as a kind of visual soothing medicine. Much as I crave painting and writing, for me it is not the outcome that I value as much as the process to get there. Some times the thought process takes priority over painting especially during times of low energy. I have read that creative energy peaks and ebbs sometimes for many reasons. For me it is important to listen to this, respect it and just be, perhaps practice mindfulness or concentrate on experiencing nature around me until I feel recharged. What in the end recharges me? There is no telling. It could be rest, time, poetry or indeed a passing fox taking me back to rejoin the journey just like Dorothy on her way to find the wizard of Oz.
Funny how often good ideas come to us in the strangest of places! This week while my walk included clambering and slipping over seaweed at a 45 degree angle I realised a profound comparison to my new fledgling creative journey. Ok if you insist on the science, walking increases the flow of oxygen to the brain so it is obvious that I would think more clearly while exercising. However inspite of my ‘ inner scientist’ screaming practical answers from my past I prefer the perhaps more romantic notion that while rambeling we are reconnecting with nature and discovering our instinctive links to the wild. I suspect that both theories are essential ingredients in the mix .
As I stumbled ungracefully along the newly exposed rock pools instead of taking the sensible but dull grass track to the beach, I began to examine the choices that had lead me along this precarious route. That was simple, a life long attraction to guddling about at low tide looking for crabs and starfish first as a child and then with my daughter too. To me it was the only way to go. My dog Angus and I plodded diligently along occasionally looking up to those on the easy route. Invariably I questioned my judgement of bringing us this way and thought of abandoning the adventure. My companion bounced along so I did what I could to follow. Really this was in deed like my new creative path: choosing not to follow convention and so risking justifiable criticism and questions from others and full of self doubt and thoughts of giving up. I can see my goal ahead and if I persist with courage and conviction inch by inch I will reach my goal. The path will take me a different way and bring rewards that may remain unseen by the majority but to me are a reward that makes the little trod path worth taking… Then I had to stop thinking my brain hurt and the guilt ‘gremlin’ * was asking me what on earth I had had for breakfast!
As I struggled to ignore said gremlin a lovely thing happened. I found my reward in a beautiful patch of rock where the layers had been partially eroded making beautiful sweeping curves. Of course these immediately transferred to the virtual canvas in my brain, taking with them the spectacular colours and textures around me.
Reward indeed for the rest of our trip was filled with seeds of ideas to photo and cram into my brain in the hope that they would germinate on my canvas at home. The pleasure and contentment was immense.
Now to see if the idea works….
* you may be familiar with the ‘gremlin ‘ by another name such as self doubt or lack of confidence. He has been the subject of many online creative community discussions and is responsible for the postponment or abandonment of artistic projects and frequently needs support to be banished.Many friends in the meantal health community call him a parrot sitting on my shoulder, whispering in my ear that I cannot achieve what I wish to. Some give him a name, draw him, humorise him and most importantly acknowledge him for what he is – an untruth. However you do it, banish that gremlin!