Category Archives: Elephant Journal

Grace Amongst The Wreckage

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“You cannot find peace by avoiding life.” ~ Virginia Woolf

I find myself contemplating on grace these days, what it means to live life gracefully, to tackle our life’s challenges with grace. I’m interpreting grace as being in contact with the inner part of us that knows peace and vulnerability. Grace as I see it is being in touch with universal love and with our minds firmly rooted in living in the moment, the complete opposite of living through our egos.

To have grace or this peace that is alluded to, doesn’t mean that we don’t have conflict or challenges. It’s quite the opposite really. Conflict will always arise whether it is from inside of us or on the outside. To live with grace is to embrace life’s ups and downs and to be fully present in experiencing the whole scale of emotions but to know that these do not define us.

I think we can all agree that this is one of those “easier said than done” deals.

I do not at all understand the mystery of grace – only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us. ~ Anne Lamott

As I reflect on how I deal with difficult situations or emotions, grace isn’t one of the words I would consistently use to describe my coping skills. Sometimes in the midst of a shit show kind of a day, I think to myself, “Damn girl, you’re a mess”. Anxiety and fear can paralyze and bring out the worst in us, let’s just say it isn’t pretty. It’s when we identify with our worries and fears that they begin to have power over us, that the ego steps in and morphs our perception. Here we can forget about what we do have, all that we can be grateful for, and instead focus on all that is lacking in ourselves and our lives.

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me.” ~ Frank Herbert

However, the beautiful thing about grace is that even when we fail (sometimes miserably) we can pick ourselves up and try again. We have the opportunity to try again every day; every waking moment presents us with a chance to practice living more gracefully.

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There are helpers on the road to living with more grace; they are the practices that allow us to come in touch with ourselves, the ones that chip away at the ego. Whether it be hitting the yoga mat, a meditation practice, a hobby we enjoy doing or any creative outlet. Entering this sacred time for oneself helps to push away all the thoughts and feelings that don’t serve or benefit us. Here I try to the best of my abilities to release what hinders my contact with peace and grace. Carrying this into the rest of my day and hopefully into the more challenging times. And here lies the true practice. Staying connected to grace instead of freaking out. Sometimes I’m successful and sometimes it’s a total shit show.

I try and try again.

When we’re at our worst, faltering and failing completely, when it’s easier to come down on ourselves, those are the moments that we need to show ourselves more than ever that love and compassion. The whole breaking down part can be part of grace, that’s us being vulnerable. The turning point is the choice we have between letting this overpower us or picking up the pieces and choosing to love ourselves instead, to step away from our ego and show ourselves compassion while smiling at the fleeting nature of it all. That’s grace.

“To love yourself right now, just as you are, is to give yourself heaven. Don’t wait until you die. If you wait, you die now. If you love, you live now.” ~ Alan Cohen

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Originally published on Elephant Journal.

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Glimpses of me: My 365 Picture-A-Day Project

365 Project: Day 3

365 Project: Day 3

“Taking pictures is savoring life intensely, every hundredth of a second.” ~Marc Riboud

I’m no photographer, but I thoroughly enjoy taking pictures. For me, each photo holds the sacredness of the moment it captures, no matter how small or simple, allowing us to hold onto it for perhaps a little bit longer.

Taking pictures has taught me so much about seeing things on a deeper level and to really look at someone, or something, while taking an extra moment to enjoy whatever it may be that has caught my attention.

365 Project: Day 16

365 Project: Day 16

“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.”  ~Dorothea Lange

In an attempt to challenge myself while becoming more vulnerable and further exploring my love of taking pictures in a deeper way, I decided to take part in the 365 Picture-A-Day Project. I’ll be doing this mainly with the camera on my phone because it’s convenient and easy, and well, I have my phone with me all the time anyway.

Sure I’ve dabbled in photography with a good camera; however most of my favorite photographs are the ones I take on my phone—quickly without thinking about lighting, shutter speed or aperture adjustments. But that’s just me, and I should note that I’m approaching this project as a means of pushing myself creatively rather than honing specific photography skills.

I’ll try to avoid pictures of say socks or a toothbrush, although plain mundane things often carry the rhythm of everyday life. I’m hoping to convey on a daily basis, a snapshot of what makes me tick, of what brings me joy, and ultimately, what inspires me on the creative path.

365 Project: Day 53

365 Project: Day 53

Would you like to follow along as I share this year-long journey?

You can catch my picture-a-day project on the official 365 Project website, Instagram and on Twitter.

And connect with me and my inspirations on my Facebook page.

Has anyone else embarked on a similar project or done the 365 Project in the past? I would love to hear about your experience. I’ll be updating you here throughout the year on my progress, discoveries and challenges.

365 Project: Day 8

365 Project: Day 8

I’m looking forward to what a picture-a-day will unveil and how it will teach me more about myself… and who knows, maybe you’ll even learn a thing or two about yourself along the way.

“You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.”  ~Ansel Adams

Originally published on Elephant Journal.

365 Project: Day 20

365 Project: Day 20

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Hitching a Ride out of Funk-Town

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I’ve been in a funk.

A pretty drawn out creative funk that has my heart palpitating and my whole being put into question. It’s that time of year where this feeling resonates with so many others as well. And while I’m sorry some of you experience this too, it helps to know that I’m not alone.

It’s not that I don’t have anything to say, that I don’t have ideas, or that I’m not inspired. Actually, I find myself continuously inspired by my surroundings and even here online as well. But every time I sit down to write or to brainstorm another art project I come up empty handed. It’s just not flowing out of me. It’s in there, I can feel it, but it doesn’t want to come out and play.

So a few stops back in Freak-out Ville, I decided to surrender. “Fine” I exclaimed, “You win”. And I threw up my white flag. Perhaps creativity has left me for good I thought, I’m all dried up. Deep down however, I knew that wasn’t true (the proof being this post of course), but sometimes, it really can feel that way.

Instead of coaxing the creativity out of me, I took a step back and decided to refill the well inside myself. That can take some time, but in my experience, letting things jive in their own way is the surest path to getting back on track.

I’m a self-proclaimed book nerd because well, I read all the time, and here, in this massive void of a funk is no exception. I find that seeking guidance in the pages written by those who’ve come before me to be a huge inspiration in getting out of my funk, so I’ve been reading everything I can get my hands on. Books that I’ve read many times before, subjects that I haven’t read about in years, and even taking on new books that I might not usually read during times when I’m busy creating, writing, and making. Early morning into late at night, I’ve been letting one book lead voraciously to the next to the next to the next.

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Photo: Jenn Lui, Late night reading

“Read, read, read. Read everything—trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.” ~ William Faulkner

Along those same lines, I’ve been researching… for fun. If something inspires me, I dig deeper for more information and knowledge on the subject. And while this research might not produce any tangible immediate results in my creative endeavors, I know it’s all gets stored in that brain of mine and I’m sure at some point, it will find its way back out and come in handy. What’s most important however is that it’s getting me to think in new ways while also keeping me in touch with my curiosity and at the very edge of that fantastical creative energy that was elusive to me.

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Photo: Jenn Lui, Research Mode

I’ve come to believe curiosity is the key to flowing creativity.

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity.” ~ Albert Einstein

And so I find that without fail, after spending a bit of time turning inwards and nourishing my curious creative core that once again, things began to flow. Big ideas that were formless just a short while ago have taken shape, and those foggy concepts that were out of reach are now right in front of me and ready to become something concrete in this world.

During any stay in Funk-Town, it can be a very scary thing to have complete faith that creative productivity will return. But as we trust and surrender to the time when our creative beings need nourishment and restoration, we will find they never actually left us but instead, just spent a bit of time in hibernation. And it is with that knowledge that we set the intention to listen sooner next time, and where we thought there was some level of failure, we now instead see it as a reminder to turn inward and embrace our own creative changing seasons.

My last piece of advice, if you should happen to find yourself in Funk-town, and are compelled to get out of bed at whatever ridiculous hour because you finally have that incredible urge to spill yourself on paper, canvas, or whatever other media, then get out of bed and run. Run like the whole house is burning down and let it all spill out like your survival depended on it. It doesn’t matter what comes out, just that you get it out.

“You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.” ~ Saul Bellow

I’m happy that I followed that advice myself, or this post would have never come into existence. And it’s with one little step like this that can snowball into other ideas spilling out and now I’m on a roll.

Goodbye Funk-Town. I’m sure I’ll be visiting you again, but hopefully not anytime soon.

Originally Published on Elephant Journal

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2013/03/hitching-a-ride-out-of-funk-town/

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