Energy Exchange

DSC_9336.jpgLet’s Stretch our limits 16×40 Oil

“To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.”~Buddha

If you have been practicing yoga at Moksha Yoga Calgary North, you may have noticed the changing art on the walls. I am the Artist and also a fellow yogini. Since the studio opened I have been doing an energy exchange- art for yoga.  The perfect trade!

My love of art and yoga has always had a way of overlapping in my life. I knew from the first day of my 200 hour yoga teacher training that even though both activities are very different, they have many similar philosophies.

Coming from a fitness background… somewhere along the line I decided that teaching yoga would be more sustainable to teach while I continued to pursue my art career.  I thought I would not be so tired.  WOW- I was in for a rude awakening.   I had only a few downward dogs under my belt and barely knew what a sun salutation was…let alone teach it to someone else. My poor teacher, he had his work cut out for him and truth be known, so did I!

I remember very clearly that exact moment in time, sitting on my mat, writing in my journal…it was my big “AHA” moment.  I realized why I was in the training. It was not about the perfect downward dog.  It was not to save the world, heal others, share my dimming light…it was to save me, heal me and make my light shine brighter.

In my heart, I felt like I was home.…The practice has a perfect way of meeting us where we are at…

A year later, I finished my training and that day I began my practice. I practiced everyday for 40 days. It changed my world. I surrounded myself in community and was blessed to have many great teachers. There was never a day that I did not walk out of a yoga class feeling lighter and more whole. Over 10 years later, many trainings and a lifelong commitment, I still feel the same way.

I admit that many times I fall off the train. But just like falling out of a tree pose, or being too busy to paint, I remember why I made the commitment and that I can make the choice to step back on the train at any time.

I began my yoga practice with intention to help others.   I now realize that finding the practice of yoga was a gift to me.   The gift of community, with the bonus of keeping my body strong, my breath flowing and my mind clear.   The beauty is, with the clarity and strength I gained from the practice, I can help other by sharing what I have learned.

Whether I am doing a headstand or holding a brush at my easel, I am very aware that both are rare opportunities to really be awake.  Present moment awareness – was the common feeling for me.  The feeling I wish to share.

“Yoga is the art work of awareness on the canvas of body, mind, and soul.” ― Amit Ray

Present moment awareness-I know this feeling intimately. It happens when I paint well, listen intently and practice with grace.  To me… ‘Waking up’ means being present enough to feel, be authentic and to gain the capacity of responding rather than reacting.

It is what I love and why I have made both painting and yoga a consistent practice in my life. It is where I get to feel most alive.  My career as an artist is growing and these days I spend my days painting, teaching art and sharing my yoga practice in my art camps and retreats.

I am honored and grateful to share my art in such a sacred beautiful space where it can be seen and felt.  It is the perfect energy exchange.

Namaste,

Michelle

http://www.michelleausten.ca

 “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”~Walt Disney

 

 

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Confetti Trees, Color and Creativity

“I think this is how we are supposed to be in the world-Present and in Awe.” ~Anne Lamott

Encaustic Confetti Tree

Encaustic Confetti Tree

Summer Camp 2015 Last week I had the honor of working with 8 brilliant Art Students ranging from 7-12 years old. I embrace the endless energy youth have and wish I could capture it in a pill bottle. One week later, as I wake from a nap, I wonder if they are tired this week? Not likely. They are probably drawing up a storm…on to the next task. Despite my praying for perfect weather we had a few storms during the week. (Luckily none in the studio, just a few outside). A little rain, hail, wind followed by sunshine again.

I had a schedule for the week, but learned long ago to not get too attached to the schedule. As weather changes, one must adapt. Similar to painting… have a basic plan and be prepared to let go of the plan. This is often were the magic happens and if all else fails you get an interesting experience followed by the pleasure of either throwing out or painting over your less desired experience…both refreshing outcomes. The rain was refreshing. It kept us cool and did not slow down the process of doing our work. In fact, as a result, we had more studio time. Question: “Bike riding or art?” Reply: “We’d rather PAINT” I am in the presence of true artists. They know what they want.IMG_2168IMG_2230

We started everyday with yoga. “Sit up tall, breathe in, breathe out, notice how you feel,” I instructed.  A chance to reconnect with ourselves first, then each other and ultimately everything else that surrounds us. Taking the time to let the snow globe of the mind settle…good for creativity. Learning to rest and stay still is a practice.

So we practice… Day 1-The stillness is always a little tough at first, but the benefits are felt and respected quickly. Day 2- Free our minds as we strengthen, stretch and rest our little bodies. Day 3- 5 min into the practice Savasana (Corpse pose) is the favorite requested pose.                 Day 4- 20 min of silence- painting mandala rocks by candlelight was no problem.                     Day 5 -30 min Yoga Nidra inside while it rained outside. Who doesn’t love to be covered in a blanket with lavender scented eye pillows and have a relaxing story read to them?

IMG_2156 IMG_2353 This group of girls painted for more hours this week, then I can paint in a week. Their attention span, focus and dedication surpassed my wildest expectations. When they took a break from art activities, Chinese skipping was the preferred game. Remember “MISSISSIPPI”?? Great Cardio fun, efficiently taking the edge off built up energy.

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Chinese Skipping

It is always amazing to see the students subjective color preference and how each piece of artwork, all in different mediums create a perfect collection, representing the artists unique style. Their favorite color and love of their family was very apparent in their chosen words of intention. Watching them throw the paint around, literally and not worrying too much where it landed. Seeing the joy on their faces when they learned a new technique that made their masterpieces come alive.

Encaustic Painting

Encaustic Painting

IMG_2336IMG_2343 Teamwork and community support was a stand out quality 5 STARS all around. Brilliant guest artists added variety and expertise. My most favorite reflection was that week ran by seamlessly. Moving from project to project, playing with wax, paint, pastels, watercolor, clay, ink was all done with a “Go For IT” attitude. We began with dream collages ending with dream catchers. By the time Friday arrived we had quite a collection of artwork to display.

Dream catchers

Dream catchers

IMG_2368IMG_2367 Friday morning was raining…Hard…But we agreed the show must go on. We finished the dream catchers. Made and ate our pizza, decorated the cupcakes for our guests. Then worked quickly to set up the show with a sense of pride. I was thankful that the girls thrived on being given a task. They quickly achieved their task and worked well together. Lots of small hands, makes light work.

Artists getting ready for show

Artists getting ready for show

Look what we did!

Look what we did!

Art Show

Art Show

12 year old Artist

12 year old Artist

9 year old Artist

9 year old Artist

The final show was a parade of proud artists sharing their accomplishments of the week with the ones they love. Reminding me that achieving a goal is always better when you share it with others. I am blessed… Michelle “Wherever your heart is, that is where you’ll find your treasure.” ~ Paulo Coelho IMG_2320 **Special Thanks to Brenda Walker http://www.brendawalker-art.com and Shauna Mireault for being our guests and sharing their love of art!

Celebrating Birthdays and the Element of Surprise

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Nature’s Birthday Candles 18×36 Oil     http://www.michelleausten.ca

“Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!”  ~Dr. Seuss

My Son Tyler is turning 22 tomorrow. Today I am going to bake a cake.

This morning, as I drink my tea and reflect on all the birthdays we have been lucky to celebrated. Soccer parties, laser tag, bowling, water slides, space center YYC, the list goes on.   We always have a family dinner with a birthday cake. The day he asked for a Costco birthday cake with a soccer ball,  I cried…  moms ego took a hit. Thankfully, that was the only year he requested a bought cake.

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Tyler on his 19th Birthday

I love to bake. Warming up the oven on a cold day, the smell of delicious aroma filling my home, feeling the heat of the oven, hearing the whip of the beaters and seeing the smile on the face of my kids when I surprise them with a cake.

I love the feeling of pushing the icing around to cover the cake with a big butter knife. Making sure I get the peaks of the icing just perfect with lots of variation of shape, covered with colored sprinkles in Tyler’s favorite color.

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Watching the element of surprise when they realize their favorite angel-food cake with colored flecks and boiled icing has money carefully placed inside of it.

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I am a mom and an artist. Not a professional baker, but the feeling is the same in every area. Whether painting, baking or theming a birthday party, the familiar feeling of inspiration arises!  Exploring, experimenting and sharing creations.   Spreading the icing reminds me of pushing paint around the canvas, the way it smells and mixes together, the way it feels. Oil paint is buttery, like thick creamy buttercream icing.

The element of surprise is something I encourage you to do in your art. Play with the paint, let go of a desired outcome.  This approach is more fun and less stressful.  Tyler is the master of going with the flow of life. I learn a lot from him everyday.  He is methodical, patient and kind.

A quiet moment in nature.

A quiet moment in nature.

The painting “Natures Birthday Candles”  reminds me of Tyler.

“Wild” is a magical bear with a great imagination and a quest for adventure. I started painting the bear and watched with patience as the painting came to life. His friends magically show up, they are like the sprinkles on the cake. The elements of surprise that make your day more special, like finding money in a cake or having an old friend show up unexpectedly.  Wild and his friends play with the dandelions, imagining they are birthday candles, blowing and spreading seeds of intent and kindness.  I love the way they play together and support each other.  The dandelions mixed on my palette like they were lollipops or maybe gold coins. Magical. Wild feels it is a perfect day, sitting in a field surrounded by the wealth of friends, sunshine and golden lollipops.

All the details and feeling of softness comes from mixing the paint and getting out of the way of trying to make things perfect. I encourage you to have fun, explore and allow things to unfold naturally like they do in nature.

Not all paintings work out. I sometimes burn the cake, go way overboard, eat too much icing, yell at my children… But in the moment I make sure I am having fun and when I feel the work is complete, I invite my children to see, together we savor the moment and celebrate by eating a piece of homemade cake.

Happy 22nd Birthday Tyler– this painting is for you, honoring the “Wise one” that appreciates nature, family, friends and life. Thank you for being you and for everyday-Living life in the present moment!

Don’t forget to make a wish!

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Make a Wish 20×20 Oil

Love,

Mom

 “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” ~ Dr. Seuss

Living an Open-Ended Life..and wearing good shoes.

The perfect fit“You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.”~Albert Einstein

Do you find it is easy to do work for others- less easy to do your own work?

Are you burnt out and tired from serving others first?

I can totally relate and admit to suffering from, “Put myself last syndrome. “

Deadlines for others, open-ended work for me.

Deadlines make it easy to complete the work for others. I like to get the job done.

However, I notice when it comes to my work, which is creating art, I often struggle, especially if I have no deadline. I put myself last and often find myself tired or running short of time and then having to cook dinner for my kids. Sound familiar?

I am not complaining. I LOVE my job! The open-ended lifestyle of wondering what is just around the corner…

“You never know how a good quest is going to end.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert

This open-ended life-style requires one to sit in open space.

Open space is a place I LOVE.   A place that is necessary for creativity to awaken.

I am very familiar with this blissful spacious state.

However, it is not always a comfortable place to sit.

I often feel the sense of panic, followed by racing thoughts…

Get to Work!…. Your wasting time!…Your spoiled!…

These familiar little gremlins have a way of agitating my spacious mood.

I notice them, invite them in, even jot them down, soon they become a distant memory and I get back to work.  Get out my BEST SHOES!

How to live an open-ended life…

Feel full of possibilities and watch for doors to open.

Make sure you have the proper shoes on so you can walk through the door.

Make sure the shoes are comfy and fit perfectly.

Feel comfortable in your FEET- your FOUNDATION.

When the mind wanders, dial the craziness back into your SOLES- your SOUL.

Draw the energy in and bring it downwards – this feels more grounding.

Stand tall and have good shoes on or even better- bare feet!

Be a column of light and move forward with brightness.

We can even trade shoes.  Red ones are my favorite.

Love and Light,

Michelle

“There is no scarcity of opportunity to make a living at what you love; there’s only scarcity of resolve to make it happen.” ~Wayne Dyer

Endless Vistas

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”
~C.S. Lewis

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Dear Friends,

I just spent a week unplugging and soaking up lots of sunshine and Vitamin D by the pacific ocean in Huatulco, Mexico. I love to visit the ocean. It’s a great time for reflection.
Where the land meets the sky or the ocean meets the sky… it is the place where the sun rises and sets everyday. This place in the middle of the earth and sky I believe we can all relate to. I always feel a real sense of connection and inspiration here. A daily reminder to find peace, joy and love.

I began the painting above before I left on holidays. I am always asked the question “What inspires you?” I believe the answer is connection. In this case, I was inspired by a photo a friend posted on Facebook. I am often inspired by travel, community, pictures I take or from my imagination. I see or feel something and immediately say, “I must paint that!”
I finished this painting today on the last day of 2014.
It is called “Endless Vistas”. To me it represents taking time for reflection, feeling what you feel and connecting Body, Mind and Spirit. Vistas are endless and change everyday. Some are small and fleeting, some are big and last longer, all are important.  They create your life.

Wishing you all Vast Vistas of Peace, Joy and Love in 2015!

With Much Gratitude and love,
Michelle

Are Goblins eating up your Creativity?

the-scream

Without fear and illness, I could never have accomplished all I have.~Edvard Munch

Question:  What keeps me from creating?

Answer: The Goblins.   They are the thoughts that run around and around in my mind causing all kinds of FEAR and DRAMA.

I recognize the demons of anxiety that scream all my faults at me LOUD and CLEAR!

They are not the truth of who I am. This I know for sure.

They just yell really loud… Like annoying music… it grates on your nerves.

The Goblins lure you to play with them. They are masters at persuasion.

I can choose to participate or sit on the sidelines and watch the show.

It is similar to watching a painfully bad movie…worse because it is harder to turn off the big screen in my mind…it is even harder to detach from the reactive emotions that raise my blood pressure and make me short of breath.

The Goblins and I are closely related. We know each other well.

On good days. I choose not to play.  On a bad day, the game is harder to say NO to.

The pressure takes its toll- like any good pressure cooker – this can result in the top blowing off at some poor passer by or worse yet someone you love.

If you can catch it early, just as it starts to boil, you can make a change.

CHANGE YOUR STATE.

Play better music or cool down in an Epson salt bath (throw in some Lavender for extra spice)

Make a better choice.

Choose to stay out of the fire. I prefer to sit on the sidelines and roast marshmallows.

This takes lots of patience.

It is not easy. The Goblins are very quick and efficient.

Invite them in. Get to know them intimately.

Tell them to have a rest and then turn up the good music and go CREATE!

Happy Halloween.

Michelle

PS/ sharing one of my favorite poems http://www.gratefulness.org/poetry/guest_house.htm

Seeing through a different set of glasses

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It’s my Birthday!! So I reflect on my summer, year, and life thus far.

I just returned from holidays with my family and was inspired by many Canadian east coast vistas’. You would think I would be painting Peggy’s Cove or Marine scenes, but I was feeling inspired to have some fun. Perhaps the 3 generations spending time together had more of an effect than a well known overly photographed lighthouse.

I have learned in my wisdom to not fight the creative process.                                                   The painting:   “Looking through a different set of glasses” was created.

As I age I become more aware that things are not always black and white. I do not have all the answers. I am not always right. Even when I truly think I am.

With age, comes the wisdom to see through another’s eyes. To be more aware of what is happening around us and especially within us.

Time is precious, life can be short and all we have is the present moment.  Take the time to inspire someone.  Be grateful for every day, every year, every decade.

Swap glasses. Try the Ray-bans for a day.  Ever notice the style you wore in the 80’s is back again. Should have kept my white ones…they’d be vintage.

Better yet, ditch the dark glasses and try good old fashion eye contact.  Gaze into a loved ones eyes.  If you are really brave I challenge you to gaze into a strangers eyes.

Add a smile.                                                                                                                                                    One rule: NO TALKING. Resist the urge.                                                                                            If it gets too hard, SMILE more. Creates good wrinkles.                                                        WINKING is allowed and encouraged. Fake eyelashes help.

Likely you just made someone’s day!

Encouraging eye contact and creativity everyday.

Thanks for helping me spread the LOVE.                                                                                 Michelle

“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.”― Confucius

 

 

Learn to Dance in the Rain

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My month has been amazing.  Productive, balanced, Magical really…I am so grateful.

So  here I sit with my starbucks coffee, a handful of yogurt raisins and my journal to help me satisfy my unsettled mind.

Yoga was a must today.  Ground and extend, Center and Grow, Get out of the mind and into the body, Process and eliminate the nonsense.  It has been an amazing month.

I ask myself, “What is my problem?”  Maybe it is “To good to be True”  says the Voice.  I conteract that thought quickly with the affirmation- “I have showed up consistently and the efforts are paying off.”   Be Happy.

The Voice is loud and annoying.  The cycle of self-doubt-a very familiar voice.

Today is different,  a shift has occurred.    The self nourishing voice is speaking a little stronger.  I am recognizing the Ebb and Flow of the Process of Creation.  The question remains, “How can I stay in the Flow?”  I am worried that the waterfall is around the corner and soon I will be at the bottom.  What I have come to realize is the Ebb is the time for rest.  The time to rejuvenate.  The time to paint, have fun and create.  The Ebb/Flow is the natural rhythm of my work.  In Art and in life.

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I recognize I need the whole cycle.  It is not about being unrealistic and happy all the time.  It is about the abilitly to recognize where I am in the cycle.  When the Ebb occurs, can I put my anxieties into action and show up to what is NOW.  My life.  The good, the bad, the happy, the sad.  I will admit the Ebb is not as easy to take as the Flow, but I am so grateful for the ability to FEEL.  I am aware that the Ebb is temporary and necessary for collecting my energy for the next flow to be even Bigger, Higher, Faster, full of Abundance and Creativity.

Bet the next waterfall will be Beautiful and I will be standing at the base looking up FEELING JOYFUL, with a smile on my face.

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Namaste,

Michelle