Life is full of openings…and other wondrous stories

book 9Something happened this weekend that took the lid off a box of stories I hardly knew I was harbouring; quite a bounty, as it happens, and with some distinct themes running through them all. The reason that they surfaced and received such an impromptu airing was because I spent two hours on Saturday morning in deep and expansive conversation with a handful of people, one by one by one, on the back of my ‘book signing’ as part of the opening of the Spring Exhibition at Gallery Fifty Five. I somehow knew the book would catalyse something different to the usual gallery conversations and the way the butterflies were amassing in my stomach the night before told me something was about to take flight and that there was a newness coming in on the spring breeze. It certainly felt like some sort of milestone to bring these two aspects of my journey – my self-expression through paint and now words –  into one single focal point and I felt unusually a-fizz as the time of the opening approached.

I remember a day when even the fact of standing next to my art in a public place used to terrify as overheard comments and even facial expressions can cut to quick during the very tender years, yet many times of doing this over the past half decade have brought in a relaxed and easy air to the way I talk about art that just flows without feeling of great effort (which is as it should be).  

You learn how to stand around pretend-nonchalantly, to smile encouragingly, to welcome opportunities to chat and to shrug at those who scurry past in a hurry, sweeping their broad gaze in a way that deliberately avoids yours. You can feel some people’s momentary confusion as they see you there and become unsure whether to react as though your art is comfortably separate from you, self-contained, like something in a shop, or whether they would benefit from bringing the artist into the triangulation of their experience of it by asking questions, inviting personal background, showing willingness to engage just a little below the surface of the paint. It can be an awkward split second of dilemma and every encounter, every artwork, triggers a different version of the outcome. Personally, I love to be drawn out into deep conversation by whatever reactions to my paintings are triggered and yet it is something that simply can’t be forced; will happen only when a person is resonant (or, perhaps, the opposite) with something you have managed to convey. 

As an artist on these occassions, you  come out prepared for that level of engagement and so embrace it, breathing in deep ownership of your story as you brush your teeth in the mirror or drive purposefully towards gallery (as I did that very day) with the wind in your hair. All those many painting moments that led to your finished work were quite solitary and deeply personal ones and yet there is something so hugely liberating about setting them free into a public space and to a whole crowd of people, releasing them to the reactions of others. Like any muscle, this aspect of being a visual artist strengths over time with the repeated flexing of it; in its own way, becoming a sort of performance art – the script being ‘the story of you’!

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First level of engagement comes through direct eye contact, not just with the artwork but with you as its creator, usually followed by the more tentative questions like ‘did you do this, is this yours?’ As the artist, you learn to you grab those threads – not to make a sale but because you wouldn’t even be there if a willingness to share that journey wasn’t emphatically yours. Feeling your way, you step by inches into a domain that strikes a tentative balance between divulging more than just the obvious yet gauging exactly where to stop, when to pull back, meeting the other person half way, avoiding the dreaded turf of ‘too much information’. You learn to feel into how far each person is willing to go into ‘the story of you’ and, often, you find yourself guiding conversation towards their responses, the way your art makes them feel or discussing their own unexplored creative urges and this is where I most like to lead, encouraging people to explore aspects of themselves that, you often sense, get overlooked, undervalued or postponed until some later time of life. 

This is because so many conversations – probably the majority I have – seem to go down the route of how they too would love to (have time to) create, wish they were any good at it, used to enjoy doing it but stopped or hope to take it up one day…perhaps when retired or when this or that circumstance changes or comes about. I find myself having to work hard to keep my own vehemence in check as I contend that there is NO better time than now to pursue any of your heart-urges, that ANYONE can paint and create, that its about not caring less what anyone else thinks and, rather, doing it for YOU, but it can be hard to get too in-depth on such an expansive subject in the allotted time. Vehemence can make people nervous and it is as though some people set an internal timer as soon as they detect it, sidling away before they hear too many of the tempting words that would have them dusting down their ancient paint sets and throwing all caution to the wind.

Perhaps all these people know, deep down, that what I’m talking about here at my most vehement are attitudes to creativity that extend far beyond the canvas and deep into life itself and its no secret to me that I consider myself some sort of ‘ambassador for creative living’; a badge I admit I put on at these functions, given half an ear of encouragement by anyone willing to chat into the territory.

Book 1

That’s why I really wanted to write my story too – my words conveying in a few pages what only persuading people to pick up a brush and feeling into the creative act would otherwise convey to them if they have lost touch with their own unlimited creativity within the canvas of life. So yes, this time, there was a whole new dynamic at play – I had brought along my own story of how I had lost and then rediscovered my own creativity, both as an artist and within the very canvas of life. It was all typed out there in black-and-white print inside the piles of books that were now laid out on a table for all to see.

This time, there was simply no getting around or away from the ‘extremely personal story’ behind the artistry – the book was the story, that so-very personal journey of me, wrapped up in its bright red cover, an eye-catcher as soon as you stepped in off the street. Even my own nerve began to quake a little at this; I could feel myself becoming fizzy inside (no matter whether fear or excitement; they are virtually the same) and I knew, somehow, there would be far less hiding behind a canape and a smile than I’d got away with at so many openings before – it was time to get talking. 

Things got off to a slow start as I took up my position.  The eye swoop became the favourite manoeuver as people stepped into the door to find me sat there at my table; a tactic that took in first me…then a pile of red books…but, being very little else that could be established without actually picking up one of the books or talking to me about it, most continued on into the depth of the gallery without much more than a ‘hello’. One or two handled the book without making eye contact and just as quickly put it down. book 3Another took one away and sat down to read it – thoroughly, for probably the best part of an hour – before putting it back without a purchase. I would open my mouth to speak and then close it again as people drifted quickly on into the crowded space of the gallery. I sipped my tea.

Then something marvellous happened – a sort of boomerang effect took shape. As people came back around the informal horseshoe of the gallery, tracing the natural flow of the art on the walls which led straight back to my paintings just to the side of where I was sat, I was able to engage their eye, have the usual conversation that yes these were indeed my paintings and then throw in the anecdote of how I had been invited by the publishers of this book to contribute the story of how I found some paints…taught myself to use them….recovered my health…went on an epic journey of self-discovery…and utterly changed my life. ‘Wow, how on earth…?’ Well, just like the title of the book, I told them, I had manifested it!

And indeed, I realised, I had and so this became my foothold; the point where I settled into my story-telling to a rapt audience with anecdote after anecdote surfacing just as I needed it and, somewhere just beneath the surface, a version of me that was utterly taken aback that I had so many to draw upon…most of which had never seen the light of day across three years of blogging. Where had all these wondrous stories suddenly come from?

The one that I shared the most was probably this one: It was around the middle of last summer that I did some serious work on the last bastion of my fear, which was the irony that although my joy is to paint and to write, a big part of me didn’t want to ‘be seen’, to stick my head above the parapet, to draw attention to myself. So I did an exercise called ‘push the button’ offered as an audio by Story Waters, where you bundle up this last residue of fear that you have identified as an obstacle to something you really want and you cook it up into a spinning ball of tangible energy before pushing it all, like a giant shiny red button (not unlike the covers of my book…), into the very heart space that is at the centre of all that you are, the quantum void of all possibility that is the hub of all you are capable of creating in this life. With this action, so very powerfully visualised with the assistance of the words you are experiencing, you transform your fear, the very symbol of your self-destruction, into something else entirely; something new and useful that energises the very things that you want instead of tripping them up out of fear and hesitation. This is the spine-tingler: I emerged from the deep state of listening to that audio to find an invitation to take part in the New York  ‘Story of the Creative’ exhibition (quite ironic given the name…) waiting for me right at the top of the emails that had come in while I was doing the exercise and, just eight days later, was contacted quite unexpectedly with yet another invitation, this time to contribute my story to the glossy red book that I was now holding in my hands!

As I threw out this dumb-founder of a hook that this had all come about ‘by beautiful synchroncity’; that my accidental art had led to equally accidental publication, I found that conversations were suddenly sparked into life and lengthy ones, where people took root in the seat by my side, at that. What resulted was not one but a whole stream of mindblowingly expansive conversations with perfect strangers, people I’d never set eyes on before and yet here we were cosied up in the corner of a noisy and now heavingly crowded art gallery in broad daylight having the kind of conversations that you would more likely expect to have with a long-time friend in an intimate setting accompanied by a bottle of wine.

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Certain themes dominated the day for all that each conversation was quite unique. Subjects covered ranged from ‘following your passions’, ‘life choices’, ‘reinventing yourself’, ‘creative flow’, ‘confidence’, ‘inner guidance’, ‘channelling’ , ‘noticing synchronicities’ and ‘receiving inspiration’ to ‘quantum physics’, ‘non-linear time’, ‘metamorphosis’ and ‘past lives’. Oh, and so much more. No sooner had one person rubbed their eyes as if to blink into place a whole new perspective to the one they had come in with, invariably enthusing about how much they had enjoyed the conversation and how much it had made them think, than another person seemed to materialise and take their place in the seat next to me. Normally the confirmed hermit, the committed shy person, communicating through written not spoken words, I suddenly realised just how much I was enjoying myself.

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Another stunner that I found myself telling more than once was how, seven years ago and in the thick of my health challenges, a few months after giving up the hated corporate job and yet feeling no better, I had a few sessions with a hypnotherapist in the hope of getting to the root of the ‘problem’. At the time, I was painting a little for relaxation but the results were very amateur, certainly not gallery standard. In one of these sessions, the therapist asked me visualise my perfect day…

To my surprise, I went off into a reverie of visiting the lovely village of Hartley Wintney which, for all it’s about 15 minutes drive from me, was somewhere I hardly knew at the time. Back then it had a very prestigious art gallery in the High Street (no longer there, it closed during the recession) which was, ironically, just a couple of doors away from the one that I was now sat in having this very conversation. This other gallery was one of those places you hardly dared to step into…full of immense bronze casts of jaguars and eagles and with sparse walls hung with grandiose oils with price tags that made you swallow hard, a person peering at you over half-moon glasses behind a desk asking ‘can I help you?’ as soon as you came in and the unspoken suggestion hovering in the air that you had arrived under-dressed. Yet, bizarrely, in my hypnotic state, I envisioned walking in there and boldly handing over several of my paintings to gasps of admiration, watching as they went up on those pristine white walls before flitting off in the sunshine to have lunch with a friend, walk my dog or otherwise spend my time exactly as I chose, quite decidedly at ease with my fluid and entirely spontaneous way of being.

book 15I had this same hypnotic reverie more than once in those session, in fact it became quite a favourite but, by February or March of 2007, the sessions had ended and, to my recollection, I didn’t give this somewhat bizarre fantasy another thought. The next few months saw me continue to practice my painting in private at home whilst joining a weekly life study group to hone my drawing skills but very little else happened as far as my art was concerned and it remained a hobby which I began to share tentatively online through a very basic webpage I created for my own amusement.

It was almost exactly a year after the hypnotherapy stopped, around Easter 2008, that I found myself in Hartley Wintney with my young daughter in the school holidays. She wanted to go into the gallery so, urging her to be well-behaved and not talk too loudly (knowing so well she would speak her mind…), we stepped inside. What unfolded was the bizarrest thing; the person behind the desk was unusually chatty this time, possibly amused by the sotto voce yet still audible comments my daughter was making about some of the paintings and hearing the way I tried to explain to her what the artist might have been intending. ‘Do you paint?’ he asked. ‘Yes…’ ‘Really? Do you have a website?’ As my heart hit stomach level and continued on towards the polished floor, he tapped in the url of my website and went very quiet for quite long enough for a wave of nausea and intense heat to come over me. Then, suddenly, he was saying ‘These are really good! We have an exhibition coming up, would you be prepared to submit a few pieces?’

Even now, I can draw back the feeling that moment gave me, the experience of being awash with new possibility, new self-belief, like an alternate doorway – a veritable portal – had just opened up in my reality; a hidden doorway I would never have (consciously) seen or even known was there had it not just flung itself open in what had otherwise looked like the solid brick wall of my life. Yet, it seems, my subconscious had always known without question that this doorway, this very possibility, existed and that all I had to do was dare to imagine it, to paint it into something tangible in my heart space, a place where I had played with it (this bit is SO important) without worrying about any of the practicalities of how to get it to materialise in my world, for it to become my reality. My sub- (I prefer, ‘super-‘) conscious had no concept whatsoever of limitation – which is an entirely human invention – and went fully into that ‘dream’ of a potential future, planting the seed of it from the very first act of imagining it, feeling it, tasting just what it would be like to have that experience ‘for real’.

book 11It was only after my paintings were hung on that wall, and after the first of many opening events had taken place, that it suddenly hit me (with goosebumps that made arm hairs stand on end) how I had painted the picture of this entire scenario, down to the exact gallery, the precise spot on the wall where my paintings were hung, long before it had ever seemed a possibility or even a conscious desire, a year earlier in my hypnotherapy sessions. I went on to show work in that galley for two years and it was the springboard for everything else that unfolded with my art so that it feels synchronistically apt that I now find myself in the same long-term relationship with another gallery just a few steps away from where it was located…only this time, the gallery is such a hub of approachable and friendly creativity that it has quite outdone the last one. After that, I never underestimated the power of visualisation (inner painting!) again…and that was when I started to recognise and unravel the very gift of it that had always been with me, guiding some of the greatest and most startling outcomes of my life.

One of the times visualisation most served me, I found myself continuing, was just after my divorce when, in good-old ‘reality’, it felt that life was imploding and I was on borrowed time in my home, with no practical way that I could afford to keep it any longer on what I was struggling to earn in my high-pressure job. The advisor I sat down with told me there was only one way out of my mess and that was to declare myself bankrupt, sell up, clear all my debts and find somewhere small for my daughter and I to rent, but something inside me kept saying ‘no, keep going, it’ll all be alright’. Not only that, I had the strongest image running like a video in my head of being there through all the years my daughter was growing up, of having a new family gathered around the hearth, of love, laughter and light flooding all those familiar rooms, of so many happy times stretching on in that place for many years ahead. Of course, I was perfectly right and that all came to pass, though I had precious little reason to trust in it at the time. Yet, long before physical evidence came along to support it, the seed of intention was shooting and growing strong on the inside; was so real I could feel myself already in that life and found myself visiting the imagining of just how that would feel very often during those bleakest of times (like going inside to give my seed water and light); in short, I gave it a chance and it grew.

book 4

Within a couple of (yes, challenging) years, circumstances unfolded on the right and the left of me, conspiring to make my dream possible in ways I would never have anticipated consciously…the important theme being that I didn’t stall on any thoughts of ‘there’s no way that can happen, it’s just not realistic and can’t be made to work’; my thinking mind just got out of the way and this became my private reverie, a place I went to as a haven of escape from the outside world. My inner place of imagining was an entirely different one to the world of perceived limitation going on all around me and this is exactly why it was so very powerful as a place for creating an entirely new reality.

Like Einstein said, we can’t solve problems from within the same limiting circumstances that created them; we have to allow possibilities to grow that are outside the scope of that old reality, that explore into something entirely new. When we allow those ‘practical’ yet limiting thoughts to step in it is a trip-wire of the mind that insists on looking at things from within the current circumstances…not from the new and freshly unlimited ones that cook up from the ether once your heart-intentions are felt into and set free to arise in whatever way they decide to orchestrate out of the cookpot of all possibilities that life REALLY IS.

This became quite the defining thread of all the conversations I had on Saturday; unpicking the idea of life being limited, of outward-maintained structure being such a great idea, of responsibilities and ‘other priorities’ always having to come first or that real passion, real desire and even joy have to be endlessly put on hold. No no NO, I found I kept wanting to declare, all of the most momentous circumstances of my life have taught me completely the opposite; that is, to follow joy with the relentless belief that it will deliver and that all the finer details will then shape-shift into position once you place your trust in that joy and that aspect of self that first led you into the very imagining of it.

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The people I spoke to on Saturday were so lovely and so open to such incredibly expansive themes of exploration, settling down into deepest discussion with me within moments of first meeting and then trusting me with aspects of themselves that felt like the precious gifts of their souls. I was left, afterwards, with the eeriest sense of having met all of these people (all women) long before or of having just fulfilled a pre-destined rendezvous and so handed over a pre-agreed nudge or reminder of something they already knew, deep down, and that they themselves had asked me to deliver in the time-sensitive window of this aptly titled ‘opening’ event.

Nothing I had to share with any of them was strictly ‘new’ and I could see the light of recognition come on in each of their faces when it came to the topic of the power of visualisation when it comes to creating the life you really want, the importance of following where joy leads to get there. What I felt I contributed through my stories was the sheer potency of receiving a reminder through ‘real life’ examples, so pushing this deep inner knowing back out of the ‘abstract’ corner into the central arena of life. It felt like I was getting across to them that all this stuff goes far beyond being a nice idea we read about in self-help books; it really works, it actually happens and is a whole alternate way of experiencing life, of participating in the very creation of life – if we allow it.

Some had taken the plunge already and were pursuing new and playful lives compared to what they used to ‘do’ in corporate land, others were fitting creative pursuits in around busy family life and other responsibilities, or splitting life between what kept life ticking over and bills paid for two thirds of their time and then allowing themselves to play with ‘other stuff’ from the heart the rest of the time. Yet, for all the pure and unbridled joy this ‘other stuff’ invariably gave them, more than one of the people I spoke to sounded just a little bit guilt-riddled at doing what they really enjoyed or seemed to think they had to justify or structure it, tie it to an income stream, dress it up as something else, even apologise for it to other people in their lives when there is no need whatsoever to apologise when on the path of introducing more JOY into life.

The inner light that lit each of them up, when they talked about what they truly loved to do, the activities where their passion truly lay, was so obvious to me that it became almost a game with myself to get their light to switch on and to help them sustain it for as long as possible, seeing how any hard definitions of what they felt was holding them back or why they felt they shouldn’t really be doing what brings them joy, seemed to dissolve away the more and the longer this light was allowed to shine through them, encouraged and fed with confidence by the stories of my own journey that I was able to share.

What I recognised in most was an outer limit to what they felt was really possible, doable, achievable within the ‘confines’ of hard reality when, in fact, there are no limitations to what can be imagined as possible and so achieved. In more than one, I recognised that same self-defeating theme that used to be such an intrinsic part of me, being an active fear of ‘lack of structure’ and an actual craving for hard-edged feelings (yes, even limiting, self-negating ones) that can be held onto for comfort, familiarity and ‘support’. These thoughts translate into all the many versions of ‘I must do this, stay here, put up with or prioritise that, do all these things for other people, tick all these other things off before I put anything of my own onto the table and enjoy it for no other reason than it makes my heart sing’.

When I first gave up office work, I was like a rabbit caught in the headlights as I looked into all the dazzling vacuousness of my life, the empty void where once had been so much structure that there was almost nothing left for me to choose out of all the tightly fitting imperatives of my situation. That was long before I came to know about the void of all potential, the quantum space that is the very caldron in which we cook up our heart’s desire. Back then, emptiness was fear personified and so, for that whole first year or so without work structure and time pressure, I manically created things to do; signed up for random courses, arranged lunches, volunteered, cluttered my world with unnecessary and thankless domestic chores, yes gave myself things to worry about, problems to solve…I see how even my still collapsing health was part of this, giving me the so-called excuse to be ‘off work’ and the challenging recovery project to get stuck into with a vengeance.

book 12Somewhere along the line I went through the worst of that feeling and came out the other side; I’m not quite sure when it happened but suspect it roughly coincided with discovering Eckhart Tolle and ‘The Power of Now‘. Gradually learning what living entirely for the joy of each moment felt like, and as painting, writing, being out in nature, just flowing with my inspiration became the stronger and stronger urges, I began to see the gift in all the enviable freedom that was mine. Looking back, I can see clearly now how all of my greatest leaps of creativity, of self-discovery and towards full, unfettered joy have been at times of no self-imposed limitation, almost entirely sidestepped limitations from the outside, minimal timetabling (I simply threw away my watch!) and plenty of time put aside for going deeply into being me as an absolute priority, with any tug and pull from outside priorities moved firmly to second place.

I even see how my health challenges conspired to teach me all of this as I was never going to be an easy person to slow down otherwise. Finding I could hardly plan a day ahead forced me to take each day at a time until I got the hang of it and came to love this way of being. To my surprise, my world didn’t implode when things slowed down…it just kept on turning and, actually, got better and better with each passing day…continuing still. Instead of getting less done, I now get far MORE done and it all flows together beautifully; the lack of structure creates space for, and FEEDS, the beautiful synchronicities that birth out of the experiences of my world and I actually feel more in control, far more nurtured and safe, sparkier, better informed, more adept at juggling many tasks and better connected to what really matters and the bigger picture than ever before in my life!

Another story that only hit me as I found myself sharing it outloud was that my recovery journey has been more than a little bit incredible. I’ve lost count of how many therapists have told me I would only ever learn to ‘manage’ my symptoms and would never recover my health and I could have spent years succumbing to that ‘information’ and to bed rest, spending my days comparing symptoms and exchanging ‘gentle hugs’ (as people do) on one of the many fibromyalgia forums online. Instead, I chose not to identify myself with this perspective and so the unwavering belief that I was walking steadily and surely back towards light and my own wholeness, towards great health and uninhibited physical enjoyment of life, is what has got me to where my health is the transformed version of what it used to be. I have no doubt at all that my constant visualisation of that journey through its expression in words and paint is what has helped keep that unwavering image of my full recovery alive in the heart-space where reality is created; a place where joy knows no compromise and I am already claiming mine, daily, regardless of any physical challenges that present themselves ‘on the outside’. Across all the years of wading through a sea of these, often intense and bewildering, challenges I never stopped perceiving them as a clue that I was undergoing some sort of rebirth or transition into the very opposite of what physicality was telling me and as this gift of perception was something that could only be experienced as a shimmering possibility at the heart of each moment, I was taught to keep my senses alive and responsive to the experience of ‘now’ as it unfolded; became quite done with dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. The result of so many years of remaining focused on the now is that I find I have manifested plenty of physical evidence of my recovery and know that I am on the home-stretch, having become my own daily evidence of the power of visualisation, especially where it comes to health. 

book 13

So, these days – and no longer because I can’t have structure but because I choose not to have it – I keep outward imposed structure at bay as far as is humanly possible so that almost every day is an adventure of its own making. I wake to the possibility of painting, writing and creating in whatever way happens to fit together with my creative urges, the only immovables being the roles of walking my dog, being a great parent to my daughter (a relationship that is also allowed space to flourish and be as self-evolving as possible) and breathing. Its an immense luxury to live like this, I know, and yet I also no longer regard it as the reason for an apology that takes the form of throwing it all in just so that I can make myself more like other people…knowing in my heart that I ‘cooked’ my life to be this way through the simple act of choosing it and always feeling (if, at times, very deep down…) that one day it would be this fluid and creative and that all of the other practicalities would take care of themselves, would orchestrate around me.

What I couldn’t help recognising on Saturday were the many versions of what I used to say to myself; variations on ‘I have to have structure in my life right now for… (the kids, my husband, ex-number of other reasons)‘ or ‘I like having all this structure, without it I get up feeling in a panic in the mornings, I just don’t think I would get anything done without it’.  I used to think that last one so vehemently and yet I’ve never been more productive in my life, endlessly multitasking, always doing something (from the moment I wake until I fall back into bed – the difference being this is about enjoyment not stress) and stirring all of the many things that excite and inspire me together into the one great big cooking pot of creativity that is now the whole of my world, not just a pastime or hobby. I have an endless flow of ideas coming out of this great central cooking pot of me and evolving into a myriad of side-dishes that take on new life of their own and so I get to choose, each day, which particular flavour of experience I want to go back to, perhaps put two flavours together or invent a brand new one.

And art has taught me this next lesson with a vengeance – when the inspiration isn’t there, art just doesn’t flow; it can’t be forced and, of course, life is like that too. When we force life into outwardly imposed structures, timetables, priorities and deadlines we fail to capitalise on the very inspiration that feeds our greatest moments of achievement and I could never go back to any other way of being than the one I now enjoy, where I decide in each new moment where my most productive attention lies and go there until, just as decidedly, I feel it is time to stop and move on to something else. This way, I harvest the very best of me as a painter, the best of me as a writer, the best as a small business owner, as social media campaigner, bookkeeper, communicator and marketing strategist…even as a parent (I far from live in an airy-fairy bubble and fulfill all of these roles and more). When, I wonder, as a culture will we learn that this way of being doesn’t only work well for the artists…?

And yes, in its own way, all this flux morphs into its own version of ‘structure’ (so, for all those who fear that everything would fall apart if they gave way to their urges, a kind of backbone does come back into your life after you let it all go to jelly) only, this time, it is the wholly organic variety of structure that grows from within and is a perfectly fit to you and your chosen way of being, designed from the inside out and always maliable and adaptive to whatever newness comes in, creating opportunities out of changing circumstance and working in beautiful symphony with whatever else is going on around you. Most importantly, this is a structure that has you as its central driving force, directing the entire mini-cosmos of your life-experiences from the perspective of that ever-evolving crockpot of personal preferences that are the very latest, most up-to-the minute expression of YOU.

Seen from this perspective, change or turbulence no longer necessitate or threaten your structure, there’s no mad panic to tighten your joists or batten your hatches but, rather, your inner structure works in harmony with everything else that unfolds, bowing gracefully in the wind and contributing its tune to the much broader symphony of the times for, of course, in ways we hardly know the fullness of, we are all connected and slot together in ways we don’t always really see. In this way, I find I draw strength from my so-much looser way of being and feel more adaptive to life’s currents, less reliant on rigidity, familiarity or cast iron ‘guarantees’ than I once was. Life’s routines no longer feel required as armour plating against the unexpected because you carry your strength from within…and as routine is allowed to slip away, more space is created for new growth and possibility.

book 16

Being structure on the inside, this new way of being grows with you, morphs and supports you and yet never constrains…not like the old structures that I once told myself kept me ‘safe’. Seems all I ever did, when I insisted on an outside-structured approach to life, was follow some sort of linear route towards an idea of some far-attainable joy that kept me ever-focused on the next task up ahead, like someone in a queue that is forced to stare at the backside of the person in front and can’t even see, or remember, what they are queuing  up for anymore. Or, just as limiting, fixated on the weekends, the holidays, the ‘special time’ I felt I had to put aside for joy…overlooking that joy should be a way of life, not a hobby. This kept me in denial of the explosion of new possibility that births out of each brand-new moment of right here right now…and right now…and right now (every one of these moments a rebirth with the potential to take me off in an incredible new direction of exploration…only I used to put my fingers in my ears, la la la, and ignore them in case I was taken off the track of what I had already ‘planned’). It also prevented me from seeing the much wider overview of it all that takes in the wholly unlimited and endlessly multifaceted reality that is really ours for the exploring and yet is reduced down to just a tiny fragment of its full potential when we always think we know (or want to know…) exactly what is coming up next and so blinker what we are prepared to see. So when we endlessly plan ahead, always plan ahead…one or more steps ahead of ourselves all the time, our eyes on the distant horizon…we remove the scope for feeling into each situation as it unfurls and checking in with ourselves to ask ‘does this feel right, is it what I really want?’ and so forget completely what a delicious truffle-hunt life is really meant to be. Like the most hurried of visitors through the most eye-catching of art galleries, there’s such a tendency to march through life seeing only as much of the colour on the walls as we allow ourselves the brief moment to skim our eyes over, even gazing fixedly ahead for fear anything should distract us off our pre-determined path, afraid to let our eyes roam.

book 14I say let your eyes roam, just let it all unfold spontaneously, trust in the draw and pull of all that catches your attention across the vast array of life’s experiences and stay in the flow, allow yourself to be caught in the current. Rediscover that natural life-skill from when you were a child and knew, on pure instinct, which way you wanted to go; before all that got taught (and frightened) out of you. Just know that when you’re instinctively drawn to something then you will go there in joy and EXPERIENCE it in joy; that that’s where the magic really starts. Its such a fundamental of life: going where joy genuinely leads, felt from the heart, will never fail you. We are all so conditioned to fear being led astray by our eyes and our senses but why would we be, they are the tool kit of our most intrinsic self as it comes to explore and so know itself through the sensory adventure that is life on earth. It didn’t come here to stagnate in a self-created waiting room for some sort of postponed joy earmarked for another day.  Equipped as we are with the perfect in-built guidance system, we learn ‘hot/cold’ pretty quickly but when do we finally learn it in matters of the heart? Why do we assume we must struggle through pain to get closer to our life goals, believing that just the other side of pain is ‘just what we always wanted’. There’s no sense in that, really, is there? Its like saying that, just on the other side of a burnt finger, a sensation that cries out ‘no’, lies the experience you’ve been holding out for, the joyful years you always promised yourself, doing all the things you always really wanted to do; what nonsense. And in the meantime, if that finger is forever burning, the only way you can cope over the long-term is to switch off the very mechanism that allows you to feel and so you arrive in your supposed joy-years so numbed-out that there’s nothing of you left to experience it anymore. It makes no sense to think years of self-denial and ‘putting up with’ lead to joy and yet it’s such a deeply  ingrained modern mindset.

In the meantime, when we endlessly stop our pursuit of joy, our heartfelt impulses, in their tracks, we create such a long-running experience of dissatisfaction that we hardly know a life without the feeling of it being there, or of such abject misery that we lose sight of why we are even here at all.

So, if simply visualising our joy leads us towards all-new possibilities, brand new openings that (from our old perspective) we could hardly dare to imagine and offering solutions to iron out all the peripheral circumstances of our life in ways that we could hardly have dreamt up for ourselves, slotting together like a great unfathomable jigsaw, then what are we waiting for, what is there ever to lose in following its lead? Seems to have been the question most decidedly left hanging in the air, like a sparkling bubble of new potential, after all the crowds had dispersed on Saturday. Perhaps one that will also hover in the thoughts of a few people for a while longer yet…even in ways that come to manifest new openings through one-time solid walls…who knows.

One of the greatestload-lighteners of my journey has been to let go of the need to persuade anybody of anything; just sharing a few anecdotes, sprinkling a few thoughts around like a handful of seeds is quite enough.

book 7

It was a wonderful opening on so many levels; such a good vibe, smiling faces, great conversations, much laughter and many new connections made (here are all the artists – that’s me in third position on the left – with gallery owner Freda in the centre).  Having birthed my book into the public domain and shown daylight to so many stories of the journey, it all had the exuberant feeling of windows being thrown open and a fresh spring breeze blowing through. As I stepped back out into the warm sunshine of the day, I was left with such an overwhelming sense of the beautiful simplicity of life, for all we strive to make it all so complicated. This new lightness and ease felt like yet another portal opening up, inviting me to step through it…

The book Soulful Relationships from the bestselling Adventures in Manifesting series, in which I am one of 33 contributing authors, is available to purchase from my website HERE

The Spring Exhibition at Gallery Fifty Five, Hartley Wintney, Hampshire, which includes a selection of my original paintings, gilcee and acrylic prints, continues until the end of May


About Helen White

Helen White is a professional artist and published writer with two primary blogs to her name. Her themes pivot around health and wellbeing, expanded consciousness and ways of noticing how life is a constant dance between the deeply subjective and the collective-universal, all of which she explores with a daily hunger to get to know herself better. Her blog Living Whole shines a light on living with high sensitivity, dealing with trauma and healing from chronic health issues. Spinning the Light is an extremely broad-based platform where she elucidates the everyday alchemy of relentless self-exploration. A lifetime of "feeling like an outsider" slowly emerged as neurodivergence (being a Highly Sensitive Person with ADHD, synaesthesia, sensory processing challenges and other defecits overlapping with giftedness). All of these topics are covered in her blogs, written from two distinct vantage points so, if you have enjoyed one of them, you may wish to explore the other for a different, yet entirely complimentary, perspective.
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4 Responses to Life is full of openings…and other wondrous stories

  1. An amazing story about how you got started in the gallery Helen and lots of food for thought here about how not to let things hold you back from doing what you were meant to do.


  2. Karin Van den Bergh says:

    From what I’ve seen from the pictures on facebook it certainly seems you had a great time, Helen.
    Wonderful stories and I’m so very happy for you that all is going as you ‘imagined’ or visualized 🙂
    There is indeed a tremendous power in visualization. I have a couple of stories to share about that as well, but that may well be food for a future blog post 😉
    And today I learned another word .. ‘vehemence’. Your posts are not only inspiring but hold an expansive vocabulary as well, Helen 😉 Thank you.


    • Helen White says:

      Ha, love that your learned a new word (its one I use a lot…) and that you enjoyed this one. I wondered uf it was too long and ‘personal’ so am thrilled at some lovely reaction including one of the people I met at the opening who found and enjoyed it (phew, you sometimes wonder if the people who shares your experience saw it, anything like, the same way).


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