Living Life Dangerously

When things change a strange thing happens, we have a tendency to rise to the occasion and grow more than we would have if we had maintained stasis.  In business that's called a challenging assignment, in life it can be called shit happens but it can also be a conscious decision.

When circumstances make challenging things happen it's not unusual to attempt to prevent such circumstances from happening again.  The problem is, that can be boring as hell. To me life is best when unpredictable, probably because it calls out my creativity and gets me dreaming.  The thing is, I want to be in that creative space, but I no longer want it to be caused by adversity.  Simultaneously, its apparent to me that being safe sucks even and especially because it seems like the right thing to do.

I have spent the last 30 months working hard to get secure just to be overwhelmed by the desire to get risky.  It doesn't matter what...I could quit my job and take off, cut or color my hair, the bottom-line is that I need change. It's not the kind of change that happens to me, but through and as me.

Life is change and that's risky.  Gandhi admonished us to be the change we wish to see in the world. And while I'm pretty sure he meant, be the peace, be the love, be the hope...I want to be the crazy dreamer, silly fool, wild woman whom I almost forgot.

What is crazy and wild these days looks much different than in my past.  It's not necessarily to throw caution to the wind, but to whole-heartedly enjoy living life to the fullest, and that is dangerous only when we're worried about the consequences.  I've lived long enough to know these too will change. If that resonates for you, Dream On!



Redefining the Comfort Zone

Oftentimes my cartoons for the Whole Living Journal are based on the season, so drawing a summer camp cartoon made sense for this issue. But as with anything I do, my cartoons are usually plastered with symbolism that I love to scry through to find more and more meaning.


The symbols in this cartoon took me to a lot of places I had already traveled. Apparently I needed a few reminders. So I started with the obvious, that the comfort zone is just another name for what we think we know, which isn't always comfortable, accurate, or fun. It is pitched like a tent in the lessons of childhood.

"Okay, cute." I thought of the tent symbol, but I was certain there were more symbols in the cartoon, so I kept looking. Quickly the tent became the mind, and the two children inside represented the right and left thinking. I took a moment to add a little more to my drawing just to see it better. 

The result confused me: 


The drawing showed the reverse of what I expected.  I typically associate the right brain with imaginings outside the comfort zone, while I usually think of the left brain as the fortress of rules built to protect us from the unknown.  The right side was worrying and the left side was accepting.

When I allowed for different interpretations of "right" and "left", I could see that it often seems "right" to exercise caution, even doubt, in order to make sure I am being safe about what I do.  Then I could see what was "left":  No matter how well I plan and wait to take action until I'm sure, change from beyond the comfort zone is inevitable. Even so, comfort zones are fairly indestructible.

So instead of being about getting out of the comfort zone or trying to dismantle it, this cartoon seems to be all about flipping its negative bent and using its imaginative ability toward something more positive.  We can change the assumption that unforeseen circumstances can cause difficulties if we are not prepared, and practice using our comfort zones to invent rather than prevent.  When we imagine in this way the comfort zone takes on a whole new meaning. 

A final look at the cartoon symbols affirms that even in the dark of night, surrounded by the unknown, there is a light within which will help us see, and a reflection of the day to come.  It is not change we need to challenge, but the challenge of change that is ours to accept and fully appreciate each the moment.  Imagine that!

Nothing changes, 'cept us!
Be peace-full.
Pic;)







Rainbow Bridge Prayer of St Francis


I never really thought much about how a friar in the Middle Ages got the idea that we could, at our best, be instruments of peace. Meditating on his prayer I understand how the patron saint of animals may have been inspired. I found inspiration in these words for how to let go. Having been tended to and consoled so long by my pet, it is upon me to be an instrument of peace for him. This is the toughest, most selfless decision pet lovers ever make. For the pets and all those who have also loved and learned, I put this together using images from Pixabay and my own collection, set to the prayer as sung by Sarah McLauchlin.  https://flipagram.com/f/pdu350T20Z

The Freedom of Forgiveness


Recently, I received some unexpected news that was going to have a significant impact on my quality of life.  My first reaction felt strange.   
There was a big gap in place of the expectation of how things were supposed to be which I didn't quite understand. 

A friend gave me a tiny piece of paper with this inscription: I forgive you for not being the way I wanted you to be.  I forgive you and I set you free.  She thought it might help me understand what was going on.

What really caught my attention was the last sentence, 'I forgive you and I set you free'. For while my friend was encouraging me to forgive, she also was encouraging me to not give up and make sure I stood up for myself.

So what did it mean to set this other person free?  I could acknowledge the expectations I had of what was the right thing to do had rarely been the same as the way this other person saw it.  Still I hadn't allowed myself to think too much about how my expectations of how to deal with those differences were limiting her and myself. I kept trying to make things work, she did not.  We were at a stale mate.

Forgiveness is Acceptance


Over time I've learned that forgiveness (aka acceptance) is the way to be free of grieving the disappointment of having expectations.  The most important part of any expectation is to include the possibility of things being different.  

It's not that we should expect to be disappointed, but to allow for change, because resistance to those inevitable differences comes with its fair share of grief.  It's not that we should forget but learn from our mistakes as well as successes, and develop new goals for ensuring our well-being. It's not that we then become subject to the expectations of others, but free to change the game plan by and for ourselves. 

Remembering to allow for change helps expectations be goals rather than disappointments; and each turn of event another step toward personal growth and development rather than a set-back. Sometimes things do feel permanent and irreversible, that's probably the most important time to allow for change...but also not expect it.   

When in Doubt, Look Within


There's really nothing we can do outside the sphere of own experience to change or affect the exterior world.  In truth, the world we see is just that.  So when it doesn't appear to be working right, it's time to change how we see and imagine things to be.

The Circle of Fire Prayer written by Miguel Ruiz, is a beautiful intention to live in harmony with others and all of creation, and it specifically states: with no expectations.  Apparently despite your best intentions, things don't always turn out as planned...who knew!?

I knew expectations were just stories we create to express why things should happen in a certain way. I also knew expectations could become disappointments due to differences with the story of another. Knowing that, I should have known better, but I still had plenty of both expectations and disappointments.

All things being as they are, I know what my next steps will be, and that is to always do my best, be impeccable with my word, don't take anything personally, and not make assumptions (expectations without the possibility of change).  

If living the Four Agreements is my goal, I will never be disappointed because as don Miguel is quick to point out in explaining these four little phrases, you need to accept that your best will be different from day to day and that's where forgiveness comes in again!  If I read that little paper to myself, rather than someone else, it takes on new meaning and I have all the freedom in the world!

Peacefully, 
Pic;)






Opening and Closing

It has been a very interesting month so far with the opening of my new show last weekend and the closing of my studio today.  

An artist's studio, whether it is where she writes or plays music, dances or paints, is where she dreams. It is sacred space when it is free of the encumbrances of the world. A place where such foolishness can be called into question, laughed at, struggled with and which, in spite of the fact that paying the bills, and having a business plan are very real issues, cannot control the artists heart.

I have been privileged to have a studio where I could create art for more than half my life.  For the last 16 years, three different locations in Madisonville, Walnut Hills and Kennedy Heights were places where others could come and creatively explore and express themselves.  They made masks, painted from a favorite picture, gave abstract concepts a try, photography, and made movies.  Some commissioned a piece or painting, others just looked around. Sometimes they squealed with delight.  Other times they cried because their own process or something they saw touched them so deeply.  

Children as young as five on up to 82 years of age graced my studio space with their presence and gave my life meaning beyond a just pretty picture and a paycheck.  Dozens no, probably hundreds came to make and see art and while it was exciting and inspiring it was also quite humbling.  

As for me, by myself, I had space to explore and experiment which has always been my point of joy in everything I've ever done.  I crossed over from the representational to abstract to finding three new ways to throw paper. I've planned mural projects, and prepped hundreds of classes for at-risk youth and imprisoned adults. It has been an honor to do these things, even when it was really hard.

In my book everyone is an artist and everyone has a studio, a sacred place where they can be at one with their Self. At various times circumstances change and we're not always sure whether we should hang on or let go of the places that have been home to the heart. 

When I started closing the studio I was concerned that I might not be finished.  But as the purging went on it seemed there was more stuff rather than less and I became determined to get the job done.  In the end, I felt almost heartless, a gift from the Universe perhaps, so I could pull the door closed tonight and let go.  

I lived in my studio, literally and figuratively, many times and I am happy that I finally, once again have a place in my home into which I can just roll out of bed and start painting with a hot cup of coffee and good music.  I prepped my new show here. It is flexible and working well. I am looking forward to spending a lot of time making new work. 

Because the new space is much smaller than the old studio, I left a lot behind, but the memories are easily accessible and I will keep them in my heart.  If you ever came to my studio and shared a moment, consider yourself among them.   

Peacefully,
Pic;)

Ps...if you want to see my new or existing work, check-out my website which was just updated with a "just ask" form to learn more about the things that interest you.  I'd love to hear from you, http://www.cpicmichel.com. 

When Dreams Change, Dream On

When we spend a lot of time on creating something special it can be hard to let it go, but so we must if we are to experience the full potential of whatever it is that we created.  Sometimes it is not obvious that we are doing this.  Oftentimes things change when we least expect it.

Just as the process to bring forth new life is called "labor" and is often filled with painful contractions, other things in life can feel as if they're being broken or destroyed in order to be more fully realized.

 If we are attached to the beauty and care that made things the way they are, we may feel the destruction thereof is unfair, an undoing of the work invested to this point.  But just as a mold is broken upon delivering the gold that is cast in it, so too must we release our attachments as a new life arises from everything we have done thus far. 


The changes in the way our dreams are from one day to the next can bring sadness or surprise...it's totally up to us and how we choose to see it.  That's the story behind this Enlightenmeant Cartoon.  The bird could see her eggs broken and destroyed but instead she sees new life coming into her experience.  No longer needing to sit still, she will soon be very busy gathering food for her little brood. 

Dreams are not static things we must maintain indefinitely, they are the Love of Life constantly growing and changing to, in turn, grow and change us.  When your dreams change, dream on.  

Dream Big!
Pic;)


In the Space Between

Look around today and see the many reminders that there is something working with us to unconditionally fulfill our potential, however we may establish it for the day.  You may notice the silence between the chirps of singing birds, that invisible something that stirs the leaves up off the the ground and soon will gently usher snowflakes down.  

 This is Life - not what we make of it - but what unconditionally fulfills that.  In between the banter of our everyday life, Life listens and unconditionally moves through our observances and intentions into creation, just like the breath moves through and supports our bodies.  

 Set an intention to take time to notice the wonder of Life as the source of all that Is rather than a limited identity or situation. Be mindful that your thoughts are in line with the highest good for yourself and others. Leave criticism, worry and impatience alone.  Life and you are bigger than that. It's taking notice of and being lucid to the little things that helps all of us see, and embody Life in all it's splendor.

tulitia,
Pic;)

Surrender That


Of all the ego exacerbating words in our language, surrender by far elicits the strongest response in the form of resistance.  From our earliest learnings the ones who wave the white flag are the losers.  Those who surrender must submit to the will of the winners.  But that is just a childhood understanding based on the history of those who would engage in war.  

Life is not a war. It is not even a struggle.  The idea that we must try hard is lost on the concept of trying to win. The true winner has confidence that s/he will not - cannot - fail.  By remembering that there is nothing to be won or lost (except for our perspective on the way things are) we can surrender the win/lose perception of surrender, and surrender in a whole new way.
 
"There is a fine line between letting go and giving up."

Right beside the surrender that gives up is the surrender that lets go.  In either of these two ways of looking at surrender there is a sense of loss.  But there is a third way that gains and multiplies instead of producing loss.  



This is the surrender which opens hands not to let go but to receive.  This surrender knows there is always more to learn and experience and enjoy in life, and refuses to settle for what is already known. This surrender is effortless. The only hard work about surrendering is not thinking there must be difficult. 

This surrendering is part of the flow. Whether or not we willingly let go of what we have known, earned, or expected, things will change. When things change and we are not resistant, this surrender is able to receive countless gifts in the form of fresh insight, wisdom gained, new skills, and the freedom that is born of such wonder.  

"There is everything to gain and nothing to lose."
 
So, the next time life gets tough, and you've tried so hard...and you feel so close you don't want to give up...surrender that, and with complete abandon open your heart to receive more than you already know.  In this way the way is made clear.

Peacefully,
Pic;)



The Re-Genesis of our True Nature

Every morning my dog Max takes me for a walk and I am usually moved to take a few photos of the things that stand out along the way.  Today it was the little things.  By the time I finished writing this blog I was connected to the story of Genesis and what is often referred to as "original sin".  I've written about this before, because beyond the religious overtones it is so deeply engrained in our existence, it really is something we need to forgive and forget every day.

In the story of Genesis, Eve is often cited for eating the apple she was told not to eat, but that was not the sin or - literally translated: error.  The mistake humans made in the story and often make every day is worrying they don't have everything they needed to be happy, healthy and whole. 
From the Toltec tradition as it is taught in the Four Agreements to the view of modern psychology, we are deeply conditioned to doubt our strengths and seek safety from our weaknesses from the time we are little children.  This is human nature.  Fortunately more and more people are seeking freedom from this limited view. The trick is not engaging it to do so.  For that we can take our cues from Nature.

Being human is a natural thing but human nature is often far from being natural. Nature unfolds without a second thought.  Human nature is all about second guessing what we should do to make things happen. Nature happens, humans set goals.
When we have a goal...the list of things we need to do in order to overcome challenges and accomplish the task at hand begins.  It's natural for things to develop over time, but it's human to try to control and worry about it. 
We worry because we don't know many things that could happen along the way. We worry because we know we are aware of ourselves as individuals.  We worry because we aren't confident we have the tools we need to make it through.

Nature doesn't worry the unseen and amazingly the details take care of themselves resulting in beauty and wonder day after day, season after season. No flower worries about winter, no snowflake conspires to harm flowers, the ground opens to receive seeds, and seeds become food and new flowers to be enjoyed in the spring. 

While it is human nature to take control and plan, the intention behind our true nature is to appreciate this creative process called life.  When we are centered in nature as it unfolds all around and through us we are uniquely qualified among all that is natural to recognize the meaningful and beauty of life. 

Peacefully,
Pic;)



Lightening Up the Acronym of FEAR

There are times in our lives when we need to let go of our attachments.  That can bring on a whole lot of fear.  So much so that the word fear has been popularized in some circles as an acronym for what fear feels like.  Very often the first letter of FEAR has been assigned a 4-letter word that expresses frustration, but not necessarily the cause of the frustration.  Forget is a much better interpretation making the popular acronym stand for Forget Everything And Run.    
It may seem that what is to be forgotten is whatever doesn't seem to be going well, but there is another way of looking at it.  What are we forgetting when we are afraid?  When I am in such a funk, I am forgetting everything I know and love about how I create my experience by the way I express the life that comes through me. 

When we pour what we bring up from the unconditional, limitless wellspring of life into the fearfully shallow container of loss, lack and limitation nothing improves and the negative is magnified.
When we lighten up we do not need to be contained by fear. What is most important for all of us is that each of us pull up the love of life that wells up from within and flood our view of life with all the gratitude and happiness it can produce. 
We transform the classic example of FEAR when we Find Enlightenment (lighten up) And Re-lease the investment of our energy into new life rather than forget the power we truly possess to create life and run from what doesn't seem to be working as though it has power over us. 
Any way you look at it we are creating a masterpiece of life through the instrument of our being. Don't mistake the paint for the brush.  Lighten-up, enjoy the process, and your life will always be a work in progress!

Peacefully,
Pic;)