Rest is a weapon

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“Rest is a weapon.” – Jason Bourne

Rest is a gift. A gift I rarely give myself because I always have this feeling, this inch at the back of my head that I should be doing something, going somewhere, not wasting the day doing nothing.

But that’s it, rest is not doing nothing.
It’s been drummed into us that doing nothing is bad, that it’s laziness and will be our ruin.
Rest is not doing nothing. Rest is an active thing, for me. Rest is something I have to give myself permission to do. It’s something I have to let myself off the hook to do. I’ve got such high standards for myself, of myself and others that I’ve viewed rest as not being active and a negative thing to be doing. I’ve run from rest. I judged that rest is for the weak and I didn’t want to be associated with it.
But not anymore. I know slowing down and resting, putting my feet up, taking a break, unplugging and shutting my eyes, and taking slow deep breathes and doing absolutely nothing is powerful and needed and makes me stronger.
I get things done after a rest. I’m present after a rest. I can pay my projects, my people, myself more attention after rest.

Rest is a weapon; a powerful weapon which I keep in my arsenal at all times.

5 Problems with Social Media

I’m currently on another social media hiatus.
After my last three months absence, from November 2018 – February 2019, while away I left Twitter and Facebook, I’ve been posting once or twice daily on both my Instagram accounts. I was posting about my #100daysprojects as well as my personal adventures into nature. Things were going well, but I knew a burnout was coming. I was being too prolific and focused. I knew, from experience, that I would run out of things to say. So I called the hiatus before that point, but by the time the end of April came along, I was ready to go.

I value the connections I’ve made through Instagram. I enjoy witnessing what others are doing. I take the time ad energy to cheer them along on their journeys. But at the same time, I’ve my issues with social media and these are what they are.

1. Social Media can be a distraction.

I find that social media can be noisy and distracting. So many people are doing or offering great things and telling everyone about it. And it can mean, I spend my time watching them instead of watching what I’m supposed to be doing. It’s just another way to procrastinate and take me out of my own creative flow.

2. Social Media can be damaging for the self-esteem.

I’m not stupid, and I know people post potted, designed versions of their lives and journeys but that doesn’t stop me from falling into the comparison trap. Sometimes, I see other people’s brightly photoshopped lives and feel paralysed. No amount of effort or time or talent could get me to this level, so why bother, I think. So I do nothing.

3. Social Media can be toxic.

I’ve met some good people on social media. Good people who now support me through Patreon, or through reading my writings and posts. But one reason I left Facebook was because of the negativity and arguments and harm that was showing up on my feed. There wasn’t much love coming my way or being circulated around. I saw a lot of hate and it was affecting me, physically and mentally. So I had to go for my own sanity and well-being.

4. Social Media is not the real world.

I know if you’re living far away from loved ones that social media is a great way to stay connected. With the photos posted you are able to ‘see’ them and feel as if you’re not missing out on their lives and happenings. But this isn’t the same as living in the real world. Nothing can beat having face to face contact with friends and family. And sometimes, we use social media as a substitute for making more of an effort to connect with our people physically.

5. Social Media is controlling our lives.

Being on social media takes time and effort. We post our loves and hates, we post our joys and worries, we post our dreams and successes. We invest a lot of our time and energy and love into platforms that are set up to leach our personal information and money. They profess to be fostering community but really they’re keeping us locked into the vicious cycle of being mindless consumers. Yes I’m still on Instagram and yes I know it’s owned by Facebook. But I’m looking for a way to leave all social media and still be connected with my peeps around the world. One possibliity is here, blogging and my website. I’m trying.

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.

Artists’ Residencies

While coming to the end of my first trip to Iceland, while relaxing after time at The Blue Lagoon realising that I wanted to return to my life back home with Grace, I made a promise to myself that I would return to Iceland. I had to return.

It was from this point onwards that I started to look at artists’ residencies. I had just spent a week touring the whole of Iceland, so I was looking to base myself in one place for the duration of a residency in order to give myself a different experience.

The only place I couldn’t get to this first time around was the Westfjords. I’m not sure if I did this on purpose so I’d have to return or because it was about 8 to 9 hours drive to get there from Reykjavik off the Ring Road. This gave me a good enough reason to return as well as to fix my sights on a retreat in the Westfjords.

Through my research I found The Westfjords Residency.
“We seek to create encounters between nature and man, foreigner and local, the remote and the connected.“
A Danish-Belgian couple came to Thingeyri in 2005, started to rebuild an old, historic house into a coffeehouse called “Simbahöllin” in 2009. They then went on to create a cultural space with the Residency program being part of this. They offer group residencies that can be applied for but also self-directed individual residencies.

Before I worked out what I really wanted to do with my time in the Westfjords, I put in an application asking for a two week stay in winter 2017. I knew I had to immerse myself in the landscape of Iceland more, to explore this curious relationship and connection I had formed with this place. Basing myself in a remote and isolated fishing village was the ideal situation to do so.

I look back now at the time I spent in the Westfjords, while still in Iceland but this time in the south, and I wonder what happened then. What did I do with my time out there? What did I achieve, if anything?

I could judge this endeavour along productivity lines. I could judge it by the all-doing, all- going and all-singing-and-dancing routine that are the external markers of today’s society. It’s how we function.

But that would be missing the point. A residency or retreat, for that matter, is about the time and space away from the everyday not doing the usual. An opportunity to settle deeper into the self. It’s a chance to take your foot off the accelerator and to press on the brakes, gently. Allowing yourself to come to a complete stop and just be.

Breathe, deep breaths not the shallow sharp ones that you’ve been getting by on for years. But really deep juicy breaths that fill you up with wonder and awe and reignite you again from the core, from your true self.

Taking my cues from this definition of a residency then my time spent in the Westfjords was time well spent. I look forward to repeating the experience.

Longing for Rest

Those who in youth and childhood wander alone in woods and wild places,
ever after carry in their hearts a secret well of quietness and …
they always long for rest and to get away from the noise and rumour of the world.

W. B. Yeats, Letters

My Creative Year in Review – Part 1

In recent years during December I’ve taken the time and space to reflect back on the past twelve months in terms of my creative life. It is always inspiring and surprising to remember the things I have achieved as well as the mistakes I have learnt from along the way.

Following this practice of review means that I enter the next year, fired up and focused about the choices I want to make going forward.
If I had to sum up 2017 in 3 words it would include courage, voice and business.

Let’s take a look at each month ( the year will be split into two parts) and see what happened along the way to carry me into 2018, older but so much more younger in terms of wonder and curiosity.

January came in cold and dark. The ideal time to go deeper into my practice of hygge. During my winters walks #TheHealingPeopertiesOfTheSeas was conceived as a one day symposium all about our relationship with water. This has still to take place but the concept is out there and can be found on IG  and Twitter. Holding this idea throughout the year has meant that I’ve been curating short 10 second films around water. These will be available to watch and add to during 2018.

February was the beginning of my exploration of voice. Having been chosen to take part in an Arvon foundation residential course for writers wanting to make change happen, I met a whole heap of interesting people who supported me on my journey of claiming and using my authentic voice around the theme of my body in the environment. This led into further publications of my creative non-fiction poetic writing here. I was also exploring my voice through painting by completing Painting the Feminine with Connie Solera. This was another opportunity for me to embody my multi-layered identity, providing the tools and techniques to support my self-expression.

March saw me return to Iceland as part of a self-directed residency with The Westfjords Residency. To spend an extended amount of time in an isolated village miles from a major town was testing. I questioned what I was trying to achieve by doing this, in terms of my creativity as well as my life. It was unsettling to some extent as all my usual boundaries were missing and for a while there I did flounder. I also experienced some racial abuse while in Reykjavik which made me question my relationship with the whole country. March was definitely a learning curve which manifested in a deeper love of Iceland which meant before I left I made plans to share this love with my family.

April was another month of learning as I not only completed a Woodland leader training course in the Highlands of Scotland but I also went live with my new website and brand name Living Wild Studios. I’d procrastinated enough and it was time to be seen, showcasing all of my creative adventures under one roof.
It was a scary time but one that I wouldn’t change as I went with my gut and created a beautiful website I’m proud to call my home. It’s varied and dynamic and changing to reflect how I’m changing.

May seemed to have gone in a blur. I know it was a time of disrupted plans due to Alan’s mam being in hospital for an extended stay. It was a time of sticking close to home and putting my family first and foremost. But I did try to keep moving forward with Living Wild Studios as a business, extending my reach through social media. To be honest, I didn’t really enjoy this month as I was trying to operate in a way that wasn’t being authentic to me. I had to explore my relationship with social media, with the pubic arena at large and withdraw to do so. This was good for me, for my sanity.

I continued my social media hiatus into June. I felt I was just settling into my own space and voice by the end of May so wanted more time away from distractions to listen within. This was an important month for me to dive deep into the Creative Facilitator Training I had started with Lisa Sonora this year. I had been building up a resistance to the course as it wasn’t as I had thought it would be. I expected more. But then I realised that this is an experiential course and I get out of it what I put into it. All along I’m using myself and my experiences and beliefs as the learning examples so in order to learn and move forward I had to be more engaged. A light bulb moment which saw me returning at the end of the month to social media to share my visual journaling practice, the foundation of my creativity, much more extensively and thoroughly than before.

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1. Re-entry into my everyday after being away is harsh.
2. The sun glows low.
3. We walk the shore alone and smell the waves.
4. My everyday life is full of kinks.
5. The terns dance within the foam.
6. Strong black coffee steams.
7. Luther Vandross ‘Searching’ on the radio.
8. Emails plying up as is the washing.
9. Box set bingeing late into the night.
10. Not ready to start it all again tomorrow.