As I read a post on Facebook about an Art and Psychology week coming up that I could easily drive to, I knew as first clicked onto it I had to go. I quickly organised time off as it seemed something I had to follow through and arranged how I was going to pay for it last (usually this is the first thing I do, everything was being done in a different order!)
I am interested in psychology and conscious living and dream theory interested me, the prospect of an 24 hour art studio which really excited me. Also it was only in Windsor so very close by.
When I arrived I was greeted by cheerful older adults who gave me my introduction pack and welcomed me. Soon after we all gathered in a room for a meeting, more and more people came in all 10-50 years older than me and they all looked like professionals looking around me I felt out of place. I thought to myself I’m on the wrong course. I wasn’t, this was Champernowne Summer School and it would turn out to be the most interesting 5 days I could have.
My first instinct was right, everyone at the course was either a Psychotherapist, retired Psychotherapist or a full time Artist. So as a full time support worker and part time artist I wanted to kick myself that this was some sort of break away from the stress of their jobs, for those professionals to relax but also learn while away.
Not for people interested in Psychology and Art to learn at a beginner level. My inner dialogue support system nudged me – You are welcome everywhere, a self actualised person doesn’t notice the difference between others in a new situation they just be themselves. So that’s exactly what I did, I relaxed a little and despite a few odd stares and introverted individuals (even more so than me) questions, all was well.
From a tour I had when I first arrived, I could tell the art space would be somewhere came a lot, down the spiral stairs and underground was the basement art studio.
There were acrylic paints, tempera paints, ink, pencils, pens – many art supplies! My only hang up was there was no canvas, only paper. My mind whirred with questions Are there going to be any canvases? How can I do layers on paper? Could I drive home and get my toothbrush that I forgot and canvases? That seemed logical- something I need and something I want! Could I cope with just paper? Ordinarily I would have been ok with paper, though as I was away for 5 days I really wanted to make some art, I enjoyed using paper in the online course Painting with fire, this time I wanted a different experience.
The benefit of being away, even if it felt like the ‘wrong’ course was that I was in Windsor and the rooms inside Cumberland Lodge were to me pure luxury. The long tables at meal times proved to be an excellent chance for people to chat casually about how they felt and meet each other once again or for the first time. It was here that I met a lovely lady who dramatically changed my whole week!
It was at the tables that I had a conversation with at least 3 people who said either in a previous year or this time round they wanted to leave the course, they came up with a get out plan and almost left. I mentioned before had a similar experience in wanting to go come and get more art supplies, though I wouldn’t of actually gone for good, at £795 all inclusive I was staying put.
As I was partly on a Psychology course I thought that maybe this experience was part of the course, to get us out of our comfort and get us through our need to escape, maybe just maybe it was part of a transformation. The other logical cause was everyone had developed a dopamine deficiency and weren’t getting enough enjoyment. Anyway, it interested me and each person had a different ‘escape plan’.
The quality I first liked most form the course was the schedule, and as it was a holiday, you weren’t required to join in every activity, nor was it crammed full of exciting workshops. This meant that you had more time to yourself, if you didn’t go to a seminar – you found you had a few hours free to do whatever you pleased. Though if you wanted to you were welcome to join in Tai Chai, Dreaming Matrix (I later found out that it was a very interesting experience) and morning singing then you could!
The only workshop you were required to go to each day was the individual psychotherapies topics, you chose out of writing, drama, fairytales and dance. I chose fairytales and it was such a great experience listening to and discussing about the meaning and significance for people through folk tales. I had’t explored them since reading Woman who run with wolves by Clarrisa Pinkola, a must have book for girls and women everywhere. The workshop fully opened me up to my own power and that of stories. The in depth workshop and inner work that came from it made being on the course very worthwhile!
My best experiences in using my free time was on my own in the studio, which I will explain about soon, taking my yoga mat and doing Sadhana at dawn outside, writing morning pages, reading Flow magazine in bed, meditation time in my room and reading fairytales at the curved sofa cushions.
I had experiences with another too, that without I properly would have done my usual and kept myself to myself reading a book, writing or planning! Such as morning Kirtan singing, chatting about interests, chatting, chilling out and riding a bike to see deer. We also presented a sing along in presentation evening of Wah Yantee (a creativity and intuition mantra). This special person was the only friend I met on the course and we continue to be!
I also had an interesting but incredible experience when it came to producing art. Usually everything I do is within a few feet of my supplies, I brought a bag of my own but it still didn’t feel enough. I flicked through a cool art book I bought for inspiration and encouragement and still nothing. I was blocked. 100% blocked. In a 24 hour art studio which I could go to 5 days if I wanted.
So I did what I could to climb out of my blocked pit of self expression and I wrote on paper with brush and ink. I couldn’t paint but I could write. I didn’t want to write I wanted to paint so writing with a paint brush seemed a good compromise. I wrote then added gesso as a base then cut it up to make smaller pieces as I wanted to go along with my original and practical idea of starting to make art pieces that were easier to store in my creative space. I then did a big piece with an orange background and stamped my hand prints all over it, just to get frustration out a little and even someone that can’t paint can do handprints.
My inner support dialogue kept reminding me ‘It must look like I know what I’m doing to other people because I’m painting and I do art, but I don’t have a clue! I’m pretending to know and making it up as I go. It looks like I know but I don’t I’m just getting through a HUGE block’. Little did I know that that was the biggest act of surrender and letting go was what I most needed!
What occurred in the week creatively was incredible in terms of my attitude and how I felt, for without the normal daily duties to do and more time and space to be myself – my intuition came to play – literally!
Through a series of circumstances someone giving away psychology books led me to read and listen to my intuition to go back to my room get my books and collage pages about feminine psychology-it was fascinating stuff. A woman told me about a band called Bliss after our mantra evening and I listened to the beautiful tracks Stop Me, Calling and Trust in your love while painting and reading. It must have looked chaotic but it was a process that felt right and I followed it.
My intuition came to play outside of the art studio too as I felt I wanted to explore the upper levels of the lodge, which I did to find more vibrant paintings on the walls. I also became sensitive to noticing people around me, that on their first days they seemed so tense and rigid and by day 4 and 5 were lost looser and lighter, even I felt lighter.
The week I was away, I decided as no one knew me, to cover my head with white cloth and purple scarf. (I cover my head while doing my morning yoga (Kundalini) and I’m learning about Sikhi and to me covering my 7th Chakra, having a sense of containment while doing activity that requires clarity of thought and cover my most precious part.
While they seem like good enough reasons to me, to others it is a new thing, people are skeptical, it is met with some resistance and I feel shy doing it. Partly because I don’t have a proper head covering or turban yet and also that I haven’t seen a single head covered white woman in my local area, it makes me a little unconfident to do what I want.) However covering my head was the best thing I could have done, as that experience reminded me I could be myself around others completely!
I now cover my head fully a lot more at home even after my morning practice, and I’m doing a combination of hair in bun, headband and scarfs at the moment.
At the end of the week I put my art papers into a line across the wall infront of me to see I had made some sort of story… I had without any effort at all, this was all down to my intuitive self, made a series of art work themed on Feminine Psychology and Relationships, something I had wanted to do for a long while but couldn’t quite begin.
On the last day I wanted to celebrate my artist self with 1 hour of play, I used whatever I felt drawn to ink, tempera, powder paint and let go, still with the notion ‘I don’t actually know what I’m doing I’m just painting’. I used the fact I had paper to my advantage (by now I totally forgot about my longing for canvas) and folded, screwed up and threw my creation, then carried on painting till a figure appeared. This got me thinking about how I could use my energy to help others unblock and to explore ideas of a creative guide further.
It’s thanks to Champernowne that I came back from a retreat feeling as if I’d just gone through therapy and come out the other side ok! With my creative spirit in tact and growing wings.
I think with older people there I felt ‘held’ by the wisdom and encouragement of others. It inspired me to continue painting, to seriously add yoga training to next years plan, to trust my intuition more and use me time to read and appreciate time to slow down and let go.
Champernowne.org holds Summer courses for people in helping professions combining lectures with workshops, art activities and free time! Courses take place every two years, the next is in 2018.
I wanted a Hamsa of my own to have all the elements I had seen of others – spirals, circles, swirls and be unique to me, so I drew one out. Half thinking ‘this is crazy I probably won’t get this tattooed this week so this could be a giant waste of time’ the other half thinking ‘this is just incase, incase I find a tattooist I am prepared to get it done’.
I knew that nearby to my hairdressers was a tattoo place that possibly accepted walk ins or else I would book for another day. I walked around for a bit looking at my map app and at my surroundings and couldn’t find it. I took a new route home (I wasn’t even sure it was the right way home), I turned around to look back at the shops – and there it was.
I walked in and showed the cheerful tattooist my drawing, he made some alterations and a little while after it was all done!
My original thoughts and feelings towards getting and having a Hamsa tattoo have altered a little overtime, or rather some things I still hold true and others I feel my attitude has changed for the better.
I was originally drawn to the Hamsa hand because it widely meant – peace, happiness, good fortune, protection from evil and the goodness of God. I think these are good reminders to living a happy true life.
I felt that just like my ‘alive’ tattoo they would hold a strong meaning to keep going to live my dreams and mark a new chapter of life. Also after reading Feel the fear and do it anyway by Susan Jeffers I wanted to mark the statement ‘I can handle it all’ on me, with a hand.
All meanings – values to live by, a new chapter and handling everything in life are still present.
I think the biggest difference is that the novelty and magic has subsided for a more realistic point of view. Day to day, the greatest reminder comes through of my Hamsa is of faith of God/the Universe that everything is working out perfectly, the power and courage to be my true self and to hold inner peace and stillness in times of chaos.
I can glance at my arm and remember ‘choose love’, ‘everyone is different’, ‘nothing can bring you peace but yourself’.
I’m reading Conversations with God by Neal Donald Walsch in it he writes about life not being a series of ‘lessons’ (something I have always gone by) but of remembering. I think reading that, listening to talks by Abraham Hicks and meditating is allowing me to be who I am, appreciate life and God/the Universe.
I’m not sure if the Mr. realises but the picture I placed on our bathroom wall the other night has a few special meanings, sometimes I share other times I just feel the magic and smile.
The picture I have framed is taken from the Art Therapy Colouring Book, it’s of a cat and I coloured it in bit by bit. These take me months as I stop and start, begin wherever I am, there’s no set time limit and no pressure.
I finished colouring with a sense of pride as I remember when I started out, people told me I’d never finish it. Which seems silly now as it’s a colouring page but that phrase comes up a lot in life too ‘You’ll never do a, b, c…’ I think I’ll be proving people wrong for a long time yet.
Monkey was 15 years (100+ in cat years) and was my very best friend. It sounds stupid that she was but I didn’t have any friends I regularly saw for a long while, so bottom line – she was my bestie.
We kept each other company through the good (I couldn’t say no to her sitting on my lap/desk/pile of clean washing/in the most awkward places) and the bad (any argument in the home, she was the best listener). Though Monkey was a cat who liked to make her furry body into a circle to cosy up to you, she also had the best spirit and blunt attitude.
Her sweet little cat spirit is what made her almost fearless, squeezing into small spaces she wasn’t supposed to like the heating cupboard, sitting on a sofa that was standing portrait while we were moving stuff around, exploring piles and piles of items accumulated over the years with no hesitation or regard that it might all fall on her any minute. Even in her last few days her weak legs allowed her to claw and climb tree branches.
Attitude may sound a bit ridiculous after all I am writing about a cat – cats don’t answer back with attitude the same as humans do but believe me it was there. And thank god because instead of allowing me to curl up on my bed bawling tears after an argument for hours on end, one look at Monkey offered no sympathy. It was more like a look that said ‘Pull yourself together’ or ‘Snap out of it’ so instead of being sad for hours, I was sad for the amount of time to say ‘Monkey, men are so silly’ (she was a girl cat by the way) and then slowly but surely after a bit more chatting I got up and carried on with life.
Each time one of our cats has died in the past, I made a tribute for them. This might sound odd to Westerners but many other cultures do it, sometimes with shrines. Mexico has a whole day dedicated to those who have passed with Day of the dead. I used to paint on wood, colourful backgrounds and wording, this really helped my grieving process.
This time was different. Monkey meant too much. I knew I had to do one but I put it off for months, mainly because I couldn’t get past ‘When I am annoyed I don’t have anyone to talk to, Monkey was always there’. This I knew was selfish, though true also. The other truth was Monkey was my friend and confidant through some really shitty times and things have got a lot better over the years.
Though I was really scared and sad to see my furry friend go, I couldn’t see her suffer in pain as I knew she’d had a long and happy life which was greatly reduced.
As Monkey’s ill health had worsened I realised Monkey’s gift to me was getting not letting me stay at the bottom of a pit I had dug, instead she’d give me that look – get up, stop whining and do some good.
It took a few months after her going for me to ‘get back up’ on my own, I had moments where I found myself by the bed saying ‘Monkey, I’m sad and I have no one to talk to I wish you were here and I don’t know what to do now’.
Sooner or later the answer comes, it always comes. I had started reading Susan Jeffers Feel the fear and do it anyway, in it she describes breathing deeply and saying ‘I’ll handle it!’ So the next time I sat feeling sad and stuck after a ranging argument, I still sat alone but I changed my pattern.
I meditated for a few minutes, my breathing slowing everything down and then said out loud ‘I’ll handle it’. The Mr. came up one time and said ‘Err…what are you doing?’ I smiled and said ‘meditating’ (without a care in the world to if I looked weird or not) then I got up and carried on with life like before.
I hope you like the colouring page as much as I enjoy it, I have more in progress at the moment, though with no emotional essay attached. If you were someone that knew our little Monkey then please understand it’s taken this long to finally get out how I felt/feel. I’ve felt good for a while it’s just taken this long to get it into words!
I’ll show my visions for 2016 but first I’ll share my board from last year, this vision board has been on my bathroom wall all year. The middle part I got the idea from the chapter ‘How whole is your whole life?’ in Susan Jeffers book Feel the fear and do it anyway. At the time it affirmed all areas of my life and was a useful reminder throughout the year. Especially the words “I’ll handle it” and “Get into the flow of life”.
As you can see from the pink circles I did and got a few of the things I’d planned and wanted. We went sea Kayaking in Brighton, saw a film in an open air cinema, got a Gopro video camera, and I got the ikea unit in the picture, it now makes up my creative space!
The sayings ‘Make happiness a habit’ and ‘Your vibe attracts your tribe’ also had an impact on 2015 as I have found more happiness, even just in my attitude there is a difference. I’ve also connected with people who have similar values/interests.
The thing I notice so much about this vision board now is how much it’s focused on things and experiences, sure it’s saying what I want, but what about what I want to feel?
My 2016 vision boards are all about feelings!
These boards may seem a bit spacious and the reason for that is I stuck a lot of words and images into my workbook! There is nothing better than making something mine then collaging.
The bigger vision board is in my bathroom again, now I’m no feng shui guru but my previous board was above a bin, this one is on the door where I can still see it everyday but it is pleasantly put up away from anything else.
My visions are about moving towards and working on what feels right and right now that is in the direction of Yoga, painting, writing and spirituality. For Brave Creators to thrive in creativity and abundance! Also to have date days/nights and to go on holidays and explore!
“Those who don’t jump will never fly” – Audrey Hepburn
My smaller board is on my pin board by my computer, I took down my Nov-Dec full moon board and there was a blank space so I filled it.
The visions and messages are more of the same, I wasn’t as interested in pictures than previous years, this time it was all about words! The image of people together as friends symbolises connection and is taken from the book All I did was listen by Rachel Awes.
“I am letting in kindness and people who help me bloom”- Rachel Awes
I’ve taken out a bunch of the pages from her book and put them around the place as reminders for my wonderful creative journey and year ahead.
Here’s to a great new year whoever you are and whatever journey you find yourself on, keep going, reach!
I bought myself two great presents while Christmas shopping in December:
1) Assertiveness for Earth Angels by Doreen Virtue I finished this morning and it is fabulous, I’ll be writing some notes on that later for sure!
2.) Leonie Dawson’s Shining Year Life Workbook, Diary and Calendar (I also bought the business workbook pdf later).
I started filling out my beautiful workbook in the lead up to the holidays and Christmas day we had a day of lounging around and I collaged! SO MUCH FUN
These products are AMAZING! Already they are transforming my attitude towards this new year, I’m getting more done and moving in a new direction towards what I really want.
Things I love about the workbook – you reflect honestly about your trials and triumphs from the past year, dream small and dream big, there is tons of writing space, the pages are so colourful and I can add stuff in altering it as much as I want!
I’m really enjoying using the Shining year diary too and calendar, through getting more on track I’ve organised myself blogging and notes folders, I’ll post those separately.
Another thing I’m really getting into is the Life book groups on Facebook. I’m telling you this year is about connection! I can almost here the whispers of a creative tribe forming.
I’ve nominated myself to host an online meet up each month, something I almost did a while back (got nervous) and this time I’m going to see it through. Links will be up soon!
Enjoy the pages, grab your own at Leonie Dawson’s shop.
Isn’t it funny how, when you ask yourself to look back at the year that’s past you think of it briefly overall and then focus in on the last few months where you think you learnt the most.
The end of this year has marked some key moments of change, here are my top four:
1. Changing my hours at a job I loathed helped a little, leaving it feeling happy helped too, as when I let go I really let go. No grudges just goodbyes.
I remember the exact moment I realised I was in control of changing things for the better. I was getting changed one day in October after my shift into my leggings and hi vis jacket, ready for the cycle home, thinking about how I could follow my original plan of looking for jobs and attending interviews that December. But as I thought more it dawned on me, I could start my whole process a lot quicker if I let go of what would be thought of me by the managers, that I’d only changed my hours a few months (after all I did work 8am-6pm for three years there) and start looking and applying right then in October.
Why wait? Those two words were like a bridge from horrible to hooray and they worked.
2. I don’t know that my frame of mind would have ever gone from down and out to ‘getting it’ without Who moved my cheese by Dr. Spencer Johnson.
Good news can sometimes translate to bad along with wake up call and that brilliant little book helped me get hold of the fact your not in control of anyones life around you, only you and that things don’t always happen in the order you assume they will. Though sometimes I think I’ve never day dreamed about being an Auntie, just a mom and I feel guilt and annoyance at my ambitious goals that will alter any chance of family life for now, I have to be glad for the gifts God* gives, we’re all following our own North Star in our own ways.
*God being a lose term for a higher power whether it be GOD, infinite, Universe and so on.
3. Another major change (that from the outside looks minor) falls under the category of clothing.
The last few weeks of leaving everyday at my old job on my bicycle I would ride down the road and see women walk to pick their children up from school. Now this is a nice area so please have in your mind that these women made an effort to dress the same for just a simple walk.
That is what I noticed, how well put together they were, of course these are only clothes I don’t know if they were actually happy or not but still it made me think, what steps could I do to actually feel body confident in my own clothes, to wake up and actually choose an outfit I liked?
This may sound mad to anyone who has done just that for years, but it dawned on me the reason that felt so alien to me was that in my survival state I had all year, put on black trousers and a black top as ‘painting clothes’ and also spent any left over money on paints. This wasn’t all bad because it meant that I could paint whenever and get as messy as I liked, painting is something I’m good at and always learning more about, I also needed that experience to cope with all the crap life brought.
As life was getting better, I noticed other peoples clothes more and hatched a plan to feel happier in what I was clothed in. It turned out to be very simple: I moved Summer clothes out-got rid of a bunch of his clothes and mine- I made space to be able to walk to my draws and I labeled each one too. I also bought some more clothes (though still not enough) and made more room in draws for new work clothes as it is non uniform.
Doing it like this I have actually regained a sense of choice, a choice of what to buy and what to wear. I think it’s easily taken for granted that choice is a major part of life, I spent years thinking I had none, when it was here all along, again it came to me when I was happier. I reached my goal of going up to my draws and picking out an outfit to wear.
4. My last major change is ongoing and as amazing as it is I also feel I’ve gone against words I wrote in poem This is how I learn and I like it this way. In it I talk about about how annoying it is when people encourage me to do art courses I don’t want to do because I’m quote ‘outsider and abstract only’. However this is part of a bigger goal, Art Therapy and if I can’t get around doing an Art Degree then I’ll do the damn Art Degree! So I’m studying with OCA in order to earn and learn and even writing about it reminds me I need to do a lot more work!
In conclusion of my year in review, my main points of focus have been; letting go, being myself more, diving into acceptance, acknowledging limited thinking, going for big goals and not to fear uncertainty so much. I’m still learning.
One word is a little like a New Years resolution though without all the hassle of false promises and forgetting what an earth was it anyway? It allows you to chose one word to describe your year and have as your main focus for completing goals. It started in 2009 and you can read more about it here.
Before I begin, I want to take a look back to previous years and the words I have chosen:
2013 Present- I chose this because present has various meanings, a present, the present but overall I didn’t really get into the spirit of things.
2014 Remarkable- This is what I wanted to be in 2014- a remarkable woman defying all odds of circumstance to come through! I got into it, I wrote a quote I liked in chalk and a big sign beside my bed to wake up to. The art in the frame is by Mandy Steward.
Though I didn’t feel all that remarkable during the year, looking back at photos I think I did great job of encouraging the word to shine through. By: making sure to paint in any spare time I had (early morning/late night), I did a lot of DIY a lot, I helped photograph a wedding twice despite being stupidly nervous, I finished pieces for Art on the street in the Summer and made £40, I stopped blogging and started again because I realised I can’t give up my dreams no matter what, I quit my sucky job, started a new one and I’m studying art too.
So now we are here, in 2015 and my word is…..WILL
Though it wasn’t the first word I came to, I questioned the word intend and intension (as it’s mentioned a lot in Deepak Chopra’s book The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success that I’m reading) to the Mr and how though they mean the same, are totally different words and asked if he thought it was a good word for the year. He responded with it is and it isn’t, as both words had a negative reputation used in sentences like I intended to do go to the shops but didn’t make it in time.
I described the one word concept to the Mr again and asked what word would be good for getting my goals accomplished this year and he said – Will. I wasn’t sold to begin with as it is also a boys name but that aside I liked it, especially as he claimed it ‘was a word used in personal development a lot’.
It reminded me of the Will.I.Am album Will Power and it allowed me to make the sentence ‘I will fulfil my intentions’ so I could use my first choice of words in a positive way.
My main ‘resolution’ this year, that I also kept telling people last year is to learn to drive, I WILL SURPRISE. But I also have a ticking clock in finishing this drawing unit of my art course to do I WILL CONTINUE. I also have a long list of unfinished projects, places I want to go, aims to reach so I WILL THRIVE.
I like the fact I can use it in a sentence like I WILL be true to myself and also to have the WILL to do something of greatness.
It’s a word that comes up a lot, I was watching daytime TV the other day and the guest was a doctor talking about people, he said:
‘What we need is more people with will and people with courage’
True, very true. Below are close ups of a journal page I’ve just finished displaying my visions playfully for 2015.