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Archive for the ‘HAPPINESS’ Category

I have been blogging here for over 10 years now and have decided to publish some material I still believe in from those days until the end of February in celebration.

 

As those who follow me very well know, I love to talk about focus, so here is one of my favourite posts about the importance of focus to be able to accomplish anything we set our mind to:

 

FOCUS IS EVERYTHING

December 18, 2007 by Enviroart

Today, as we approach Christmas, I have to push myself to get into the Christmas spirit. No more young enthusiastic children bouncing around me asking if they are going to get their wishes from Santa. No more of their laughter and smiles, their jumping around asking how many more days, opening their chocolate calendar everyday counting the nights between now and the Big Day.

 

We are literally buried in snow this year. Unlike previous years, we have had a large amount of snow in 2 storms within the last 10 days and it is beautiful outside: White everywhere, blue sky, the sun shining, at least it was yesterday. Everything looks pure and clean but… wait a minute isn’t it what people dream about? A white Christmas? What’s the problem then? Our focus is the problem.

 

It is sometimes difficult to look around us and appreciate what our eyes can capture. Beauty, nature, the pleasure, the privilege I should say of breathing fresh air. We are so lucky here to have clean water and relatively clean air. Why is it so difficult sometimes to see and appreciate it? All these worries we carry in our head, all these aches and pains we notice in our body? What about what doesn’t hurt? Why don’t we notice this?

 

I digress but it is important for me this morning to look at what is not wrong instead of what is wrong and needs to be fixed. How many of us spend our lives looking at what is wrong and wanting to fix it? Not that this is wrong since we need people to fix things, right? But we also need balance and you cannot spend your life focusing on what is wrong in your life, your relatives’ and friends’ lives, the world. And in order to make things better, we must find a balance and find a way to feel somewhat at peace and happy.

 

The best way to do this is to take a quick inventory of what is not wrong. Not even necessarily what is right. Focus is everything. There are a lot of things that are NOT wrong in your life. Just the fact that you can breathe without any help, that you can feel your breath enter your lungs and come out, feeding your body with oxygen, this tells you that you are alive and that everything is possible. There is pollution, there is unrest and wars, there are conflicts but there is also beauty, there is nature there is kindness all around us. Focus is everything.

 

In the end, you are responsible only to yourself and your children of course if they are still young and dependent. After all you did choose to bring them into the world and you do have a responsibility to give them the proper tools to become their own persons. But other than that, you are not responsible for anybody else really. This is hard to comprehend and harder still to apply. We have husbands, wives, friends, families that we all feel need us to be a certain way, to act like expected to be what they think we are. This is very draining at the end.

 

Torn between guilty feelings, expectations, obligations, we sometimes created ourselves. But in the end, would our acting any different really change anything in these people’s lives? They would certainly get over it if we did not act according to their expectations. But the biggest disappointment is when we disappoint ourselves because of our own need to be perfect or to fulfill someone’s image of ourselves that often does not correspond to reality.

 

Focus is everything and Mahatma Gandhi said: “Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony”. Look deep inside, reach in and find one thing to do today that is really in harmony with your true self. Make a list of what is not wrong with your life.

 

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Since January 19th and until the end of February, I am publishing essays that I first posted 10 years ago. The Pareto law can be observed in every aspect of our life. Reading these posts brings home the importance of taking some time for ourselves to reflect every now and then, our happiness depends on it!

 

 

The Pareto law or the 80/20 principle in everyday life

February 15, 2008 by Enviroart

 

I have been reading about the 80/20 principle lately. Over the years, it had never really caught my attention but here it is now. I find it intriguing because of the fact that it can be applied to everything in life, whether business, economics or relationships and material possessions. It first caught my attention while I was listening to a conference about the Tao Te Ching, the ancient wisdom brought to us by Lao-Tzu 2500 years ago. One of the verses talks about decreasing instead of accumulating. The 48th verse says that “Learning consists of daily accumulating, The practice of the Tao consists of daily diminishing” It also says: ”True mastery can be gained by letting things go their own way. It cannot be gained by interfering”. How does this link with the 80/20 principle?

 

When we really see that we end up using only 20% of our possessions, we should be able to get rid of 80% of what clutters our closets and our homes. Think about it, are you really using 100% of what you possess? Probably not. So why not get rid of some of it and donate them to people that would use them? It is important for material possessions to be in circulation, to flow. They are at our service and we should not be slaves to them. If you own a home and are enjoying it, that is good. But if it becomes a burden of payments you have problems meeting, work and maintenance you do not enjoy doing, if it causes you stress and worries, then it is not worth it. The same is true of all our material possessions that must be dusted, washed, moved and so on. If something brings true enjoyment, it is all worth it but the minute it doesn’t anymore, get rid of it.

 

The 80/20 principle is also interesting when applied to business. If 20% of your products bring in 80% of the profits, if 20% of your employees produce 80% of the work, if 20% of your efforts bring about 80% of the results, it is clear that there needs to be a shift in working habits and a profound analysis of the employees strengths and weaknesses in order to render the whole thing more efficient. Because the opposite is also true: 80% of the products bring in only 20% of the profits, 80% of your employees don’t produce more than 20% of the work and 80% of the efforts bring only 20% results.

 

And what about relationships?  Are we spending 80% of our time on the 20% that doesn’t count instead of spending the bulk of our time with the 20% of our relationships that are important to us, to our well-being?  Does that make sense? There needs to be a shift to bring together our true values with our actions. The goal should always be to align these two realities, our spiritual authenticity and our material reality. The 80/20 principle brings this to light. I myself have realized that I was spending pretty much 80% of my time on things that didn’t really matter to me. I have been trying to re-align this.

 

You get caught up in life and outside demands and one day you realize that somebody else or something has taken over your life (80% of it at least) and that you are not doing what you want, with the people you want and are not where you want to be. When this happens, it is important to ask yourself what is important. What is the 20% you enjoy? What is the 20% you are good at? Take that 20% and increase its importance in your life by cutting out the things you don’t enjoy. Start with things you feel you are not good at (unless you think it is important to develop a particular skill).

 

If you don’t enjoy something and on top of it you are no good at it, why are you doing it? Replace these by things you feel you are good at. After a while it will become easier to identify and eliminate what should not be part of your life. After all, it is YOUR life. It should be YOUR choice.

 

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Because I have been blogging for 10 years, I decided to share some of my posts from that time as a celebration. After all, ten years is a decent time and I am very proud of it! Here is one about self-knowledge and acceptance, a difficult accomplishment!

Self-knowledge and self-acceptance

July 16, 2008 by Enviroart

Our Self-image is hard to control. Self-knowledge and self-acceptance are two important concepts that are sometimes difficult to grasp. Self-knowledge especially is an interesting concept that is not only difficult to grasp but also a dilemma. Do we really want to fully know ourselves? Do we want to see our flaws or do we want to perceive ourselves like others do when this is not positive. Do we really want to see in every corner of our soul and discover the nitty-gritty workings of our inner thoughts?

 

There are many obstacles to self-knowledge, particularly when you spend a lot of time with others. After all, our society often demands that we act in certain ways that are quite often contrary to our core self. Quite interestingly, we sometimes chose to be part of a group because we think we are going to enjoy it, or simply to find out if we are going to enjoy it. After all, our main motivation always remains to experience pleasure and happiness. When this doesn’t work out, we are surprised, disappointed, alienated from ourselves and wonder how come we didn’t know this in advance. This is self-discovery.

 

Everything we do, each decision, is to bring relief from unhappiness or to experience pleasure. We want to feel happy, loved, vindicated, right, acknowledged, useful and appreciated. This is the main motivation for most of what we do and decide. Some decisions, sometimes taken with this in mind, do not bring us to where we are trying to go but put us in a situation of stagnation.

 

It is important to remember that what drives our behaviours, indeed our lives is not business-like decision making or rational planning but the need to avoid pain and gain pleasure. This is an instinctive reaction driven by childhood experiences, what happened last month or yesterday, what your parents or peers told you over the years, what you learned through your various experiences and the conclusions you arrived to when you experienced these things. Even if we want to be rational, which often we think we are, we often end up doing things that only repeat a past pattern even if we know it won’t bring us to where we want to go.

 

It is very difficult to override the system and change a behaviour that has been embedded in ourselves for many years even if we know deep down it won’t bring us happiness. Short term pleasure and short term vision are often what rules our behaviour, indeed the world as we can acknowledge where we are environmental-wise.

 

Which is why often, self-knowledge goes out the window. Do we really want to know that deep down, our heart is not as good as we would like? That we are not perfect, that we don’t really do our best in certain circumstances, or rather, that we don’t really do our best in certain circumstances according to other people’s standards? Because, basically, we are all trying to do our best with what we are dealt in life. For example, even if some people are perceived as ”bad”, they are trying their very best to reach this pleasure/happy state. It is difficult to comprehend and accept that even a “bad” person, a criminal would be doing his best. It is difficult to accept that the murderer is only trying his best to reach a state of non-pain if not of pleasure and happiness. Maybe they just gave up because it seems less painful than trying again to “fit in”.  It is easier to accept life and its bad elements when you see that we are all part of a whole and that each and every one of us is trying his/her best to survive.

 

It is difficult to cope with a bad and obnoxious neighbour, a drunk driver, a criminal, and it should not be said that we should be accepting of behaviour that goes against other people’s right and well-being, that cause pain or even destroy life. Your freedom stops where the other person’s starts, as they say. But is also possible to look upon these bad elements with some compassion. For the person that is acting bad is unhappy. Somehow, what kind of education makes it OK to destroy other people’s property or other people’s peace of mind? If the education is not faulty, it could be a brain malfunction, a condition that forbids normal thinking and sends the person in a spiral of wrong decisions and behaviours. And to come back to self-knowledge and self-acceptance, how do these people come to accept that they are not able to function like everybody else and must choose a parallel lifestyle? The general consensus is that we don’t want these people in our lives and they must know it, I suppose. We know they are part of society but they must be controlled.

 

I think it is important to self-discover in order to improve ourselves and our lives but also, to examine what drives our decisions. The main goal to reach happiness needs to be defined and separated from the vision of avoiding short-term pain, of reaching short-term pleasure. We need to discover what will bring us happiness and in order to do so, we must experience different circumstances and situations until we get there. We must accept ourselves and learn from our reactions to the circumstances and situations we are thrown into. Because, we might think that something will bring us happiness when in fact it will leave us cold once we get it.

©Suzanne Bélair

 

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I am presently in Mexico and don’t have much time to paint or even write except for travel journaling.

 

This is a post that I first published in March 2008 and that still rings true to me. It is about creativity and moods, about the fact that we must keep on going no matter what. I still struggle with my low moods and have to push myself but I understand now this is my life and as long as I keep on going, I’ll get through the day and there is another day just around the corner with endless possibilities.

Marché conclu
©2009 Suzanne Bélair
Oil on canvas 8 X 10 in

About creativity and our everyday mood

March 24, 2008 by Enviroart

 

Today’s thought:

“WHEN UNHAPPY, ONE DOUBTS EVERYTHING,

WHEN HAPPY, ONE DOUBTS NOTHING” – Joseph Roux

 

I sometimes wake up feeling like I am not capable of anything and the day ahead will be difficult. I don’t feel like I can produce, either paint or write or even do something insignificant. The important thing when we feel that way is to keep going. Some people have it easier than others. Some people wake up in the morning and they just feel good, full of energy and ready to take on the day. Optimistic people… How I admire them and would like to be like this.

 

I just heard the term “slogging” recently and wondered what does this mean? Couldn’t find it in the dictionary but got all kinds of synonyms that give the idea: plod, trudge, struggle. Anyhow, it is sometimes how we feel in the morning and… so what? We are not supposed to like slogging, in fact we’re supposed to hate it. The only way to keep on going then is that we have to believe that our state of joyful production will return. It always does. We have to keep going in the meantime. In the interim, we have to show up at the easel, at the computer, wherever we create. And we have to listen, ask for guidance and listen and it will come. It always does. As artists, we must be able to see a reality that does not exist yet. We must be able to start with the end in mind. This is what creation is all about. But it is sometimes difficult and when it is, it is better to just start and fiddle with something without really knowing where this is going or what we are doing. We call this practice then and this is necessary. It is always better to “practice” than stay idle, waiting for “inspiration”.

 

Consistency is important. It is what brings about results. We have to be consistent with the way we spend our time if we want results. Once an idea for a painting or a book comes, and we start working on it, it gathers momentum; it fleshes out and becomes real, at least for ourselves. The more real the idea becomes, the easier it will be to transmit and all that practice will then come in handy, having perfected our skills. Once it is real for us, it can become real for others.

 

As for optimism, we have to work at it sometimes, we have to cultivate it, we have to choose to be optimists and we have to make it a habit. Each day that we manage to shift our mood in the right direction will make the next one easier and bring the confidence necessary to keep on going, to keep on creating.

 

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Last week, I decided to do my research for the Silent Skies project and find some pictures of the selected birds to give me ideas I will rework. In the afternoon, I went to the studio with the intention of playing with my brushes which must feel abandoned since Christmas …

Strange how this New Year’s theme is gradually emerging and moving towards birds with the mural project and the children’s book that I started that will be about a woodpecker family …

But entering the studio and after putting my music on, it is not my brushes that caught my attention but the room where I store my half – finished and new canvases, my working and packaging material, etc. I should have taken a picture before, it was a disaster. It is also the room where I varnish when it is too windy or cold or rainy outside. I need a good central space on the floor to do this especially if the artwork is large. Since the move of the studio, I had not yet managed to tidy up and make this space functional.

After an afternoon of work, everything is now organized and clean, a great way to start the year. Here are a few photos :

While doing this cleaning, I found a list of projects dating from 2012. It gave me the idea to remake one for 2018. I don’t know why I lost the habit of making my list of art projects at the beginning of the year since the move of the studio. I often complicate my life by entering my ideas in different notebooks when a simple list strategically placed is so much more effective.

There are many benefits to keeping a list of projects in the studio. I like to put it on a prominent wall where I can consult it regularly and everything on my list usually get done during the following months.

A list of projects is very stimulating and helps to keep focus on priorities in the studio where you can easily lose your attention. My problem is that I want to do everything at the same time, everything attracts me, colors, new techniques, my paintings that are started and need finishing, new ones to start, so a list of projects brings me where I am more productive.

A paper, a pen and a few minutes are enough to create a list of projects. It’s a wonderful tool to keep control of your day and your attention and it only takes 5 to 10 minutes.

No electronic tool for me when it comes to making a list of projects because I want to have it in front of me at all times especially when I start checking what is done. It definitely works for me, it gives me an overview and a impulse of optimism.

I also use it to set my priorities, including deadlines for exhibitions, symposiums, orders.

It also allows you to optimize your time, such as preparing several canvases with gesso at the same time depending on what is planned.

It helps to stay calm because you feel more in control and it eliminates the stress of thinking you have forgotten a project or a date.

You can easily guess what I’m doing as soon as I am finished writing this post!

I hope this short article will motivate you to make your list of projects for 2018!

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Don’t I love this activity of going through the agenda of the year ending and preparing for the new year!!

It is a ritual that I adore and if I can’t find time to do it before Jan 1st, I feel I am late somehow and cannot start the year properly.

Today I took 2 hours to please myself and go through last year’s entries and record thoughts and events from 2017.

Our trip to Australia, to be detailed later in my travel journal, my new incursion into the FODMAP way of eating because of years of problems, several notes and details about our little grandchild growing and becoming a little person with his brilliance, his quirks, his sense of humour and mannerism, his own take on the world already! Only two he is but so much to give to the world already, I hope he never doubts it, I wish happiness for him forever!

So I am ready for 2018, copied important thoughts and entries, got all the important birthdays in and am already planning the exhibitions, vacations, painting projects, challenges and explorations.

I wish everyone an inspired and artistic new year. Art is not only about painting, writing or performing arts; we are all artists that create our lives from day to day. We need to follow our instinct and intuition. We need to be open to the world, to ideas! We create our reality and we must decide to be the Main act in what is happening to us while respecting our loved ones as well as others.

For many years, I felt I was going with the flow and we must be able to do so because of what life is throwing at us, but we must also make up our minds about who we want to be, who we want to become, what we want to create in the physical world and in our spiritual world.

Be kind to yourself

Love yourself

Love your neighbour

Happy new year 2018 !

Hopefully by being the best we can be, the world will be the best it can be!!

With Love

Suzanne

 

 

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Here are a few thoughts as we near the end of the year

 

A couple days ago, a search for someone’s coordinates took me deep into my journals from last year. I did not find what I was looking for but I did find some gems I would like to share with you here.

 

For those who don’t know me that much I want to say that I LOVE self-help books. Some are good, some less so, but I enjoy exploring these different takes on life. I usually write down what strikes me and it always seems so clear when I record the thought.

 

Lately, I have been struggling with the sense of time, how little we have, how fast days go by and what I manage to accomplish or not accomplish in a day…I’m sure most of us struggle with this at one point or another. The thing is, time is the same and the only constant for everybody and while some of our time is spent on necessary physical needs like sleeping and eating and some at making a living, we still have control over a large chunk of our time.

 

This is the portion I am concerned with; this is what we need to make decisions about. While the possibilities seem endless, one of these decisions is how we choose to perceive our lives.

 

Our reality is a selective act of attention and interpretation. I love this because it says it all “Focus is everything” and focus will change how we see our reality. We need to be aware and don’t lose sight of this fact.

 

Focus is a selective act of attention and what we focus on grows. So if we focus on what is wrong with our lives, we’ll continue to feel bad. If something needs to be changed, the focus should be on visualizing a better outcome and on finding a solution, not on the stressful situation or what we’re upset about.

 

Interpretation of “reality” takes place through internal dialogue, in other words during a conversation between ego and itself.

 

I admit I have often focused on the wrong things, bringing feelings of sadness and discouragement. I have been working on this my whole life and I now try to start each day with the conscious realisation that I can make the choice to focus on something positive.

 

Starting the day with gratitude is one of the keys. Focusing on what we are grateful about instead of what we don’t like is a good way to bring more good things into our life.

 

I found a trick to start my day on the right foot by writing this simple sentence in my journal before going to bed: “I am grateful for….” When I open my journal in the morning and I see these words, there are always immediate things that pop into my mind. I am grateful for a lot of things. And when I run out of things, I keep on writing these few words again, “I am grateful for…” and more things come up.

 

We don’t have to be grateful for major things all the time, even little things, small events will help. It is about cultivating a gratefulness attitude and it creates positive momentum in our internal dialogue. Somehow, this simple act conditions us to stay attentive to see more “gratitude-worthy” experiences to come into our life.

 

Life is all about energy and where attention goes, energy flows.

Sometimes, we need to actively reject negativity, avoid it. I’m sure you’re not surprised to learn that our brain suffers from a negativity bias. With everything we read and hear on the news, it is easy to forget that life is still good and miraculous.

 

We all have to go through some trying experiences but it is important to remember that when things are bad, they will improve at some point. We need to hang on and focus on whatever is positive. We must commit to turn away from negativity whenever and as often as we can.

 

Since all negativity cannot be ignored all the time, being aware of this bias when in a negative frame of mind, can help keep away some of the feelings of fear, anger and anxiety and also assist in making the conscious decision to be positive and realize our purpose.

 

So if we want to improve our reality, we need to improve our focus on positive events and things. It is well worth the effort.

 

Let’s start this New Year with hope and make a conscious effort to increase positive energy in our life.

 

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