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Archive for the ‘life and motivation’ Category

A short one today since I have been really busy and have not painted much lately. Lots of projects in different stages of completion though.

 

 

I resumed my creative writing workshops 3 weeks ago and have been writing quite a lot more since. I will probably add a section to this blog to share some of my short stories soon.

 

I saw this on Twitter (@writerconclave) a few days ago and thought I would share it with you my fellow writers and readers:

 

Dear Writer

You can write 10,000 words in an hour, or 1.

You can be a plotter, a pantser, or anything in between.

You can want to write for a career, or a hobby.

The simple act of writing defines you as a writer.

Speed doesn’t. Style doesn’t.

Simply, write.

Love, a fellow

 

Thank you for reading and keep on writing !

 

Suzanne

 

 

 

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Enviroart par Suzanne Bélair

 

 

 

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Since January 19th, in celebration of the 10 year anniversary of my Enviroart blog on WordPress, I have been publishing essays that I first posted 10 years ago. This is the last of such postings for now.

This is a portrait of my daughter at 4 years old I painted some years ago when I was studying classical portraiture.

 

Petite Rebelle
©Suzanne Bélair
Oil on Canvas 24 X 20 in

 

Everything is as it should

February 7, 2008 by Enviroart

 

I feel like saying today that everything is as it should. We work so hard to find a purpose for our life sometimes, struggle to get out of problems and bad situations when all there is to do is stop and listen. Open yourself up to the wisdom of the universe. Meditate and listen. Ask a question before going to sleep at night and trust that the answer will come the next morning and it will. Inspiration… It is talked about in the Tao and a lot of spiritual leaders talk about it also. The Dalai Lama said that  “The purpose of life is to be happy”.

 

But happiness does not come from material possessions it comes from within. It is not easy when other people make demands on us. When we think we are not important enough to give ourselves peace of mind and happiness.  WE must work to achieve this.

 

Depressed or felling abandoned? You are part of a whole. We are all alone in our search for the truth but at the same time we are all part of a whole. You think you don’t matter? That your life makes no difference? Well, you are wrong because your life does make a difference. You are important, be it to teach someone something, be it to learn something from a life teacher you will meet or have already met. Only by letting go and accepting, by opening your eyes and your ears to receive the truth will you find peace.

 

I know I sound like a philosopher today but this is the truth I found. Try to live more by intuition. Try to follow your inner light even if it feels pretty dimmed. You might not feel it right now, you might even think there is none inside of you, but there is. Unfortunately, most of us have a hard time following what Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe once said “Things that matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least”. And this is sad most people let them.

 

I have been reading the Tao Te Ching lately and I find it very difficult to understand the subtlety of its wisdom. I know it is hard to accept that things are as it should  when you look at the world, pollution, violence, hunger. All this unfairness! Why is this? We think it is worse now than before but it is not really. There has always been wars and violence, unevenness. Nothing is thrown our way that we cannot handle. We must go forward and find the courage to go on, to learn from it.

 

We hear a lot about suicide lately. The new thing is to try to see the early warning signs and influence the person to stay alive. But the truth is only that person is walking in her shoes. Only this person must find his or her own truth. All we can do is spark something. Each person must be ready to receive the truth before they are able to accept it.

 

When you are really discouraged, just remember that all things are temporary in life. Nothing is forever. It will pass. All you have to do is hang on for now and receive the lesson. Tomorrow will be better, even if tomorrow takes a few weeks, months, years, it will come. And remember your uniqueness makes you important. There is only one “You” and you are important. You don’t need to try to be happy, it cannot be forced especially if you have certain ideas about happiness, especially if you think you don’t know what will make you happy, or if you think you will never be happy. You will be happy again. You will. Life is a wheel turning, changing all the time. When you’re down, there is nowhere to go but up. A good way to improve your life is to find something to do for someone else and try to focus outside yourself. Everything is as it should and you too can bring something worthwhile to someone’s life, indeed to the world.

 

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Enviroart par Suzanne Bélair

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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 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.

alms-1807525_960_720-umbrella-burma-faith

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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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

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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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