"Now as I grow older, I feel like a person. Not male, not female, but human" - Natalie Lete
"If you do not expect it, you will not find the unexpected, for it is hard to find and difficult" - Heraclitus
I so like these quotes and relate to! :) The other day, I was finishing a painting ... preparing it for an exhibition I will take part in starting with April 19th, at the Hop Gallery in Lewes. While finishing it I suddenly realized that having gone through such a traumatic revolution in 1989 when the Romanian people went against a terribly oppressive regime and won, some of us .. will carry the sparkle of resilience, spirit of freedom and revolution in our hearts forever. It manifests in the way we are prepared to be take risks in our lives, in the way we are prepared not to be humiliated and belittled without a reason, in the way we are prepared to stand up for our beliefs and be accounted for our actions, in the way we are prepared to witness hypocrisy and challenge it..........
I have realized how lucky I am to have been born in Romania, in extremely traumatic times, to have had unique challenges and opportunities and grab them with both my hands. (love Joni Mitchell's powerful song ... Both sides now ... somehow .... i can relate to the stories in her songs)
What I have also learned and realized is that ..... passion and authenticity is more important then perfection.
If you are human you are definitely prone to mood changes ..... highs and lows ... it's the way life works. How you deal with such moments is very much connected to what you saw in your family, how they dealt with challenging situations, with stress. Of course you add your personal touch :) but ... a lot it is learned behaviour.
When we hit rock bottom and our old "how to deal with stress" techniques don't seem to work anymore, we start to look for alternative ...........ways to cope when life gets tough.
I'm sure you :
- talk to a friend
- write in a journal
- go for a drink and maybe more
- go shopping
- shout .....
What I'm proposing today is ... to "wash away the blues" with a brush and a few paints.
So, let's suppose you've had a hard day, a day with things really seem dark and gloomy. Pick up a glass of red wine ... or maybe white ... or maybe a cup of tea ... or two, a piece of paper (it can be white or it can be one of those old paintings you are fed up with), a tube of black paint and maybe dark blue as well, a few juicy pens ... and .... that's about it ..... you can start .... the process of washing away your dark feelings ...
Step one - take an old painting you don't need anymore (see my image above) or a piece of paper .. size is not important but not smaller than an A4 size
Step 2 - take a juicy pen and start writing down your emotions, the ones you want to let go off and just scribble ... in big, big letter, turning the page upside down many times.
Step 3 - time to use your brush and the black paint .. and cover the whole page with black ...
Step 4 - fold the paper (see images above) and paint the white side and fold again ... and paint the white side again ... keep folding and painting until you end up with a tiny piece of folded paper .......... all black and dark and small now ... now ... you have a few options :
1. burn it
2. chuck it away in the bin
3. wrap the paper around a stone and throw it away in a river, sea ....
A few years ago I came across Doctor Masaru Emoto's book called "Messages from Water". I have to admit I was really attracted by his amazing theory that human consciousness has an effect on the molecular structure of water.
While reading his book I remembered a few things that really made me accept and embrace his theory ...
1. My grandmother was a very simple woman, living in a tiny village, working the land just like her ancestors did for generations. One of the things that she used to say when people were praising her cooking was that food is not the main thing- but the way your mind is while cooking, your thoughts are the main ingredient. As she said ... when you cook with love your food will taste delicious and will be nutritious.
2. In the Christian Orthodox tradition, there are various days when water is blessed by the priests in big wooden barrels and people queue for hours and hours to get some and bring home. It is then used to drink a little bit in the morning, it is given to the people who are ill, it is given to the children ...... it is one of those habits that one accepts without much questioning, a sort of superstition.
What Dr Emoto did for me was to actually attach a scientific explanation to something that religion was asking us to believe blindly.
I encourage you to read at least one of his books and see for yourself. The photos are incredible. "Seeing" the impact that the words have on the drops of water is incredibly shocking. The truth is .... what do we have to loose if we start speaking kindly to the water we drink, the water we come in contact with (be it in the sea or the one we use to bathe or cook with)?
One last thing .... . in positive psychology one is very much advised to create our own positive mantra and to repeat it during the day, write it in front of us, be gentle with ourselves, think positive thoughts.
.......given that up to 60% of the human body is water, the brain is composed of 70% water, our blood is about 83% water ... and knowing what Dr Masaru discovered ......isn't it worth it surrounding ourselves, the people around us, nature with kind and loving words?
Very little is known about the Communist Romania in the Western world, other than the street children, poverty, orphanages ... and not much else ... usually bad news, drama is what sells newspapers. Not much is known about what people thought in those times, the way people survived emotionally, physically, spiritually. There is plenty to understand, plenty to write about....
Today, I would like to talk a bit about a well known painter of Romanian origin, Alexandra Nechita. When she was only 9 years old she was already called "Little Picasso". Art critics were intrigued by her style of painting, debating whether this was just a moment in time..... and being curious about how this talented girl would change in the next 10, 20 .....years.
She is now in her 20's and let me tell you ... she went from strength to strength.
What impressed me most of all in her life is the way Alexandra was raised ...... but let's take a few steps back in time now ....
..............in the Romania of 1980's, where two young people (Alexandra's parents) dared to dream about a life of choices, dared to yearn for a better life, a life offering them the opportunity to discover who they were. For a Westerner such words are quite normal and people move to the next subject. As a Romanian, I can tell you this was very far from normality .... this meant that those people had a dream in a society where life was lived under quite predictable parameters with no major surprises (you are born, went to school, studied, took exams, went to college, took exams, studied even more, went to university, took even more exams, had a boring, predictable 9 to 5 job, queued for food, and so on ... )
Instead, Alexandra's parents fought for their dream and achieved it. (you will hear all about it in the youtube movies below - quite inspiring let me tell you)
In Communist Romania, my parents' generation's wings were clipped, the system crushed them and created obedient, fearful individuals, ready to carry on the Governmental program of creating a new generation of brainwashed, fearful individuals. So what did they do? Crushed their own children's personalities, demanding them to conform to rules, preparing them for a soulless and "proper" living under the rule of "A bended head will never be cut", a life of subservience.
In life, everything starts with one's own attitude to the challenges that one faces ........ it starts with a belief that through hard work, perseverence, determination one can achieve ones dreams. For me, these values seem fundamental to Alexandra's success. Yes, she is incredibly talented but without having a nurturing, supportive, positive family behind her, ready to stand up in support of her desire for self expression through art, things would have been very different.
So, the lesson of Alexandra's life is to remember how important it is to teach your children to believe in themselves, how important it is to nurture their creativity. Why? Because creativity means letting go of rules, setting aside the past, giving hope and happiness a chance, means making friends with compassion, empathy and passion.
A few hours ago I had the pleasure of watching a masterclass with Lang Lang an exceptional American pianist of Chinese origin. The connection I felt with him was not only because of his musical mastery, common sense, but also because of his upbringing. When he mentioned the number of hours of studies, his parent's attitude towards education and their personal sacrifices I said yes .. this is something that I understand, this is something that sounds so familiar, this is my NORMALITY. Discipline, hours after hours of studies, a grown up attitude towards life and a thirst for more knowledge ...
When one lives in a society with completely different attitudes towards education for example, one feels completely alienated. When one lives in a society where a lot of children don't give a damn about the notion of studying, when hard work is an alien concept, when young people grow up in a environment where only material needs are being catered for, when the only books that a 12 years one reads are about pop stars or footballers there is something seriously wrong somewhere.
Yes I lived in a Communist country with many, many restrictions and difficulties but the silver lining in all of this for me and many children of my generation was education, studying, reading. From a very early age we were encouraged to read ...... the classics ... Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Bronte sisters, Guy de Maupassant, George Sand and so on. At 10-12 it was perfectly normal to be well on your way in devouring these books. Probably the best memories of my childhood are related to the books and the authors that became my imaginary friends.
So, when Lang Lang was talking about his upbringing I could resonate with him ......i was on the same page with him ... .. just as I can resonate with my Romanian friends. For us, the word education means the same thing, we sing from the same sheet, we have a deep, very deep respect for the act of learning and studying, very much unlike what I find around me these days. Here, in this world, in time, one learns to observe, nod and move on ... why? Because ... there is no dialogue!
One of the musical pieces he performed was composed by Chopin .........and somehow George Sand came to my mind, her beautiful novels, her intense love story with Chopin, her non conformity and amazing storytelling talent. And suddenly I felt the need to re-read especially "Mauprat" and "The story of my life". Oh but it is not easy at all as it looks like her books haven't been published here for more than 20 years. How sad to see that George Sand's name will be completely forgotten in the years to come. It could very well be that in other countries it is still possible to buy her books so my darlings do look her up, buy her books and read them in this cold winter days, sipping some red wine, and listening to Chopin's mesmerizing music.
Gene Fowler said that "Writing is easy: all you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead". Of course it is a metaphor!
For some, cooking is a duty and usually duty extracts the enjoyment out of everything. At least this is what I believe. I grew up in a family where everything was cooked from scratch but this was not unusual .. this was the normality in my country. As normal as going to the market and selecting our own fresh vegetables and fruits. Because of that of course we used to eat seasonal products.
I remember bananas and oranges being the equivalent of winter - in my mind - and I cannot tell you how lovely orange peel smells on a cold winter day when the ground is covered with snow. It's magical.
When I came to England I was shocked to experience the ABSENCE of the real markets, real farmers selling the products and most of all the ... absence of TASTE. Lovely products, great - but useless - packaging and ... almost zero taste.
Anyway, my curious nature always takes me to interesting places and I've learned to adapt and make the best of what we have.
From time to time I feel the need to start something new, read something new, be inspired .... again. Magazines are a great source of inspiration if one doesn't have cookery books and there are always interesting recipes that I like to try.
Today, I wanted to try a recipe from a book called "Ani's raw food kitchen" by Ani Phyo. I quite like the result and of course I love that the recipe is quite flexible and one can use one's own creativity and add new ingredients. This is why for me, cooking is like abstract painting. Somehow ... there are no rules.
So, if you like hummus I think that you will also like the Almond pate.
Here are the ingredients:
1 cup powder almonds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 water (be flexible you can add more if you want)
Put almonds, sunflower seeds, salt and turmeric and water in a food processor and process into a powder.
This is the basic recipe .. you can add some sun dried tomatoes or lemon ( i would add it to the basic recipe anyway) or chilly flakes, pepper, onions, cooked mushrooms and so on.
The article below was written for Hali Karla and her audience at the end of 2012. Today I felt the need to re-publish it ... I like to listen to my intuition so .. here it is!
“We’re not mad,
we know what we want.
Live life as if it is a dream...
a dream which never ends but is lost in time;
....and keep on searching”. - Ketama
I’m looking at my hands ...... the hands of an artist? a healer maybe? I can see some paint on my left thumb, a residue of my personal and private “let it all go” session yesterday and this tells all - these days I probably identify myself more with the notion of being an artist than anything else. A healer? Who knows? I do believe that colors heal in their own rhythm, in their own time and that earthy shapes resonate with our genes, the origin of our species.... but let’s stop and turn the clock back .... nine years in fact ......
.... I was living in Romania, my country of birth.
My life at the time was dominated by my father’s terminal illness and later his death, a cruel fight which stripped his suffering soul of all dignity - a fight with a Romanian medical system where compassion and caring had long been forgotten by nurses and doctors whose own souls had been driven to a state of emptiness by a harsh regime, where peeling, whitewashed wards and ancient iron beds felt abandoned to a grey nothingness, and an overwhelming air of defeat took one from the moment of that first hesitating step across the threshold into the cold atmosphere of the hospital. On one such day, my British fiancee arrived from England with a parcel - in it, out of nowhere - a “painting by numbers” kit.
Let’s be clear .... I’ve always enjoyed going to exhibitions and reading about art (The story of art by Gombrich is still one of the most exciting books I’ve ever came across), and I was always in awe of artists and their talents but this was about it.
In Romania one was never encouraged to express oneself creatively... this was reserve of the very special ones who were born with this talent and who ultimately went to the architecture university or to the art school. Art was deemed by the system to be a waste of time, not a serious thing to do.... while being an engineer, a doctor, an economist ... well ... that would be more like it! That’s a proper career!
But for whatever reason, nine years ago art arrived into my life by parcel. I am clear now that it was meant to be, that somehow painting was a last gift to me by my father. What kept me calm then, red in box A7, green in F31, was a seed that helped me to grow after I came to England eight years ago.
Since then art has been my constant companion through the ups and downs of forging a new life in a new country, it has opened the door to my local community and it has helped me connect with lovely, lovely people from around the world and so much more.
Years ago I had no idea why I felt so good when I was painting .... what I knew was that the hours just flew by and through my paints and brushes I was able to step inside a world where my reality could be left outside the door, where my painful past did not exist and so I was peaceful ...... with my music in the background, a warm room, always coffee next to me ..... and four hours later I would return to the here and now, refreshed and calm.
Years later while studying to become a psychotherapist and hypnotherapist I came across the notion, the theory of “being in the flow”, in a self-induced-trance, and the immense benefit these states of mind have on the human psyche. In reality I was living it way before I was able to put a label on it.
What kept me going hour after hour into the small hours of the morning was also my curiosity. Painting by numbers came at a time when I just wanted to explore again - and so discovered painting books, art magazines, art on the web ....and started to try to replicate some of the things I saw ... first on postcard size boards using watercolors, then becoming more adventurous with oils and eventually falling in love with acrylic paints, chalk pastels, oil pastels, inks, charcoal and the myriad of materials that fall under the mixed media umbrella.
What I discovered also was that I felt the need to share my discoveries with as many people as possible and in no time
I found myself hosting Wednesday morning “let’s paint together” circles with people I had met while volunteering for local cancer research and mental health charities. Our little group became more than just painting together... it also became about sharing our difficulties in life, about giggling about the good times, about the joy of eclectic cooking, the flavors, the eastern aromas and munching together, about sharing our life stories, about just enjoying the company of each other. It was actually a healing through art group but at the time I did not see it as this. My group went on for a year, attracting more soul mates, until I moved to a new town. I still miss that warmth around that dining table.
Another great gift that came from experimenting with art was the wholly unexpected web of distant art communities where I really feel that I belong, where I can be inspired and maybe inspire others, where I am often reminded that generosity of spirit is something that crosses language barriers, country borders, nationalities and age, where I find strength, a place which is an oasis of love, of new experiences and joy.
Another thing I’ve learned from being an artist is to wave good bye to the perfectionist within me........ go and visit somebody else please. This was and still is one of the best gifts that art has given me ......besides the healing platform. Why? Because being Romanian and being raised under the umbrella of “you are not good enough! try harder! more studies! better paid jobs! don’t stop! there is no time for play and fun” I now find that I’m learning all over again, giving myself permission to paint for pleasure and not for result, to play and not take myself too seriously, to enjoy and to smile more, to listen to my soul and to my intuition.
It always makes me smile when I remember that only two years ago I took part in my first exhibition, organized by a local charity, and sold two out of my three paintings on show. The joy of seeing a red dot on my two paintings is one of my most cherished memories......
Imagine it, two people decided that they want to spend their money on something I had created.... me a novice, me a beginner, somebody who used to play down my passion for painting when I was talking to “real” painters.
Since then, my confidence has grown, more exhibitions have come along, and more paintings have been sold .... and I even hold painting from the soul events from time to time where I encourage my new friends to listen to their inner voice and to paint from their inner space. I encourage them to forget about a house is a house and a dog is a dog .... I ask them to paint the energy of the house, the voice of the dog ..........
So girls ........... I’m like each and every one of you on a great journey. What I know is that my journey would be way emptier, way sadder, way lonelier if not for the gift of art, the gift of color, the gift of sisterhood that I have with so many like minded souls. I’m just lucky to be in touch with you.
I cannot but smile a bit now when I remember that in Romania, in my family, new year's resolutions were a no no. Planning trivial activities for the next day or the weekend were out of the question as well. Why? Because of a belief! A limiting belief that said that if one plans for something to happen ... it will never do! A superstition I would say! When I look back I can see that this belief robbed the member so my family of quite a lot of potential joy and satisfaction .... it robbed them of LIFE.
On the other hand, the Western world is all about new year's resolutions. Judging by how much you hear about this on radio and TV you would say that it is a whole nation full of determined and ambitious people, all working hard towards towards their goals :)
Knowing what I know I believe that dreaming big, aiming high is a fantastic motivator!
So my darlings now as you are preparing yet another vision board, be it through words, images or both do a bit more than just setting your list of goals. Start first by preparing a success board with all of your achievements of 2012. There's nothing more powerful than your self confidence and the success board is a great stepping stone, a great way of setting yourself in a great frame of mind.
Music is always a great companion when it comes to creative activities including goal setting so play something that you really like. Be adventurous........why not try Vivaldi's "The four seasons" or Bach "Air in D".
Or, get your own music going, grab a cup of tea and start dreaming about all of the exciting things you are going to do this year! And remember to think about a few in between mini goals leading you where you want. Small steps, small successes keep you going!
The revolution in Romania in December 1989 led to major changes in my country - in theory, and in theory for all of us. When you are in the middle of a transformation as big as the the change from 50 years of communism and isolationism to full-on market capitalism you would expect things for everyone to change overnight - but in practice real changes were incremental, cumulative and happening much faster for some than for others.
And for many of those for whom December 1989 opened immediate opportunities to throw away the shackles of the past even they did not always see the real impact it was having on their lives. You just carried on living for today, but living at a much faster pace.
For some, change meant just more products on the prettier shelves, easier, more comfortable trips abroad on newer planes, more TV broadcasting of programmes that made us laugh or inspired our new curiosity, it meant the freedom to criticise (carefully), the freedom to display your new wealth, for others, particularly the older members of our society, the freedom to become even poorer.... and so on.
For the younger generation the opportunities opening up in front of their eyes over the months and years meant new careers working for foreigners or new owners of old businesses, or trading for themselves across our new open frontiers - some left the country for good, something that was not permitted before for most of us.... they all embraced change.
Others, even some of the young, stayed doing much as before ... they went to the same job (by newer, cleaner bus), did the same thing before and after...... and started to fear about losing their job as old activities disappeared or were taken over. The ingrained attitude that nothing can be done to improve my life, ingrained over grey decades of sameness, was I am where I am, I need to keep my head down and things will be OK........with OK meaning the safety of no changes, respecting old Communist rules and ideals in a completely new environment ......and yet feeling increasingly alienated, lonelier, getting more and more frustrated that life around them was getting "louder", that others, not them were enjoying the new world and the opportunities created by it!
One can embrace change anytime! I strongly believe that. But is that just a person who has done so speaking?
I've been painting for almost 9 years now, much to my mother's ridicule. Although she was able, occasionally, to see the joy it gave me, her logical brain saw this as a useless waste of time, even a stupid activity given the need to adhere to the old ways. The paints and brushes and books I sent her in an attempt to encourage her to join my journey was met with heated rejection. Intense negative reactions came with the fear of embracing change.
It took my mother, alone in her flat in Bucharest, a few good years to join the world of self expression through paints ... but much to my joy she now paints from time to time .....and I was over the moon to receive a Christmas present two days ago, including two of her new paintings (the photo is below).
What has happened? She gave herself limited permission to embrace change! And guess what ... she realised that ... embracing change is not bad at all!