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Archive for the ‘life and motivation’ Category

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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Enviroart par Suzanne Bélair

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I started reading the wonderful book from Thich Nhat Hanh again “Peace is every step”. Since 1992, I have been carrying this book with me on and off and I remember the very first time I read it how I was able to become extremely mindful and calm and how everything made sense. Since then, I have lost some of my mindfulness by being caught up in everyday life and not taking the time to stop and be present to the moment.

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I had not touched the book in a few years when I picked it up again last week and since then, I am rediscovering some of its passages. I read a bit just before I go to bed, picking pages randomly and absorbing the message. Yesterday, I was reading about how Mindfulness must be engaged and how “once there is seeing, there must be acting. Otherwise, what’s the use of seeing?” p. 91. Even if it is hard to see the world as it is, we must so that we can see how we can help. I really liked this chapter and its wisdom and how it empowers each and everyone of us to do something by living mindfully and by being an influence for the benefit of people and situations around us. It is by changing ourselves that we can change the world.

Ref: Thich Nhat Hanh, 1991. Peace is every step. Bantam books, NY

 

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Enviroart par Suzanne Bélair

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The goal of a good post when you are blogging is not only to share one’s experience but also to awaken in the reader a question that will  provoke some reflection  on one’s life or one’s interest, to add something to their bank of information.

I subscribe to an excellent blog written by Isaac Yuen and today, I want to share his post from last week on the Power of vulnerability: http://ekostories.com/2013/06/20/vulnerability-by-brene-brown/#comment-3241 .

What I especially found interesting about it is his quest for authenticity. In this post, he is sharing a talk by Brené Brown about the Power of vulnerability and how we must let ourselves be vulnerable in order to truly share life’s journey with our fellow human beings. The post is a great reminder that we sometimes need to suffer to be able to understand suffering in others and that we need to leave part of ourselves on the page when we write as well as when we paint.

It is not always simple to do so. In painting as well as in writing, it is easy to fall into the technical aspect, or fashions and trends, and forget the creative process, to lose the freshness and fire that originally ignited our passion. It is necessary to go back each and everyday to this place of honesty and confirm with ourselves the reason or motivation that keeps us going.

PetiteRebelle

©2013 Suzanne Bélair
Little Rebel
Oil on canvas 24 X 20

Like Isaac, I worry about becoming too abstract sometimes when I try to convey my message. I am hoping I was able over the past years to stay as true to myself as possible. Each painting reflects a piece of me transferred to the canvas and I appreciate those who can see and feel it. Unlike some others, I do not mass-produce but approach each painting as a unique creation even if it is sometimes part of a series. Each painting develops a life of its own by the time it lets me know it is finished and I stop working on it. Each time another artwork is finished, this part of me needs renewal somehow, needs refilling.

The creative process is an exciting one and at times a stressful one for me. I just finished this painting started in 2010, it is sometimes a long process as well.

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According to Wikipedia, Artistic inspiration stands for “ sudden creativity or an unconscious burst of creativity in artistic production”. Inspiration was originally thought to be infused by some Gods and muses in Greek thought and in Christianity, it is often thought as being a gift from the Holy Spirit.

Throughout history, philosophers, psychologists and artists have tried to rationalize and understand the phenomenon, sometimes in order to tap into it, to make it happen, while Freud and later psychologists thought that inspiration came from the “inner psyche of the artist”, as a cumulative of past traumatic experiences and unresolved inner conflicts or even from the subconscious.

Today, inspiration is still thought of as mystical in nature, a gift from above, from the universe, a link to our universal connection and largely beyond our control. Even if inspiration if often triggered by something external, it remains an entirely internal process but one I believe we can help stimulate.

Here is a partial-reblog of an earlier post from February 2012 with some additions. At the time, I was just back from 2 weeks of painting and drawing in the Costa Rican jungle, an experience I would wish on every nature loving artist. It was wonderful. I came back inspired, calm and relaxed, with a new purpose and a new take on inspiration, creativity, and originality.

We as artists are often faced with the fear of not being original enough, creative enough, inspired enough. We keep on hearing that all has been said, all has been done already. However, living in the rain forest for two weeks, you see all that biodiversity around you and it is easy to realize, that just like each plant, each animal, each leaf, each particle of soil, we are all different from one another, we are all unique even if we are all connected.

Even if a lot of people have painted a similar subject you want to tackle, or written a poem or prose about the same thing you want to write about, you must remember that no one has done it your way. No one felt the exact same as you do while you are creating it.

Just like each drop of water in the ocean is different from the one next to it, just like each wave that comes crashing to shore is different from the preceding one and from the following one, so it is with each artist. We are different from one another, we do have something to say or to express in a different way from each other and we do have our own voice, be it written or visual.

How to be original, creative, inspired? Besides writing down whatever idea comes to mind as soon as it does, which by the way is not necessarily easy but well worth the effort, the other thing is put in the work, put in the hours. It is often while you work that ideas pop into your mind and that you find what you like or don’t like or a new way to do things. While you work, you are refining your skills and this will always help once inspiration “strikes”.

The best way to be original is to be yourself. Paint what you like to paint, write what you like to write about. And go out to see what is happening out there, that outside stimulation is just as important as the work being put in the studio.

Each individual artist has an artistic voice. It might take a while to emerge, especially when you’ve been working with other artists or concentrating at perfecting your skills, but eventually, it will.

www.suzannebelair.com

Find me on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SuzanneBelairArtist

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In today’s world, we are confronted with a lot of anger and dissatisfaction about everything. This creates so much anxiety and unrest in everyone that comes into contact with this anger whether through the evening news, newspapers or by being confronted with this despair right under our eyes.

Personally, we are going through a trying time, having just found out another friend got stricken with cancer and once again, I realise how life can change in an instant or even end abruptly. We all know we live as ticking time bombs but some of us are wasting so much time just being anxious, afraid or angry. And what does it change except that we are losing these precious minutes that have been allotted to us at the start of our life?

This morning, as I am trying to cope with the news, packing because we are moving soon and struggling with the fact that I don’t have enough time to paint and prepare for some upcoming exhibits, I decided a good way to bring back some peace in my life would be to read a couple of verses from the Tao Te Ching. And I fell on the 54th verse which says:

The Tao is everywhere;

It has become everything.

To truly see it, see it as it is.

In a person, see it as a person;

In a family, see it as a family;

In a country, see it as a country;

In the world, see it as the world.

How do I know this is true?

By looking inside myself.

 

This speaks to me of understanding and tolerance. This speaks of our role in transforming our lives and how this transformation creates a ripple effect that spreads to our family, friends and acquaintances, to our community and to the planet. This tells us that our life is important and that whatever animates our bodies and our thoughts (Tao, God, Life) in our inner silence, it is present and significant, we do make a difference. And this difference should go towards making this planet a better place. We have to realize that we can consciously make a difference for the better of humankind and that each gesture, each thought have an effect and change something. We have to strive to make that change positive and kind, and to achieve that change not through violence and aggression, but through patience and understanding, with love.

Everything we think eventually becomes reality, extends outward in some capacity and therefore has the power to affect the future, our own and that of the universe. We have to live our lives with this awareness and remind ourselves each and everyday of the importance of living and treating others with kindness. This kindness must also extend to ourselves. We have to feel this knowledge in our core and live accordingly.

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Already December, as time goes by…

Today I’ll talk about limitations, limitations we put on ourselves, limitations life puts on us, but mainly limitations we decide in our minds, are ours.

Lately I have been observing some people, including myself that limit their aspirations because they believe certain things are unattainable sometimes. Yet you never know what you can do once you set your mind to it. There are no limits to what you can do except if you decide there must be.

A lot of energy is being spent on questioning ourselves on what we want to do and then arriving to the conclusion that we cannot do something specific because of lack of skills,  confidence, contacts, whatever the reason we figure we cannot accomplish something. Yet, anything is possible when you are able to open yourself to the universe and be in an open state of mind.

The energy spent on convincing ourselves that “I can’t do this” or “I should not try that”, “I  can’t have a good job”, “I can’t be in a good relationship”, that negative energy pollutes the brain. This brings in pessimistic thoughts that are listened to and then transform into self-defeating actions. Our consciousness is very easy to influence. If you believe you cannot do something, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. After all if you believe you can’t apply for a certain job because you couldn’t possibly get it, you will never get this job. People that make it in life have been able to take defeat and turn it into success. They believed they would make it. They believed it was their duty or their calling to make it.

Our minds are powerful tools when we decide to focus and use them. At the same time, if we decide, unconsciously or not, that we will be using our potential, our energy, to believe negative self-criticism, it will accept this as true even if it is not to our advantage. Good or bad, it will fulfill what you believe.

When you expect things to go wrong or when you let your moods dictate how you feel about things, this is when trouble starts. If you tell yourself you cannot paint or write, or cannot create anything interesting, your mind will never open to divine inspiration.

Have you ever noticed that if you ask a question at night before going to sleep, then one of your first thoughts in the morning will be about the question and will bring the solution? If you think and argue to yourself that there is no possible answer and that you will never figure it out, this will become a self-fulfilling prophecy and you will be struggling with the problem for days and weeks, sometime for months, until you become totally disheartened.

Argue for your limitations, believe they are yours and they will be yours. If you meet someone and tell them “On no, I cannot do this” don’t you think this person will believe you, the person who would know better?

If you meet someone and you tell them       “Sure I can do this” chances are they will believe you and you will make it happen too, because you believe in yourself and in whatever project or else  you are discussing at the time.

To wrap this up, believe in yourself and when that critic’s voice enters your mind, tell it to go way and be quiet. Negative thoughts are false thoughts. They don’t come from inspiration which is always positive and inspiring. Inspiring thoughts or thoughts that are in line with our true purpose, fill you with a sense of wonderment. Yes there might be a question that pops up in your mind and makes you a little nervous but you will still feel compelled to follow the thought and work towards the goal you are setting for yourself

Inspiring thoughts, the ones that enter your mind suddenly, like a flash and that make you feel like Hey! Why not? Or Why didn’t I think of this before?…should be followed if at all possible. They are the thoughts that confirm your purpose and that show the way to your path. These are the thoughts that transform your life one day at the time towards your destiny.

So never argue for your limitations, never say you cannot do something, because the minute it comes out or your mouth, your interlocutor will immediately believe it and so will you.

If you are insecure or hear that inner critic going at it in your head, take a pause and reflect on the fact that this voice does not control you. On the contrary, you have the power to control and shut down that voice. It does take some work but we get better at it everyday. And think about this: Any idea that enters your mind and that would bring peace and beauty around you, improve someone’s life, improve your life and does not harm anyone, is worth pursuing and in fact, must be pursued for the good and the advancement of the world and humanity. And hey, what have you got to lose, except your negative thoughts that keep you limited?

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It is up to me which direction my life is taking. Each minute decision influences the next one. I have to make choices and be the master of my own destiny.

Constant transformation and the reinvention that makes up life are what makes it exciting. If we look at it more globally, we see that every time we suffer a loss, and experience anxiety because we are facing change, this is an opportunity to grow and discover something new, to take another step towards learning something new, get out of our comfort zone until the new state becomes another comfort zone. Then, life throws something else unexpected at you, another opportunity for growth and discovery. We must not see this as a negative event but as a growth opportunity, a chance to learn, to expand our consciousness.

Let’s not let events and outside people destroy what we have built, the road we have traveled. We got to the point that we are today because life is a giant classroom where everything and everyone can teach us something. We get too caught up with the nitty gritty turning of the wheel, the mechanism and the time spent on survival, to take good notice of what is going on around us. We should take some time each day to reflect on what we have learned during that day. Reflect on what was good and what was less good but take courage when things are not the way we want them to be. Take courage and look at everything from the outsider’s perspective, the observer. Detach yourself from your situation and see it with someone else’s eyes. Drop your personal filter. Observe as you would observe someone else’s struggle, without all the emotional involvement and attachment to the situation and circumstances.

Let’s be gentle with ourselves, be patient and kind, loving. After all, if not us then, who? We should be out biggest fan. What would happen if we loved ourselves, if we treated ourselves the way we would treat someone we really care about, if we totally accepted and forgave ourselves for our mistakes and weaknesses? This is a difficult one. We all grow up with someone else’s expectations and we anticipate from ourselves to meet these expectations even if we know deep  down that they are sometime impossible to meet, and even if often, we would not even want to meet them because we don’t even agree with them. Yet our internal voice keeps hounding us and demands that we obey unless we feel guilt and anxiety. This should not be. We must work to silence the voices from the past that command us to live according to someone else’s standards, to live someone else’s life when you think of it. How much of our standards, our thinking, our demands are our own? How much comes from our parents, friends, siblings, mentors? How much of our time is spent fulfilling someone else’s vision of what our life should be?

Different people, different goals, different ways to look at life. We have to try to be true to ourselves and let go of expectations. Expectations towards life, expectations towards people, expectations towards circumstances. We cannot assume to know what will happen next. We cannot assume to control anything but ourselves. Live each minute with anticipation and openness. Open yourself to receive teachings from our fellow human beings, but also from what surrounds us, nature, animals, plant life. Teachings are all around us. We have to be in a receptive frame of mind in order to receive them and feel this permanent transformation that is going on  a cellular level each second that goes by.

It is up to us to enjoy this transformation, be aware and energized by it, to learn from it and create from this awareness.

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