Thursday, August 29, 2013

Thoughts from a Daily Reading

The daily reading from “365 Tao Daily Meditations” by Deng Ming-Dao struck home with me today:

“Chant one million times for world peace, they told me.
Pray three times a day to end all wars.
Practice austerities to liberate all living beings.
But the world’s miseries have never diminished.”

What a vivid vision that brings to me. I’ve often wondered how, with all the preaching that meditating and chanting will bring about world peace, why the world is in such chaos.

I myself, in many aspects, try to pull back from the world. It saddens me and I’ve said this often. I know it’s important to know what’s going on in the world, but for some of us, to immerse ourselves in having that misery put in our faces on a daily basis is detrimental to our well-being. Negativity breeds negativity and the constant barrage of the horrors going on the world is too much to handle. The more terrible things that are publicized, the more terrible things seem to happen.

Okay, maybe they’d be happening anyway, but when the news is so full of this kind of content, what does that do to people’s psyches? What hope for goodness is there when the news is mostly about terror and the horrible things that happen? It is one thing to report the news, but it seems the media just goes on and on about it. They don’t let up and even get into the faces of grieving people. Maybe for some people, reading about the terrible things that happen to other people makes them feel better about their own lives.

For me, there’s a difference between news and personal privacy. Perhaps I’m choosing to wear rose-colored glasses, but I want my life to be surrounded by more positivity. To have that constant barrage of negativity feeds fear and fear creates more horrors and brings disease to the physical body and mind. People start feeling desperate and when they get desperate… So, I choose to stay away from the news and negativity.

To go back to today’s reading, Ming-Dao said “What you do with your daily devotion is purely for your own sake. Once you put your ideals on a grand scale, they are compromised by the contradictions of life.”

There’s a part of me that agrees with that. In my own prayers and such, I start small, with myself and my family, and expand it out to include friends, acquaintances, community, town, area, state, etc. However, it’s hard to think that my daily devotion is only for my own sake. Maybe it’s because we are taught that to think of ourselves is selfish.

There’s also a part of me that doesn’t believe that “I” can change the world. What right do I have to try to force others to believe as I do? I am sorry that there is so much horror in the world. Heck, I don’t like to know there are bad things that happen in my own community. But, I don’t believe that I have the right to make changes to others. All I can do is try to keep my life and what’s around me in a positive light.

I think it’s wonderful that there ARE those out there who really try to make a difference in the world. I commend those who devote their time and money to helping others on a large scale. There are many more of us, though, that spend our lives on a lower level. I choose a smaller community and here I shall do what I can by trying to be the best person, a good person, that I can be.

Ming-Dao ended with, “There is no utopia. There never will be. There is only the valiant attempt of each person to live spiritually in a world where spirituality is almost impossible.” 

That sounds sad, but all you have to do is read history books, (not necessarily the history they taught us in school) biographies, or see programs dedicated to “real” history to know that issues of today are similar to those that peoples have dealt with for centuries. The world and population have grown, but evil, greed, and corrupt power have kept warfare alive forever. There are always those who will try to control others.

Oh, I could easily go off on another bent, but I’ll end with another saying:

 “Evil done in the name of goodness is still evil.”

Monday, August 26, 2013

Negative Comments and Art Critique

I love being an artist. I love being able to follow my heart’s passions in creativity. I believe we all have an artist in us and it’s just discovering what path that inner artist wants to take.

Look at the talent out there; painters, sculptors, woodworkers, blacksmiths, photographers, and jewelers along with those who work in fabric, drawings, glass, and more. For some people, their art lies in their homes in decorating or even in how they clean their house. Others turn their yards into beautiful gardens. There are those who like to build things or tinker with machines. No matter where people’s passions lie, there is talent. They love what they do.

One thing I have a hard time understanding about people, and I see it happen all the time, is that some artists or tradesmen feel they have to put others down. I am uncomfortable when someone picks apart the work someone else has done. Does that make them a better artist to find fault with other’s work? Who are they trying to convince? Are they trying to convince a customer to buy their work instead of the next guy’s? Are they trying to make themselves feel better? And to make it sound like their way is the only true way is also a put down to others.

Not everyone is up to “League Standards” (that’s League of NH Craftsmen) although there are those out there who believe that people who do not meet that criteria aren’t “real” artists. There are those who believe that plein air is the only way to paint, that working from photographs and solely in a studio is wrong. There are those who look down their noses at other artists and will make sarcastic comments like, “That’s not Fine Art.”

Yes, we need to believe in our art, promote our art and try to make sales, but does it help by finding fault with other artists? Yes, it’s important to show passion for what we do and with so many talented artists out there, it is tough. BUT, it’s important to do what you enjoy. What right do we have to find fault with someone who is passionate about their art?

Maybe I’m too sensitive. I am often told, “Artists need the hide of an armadillo,” but I also believe sensitivity can be part of the creativity. Maybe it’s my stand against bullying because of my experiences when I was in elementary and high school. Finding fault with artists feels like bullying to me. As a sensitive and an artist, it doesn’t take much to rip the rug out from under me.

For instance, last year I received some negative critique on my drawings. I was devastated and could not even stand to look at my drawings for months because I kept seeing what they saw. Yes, some of those comments will make me a better artist, BUT those words sucked all the joy out of me. I love drawing and it makes me so happy to finish a piece. To have that happiness crushed was horrible. What a terrible thing to do to someone. If the goal is to help someone improve, how could that critique have been given in a more positive way? It’s been almost a year and I still haven’t finished another drawing. I’m not giving up, but it’s been hard to get back on that horse. What right did they have to kill something that made me so happy?

How necessary is it? Don’t tell me that negative critique will make me stronger. Yes, it probably does, but is it really necessary? Negativity breeds negativity. Do we really need to find fault with one another? Who does that really benefit?

That said, I can be honest and say there is a lot of art out there that I don’t care for, but I can still allow that the piece is a work of art. Sometimes I will look at a painting and wonder what the artist was thinking. I may not like it, but there’s a part of me that also wants to understand. I can allow that artist the right to his own creativity. My opinions don’t make the artist. If it’s in her heart, she IS an artist and I have no right to take that away from her, nor would I want to.

I was at a gallery not too long ago and I didn’t like the work on the walls. The artist happened to be there and as I asked about his work and listened to him explain his techniques; I was fascinated by his process. We had an enjoyable conversation. I still didn’t care for his work, but I walked away feeling really inspired and happy. Art isn’t just about what’s hung on the walls. The artists put part of their souls into the work.

I love that there are so many forms of art and feel blessed to be around talented people. I am fortunate to have artistic friends. It’s important for artists to support one another. There’s camaraderie, something in an artist’s make-up, an understanding that other people cannot grasp. Artists are a breed unto themselves.

For me, it’s not about the particular art, technique, or style. After all, we are free thinkers and we don’t have to like everything that others do. It’s about supporting the creative process and finding out what goes on inside an artist for her to be able to do her art. To fully celebrate art, we must encourage one another in whatever creative process drives us. We don’t have to personally like the art. It’s about the artist and the creativity.

This all said, we need to reconsider what we say when we talk about our work and others’ work. What is the point of negative comments? What and who do they serve? Wouldn’t it be much better to make note of all the positives? I would much rather hear an artist talk about his process and his joy about doing his work than for him to be pointing out the negatives of the work in the next booth. I want to hear her expound on her passion for how she works. That is so inspiring! It makes me want to run home and be creative… never to do what they do, but to follow my own desires.

Monday, August 19, 2013


Monday, August 19, 2013

I haven’t taken time to meditate in a very long time. This morning, I ran out of things to write in my journal before 6 a.m. and as it was still too early to go downstairs (or I don’t want to go downstairs this early,) I decided to stay where I was and do a little meditation.

I sat up straighter, (instead of being hunched over the notebook) relaxed my body, and allowed my breathing to deepen. I chose to use a mantra to quiet the mind.  I relaxed further and my body filled with white light. It still works in spite of not having done this in a long time!

Over the mantra and with the further relaxation, I realized how tense I was on the inside.  It dawned on me that I’ve been this way been for the past month and more. As the tension released, the abdominal pains I’ve been having lately lessened. I realized that the pain has been because my stomach has been constantly in knots from grief and worry. It was like I’ve been holding myself tight against further hurt and that, in turn, caused my innards to stay in a state of constant tension. Remaining tight like that causes physical ailments.

The same thing can be said about my heart. The sorrows of the past few years have not been fully dealt with and I continue to hold barriers in my heart against further hurt. That, in turn, helps create physical issues and pain. Again, there’s this holding firm, afraid to move – forward and to let go. And when there is no movement…

The entire body moves and breathes and when parts are held tight, disease sets in. Every part of the body needs to breathe and move. Most movement is subtle, but there needs to be that allowance to expand and contract. If the body is held in tension, the parts turn brittle. It’s like a tool that turns rusty from disuse. This is one of the reasons why exercise is important and it doesn’t matter how strenuous the work out; going outside for a simple walk “gets the juices flowing.”

My Healing Tao training taught me how to be more… in tune… with my inner being. I’ve learned various meditations; for relaxation, dealing with emotions, and enhancing good health.  Tai Chi brings physical movement to meditation in which every organ, system, and energy pathways in the body are worked. Learning these techniques was the best thing I’ve ever done for myself!

I know all this and yet, most of the time, I choose to continue to sit and worry and feel sad. No wonder I’m having physical pain! I no longer do Tai Chi unless I am teaching and I haven’t taught since last summer. Tai Chi is the most amazing thing you can learn to do for yourself, but I don’t take the time. I make the choice to spend almost the entire day at the computer. I have got to change!

Anyone want to learn Tai Chi?

Saturday, August 17, 2013

WalMart, Advertising, and Marketing

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Someone mentioned on FaceBook this morning that the property where the old factory where I’d worked for almost 30 years is being turned into a Super Walmart. Walmart is taking over the country and because they can afford to have lower pricing, it limits where people can shop and the company is putting most small businesses out of business. How sad.

Not only are Walmarts being built in, it seems, every other town, the company is being shoved at viewers watching tv. One of the cooking shows I watch now touts the big box store as having the best meat and produce. I feel we are being forced to buy from Walmart. When you think about it, the more something is mentioned, and the more the signs, logos and advertising are flashed in our faces – it’s a kind of brain washing. We begin to think they are right. We go to the stores and buy and buy.

What happened to buying local and purchasing fresh, local produce? How fresh can products be that are shipped around the country? Where do most of Walmarts products come from? How many are imports?

This makes me think of advertising and a revelation of why I have such an issue in promoting my own work as an artist… I DON’T TRUST ADVERTISING! How long has the media been shoving products down consumers’ throats? How many companies try to convince you they have YOUR best interest at heart, that everything they do they are doing for YOU, to help YOU? What a crock!

Look at all the cosmetic companies. How many billions of dollars have they made throughout the years because they convince us that we are not beautiful without their products?  These companies have sold the public on the idea that “regular” people will never be pretty enough or skinny enough or successful enough without their products. They have convinced us that we are inadequate and we spend billions on their products to try to make ourselves better.

What a bunch of crap! These big companies and advertising firms are only trying to SELL YOU! And it’s easy to get dragged into thinking that these products will make us better, whether it’s better health or making our lives better with fancy products. They get what they want. They sell their products. They don’t know US personally! They just know how to brainwash people. Marketing is all psychological. It’s all about how to convince the public that they can’t do without such and such product and what makes this company’s items better than the next company who is trying to convince people of the same thing.

Marketing is the name of the game and the more the business and product name is put out there, the more it gets ingrained into people’s heads and the more they are apt to go buy that product or from that company. (Why do you think during election time you see so many of the same candidate signs? It’s to imprint that candidate’s name in your brain!) Selling products or services is the same. It’s all about selling techniques and the product isn’t even important. It’s the SALE, how to make THE SALE.

What’s horribly sad is that most of it doesn’t even have to be true. Fruit juice always comes to mind when I think about this. The product only needs to be 10% fruit to be called fruit juice. How is that right? More and more people are beginning to realize some of these things especially with help from the internet. Is the FDA the people’s friend? Then how is Monsanto allowed to do what they do? It all makes me wonder about the validity of a lot of products.

All this makes me think about all the ads that are shoved at us constantly. How do we know what is the truth? I, myself, refuse to “buy into” the media pushes. I refuse to watch or listen to commercials. The prescription drug commercials are the worse! It’s sad to think of the number of people who actually WILL ask their doctors about those drugs. Then again, when people are in a bind or pain, they are willing to do almost anything to make themselves feel better.

So, what does this have to do from an artist’s standpoint? I don’t trust advertising and marketing. Yes, I want to sell my products, but the thought of trying to MAKE someone buy my work leaves an awful taste in my mouth. I don’t want to lie (or even a little white lie) or tell an untruth to customers. I am uncomfortable with a hard sell. Yes, I like to tell stories of where the photograph was taken or how the drawing came about, but that’s because I love what I do and I want to share my excitement and discoveries. Yes, I want to make money so I can buy more supplies. I want people to buy my pictures because they truly enjoy the scenes and like my work. I want them to walk away happy and not feeling they were forced to make a purchase.

In some aspects, I feel I’m caught between a rock and a hard place. I understand the need to market and advertise, but how can I be comfortable participating in something that can be so manipulative to the consumer? How can anyone compete with the big chains and bigger box stores? How can smaller businesses compete against these huge corporations that have the power and money to flood the market with their own ads and push all the little guys out. How can we “little guys” compete in a market where mass produced products, most of which are made outside this country with cheaper labor and cheaper materials, and therefore be able to be sold at a cheaper price than quality homemade or home grown products?

I have to admit, I’m as guilty as most everyone else. There are a few products that I prefer to buy at Walmart. I’ll occasionally stop at a McDonalds or Dunkin Donuts if I’m feeling desperate. I’ll go to Home Depot because of the pricing as compared to the local lumber and appliance places.

I’m not sure what the answers are. I’m not sure where this is leading this country. I do believe that it’s a problem. I am reminded of that old Tennessee Ernie Ford song “16 Tons” with “another day older and deeper in debt” and “I owe my soul to the company store.” I feel that Walmart has become the “company store” along with the McDonalds and Dunkin Donuts.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The shift within me that began last month is persisting. I’m fumbling my way through it; the whys, whats, and hows. I’m not sure where I’m going or how I will be. Is this just a phase or am I being shifted over into something else? The… devastation… that encompassed me these past few years and grew stronger culminating in the third major loss since moving here has certainly taken its toll. The Who Am I remains the same. I am an artist, writer, photographer, but the where I am going is even more up in the air.

There are doubts within – well, there have been doubts for some time. I have to admit low self esteem is something that’s been within me my entire life. It ebbs and flows. Most of the time I don’t let it get to me and I’ve had enough successes that I am confident in my abilities. Perhaps the doubts within me are not so much as to whether I’m talented, but in the lack of marketing skills and charisma. I just can’t bring myself to do real professional marketing. I can’t push myself in that direction. There’s something within me that fights, kicks, and screams.

We have many conversations over the subject of marketing and the ability to sell your work. There’s no one true way. What works for some, may not work for others. If, at a fair, there are three canopies of photography side by side and all the work is similar, what makes customers buy from one and not the others? However, this not what I want to talk about today although it is an aspect of my life.

I’m a bit concerned about my well-being. It’s strange, because I never thought I would be like this. Can a house affect a person so? More and more I know I need to sell this place and get away from it. It does play a part in my worries about maintenance and affordability as my bank account dwindles. It is too big of a house and yard for me… for someone who doesn’t care to do that kind of work and hire it out. It’s expensive.

This prattle isn’t really addressing the issue. Maybe it’s because I’m not sure how to talk about it, but talk about it I must in order to maintain my sanity. Talking and writing often helps me figure things out and find answers. I always say there are times when there are just not the right words to describe a situation. I’m struggling to describe what I’m going through. Something tells me it needs to be discussed. It’ll take awhile longer for the right words to come, I guess.

It dawned on me yesterday that when I’m out and about with others, I can (almost) be my normal self. However, when I am alone, whether at home or driving, there’s a melancholy that seems to permeate my very being. It almost feels like I cannot recover from the losses of the past few years and still be the person I was, that I have been so damaged, that I will never be the same.

Maybe I’m not meant to live alone. Then again, the thought of ever sharing the same space with someone again is also not appealing. I’ve grown too stubborn and set in my ways. Never again am I willing to put up with having to listen to someone else’s music or watching only what they want to watch on tv. (So I have gone the other way and I’m no longer willing to compromise… at least, for now.)

That’s not to say I won’t get better. It’s just that I won’t be that same person. Something has changed within me and I’ve yet to figure it out. I know for certain that I HAVE to get out of this house. I am too sad here. I tried to rearrange things to “brighten” it all up, but it hasn’t worked. Pele is helping and gives me someone to love, someone to love me and be here with me. I need that. I still cry too much.

But I have my work and I love writing. I’m even looking into putting a few of my drawings into a show. I’m not giving up. It’s just this place is keeping me depressed. Even watching the birds no longer holds as much joy. Pele sure likes those chipmunks, though.

I suppose I still need time, but this house HAS to go. I can’t stand being here anymore and yet, I have a hard time going off. I know this staying in isn’t good for me. I keep telling myself I have too much to do, but I sit here with no ambition or motivation. Shame on me. These are things no one can do for me or help with, but things I need to do for myself. I know that. And I know that every day I am making the choice to just sit here even when I know it would be better for me to be doing something more constructive. I choose. There’s no one else to blame.

So, this morning I sit here again feeling sad and low. Something tells me the inner shift needs to complete and there’s nothing to worry about. That shift will be okay. I need to be patient. It almost feels like a rite of passage and I’m eager to see what will be on the other side.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Monday, August 12

Today is the first day since getting new kitty Pele that I’ve left the house. I am still weepy when I think about my Freyja-kitty. I know Pele cannot replace Freyja and I wouldn’t want that of her. Driving up the road to go to an interview, I realize that I feel different. Not that I’m sure what that means, just that there’s a difference.

Perhaps these losses of the past few years have done something to me. You know how they say things come in threes… I lost my aunt (my mother’s twin) in September 2010, my mother Christmas day 2011 and now Freyja in July 2013. We women have lived together for many years and Freyja joined us in 1999. I feel I haven’t fully grieved for one when another came along. I’m also still reeling from the devastating critique I received on my work last fall. It only stands to reason that these recent events should have such an effect on me.

As of yet, I’m not sure of the symbolism of the threes in this case. I’m not sure of what, why, and how I feel different. There’s certainly an emptiness inside that wasn’t there before. It’s like my whole previous life is gone. I thought the trip this past winter and the writing of the book would put closure on things, but with losing Freyja, the wounds have re-opened. Evidently, she was the cord that kept me tied to who I thought I was. It’s like I have nothing left. It’s like all the past griefs have come to a head; that they’ve culminated onto this point in my life. I’m not sure what to do…

…Except move on. And I DO feel different. It’s like the slate has been wiped clean and I’ve lost my anchor and I’m floundering. But I’m not. I have a life. I have a job I love. I pretty much do what I want. So what’s the matter with me? I have to pull myself back up and move on. The grief is causing me chest pains.

It’s time to re-define myself again, I guess. Who am I?