On Ritual and a Single-Task Cup of Coffee

“A Flower with Many Layers” – Creativity Journey Drawing 9/40

Several days ago, I discussed my daily plan for the “creativity journey” I’d just embarked upon. One of the processes I mentioned was “a single-task” cup of coffee. By “single-task,” I mean that it’s about focusing on just one activity at a time – drinking a cup of coffee without adding distractions. Not playing a game or surfing the net or reading a book at the same time. Just drinking the coffee.

I left out some details, though. The truth is, my coffee is made in an espresso machine – more water than a true espresso, but still quite strong – and I add whole milk, usually foamed, and sometimes even cinnamon and or some whipped cream. The whipped cream is store bought in a can and I am pretty sure contains sugar and maybe some other (strange sounding) ingredients, too.

I didn’t want to mention that at first because I didn’t want anyone’s go-to thoughts to be centered on dietary choices. And, yeah, maybe some of you are thinking, “Wow, she’s not [insert dietary protocol here] so I don’t really trust whatever else she has to say,” or maybe that’s just me imagining something far from reality. Either way, I was afraid of being judged for my choices.

Leaving out those details made the process sound generic, though, and I don’t think it’s supposed to be. In her YouTube on the subject, Gabby Bernstein suggested setting up a daily ritual, and I think this is important, too.

As a child, I attended the Catholic church. Our church was quite ornate. Many complicated details, from the wooden pews to the beautifully painted (and gilded, if I remember correctly) ceiling to the patterned carpeting to the stained glass windows to the elaborate altar, were melded together for overall effect. For me, there was a lot of beauty to be found. Entering this space for weekly Mass was a ritual in itself – one of many in the Catholic faith.

Several years later, I moved to New York City. Although I was fortunate to be staying with a kind and generous person – a friend of a friend of a friend, I was in a lot of fear. I was in need of more permanent housing and a job and although I had some money, I knew it wouldn’t be enough for very long.

One day while walking and exploring, I happened upon a church somewhere in the East Village. Russian Orthodox, I think, so similar to but not Catholic. It was open and I went inside. I don’t remember the interior very well, except that it was also quite ornate, probably even more so than the church of my youth. I went to light some candles in prayer for some recently departed relatives. (The candles turned out to actually be those little battery operated tea lights – disappointing, yet understandable.)

Then I went and sat on a pew and prayed for myself. That things would work out, that I would be OK. I can’t remember for sure, but I think it must have comforted me, at least a little. (Spoiler alert: Things did work out. In retrospect, it’s pretty amazing how smoothly they played out after that.)

A daily ritual doesn’t have to include such grand settings, of course. Neither does it have to be centered around coffee. It’s about setting up a routine in the best sense of the word, one that is intertwined with beauty and/or pleasure and/or joy (or at least some level of contentment). It has an aspect of creating comfort. It’s also about starting the day in a way that says, “I’m here for another day on this earth and I really appreciate that.”

When I sat down to write this, I meant it to be a post about how judgment really works. Maybe I’ll use that idea for a future post, maybe not. For now I think I will allow it to be what it’s become – a reminder of the beauty found in ritual. To be honest, sorting out what to write has given me a fresh and improved perspective on my morning cup of coffee. And for that, I am grateful.


If you have a morning ritual you’d like to share, I’d love to read about it in the comments.

Wishing everyone a glorious day,

Monica

The Stunning Beauty of Imperfection

“Stream of Consciousness” drawing for Day 8 of My Creativity Journey

I’ve been wanting to be more spontaneous in my drawing-to-digital art conversion since the beginning, and, as of yesterday, I think I may have gotten a lot closer.

I decided to experiment with adding color to one of my recent drawings. After some initial clean up, first using techniques explained by Art Rocket, and then digitally erasing the most unappealing of the lines (mostly guidelines left in at the hand drawing stage). Then, I started to get more picky with the corrections. And I soon realized that with each correction, I was getting rid of a little more of the pencil drawn line work and spontaneity that I have found so appealing in these recent sketches.

That is when, finally, I decided to leave the drawing mostly as is. And, for a change, dare leave all the imperfections right where they were. Because, yeah, it’s been scary to present less-than-perfect final designs to the public. And now that I’ve decided to go ahead and do it anyway, it feels incredibly freeing.

This seems like a sudden shift. Maybe; maybe not. An example from my personal life:

Like most people. I’ve struggled with aspects of my outward appearance – a biggy being my teeth. You see, I have what’s known as a “crossbite” and I’d become especially sub-conscious about it in recent years. “Straight teeth with an even bite” has been one of my manifesting desires for a very long time. Recently though, learning to improve my thoughts and mood has also made me more confident and accepting. And I think that’s why I’ve become OK with my teeth as they are right now. Would I still get them straightened if an easy and mostly pain-free solution* came to me? Probably. At the same time, I no longer feel an urgency to correct this “imperfection.”

Once I was a perfectionist. Then I learned to accept my flaws. To love myself despite my flaws. And now, as of today, I’m finding myself, on occasion, loving myself because of my flaws.

Crazy big shift there. What could this mean in terms of spontaneity in all aspects of my life? Stunning and beautiful.


Does this resonate with you? Is this something you’ve struggled with and maybe overcome? If so, I’d love to read about it in the comments.

Monica


*In the past, I’ve been told that my jawbone would need to be cut to correct the issue. Perhaps there are better techniques now, if so I’m not aware of them.

When You Find a Way Above the “Noise,” What Do You See?

“Stream of Consciousness” Drawing for Day 6 of 40 of my Creativity Journey

In life, it can be easy to get caught up in the “noise.” Instead of trying to define the term, here are some recent examples from my own life:

  • Going on Facebook and getting emotional over any negative and/or pushy posts. (Or even posting such things myself!)
  • Getting overly concerned about the “likes” count on my posts.
  • Skipping the latest sensationalist article about the problem du jour only to head straight to the comments section in order to determine how many agree with my take.
  • Getting irritated with a customer service person or retail clerk and calling them out on whatever I perceive them to have done wrong, without first taking a step back to get in a better frame of mind. (In my defense, I don’t think I’ve been going into extreme b!tchy mode about this, recently at least. Still much room for improvement for me here.)
  • Being judgmental, even if it is nearly all taking place inside my head.

Important distinction: It’s not the thing (post, cashier mistake, etc.), rather how a person engages with it that’s important – perceiving with the ego mind, if you will, and acting out of that place.

In my experience, getting above the “noise” occurs indirectly by 1. setting the stage and 2. allowing it to happen. Some ways I’ve recently found helpful are:

  • Meditating
  • Taking a long walk
  • Going to the grocery store
  • Getting on the streets of NYC and immersing myself in the positive (to me at least!) energy. (I used to live there; now I visit sometimes.)
  • Listing things in my life that I appreciate, either in my head or on paper.
  • Cooking a healthy (or at least healthy-ish) meal when I feel like doing so.

Your list probably won’t be the same; in fact, it could be wildly different. My guess is that there are at least hundreds of things that will work depending on the individual – maybe even thousands or more. They could be activities done out of pure enjoyment or more specifically for thought improvement. The key is to find something that elevates ones mood most of the time – something that you are doing out of pleasure rather than force. (I hesitate here, because I think some people do the discipline thing much better than I. So say, if a person has resistance to going to the gym, goes anyway, and then after a while gets caught up in the enjoyment of it, that’d work, too.)

Suggestion: If and when, you do get to that better feeling space, savor it as much as you can. (This idea came to me via Abraham-Hicks.) This will help turn your perspective around more and more overall.

“If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite.”

William Blake

Then what happens? I’m personally still in the stage of learning about this. My experience is that every time I get to a better feeling place, I see things in a more positive light, make better decisions, and I’m guessing present a little more happiness to people I interact with. Life feels better.

I want to say that some huge shift will take place and I think it does for some people. For me so far, it’s more been a matter of small moments adding up to more happiness and better decisions. Acting out of intuition and inspired action more often. More time enjoying the journey instead of getting there “in one fell swoop.”


That ended up being much more than I intended to write today! Hope it resonated with some of you. If so, and you’d care to share your “go to” perspective-lifting activities and/or results, I’d love to read about it in the comments.

Monica

The World is a Magical Place

“Stream of Consciousness” drawing for day 5 of 40 of my Creativity Journey

Last evening, I went for a walk. The end point was a beautiful lake, about 2/3 of a mile from my home. The little islands in the lake reminded me of something similar I saw while on vacation in Duparquet, Quebec, CA as a kid. That time, the island was enveloped in fog and something about the colors, too, made it appear to be magical. I told myself to “remember this,” and, although the image has faded some, I did.

Lake and “Mini-Islands” as seen on my walk yesterday evening

For the past few days, I’ve been inspired to write these blog posts from “somewhere me but not me.” I am not expecting to write a blog post unless some sort of inspiration comes. Today when doing my daily creativity journey practices, I had the idea to write about the phrase “The World is a Magical Place.” Many examples came to mind and I struggled at first with which to use. Finally, I realized no example would do the topic justice. I think, if the magic seen in this physical world can be put into words, it is more likely the purview of poets and lyricists.

Later in my daily process, the drawing at the top of the page came to mind. Interesting that I thought it’d might be difficult to sketch. These days, I’ve been drawing flowers and/or more abstractly. And fog – how do you draw fog? And yet, it came together quickly – I’ve been giving myself a half an hour or so for these drawings – and I had lots of time to add in details and clean up some areas. It’s different than my foggy island remembrance, and yet I’m quite satisfied with it.

What I most want to say is that magic is present every day and a matter of focus and allowing. I’ve seen it in natural settings and on the streets of New York City. Children see it much more readily than most adults.

I could add in tons more examples, but will leave it at that, other than to encourage you to expect some magic today, and honor and appreciate it when it appears, be it small and (seemingly) insignificant or quite grand. If you have a magical experience you’d like to share, I’d love to read about it in the comments.

Wishing everyone a lovely day.

Monica

Is it OK to Be More Positive? (aka, Can I Really Trust in the Universe?)

“Stream of Consciousness” drawing for day 4 of 40 of my Creativity Journey

I sometimes listen to Abraham-Hicks. There, I’ve gone and said it. For those of you who don’t already know, Abraham is considered to be a group of spiritual beings as channeled through Esther Hicks. And yeah, that’s pretty far into the “woowoo.”

One of the main themes in their teachings is the importance of learning to be more positive. The general idea is that life gets better when one improves ones mood. It can also show up in their teachings as focusing on the solution rather the problem. Or imagining what you want instead of what is.

And there is a lot of push back on that, such as talk of “toxic positivity.”

What I’m seeing also is that there is a whole lot of negativity going round. Think of the current big issues. And consider the people on either “side” of those issues. Maybe it’s just me, but one thing I’m seeing frequently, no matter the “side,” is fear. Frankly, it often seems to be at the level of terror. It’s understandable, yes. What if it’s also not the best place to be? And what if it’s possible to get to a better emotional place, despite the circumstances?

I believe this to be both possible and a good thing to do. Isn’t it true that we make better decisions when we are in a good mood versus a highly emotional “negative mood”? Think back – have you ever had any experiences (or observed other people’s experiences) where this is the case?

Once I tried to bring this up in an online group. Admittedly, it didn’t go over very well because I was acting out of anger at the negativity. (Now I’m laughing at the misguidedness of that.) One person’s reply was that it sounded OK, as long as one didn’t get too “Pollyanna.” I think for most of us, including myself at the current time, there is much room for improvement before that has a chance of happening.

In terms of all the “bad things” going on in the world that must be fixed, my take is that if everyone learned to be happy/content/high vibe then many of the problems would drop away. If that’s hard to take, then at least consider this – what about thinking more in terms of the solution instead of worrying the problem? There is sense in that, yes? Abraham-Hicks says you can’t be sick enough to help other sick people, you can’t be poor enough to help other poor people, and so on. If someone is suffering, do you think it’s better to suffer, too? Or to be as happy as possible? I choose the latter because I think it conveys much more hope for a struggling person.

I once met a person I’ll call L., who was the happiest person I had met in a very long time, perhaps ever. Being from the country of Belarus, he could barely speak a word of English. His energy was pure and positive. That sounds woowoo, too, but I think most people can tell. Perhaps it’s mostly through body language, although some would attribute it to “vibration.” (I met his wife once, too. Even though she could speak English, it was her body language and tone of voice – and maybe that idea of “vibration” – that told me she was exasperated with L.’s lack of concern with worldly necessities.)

I still think about L. sometimes, and with gratitude, because he gave me great hope. I was way more mired in the depths of sadness and depression at the time, and he was a sign, a really great positive sign, that things could get better.

Let me be clear, what this does NOT mean is pretending to be feeling something one is not. (That, IMHO, would be “toxic positivity.”) If you are angry, then it’s not a great idea to pretend you are happy, for example. That was something that confused me a lot about Abraham-Hicks at first. I thought they/she were saying to be happy all the time. They are not.

The best approach, in my current understanding, is to feel the feelings. Accept the feelings. From that point, techniques can be used to change thoughts. Mood can be improved. It might take a while to get the hang of it at first. I won’t get into the techniques right now other to say that there are many to choose from – including in some schools of mainstream psychology.

I choose to feel happier just for the sake of being happier. Could it also be possible that it is a gift to the world? I think so.

Monica


I Believe in Law of Attraction (Maybe)

Drawing for Day 3 of 40 of my Creativity Journey

Years ago, I took a painting class at School of Visual arts, taught by the fabulous Nancy Chunn. Since it was an advanced class, the format was for each student to “do ones own thing” and then at the end, talk about our creations. At first, I was painting in oils and getting meh results at best. Then two things happened. First, I switched to using acrylic paints. Then, Tom*, another student in the class, gifted me a canvas in an unusual size, said he wasn’t going to use it anyway or something like that. It was kind of sort of magical. OK, it WAS magical. The first painting was a wild imaginary landscape. There was another with spirits on the earth and in the trees. And so on. Sometimes these paintings were “good” technique-wise, too. The best part, though, was the subject matter.

[Edit 7/29/21: I’ve come to realize that I didn’t explain what happened very accurately. The spontaneity that I achieved by using quick drying acrylic paints made it easier to allow the subject matter to “flow through” me, It was already happening with the oil paints. The resulting works were delightful both in subject matter and their painterly, spontaneous quality.]

Some time later – it may have even been years – I asked myself, “Where were these paintings coming from?” Because I’d come into class with no idea what I was going to paint that day and by the end something compelling would be the outcome. And on the occasions where I did have an idea first, the results were not nearly as interesting. I still don’t know the answer to my question. I mean, does anyone human really know? I just don’t believe it was me. Or only me. Or the earth-and-ego-bound me.

And then there is the scientist in me. Previous to this experience, I had received formal education up to the master’s level in engineering and science. It seems that having this type of education DID have an effect on the way that I think. And so, I tend to be skeptical first and look at new information through the eyes of logic.

And yet. And yet, what of that time in graduate school when, while walking to school, I visualized being in a place so warm that even the ocean water felt warm? At that time, I didn’t know about Law of Attraction, just that athletes sometimes used visualization to improve performance. It seemed I could use this idea to feel warmer, and it worked. I didn’t actually intend to move to such a place. And so it’s interesting that my first job and home after graduating was in South Florida and close to the ocean.

(No doubt some of your are scoffing and mumbling “coincidence” under your breath right now. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to continue practicing not caring what other people think! I mean that with sincere gratitude.)

Aren’t there obvious examples where an attraction is taking place, though? For instance, sometimes at parties there is that one person, “the life of the party” if you will, who almost everyone loves to gather around. And at the same party, perhaps a few miserable people (or to be fair, maybe just those preferring a much lower key energy) who gather into another group.

And with respect to dating and relationships, how many times do you see the situation where a person is apparently attracting the “same person” over and over? Until hopefully they step back, do some inner reflection, and their romantic life improves. And, what of the person who is less qualified on paper and still ends up getting at the job because they exude confidence at the interview, all other factors being the same?

So wait, does this mean that if I sit and imagine my exhilaration while driving a fancy car that I will receive such car? I still don’t know for sure. (Luckily I am quite content with my rather unfancy car, so it’s all good.)

Happily, I have since discovered that learning to feel good by thinking better thoughts is one big approach to the “manifesting” process. And I’ve also discovered by using some techniques for this and markedly improving my emotional set point, I no longer care that much if it also works in a law of attraction way. Feeling better is more than enough in itself.

Perhaps more on this another day. Perhaps not. This post and yesterday’s were inspirations coming out of my new 40-day creativity journey practice and I will continue with that approach for now.

Thanks so much for stopping by!

Monica


*And Tom, if by some wonderful synchronicity you are reading this, thanks so much for your kindness! I wish I’d gotten to know you better at the time. I do remember how much I admired your fabulous art.

I’m on a Journey – One I Can Take from the Comfort of My Couch

Yesterday, I embarked on a 40 day creativity journey. This idea was initially sparked by a podcast from Jennifer Bailey, about the importance of setting up a daily “alignment (good mood) practice,” which I’ve been doing in a very unstructured way for a while now. Then the other day, I came upon a Gabby Bernstein YouTube about enhancing creativity, which helped me to see the idea from a new perspective.

After melding the two approaches and changing things up to suit my style, here’s what I came up with:

(0. Before I get started with anything, I meditate, for 15 minutes. This has been in place for over a year and a half now, so I’m not counting as part of the new thing. )

  1. Have a “single task” cup of coffee. This means forgoing my usual habit of being on the computer or doing something else while drinking my coffee. I just sit and drink it with out adding distractions, although I am of course still having thoughts.
  2. Next, to draw “stream-of-consciousness” for 20 to 30 minutes.
  3. To meditate again for 20 to 30 minutes.
  4. Finally, to act on any inspirations that come out of this or during the day. (This blog post was one of those – yay!)

Gabby’s promise is that if one does this for 30 days, something creative, such as an idea for a new project, will come through it. I love that! And, TBH, good things are already coming through. I chose to do it for 40 days because, when I went to write down my plan, that’s what seemed right.

At the top of the post are my drawings, sketches really, from the first two days. On the first day, I was wowed by the outcome and wrote on the side ‘It’s as if my creativity is saying, “Hello, we’re right here!”‘ More goodness on the second day and “Alignment first.” I’m pleased by these results and I also know that I have to be OK with some days resulting in sh*t drawings.

My purpose in this post is to share just a little bit of my own “truth.” And it’s also to inspire others to their own version of a “creativity journey.” If it’s something of interest to you, I encourage you to change it up to fit your style (and time constraints, if necessary) and go for it! I would love to read about your ideas in the comments.

As always, thanks for stopping by.

Monica

“Mod Daisy Floral” Designs

The latest addition to my shop at Spoonflower, this design is available in three color combinations, with 4 sizes to be made available for each. An Instagram link is better than no post at all! This collection can be seen in its entirety at Spoonflower. As of this writing, some of the sizes are not for sale – they will be soon!

Flower A Day #169 thru #184

Sixteen more flowers, which brings me to about mid-February, or flower number 184 – just beyond the half point for the entire year. I have been keeping up with them since then – just did 225 (assuming I didn’t count wrong) today.