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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Beneath a Coat of Snow

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“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”   ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

I am officially calling a sick day. My head is full of cold and my feet feel like they are full of cement.

As I sit on my couch in my fuzzy red comfortable robe at 2pm, I am watching the snow fall gently onto the earth. I am not feeling at all guilty to be taking a sick day. There is a lightness in the air, objects are slightly blurry and the colors I see are mostly soft and covered in white snow. It is quiet and I am grateful to have a day of rest and reflection.

Almost a year ago, I planned a trip to Virginia to see my cousin and her family. The trip was perfectly planned around the famous Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC.   I packed my sketchbook and paints and was set out to have an art adventure, to be inspired by new sites, especially of the beautiful spring cherry blossoms that I have heard so much about.   I LOVE to travel-it is eye-candy for the senses. There is also the unexpected. Many times things do not go as planned yet when you learn to embrace the present moment, they can still go perfectly as intended…   Don’t fight the process.

On my first day in Virginia, I awoke to a similar scene as I am looking at today. Snow was gently falling and there was a chill in the air.

My cousin, Alexis and I are 7 years apart and really had only met each other less than a dozen times in our life. Yet, I felt like I was home, we shared the same grandmother, pictures in her home and stories we shared were familiar to me. We also both loved going for coffee and eating similar things. It was easy and fun to be with her.

She was a gracious host and showed me all the sites.

Despite the cold, cool temperatures we bundled up and headed out to see the memorials in Washington, DC. It was apparent that I needed a history lesson (or to watch more TV) when I pointed to a large pencil like structure and asked “What is that?” With huge eyes and a sly smile she replied “The Washington Monument.”

And so began my tour…

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Disclaimer: Just to make me feel better – I did recognize the White House immediately. I am also happy to say I can name all the memorials now when I see them in the movies. The bonus of travel for a visual person is education.  Did I mention that I am Canadian?

National World War II Memorial

National World War II Memorial

Korean Monument

Korean Monument 

Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool

Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool

We made our way through the memorials one by one. Alexis was being an amazing tour guide. Explaining to me that the Korean memorial was her favorite. as it touched her and her family. They really are amazing to see in person. There was a shallow pool approximately 2 ft deep surrounded by granite with engraving that said how many soldiers were killed, captured, missing or wounded. I was looking all around taking pictures, feeling somber and reflective, when the energy changed.

I hear someone shouting- Lady in the pool!! I take a deep breath, turned around to see that my dear cousin had taken one wrong step backwards and over she went, catching her foot in granite that actually said “wounded.” Weird coincidence? Hmm, not sure. The world seemed to stop for a moment. As I pulled her out of the pool , others were most concerned about the fact that her brand new I-phone was laying peacefully face down on the bottom of the pool. “The phone!” strangers screamed. I looked at the pretty salmon colored case face down in the pool and thought, “I need a stick”. I look up and a woman is waving her cane. We make eye contact – A little miracle- an angel sent her- I am sure. I borrowed the cane and pulled the phone close enough for a kind boy with long arms to reach in and retrieve her phone, complete with instructions on what to do to recover the phone.   The concern for the phone was a little alarming actually…I was more concerned about my cousin.

I look over at her, she is dripping wet, shivering and totally in shock. We walk over to sit down and reassess the situation.   Breathe….

We broke out into laughter. I had learned in yoga, The vibration of laughing and crying is almost the same, the release of energy in the body is what is important. We chose laughter.

Did that just happen? Was that for real? Was that a bad dream? Gut rolling laughter was what emerged right before survival skills kicked in.  A cab ride, extra layers of clothes, a cold pack, motrin and a few bloody mary’s later. We had reflected, laughed and ended up with a free desert at the restaurant in honor of the Best story of the Day. She was my hero that day.

She's a Trooper- Arlington Cementary- We are Alive and Moving- crutches and all!

She’s a Trooper- Arlington Cementary- We are Alive and Moving- crutches and all!

The next day while icing her elevated ankle , we wondered, “What was the purpose of that? “

Maybe we needed some comic relief in our somber moment? Not sure. We both agreed the spirits got a good giggle. (about the present moment awareness, not about her injured ankle.)

Maybe we needed to feel the kindness of others?     Not sure.

Maybe we needed to be here right now!    

That is for sure!

With Lightness and Love and Gratitude for family and travel,

Michelle

The tile under my feet at the Lincoln Memorial. I HAVE A DREAM!

The tile under my feet at the Lincoln Memorial.
I HAVE A DREAM!

Ps/ And for those concerned about the phone- it worked perfectly- Magic!

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

 

 

Unexpected Gifts

“It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.”   ~Laura Ingalls Wilder

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Walking with my Higher Self. 24×48 Oil

 

One Year ago exactly… I went on a road trip to visit my dear friend Mary-Louise in a very small Saskatchewan town called Eastend.

Eastend is a town situated in the Southwest corner of Saskatchewan Canada.

Website clearly stated:

Eastend, Saskatchewan
is located in the middle of nowhere
and miles from the nearest city.

Surely not too hard to find… But when the road is flat, good tunes are playing… memories of good times with my friend are fully present… I manage to miss the right turn.   Minutes then hours start to add up to panic that I am off course.  Where AM I??

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This brings up memories of a road trip, again in Saskatchewan with this same friend.  Talking so much we miss the turn and add 3 hours to a simple 6 hour trip to Saskatoon… that is another story.

I am LOST!  Cell phone reception is low.  I manage to call my friend.  “You went to far,” she informs.    I could be upset with myself, but rather I quickly accept the fact that I was meant to visit Gull Lake.  To my amazement I begin to travel south over a vista of amazing gold covered hills.

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Feel like I have found my gold at the end of a rainbow.  It was double, triple fields of amazing bright yellow gold with sweeping blue skies.  Very similar to a painting I began before the trip called “Walking with my higher self”.  It was like I had to go this way to see this view.  Thanks Universe!

I was so overwhelmed I forgot to take a picture and with my usual “Why did I not stop to take some pictures” … I decided to implant the vision into my memory  bank.  I did proceed to stop later when I couldn’t stand the beauty anymore, but the view you see here is not the jaw dropping spectacular view I saw coming over the hills.

This is INSPIRATION!  Mother Natures perfect visual gift to me.  The best things in life are free.  One year later I am still thinking about this scene.  It gives me warm fuzzy feelings and goosebumps at the same time.  It is a “SAVE IMAGE” memory for sure.

I finally make it to Eastend.  What a little treasure this town in the middle of the Cypress hills turns out to be.  Quiet, quaint, where good friends await.  A place where the town parade is 5 min long and they still toss candy.

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A place where shopping for Art is self serve on Saturdays.

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A place where kindness of strangers unfold and offer you a place to stay while you visit.

A place where dogs are encouraged to visit public places.

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A place where good friends reunite.  As usual my dear friend Mary-Louise has reminded me of embracing the SIMPLE LIFE.

It is her birthday…but turns out that she is MY GIFT!

Happy Birthday to my wonderful friend.

With Love and Gratitude for friendship, getting lost and realizing the simple things in life are always free.

Michelle

Write a Love Letter

What would it feel like to be in a space that you felt totally ACCEPTED, VALIDATED and LOVED.Image

What would it feel like to be able to put yourself in that space, where you take time to LOVE yourself,  ACCEPT  yourself and JUST BE yourself.

Picture yourself in a place of pure acceptance.  Breathe in Possibility, Breathe out excuses.

Hmmm… sounds good…But…”How do I get there?”   So glad you asked… Please step into my office.   I invite you to PLAY!  The kids will lead the way.

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The crayons, markers, paint, brushes, paper, canvases are the tools we will be using.  Super SWEET and very low calorie Candy for an artist. 

Supply list: 

8” square of black paper

8-12 pencil crayons (Prismacolor work best)  1 white- the rest a rainbow of color.  

CD

Instructions:

Trace a circle using the CD with the white pencil on the square. Then play the CD or music of your choice- Caution** if using a playlist on cell phone – block any distractions- even the zen ringer-turn off.   Light a candle and/or make a cup of tea.

Breathe in, Breathe out.

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This circle represents a creative free space that is not judged.  You can do whatever you want to in this space.  Play with lines and color, shade, dots, and circles. Rotate the drawing in any direction to discover interesting compositions.  Whatever your heart desires.  There is no right or wrong, no grades are given out (you already get an A+) 

Let go, Let go, Let go… 

Choose Love over fear.  Fun over Frustration.  Acceptance over Expectations.

Breathe in, Breathe out.

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Pick up White pencil and start at the center of the circle.  Enter your playground,  spend as much time here as you wish.  Add color if and when you intuitively feel like it, explore freely.  No need for an eraser, as there are no mistakes, only happy accidents.   Write yourself a Love Letter,    Play in your sandbox for as long as you like.  Create until you feel complete.

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Breathe in, Breathe out.

Take the time to look at what you created, write any thoughts on back or front of paper.

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Save it, Burn it, Frame it or put it under your pillow.  Maybe mist it with a favorite scent.  I recommend Lavender.

Repeat often.

Happy Valentines Day!  

In Creative Spirit,

Michelle

“ Art is always a mirror- It always speaks not just about what is out there, in the subject; it also speaks about what’s in here, in the artist.” —Jean Carbonetti