On mornings when I wake anxious* about some aspect of my life situation or (especially in 2019) of the world’s life situation, I have a simple but reliable practice that helps me steady myself and can stop me from tumbling into dread. As soon as I notice that the first thought of my day is shaping up to be a bleak one, I put my earphones in and listen to the clear, sweet voice of the late Louise Hay for at least 10 minutes. There is a freely available recording of her affirmations that seems to have the power to ease everything and anything. I feel it raises the vibration in the listener and in any room in which it is played. I honestly think that Louise might have been some kind of angel on Earth.
Louise and me go back a long way. In fact, about 25 years. We first ‘met’ in New Zealand when I was in my early thirties. I’d flown there to embark on a summer motorcycling adventure through the South Island mountains — one of my at-the-time husband’s dreams. It all went horribly wrong on the first day. I’d ‘learned’ to ride in the field behind our house, under his patient instruction, on a little 110cc. But on the other side of the planet, on a bright-yellow, powerful, off-road Suzuki, I panicked at the first traffic island leaving Christchurch. The shame I felt at the moment when I knew had to stop the bike and get off was overwhelming. I had to find the voice to say to a group of men, most of whom I barely knew, ‘I know my limits, I’m scared. I can’t do it.’ I can still sense the hot black tarmac under the bike wheels at that road intersection, as I stared down, wishing I could melt into it.
In the days that followed, I developed an inexplicable and agonising pain in my right arm, to the point that I couldn’t even cut food with a knife. Exact events I don’t recall, but I do know that a very wise and awakened man, who had himself once recovered from a serious bike accident, took me to a healer (rather than a doctor, which was a new experience for me). The healer placed his hands around my arm, talked to me about believing in myself and trusting the flow of things, and a few days later I found myself in a bookshop where my eyes landed on the book, You can heal your life by Louise Hay. I read it from cover to cover sitting on rocks by the Queenstown lake at the foot of the Remarkables range. It was the first book of its kind I’d ever come across… it introduced me to new (to me) beliefs about… well, honestly, everything.
I relaxed. I made the trip, but on the back of the guide’s bike (thank you Denis, owner of Offroad Adventures, I never forget your kindness). We rode swiftly, feeling like Lords of the Rings, through pristine mountain passes (it was in the time of the filming of this trilogy in those very lands). The 12 hour days across rocks were tough going as there were no pegs for my feet on the bike. Denis clamped his size 11 boots down on top of my size 5s, which hurt, a lot! But there were countless wheelies, accompanied by delighted shrieks from me, through steep canyons and icy rivers, in scenery that will stay in my heart forever. And I learned, maybe for the first time, that if you are open to it, there is always a way to enjoy being you, instead of trying to be something you are not.
Thus, it was a motorbike that perhaps first blew the magic of angels (Louise, the healer and perhaps even Denis himself), healing and self-transformation into my path. And, strangely, as my life has unfolded, motorbikes have been involved at almost every major turning point. I still can’t actually ride one myself (despite having tried to learn a few times over the years!), but no matter, for some reason they won’t leave me be.
This year has been no exception. The catalyst for change has once more been my right arm, because of my motorbike accident and the resulting broken collarbone. And again, it’s led to me being more accepting of what is, and adapting to it. Which has been timely. With world events and energies seemingly so confusing and worrying, I’ve needed that flexible attitude (and Louise’s affirmations some mornings) to stop myself from being swept up into the apparent grimness of it all.
After the accident in February, as some of you know, I made a pact with myself that I’d paint with my left hand to keep the joy of the whole 30 day adventure alive, rather than only focusing on the final day of it (the day when the accident occurred). I called these paintings, ‘The Joy Experiments‘. At first the paintings were purely expressions of the feelings generated by my Andes crossings made on the motorbike: they helped me believe that I would get well and that future bike expeditions would be possible. But, later, what I created went deeper, and became more reflective of hope and the hope-generating practices I wanted to use to help me stay centred, no matter what happened in my life-situation, or in Governments, or in countries or on our planet.
Here then, are my final four paintings of this year along with what I was thinking about when I made each of them from September through December.
Into the light : after three separate but similar and rather synchronous conversations with younger friends, I was thinking about the inner conflict we can feel in midlife between the life situation we have created and the life force within us that whispers or shouts, ‘It’s time to be YOU!’ This conflict can feel impossible to resolve to our conditioned human mind and terrifying to our sensitive human heart. And yet, our Soul believes in us, because if it didn’t, it wouldn’t bother to call us at all. It knows we will listen as best we can, and it knows we will act as best we can; it knows that as long as we are breathing, we are transforming, and there is still time for us to explode ‘into the light’.
Not alone : I was thinking about those conversations you occasionally have with another human being that seem to propel you to somewhere you’ve never been before. Afterwards you may feel lighter, freer, excited even, because somehow, you’ve just been given permission to be more of YOU. You may sense a ‘remembering’: I’m getting closer to who I really am. Your Soul expands inside you and around you, streaming more of its energy into your world. I think such meetings act as thresholds enabling both Souls present to grow their influence in the human experience, injecting us with possibility, opportunity, and a greater chance of joy. They are doorways to transformation. Sometimes, though, when we are feeling very stuck or lost, the conversations may present themselves differently to us. From our human perspective they might feel unsettling, upset our status quo or challenge us in our comfort zone. We might see them through our narrow ‘human-life-experience’ lens, at first. But I don’t think it matters if we do, because the very fact they have occurred means the alchemy has begun… once we ‘know’ something, even if we try to ignore it, we can’t ‘unknow’ it. The new awareness starts the transformation, which will eventually result in the expansion. We might feel the conversation as painful, but we could consider the possibility that it could also be exciting and reassuring. This thought can comfort us. Our Soul is calling and guiding us to remember its presence. We are absolutely ‘not alone’.
See the trees : painted when (in October in the Southern Hemisphere) I needed to find a reason to paint because my own joyful thread (and my motivation to create) seemed to be weakening in the face of confusing and upsetting world events. It began with me channelling my delight at seeing pink blossoms dancing on two trees in the street, but became more and more about the possibilities we create for ourselves… what we choose to ‘see’ and, therefore, who we choose to be. I’d like to think of it as a ‘positive-thought painting’, a painting that holds opportunity in its energy, in its gentle but lively reminder that we can always, whenever we want to, ‘see the trees’.
Guardian : You can see my 2018 original drawing of this Angel-being here, along with my blog post of a year ago. This 2019 Christmas Day evening, in a few quiet hours, I painted her. She feels more tranquil than she did last year, and surer. I will take her with me on my next motorcycle journey (yes, I’m soon to go mountain-exploring again, which is wonderful) and I will ask for her soft strong wings around us. On the road into and back from the Andes. Into 2020. Into the next decade. For me. For you. For our countries. For our lands. For our Peoples. For our Earth. For our Universes. For us all. That, even when we struggle to feel joy, we never lose hope.
Thank you for looking at my paintings in 2019. My Soul speaks through them I am certain, and I am glad to have found this way to be its channel. SAL.
* Anxiety is just one way that my brain has managed to challenge me over the years. In order to survive it, in the last decade I’ve treated it as something to be explored and investigated. Because I’m a natural explorer this has put an active, positive slant on it which has softened its impact. I have discovered many practices to help me manage it, and listening to Louise Hay is only one of them, as is channelling my Soul’s voice into my ‘joy experiment’ paintings. I mention this because surviving any kind of #mentalhealth issue is a serious business. Any one practice may not be enough, but surely each practice may help, and that’s one reason I like to share my process and my thinking here. Even writing about anxiety brings it into the light (where it can dissolve, which is good for me). Perhaps reading about it does too; it is my wish that this could be true.
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I’ll be super-happy if you share my creations. Please use short quotes from the piece if you like, but always always link back to this page.
For any other use, please ask me first.
See the journey of my paintings and drawings over the years here:
Photographed with an iPhone the colours can be compromised and small amounts of cropping can occur. The real paintings and drawings speak more clearly.
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© Sally Townsend Blake 2019