From the Heart- a 15 day journal exercise: Part 10 Fear of Dying

I am re-reading Stephen Levine‘s A Year to Live- how to live this year as if it were your last as a personal exercise schedule to take time to slow down and truly listen to my heart.


Part 1: Catching Up with Your Life

Part 2: Practice Dying

Part 3: Preparing to Die

Part 4: Dying from the Common Cold

Part 5: Renewing Evolution

Part 6: Famous Last Words

Part 7: Fear of Fear

Part 8- Noticing

Part 9: A Commitment to Life

Part 10: Fear of Dying

1. Journal exercise:

Dying to me implies process.


What is it that process we fear today?  What did we fear yesterday?  How did we move forward despite?  What made us move forward a year ago?

If you keep a journal/ diary /image-idea file, go back a year and revisit an entry:

June 10, 2016


“I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.”
Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

[How fascinating that my brother told me yesterday he just finished The Bell Jar]


What am I trying to convey in my work?  Is it of value?  Does it matter?

I remind myself that it doesn’t, that it CANNOT MATTER how I “fit in” to current zeitgeist or if my work has “value.”  I just do it.

It is a biological function.

PROCESS is my art form, obsessive ongoing process, either when teaching it, facilitating it, doing it.

So there in lies what MATTERS.  The PROCESS.

Process art is an artistic movement as well as a creative sentiment where the end product of art and craft, the objet d’art, is not the principal focus. The ‘process’ in process art refers to the process of the formation of art: the gathering, sorting, collating, associating, patterning, and moreover the initiation of actions and proceedings.

Process art is concerned with the actual doing and how actions can be defined as an actual work of art; seeing the art as pure human expression. Process art often entails an inherent motivation, rationale, and intentionality. Therefore, art is viewed as a creative journey or process, rather than as a deliverable or end product. – Wiki

I have come to terms with the fact that my particular imagery is a stream of consciousness process.  I suppose I am interpreting text in my illustration projects, but it seems more that I land on a particular word or phrase and play from there.  So the resulting image becomes a type of riff or image play.

Fleshy Tomb

I have tried other ways to work, but only my personal stream of consciousness expression makes me feel authentic. I am thoroughly enjoying Caroline Spurgeon’s book, Shakespeare’s Imagery- and what it tells us (1935) as she contemplates the evidence of Shakespeare’s thoughts in his imagery.

The bare fact that germinating seeds of falling leaves are actually another expression of the processes we see at work in human life and death, thrills me, as it must others, with a sense of being here in presences of a great mystery, which could we only understand it, would explain life and death itself.

For me, drawing and embroidering the drawings is to lie down into life and take time to look at the PROCESS as it slowly unfolds.  It is about TRUTH.

I would actually argue that the current art period is PROCESS.


the permanent analogy of things by images which participate in the life of truth… – Percy Bysshe Shelley

Check out:

Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 9.45.41 AM


And which is what I think the thing that we call the Arts contains something that’s kind of alive. And I, I think image is the right word for it, and what the biological function of this thing we call the images or the arts might be. Because my argument is we wouldn’t of dragged it through all our evolutionary stages unless it had a biological function. So, that’s kind of what I’m going to be talking about. And then, work that I’ve been doing with students and scientists about this very thing. Weinman so I think, you know, when we’re little all of us are really connected to our inner artist and then the majority of us, as we get older, cut that off. – Lynda Barry

2. Capture chapter highlights:

We have enormous capacity to work with discomfort through inner means.

We get down to what Buddha said was the job we born for, knowing that letting go of our suffering is the hardest work we will ever do.

Let it come and let it go.  There is nothing to fear in fear.

The sincere exploration of fear results in a fearlessness which does not even fear to go away but to come open and free.

– Stephen Levine A Year to Live- how to live this year as if it were your last

3. Explore another source regarding listening to the messages from the heart:

You are the artist of this short, achingly beautiful life. Whether you answer your call to create or choose to let your chances slip you by, your life is the greatest work of art you’ll ever be commissioned.  

You are creatively responsible for dreaming up a life more aligned with your truth instead of endlessly complaining about what is. 

We rely too much on feelings.

Yet living a creative life is not a matter of “feeling” but of action, of will, of loyalty, of purpose and of duty to your soul. In fact, feelings often change or increase AFTER taking action. Rarely before. 

True Love, Real Freedom, Abundant Creativity, Unshakable Self-Trust — and all the things that you’ve been chasing your entire life — THESE ARE NOT FEELINGS, THEY ARE ACTIONS. 

Feelings are elusive, contradictory, unstable, fleeting. I didn’t quite “feel” like getting up this morning or sharing this with you. I’m still picking my remains from under that train.

But hey, coffee can change my feelings in a heartbeat. 

The question you should ask yourself every time you hear the fuck-this-shit bells is not “How can I create when this or that gets in the way?” but the exact opposite:

“How can I NOT create when this reality is too banal or beautiful or meaningless or painful, not to be alchemized into more life?” 


You don’t create because it’s easy, you do it because it’s worth it.

Not shaping reality with the brush of your unique imagination, not sharing your truth with the world for fear of loss, of rejection, or even of greatness — is a selfish, cowardly and limited way to live.

Not creating yourself and your life every day is just NOT an option. Not a truthful one anyway. 

You owe our smaller self to the service of your higher self, you owe us all your story, you owe your greatness to the world.

Please give it back. Somebody needs your truth today.

 – Andrea Balt

4. Today’s angel card(s):

Photo 2017-06-07, 9 12 10 AM


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