When I see others genuinely happy, enjoying life, content, loving their work, at one, laughing, it fills me with such an immense glow and happiness too, it's so inspiring, remembering that this is what Life is. I often feel this too, intense joy, glowing, at peace… at work, at home, sudden moments, days.... until, sometimes, later, feelings of guilt and sadness flood in... ‘Can’t you see what’s happening in the world around you? You really need to be Doing something...and why should you be happy? How can your happiness actually help others *, isn't it really quite selfish of you ...in a world full of troubles, how can you even feel happy?’
This might seem strange to some, but perhaps you experience this too?
Sometimes the world can appear to be Brexit-sized or terrorist-sized, or Tory-leadership-contest-sized, or UK-sized, or even world-wide-disaster-sized. Our field of vision shrinks to a bucket-size, little or large, of worrying stories fed to us. Here is what we show you, so eat and digest. This is what is important, your necessary focus, the immense wonder and rich diversity of the world! is not newsworthy. Watch this and then tweet/post outrage to the world via social media and the drama can continue to feed and energise itself in a nightmarish merry-go-round vortex.
We can spin in this fear, and question, ‘Am I doing enough?’ and even berate ourselves, ‘Do you not care that there’s a global climate emergency? You need to DO – and be seen to be Doing - something better'. More and more there's a witnessing of these thoughts now, and a letting them pass, but sometimes they stick around and there's a forgetting, and I'm pulled in. Especially when watching the news each night. I try to listen to the radio news instead, it's less immersive, less on a constant repeat, less sensationalist.
As someone who has cared very deeply her whole life, the media, the state of the world, the inhumanity of human behaviour has affected me greatly. I remember feeling so deeply affected by the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, sending pocket money to help, and I’m reminded of this when watching the protests in Hong Kong today and longing for a peaceful outcome. I remember the Soviet coup, and Yeltsin opposed to Gorbachev’s reforms, the injustice and fear for Salman Rushdie over his novel ‘The Satanic Verses’… just a very few early memories, each left me crying for days at a world that could be so divided, corrupt, unloving, intolerant, self-righteous, barbaric…and I felt the waves of this right through me. And who was I to have a birthday present when children were dying of neglect? This ‘truth’ felt intensely strong in me. I would feel guilty, wanting to give everything away… Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, depressed for weeks, months over election results, global catastrophes, terrorism, animal cruelty, a beetle dying on the ground next to me… I really was, and am, a sensitive, child, young person and adult (a wonderful gift! but certainly with its difficulties too). The fragile beauty and preciousness and miracle! of the tiniest creature, to the astounding Earth itself and every animal, plant, human being living on it. I always had a genuine bewilderment at the lack of love shown by so many and the lack of willingness to share, in the knowledge that we are One humanity, custodians of this living breathing Being of a planet, which is not a 'resource' here for us, and to be plundered, but to be cherished and celebrated. And we all happen to be here at the same time in history! - how miraculously fortunate and linked we all are!
I feel the solidarity with others as well as the deep sadness and longing for change. As a member of Amnesty International I’ve written letters to prisoners of conscience, a member of Friends of The Earth, the Labour Party, CND, The Green Party, following stories, immersed in wanting to help, lighting candles, writing to newspaper letter pages… nothing felt enough, and as an introvert I usually did this quietly and alone.
Occasionally I joined others – such as guerrilla gardening in London, it was wonderful to be with like-minded others but also felt uncomfortable, the noise so loud at times that it was painful for me, the sheer numbers of others so close. Being kettled in Parliament Square, confronted by police in riot gear, on horses, shields… Again the guilt flooding in, after wanting to cry at the feeling of being so overwhelmed by the energies all around, the volume, some there who didn’t actually feel authentic to me, too. ‘This is nothing Rowena, stop being so selfish, this is for a cause Much bigger than You for god’s sake’. I had my own tyrannical voice playing on a constant loop in my head for many years… (and this continued all the way through to the ending of an abusive marriage, feeling I had no right to complain, it wasn’t that bad, people are far worse off than you and it’s down to you to do and be better… a slight tangent maybe! but very much relevant in terms of relationship dynamics, wanting to help, self-abandonment, feeling depleted….
It is so easy to be caught up in the circumstances of the reported world that are never-ending, a true longing to help others, and also an ignoring of our own nature, preferences and light, which are often buried very deeply within, or even unknown to us. It is a fact that I needed to listen, to look within and help myself first. This feels almost too shocking to say, still…
Over the years, I’ve discovered that for some people, finding and following what brings them joy Is truly a radical act in itself and it's beautiful and contagious ...and to feel no guilt, no shame about it… This is so liberating for me, really, almost daring, defiant, when society and The Establishment seems to need you browbeaten, or at least angry within a limited, controllable space... Joy is such a radical shift in perception, acceptance and outcome. Others might not understand, but 'Being Joyful?!... and expressing this even though there’s so much pain in the world?! How selfish' has flipped completely around for me, as I see how the world needs more of this joy now, perhaps more than ever.
It is so obvious. I see the beauty of this in others who are expressing what they love, and have always felt it within, too, but was too ashamed/shy?/dared not show it. Yet it is from these local and worldwide spaces of celebration that I've seen communities grow and more and more people awakening and changing together, feeling happier, stronger, clearer... and so often because what truly expresses natural joy is always coming from a state of Presence.
How beautiful and healthy if we all knew and had a chance to express this joy within, irrespective of circumstances and material possessions. Conflict and violence come from fear, lack and non-understanding of who we are. The biggest tyrants are often the smallest boys/girls feeling a huge lack of authentic love - from personal relationships to the global stage, it’s the same dynamic and causes the same toxic outfall and toxic dancing around them from others. The effects radiate and this is just as true with Love as it is with Fear.
Hiding, feeling small, deliberately not sharing my joy will NEVER help anyone else! And the same with you! – in fact it will only actively help continue the painful situation, helping the negativity which feeds on misery and drama and cannot accept others’ joy, as it feels alien and suspicious… it will help perpetrators keep the status quo… (I've seen too that they sense the saddening lack inside them and so cannot bear to see joy in others…). In an abusive marriage I never dared show my joy, it was kept hidden very, very deeply, protected, and afterwards, little by little it just couldn't be suppressed any longer and it was This joyous energy and Life force that set me free, through art, poetry and colour! The power of this natural joy state within IS immense, in all of us! Whether the example is one person, or a nation, country, planet...
Expressing joy is a huge YES to existence, one full of Love and Gratitude, and this is where positive change can begin, not from enmeshment, reaction, negative energy merry-go-rounds, not from the pain and sadness and anger (which can be catalysts for a little while, but then can become quite ego-fueled) but from celebration, growth, newness, building, networks… and this begins with ourselves.
Also, very often, those who are not as vocal, not expressing opinions on social media, those who are not on marches, will be equally as informed, equally as dedicated. They may care deeply, they may not even talk about it very much, even to friends, as often words cannot seem to describe the immensity of feelings and complexity of all aspects they see. Sometimes they might be highly, happy sensitive introverts – like me! - whose nature is not to react, protest, make a noise. WE NEED ALL THESE DIVERSITIES and can celebrate every one of them for the energies they bring. Things are not always loud and on the surface.
We find our own way to express care and love for others. We see too that Life is not only the individual situations themselves which are reported on the news, heartbreaking though they often are, but that it is within, underneath and beyond all of them. A momentum grows that is bigger than all of these and is also empowered by coming through these painful situations. There is so much good in humanity, and so many new networks of positivity and joy that are growing beneath and through the surface of things. I truly believe this, in all I see and feel. New voices emerging, new diversities, younger courageous generations and renewed strength in protecting this beautiful earth, this beautiful Being that sustains us… and, I’ve always felt, a joy in knowing that the Earth is bigger than human ego and Will survive us and renew itself, even if mankind destroys itself.
"When will mankind come out of this turmoil? When mankind becomes kind man." - Sri H. W. L. Poonja (Papaji)
('kind man' and all gender/nonbinary!)
Not suppressing the joy within IS a political act, we hardly dare do it and it is a brave thing to do, as it means expressing our true humanity and nature, our presence, beyond culture, religion, how we are educated, all conditioning and life situations - and not even for a purpose but because it IS our very nature already and one we share with every other person…and animal, plant…on the planet!
It isn’t about disengaging or not caring, or being flippant, or being ‘pink and fluffy’, it’s about seeing the beauty and grace in ALL things.
It is with self-care and love for ourselves, listening, feeling, becoming aware, not shaming ourselves or others and in creating healthy boundaries. Self-compassion feels like a radical act too sometimes. But surely, it MUST start here and radiate outwards.
From this space, creative, fresh, healthy, strong, meaningful and long-term change can happen and this is how you can reach out to connect with others – in whichever way is right for you. For me it is with love, colour, joy, meditation, art, poetry and celebration.
*Our happiness is the greatest force for good and creative change for all.
To being radical, joyful and true - in all our myriad ways, towards ourselves and others...
I’ve loved this poem for many years, and it is so relevant here, from Rainer Maria Rilke (1921) x
The Poet Speaks of Praising
Oh speak, poet, what do you do?
But the monstrosities and the murderous days,
how do you endure them, how do you take them?
But the anonymous, the nameless grays,
how, poet, do you still invoke them?
What right have you, in all displays,
in very mask, to be genuine?
And that the stillness and the turbulent sprays
know you like star and storm?
--because I praise.
'The foundation for any action you take - let it arise from presence, rather than from a feeling of fear or anger, because these two are not productive. There is enormous power and true intelligence in presence. This is vital.
... Do as much as you can to help with peace in your heart, because otherwise war and conflict happen.'
- Eckhart Tolle
I remember watching an inspirational programme on Bhutan and it's redefinition of GDP! ...
Have you ever felt so much joy you just don't know what to do with it?
Yes!!! :) x
It's wonderful to be showing my new works alongside Marg Mason's beautiful paintings and Katrina Slack's quirkily fantastic wire sculptures in the current exhibition at Morvah Schoolhouse Gallery.
Exhibitions can be exhilarating and rewarding. They also take a lot of practical preparation and are often emotionally challenging too - with the old faithful 'imposter phenomenon' turning up once again, attempting to influence, derail and even sabotage the day, with its questioning, mocking and varied array of voices. The physical sensations in the body of fear, sickness, shakiness, shame and vulnerability, amongst many others, can take a strong grip too. Sometimes so strongly that not turning up, not going through with it seems the absolute best option. (Certainly not a 'for she is of the tribe of tiger' -type feeling! - see pic above :))
Does this sound familiar to you at all? ... whether exhibitions or any situation where you are 'being seen'.
Fortunately, in my experience more and more, these voices and sensations which occur can be observed and acknowledged for what they are - emanations from 'the monkey mind' :-) (I like this term, often used in Advaita pointings) or the ego, 'the conditioned self' that each of us has as our persona. The learned responses from over many years jump in on cue. These can be limiting beliefs, notions that keep us stuck, hiding... entrenched ideas of who we believe ourselves to be. Ironically, they could be seen as trying to keep us safe, too, when we're in situations that could threaten/are difficult... however, often these very situations are those that help us grow and therefore, ultimately, enable us to shed those layers of voices and conditioning. The ego doesn't want this to happen, of course, as it's secure in its comfort zone, believing itself to be the CEO, (because we let it) and needing us to stay where we are, so it can continue to exist and control/manage us, business as usual.
Recognising that as our real self, we are not our responses or feelings or fears or thoughts or behaviours has been a wonderful liberation for me, a sense that I've felt for so long, since very young, but have not actually 'lived' the truth of...
When new experiences and opportunities unfold, the fears can be recognised, acknowledged and even respected as intense sensations that are a part of who we are in the world; we can say hello to them and not 'mind' them. We can remain unattached. It's ok, they can be right there whilst I continue to plan, to organise the exhibition, to meet others on the day, to socialise... they fluctuate in their strength and presence too, whilst I bubble-wrap my work...' You're not good enough', 'who do you think you are?... yes yes, I hear and feel you, thank you :-) - they hate to be ignored and will up-level until I listen, then they're more at ease... and as Eckhart Tolle would say, on letting be and allowing, try asking yourself, 'Can I be the space for this?' - and that's what I wrote on the inside of my palm, in Biro pen yesterday, when the anxiety was very strong just before driving to the event.
And it was genuinely fun, fresh, spontaneous and enjoyable and yes! I could be the space for this, for all these emotions and I could let them 'be' and they didn't derail me... and they even disappeared into the shadows to rest for a bit at many points throughout the afternoon.
I often do EFT, meditate, read inspiring authors and poets, watch and participate in satsangs online, listen to music, carry rose quartz, write on my palms :-))) for learning, grounding, self-compassion and reassurance and pointers in the moment.
I'd love to know what you do to help at particularly anxious times.
Some photos from the (truly!) wonderful afternoon...fears and all
... and to be the space which does not change :-)
I love this 7 min video by Robert Holden which is so clear on the unconditioned Self, the conditioned self ..and ultimately all in Oneness x
A beautiful sunny Saturday for visiting artists' Open Studios - with my son and two borrowed, joyous, energetic dogs! and had a funny, mixed day... with wonderful, inspiring art...
I've been going to the Open Studios for quite a few years, all around Cornwall, and have always loved the diversity of the artists and their work, seeing their processes, working spaces, chatting sometimes - it's all a privilege and fascinating... and dreaming of maybe taking part one year. Whilst walking around, I was struck again at how such a deep and painful lack of confidence has led me to disregard so much that I've done over the years - including painting, drawing, ceramics, writing, qualifications, teaching, successes...(socialising and speaking were incredibly hard too)... and to feel such a sense of awe for others.
Over the last two years I've started to show some of my feltings, which was terrifying at first– but alongside other leaps in new, personal understanding, little by little it became easier and the self-admonishment of ‘daring to speak’/having a voice at all has become less and less. At (college) work last week, I thought about how I often dismiss what I do when I say to others, ‘Oh it’s nothing really, just some feltings, some ideas...’, when people ask and especially around ‘real’ artists (as I’ve always thought them, and they are, of course!).
Why do I (still) do this? I am belittling something I care deeply about – my work that is starting to develop and do so well, giving pleasure to others, too, is not 'nothing, really'. My joy is also in the process and in expressing myself with poetry that I’ve always loved and how this has been a continued light for me through some dark times. It needs nurturing, encouragement, belief, respect, kindness and continued curiosity towards new avenues and openings to let it flow and unfold – always a celebration! - and funnily it happens in a space where 'I', the 'conditioned' Rowena am not ... liberating! :-). I feel small and sad when I speak negatively about it, it's like a betrayal, and a shifting of the critical voices from myself to my work, a side-swipe back to me, as ultimately the work just 'is' and happy in itself! I decided last week that I would not speak negatively about it anymore, but I found today, just days later, that the old instant response jumped in again when an artist was complimentary towards my work.
I have so many ideas to explore and these curl away, grey, unhappy, when I put them down. I felt so sad this afternoon, listening to myself when speaking dismissively...but am aware and so no more!
And the beautiful dogs...after a few studios and pulling back and fluster - poor Plum and Milo! - they had lots of hugs, tickles and pinecones :-) and then they ran free and happy across the open fields, no constraint, just endless bounding and discovering! Wonderful teachers!
I was wondering whether this resonates with you at all and also, perhaps, how you've learned to overcome it, or work alongside it?...maybe using these feelings and transforming them into a new strength in your work, art, career... life! Please do leave any comments :-)
I also thought about a recent Radio 4 series and this (really entertaining) episode in particular - Oliver Burkeman on feeling a fraud and how this can constrict you - amongst other things!
... I also thought about 'The Opening of the Field' - a collection of poetry by Robert Duncan ...and the first poem:
Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow
as if it were a scene made-up by the mind,
that is not mine, but is a made place,
that is mine, it is so near to the heart,
an eternal pasture folded in all thought
so that there is a hall therein
that is a made place, created by light
wherefrom the shadows that are forms fall.
Wherefrom fall all architectures I am
I say are likenesses of the First Beloved
whose flowers are flames lit to the Lady.
She it is Queen Under The Hill
whose hosts are a disturbance of words within words
that is a field folded.
It is only a dream of the grass blowing
east against the source of the sun
in an hour before the sun’s going down
whose secret we see in a children’s game
of ring a round of roses told.
Often I am permitted to return to a meadow
as if it were a given property of the mind
that certain bounds hold against chaos,
that is a place of first permission,
everlasting omen of what is.
Robert Duncan, “Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow” from The Opening of the Field. Copyright © 1960 by Robert Duncan.
Source: Selected Poems (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1993)