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Archive for August, 2010

c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is immovable.

Today my post will be short and sweet… especially for my wise and gentle, long-distance friend, Roberto, who tries hard to understand my ramblings using the less-than-adequate Google Translater…

Fear is the ultimate immovable object. But—voilá!—when embraced with compassion, fear changes into something understandable…and then it moves all by itself. “Fear is only as deep as the mind allows.” (Japanese proverb)

More quotes on the subject of Fear can be found here.

“Demons to Tea”  (oil)

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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is atmosphere.

An unknown author once wrote, “To be creative, you need a sense of psychological safety. That means that no matter how ridiculous, bizarre or silly you may appear, to yourself or to others, you have accepted your own self-worth.” Most of us will need this same sense of safety to risk showing our real self.

Deciding that the Universe is either hostile or friendly (stated eloquently by Albert Einstein, and quoted in a previous post) is at the ‘root’ of psychological safety. Will we strain endlessly to make people and situations conform to a standard that makes us feel safe (the right atmosphere)… or, having decided that we are already safe, will we just get on with our creating… and our living? If you are like me, it will vary…

Try this simple experiment. Tomorrow morning, decide to believe that, just for this day, the Universe is friendly. Watch what happens. (Don’t be surprised if this approach is harder than you imagined… our hidden beliefs are subtle, but powerful.)

“Muse I” (caption: “I am safe, I am loved.” ) (pencil)

(A post featuring the oil paint version, Muse II, is here.

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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is star gazing.

Clear nights, bright stars… humans have contemplated the heavens since the beginning of time, wondering deeply about their place in the Universe. But there is another kind of star gazing—the one known as ‘watching the famous people…’

Psychologists say that humans are hard-wired to be tribal, and archeologists confirm that mankind’s earliest history was communal. The contemporary person is quite a bit more solitary, but the tribal-ness is still there. It causes us to behave in certain beneficial ways—and also in some less-than beneficial ways. It should come as no surprise that marketing experts have figured out how to capitalize on this basic nature… and most especially, the deep human need to ‘position’ oneself within a group (or tribe, as they were once called), preferably at the top.

We’ll call this need  to self-position, ‘The Better-Than/Less Than game.’ This is a game of comparison… and one of its side-effects is Envy (or envidia, as the Spanish so eloquently name it). With television and Internet, humans can go celebrity stargazing night or day, and our Envy can be triggered by the click of a mouse. We can see what the latest movie star is wearing to the Oscars, where the new basketball star bought a villa, where the rich and famous are congregating… and who is excelling in our chosen realm, while we ourselves are falling behind. It is even possible to feel temporarily better by comparison. Being unavoidably human, we will all play this Better-Than/Less-Than game at some point in our life.

Lucky for us, advertisers are ready with a plethora of solutions and consolations: this season’s fashions, cars, entertainments, and the most alluring of all: food. The list of consolation pleasures is endless, but they never satisfy for long… nor very deeply. Behind the surface encouragement to become our best selves with slogans like, “Just Do It!” and  “Be All That You Can Be!” are the companies profiting from our deep self-esteem and self-direction issues… courtesy of our tribal hard-wiring.

But becoming our best selves is what we are here for. Listening and acting upon the heart’s dreams is one of the major purposes of being alive. In the middle of the night, in the depths of our heart, we know this. But yes, life can be very distracting. We get side-tracked. We have fears. Life goes by. We fall into amusing and distracting ourselves from the pain of a life un-lived with the little games of Better-Than/Less-Than. For a day we may have relative peace because, by comparison, we feel Better-Than… or today we may become depressed and reach for something to sooth our comparative Less-Than, if only temporarily.

But life is going by… can you feel it?

If we are breathing, it is not too late to quit the star gazing habit, to turn inward for direction, and to contemplate this question from the American poet, Mary Oliver, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”


“Jealousy” (watercolor, pen & ink)

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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is caged.

It is the rare morning when the caged monkey in my mind is still. For a transcendant moment, the endless litany of my little woes and worries is nowhere in evidence… and I am free. I hear the birds talking and scratching for their breakfast, notice my body breathing, can remember my dreams… and I am happy to be alive.

Then the door slams shut, mind returns to full activity… and I am on the inside of my mind’s cage, sharing the day with its craziness, seeing life mostly through its eyes.

Days go by. Suddenly, on an ordinary afternoon and for no apparent reason, a space will open once again. The mental litany stills, and I experience a peace which passeth all understanding.” Nothing in my life has changed, but for a short time, I see it all for the joyful miracle that it truly is…

Sometimes these experiences arrive in the middle of the night…  undeniably real, but not explainable. They leave me knowing beyond a doubt that I am not alone, that everything is fine… and that I am loved. Indeed, that we are all loved.

Spiritual teachings say that this state of Being can be learned, called up and lived all of the time. My own experience has been that it comes simply by an unearned grace… like a finicky cat… and that all I can do is cultivate the ground for it to descend into, teaching myself stillness little by little, so that I will not miss the next miraculous-ordinary moment. And yet, even with preparation, I suspect the event happens by grace…

Surely the Irish poet, William Butler Yeats, was describing one of these experiences?

My fiftieth year had come and gone,
I sat, a solitary man,
In a crowded London shop,
An open book and empty cup
On the marble table-top.
While on the shop and street I gazed
My body of a sudden blazed;
And twenty minutes more or less
It seemed, so great my happiness,
That I was blessed and could bless.

“Vacillation,” verse IV from The Winding Stair and Other Poems by William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

“No Rest” (oil on paper) 

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