From the Heart- a 15 day journal exercise Part 15: Keeping a Journal

“Our life is a faint tracing on the surface of mystery, like the idle curved tunnels of leaf miners on the face of a leaf. We must somehow take a wider view, look at the whole landscape, really see it, and describe what’s going on here. Then we can at least wail the right question into the swaddling band of darkness, or, if it comes to that, choir the proper praise.”

― Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

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.  I have covered Chapters 1-14 in these instalments, and though there are 39 Chapters in total, I am wrapping up this series with a CALL TO ACTION to start a fresh journal today to record your messages from the heart.  

Recall:

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

Part 11: Fear of Death

Part 12: The Moment of Death

Part 13: The Act of Dying

Part 14: Dying Contemplation

Part 15: Keeping a Journal

1. Journal exercise: START A FRESH JOURNAL TODAY

What does a keeping a journal mean to you?

This blog is a journal for me.  It helps me gain perspective by putting my thoughts etc. into this format.  It is for me.  I also keep messy journals- scattered books- some complete, some sad almost empty ugly books, some gorgeous bound books, some filled with the story of my life, some just anxious to do lists with no insights or wisdom, but a record nonetheless.

I don’t keep journals for others- I do it for me.  I sometimes look at those bizarre stacks of paper and wonder why I keep them.  Then I will find in some random page a snippet of my life.  The pages remind me I exist.  Remind me that my memories are real.  Remind me I can survive.  They are an indication of MY HEART BEAT.

Journals are part of my creative expression, and though sometimes stupidly embarrassing as the stacks tower above me- I love them.

My journal is a lifeboat in this very strange sea that is my life.

 

2. Capture chapter highlights:

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

I choose a section from Chapter 15: Jennifer in Stephen Levine‘s A Year to Live as it reflects the magic of our heart messages, of journaling, of our individual journeys.

And offering me her shoulder she whispered,

When a thousand people look at the moon

there are a thousand moons.

4. Today’s angel card(s):

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From the heart- a 15 day journal exercise Part 14: Dying Contemplation

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.

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Recall:

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

Part 11: Fear of Death

Part 12: The Moment of Death

Part 13: The Act of Dying

Part 14: Dying Contemplation

1. Journal exercise:

What makes you breathe in and breathe out in a full-hearted  way?

For me it is ART.

And so it was for my Dad.

I was so blessed to witness the healing power of art as my Dad thrived at his extended care facility, carving out a life for himself.  He had purpose, routine, passion.  He had reclaimed his emotional life through art.  And he created till the end.  With a full heart.  What can be greater than that?  Wow.  Deep breath of gratitude.

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2. Capture chapter highlights:

Our story opens with the last breath and closes with the first…

The last breath of life leaving the body behind.  The connection severed between the light body and the heavy body.  The end of this life…

Let yourself die.  Let go now.  Hold to nothing.  Trust the process…

Float free in your original spaciousness…

Watch as something slowly approaches.  It is the first breath of life.

– Stephen Levine

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

I was screaming into the canyon
At the moment of my death
The echo I created
Outlasted my last breath

My voice it made an avalanche
And buried a man I never knew
And when he died his widowed bride
Met your daddy and they made you

I have only one thing to do and that’s
To be the wave that I am and then
Sink back into the ocean

– Fiona Apple Source

4. Today’s angel card(s):

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From the heart- a 15 day journal exercise Part 13: The Act 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.

Recall:

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

Part 11: Fear of Death

Part 12: The Moment of Death

Part 13: The Act of Dying

1. I return to a journal entry October 26, 2012:

In keeping with Dad’s wishes, I documented our last day together.

I came up early in the morning yesterday and spent some hours by myself with Dad before the rest of the family arrived for our daily vigil.

I set up the space  I had an intense need to offer some kind of guidance for him.

I played the Tibetan Book of the Dead audio for Dad.  We were not interrupted and it was very powerful.

My father’s feet showed signs of mottling, so I had a lovely gentle conversation with the nurse and we inspected him and nodded silently to each other.  Dad continued his rhythmic breathing. interrupted here and there with some abrupt harsh intakes of breath.  His heart beat on, but there were arrhythmic moments and his pulse was weak.

His senses were shutting down.  Hearing though may be one of the last things to go.

I felt he needed to hear more gentle guidance, so I played him Swedish lullabies into his left ear, sung by his favorite actor, Allan Edwall:

The family arrived and we spent another beautiful day together.

My friend, Darcy, dropped off Sunshine Cake:

We played some of Dad’s favorite Swedish comedy and some of his favorite Disney movies:

The artist’s hand lies still.

Staff came in regularly to tend him and to check in.  The doctor felt Dad could hang on another two weeks.  I was confused as it did not feel right intuitively, and felt a panic well up.  I did not want Dad to suffer any more.

We had a lot of family discussions and then we packed up around 8:00/8:30 PM and turned off the lights except for the Christmas lights and diffuser.  Dad was peaceful and apparently painfree.  I sensed he needed time to concentrate and to complete the journey on his own.

15 minutes after we left, care aide Kim went in and checked on him and he was still breathing.  Then care aide Mike went in and discovered that Dad had stopped breathing.  I received the call as my son and I bit into our dinner at Burgoo.

We quickly headed up and when we walked into the room, Dad was surrounded by his beloved caregivers.  They had tended him so beautifully.

My son Julian, my brother Fredrik, my brother Anders and my sister-in-law Charmaine and I sat for an hour talking, laughing, sighing, breathing, planning, sharing shots of Dad’s whiskey in his honor.  Dad’s “baby,” Tobey, lay on Dad’s legs as we awaited the transfer of Dad’s body.

Today we will be sorting his room.  I am filled with joy, relief, love, sadness and all the beautiful emotions a daughter can feel losing her beloved father.  I have also lost my best friend and I sense that once the numbness wears off, I will experience intense loss in this regard, but I accept and welcome it for I am so lucky to have had such a friendship.

Much love to all of you.

I feel my Dad doing his signature thumbs up!

You can read the book I created with my father (PDF file):

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2. Capture chapter highlights:

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This is how it is to die:

A sense of lightening, an expanding, a floating free…

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

Death is always on the way, but the fact that you don’t know when it will arrive seems to take away from the finiteness of life. It’s that terrible precision that we hate so much. But because we don’t know, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that’s so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more. Perhaps not even. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.”

(“The Sheltering Sky” – Paul Bowles)

[Thank you, Emma Varley]

4. Today’s angel card(s):

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When I draw a blank angel card, I smile, as I take it as my mom and dad telling me: YOU GOT THIS.  It is up to you.  Trust.  Stay in the “don’t know mind.”

Check out:

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From the heart- a 15 day journal exercise Part 12: the moment of death

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.

Recall:

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

Part 11: Fear of Death

Part 12: The Moment of Death

1. Journal exercise:  What are you saying goodbye to today in order to expand?

I am saying goodbye to NYC 2017.  Can’t afford it. Wasn’t meant to be.  But I say hello to what NYC truly means to me.  Deep in my heart.  For I am an artist.  That is my NYC.

 

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2. Capture chapter highlights:

Some say the moment of death occurs when the heart stops.  But the heart never stops, for when it is no longer contained between opposing ventricles it expands slowly into its inherent vastness without missing a beat, expressing the truth it has embraced for a lifetime…

Death like birth is not an emergency but an emergence.  Like a flower opening, it is nearly impossible to tell exactly when the bud starts to become the blossom, or when the seed-laden blossom begins to burst and release its bounty.

– Stephen Levine 

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

Everything involves sacrifice. Everything includes some sort of cost. Nothing is pleasurable or uplifting all of the time. So the question becomes: what struggle or sacrifice are you willing to tolerate? Ultimately, what determines our ability to stick with something we care about is our ability to handle the rough patches and ride out the inevitable rotten days.

If you want to be a brilliant tech entrepreneur, but you can’t handle failure, then you’re not going to make it far. If you want to be a professional artist, but you aren’t willing to see your work rejected hundreds, if not thousands of times, then you’re done before you start. If you want to be a hotshot court lawyer, but can’t stand the 80-hour workweeks, then I’ve got bad news for you.

What unpleasant experiences are you able to handle? Are you able to stay up all night coding? Are you able to put off starting a family for 10 years? Are you able to have people laugh you off the stage over and over again until you get it right?

What shit sandwich do you want to eat? Because we all get served one eventually.

Might as well pick one with an olive.

– Mark Manson

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4. Today’s angel card(s):

 

 STAY TUNED FOR A SPECIAL ART PROJECT ANNOUNCEMENT! 

From the heart- a 15 day journal exercise Part 11: 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.

Recall:

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

Part 11: Fear of Death

1. Journal exercise:

WRITE FOR 10 MINUTES ON LETTING GO AND STARTING FRESH.  YOU OWE NO ONE ANYTHING.  YOU CAN START TOTALLY FRESH TODAY.  

Allowing myself to start fresh.  To go into the cave.  To be in solitude.

Loving less interaction.  Loving not trying.  Happy to be doing less.

Healing the sick body and the exhausted mind.

Let it go.

Let it all go. 

Hey! Not feeling valued these days?  Let it go.

Need to feel  more assured?  Let it go.

Figure out next steps?  Let it go.

Should be should be— let it go.

Simplify? Yes.


2. Capture chapter highlights:

Our fear of death is our fear of the uncontrollable unknown.  It is the same old fear.  It lies in wait behind our eyelids as we awake each morning.  It is the fear of fears.  It needs space to breathe.

When attempts at control become a prison only letting go of control will result in freedom.

– Stephen Levine 

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

What is that hair ball of old energy you have been choking on?
… Let go of the need to heal old emotional wounds.The Power Path

4. Today’s angel card(s):

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.

Recall:

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.

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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

Autopsy

“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]

TB

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.

Y-STR

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

Check out:

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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?” 

#howcanyoufuckingnot 

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):

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From the heart- a 15 day journal exercise Part 9: A Commitment to Life

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.

Recall:

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

1. Journal exercise:

What are you committed to today?  I am staying committed to yesterday’s energy of not rushing.  I am getting things done, yes, but not rushing each item.  Staying present and staying innocent.  Staying with the energy of starting fresh.  I can’t solve anything today.  I can only stay aware and present.

Draw/doodle/write life renewal.  What comes to mind?

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2. Capture chapter highlights:

Awareness is itself a healing quality.  Where awareness is focused the deepest potentials for clarity and balance present themselves.  Though what we are aware of may be incessantly changing, awareness itself remains a constant, a luminous spaciousness without beginning or end, without birth or death.  It is the essence of life itself.  It is what remains when all that is impermanent falls away.  It is the deathless…

We must integrate our insights and encourage the weary mind to settle into the expansive heart…

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Chinamarker, acrylic and coffee on newsprint

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

I need to be alone. I need to ponder my shame and my despair in seclusion; I need the sunshine and the paving stones of the streets without companions, without conversation, face to face with myself, with only the music of my heart for company.
― Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer

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4. Today’s angel card(s):

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The bite marks are from my parrot!

From the heart- a 15 day journal exercise Part 8- Noticing

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.

I vomited out shit yesterday and received an overwhelming positive response.  Thank you for that!  Glad you related!  Let’s see what is in store today.

Recall:

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

1. Exercise- take note of small joys in your living space.  Care for your space gently.  

It is Sunday.  And an open day ahead to draw, to create, to be, to leave the to-do for tomorrow.  I began the day today by resting.  By staying in bed.  By slowing down and being in the moment.  Then I cleaned my apartment, changed the sheets, hung out with my parrot, did the laundry, organized art work, my books, dusted, watered plants, opened the windows wide, puttered around, tending my space.  No rush.  Staying in gratitude.

2. Capture chapter highlights:

What we describe as “our life” is not the sum total of what has passed through our hands but has passed through our minds.  Our life isn’t only a collection of people and places, it is a continuum of the ever-changing feelings they engender…

Our life only lasts a moment.  Note those moments.  Acknowledge to yourself, silently in the heart, the various states passing through.  Call them by name.  Note “fear,” note “doubt,” note “compassion” as these states pass through.  Let this naming of states be a gentle whisper in the heart, not a grasping at conceptual straws of the mind…

Because noting states of mind as they arise keeps us present, it allows us to meet difficulties at their inception– before they become more real than we are…

Noting is a remembering of the present.

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

It is in the bored moments that the beauty of life right before us can actually open.  It is in the moments of stillness that a portal is open to our inner lives. – Michele Lilyanna

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Check out:

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4. Today’s angel card(s):

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From the heart- a 15 day journal exercise Part 7: Fear of Fear

It’s been a while.  It’s been a lot lately.  But let’s see how this chapter unfolds.  What it reveals.

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.

Recall:

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

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I have been struggling between staying in curiosity/trust and floundering in fear.  And lo and behold, I open the book to the next chapter and it is titled:

Part 7: Fear of Fear

1. Journal exercise:

Get out a big piece of paper.  Write out the shit.  I mean really acknowledge what is making you fearful right now.  Really acknowledge what you are sick of.  Fuck affirmations for a bit.  Fuck gratitude. Fuck getting out of the way.  Fuck not allowing negative speak.  Stand up to it.  Face it.   It’s actually OK to acknowledge the pain that stirs within.

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I am tired of trying. I am sick of being broke, struggling through each month. I am sick of trusting the universe. I am so sad I had to cancel New York. No, I am mad. I am sick of churning stomach, applying for jobs, fearful of what is next. I am sick of PRAISE. For I am sick of counting coins while planning projects. I am sick of the word OPPORTUNITY. I can’t plan ahead if I can’t buy groceries or pay my bills today. It is never enough. I am wanting to land, but do I? I want to not have to take a giant student loan to get credentials I already have. I am sick of loving my home so much yet always being in fear that I can’t afford it. I am sick of not being rewarded for living frugally so I can afford to live in a place I deserve. I am sick of guilt. I am sick of fear that I do not know how to do this. Fear of failure is a failure, isn’t it? I want a clear calendar so I can start again.

Once you have vomited it all out, see if you dare to share it with someone- or read it out loud to yourself- or post it.  I learn from you.  You learn from me and we hold each other up.

Now alter it.  Any way you like.  You are in charge.

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Now throw it out!

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And hug yourself with humour and gratitude for YOU.  TODAY  it is ok to be in your own way.  TODAY it is OK not to flip all this vomit into a positive.  Cause we shouldn’t eat our own vomit.  Ideally.

TODAY IS TODAY and THIS MOMENT IS AWESOME.

2. Capture chapter highlights:

All fear has an element of resistance and a leaning away from the moment.  Its dynamic is not unlike that of strong desire except that fear leans backward into the last safe moment while desire leans forward toward the next possibility of satisfaction.  Each lacks presence.

Our unwillingness to enter each moment fully, without judgment or the need to control it, simply produces more fear and resistance to that fear.

“If I have only a year in which to soften my belly where do I begin?”

“In your heart.”

SOFT BELLY MEDITATION

Soft-belly is a trigger for our letting go. Softening melts the armoring over the heart, experienced as hardness in the belly. Each time we remember to be present, to be mindful, we soften into the moment. Softening becomes a call to the heart that it is safe to be alive in the body once again. Soft-belly brings an end to our fear of fear.

Taking a few deep breaths, feel the body you breathe in.
Feel the body expanding and contracting with each breath.
Focus on the rising and falling of the abdomen.
Let awareness receive the beginning, middle, and end
of each inbreath, of each outbreath
expanding and contracting the belly.
Note the constantly changing flow of sensation
in each inhalation, in each exhalation.
And begin to soften all around these sensations.
Let the breath breathe itself in a softening belly.
Soften the belly to receive the breath,
to receive sensation, to experience life in the body.
Soften the muscles that have held the fear for so long.
Soften the tissue, the blood vessels, the flesh.
Letting go of the holding of a lifetime.
Letting go into soft-belly, merciful belly.
Soften the grief, the distrust, the anger
held so hard in the belly.
Levels and levels of softening, levels and levels of letting go.
Moment to moment allow each breath its full expression
in soft-belly.
Let go of the hardness. Let if float
in something softer and kinder.
Let thoughts come and let them go,
floating like bubbles in the spaciousness of soft-belly.
Holding to nothing, softening, softening.
Let the healing in.
Let the pain go.
Have mercy on yourself, soften the belly,
open passageway to the heart.
In soft-belly there is room to be born at last,
and room to die when the moment comes.
In soft-belly the vast spaciousness in which to heal,
in which to discover our unbounded nature.
Letting go into the softness,
fear floats in the gentle vastness we call the heart.
Soft-belly is the practice that accompanies us throughout the day
and finds us at day’s end still alive and well.

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

If you are older, trust that the world has been educating you all along.  You already know so much more than you think you know.  You are not finished; you are merely ready.  After a certain age, no matter how you’ve been spending your time, you have very likely earned a doctorate in living.  If you’re still here– if you have survived this long– it is because you know things.  We need you to reveal to us what you know, what you have learned, what you have seen and felt.  If you are older, chances are strong that you may already possess absolutely everything  you need to possess in order to live a more creative life– except the confidence to actually do your work.  But we need you to do your work.  – Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic- Creative Living Beyond Fear

4. Today’s angel card(s):

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From the heart- a 15-day journal exercise Part 6

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.

Recall:

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

1. I copy a panel from The Song of Roland

This panel– I copied a panel from the book and drew it with china marker and oil pastels and olive oil of Siberian Pine– is so comforting for me as it reminds me of the beauty of caring for my parents.  It eases my heart.

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Read this book!!!!!

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2. Capture chapter highlights:

What words would you actually utter as you expelled your last breath?

This stage of growth, of looking ourselves squarely in the eye and recognizing the work still necessary to become whole, the hearts to be touched, the amends to be made, and the thank-you cards to be sent, is painful and life-expanding for everyone…

Prepare now for death so as to intensify and fulfill your life.  Don’t imagine your endorphins are going to do it for you “when the time comes.”  When the time actually comes, what is found then will be what is found now…

We die the way we live.

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

“He smelled the garden, the yellow shield of light smote his eyes, and he whispered, “Life is so beautiful.”

Yes, he thought, if I can die saying, “Life is so beautiful,” then nothing else is important.”
― Mario Puzo, The Godfather

4. Today’s angel card(s):

Angel cards

You can read the book I created with my father here:

DRAWN TOGETHER 

(page contains PDF link) 

From the heart- a 15-day journal exercise Part 5

I dedicate today’s post to my soul-sister Patti Henderson and to our deep HEART chats.

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.

Recall:

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

1. CREATE freely.  Do what you love.  What relaxes you?  For me, it is drawing and embroidering.

I recall a piece from 3 years ago:

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From the heart- a 15-day journal exercise Part 4

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.

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Recall:

Part 1: Catching Up with Your Life

Part 2: Practice Dying

Part 3: Preparing to Die

Part 4: Dying from the Common Cold

1. Draw the pain:

Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is.
– German Proverb

I recall an exercise I made up in August 2012 as I journaled:

“Waking up with the cannonball weight of anxiety and fear in your chest?  Racing thoughts about all the usual?  Worried that you won’t be able to deliver all you have promised?  That you don’t have enough resources?  Financially, physically, spiritually?  Forgetting to live in the moment and over-thinking the future?  Scattered and feeling disorganized?  You know…  All that typical familiar stuff that builds a wall of fear around you. Well, that’s me this AM.  So I tried this.  I drew an outline.”

Drew in where the fear sits the strongest.

Then gently erased.

Easy.  Breathed through.  Decreased the tension.  Softened.

2. Capture chapter highlights:

Watch the shadows gather in the aching body.  Hear them mutter in complaint and self-pity.

Pity arises from meeting pain with fear.  Compassion comes when you meet it with love…

When we begin to respond to discomfort instead of reacting to it, an enormous change occurs.  We begin to experience it not as just “our” pain but as “the” pain… When it’s “my” unworthiness I feel unworthy to explore it.  But when it’s “the” unworthiness– the pain so many struggle with– compassion flows naturally towards it…

When it’s “the” pain, it has the whole universe to float in, when it’s “my” pain, I’m standing alone in it.

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

From:

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By learning about anxiety, spending time with it and finally holding in your hand, you can enjoy the next step: You can relax your grip, and let it fall away. It will have served its purpose. You will have loved that part of yourself and it won’t need to get your attention with such a difficult message again.

You will be connected. That’s the first gift.

The second gift is that feeling connected and with realizing that you’re enough can lead you to a cycle of inner fullness. It can give you an easy-to-remember awareness that you’re up for this, whatever the next exciting challenge or painful event may be.

The third gift of anxiety is that it gets you to recognize your own power with, instead of power over, yourself and your life.

All you had to do was listen… – Ariella Baston

4. Today’s angel card:

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Robin’s egg bowl by Alison Donnelly

From the heart- a 15-day journal exercise: Part 3

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.

Recall:

Part 1: Catching Up with Your Life

Part 2: Practice Dying

Part 3: Preparing to Die

1. Embroider your heart

Here is a PDF of one of my drawings for you to print out: Heart

Color it.  –> Cut it out.  –> Glue it on card stock.  –> Cut it out again.  –> Embroider!

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Photo by Erin Banda

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Check out:

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2. Capture chapter highlights:

If you had only one year to live, what would you do?

[I think about the beautiful, heartbreaking, incredible mother-daughter year my mother and I had from her diagnosis of pancreatic cancer November 2007 to her death November 2008.]

… To have a whole year to examine one’s life consciously in the context of approaching death is almost unique in the human experience…

As we begin to see where we have been absent from life, increasing possibilities audition for our approval.  The heart suggests that we become more present, that we sharpen our focus…

Those who insist they’ve got their “shit together” are usually standing in it at the time…

Sometime it takes a journey to come home.  We may even have to leave our comfortable (though always rented, never owned) domicile to do it.  Life is like that and so is death…

Thus, in the one year experiment… focus, instead, on the heart that loves as is.  This means completing one life before we start another, taking one evolutionary leap at a time.

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

WE ALREADY HAVE everything we need. There is no need for self-improvement. All these trips that we lay on ourselves—the heavy-duty fearing that we’re bad and hoping that we’re good, the identities that we so dearly cling to, the rage, the jealousy and the addictions of all kinds—never touch our basic wealth. They are like clouds that temporarily block the sun. But all the time our warmth and brilliance are right here. This is who we really are. We are one blink of an eye away from being fully awake.
― Pema Chödrön, Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living

4. Today’s angel card:

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From the heart- a 15-day journal exercise: Part 2

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.

Recall: Part 1: Catching Up with Your Life

Part 2: Practice Dying

1. Color an anatomical heart:

Here is a PDF of one of my drawings for you to print out: Heart

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2. Capture chapter highlights:

And it’s never too late to complete our birth.  As Buddha said, “It doesn’t matter how long you have forgotten, only how soon you remember.”

To practice dying.  To be fully alive.  To investigate the dread of, and resistance to life and death.  To complete my birth before it’s over.  To investigate that part of myself that refuses to take birth fully, and hops about as though it still had one foot in the womb.

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it was the fear of life that needed to be investigated first…

… But when the heart at last acknowledges how much pain there is in the mind, it turns like a mother toward a frightened child.

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

“The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness. Although the two are identical twins, man, as a rule, views the prenatal abyss with more calm than the one he is heading for (at some forty-five hundred heartbeats an hour). I know, however, of a young chronophobiac who experienced something like panic when looking for the first time at homemade movies that had been taken a few weeks before his birth. He saw a world that was practically unchanged-the same house, the same people- and then realized that he did not exist there at all and that nobody mourned his absence. He caught a glimpse of his mother waving from an upstairs window, and that unfamiliar gesture disturbed him, as if it were some mysterious farewell. But what particularly frightened him was the sight of a brand-new baby carriage standing there on the porch, with the smug, encroaching air of a coffin; even that was empty, as if, in the reverse course of events, his very bones had disintegrated.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, Speak, Memory

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4. Today’s angel card:

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From the Heart- a 15-day journal exercise: Part 1

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.

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I will share my exploration here and I encourage you to join me.  The book has 15 chapters, so I will explore in 15 parts in 15 days.  I will focus on the heart image in each part, share some highlights from the chapter, look at other resources that resonate and pull an angel card.

Part 1: Catching Up with Your Life

  1. Draw an anatomical heart:

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Or here is a PDF of one of my drawings for you to print out: Heart

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2. Capture chapter highlights:

This book is a book of renewal.  It is not simply about dying but about the restoration of the heart.

Part of us seek relief from our fears, while another aspect causes our focus on life to intensify, to push us to look deeper into just who or what took birth and who, indeed, it is that will someday die.

Whatever our situation, the progression– sudden or gradual– if the same: to remember, to let go, and to trust the process. 

Thoughts?

Today I took steps to self-advocate, explore new options, releasing attachment to the outcome- valuing myself without apology.  And though it was hard, I took the steps.

The trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, you risk even more. – Erica Jong

Let go.  Trust the process.

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

The Power Path May 2017 Forecast

The way we look at priorities is changing. We need to learn to prioritize from our hearts instead of from our minds. The way the mind prioritizes is by rationalizing why we should be doing something instead of simply intuiting that it should be done. The challenge during times of instability is that we have too many choices, too many options, too much on our plate, and too many considerations to sort through. We don’t know what to do first, what to end, what to start, what we can ignore, what is done, what is ours and what is not. So, we revert back to what is known and where we feel safe and confident. But this is never a good permanent solution.

The only way to bring focus and stability into our lives now is to learn to prioritize from the heart. This requires trust and intuition, listening to yourself instead of others and connecting in with your own desires. Making choices from the heart may disappoint others and even bring instability into someone else’s life, but that is the challenge this month and the price you pay for resetting your priorities and it will serve you in the long run. When there are too many options, choices and possibilities to process through the mind, the only way to gain clarity is to turn to the heart and allow it to lead.

4. Today’s angel card:

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“I came to a realization the other day…” journal exercise. #arttherapy

“I came to a realization the other day…”

Finish this sentence. Fill a journal page.  Just let the words flow out.  What have you realized of late?

Write it.

Draw it.

… actually it was when I turned 50.  I realized that if I live as long as my mom did, then I only have 22 years left.  22 years is less than the ages of my children… It  wasn’t a bad thought.  It was liberating.  It’s time to let go  of hesitations and embrace trust.  It’s time to let go of humility and concentrate on shameless self-promotion.  It’s time to enjoy being myself and letting go of the need to please.  It’s time to fulfill the goals, not just dream the dreams.

Recommended:

Our life lasts only a moment.

Again, what have you realized of late?