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]

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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.

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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.

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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 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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Slingshot: limbo anticipation? #journal #ramblings

I’ve been mulling over the slingshot image for a few days now.

I have been recognizing a darkness and a certain kind of fatigue in the air of late.

In many in my circle.

Certainly in me.

I feel like I am being pulled backward, downwards– just when I thought I had it all figured out and knew what the plan was.

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…the clarity of what’s to come is just beyond our reach… – The Power Path

Being pulled back into revisiting so many triggers from the past.

Strangely reconnecting with so many people from way back.

Weighed down by the same old fears…

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The bills are piling up, but no money is coming in. Or maybe your baby left you, walked right out. Perhaps you’ve made an epic mistake, with disastrous and irrevocable consequences. You can barely breathe, suffocated by the unwieldy weight of your own broken heart.

You frantically scan the landscape, looking for clues or any kind of lifeline. But the vista is barren. You’re shredded into a million bewildering pieces. You’re hanging on for sweet life. Or maybe you don’t know what you’re hanging on to anymore, or if you even can.

This is survival mode. And it will be okay. – Rebelle Society

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Realizing though that all this pulling back to the past

all this imagery and memory-

is about reviewing

to be able to say

alright, that’s not serving me anymore.  Though it was HEARTFELT and AMAZING, DRAINING and DEEP- I am ready to unravel myself from it.  

To suture up.  To prepare for next launch.

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I am pulled taut.

Another life is set.

Is this limbo?  Or anticipation?

This is the time for complete surrender.

Time to shoot past the past the past… SLINGSHOT!

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Whenever I feel overwhelmed or out of balance I turn to my version of The Slingshot Principle. It’s simply a reminder that in order to fly forward, often we need to first pull back. Just like a slingshot, the real power and velocity comes from being stretched and pulled… but in a backwards motion.

It’s that backwards motion that is the hardest direction for us to go but vitally important if we are to create momentum, speed and forward progress. – Daniel Decker, The Slingshot Principle

Fear and resistance on a Monday morning. #Journal

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The more scared we are of a work or a calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.

~ The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

I am answering a call.  More on that soon.

Yet still I struggle with the same old anxieties around money.  I am taking steps, mind you, but my anticipated financial overhaul/debt consolidation will be “delayed” for a few months as I wait until late Spring for the value of my home to increase to make the overhaul have any significant significance.  I say “delayed” with quotation marks for I sense I use that word because a voice in me constantly “encourages” me (annoyingly) to avoid taking any other action now that is just as helpful as a financial overhaul.   

But I cannot delay any longer! I’ve said it beforeOnly by accepting that all is ok in this moment, no matter where all the accounts stand, can I weigh those options, make bold moves, and ALLOW CHANGE.  It’s time to manage the moola…

But what I have done now, that is different from before, is that I have accepted to REALLY ACKNOWLEDGE what steps I need to take to allow for more income by following the direction of where my soul flows– the soul-lifting areas with incredible expansion potential- and to move away from the areas where I am only treading water and losing energy because of it.

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I am too old to not take the “risk,” to not answer the call and to not give these opportunities I find myself in everything they deserve.  IT’S TIME.  These new opportunities deserve my FULL ME.

[Resistance is] any act which disdains short-term gratification in favor of long-term growth, health or integrity. Or, expressed another way, any act that derives from our higher nature instead of our lower. Any act of these types will elicit Resistance.

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

And I embrace that, despite the tendency of being hard on myself for being in the struggle, EVERYTHING I have experienced to this point is actually empowering me!

EVERYTHING.  The shit and the sunshine, as my Dad would say.

So what am I actually feeling when I am fearing?  Fear is just old triggers reminding me of getting report cards in school and feeling judged and feeling stupid and never good enough.  Fear is just the increased blood pressure pushing blood through my veins a little faster.

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Fear is my heart beating loudly, stuck at the starter gate [resistance], desperate for the signal to break free and RUN!

Well I howl now!

GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

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Out of the starter gate.  Jumping off the cliff. Forming wings on the way down.

Beautiful and free.  And fearless.  Created by my nephew Henrik during his summer holiday. Age 22 months.
Beautiful and free. And fearless. Created by my nephew Henrik during his summer holiday. Age 22 months.

She wasn’t falling.

She was soaring.

– Carolyn Riker

Recommended [click on image to go to link]:

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Facing the wall of fear… #journal exercise. #arttherapy

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.

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

OK- I’m ready for the day! Love, Katarina