“And now we welcome the new year,
full of things that have never been.”
-Rainer Maria Rilke
Every year, I pick a theme to help me navigate the bumps and steer me forward with purpose, instead of floundering around in my usual way. This practice has worked to varying degrees … until this year.
This year it worked miracles! Picking Spaciousness as my theme resulted in some very unexpected and marvellous changes in my life, my surroundings and even in my physical state. Some of these include: a partial makeover in my lounge-room and a total makeover in my laundry, study and wardrobe situation. There were several other things (involving paint, door frames and doors in general) but I’ll spare you the details.
Interestingly, none of it happened as a direct result of me making a ‘spaciousness list’ (though that wouldn’t be a bad idea, given how much I love lists!). But setting an intention of Spaciousness as a theme no doubt drove change at a deep level. As an aside, I’m so grateful to my sister Susheel, for gifting me a mentorship programme, Your Year of Miracles many years ago, where I first learned of the practice of setting intentions and themes for a year. The programme continues to help shape my life in countless ways … but more on this later.
In 2021, Spaciousness was definitely a Thing.
“But how?” you might well ask. Well, let’s start with my body.
In applying the theme of ‘Spaciousness’ to my physical body, I had hoped for less pain and more ease and movement. Ideally, without having to try too hard 😀
Enter a pair of miraculous compression leggings. Initially designed only for pregnant women, they were recommended by my niece Shanthi (who was pregnant at the time). Shanthi has lived with chronic pain most of her life, and it was a good bet if something helped her, it would help me. She assured me that the company also makes non-pregnancy compression leggings. I purchased some straight away, and proudly sent Shanthi a photo of my purchase.
“That’s great, Aunty Mal,” she replied. “Well done! But why did you buy “pregnancy recovery leggings” instead of “exercise leggings”?
Oops … embarrassment.
A mistake? Or a miracle? You see, unlike exercise leggings that are just waist high, those ‘recovery’ leggings, being designed to help postpartum bodies, went all the way up, as high as they can go, supporting ALL the muscles in my back. What resulted from some hasty clicking around a website and not reading things properly turned out to be perfect for me!! They have reduced my back and leg pain by about 80%, and increased my movement by several kilometres a day (as monitored by my trusty Apple watch).
I’m intrigued at the irony that something incredibly ‘compressive’ can result in such an increased feeling of spaciousness and freedom in the body. Perhaps that paradox is somewhat reflective of life in general.
Another side effect of my quest for ‘spaciousness within’ was the discovery of Vidyamala Burch, founder of Breathworks and author of Living Well with Pain and Illness.
Essentially a mindfulness teacher, her message is not new; however, I seem to resonate with her story and method of delivery more than others. She is partially paraplegic, has a paralysed bowel and bladder, is in her 50s and has lived with constant severe pain since she was sixteen. Consequently, her teaching comes from a lived experience.
She talks of various stages of healing, one of them being Acceptance, a condition I observed closely in my late husband, Greg while he was living with cancer. In those four years I was his carer, Greg was always open and hopeful of recovery, while simultaneously being completely accepting of whatever outcome the Universe had in store. This deep state of surrender made him very peaceful to be around. It was his superpower.
Vidyamala describes her own experience like this:
“My quest was to appreciate life’s exquisite beauty without clinging to it with a grasping fist, to be open to the textures of the world around me while allowing experience to slip through open fingers.”
“The present moment is always bearable, and that the only authentic and sustainable way to be fully alive is to be open to all life’s moments, not just the ones I prefer.”
“… to be open to all life’s moments, not just the ones I prefer.” I love that.
Most of us don’t have to endure what this woman does on a day-to-day basis, so her compassionate and beautiful approach to life was enlightening to me. If you live with any chronic health situation and are open to examining how your heart and mindset can evolve, I highly recommend her work.
CLOUDS AND SILVER LININGS
My beautiful Ruby Dog died this year. I found myself back in the role of carer as her health declined, and it was sad and rather triggering for me, given I’ve found myself in that role several times in my life.
In fact, it was shortly after Greg passed away that Ruby first came into my life. I rescued her from six years of abuse and neglect, but in reality, she rescued me. Her trust, companionship and sweetness were a gift. And then just a few years later, she was gone.
With the deep sadness at her loss also came the realisation that this was the first time in three decades that I wasn’t responsible for the life of another sentient being. I knew that eventually this would free up my heart and creative practices.
Shortly after her death I was scheduled to give an interview on Mind and Soul Matters podcast. The topic was Creativity as a Lifeline, and I very nearly cancelled it. Who was I to speak of ‘lifelines’ when I felt so empty and sad? But I asked for divine assistance and plunged in, and it’s possible that Ruby’s death actually deepened the conversation. It helped me remember all the times I’ve needed a lifeline and my creative practice has been just that. (You can listen to the 20 min conversation or read the transcript on this link.)
2021 also saw the staging of my 12th solo art exhibition, A Walk in the Woods. The previous eleven shows have been held in all sorts of places: cafes, libraries, galleries, gardens, even my very own lounge room! However, this was the first time I had a show in my studio gallery! I hadn’t held an exhibition for three years, so there was a lot of art to hang. Eighty-six pieces spilled over from the five walls within my studio to the outer walls of my home.
As with all shows, you never know how it’s all going to come together until it does. And thankfully, all the boxes that mean “successful show” for me were ticked: I was blessed by the presence of over five hundred visitors, and I even got to talk to most of them! They seemed to enjoy the space, the forest, the tea and chocolates 🙂 For the first time ever, the entire exhibition was on my website from Day 1. It attracted record sales, including buyers from across the country in Melbourne, and the other side of the world in England and the U.S. Most importantly, I was also supported by many, many kind people – a total of thirty-seven helpers without whom I couldn’t have brought it together.
It takes hard work over long, long days, crazy chaos (and a few tears) to create a peaceful, tranquil event. Lots of clouds and so many silvery linings.
If you were one of the lovely souls that helped or visited, I thank you again, from the bottom of my heart. But if you didn’t make it, A Walk in the Woods is still up on my website, and you can view and/or purchase at the Open Studio Special prices until Dec 31.
WILL 2022 BE A YEAR OF MIRACLES?
One of my greatest on-going supports has been the year-long mentorship programme I mentioned previously: Your Year of Miracles. Since Susheel gifted it to me couple of years after Greg died, the practices I’ve learned have eased my journey in countless ways, mainly because of the heart and mindset shifts I’ve learned which have gradually become second nature to me now. If you are interested in keys to profound growth and transformation offered gently and kindly over a whole twelve months, I wholeheartedly recommend Your Year of Miracles in 2022. They are open for enrolment now, but you can check out their free e-book first, to see if the vibe is right for you.
And if you’d like to attend one of my art workshops, they are now open for enrolment from January to March. The workshops held in my light-filled and tranquil studio continue to be a place of peace and possibility for me and my students. I also have space for 2 more people in my new one-on-one mentoring programme from April onwards. All the details on my offerings are over here. I welcome you all 🙂
Whatever challenges and surprises it held, I hope 2021 was a fulfilling year for you. I am deeply grateful to you for reading my emails, coming to my workshops, attending my shows, and enriching my life with the gift of your presence. And I wish you so much love, creativity and miracles in 2022!
PS I’ll leave you with some images (in no particular order) of my year, including my dear Ruby dog, art-ing, before and after scenes of my exhibition, pretty flowers from around the hills, a brief vacation beach scene, a cute snippet of my daughter Mary’s reception at Curtin University when she was awarded to the Vice Chancellor’s List for her outstanding academic performance (!!), some highlights of my lovely students in my workshops … and ending with me and the very large beautiful creature that I rode on my birthday 🙂