Finding Inspiration: Nature, Music and Magic Mushrooms

You never know what’s going to catch your eye or move you in some way. I like to snap things here and there to record striking colors, interesting patterns and whatever I find beautiful in its own way. And sometimes I just can’t let the face of a cherub on my shiitake get away without documentation. Here’s what turned up in the past week…

Ice-melting creek, an impromptu colored-pencil drawing I did while listening to an odd music mix, a journal/sketchbook that I dolled up with handmade paper and an old pendant, the aforementioned cherub (I didn’t eat him), a rose from a magenta and orange bouquet that has been making me smile everyday for a week now, ice crystals creeping up my window pane, and the first page of a new chapter.

Inspiration Collage

And here’s what I conjured up today…

icy rose in frame art backgroundBeauty awakens the soul to act.
– Dante Alighieri

 

Essential Beauty

Beauty is a portal to your divinity, your sacred source. That’s the one thing I know for sure. (Love is the answer – that’s a close second.) Gazing at a Beautiful painting or sunset can calm or uplift you, delight or soothe. Beauty surrounds you, if you are looking through the right lens, and it’s presence elevates your energy. Listening to songbirds or love songs, strolling along a woodland path, licking a melting chocolate cone – your senses appreciate when you indulge in Beauty. The simple Beauties of life. The profound Beauty that hugs your spirit and tickles your soul. Beauty is fun. Beauty is achingly sad. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder – subjective, changing, fading… untrappable, fluid, mysterious. You are Beauty. Beauty communicates, sometimes silently, other times bellowing out her proud and colorful power. Like the wind announcing the storm. The gushing creek announcing the arrival of spring. Let Beauty guide you to the flow.

Olive Branch

She’s Got Guts. Do You?

Do you stand in your own power and make decisions based on what you truly align with? Or do you hem & haw, justify and then acquiesce even when you know better? If it’s the second one, how does your body feel when you give away your power? (I’m not talking about power over others; rather, the power of honoring your own authenticity.) Maybe you feel a little queasy or tangled in the core, as if someone’s tickling (or wringing) your intestines from the inside. Our bodies are wise, and it’s imperative we pay attention to it’s signals (or screams) as we develop our mind-body-spirit-heart connection.

For the past few weeks I’ve been editing a book called She’s Got Guts, by holistic health coach Laura Sprinkle. Besides being witty and incredibly informative about the many crucial factors that affect our health, the book also draws a direct correlation between gut health and personal power. Laura points out that a weak 2nd and/or 3rd chakra can cause gut issues, but if we only focus on healing the physical body, we’re missing an opportunity to heal our spiritual and emotional bodies as well. (The 2nd chakra is related to creativity, money, sex; the 3rd is related to gut intuition, personal power.)

The gut area, including our stomach, is a good example of how our systems function holistically because there is a direct correlation between what we eat and how we feel. If our diet consists of nutritionally void foods such as preservative-laden packaged snacks and sugary sodas, we’re going to feel lousy, both physically and emotionally. And most likely, the reverse is even more true: we eat poorly because we don’t value or love ourselves on some level.

One beautiful thing about understanding and working with the body-mind-spirit-heart connection is that it gives you more options than just popping a pill. You can pick up on the signals your body is giving you and then listen to what your heart says about it. Then you can use your mind to figure some stuff out and employ your spiritual practices to assist you in releasing and evolving. One affects the other, so you can weave together all of the information they provide to keep getting closer to holistic healing.

Stomach ache? As yourself if you’re feeling short-changed or powerless in a situation. Journal about it and read some helpful articles. Then do some yoga poses that massage your internal organs or go for a brisk walk. Check in again… How’s the stomach? Did the pain move to somewhere else? Did some anger or jealousy get stirred up? Keep asking yourself questions and letting the answers come to you from a variety of sources. Be as kind to yourself as you would be with a sick child. Nurture yourself. Rest (without guilt).

Recently I’ve been informally counseling several friends who are in the process of making big decisions or are on the verge of major life changes. Some are relying on a strong intuition to guide them, while others are only listening to their mind (in a conventional “I should do this” way) and ignoring what their heart and body are trying to tell them. Who do you think is having stomach/intestinal trouble? The lack of will to stand up for what they truly want is in direct correlation to their gut issues and weak 2nd & 3rd chakras – all of these need to be addressed so they can strengthen each other and heal in tandem.

I learned some helpful new tips and tricks from She’s Got Guts, such as the best and worst foods to eat for gut health and the most effective forms of energy work and exercise as part of a gut-healthy lifestyle (and gut health leads to overall health). I recommend it to people who have digestive disorders (or even just some symptoms now and then) and to anyone who is interested in health and healing.

I not only listen to my gut (physically and via my intuition) but I also pamper it with nutritious food that I thoroughly enjoy eating – no need to sacrifice pleasure! (And hey, red wine and chocolate are health foods as far as I’m concerned.)

How about you? Do you listen to your gut? What’s it saying? Feed me better food, love me more, stand up for us, get a massage, you are fantastic as you are. Listen. It takes some guts, but just listen.

Here’s the scoop on Laura and the book:

Laura Sprinkle is a holistic gut health coach, creative business mentor, speaker, and author. Learn more about her services at www.laurasprinkle.com and receive a book or other goodies by contributing here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/she-s-got-guts

go deep then bloom watermark med

The Maine Event: Coastal Beauty & Soul

A recent trip to coastal Maine reset my beauty barometer and invigorated my soul. It was waves crashing onto craggy rocks and forests glowing with yellow and orange foliage. It was an owl nearly grazing my head as it swooped by. It was crying over the lavender sunset light and marveling at divine timing, my lost gold ring found, and the freshness of local seafood. It was perfection, in it’s own craggy way.

I now understand why artists love Maine: breathtaking beauty, sublime light, unlimited inspiration. I took over 300 photos and I’m eager to use many of them in new collages. Here are a couple glimpses of the raw photos:

sunset with rainbow smallFrom atop Cadillac mountain in Acadia National Park. I think my point-and-shoot was feeling the divine spirit as well – no idea how that rainbow happened!

beach view 1Sand Beach taken from the climb up Great Head trail in Acadia.

Bubble PondBubble Pond. (Acadia)

sunset leavesCadillac Mountain sunset. Even the professional photographers were saying how spectacular the colors were that night.

balance rocks

Balanced rocks near a balanced rock, in Bar Harbor.

seed pods I got a little lost near Yarmouth and ended up on a beautiful island. I had a conversation with a local who had been digging in the bay for clams, and then I saw these angelic seed pods.

flower wavesBeauty and the sea at Cape Elizabeth lighthouse. According to a marker at the site, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow would walk here from Portland, and it’s where he likely derived inspiration for his poem, The Lighthouse.

Sit in reverie and watch the changing color of the waves that break upon the idle seashore of the mind. – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The Pink Moment

For many years now I’ve had reverence for “the magic hour” – that brief time before sunset when the light becomes golden or amber or pink. It’s the photographer’s sweet spot, providing a boost of glowing color and shadowy definition to natural scenes. A friend once said it makes us look like “Italian goddesses,” and sometimes when it bathes my surroundings I feel like I’ve been transported into a Maxfield Parrish painting.

My latest collage – “How Do You Spot a Blessing?” – was inspired by how this magical time seems to calm me down and make my soul smile. So, I was thrilled to read the paragraph below in a Conde Nast Traveler article on Ojai, California (the state is a slight obsession of mine):

…Ojai has been a cherished place for any number of California cultures over the years: the Chumash Indians who first settled the valley; citrus and avocado ranchers; theosophists; Krishnamurti; and Hollywood stars, who’ve long owned discreet retreats here… All of them are drawn at least in part by the town’s famous “pink moment,” a fleeting period before sunset when the jagged Topa Topa Mountains that frame the northern edge of this fertile valley take on a dusky-rose hue: It’s an enchanting time that draws the eyes up and clears the mind.

It’s an enchanting time that draws the eyes up and clears the mind…

Sunday evening I was sitting on a bench overlooking the Delaware River sharing a tall Negro Modelo (leftover from our byob Peruvian lunch) with a good friend. We were deep into a meaningful conversation when puffy pink clouds started to float over the mountain across the river. A few of the trees were just starting to exhibit the golden leaves of fall, and the pink light made them glow a vibrant orange amidst their green neighbors. The puffs turned to streaks and soon the sky, the river and my friend and I were all bathed in lavender light. I stopped him mid-sentence and told him about the pink moment. We were silent for a bit, looking up and appreciating the beauty. Soon everything greyed out into dusk and we finished the warming beer. Our conversation continued, but we both came back to it with a slightly heightened sense of awe about the beauty and magic that appears, and disappears, with each day.

Blessing blended small
“How Do You Spot a Blessing” is a digital collage I made from photos I took in New Orleans, LA; Rhinebeck & Woodstock, NY; and my own backyard (the pink sky and dark trees). May it bring you some clarity. And, remember to look up.

Inspiration: It’s Closer Than You Think

If you’re looking for inspiration, sometimes there’s a whole world of it right nearby. You might be in the habit of walking or driving around without really noticing your surroundings, but if so, you may be missing out on some idea-generating treasures right in your midst.

When I need a change of scenery to get my creative juices going, I usually just take a walk through my neighborhood – Chestnut Hill (a section of Philadelphia). I’m very lucky to live in a place where residents and business owners take great care in making their properties look enticing and attractive. Even so, sometimes I breeze by the beauty a little too fast and miss the special details (hello, Mr. Cricket!). I took all these photos within a block of my house (except for Woodmere), and just that little jaunt has given me some new ideas and fresh photos to use in my next round of collages.

Chestnut Hill 1The little lending library (top left) is a new addition – you can take any book and bring it or another back whenever you like (I took Awaken Your Senses, of course, and a steamy-looking novel by Paul Theroux). Everyone’s flowers are crazy lush this year – eye candy everywhere! I often pop over to Paris for a La Vie en Rose cocktail on Friday evenings – there’s even a jazz club downstairs, bien sur.

Chestnut Hill 2The green revolution has come our way, thankfully, and there are some great eco-friendly shopping options up and down the Avenue. My world changed when Green Soul opened – fresh pressed juices, smoothies and yummy salads, all with fresh ingredients… heaven. 054

The outdoor exhibit (top right) is put together by a group called Fresh Artists that works with public schools and businesses to mount shows of students’ work. (Love how the frames are actually part of the print – brilliant!). The Woodmere Art Museum (top left) has a permanent collection and special exhibits of regional artists, and they often have outdoor installations on display as well (and a hay bale maze come Halloween).

I love my neighborhood! It continually encourages me to really look around and discover the beauty and magic right outside my door. Although I love to travel and explore new towns and sites, there’s something to be said for the smaller, more intimate discoveries close to home.

How about you? Where do you go to find inspiration? Your backyard? Down the block? A couple towns over? I’d love to hear where you go for a quick and inspirational pick-me-up!

Beauties and Mysteries

Beauties & mysteries of lifeI took this photo at Red Rock Canyon, just outside of Las Vegas. After a couple of days of bright lights and crowds, this vast and quiet landscape brought peace to my soul. I can always count on nature to soothe and inspire me.

How about you? Do you have special places that you go to nourish your soul? Do you seek natural areas or does the energy of the city refresh you? Where do you find the beauties and mysteries of life?

Don’t Fear the Rapture

verdant b2“Although everyone feels rivulets of wonder, and even awe, from time to time, not everyone is as comfortable expressing those feelings as freely as John Muir, Ralph Waldo Emerson or Walt Whitman. Amy's rainbow

 

 

 

I suppose what people fear is loss of objectivity. But life doesn’t require you to choose between reason and awe,  or between clear-headed analysis and a rapturous sense of wonder. A balanced life includes both.” – Diane Ackerman, Cultivating Delight

pastorius panerama 2 sm size

Love Note #1

It’s easy to love what we perceive as our own good qualities – bakes killer brownies for friends, loves unconditionally, always helps a seemingly lost pooch, lends an ear when needed. But what about our faults, are they lovable too?

gorgeous chaos

It’s no secret that self-love is the key to feeling peace in your soul. Just try it. Look in the mirror and say, “I love you,” to yourself. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but it gets easier the more you do it. Wink at yourself, flirt a little. Let it feel fun, pure and warm.

Some days doing this exercise is harder than others. You made a bad decision. Your words hurt someone you care about. What the hell is your life about anyway and why haven’t you figured it out by now? In these moments where fear and doubt have gripped you, are you still lovable? Do you still deserve your own love?

These are precisely the times when it’s imperative to love yourself. Berating yourself and withdrawing your compassion toward yourself will create a downward spiral into desperation and confusion. More bad decisions will be made. Guilt heaped on. Flame doused.

Love your mistakes as much as your triumphs because the goof-ups help you to grow. They point directly to where your attention needs to be – not as a reprimand, but as a guiding light. Love the part of you that doesn’t know how to do it better yet, because that part of you needs it the most. Like fertilizer on a droopy plant.

Then take it one step farther and love your pain. Love the hardships and the whole mess of life. Not because you want them to continue, but because you want them to transform. Love nurtures positive change. Acceptance yields a sense of compassion. When we feel safe to admit our mistakes or look honestly at what isn’t working, we can begin to see through a lens of love toward a better way.

Love is a balm and love is a catalyst. Love all of yourself – dark, light, happy, sad – and feel yourself bloom.

bleeding hearts