(Ha! I know that's a total click-bait headline, but it's just a little bit funny, isn't it? But really, keep reading, this is Useful Stuff.)
You can reach enlightenment quite easily.
Notice this is "enlightenment" with a lowercase "e." This is not a spiritual insight.
It's just a method for feeling a little bit better, without much effort. It's "enlightenment" in the sense that it lightens your load. And the more often you do it, the better you will feel. It will literally make you healthier and happier.
The cool thing about this method is that it's just simple physical action: belly breathing.
First I'll explain how, for those in a hurry; then I'll explain why, in case you're curious.
The 3 Easy Steps
1: If possible, find a peaceful place to sit or lie down. Get comfortable.
2: Place your hands palm down on your lower belly, just below your navel. Focus on your breathing. No need to change it. Just listen to it, feel it, and notice how far down in your body it seems to go.
3: Imagine a balloon in your belly, under your hands. Try to inflate the balloon each time you inhale, and deflate it each time you exhale. Breathe through your nose if possible (but it's okay to breathe through your mouth instead).
Keep inflating and deflating the balloon for five minutes, or longer. It might feel strange at first, but keep in mind that this is the natural, unstressed way to breathe.
Babies and animals breathe this way.
How It Works
With belly breathing, your stomach expands and contracts, rather than your chest, which brings oxygen down to the lower part of the lungs, where there is a rich blood supply. It causes your body to relax within a few minutes.
I learned about this technique in a book which my thoughtful husband bought for me recently: Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome by Dr. James L. Wilson. (This is not a paid recommendation. I just like the book.)
This is a book for people with severe fatigue problems. (I have those!) It has a wealth of scientific information explained in layman's terms. The author, Dr. Wilson, explains that a key to regaining health is relaxation. Not just resting, sleeping, or having fun, but specifically eliciting the relaxation response.
The relaxation response is a physiological change that takes place during meditation. It slows down your breathing, heart rate and oxygen consumption. Your muscles relax, your brain generates slower alpha waves, and your blood pressure may lower.
Belly breathing reliably produces the relaxation response. It's healing. Give it a try.
P.S. Advanced Techniques
Dr. Wilson recommends a few advanced techniques once you get the hang of belly breathing:
...and several others. If you're feeling very stressed out, and have been for a long time, and it's starting to affect your health, I highly recommend Dr. Wilson's book.
Good luck with the belly breathing, and God bless!
Man, for some reason this gives me memories of TV shows before my time, all those hip jazzy opening credits from the Swinging Sixties and Seventies. And for the life of me, I can't find the right vintage image to back that feeling up. But can't you just hear a smooth bass line and some horns?
I imagine this painting with a soundtrack like the one in "I Spy." (Click to watch in a new window.)
Jazzy, right? Or maybe that's just me.
Anyway, I loved this one from the start. I sometimes think my calligraphy can be a little labored (like the one below it, which was a total reject...) but this one was juuust right.
The calligraphy was so simple and classic that I knew I had to back it up with a classic pattern. I didn't want to get too fussy!
I remembered some shibori techniques I'd seen which make a plain dark circle. Sounds easy, but shibori is really tricky, and simplicity is something only the masters can pull off.
Even in the watercolor, I let it get a little sloppy. I could have cleaned it up, but I liked the casual effect.
Hey, speaking of Shibori and Vintage Hipness, look what caught my eye when I was watching reruns of "Goldfinger" the other day.
Holy smokes, is that a Bond Girl in a shibori bikini? Yes, it is!
It's Margaret Nolan, looking fantastic and much less sunburned than I would be after an afternoon at a Miami resort. Incidentally, Bond is about to swat her on the bum and send her on her way so that the men can talk about spy business. My oh my, how movies have changed.
(Also, dig that chest hair. Different times, different times...)
But we are in a newer, better era, where real men wax their chests and lady spies kick butt. And this picture is perfect to suggest that you, too, might be a secret agent just waiting for the right martini. Shaken, not stirred.
Oops, wrong button, that toggles the ejector seat. Here's the one you want:
(I break all the marketing rules. Don't tell anyone but I'm not in it for the money, honey. This is a labor of LOVE.)
I had a thought at about 3:00 this morning which might help you if you are trying to find your one true love.
It's been a long month over here at Castle Teel. Nothing unusually tragic, just a lot of stress from our "real job" at our handyman business, complicated by the usual stuff. This month has been the first time in a long time that we've both just wanted to give up, except that there's nothing to give up on, no easy escape.
We've got a really good marriage. Which helps. Which is a lifesaver.
And that got me to thinking about the idea of a "happy marriage," which is a totally misleading term. There's no such thing as a 'happy marriage.'"
True love does not mean having an easy life and living "happily ever after" like in the fairy tales. You'll still have bad days.
Sometimes the days will be bad because you will still be two individual souls with your own thoughts and feelings, with your own goals and desires, with your own individual ways of communicating.
But at other times, the bad days will come simply because life can be incredibly hard.
I have been fortunate to know several couples with very happy marriages, and although their love brings them joy, it does not bring them an end to suffering. They still experience tragedy and heartbreak just like everyone else.
I've seen couples weather addiction, deployment, the loss of a child, poverty... on and on.
So why get married? Why take all that risk of heartbreak, if your life will still be painful and difficult?
Because some day, if you are very very lucky, you will have a true friend who is with you every step of the way. A friend who does not desert you in times of suffering, but walks beside you, picks up your burden, and helps you carry it a little bit further.
Which is all a way of saying, Thank you, Arthur. I still love you more and more each day.
Oh, I'm such a romantic at heart, so I just adore this painting.
It started out like this:
(Forgive my bad photography, but sometimes when I'm painting, I'm so into what I'm doing that I'm lucky just to get a terrible snapshot.)
For some reason those romantic leaves reminded me of this famous album of lithographs by Maurice Denis, which is called simply "amour." He made them in 1899. I particularly love the blue cover.
Now that I see them together with my picture, they don't have any resemblance at all! I think I just had a similar mood in mind. And so with the letters drawn, I pondered what technique I could use to add a soft blue background. (I was thinking of the white spots of the roses in the "amour" print.)
I remembered a technique which I've read about, but never tried: drops of rubbing alcohol to repel the paint in places.
What an effect! I liked it so much, I made it into a bag and a phone case!
And of course, you know the painting is named after the famous line from my Hollywood boyfriend...
(Oh Bogie! Do the soulful eyebrow thing. Yeah. That's what I'm talkin about.)
This picture really does remind me of the movie Casablanca and all the rain in the characters' memories. I just want to gaze through the window, smoke a cigarette and brood about Paris. You know what I mean. Here's lookin' at you, kid.
It's time for a new political party in America: a party that eschews all political policies. And I don't just mean that we should drop out of the national discourse. I think it's time to stand up and defend the increasingly radical idea of political moderation.
With that in mind, I propose the following
The Radical Moderate Platform
If you want something done right, you've got to do it yourself.
I preach to myself more than anyone else. Let's get this party started!
I was looking at this painting and wondering what to call it, and it seemed to me that it sort of floats tentatively in the air like a mist. It almost seems like it's not really there. And that reminded me of the way a soft whisper makes you question whether you really heard it.
The five-petaled rose is like a cherry blossom, which seems fitting since this series is inspired by Japanese crafts. The cherry blossom or sakura is a common symbol in Japanese art. Here is its meaning as explained by TV Tropes:
Cherry trees bloom en masse in early spring, usually in the month of April, but the white-to-coral petals shed and rot very quickly and the peak bloom is only a week or two. There is a celebration called hanami associated with the peak bloom, which often entails picnics and drinking with old friends under the cherry trees.
Well, that just about fits the mood of this painting, doesn't it? Romantic, yet fleeting...
So maybe you're wondering how I got this look. I mean, I didn't paint all of these little dots by hand!
I had a secret weapon at my disposal: my handyman husband gave me some of this special mesh tape for finishing drywall. It made a glorious stencil.
See if you can find the paintbrushes palette notebooks martha stewart magazine actual art (which only gets a corner of the desk) ink water painter's tape empty bottle pencil sharpener greeting card with a bunny rabbit knitting needles felt flower ball of yarn bolt-nuts pen nibs makeup (because this is also my dressing table) irrigation syringe (so handy for watercolor) seed packet tubs of paint pens compass ......
Clearly I need to declutter or something. Unlike this perfect room, which is the sort of place I imagine for this painting ...
Really serene art is so comforting, isn't it?
If you read my last post, you know I had a grim week, but this morning I woke up feeling great, and not to brag or anything, but I got nine hours of sleep! So I am back in the saddle again and ready to share some beautiful art!!
This one is really elegant, for once. I don't usually think of my stuff as elegant. Other adjectives usually spring to mind, like happy twee joyful wow is she on drugs?
(No, she isn't, for the most part, in case you were wondering, unless you count herbal tinctures. Because who needs drugs when you have art?)
But I digress.
This painting is based on arashi shibori, which is a style of shibori that's done by bunching or tying fabric around a pole, then dying it in indigo dye. If you really want to know how it's done, check out this excellent video by Ana Lisa Hedstrom. (Opens in new window.)
The technique results in long, beautiful watery blue lines. In the Japanese tradition, it's often done at an angle to suggest driving rain, but in my piece, the vertical lines are more like rain running down a window pane.
This piece looked good right from the beginning, and the wavy lines were so beautiful that I could have stopped halfway. But I didn't.
Since I'm feeling more cheerful, I didn't want to name this one after rain, and the blue stripes reminded me of ribbons, which reminded me of presents, which reminds me that love is a gift that we give to the people around us, and which we receive in return.