My Year of Deepening

tintype-577394653.781030While reading an email course I’d signed up to about community, there were links to the person’s website and courses. Before I knew it, I fell through the rabbit hole, following links and thinking of signing up to get another course which promised to support my quest in getting more in touch with my intuition.

Forget that, I probably couldn’t afford the course, the wonder and excitement juices were already flowing. The thrill of the new was taking over as I was pulling out the credit card. But wait. I took a step back. Backed off the ‘buy, buy, buy’ button and hit the breaks. What was I doing?

Buying another online course I wouldn’t finish? Spending money I didn’t have to spend? Fooling myself into thinking that this course held all the answers I was looking for?

All fantasy and stories we tell ourselves to justify the buy, the need and wish to accumulate yet another thing, I know off by heart. I don’t need width. I don’t need to buy another course, another book, another life. I need to focus and appreciate and dig deep into the things, the books, the skills, the course, the life I already have.

Around the beginning of the year, I’d heard about a #depthyear, but wasn’t sure what it was. I thought it was in connection with choosing a word for the year. But today, I found out what it means. The idea came about through an article by David Cain called ‘Go Deeper, Not Wider.’ Within it, Cain stresses a new tradition or intention of not starting any new hobbies, or buying any new things for a year but to revisit, reconnect, reuse the things he already had.

“No new hobbies, equipment, games, or books are allowed during this year. Instead, you have to find the value in what you already own or what you’ve already started.
You improve skills rather than learning new ones. You consume media you’ve already stockpiled instead of acquiring more.
The guiding philosophy is “Go deeper, not wider.” Drill down for value and enrichment instead of fanning out. You turn to the wealth of options already in your house, literally and figuratively. ”

In the age of consumerism, this is no easy task, as it’s habit to buy the newest gadgets and clothes. Value is placed on the new and the young rather than the used and the old. But what could be achieved and accomplished, if we just focused on what we had already and we took satisfaction and sustenance from that?

Subconsciously, I feel as if I have been going deeper through my #100dayprojects, first with abstract paintings and now with the black female portraits and figure paintings. Somewhere in my being, I felt the need to drill deeper into these practices in order to get better at them as well as to understand them. However, during the process, I’ve brought new art supplies and tools and books. I think this demonstrates a lack of trust in my own abilities by looking elsewhere for guidance and permission and inspiration.

All I need I have already. A lot of what I need is inside me to excavate, and if not then I can find the answers or further questions in the mountains of books and articles and courses I have accumulated over the years.

So take this post as the beginning of my year of deepening. Saturday 20 April, 2019.

By taking a whole year to go deeper instead of wider, I hope to develop a rich and joyful and carefully curated collection of interests, pursuits, skills and knowledge. I hope to reduce the power of newness and possessions has over me, in order to foster a deeper gratitude for what I have, the luxuries I already enjoy or have neglected.

Going deeper requires patience, practice, and engagement. Interestingly enough, these attributes have featured as my words of the year for the past few years. Maybe a sign that all has been leading to the point of awakening as I plan to delve deeper into this one glorious life I have.

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My Favourite Influencer

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I’ve started my second #100daysproject of 2019. Joining in with the official challenge, #The100dayproject, I’ve decided to focus on created images where I see myself reflected, #100daysofblackwomen.
I’ve purposely not set up any long, drawn out rules. All I have to do each day is create a face or figure of a black woman. Far too often in art, if a Black Woman is present, she is not represented in an empowering or positive way. She might be the servant, or a sexualised object, ridiculed and degraded.
I want to look upon art and see my multifaceted identity reflected; the good and bad, the truth.
It’s only been in the last few years really that I’ve embraced this practice of creating, painting black women. I know taking Painting the Feminine with Dirty Footprint Studios, hosted by Connie Solera has influenced this development. Creating within a supportive group of women and gently pushed into our own ideas of what femininity can be has been a catalyst for
my explorations and expressions.
A recent discovery has pushed me further into my own visual language. This has been finding the artwork of Mystele Kirkeeng and then watching her create her pieces.
Watching Mystele and learning about her practice and techniques gave me permission to trust my own messy process. Seeing her process made me value my own for the first time and to lean into it more. It’s such a glorious feeling to finally believe in what I create at the same time as not worrying or stressing about whatever anyone else thinks about my artwork. Mystele reminds of the joy and excitement I can have for my own creativity. And this is priceless.

A favourite quote …

It’s difficult to pin down my one and only favourite quote as I love so many. I use quotes as inspiration, as thought points, as guides.

At the beginning of each Studio Note I send out to subscribers, I include a quote, to set the tone, to ease into the topic of discussion.

Toni Morrison is always a favourite writer I quote because it was her book, The Bluest Eye, where I first found myself in literature. Before that, I always had to identify with the white female lead in the story. I found myself wishing I was something I was not; white, blond and blue eyed. In The Bluest Eye, I found myself, a little black girl growing up in a cruel, racist world, thinking if only she was white, then she’d be loved.

My quote isn’t from The Bluest Eye this time but it does touch upon this topic of self-love; my focus this year as my word is LOVE for 2019.

“In this here place, we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs; flesh that dances on bare feet in grass. Love it. Love it hard. Yonder they do not love your flesh. They despise it. They don’t love your eyes; they’d just as soon pick em out. No more do they love the skin on your back. Yonder they flay it. And O my people they do not love your hands. Those they only use, tie, bind, chop off and leave empty. Love your hands! Love them. Raise them up and kiss them. Touch others with them, pat them together, stroke them on your face ’cause they don’t love that either. You got to love it, you! And no, they ain’t in love with your mouth. Yonder, out there, they will see it broken and break it again. What you say out of it they will not heed. What you scream from it they do not hear. What you put into it to nourish your body they will snatch away and give you leavins instead. No, they don’t love your mouth. You got to love it. This is flesh I’m talking about here. Flesh that needs to be loved. Feet that need to rest and to dance; backs that need support; shoulders that need arms, strong arms I’m telling you. And O my people, out yonder, hear me, they do not love your neck unnoosed and straight. So love your neck; put a hand on it, grace it, stroke it and hold it up. and all your inside parts that they’d just as soon slop for hogs, you got to love them. The dark, dark liver–love it, love it and the beat and beating heart, love that too. More than eyes or feet. More than lungs that have yet to draw free air. More than your life-holding womb and your life-giving private parts, hear me now, love your heart. For this is the prize.”

Toni Morrison, Beloved

already there inside you

I return after a three month hiatus for social media to take a few weeks away from work, in the real world, to recharge the batteries. I spent my time away from cyberspace, reconnecting with my self and my creativity but also working hard to build a union. At the moment, I’m close to burn-out because of it. So I need to step back and assess how I’m using my energy.

For the past few days, I’ve been operating with a sharp pain within my right side. I’ve experienced this pain before, a few months ago, but that pain came and went within a day. This pain has stayed. It may be related to something deeper inside that is happening, but at the moment, I’m reading it as a sign. My body is telling me to stop and I’m listening.

Metaphorically, I’m reading this stabbing pain, which increases when I bend down or put any pressure on, as a thorn in my side. That there’s been someone or some situation which has been causing me a lot of grief and heartache. Hence the rest. And I’m not going to allow this to continue to sap my energy and attention.

What I’ve been doing is stretching my body out, leaning into the pain and breathing. Kundalini yoga. Allowing the sensation ( see I changed the word there) to course through me and be. Yes I still feel the pain and discomfort but at least, I’m managing it. I’m not allowing it to stop me. Or define me.

I know if I was alright with myself, whole even, the past few months of attrition wouldn’t bother me, wouldn’t touch me. I also know that it takes a lot of energy and belief and self-love to let it just flow away and not touch me. It’s a practice. I continue to practice this each day. Some days I manage this and some days I don’t.

I leave you with some words of wisdom I read today on IG, from @the_ardent_alchemist, I’m thankful for this reminder.

>> … and suddenly you know in a flash – – just like that! – – that there is nothing to strain or strive for and there never has been. everything you need is already there inside you – it has been given to you and it can never be taken away … <<

Sharing My Joy

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Just popping back in here quickly to highlight that I’ve created a new page all about my practice of visual journaling. For the past 3 years, this visual and creative practice has been my lifeline. It has not only got my head straightened out but it has also been my playground where big dreams have been declared and explored and come to fruition.

I do look upon this practice as magical. And the special thing is, everything is inside me waiting to come out. Through the use of paints, images, photography, collage, drawings, stamps and stickers, I get to tap into the magic that is inside of me, all the time, each day. No wonder I go all evangelical when I start to talk about visual journaling and share this practice. As it has quite literally changed my life.

Check out the new page in the portfolio and keep checking back as I continue to update it as well as develop the new ecourse to go with it.

Everyone visual journaling here we come.

Painting the Feminine

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I have been blessed. Someone out there is watching me and liking what I’m doing as I share my journey with creativity and encourage more women to listen to their creative needs and wants and just do it.

I have been gifted a place on Connie Solera’s last session of Painting the Feminine; a painting ecourse where we take the time and space to explore feminine energy and wisdom.

I have completed this course twice before and was fixing to enrol on this final run but finances were just not on my side. But I sent my desires out into the Universe and they were answered with this gift.

I’m truly grateful for this opportunity to dive deeper, listening to my intuition and inner wisdom to paint from my soul and heart. I’m having such a sacred time, as painting becomes a daily practice as well as a special ritual of savouring each moment.

This piece is called: Trust. I think it’s all in their facial expressions. They are so in the know. I love them. I think I’ve found my tribe and they were inside me all along. I love that.
 

Four Months – Sunday

Four months from now, June 17, you’ll be flying into Keflavík International Airport. You’ll be filled with excited and apprehension, as even if this is your first time or fourth journey to Iceland, you can’t help the way travel and adventure makes you feel. You are filled with wonder and awe and questions. But you know in your core that this creative retreat is what your soul has been screaming out for, for so many years.

Once you come through passport control, you will get the opportunity to peruse duty free. If you like an alcoholic beverage, chocolate or even fancy a traditional Icelandic woolly, this is the place to pick them up, before you leave the airport. This will be the cheapest place to buy the these goods. So make the most of it now.

Collect your luggage. And sail through customs out into the arrivals terminal where I am waiting. Waiting with a sign calling your name. Waiting with a smile of recognition. Welcoming you to the country that has nestled deep into my heart. Welcoming you to a week of possibilities and opportunities and creativity. Relax now, you are in safe hands. Promise x.

Getting Angry

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Last night I got angry and I mean really angry. I think I might have scared @hazmatt72.

This was a different anger to any I’ve experienced before. No I tell a lie. I think I might have had a glimmer of this deep visceral anger back in 2014 when I was organising #blacklivesmatter events and I was finding my political voice and going public with my thoughts about race.

And then I was silenced and all that anger turned inward. Turned against myself and how stupid I’d been and the mistakes I made. Anger turned up so high that I almost didn’t hear the whisper of self-compassion, forgiveness and love.

Fast forward to last night, the anger has shifted from focusing on myself to sending fierce fire balls out there.

I recently became a member of @secretmessagesociety ( or am I supposed to keep it a secret?!?) and my first Zine talked about developing a back bone. To start putting myself at the centre of my life and everything/ everyone else out there, outside of me is ‘the other’.

At the mention of ‘the other’ I had a gut reaction. A recoiling. As a black woman in colonial, imperial, patriarchal, hey (wo)man, in any kind of discourse, I ‘m labelled/ perceived/ treated as ‘the other’. And even though I have argued against this, this didn’t stop me internalising it. Taking on the label myself and seeing myself as ‘the other’ in comparison to the white norm.

Coming across ‘the other’ @secretmessagesociety, something shifted and was dislodged to the point that I’ve de-centred my whole belief, operating system. I no longer claim ‘the other’ as me, my label, my positioning out there and within me.
No. I’m right bang centre in my life, in my identity and everything outside of me is ‘the other.’ I’m no longer kept in the margins, the minority, the freak, the fat ugly black bitch, the deformed, the other.
I’m so gloriously centred with me/ within me.

And I’m angry. But a shimmering healthy get things sorted, changed sort of angry. Which always flows from love. #iaintsorry #hellno #fuckem #angryblackwoman #othering #decentre #takingbackwhatsmine #practice #process #patience #self-love #self-care #secretmessagesociety #gettingmesomebackbone

Juggling Balls

A new month equals new focus. Reflecting on the month gone and planning for the month ahead. Already, I feel as if I’m juggling so many ball but I know I’ve been carrying them around for a while. And I do pick them up gladly, it’s just some days I feel a bit overwhelmed.
It’s sometimes difficult to keep a handle on everything, to engage and move things forward. It always cones down to time and never having enough of it to get everything I want done, done. And then when there might be a window of time, I don’t have the energy to complete any task. Times like these are about keeping the faith and believing in the process.

Projects on the go NOW: ( Part 1)

1. Arts Council Funded creative project with writers around the First World War.
2. Heritage Lottery Funded project with Muslim girls around the First World War.
3. Developing Living Wild Studios as a creative business. Need to update/ rejig the website first.
4. Facilitating a creative retreat in Iceland this June. Planning schedule and securing two more people.
5. Stocking Folksy Store to sell my paintings, prints and collages.
6. Complete the writing and developing of my first e-course around visual journalling.
7. Explore my Iceland landscape abstract photography and paintings.
8. Develop my self-portraiture project through further research and practice.
9. Return to my Flaneuse research to feed into an offering in Paris. Research trip needs to be planned.
10. Start the planning for a women’s gathering in The Highlands through a research/self-appointed residency in March.
11. Start responding to the writing prompts from Eat My Stardust.
12. Listen to the second recording from Liberated Lines and write.
13. Complete final draft of poetry chapbook and send to Culture Matters ASAP.
14. Start the research and writing for my next full collection around our relationship with the land.
15. Continue with my self-directed study around seeking the Goddess.
16. Complete my Creative Journey Facilitator Training with Lisa Sonora.
17. Return to my developing creative non-fiction memoir around death.
18. Complete research around further grants and funding for women’s well-being projects.
19. Continue research for social enterprise – air on skin (working title) to encourage more ethnic minorities to develop a relationship with Nature.
20. Start self-appointed residency – North Sea Writer-in-Residence.
21. Return to second recording of Wild Soul Woman Facilitator training and respond with notes.
22. Get more sleep. Drink more water. Get more exercise. Eat more greens.

Studios Notes: A Love Letter From Iceland

Hello

I write to you on a cold wintry night from a luxury hotel room in Southern Iceland.

A storm is raging outside my window, which overlooks the world-famous black-sand beach found just beside the small fishing village of Vík í Mýrdal. Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach.

 

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The wind is lethal and the waves are hellish. But I wouldn’t want to be any other place right now but here. I’m back in Iceland completing the final details for the retreat in June as well as trying to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights.

There’s no chance of the Lights tonight not with this cloud cover and thick wet air. But I’m not complaining. I’m grateful to be here. I’m grateful to be able to follow my dreams.

While here, I’ve been posting on IG about my adventures as I’ve been experiencing frustrations like mini geysers. But I’m looking at these as periods of growth.

 

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Did you check out the mention in the first paragraph of ‘luxury hotel’? This wasn’t the plan. I try to do the things I want to do within budget. This trip was conceived on the cheap with stays in hostels. While here, I got to thinking about going south, of returning to Vik about 180kms from Reykjavik.

I remember my first time here, back in May 2016. I was blown away by the black sand. I couldn’t get my head around it. And I just dug my toes in and giggled as I felt the cold rush of waves. I fell in love.

So I return. I booked a guesthouse for an overnight stay. Not even half way here, weather warnings go out. Storm coming in about 3pm. Okay enough time to get to Vik, this is 11.30am. Next stop, no. Storm coming in at 2pm. Still 80kms away from Vik. It’s just after 1pm. The pressure is on to get safely to my place of rest. The beach can wait until tomorrow, at this rate.

Trying to keep calm and focused, I drive on. The heavens open. The wind thrashes and I’m still driving. Fog moving in. I could start to panic right about now. But I keep my head.

I managed to get to Vik and locate the guest house. Has anyone seen Rising Damp? 70s British sitcom about lodgers in a rundown house with Leonard Rossiter as a vindictive landlord called Rigsby? Well that’s what this guesthouse reminds me of. Not sure about the landlady as I don’t hang around long enough to find out.

 

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Will I ever learn! Anyone who’s followed my adventures will remember a similar situation when I visited Malaga in 2016. Book a place, cheaper than the rest with good reviews but turns out to be useless. Hence, staying in a luxury hotel tonight.

This experience holds many truths and lessons to be learned.

One, it reminds me of a time with my mum, when I was returning back to London after Christmas. Mum came with me, as I had to find a new place to live after a breakup with a boyfriend. I was teacher training, so looking for a room in a house. While we looked, I booked us into a guesthouse. We ended up in a smelly attic, in a double bed and all I can remember is mum saying, Don’t let the covers touch your face, Sheree, for God’s sake, don’t let them go anywhere near it. I can still hear her now after 18 years dead. Mum booked us into a B and B for the following night with a shower and TV. We laughed hard that night.

Two, how I relish my solitude, my own space. So hostels are out if longer than one night’s stay. But I also have standards, something I keep forgetting. Or more profoundly, there must be something within me that believes I don’t deserve to have better than I‘ve been giving myself. Allowing myself.

Three, it’s a big risk and commitment, leaving home and coming to a strange new country. I suppose I forget this. I’m getting used to travelling to Iceland, to travelling internationally alone. I’m not sure when I started this habit. Maybe while completing my PhD (2004 -2010), I was invited to speak in New York, Boston and Leon etc. It’s a practice but performed over time.

I’ve been neglecting this fact. Other people, other women, might not be used to travelling alone internationally. Might not have practiced it as much as me.

Hence booking up to run away with me to Iceland for a creative retreat is a big ask. A big ask and a big risk which I haven’t really appreciated until now.

So I thank you for coming with me on my retreats and adventures. Your presence is appreciated.

Anyway, enough from me for now. There’s a bottle of beer and bar of chocolate with my name on. I deserve them.

Until next time

Love Sheree x

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