Light and Shadow: a Meditation

They move with the time of day and make visible the dance of the breeze. Dappling the world shadows are darkly mystifying. When I paint shadows, I often use all of the primary colours, undiluted and concentrated, so that the eye reads them as shades. Darkness gives depth, or at least the illusion of depth. The world is flat and bleached without shadows. In art and life, we need a “Yin” or negative space to balance out the bright and dynamic ‘Yang’ energy. The reflective yielding light of the moon to balance the sharp rays of the sun. We need winters’ solstice to make space for the active growth cycle of spring and summer.

In spiritual terms, the shadow is neither good nor bad, it just is. It’s a part of us that has much to teach us if we let it. It contains spaces that we can only just make out, like something in the corner of our eye, hazy and nondescript. We see reality as ‘through a glass darkly’ (1 Corinthians 13:12). Like the deep ocean, our shadow also contains things we cannot see at all. There is a universe inside of us. Often, we get snippets of our mysterious shadow selves when we remember our dreams, and wake, perhaps realising that there is a lot more going on in our psyches that what we are consciously aware. But we don’t need to remember dreams in order to gain the wisdom and insight of our shadow.  It resides in all of our frailties, our insecurities and failures. It’s our very weaknesses that lead us to God, who is completely present both within our being and outside of us as an anchor for our soul. We discover the life of God in these hazy, elusive impressions. We come to understand that our worth is not found in achievements or the identity we have spent years trying to carefully construct.

Sometimes, every answer to every question seems to be a resounding “I don’t know”. Like tree in a storm, it’s delicate branches billowing in strong winds, we may feel that there is neither gravity nor ground. St John of the Cross says likens this shadow experience as ‘the dark night of the soul’. He says; “In the dark night of the soul, bright flows the river of God”. The shadow place is being content in the mystery. Laying aside manipulations and grasping, and with open hands, we are fully immersed in the river of God.

Off With the Fairies-A Walking Meditation

Take a walk, if you will, among the trees. For there are times when a walk in the forest is much more than just a simple walk in the forest.

Take the walk slowly. Set your intention to be as awake and aware as possible. Because of this, or perhaps just because of a moment of grace, you may notice the shifts in the air. The breeze, the wind has it’s own voice, it’s own ebb and flow. It goes where it will and you feel it on your face, and through your clothes. Perhaps it is speaking to you.

The paperbark trees that line the path also have a voice, something to say. They are like quiet sentinels, gentle guardians…maybe a little protective; if they could speak aloud they might say; “Tread gently here”.

You keep walking, deciding to take a different path than usual, hoping to see things with new eyes (how wonderful is it to have new eyes!) Yes, a fresh perspective is what you need right now…you think: “Something may pop out into the forefront of my awareness, because I’m fully focused on being present right now!” Nature is truly a Gracious giver. You can come as you are, and she always offers all that she is, reflecting your reality but also revealing something more. An earthy groundedness.

So you come across an interesting tree, so gnarly with termite mounds, yet it is still standing. And it seems pretty content. You think it’s a good idea to stop there and just kind of stand looking at it as if to absorb what it has to communicate. Later on you will reflect on this particular gum tree, how it stood flanking he path, and how it somehow reached out to you. How you, and the tree, and God even, are all one. How loving compassion must be even more real and tangible than a nature walk. You realise the tree, in all it’s diseased state was offering a beautiful earthbound solidarity toward the experiences you are travelling through. The world is but a mirror. As as above, so below. The Divine is not untouched by suffering or illness, it would seem, according to the wise old tree.

You decide it’s time to turn back now, travelling along the same path you came. You notice that beside the trees are shadowy pockets of low foliage. It doesn’t matter that you can’t identify the bushy plants and ground covers, but they are like mini forest walks, mini worlds, with their own pathways and clearings. A hidden subculture of nature undisturbed by human hands. It’s really quite magical, like a fairytale.

IMG-1745 (2)There’s so much beauty and mystery in our world. We walk beside a multitude of spirit companions, each with a different task and possessing a unique aspect of the Source of all life. May you have moments of grace where you can sense all that is around you, every good thing that is supporting you and quietly offering peace and consolation. May you learn to stop for a while and look at the trees.

Creating Space for your Inner Child

The other night I had a visit from a lovely friend (social distancing, of course. We sat outside in my studio, drinking pink gin, painting and chatting). My friend has an amazing 10 year old son, Elijah, who has autism. He is incredibly creative and gifted artistically. She describes how he can just sit and watch bugs or nature in general for hours. He draws all the time- anything and everything that captures his attention. They are in exquisite detail and in a unique style that he has already developed. Whatever he does is with wholehearted interest, whether it be science fiction or fossils. It’s like the world is teeming with fascinating treasures waiting to be discovered. Because of this, our busy and noisy world is often overwhelming for him, causing him to shut down and not be able to contain his feelings or reactions. He is a person who sees things in way that is full of intense curiosity and joy.

Our conversation caused me to think about what it means to be really present in the here and now. It’s a state of being we all long for, I think, because most of us, even after difficult childhoods, have memories of being there- lost in awe and wonder, lost in the present moment. Times where, like Elijah, we reached that wonderful ‘flow’ state during our playtime. We were un-selfconscious, completely unaware of ourselves and how we were being perceived by others. We were absorbed to the point where the outcome of our play, whether it be a cubby house, tower of blocks, mud cakes or car tracks, was completely irrelevant; so focused were we on the present moment. Our imaginations were untethered. Magic and other realms existed, stories were not just tales, but four dimensional worlds. We would forget to eat, and have that sinking feeling of disappointment when it was time to leave or go inside. Eckhart Tolle describes this state as an inner spaciousness, where we are truly alive or awake, living from our ‘larger self’ which is connected with God or Source.

It must be said, to have a wounded inner child, or a childhood robbed completely is a deep tragedy that requires all the more courage and self-compassion to be able to embrace the present moment. But I want to focus on another aspect here. During this time of isolation, it’s easy to see how cluttered our lives, and consequently or minds, have become. As I said in a previous blog post, I have taken up the practise of Contemplative Prayer. It is a simple practise where the instructions are to take a comfortable seat, be still and silent thereby ‘consenting to God’s action and presence within’. When engaged with thoughts (or feelings or sensations), gently bring your awareness back with a sacred word of choice. The prescribed time is 20 minutes. I’m a novice at this. However, not only have I become excruciatingly aware of how much my thoughts repeat like a mouse on a wheel; but I have also noticed how seldom I really am present in the moment.

My son and I had a little chat about what he discovered on YouTube about dopamine. As a society, We have (unsurprisingly) become addicted to high levels of dopamine due to our fast-paced culture. The things that cause a rush in dopamine uptake are the things we do that offer instant gratification. This particular YouTube channel suggested a ‘dopamine detox’ day- days where you basically do nothing. You simplify, maybe read a book or write in a journal, but really make the effort to slow down the mind and activities. It reminds me of the Sabbath day in Christian and Jewish traditions where everybody rested from their labour one day a week. For many, the C-19 pandemic has been a forced Sabbath. An opportunity to reset and simplify.

Life truly is in the Now. The more we set our intentions to slow down, quiet out minds and ‘be’ rather than ‘do’ the more we can become aware of the presence of God (or Source) in our lives. I’m telling myself this all the time, because I have found it to be very slow progress! But whether we are consciously aware of it or not, we all are amazingly connected both to each other and to Spirit. There is a universal heartbeat in everything. The “I am” of God is reflected in all that is around us and also within us. We see practical demonstrations of this connectivity all the time- when you have been thinking about your mother and she calls you; when the dog becomes restless just before a family member arrives home. When you walk in the forest and sense the energy of the air, the insects, birds and trees.

It’s my sincere hope, that whatever circumstances you find yourself in at this time, your life will unfold into something deeper and more free. We are a collective in an energetic sense, yet at the same time are are all on our unique journey. Nobody knows your own life as well as you do. But I also want to offer hope and comfort in the sense that you and I are held and not alone in a universe that is both loving and benevolent. May you discover the treasures of awareness that your own inner child knows and remembers well. Like Elijah, make friends with curiosities that come across your path, no matter how commonplace they may seem to your adult mind. It is my prayer that we all find space for that joyful little kid that lives inside of us all to lead us on wondrous trails and unknown destinations.

Contemplative Silence

Lately, I have committed myself to a practise of contemplative prayer.  This is essentially a practise of silence, of stilling the mind – or not so much stilling the mind but observing the crazy meanderings it follows without judgement. In a way it is as a response to the isolation we are all experiencing due to the COVID 19 pandemic; but also I have known for a while that I need to slow down and simplify.

I want to share a little piece of my heart, what I have been learning in recent weeks, and my hope and prayer is that there will be someone that migt resonate or feel encouraged too.

Lately, maybe due to this practise of silence, I have become so aware of my chattering mind, my ego. Sometimes I feel so captured by its endless judgements and circular, repetitive, anxious thoughts. It’s overwhelming.  But I am positive, because I have also had glimpses of something more. It may just be seconds of clarity, but they are precious nonetheless. During these moments, I sense myself as a child, a being tenderly held by her creator and life. My very breath is not my own, I cannot control the ebb and flow of life found in sounds of traffic, my dog barking at some imaginary intruder, the cacophony of birds, the interruptions of others in my house moving about their day. I become aware of the only task at hand, to surrender to my God, and the only thing necessary is to show up, to maybe till the soil of my mind so it is malleable and God does the rest. God plants the seed and causes the seed to grow.

The idea of surrender is to be attentive to what is, in the moment without assigning inferences, my own empty manipulations and labels. Just as each moment is fleeting, so too is my awareness of God- fleeting. All I can do is come to each moment with open hands, not expecting anything, just letting things be as they are. In the silences and the stillness, there is the voice of God, a whisper, a moment.

I am frustrated and I wish I could be more silent, more surrendered to the moment. But, maybe I need also to have compassion for the ‘little me’, my ego. For I know it must die, become smaller. It is a fragment of me, but not the real me who is eternal and hidden in the eternal present in love and with love, with God.

Art for Self-care and Mindfulness

Through the process of being creative, we can achieve deep relaxation and clarity, otherwise known as the ‘flow state’. Art and creativity has been shown to alleviate symptoms of anxiety  and aids in processing difficult emotions and navigating life challenges.

Workshop Programmes

Workshops and classes are available by appointment, either at my home studio in Medina or by mobile arrangement, available Thursday-Saturday. To book, simply contact me with a workshop request and preferred day and time. Cost is $25 per person with a minimum of three participants. All workshops suitable for adults and children 12  and over.

Art Journaling Workshop

 Discover how to utilise mixed media and collage in  a daily journaling practise. All materials provided, including an A4 art journal. Workshop runs for 3 hours.

 Totem Animal Painting Workshop

 Through meditation, discover your special ‘totem animal’, and the unique attributes your animal brings. This is an acrylic painting workshop, where the finished painting will be a symbol of encouragement and inspiration. No experience necessary, as I will assist you in any way needed. All materials supplied,  this is a  3 hour workshop which can be run as a series over 2 weeks.

 Mixed Media  Assemblage Workshop

In this workshop, participants will create a mixed media ‘assemblage’artwork using a variety of materials including scrapbook papers,  feathers, found objects, trinkets which are glued to  a craftboard and  further enhanced with acrylic or enamel spray paint or acrylic paint.  All materials provided, however,  bringing along objects, bits of fabric etc makes the artwork more meaningful and personal.


Mob: 0402601480



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