The Minimalist Vegan – A Review

The Minimalist Vegan: A simple manifesto on why to live with less stuff and more compassion by Micheal and Maša Ofei does what it says on the cover.

This is not a ‘how to’ book but a ‘why’ book. For me, is serves as a reminder and an inspiration as the world we live in continues to suffers from “The More Virus”: the mentality of always wanting more.

This book doesn’t tell me anything that I haven’t read before, but I’m just grateful that this information is all in one place and up to date.

Micheal and Maša, the creators of the website The Minimalist Vegan, mark out how minimalism and veganism intersect, how these concepts work hand in hand to help us live more mindful and grateful and compassionate lives.

Our economic system is based on constant growth by any means necessary. It thrives on us consuming more. Each day we are bombarded by thousands of messages and adverts which persuade us to buy and consume more. The adverts promise us happiness and satisfaction and connection, playing upon emotional triggers. But once we get this new product home, it fails to provide the promised benefits. The thrill soon wears off and we’re left seeking another fix promising happiness and satisfaction and connection.

This book upholds the less is more doctrine. How if we simplified our lives, became more mindful of what we consume, becoming more aware of how every decision we make impacts our lives as well as everything and everyone around us, then we will stand a better chance of saving our lives and the life of this planet.

I found this book a quick and easy read but still important in terms of the messages it advocates. It serves as a reminder that change isn’t easy especially if we’d rather do what everyone else is doing to fit in rather than stand out and make a stand against the industries and practices which cause animals harm.

Did you know that about eight million tons of plastic are dumped into our oceans every single year? The figures in this book are shocking. What is more shocking is when we know the figures and could do something to change them, to make this a better world for all species, we still
choose to do nothing and continue along this path of self and others’ destruction.

Reading this book does affect me and makes me question what more I can do. What behaviours can I start to change today in order to buy and waste less and be more compassionate? Anyone who reads this book and isn’t compelled to make change really is missing the point.

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5 ways to cultivate creativity

In the past, I’ve struggled with creativity. I thought I could neglect it and keep it under wraps. But creativity is an energy which won’t be silenced or railroaded.

It has to be respected, nurtured and practiced. Frequently.

Here are a few ways that I stay creative, they might even work for you too.

1. Turn up daily.

Being creative is a practice and you can only practice when you turn up. Turn up at the page, the canvas, the computer. Turn up without expectations, just commit to giving creativity some time and attention and see where it takes you.

2. Never give up, never surrender.

Some days the ideas are flowing. The words are all making sense. The colours are working together. I’m in the creative flow and I feel so much joy. But other days, I’m finding it difficult. I’m struggling to make sense, to feel good about what I’m doing. It’s icky. But I keep going. I keep turning ip because I know I’ll get back to the flow and joy and sweet spot.

3. Fall in love with the process

Process over product every time. Through focusing on the process, I’ve a much enjoyable ride. I learn so much about tools and skills and techniques. I’m present in the moment rather than jumping ahead to the end and stressing about if anyone will like what I create. With focus on the process, it doesn’t matter if anyone gets what the finished piece is about because the value comes through the practice.

4. Diversify

I suspend attachment and worries and stress when I create multiples or dabble in multiple creative projects. When I create in batches or move between different art form such as writing poetry and painting an abstract, it means I don’t place all my eggs in one basket. It means I’m not focusing on perfection or completion. I’m focusing on this mark now. And then the next mark. And how they talk to each other. I’m lost in the movement and the creating.

5. Trust yourself

This is probably the hardest thing to cultivate in terms of creativity as far too often we listen to our fears and self-doubts. We spend time and energy overthinking the process or second guessing our actions. We doubts our abilities and intentions. We fall into the comparison trap and before we know it we’re paralysed. We cease to create and feel a failure.

Trust in myself as a Creatrix has developed over time through practice. Through showing up and doing the work and enjoying the process. The more I do the more confident I am in what I have to say and share creatively with the world.

ten things

A few moons ago, I tried to bring into practice writing ten things about my day. Ten observations without using metaphor or simile. I detailed the task at length in this blogpost.

I kept up the practice for just a few weeks. Life as usual got in the way. Tonight, I find myself wanting to return to this practice. Maybe it’s been thinking on my decision to go deeper into my practices and life instead of adding width through acquiring new things, that has me reflecting on this ten things practice.

I see this daily practice as a means of generating more gratitude for the life I have created at the same time as grounding me in the present moment.

We’ll see how it goes. I’ll be sharing these creations on a special project page on my website – ten things. I hope you enjoy these sharings and look forward to reading them.

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.

My Story

I’ll be coming back to this topic again in future blog posts but for now let it be known that I started blogging because I’ve got a big heart that has to share.

Blogging called to me many years ago, like 2004 when I started the first website for a group I set up. Back then I saw the blog as a means of keeping an audience up to date with what we were getting up to. I saw it as a means of spreading the word and connecting with others. I suppose I still believe this is my reason for blogging now.

It also helps with writing practice, something I didn’t realise or appreciate until the words ran dry and it was because I stopped blogging. I stopped showing up for me, for believing in me and began to believe what others thought about me and my writing.

But that was wrong, as even when I knew no one was really reading my words, connecting with my thoughts and feelings, I still chose to share them in a public way in the hope that one day, someone out there is search of some words that could inspire them, touch them, change them stumbled upon my blog and it made all the difference to their moment, their day, their life.

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

Where I work

I wish I could display a wide open space with large tables, easels, storage for paintings and tools. With natural light streaming through so many windows that the space is forever bright. But I can’t.

I can’t afford a studio. If I’m organised, I can use the spare room which is my son’s room when he returns for visits from Uni. But recently, it’s become a dumping ground for when I’ve come in from an event or job and I’m too tired to sort out my bags. The room soon becomes unable to get into and the clutter enters my mind.

I’m much better being a mobile artist. Packing a bag and going to a hotel room to work is my ideal working space. And recently with having to travel for union work and family gatherings, I’ve managed to monopolise clean and white hotel rooms to create colourful, vibrate paintings be that my abstracts or my portraits of black women. And it has been welcomed and liberating.

So yes I don’t have a regular space to create at home but I don’t allow that to stop me from continuing to explore my visual language.

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 … <<

Working Behind the Scenes

Through April, during my social media hiatus, I have had two intense weekends away from home. One experience nourished my soul. The other pained my soul.

I will write at length about this some other time, some other place. For now, the first weekend was wild swimming in Snowdonia. It was awesome and exhilarating and pushed me out of my comfort zone. And subconsciously, I must have known within my body that I needed this, and the sea swimming the week afterwards, in preparation for the following weekend.

I was the one and only delegate for my union, Artists’ Union England at the TUC Black Workers’ Conference. I presented a motion around discrimation within the arts and culture as well as the cuts in funding which are felt the most by already impoverished communities where Black, Asian and ethnic minorities predominately reside.

This weekend was educational, informative and inspirational, as well as a wake-up call. I say we live in a beatiful world, but this world is also ugly, unfair and unjust. Systematic racism is the operating means of power and control. And I forgot. I bury my head most days. I live in my own little world. And this is a luxury I have to readdress and change if I am to be the agent of change I want to be.

When you are woke, you stay woke. You have to stay woke in order to keep that fire in your belly alive.

Expect more to follow about both of these experiences and others.

But for the time being, this site is going into reconstruction.
It has been a year in existence and things need to change. Hopefully for the better. I’m not sure how things are going to turn out but I’m excited about the prospects.

This is a hold page while I do this much needed work behind the scenes. But I’ll be still writing and creating during this time.

To stay up to date you have three options.

1. Follow me on social media from May – IG @wildsoulwoman – images and words, twitter @awildsoulwoman – politics and insights

2. Subscribe to Studio Notes, receive a free download of poetry and intimate notes about my life and adventures about one or twice a month.

3. Become a patron for my Slow Writing practice on Patreon. Here I will be sharing my musings, creations and breakthroughs as I explore race, gender, power, the body and nature.

Hope to connect with you through any or all of these platforms.
Until next time, take care

Sheree x