Inspiration- a multifaceted word. On first glance it is defined as; “the process of being mentally stimulated, to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.” It also means “divine influence”, and “the act of breathing in, an inhalation”.

The Source of Inspiration

But where does inspiration come from? Our brains? Or somewhere deeper? According to Neuroscientist Dr Caroline Leaf, the brain and the mind are separate, in the sense that our brains are a problem-solving organ: The brain thinks just as the heart beats, and the lungs breathe. She explains that our brains and bodies are the way we experience our mind- and our mind is far richer and more complex than our brains and bodies. She says, “The mind is energy and it generates energy” (ref: Podcast 306: How to balance your brainwaves + The difference between the mind & brain). In other words, the mind is the driving force behind our brain. It’s helpful to make the distinction by referring to the mind as the ‘wise self’ or the ‘wise mind’.

Imago- Dei

Based on this, our inspiration and creative energy comes from a deeper source than just our brains. If you think about the sheer volume of creative expressions in the world- things that have been agonised over, lovingly altered, thought about and experimented with- it’s overwhelmingly immense. It’s like the Earth holds a constant shower of creative things, a rain of ideas and thoughts sinking into the ground and eventually, most likely, lost. I used to find this thought really discouraging. However, the unrelenting urge to create is built into us as humans. It’s is part of our Imago Dei, or who we are as image bearers of God. We create as a true expression of our being. I think the reason we struggle with the thought that our creative endeavours may be unacknowledged or lost is because we live in a world that values productivity and data. It is bent toward rigidity over flexibility, reductionism over possibilities, utility over worth and meaning, judgement over grace, certitude over nonduality and exclusivity over acceptance.


If we view the ‘wise mind’ as the seat of inspiration, and the brain as the vehicle through which we experience it, our perspective is transformed. We are no longer dictated by the the overarching values of culture or society. We become more authentically who we are created to be. Inspiration is not stingy or withholding. It is not the exclusive property of a sacred few. As mentioned above, it is like a constant rain, or a river that flows endlessly, available to all.

Our upside down world….means that to nurture or make room for inspiration requires a commitment to authenticity. Putting our inspiration out into the world comes with a price: we give up control over where it will land. This lies is the hands of the Spirit. The true value of what we create lies not in the thing itself, but the essence of the thing as an expression of our divinity- as co-creators with God.

I’m reminded of a Bible verse in Philippians: “I will rejoice even if my life is poured out like a drink offering”. If we pour out our lives, which includes everything we do or create, it follows that we give up concern over how it is received, since everything we have to offer has first been given to us by a loving and creative God. What we accomplish in our own strength can be so self-conscious and focused on external responses. It’s a temptation to present oneself according to the upside down values of the world- even for short term accolades. We want to appear clever and successful. Part of the antidote to this mind trap for me at least, lies in reminding myself of who I really am: deeply flawed yet deeply loved. Created in the image of God. I have within me the mind-boggling capacity to reflect back a unique one-of-a-kind facet of the nature of God. One with God in union, I am also a particularity. Another antidote is realising that all those around me carry the same spark of divinity, are equally loved, wonderfully unique and therefore communication with others is sacred. We reflect God back to one another.

Art as Communion

We are all an original, and part of something much larger than ourselves, something we cannot fully understand. I need to remind myself of this often.

Back to some thoughts on making art. For me, when I think of my arts practise, and in particular how it produces so much joy and healing in my life, I can see the principle of inspiration – or the wise mind- at work. In painting, drawing, writing poems….I am aware of being pulled away from the endless chatter and problem solving of the brain into a more expansive space of grounding into the life of the Spirit. (I say this with the firm belief that we are all creators in some form or another).

The more I pursue inspiration, this creative force within me, the more I become aware that God is closer than my breath. Creative expression is like a loving dialogue or prayer going back and forth. This is why the definition of inspiration- as respiration or breathing- is so beautiful.

If inspiration was personified it would be accepting, childlike, compassionate. It values process over product. May we all joyfully and with gratitude, breathe it in.


Today it occurred to me that I have accumulated a backlog of unfinished drawings and paintings. Rather than follow a rabbit trail that spirals into self-sabotage and despondency, I decided to try to see it in positive terms. What if unfinished artwork is not a sign of being distracted or undisciplined but a necessary part of creativity?

I’ll never forget one time when I was renting a studio which, as part of a heritage building in Fremantle, had frequent visitors who came to look at the building as well as the art in the studios there. Taking advantage of the sunny morning,I was working on the front porch when a man and his partner greeted me and asked if they could have a look at what I was painting. I was working on an intuitive, colourful artwork which as far as I was concerned was far from finished. He told me he wanted to buy it “as is”. “Can I just tweak this bit?” I said, motioning toward a part of the canvas that looked halfway between a bizarre-looking bird and a flower. “No, I really want to buy it as is” he replied.

Later as we were talking I found out that his daughter had died tragically in a car crash. My son was also claimed by the roads just two before at the time. We each had this acknowledgement that grieving parents share; an unspoken “you also understand this reality of living through the unthinkable”.  I realised just as his daughter’s life was unfinished, there was a poetic truth and melancholy beauty he could see in an unfinished artwork. Now more than ever, after losing my own precious boy, I am beginning to see that the true meaning of creating is not about product, but communication of ideas, thoughts and messy emotions. It’s about he communion and solidarity we share in being human and a bit broken and unfinished ourselves. 

Art unfinished is raw and candid. It reveals the artists state of mind before it is erased through the fine tuning we do to create an image that is deemed worthy of the external gaze.

I decided to photograph my unfinished pieces, not only to reflect on them but also to validate them as meaningful explorations. They are pockets of inspiration, which is valuable whether bought to fruition or abandoned. They silently protest the mantra of productivity we have in our culture. They remind me that it is the process of creating, not the end result that holds the true magic. The magic of responding to inner prompts and being brave enough to try and sometimes fail. 


Art Meditation with Flowers!

I had loads of fun creating this. It’s my firm belief that an arts practise can be a form of meditation, deepening our ability to stay present in the moment, and also soothes our nervous system. For me personally it is also an outlet for spiritual and personal growth. Hope you enjoy 🙂

Water Baptism- a dream reflection

I want to share with you a dream I had, as the imagery was so powerful, it has given me much to reflect on. I’ve called the dream (and the painting above) ‘Water Baptism’

In the dream I was up in the clouds. There was a teacher with me, relating all sorts of wonderful things about a global perspective. I could see the horizon and the earth below, and it was glorious. But somehow I was slipping and wasn’t able to stay in the sky. So I fell. But the fall wasn’t dramatic as in many dreams, it was soft. I gently landed in the ocean, and woke up as I emerged, face first from the water, which was a beautiful aquamarine blue.

It feels like sacred ground to try to interpret this dream in a linear fashion. I think I will only be able to catch the overarching message, and trust that my deepest soul understands more than my conscious understanding. The most obvious metaphor to me, of the water at least, is baptism. Baptism is a way of representing an inner surrender, as death yields to life.

Submerged in the ocean, we are utterly engulfed by the water, but also buoyed up by it- if we relax. When we are drowning, they say the more we struggle to stay afloat, the more likely we are to actually drown because we are expending so much energy in our panic. To swim, one must learn the skill of relaxing into the water and thereby the body becomes its own life raft and floats. There is a humble beauty in yielding. To circumstances, to God, to who we are. In dreams every element can also be understood as parts of ourselves. So, even the body of water that held me is a part of me, perhaps that sacred space in my heart where God also dwells.

Dreams provide wonderful inspiration for art, and this one is no exception. For me, to paint a dream is a way of imprinting it onto my psyche, and I’m sure the meaning of this one will evolve just as I am evolving. Hopefully others too will be able to resonate with it, since after all, dream symbols are part of our collective unconscious.

St Theresa of Avila describes spiritual metamorphosis in terms of a butterfly which emerges after days and days of being in a cocoon spun around it’s body. It is changed on a cellular level, no longer resembling in any way the lumpen worm that chews its way through mulberry leaves. It’s not merely a worm with wings, it is utterly different, transformed. This body of water can also be seen in terms of a chrysalis. When we are in our mothers’ womb, we float in water, before we emerge into another reality…Truly, as the psalmist says; “Your ways are too wonderful for me too lofty to attain”. Some things are so beautiful and true that we can only trust that somewhere deep in our soul there is a flicker of understanding.

May we all find quiet trust in these waters as we surrender to it’s depths.

God in the Vine- a meditation

‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me, and I in you, you will bear much fruit. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Now remain in my love…’

This is a little paraphrase from John’s Gospel. It’s a beautiful one to ponder because, for me at least, it evokes captivating imagery of oneness with our Creator.

The Vine…I love this image of God; I get a picture of roots intertwining with the earths soil, a part of the endless cycle of death and rebirth. It’s a picture of closeness, of imminence. God is not content to visit us with a glorified and overpowering presence- then leave. God is found in the very fabric of our existence, inseparable from our humanity as beings who need food, water and sun to nourish and sustain. Love has literally put her roots down right where we are, sustaining us moment by moment. In the words of teacher and mystic, James Finlay;

“Love is our origin, Love is our sustaining ground and Love is our destiny”

But then Jesus says, “Remain in my Love”

What does it mean to ‘remain in love’?

Although in the cosmic sense we are never separate from God, there is no doubt that there is a part of our being that is prone to becoming discontent and distracted. We struggle to remain, rest, stay, be.

When I am not remaining or resting in the Vine, I wither and contract. My own energies, agendas and obsessive thoughts lead to feelings of emptiness. I’m trying to meet my own needs, be my own protector and Source. It’s like I’ve put myself in a jar of stagnant water on the windowsill with secondhand light.

In yoga Nidra, a practise where the goal is deep relaxation, the guide will often say things like, “become aware of your right foot, let it become heavy, relax…” and so on with other body parts. When we rest our soul and spirit in God we can follow the same lines. We close our eyes, and with open hands, we come to God with all of our frailties, anxieties and circumstances. We surrender the need for control. We accept the day before us as a gift. Every breath we take in is also a gift, as the Spirit breathes through us…..We relax, remain, be. We are held and nourished no matter what state of mind we are in. ‘To remain in love’ is the awareness of this everlasting truth.

Like the cycle of the seasons, the day becoming night, the insects, birds and animals are being sustained; We too are being upheld, moment by moment.

Whatever is in your heart today, that feels pressing or overwhelming… Surrender it to the Vine. Your only task is to remain in love.