samedi 31 janvier 2015

The Beautiful Unknown

A few weeks ago, my friend Tatiana invited me to participate in a Danga (Dance/Yoga) workshop, to which I said "Yes!" of course, feeling both thrilled and a bit nervous at the prospect.

Guess what? It was not only a fantastic experience, but also a turning point in my quest for creative energy. Somehow, my inner resources became accessible to me in a whole new way, inviting into my life the invisible forest of possibilities that I mentioned in my last post.

Which gave me a personalised set of re-solutions for 2015 and beyond :o)

Danga (also called YogaDanga) was created in Montréal by Mylène Roy, from her diverse practice in mime, theatre, contemporary dance and yoga. Her passion for the fertile potential of dichotomies led her to associate the grounded, balanced aspect of yoga with the freedom, sensuality and energy of dancing: it was this very combination that drew me to Danga. 

More interesting still, as I discovered during the workshop, this grounding/liberating alliance of dance and yoga has the ability to bring together seemingly opposite trends, so that they are no more in conflict within yourself – they become empowering duos, dancing together.

I drew these chairs in the Café Cagibi, while listening to Glen Jones.

Good news for all of us extroverted introverts, active dreamers, or dedicated dilettantes, who often dwell between the sensual and the spiritual, the practical and the magical – and who often end up feeling paralyzed. Though not always.

My brother Matthieu: educator, dad, photographer, songwriter, & author not yet published.

At the time, we were Mateo y Manolita.

The workshop I attended was partly guided by three future YogaDanga teachers, including my friend Tatiana – which was another incentive for me, since I find her own energy and vision quite inspiring  :o) In fact, as a theatre director in training, Tatiana also uses Danga’s creative possibilities during the rehearsals, and I can certainly see why!

Here is a short but eloquent video of Tatiana improvising through Danga on “the notion of a ‘hinge’ that was also explored as a junction or a bridge between two places”.

This hinge/bridge notion was also, appropriately, the theme of our workshop :o)

To my surprise and relief, the whole atmosphere made it easy for us to improvise on the music, and to follow our impulses wherever they were taking us. We let our inspiration guide our movements, their rhythm and scope, their direction – without noticing what everybody else was doing, yet supported by the fact that we were doing it together.

“Try and explore moves, postures and muscles that you don’t usually use” was one of the useful suggestions we received.

I applied this throughout the workshop – starting with my arms, as they are my weakest point, particularly in yoga. I leaned on them often, like you would in Downward Dog, Forward Bend or Triangle, except I was dancing, and my arms became a sustaining, living link to the ground.

Eventually, I realized that if I keep my elbows slightly bent, alert and springy, instead of locking them as always, I do have some strength (after all) in my too flexible, narrow-boned arms.

Similarly, we worked on our knee’s “hinge” qualities, which became an instructive exploration on how to engage our leg’s muscles in a more balanced, attentive way.

Throughout the evening, there were empowering lessons to be learned, both immediately and at a deeper, metaphorical level (isn’t our whole body a beautiful metaphor of our soul?) from these explorations between stamina and rest, strength and flexibility, confidence and care.

It was during the final relaxation period that I understood this: I don't really have to choose between the things I love doing, because they sustain each other.

Waiting for the bus + observing nature + taking pictures.

During the following weeks, I applied this understanding to the areas in my life that had been so far in competition: drawing or cooking, dancing or practising yoga, painting or cleaning up, reading or blogging… or walking on the hill.

You see, before going to work I have a three-hour window of free time + creative energy + good light… for all of the above. (Unless there is a translation on my desk, of course.)

So this is where I begin.

1) The morning light in my bedroom/studio is the best one for drawing. How about opening my creative “window” with an hour of drawing?

2) Then: music and Danga for half an hour, to keep my creative energy flowing. Yes!

3) After which, once showered and dressed, I can tackle my current project of the week (portrait, blog post, etc) for another hour… so I am eager to go back to it in the evening, after work.

4) Lastly, around 11 pm, I now turn off the computer for the night and open a good book. It makes a huge difference in my sleep, dreams, inspiration, etc.

But wait… I have to fit all the writing (emails included) in two hours a day: one in the morning, one in the evening (I come back from work after 9 pm, hungry and dizzy). The problem is that I need two solid hours just to get into the text – its voice, meaning, direction – and to have full access to my writing abilities.

One post = days of struggling with words and ideas (+ pictures). And then I translate it all in French…

The problem is not that I am doing a hobby professionally (though I do, because publishing illustrated essays and stories even twice a month for a wide readership is, after all, a dream come true). I simply need that much time to put it all together so you can actually enjoy reading it. Besides, writing these posts helps me understand where I am going, how, and why. It is quite something, and it implies some processing :o)

On Saturdays, I work all day - here I am on my way to the bus stop. Great occasion to get pictures of the lovely 8 am snow.

Is it an angel on my left shoulder? Or maybe a wisp of hair :o)

However, this “writing issue” means that I have to skip drawing and/or Danga most mornings, when I am working on a post.

As a result, drawing projects can take weeks to be completed... Not to mention paintings, or stories, or children’s books. I miss creating new material, playing with my skills, and being bold with them.

But you know what? I have a feeling that the drawing/Danga mornings will help me dive into this Beautiful Unknow, in many ways. I will keep trying. This is just the beginning  :o)

(I am also hoping that Reading Books Every Night – for the first time again since I don’t know when –  will help me in becoming a more efficient writer!)

What do you think?

Fortunately, I’ll have a new opportunity work on my own creative balance this very Saturday evening, as I will be participating in another, unique Danga workshop: Tatiana and seven other future Danga teachers are sharing with us their final project.

The theme is Transitions (Passages): “Intense work – resilience – euphoria”.

Sounds promising, doesn’t it?


dimanche 11 janvier 2015

Changing Perspectives

Have you noticed how major shifts in your life seem to happen both slowly and suddenly, gathering momentum for several years until one or several major changes occur – and then you look back and everything makes sense? The way it all unfolded itself, when most of the time you were just busy living, or coping, or even despairing?

After you take it all in, there might even be a pause when you think of all the good things yet to come, springing from this very transition you are experiencing right now, with hope and awe. All will be revealed in due time, as they say. But already you are grasping differently the uncertainties and bumps in the road, enjoying the changing perspectives along the way.

In fact, you realize that the scenery is alive all around you, not just in front of you – or within the frames created by surrounding bushes and trees. You get a sense of what can be hiding behind these (which have a presence and meaning in and of themselves), and you become aware that you can actually get out of the path to go and explore. (Is that a brook you can hear murmuring down there?)

You can also just lay down on the ground for a while and look up at the sky, and marvel at the changing light, the passing clouds, the birds’ songs and calls that so far had escaped your attention, but carry all kinds of messages about the upcoming weather, surrounding wildlife, and other humans distractedly walking by.

In other words, the more space you give these shifts to take place, the more likely they are to happen. Interesting, isn’t it?

They can be shifts of consciousness, or factual changes – like a move or a new job – or an alternation of both, which is something I have often noticed.

My own shift of consciousness began many years ago, as related before, but 2014 has been the year in which I was - at last - able to live for real: working in a place where I truly belong, enjoying my days in many ways, and being mostly in the present moment (I can't even write this without smiling).

My first dive into the Beautiful Unknown took place in September 2013, a few days before my birthday.

For several years, I had felt increasingly trapped in my dull, tedious job, despairing because I could not find any other decent, part-time one to support my creative endeavours (along with occasional translations). 

So in late August, when I came back from my annual trip to France to visit my family and Pierre, I realized I had to escape out of this dead end before becoming dead to myself, or I would ruin my chances to find something right for me.

I wrote my resignation letter during the return flight to Montréal - and I sent it as soon as I came home.

Feeling hugely liberated, I searched for a new job with hope and trust, and with the support of my wonderful parents. After several weeks, I found the exact job I was dreaming of (no computer involved, in a family-owned, friendly yoga centre), and settled in happily. 

Me at the yoga centre  :o)

However, my very part-time, irregular shift barely paid my rent, and even with a few translations, I had to get in debt, month after month, to pay for my (very minimal) living. But I was so intent on thriving in this new environment that I never thought of leaving. I'll just get more translations, I thought. Maybe could find a cleaning job in the mornings?

Or I could start drawing more seriously.

To celebrate 2014 as the dawn of my new life, I painted in white the floor of my bedroom/studio, as a New Year's Eve gift to myself : for three days, while Lola was complaining about the icy draft coming from the open window and my not playing with her at all, I toiled at my task with the deep, giggling satisfaction of accessing a long-life dream : a white floor studio of my own.

In summer, it looks like this.

Then I took up my creative projects again… and I started this blog :o)

Which in turn fostered a new, gratifying process in my life (thanks to everybody’s wonderful reception), and brought up new awakenings.

Looking back at 2014, considering all these months when I was sustained mainly by faith and by my new working environment (along with the unwavering support of my family and friends), the one word that comes to me is : gratitude.

I feel so grateful and in awe, for everything that happened to me this year, for every person who believed in me, who gave me their love and trust, everyone who smiled back at me with a happy smile for the simple pleasure of seeing me, just as I was truly happy to see them.

I could at last be my sunny, merry self all the time, I could dive in the very vibration of life, into the simple, deep joy of living, I could become an intimate part of the world. 

I could loose myself in it, I could drift away from the very words to describe it, or from the very need to draw My creative projects were barely afloat. Still, somehow everything made sense, as if I heard a small voice saying: wait and see.

Last but not least, I could share it all with you. Whenever it felt right, whenever I managed to. And you were listening, grasping everything I was trying to say. (Thank you :o) 

In September 2014, a few days before my birthday, my colleague at the yoga centre realized she needed more time for school from now on, and I was granted her shift in addition to mine. This meant I would now be able to pay for my rent AND groceries, electricity and so on.

Shortly after that, a big, unexpected translation turned up, which - miraculously - would enable me to pay back all my accumulated debts of the year, shortly before the end of 2014.

Both of which made me sigh with such relief and gratitude :o)

That autumn, once every translation was finished and I got used to my new work schedule at the yoga centre, I sort of naturally went back to just being in the present moment, which is partly why I did not write much here or elsewhere - yet I could feel something was coming up, in its own sweet time.

Eventually, through November and December, I let this flow of life wash me tenderly on the shore, I let the waves push me gently on a slightly higher part of the beach. There was a lovely breeze up there, in which I could feel the presence of… how can I explain this?

It's as if I am aware of a forest not yet visible, but fully alive, each individual tree waiting to be discovered, to be brought into my actual life.

Its shadows can be seen on the wall sometimes (here at the yoga centre).

Some of these trees may be drawings, or paintings, some others could be friendships, exchanges and encounters, and the nature of others will be revealed as I find them.

How can I combine living fully in the present with making plans and following them?

This is the question I had been pondering (for years, in fact).

But the invisible forest now whispered the solution to me, and I would like to share it with you.


To be continued in the next post - next Sunday, hopefully :o)

jeudi 8 janvier 2015

Pourquoi novembre?

Dear readers, thank you for being so patient - I was busy mulling over a creative program for the new year, and I am truly happy with it. More about it on Sunday!

(Plusieurs semaines se sont écoulées depuis la version anglaise de cet article ;o) mais des nouvelles fraîches arrivent bientôt !

Au centre de yoga ou je travaille, quelques jours après la fin novembre, une cliente a remarqué d’un air satisfait en rédigeant son chèque : « Ah! Décembre. » J'ai renchéri : « Oui, c’est un nom qui a de la rondeur… comme octobre » et nous avons ri de cette logique à la fois subtile et fantaisiste.

Mais nous pensions aussi, par contraste, au mois de novembre qui venait de s'achever, période de transition froide, humide et sombre vers l’hiver, du moins quand on vit dans l’hémisphère nord, autour du 45e parallèle.

Entre la générosité dorée d’octobre et la blancheur veloutée de décembre, avouons que novembre ne semble pas avoir de qualités particulières.

C’est vrai : pourquoi novembre ?

J’entends les gens se poser sérieusement la question, au long des semaines où le gel soudain alterne avec les bourrasques de vent et de pluie, la grêle ou les bruines verglaçantes – pendant que les grippes et divers virus surfent joyeusement (à nos dépends) sur ces vagues météorologiques.

Et pourtant… et pourtant.

Il y a une lenteur, une sobriété du monde naturel, en novembre, qui me touchent malgré moi. La terre devient plus sombre et plus apparente, les feuilles prennent des teintes d'ambre ternie; elles disparaissent des branches les unes après les autres - se fondant dans le sol au fil des jours - sans être remplacées.

À mesure que nos yeux s'habituent à la nouvelle gamme des bruns, leurs variations subtiles se révèlent à nous. Le vert n'est plus considéré comme allant de soi; il fait des apparitions aléatoires, comme les oiseaux migrateurs.

On s'exclame devant les feuilles d'or des bouleaux ou des gingkos, chandelles frémissantes dans le paysage austère, qui parsèment le sol avec abandon.

Le peintre Andrew Wyeth, dans son beau livre The Helga Pictures, fait cette remarque qui éclaire à mon avis l'ensemble de son travail (et sans doute sa prédilection pour Helga en tant que modèle) : "Je préfère l'hiver et l'automne, quand la structure du paysage est visible; sa solitude nue, son silence. Il y a quelque chose en attente - une partie de l'histoire se dissimule aux regards."

Le perpétuel spectacle de la nature, que nous imaginons devoir se renouveler indéfiniment, fait une pause pendant un mois (ou plus). Parfaitement, les amis, nous sommes en vacances.

Revenez l'année prochaine. Ou installez-vous confortablement pour attendre.

Pour chaque oiseau, chaque animal, cette transition représente un message crucial qu'il doit interpréter à sa manière, en vue d'atteindre le printemps.

De mon côté, je l'interprète comme la recommandation de faire les choses tranquillement, une à la fois, et de s'offrir de longues nuits de sommeil.

Tu peux laisser tomber ces feuilles dorées, nous te préparons pour de nouveaux bourgeons, de nouvelles fleurs, de nouvelles feuilles. Et de nouveaux rameaux : tu vas grandir encore un peu, tu auras une forme légèrement différente. On ne sait pas encore laquelle.

Pour moi, novembre est un mois Yin.

Évidemment, si vous êtes un parent, si vous travaillez dans un restaurant ou un magasin, novembre est rarement une période propice à la détente. Décembre se profile à l'horizon, chargé d'humeurs contradictoires, comme une pleine lune.

Mais chaque fois que c'est possible, ralentir le rythme en novembre, c'est étonnamment bienfaisant. Et cela permet de mieux voir les choses.

Rester au chaud dans des superpositions de couleurs, m'aventurer dehors avec une tisane de gingembre frais dans mon sac, et admirer (en compagnie des pics mineurs et des mésanges affairées) les silhouettes dénudées de mes amis les arbres,

être indulgente envers moi-même, savourer tous les moments réconfortants (à la maison, au travail) et cuire au four des courges dorées qui réchauffent l'âme et le corps...

C'est ainsi que j'aime vivre l'approche de l'hiver, en étant vraiment au diapason de cette transition.

Ainsi, quand l’hiver arrive pour de bon, apportant des tempêtes de neige, des nappes de glace et de longues soirées qui invitent à la création, je l'accueille avec émerveillement, reposée, déjà parée contre le froid, et pleine de nouvelles idées.

Profitez bien de l'hiver, mes amis  :o)