22. 02. 2019

What will happen if I don’t “finish”?

“When the Soul wants to experience something, she throws out an image in front of her, and steps into it” Meister Ekhart

The biggest challenge I faced in this final session, was coming to terms with “finishing”. I am so used to working under time pressure, towards a deadline, making sure that I finish on time and not only that but that what I deliver is perfect and contains no mistakes. Could I “allow” myself not to finish? What if I didn´t finish? What would be the worst that could happen? Nothing. Despite trying to remind myself that there was “no finish line”, that I could continue with the art piece in my own time, whenever I wanted to, it made no difference. I was on edge, found it difficult to fully let go and relax and just enjoy the process. But I tried and one of the biggest gifts in the past weeks, is being able to recognise and observe what is happening, and sometimes I even manage to do so without judging 😉


31. 01. 2019

Asking questions

“An art piece is never finished. It asks a question that we answer, and then asks another question.”

I had a very calm, connected session today, no major challenges. The biggest challenge was getting started, I procrastinated for whatever reason and hence put myself under time pressure. I´m sure many of you know what I mean, you push something out until there is just about no time left. I have become much better at giving myself time in the past months, I have learnt that giving myself time, means being kind to myself. Self-compassion. Like most things, it requires daily practice;-)

Because I felt under time pressure, I decided to allow myself to see how far I could go… I gave myself the option of not finishing, remindng myself “There is no finish line to cross…” a reminder, to do that which I can, in the time which I have. I set my timer*, put my mobile on flight-mode and let go…
*(setting the timer on my mobile is the most helpful tool for me, it allows me to completely relax and focus fully on the task at hand and stay in the moment.)

During the meditation exercise, I had a beautiful vision of a star symbol. At first, I was unsure if I could draw it as I had seen it, but I managed to remain in the moment, I let myself be curious and just took a piece of paper and the medium I felt most comfortable with – pastels. 10 mins later I had my star with a purple-blue aura, just like in my vision. Delighted with what had emerged, it gave me confidence in the next step, working on my painting.

During the main process, I managed to let go of expectations and simply explore. Having said that, I have noticed that I can concentrate in this way, for about an hour and then I start getting tired, restless, start judging, my inner critic pays me a visit… It´s best for me to then stop completely or to take a long tea break. I took a break and gave myself another half an hour to come to a point of resolution for the day, I was starting to feel under time pressure again, my mind was being distracted, thinking of the rest of the day, planning ahead, the cleaner would be coming at 12 pm, I need to make lunch, check my client emails… it was increasingly difficult to stay in the now and concentrate. I set my timer for an extra 10 mins. Good, I could relax again, enjoy the process, and just as I finish off.. the doorbell rings… time to pack up and do my free writing which I would like to share today:

Klimt. My painting reminds me of Gustav Klimt´s paintings. His work with pattern and gold inspires me. Letting the subject reveal itself as I work. Meditative, repeat patterns, flow, stop, break, take a different direction. Bringing together, breaking up. Connect, disconnect, re-connect in a new way. Everything has its place and reason for being, everything is of use. Re-birth. Like the seed that flowers in Spring, from the fruit of the last summer. If it is given the right nutrients and light it may yield a bigger fruit in the next season, if not, then it may be smaller. Whichever happens, there is no right or wrong, the process of re-birth / birth itself is the miracle, which gives hope, a promise of something new, whatever that may be. This reminds me of the toad I saw on my run this morning, it had no front claws, just two stumps. It too is beautiful and has survived this far, it too has an important role to play in this life, even if it´s crippled. Who am I to judge? Not even G-d judges and says it must die for it is not perfect. I make mistakes, they help me grow, just like everyone else does. And sometimes, it is out of these very “mistakes”, that something beautiful emerges, like the dot pattern on my painting, which reminds me of Klimt. I am everything and nothing. Namasté.

The answer to the question? The painting is about me, my future. I´m left feeling inspired and curious about the future…

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30. 01. 2019

The freedom of getting lost

“As we walk along the way, the way appears” Rumi

Let’s think of the freedom that poetry offers the poet…the term “poetic license”. Poems can offer suggestion, are metaphoric (visual metaphors), often richly symbolic, atmospheric, evoke mood and quality… Have meaning… Poems don’t need to adhere to grammatical rules or structures… Painting can be very simliar to poetry…

I loved letting myself be inspired by these masters of poetry painting: Chagall, Salvador Dali, William Turner, Beezy Bailey, Deborah Bell (floating symbols), Willie Bester, Dali, Klee (clay), Chagall (“Paris Landscape, “The Dream”), Beezy Bailey (“Citation”, “African Harvest”, “The End of Harvest”).

Initially, I felt a bit intimidated, but then I was reminded by what Dr. John Demartini teaches – “learn by standing on the shoulders of the greats”. Why not, who says that I cannot be the same as these masters? The feeling of intimidation, gave way to a sense of opportunity and gratitude, that I may learn from these masters. Let them inspire me, so that I may inspire others.

I felt a sense of calm during today´s session. No pressure. I decided to “go slow” – I keep hearing a gentle voice “…it´s not about finishing, it´s about the process and what you need, listening to yourself…” What a gift, the idea of not finishing. I carried this gift with me throughout the process. Allowing myself 1 hr for the collage warm-up vs. the allotted 30mins. Breaking barriers, changing behaviour. I couldn´t have felt more different, more the opposite to last week if I tried.

It was only towards the end, that I “tired” and slipped back into old habits, as I started preparing the base for my poetry painting – in my head, I was saying – Yay, I know what to do! – instead of staying in the moment and following the process. As a result, I ended up judging my strokes and colours and ended up with a “mess”. I knew I could always paint over it if I didn´t like it, but that didn´t make me feel better.

I reached a (tipping)point where I felt very frustrated, and at that moment it happened, I let go… What would happen if I just worked with this “mess”, if I accept it for what it is, accept that there is no right or wrong? I have experienced, particularly in the past week, that everything is, just as it should be – so is this “mess” then. Ok. So, I asked myself what would I like to add, or change, what resonates with me, right now in this moment? I took my new, round sponge brush and the child in me started to play – DOTS – I love dots, lots of sparkling dots, dappled lights, circles… and so I played like a child and suddenly I was no longer frustrated, but enjoying myself again, happy, in the now, just enjoying the moment. That´s it, I thought to myself – here it goes, my obsession with circles and dots, it made me smile, I never considered myself “dotty”, but I guess I am just that ;-). Today´s quote couldn´t have been more relevant – as I started to walk, I thought I knew the way and got lost. It was then when I carried on walking, with curiosity and an open heart, that the path revealed itself and JOY came flooding in. The same JOY, that I had felt whilst creating the collage during the warm-up process. Namasté.

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15. 11. 2018

Why challenges are good

Today session, Nr.4, was the most challenging session to date – in hindsight, I can also say that it was the most powerful session, in which I learnt the most about myself, learnt to honour and trust myself, trust my inner expert and the creative process and that I will be guided. So I apologise for the very lengthy blog today, but I did feel the need to share the many insights ☺

My first challenge was getting started, I had moved my workshop to Thursday, so that I would not be rushed by cleaners, or children etc. The problem was that I didn´t stick to my starting time, I kept pushing it out, putting other things first (client emails) which was stressing me out and putting me under pressure.

Michelle has asked me to always read the brief one line / exercise at a time, so as to help me stay in the moment. It also means that I don´t know what´s coming up and if I don´t understand something, I don´t have time to get help – which is not a bad thing, in fact it teaches me to become more independent and I learn to think vs learning to follow. I had started reading the brief, and didn´t understand it what was required and was unsure of what to do next. I started feeling anxious. What happened next, is where in hindsight, I now know I had the biggest growth – to quote Dr John Demartini – “growth happens on the border of challenge and support”. I learnt to trust my inner expert. I asked myself – what do I know, what feels right, what could I do instead? And so I carried on in the way that I thought would be best – and it was exactly right. As Michelle so insightfully and compassionately analysed in our call afterwards – the challenge was a gift, and I took a step into trusting myself…)

My next challenge was when, I realised that I didn´t have all of the materials and tools ready (only 80% ;-), which got my inner critic into a knot. But I managed to calm him (yes, “him” and his and name is Hermann) – I have enough tools and materials to play with, I’ll just find an alternative to use… and so I did.

The first exercise was drawing with charcoal – which I last worked with as a student in Johannesburg, many lifetimes ago… It was interesting to hold the charcoal in my hand again, at first there was a lot of negative thoughts & emotion coming up – “I will get my hands dirty, and the floor…”, but once I got over that and started working I remember that I used to really enjoy working with charcoal, although I never liked the blackness of it, and I still don´t. The blackness makes me feel uneasy for some reason. In the briefing, Michelle had asked us to draw the symbol that was coming through in the poem and images. I struggled with this exercise, as I didn´t understand the intention, I couldn´t “see” what was being asked for – eventually I thought I would just take “something” – which was the “eye”, which as I worked, became “I”… and much later I saw what my subconscious was trying to tell me – I SEE 😉

Challenges seemed to be my theme for the day, soon I was faced with my next challenge – the wet-in-wet exercise (Michelle assured me that I´m not alone in finding this medium challenging). Using tea and coffee, just wasn´t enough colour and it was very wet, and I grew increasingly impatient with myself – as I didn´t fully understand where all of this was going… (me the control freak always wants a plan ;-). Eventually, I just forced myself to sit down and “do something” and then move on. I played for a while and then I chose to stop and take a tea break, sit out in the sun, gather myself, calm myself. Similar to the drawing, as I let go and “gave up” the images revealed themselves.

Looking at these images now, a day later, I see a common thread – the idea of breaking through the center. I SEE. I learned to reinforce my competency in seeking a solution. I opened up to understanding myself better, with self-compassion and kindness.

In the second last exercise, I didn´t start a painting, I chose to create another collage, based upon the images from the morning. This was because I didn´t feel ready for the painting, and during the meditation at the beginning of the session, I had had a vision of an angel and I knew that I needed to work with my manifesto, I knew I had to tear it up. I had to “tear myself up”, my beliefs.

Tearing up my manifesto, was a liberating feeling. I did it without thinking or ”caring”, I tore up the manifesto and the other images, without worrying whether or not I tear up a form or a shape or a word. I was learning to let go of judgment. I was opening up to be one with the creative process.

There´s a strong repetition of elements emerging in all of my collages and drawings – colour green, gold, rays, light, gifts, center, eye, I. These are symbols, gifts from my soul for me, which I can then research further to attain a deeper understanding of their meaning to me.

The final exercise was free writing, which I would like to share, as it was the writing that helped me to structure my feelings and thoughts and understand what had been happening.

“Fragments. Light. Shattered light. Green. Gold. Yellow. Magenta. Blue. Circles. Wings. Horizons. Breaking up, tearing up, old, existing, to create something new. Breaking up to put together again in a new way. Giving new structure and form. Depth. Centre. Deep. Eyes. I. I eye, my third eye. Soul. Centre of my being. Letting go. Breaking the mold. Shattering the mold. Breaking free. Heaven & ocean. Diving deep. In the deep there is light, twinkling like the stars in the sky. The ocean is a reflection of the heavens. We are all reflections of one another. We are all stars. Circles of light, vibrating, radiating. Energy. Movement. Lots of movement. Emerald. The seeing eye, shatters the mold. Drawing in, driving away. Perception. Duality. What do I see?. What is my perception? I can change my perception. Illusion vs. reality. What is real? Old beliefs shattered. Old paradigms.”

I finished this workshop not feeling elated or inspired, like I have been feeling after the last few sessions. I left it with a lump in my throat and a hint of melancholy. It was only after having spoken to Michelle, that I see clearly the perfect hidden order in everything. She helped me to see, that our challenges are often the biggest gifts. She reminded me that often the start of the workshops, can feel like the honeymoon phase, thereafter struggles appear and that it is important to honour these struggles. At her suggestion, I gave my collage a title, so as to honour the art piece and the struggle, honour that which helped me grow. She reminded me of how I had learned to listen to myself, my needs, I had followed my heart. The creative process holds me, even if she is not there, learn to trust it.

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05. 11. 2018

Setting Expectations

“I am mesmerised by my creative output. I am inspired by myself. I am in awe of my ability. I am humbled. I am so grateful for this gift, this opportunity. Tears of gratitude flow as I watch and listen to my soul speak to me / through me. This is me. This is what I love, this is my gift to myself. I feel at home & I can´t wait to explore more.” This was the beginning of my free writing, I felt my heart opening as I learn to love and accept myself and my abilities. The session was such a beautiful experience. Thank you, Michelle, for guiding me along this path.

Today’s process was once again an explorative, generative one, where I continue to build up a body of work (symbols, images, poems), which will inspire the process further in the weeks to come. As always, I started with a meditation and then lighting of the candle – love this ritual! Thereafter I read the poem from home – and underlined 3 lines, phrases, words or sections that feel most meaningful to me. I wrote these 3 phrases/ words onto 3 separate slips of paper:

Light, my light, the world-filling light,
the eye-kissing light,
heart-sweetening light!

Ah, the light dances, my darling, at the center of my life;
the light strikes, my darling, the chords of my love;
the sky opens, the wind runs wild, laughter passes over the earth.

The butterflies spread their sails on the sea of light.
Lilies and jasmines surge up on the crest of the waves of light.

The light is shattered into gold on every cloud, my darling,
and it scatters gems in profusion.

Mirth spreads from leaf to leaf, my darling,
and gladness without measure.
The heaven’s river has drowned its banks
and the flood of joy is abroad.
(Rabindranath Tagore)

I turned all the cards face down, except the first card, read what is written on card 1. And then looked for an image from my collection that strongly resonates with this. Then, I found 2 other images from the magazines that resonate with what’s written on the card and placed these magazine images face down as well, under the card. I repeated the process for the other 2 phrases. Once I had my 9 images I was asked to create either 1 large collage or 3 small ones.

Initially, I felt a bit overwhelmed, at the thought of “so much work, so little time” – 3 collages or 1 big one, with 9 images! But as Michelle reminded me afterward in our call – firstly there is no “must / have to” I am allowed to only create one collage, if that´s what I feel the need for, I am in control, I own the process and I make the choices, as to what I can and can´t do. And then she reminded me that recognizing that I´m feeling overwhelmed, means I am learning to take care of myself and recognizes my needs ie. Instead of perceiving being overwhelmed as negative, change the thought pattern and perceive it as taking care of myself. It´s all about the process and not the end result. Those are magical words for me – challenging my belief, having worked in the advertising industry for over 2 decades, where it´s all about results and time pressure. This workshop and process, is a brilliant exercise in helping me change this behavioural pattern/belief system.

My inner critic sets expectations, puts on pressure. My inner child just plays, in wonder and awe. Lightness. Joy. I decided to create 3 collages today. In all 3 collages, there is a lightness and joy for life / being appearing / coming through. All of them different, and yet they harmonise.

  1. Is a practical, real, earth bound joy for life. I see myself as the photographer, close to and interacting with nature. The horses are curious, playful, the nudge me, help me. They are my subject and my guides.
  2. A gift from myself, my soul, to me. It is my soul emerging from the ocean, bringing me gifts. The children play with the(ir) gifts. The gift lets me fly, it is exhilarating, liberating, risky – I need to make sure I´m protected and that my parachute is in working order.
  3. This collage symbolises spirit – universe / God/ cosmic spirit & energy. I tore the image symbolising wings into two parts – opening it up so that the light can shine through. It radiates, fragments, break up and light the way. Where it breaks, there is light. An enlightened golden soul emerges. I am free.

After struggling with materials – acetone does not work with photographs, magazines printed on natural paper or photocopies on using inkjet printer. I will have to check if laser copies work with acetone or not. I am greatly enjoying working with pastels, a medium which I recall loving at varsity. I felt a bit rushed during the process today – but once again I learned a lot about myself and I learned to love myself, let go of judgments and honour the process over the result (sort of ;-). Note to myself – I like to have at least 30mins (vs 10 mins) at the end to tidy and journal. I really appreciated connecting with Michelle directly afterwards – she´s so supportive and gentle, so many helpful tips and words of wisdom. Namasté.

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10. 08. 2018

The importance of not being ready

My second session, I´m bursting with both excitement and apprehension. Working from home means that I´m constantly distracted, and if I´m not actually distracted, then I find things to distract myself with – hanging up the washing, taking out the rubbish – as if everything needs to be perfect before I can start!? Eventually, I settle in, set up my table, pull out my art materials and look at the brief in front of me. For a short moment, I panic, remembering that I hadn’t quite finished my homework… what if it´s important? What if it isn´t? Nobody´s there to ask for it, and nobody will reprimand me for not having it ready… only my inner critic. I relax. I close my eyes, breathe in deeply and breathe out, observing my breath, immediately I start to feel calmer. I let go. After 10 minutes of meditation, I open my eyes and light a candle. This is a wonderful ritual and I´m wondering if I should integrate it into my daily routine before starting work in the morning – just taking a small moment to connect, set an intention and light a candle, to help remind myself to stay in the now.

During the warm-up exercise, we are requested to re-read our poem from last week, select a phrase or word and then select two images from magazines and collage them until they are “one”. Following the meditation, I intuitively found my phrase “Guided by the light”, and within what seemed like seconds, I found two fitting images. Trying not to judge, just feel – but it´s so difficult not to judge, my mind is already judging before I an even say S T O P. “These are perfect, cool, interesting…” The images inspire me and I quickly start working them. I´m surprised at how dark my colours are – I thought I´m trying to express light? Instead, I find myself working with a deep sea green, emerald, yellow, white… I work with pastels and paint, but mostly pastels to bring the images together. I´m fascinated by that which emerges on the canvas in front of me. It appears mysterious, ethereal. I work some more, even though my time is up for this part, but that´s okay, it simply means I´ll have a bit less time for the next part.

The theme of light is very important to me. Light & water. It´s a recurring theme in many of my paintings.

But, light needs dark to shine bright? Does it? What about white or golden light? How strong does the contrast need to be? How deep do I need to dive? I am using a dark, deep, sea green, which reminds me of the ocean, a symbol for the soul. I find the deep green surprisingly calming, soothing, it gives me a feeling of safety. Deep blue indigo hues start to mingle with the sea green. A sense of depth, “…deep within the center of my being, is an endless source of healing & loving energy…” The lights shine brightly. Like the stars in a night sky. I´m reminded of the fact that we are all stars.

The session left me inspired & curious to discover more… about myself and this creative process. Namasté. Thank you Michelle!

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09. 08. 2018

Rediscovering my Inner Light

My intention in writing this blog is to share my experiences, my journey to re-discovering and growing my creative self. The workshops that I will be writing about, are based on the teachings of the ASTAR* process. My first contact with the ASTAR process was in October 2016, then again in October 2017, and now at last I´m able to fulfill this dream of mine, to engage and submerge in this process. And so it is only fitting that this terms theme is EMERGENCE.

My first session took place on Friday 27th July, the day of the total lunar eclipse, red moon. It could not have been a more fitting start to a journey connecting spirit through art. This is my home – this is where I want to be, to explore my soul, to teach others to connect to their soul through creativity.

The conditions for my first session were not ideal – ”space that is quiet and undisturbed by the outside world” it´s summer holidays in Hamburg, we are experiencing unheard of heat and drought, 34 degrees plus. My apartment is not made for these temperatures. My son is upstairs, plugged into his PS, I have clients emails still in my head even though the laptop is closed, the doorbell rings, the neighbours baby is crying…

But this is my time, and it is extremely important to me, so I focus on the briefing lying in front of me and I read it, one step at a time, making sure to cover the next step with a paper so as not to take a peek. I start with breathing & meditation and when I feel calm, I open my eyes and light a candle. This is a ritual at the beginning of each session, which helps to guide attention inwards. Rituals are important, supporting the mind in connecting back to this feeling of calm and centeredness.

I then look at my cards* which my mentor has pulled for me, as I didn’t have access to the decks. It did not surprise me, that the cards she pulled, resonate with me. Everything is connected, all our energies, and so it was, that during the entire process on Friday, I did not feel alone, I was held – by this universal energy. The cards inspire me on many levels and I have immediately ordered my own set online. * (Soul Cards – Deborah Koff-Chapin; Medicine Cards – Jamie Sams; Archetype Cards – Caroline Myss)

I surprised myself, at how easily & quickly, I was able to connect to the creative process, to myself. Once again the result of my image search & collage intrigued me – in a positive way, it means that I´m learning to connect to my soul, let go of judgment and self-criticism.

My biggest challenge – I found it difficult not to judge or evaluate during the collage creation. I use the poem and the cards to help me focus and get back into the connected state (that´s why the ritual at the beginning is so important – the mind learns to connect back to this feeling). But I constantly have to (gently) remind myself, as the mind is so used to wandering back into a behaviour of judging and evaluating. I watch a ladybird sitting on my paintbrushes, perhaps a spirit guide, a reminder to me, to stay in the now.

Throughout the process I felt safe and supported, the process of breathing, connecting, writing, searching, creating is like someone holding my hand. I feel safe. The workshop set energies free, reminding me of stars falling from the sky – the next day I was able to finalise and record my business vision…


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*ASTAR is a Healing Art that draws on the transformative power of artmaking for health and well-being.

The ASTAR approach is non-judgemental. The process is guided by a skilled facilitator who provides the group with inspirational exercises to overcome fear and to bypass the inner critic. The art process engages the “don’t think mind” and encourages finding intuitive solutions and experimenting with a wide variety of art materials, found objects, and natural materials. While the entry point is not technical, many art skills and techniques are learnt along the way.

Participants are encouraged to work without any planned outcomes or expectations, to trust the creative process, and to honour all that is made with acceptance. The studio is quiet and undisturbed by the outside world and the process is essentially non-verbal.

The process can be light and playful, or meditative or, at times, deeply moving and powerful. In today’s stressful world, a non-judgemental creative space is a sanctuary for free expression, self-reflection, and restoration. For all of us, rediscovering and honouring the creative self is essential in our journey towards wholeness.