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Posts Tagged ‘FOCUS’

 

Yesterday, I had my creative writing workshop. I have been writing non-fiction for many years. I started this workshop a few years ago and it motivates me to write short fiction pieces as well now. The class is very interesting and useful if you manage to be alert for the full two hours.

 

The man who leads the workshop is quite special, having worked for over 30 years as an English teacher and writing throughout his life. He credits his supporting mother for going into this field. He claims she was always respectful of his interest in reading and writing from the time he was a child. His knowledge of the language and his attention to our reading are quite extraordinary, and his comments are always pertinent and on point.

 

Anyhow, he came up with a statement yesterday that took me out of my comfort zone: “When you get to be a certain age (over 60), you realize you are stuck in certain patterns and no matter what you try to do to change them, they always come back.” Hum!

 

Well, it might not have been said exactly this way but this is what I got from it. When I told him I found this very discouraging, he rephrased the statement talking about our patterns of writing but I think his thought ran a lot deeper than this.

 

Strangely enough, just that morning, I had been walking and pondering my own struggle with change specifically that of my moods and the sadness that sometimes engulfs me. And just that morning I was thinking back to my 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and on, realizing how I had not changed that much over the years. My anxious core is still the same despite all my attempts to be less serious, more relaxed, less worried, to focus on the positive and forget the negative.

 

I am a perfectionist and no matter what I do to change this, I always go back to it and it has been so all my life. What happens when you are a perfectionist is you tend to focus on what can be improved instead of what is good.

 

I often say I have learned to live with this, to accept it, but whenever I manage a week of:  “I am letting go, I can do it, it’s all good”, I go back to rigidity with a vengeance, especially with myself. It is a constant internal battle for me.

 

This week, I spent some time working on a painting I started in 2016, a semi-abstract that is turning into a semi-realistic piece (Isn’t that the same?). For months, it leaned against the wall, staring at me, in creative limbo. I wanted to put a lot of textures and show the flow of energy with birds and flowers, a sort of large bouquet.

 

But once I started to paint it, I didn’t really like the concept. The painting is now going in another direction especially since I decided to include a large butterfly which I love. This often happens when there is a component missing at the planning stage and I decide to just start anyway and see where it goes. I like the element of surprise. Unfortunately I now think the butterfly will have to go…

 

Doing the endangered birds artworks inspired me to complete the two ducks I saw in the paint strokes. I decided they would be loons to bring strong contrast and because I love them. They are nowhere near finished and will end up being quite realistic. I do have hope it will eventually turn out beautiful. This piece is really exploratory and it is a long process.

 

As a side note, I saw a great demo last night with Alcohol Inks on Yupo, canvas and tile. It was quite inspiring to see the artist playing with the inks without focusing on a specific result. Liberating!

 

Finally, how is this all linked together? The demo last night gave me hope, hope that things CAN change and that I can relax and lose that perfectionist streak in painting as well as in life one day. So here I am sharing this unfinished work that is moving in one direction even if I am very unsatisfied with it for now. But it will get better.

 

You cannot lose hope that you can change or improve for this is what Life is all about. I get the pattern thing and I also agree with the fact that it is difficult to change permanently but I refuse to give up hope that we can better ourselves. After all, Life is about movement and impermanence, we are all “Works in Progress” so everything is possible!

 

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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 thinks 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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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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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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Our six senses are the links between the outside environment and all our inner worlds.

As soon as one of our senses detects a stimuli (smell, sound, taste or other), it sends a message to our brain and a wave of feelings and souvenirs come to the surface of our conscious mind triggering feelings of joy and happiness or sorrow and pain. Almost right away, this takes over our mind as thought this vision from the past was actually what we’re looking at or experiencing right now.

How do we control this and how do we make sure we access files that bring us joy and positive feelings instead of pain, suffering, fear, anger and regret? By using focus and attention. Our immediate environment plays a role in this. It is important to choose to include in our lives people we like and things we enjoy looking at, things that are healthy for our body and mind and for the planet.

Today, let’s start cleaning up our environment physical as well as mental. Let’s start paying  attention to what we want to remember, what we want to retain from our experience here on earth. Let’s focus on the positive and literally transform not only our surroundings but ourselves too in order to move forward building good connections between our senses and our mind.

Let’s choose to create wholesome environments for ourselves, our children and the world.

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