Posts Tagged ‘hope’


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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The light will find you ©2017 Suzanne Belair Acrylic on canvas 30 X 30 in

The light will find you
©2017 Suzanne Belair
Acrylic on canvas 30 X 30 in

Today I am sharing a new painting recently finished. It speaks of the light that is in everyone’s life and that will come out after any episode of sadness.


When you are feeling sad, discouraged, in a rut, it is better to stop and take a few moments to think about it and feel it fully, than to keep on going, making believe it is not happening. It is important not to run away from your feelings.


Here is something that I do and that makes me feel better every time.


When you get a chance during your day, stop what you are doing, sit down or lie down and feel these feelings fully. It might feel like heaviness in your chest but it could also be the panicky sensation we get when fear wants to insert itself into our life, when indeed it has. What can we do to help this?  It all starts with mindfulness and acknowledging what is happening inside you.


Breathing slowly and becoming aware of the physical feelings and calming these, is essential. Here’s how I do it. I sit down and close my eyes and I imagine a beautiful space surrounding me like a lush garden or a deep blue sky.  My own preference is I see myself sitting in a forest beside a tree near a small river, and I hear the water flow and it is very calm. Once the image is clear in your head, start breathing mindfully.


Breathe slowly through your nose. Breathe in your sadness, feel it in your body, around your heart, and then release it with the out breath, feel the sadness get out of your body with the breath and vanish in the forest (or whatever space you created). Continue this for a while until you truly feel the release (minimum 10 breaths).


Continue the slow mindful breathing: Others are also feeling sad, so think of them also, feel their sadness at losing a loved one or at their situation. Breathe in their sadness through your heart and breathe all this sadness out toward your beautiful image surrounding you, toward the vastness it, feel the sadness dissolve around you. Visualize your out breath carrying the sadness away from you.


While you are doing this exercise, be present to how you feel when you release the sadness in the nature surrounding you. Be present to your feeling of compassion for others and your feeling that you are not alone.


Be aware that all in temporary, life is impermanence and your sadness is also temporary. The light will find you.


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I just finished this painting a few days ago.


La traversée (The crossing) ©2016Suzanne Belair Mixed media on canvas 30 X 40 in


I started it during the summer of 2015, painting outside on my patio in the beating sun and feeling exhilarated ! Unfortunately, my enthusiasm was short lived. I ended up with a result full of colors, but empty of meaning and after looking at it for a few days, I decided this canvas had to wait and go into hiding. It lacked harmony and hated it.


I have looked at it a few times over the last year and each time, the same reaction “NO” and I would turn away from my poor failed project. I had no idea where to start to fix it. There was no focal point, there was no story and I always like a good story !


A few weeks ago, I took it out from its hiding place and turned it around. After a long look at it, I emptied my head and tried to listen to what it was telling me.


And I saw it, the water fall, the struggle to cross it, the bridge I had to complete. We hear a lot about the fight to survive of war refugees these days. We are seeing a whole ancient city being destroyed before our very eyes while the world basically stands by. Thousands of families, women, children, men, die everyday because a few crazy people are greedy and selfish, because they want to control other people’s lives, because money and religion has become more important than their humanity.


This painting is entitled “La traversée” (The crossing) and talks about survival and determination, crossing to another, better world where safety awaits, and of the hope that carries us all towards survival.


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I have been looking for something I lost recently and went through a bunch of papers sitting in a pile near my desk. At the bottom, I found this quote I wrote years ago with the intention of displaying it where I can see it everyday, which I didn’t do yet:



No matter how good or bad you have it

Wake up each day thankful for your life

Someone, somewhere else is desperately fighting for theirs

Instead of thinking about what you’re missing

Try thinking about what you have, that everyone else is missing.


It reminded me that many years ago, I wrote a blog about finding a way to influence the first thought of the day in order to influence your mood. Essentially, if your first though is joyous, the rest of the day being off t o a good start, there is a good chance that your attitude will make it so that the day shapes up pretty good.


Here is a reblog of my own blog from 2009 – To see the original go to : https://enviroart.wordpress.com/2009/09/03/first-thought-of-the-day/


First thought of the day


I have been researching how I can influence the first thought of my day with the idea that if you wake up and your first thought is joyous, then the rest f the day is off to a good start and should have a joyous background that can probably be maintained throughout the day.


Looking into this, after asking many people what their first thought of the day was, I heard a lot of simplistic things like I am hungry or I have to pee, but this does not depict the first mood of the day. This only speaks of the body. Although, I found that in general, people are not starting their day with a very positive thought, unless they are on vacations. As a matter of fact, a lot of us wake up thinking “Oh no! Not another day at work, I’m still tired and want to sleep”, basically equaling: “I’m pissed off I have to get up, I’m resentful I have to work”, things along those lines.


It has happened sometimes that I have awaken exited and wanting to get up and accomplish something right away. I am trying to figure out what is the key element between these two states. Why are some days starting off better than others?


Sunshine is a big influence in our moods and how we feel about waking up. After a few sunny days, life just seems better and more exciting. But it is not all. I am convinced that our last thought before going to sleep and our adventures of the night, dreams and nightmares, are influencing our general mood when we wake up, our first thought and your day.


Have you ever had a wonderful dream, full of love and tenderness? You then wake up feeling great, or you come back to reality and are disappointed. But at any rate, you did experience it and you know it exists somewhere, and at some level, it fills you with hope.  What about a terrible nightmare that sends your heart racing and really scares you, giving you a glimpse of hell? In our mind, these experiences are real. They are night adventures which are sometimes difficult to leave behind and should not be left behind altogether. I find dreams are great teachers sometimes.


One of the ways to influence the first thought is to control the last thought. To reflect, as you go to sleep, on the people and things in your life that you are grateful for, no matter how small and far between, gives you hope. This becomes a building block on which you can start to construct the life you want. The only way, or at least the best way to effect change in your life is to find yourself in a positive hopeful mood, so it is of the utmost importance to be able to influence this first thought and, if we find ourselves waking up in a negative mood, have a strategy in place to turn this around as quickly as possible.


Going to sleep with thankful thoughts will influence your first thought in a positive way.
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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.


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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According to  Sonja Lyubomirsky, researcher and professor of psychology at the University of California ” Construing benefit from trauma involves seeing some value or gain (a silver lining) in your loss or negative life event” (1) . This does not by any means signify that you forgot the event or feel good about it in any way. It means that somehow, you now view your life with other eyes, with a different perspective that sometimes can render your life richer, deeper.


Even if it seems impossible to one day believe that your life has been somehow “enhanced” by the traumatic event, numerous studies of populations affected by major trauma have found that 79 to 80 % of people affected by a traumatic event report that they see some benefit in their experience. (2)


Often, it is the famous “wake-up call” that makes one review the order of their priorities and start living with a new purpose, become more grateful for what we have. Studies show that people that have been touched by cancer, HIV, aids and heart disease and that are coping effectively with their disease, generally perceive some benefits in their ordeal. This perception becomes a coping mechanism.


Some survivors of major tragedies have reported seeing colours more sharply, paying more attention to what surrounds them, living in the present. Of course, this fact does not diminish in any way the pain, the shock, the incredible pain victims of traumatic events go through.


The people of Lac Megantic have been affected by such a traumatic event on July 6th 2013 when an out of control train full of fuel derailed in the middle of the center of their town and destroyed a large part of what was the main area of the village , le “centre-ville”.


This year, the cultural committee has organized a wonderful exhibition named  “Les Chemins de la renaissance” (Paths to rebirth), a title that talks about the next step, hope, life after major hardship.

Affiche chemins renaissance V2

Our first visit since the event was the week before and had left us shocked, distressed, so sad. When you realise the magnitude of what is today gone, how anything can change in a split second, it makes you reflect on death and you spend a moment of silence for all these victims.


Last week-end was very different. The opening of the show talked about hope, of reconstruction, there was activity everywhere you looked, workers busy paving a new street, between new stores.

expo vernissage

There was good energy, an extraordinary effervescence surrounded us, optimism. The high-caliber exhibition regroups 18 local artists  and 21 artists from outside the region. I am very happy the jury picked my painting “Innocence” and that it was part of this exhibition because several elements of the painting are symbolic of rebirth and hope, the child, the dove of peace in the background, her concentrated and serious expression while looking at the flower. We made great encounters with dynamic and involved people, dedicated and courageous men and women.

expo vernissage 2

The reconstruction is being done in a very modern architecture next to the Sports Center where the gallery is situated and this week, we noticed that piled up debris seemed less high, the affected perimeter is still closed but we can see that they are progressing with enormous strides even if there is still a lot of work, decontamination, decisions.


Today, 1000 bikers and more than 700 facilitators of the Grand Défi Pierre Lavoie are making a stop in Lac Megantic.  It is on the host site of the Sport Center Megantic and the new Promenade Papineau that they will all meet.


Lac Mégantic needs our support, our presence, to share their experience. I invite everyone to go this summer to see how life is rising back, how these courageous men and women are rebuilding their wonderful part of the country and at the same time, stop by the Galerie du Centre Sportif to admire the artworks of artists from the region and elsewhere in Quebec.


(1) Lyubomirsky S., 2007,The How of Happiness, The Penguin Press, New-York, London.

(2) Nolen-Hoeksema, S., and Davis, C.G., 2002, Positive responses to loss: Perceiving benefits and growth, in Handbook of positive psychology. Editors: Snyder, C. R.., Lopez, S.J, (pp. 598-606), Oxford University Press, New-York.



©2014 Suzanne Bélair


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Perception of what surrounds us without the mental screen, without ego is what I seek. As much as possible, awareness can be attained with our full presence, our pure conscience, without the ego, being to being, experience to experience.

The “thinking” mind  is learned, not instinctive at all. It is made up of training, numbers, data, past impressions which have affected the ego. It is necessary to go more deeply into our being to arrive at a communion with what surrounds us.  Even our own reality is not accessible to the ego or our “thinking” mind which always seeks to label, catalogue, fit everything into some box to some extent in order to be able to appease itself and go on to something else.

Reality of what surrounds us is sometimes perceived for short moments, moments that open the door to a deeper understanding, moments that amaze us.

It is only by respecting the present moment that we can attain this perception, this magical wonder where everything becomes clear and simple. Finally, we think “Here is what I did not understand before, here is what I could not see”

This is what I am looking for and what I am trying to convey when I paint, this communion with the subject, the precious reality that is always impermanent, that we must accept as such.

Impermanence ©2013 Suzanne Bélair Oil on canvass, 12 X 24 in

©2013 Suzanne Bélair
Oil on canvass, 12 X 24 in

In practical everyday life, it is necessary to call on our reasoning mind. But it is as important to be able to disconnect from our “thinking” mind and connect with the deeper consciousness of what we are, and to the present moment. It is sometimes difficult to perceive with our inner being, to observe what is without judgement.

In his book “The power of Now”, Eckhart Tolle suggests a good exercise to arrive to this non-judgemental observation. He recommends we get out of our daily temporal mode as much as possible. If this is difficult, he proposes we observe our habitual tendency to want to run away from the present moment by thinking ahead, about what is coming up. This projection into an imagined future creates either hope if that imagined future is better than the present or anxiety if we imagine the future worse than the present.

In both cases, it is but an illusion and these thoughts influence how we live our reality, our present moment. He also suggests that this presence as observer of ourselves, of our thoughts, our emotions and our reactions to situations, will get us to see how our “thinking” mind brings us either into the future or into the past in a repetitive fashion.

Without making it a problem, it is useful to look at our thoughts, feel the emotion and watch our reaction to get to a point where we feel the calm presence that is inside all of us.


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