Underneath the mess everything is marvelous. I’m sure of it.

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“What I want is to open up. I want to know what’s inside me. I want everybody to open up. I’m like an imbecile with a can-opener in his hand, wondering where to begin – to open up the earth. I know that underneath the mess everything is marvelous. I’m sure of it.

I know it because I feel so marvelous myself most of the time. And when I feel that way everybody seems marvelous… everybody and everything… even pebbles and pieces of cardboard… a match stick lying in the gutter… anything… a goat’s beard, if you like. That’s what I want to write about… and then we’re all going to see clearly, see what a staggering, wonderful, beautiful world it is.” -Henry Miller

I have had this quote tucked away in my special cigar box for over 20 years. The cigar box is full of sacred items – old photographs of family, love notes, birth certificates… And this.

Photography is one of my ways in. It’s my superhighway into the marvelous. I see those pink petals against the fog and my heart leaps a little. I look through the viewfinder and get that zing in my belly just before the shutter goes click. Even on the hardest of days, the beauty of the world can pull me back. I can literally see the world through a different lens – one that honors the miraculous. The bright green sprig of life bursting through a crack in the sidewalk, the way the white petals fall like confetti onto the concrete, the impossibly long lashes of my boys.

Underneath the mess everything is marvelous. I’m sure of it.

For many years, gratitude practices eluded me. I didn’t feel grateful. I just felt ashamed… for all that I was blessed with and how sad I still felt.

What I was still able to do however was appreciate beauty. And this saved me. Those glittery beads of dew on the grass, the clouds I found in puddles of water, the inside of a dandelion. They saved me from being swallowed up by grief.

When we can catch glimpses into the marvelous, it is a gift. Be on the lookout today. And if you are in a place where gratitude is hard to access, see if you can find some simple beauty. For me, it was the most powerful kind of medicine.

Day-glo pink, gold + tangerine

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My painting in process

I like drawing, the feeling of the line that pours out of a wet paintbrush, black and inky.

I like day-glo pink against tangerine, with maybe a splash of turquoise, just the right shade.

I don’t like misspelled words.

I like the stars in a black sky in the country and the electric buzz of insects. I like the curve of Nico’s ear and the plumpness of his thighs.

I like extra virgin olive oil eyes and freckles sprinkled like glitter on cheeks.

I like my new pants- soft + squishy like sweats, but still stylish enough for these parts.

I like the magic hour and how the light looks just after a rain. When there are charcoal clouds in the sky and a burst of sunshine spills through. I like the streaks of pink and grey in the sky that hang over Monterey Market at night.

I like listening to (+ singing) that song from Frozen, Human, really loud in the car by myself.

I like being in the car with my boys and pulling up to our house but not turning off the radio- all of us rapt, making a silent agreement that you don’t turn off a good song even if you have arrived at your destination.

I like the ritual of vacuuming the house and setting the chairs out on Thursday mornings before writing class. I like setting out the mugs for tea, burning the sage and saying a special blessing to prepare the space.

I like painting on Wednesday nights with Mati and noticing how girly I’ve become in my art making – flowers, gold doilies, hot pink and polka dots.

I like the way I have softened over the last year, how I am learning to take in the love coming my way; how I am learning, slowly, how to allow more and more love to move through me.

 

You are beautiful.

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This sign sits on the wall next to my bathroom mirror. It’s the first thing I see when I get out of the shower in the morning and as I dry off I read those words- You are beautiful.

Sometimes a voice in me says, “Ha! Yeah, right.” Other times it makes me smile. Some days, I make a practice of trying it on. What if that were true? What about that feels true? 

When I was 9 years old, I remember my gymnastics coach telling my mother that my legs were chunky and that I needed to lose weight. (I was a competitive gymnast and was as strong + athletic as can be)

I remember a close family member calling me thunder thighs, maybe once, maybe more? And I remember the warm wash of shame that flooded my cheeks and the immediate desire to hide my legs. Like, forever. (Which I mostly did)

I remember when my best friend in high school told me about something revolutionary she discovered - If you eat too much, just throw up! and it’s like it never happened. Then she showed me exactly how to do it in the school bathroom stall. It made me feel relieved, like no matter what, there was an escape hatch. There was no mistake you couldn’t undo.

I used to think that if I was just perfect enough, I could be worthy of love.

Yours truly, photo by Sasha Wizansky

Me, La Paz, Mexico, photo by Sasha Wizansky

My body has changed since the above photo was taken 15  years ago. My washboard tummy has been replaced by something much more smooshy and mama-like. There is an extra layer of flesh that never disappeared after boy #2 and I find myself sucking it in for photos. I even suck it in for myself in the mirror! (How funny to deny my new reality even to myself)

And then there are the disappearing boobs. The ones that were once perky little scoops (a term my friend and I affectionately coined upon discovering we were boob twins) and now are, well, slightly melted scoops.

But here’s the irony.

Those words – you are beautiful- have never felt more true.

How is that even possible? How can I be feeling beautiful for the first time in my life?

At the beginning of last year I had a remarkable angel reading with Laurel Bleadon-Maffei. She shared a lot of wisdom with me, but the thing that stuck was when she said this – If you want something new to come through you, you have to stop looking back at what you’ve done in the past. If you could take the next 6 months as a kind of sabbatical, I would suggest that, although I know that might not feel realistic on this plane. But think of the next 6 months as such – Daydream. Walk in the woods. Sit at the beach. Allow the next thing to find you. What is it that you want to bring to the world? Let your higher self and your knowing speak to you.

For me, this was an entirely new approach to creativity. And it required a kind of trust I wasn’t so sure about. Really? Walk in the woods for the next 6 months? Daydreaming sounded so flaky. The part of me that tends toward Type A felt threatened- everyone is going to get ahead of me! I’m going to fade into obscurity! I’m not going to make any money! I’m going to WASTE. SO. MUCH. TIME.

But here’s what I discovered. Walking in the woods allowed the words to come when I sat at my desk. Going to yoga class made space for great ideas to find me while I relaxed in savasana at the end. Having coffee with friends sparked inspiration + helped me shape my fledgling ideas. Having little adventures made space for delight, rejuvenation + fun stories to share.

There is a way that putting a little yin in my yang helped my creativity find me. I didn’t have to pursue it so much as be awake + alive + ready to receive. It also made space for a deeper knowing to come through. It felt like a distinctly feminine approach to creativity.

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Putting a little yin in my yang helped me to integrate my feminine. I learned to embrace my softer side. The part of me that wants to wear pink. The part that is willing to be vulnerable. The part of me that can hold things with so much more compassion.

It’s compassion that has helped me embrace my imperfect, very  human self. It’s compassion that has turned me from feeling unlovable (broken, damaged goods) into something beautiful + cracked + holy.

Self-compassion (and the wisdom of age) has allowed me to see my own beauty. Not the perfect, magazine kind of beauty, but the real kind. The kind that stays with you a lifetime. The kind that is your essence. Your magic.

 

*In honor of Susannah Conway’s birthday a collection of us have come together to talk about aging in empowering and beautiful ways. So honored to be part of it!

 

 

We collect practices that make us feel alive.

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When Laurie + I began mapping out our Opening the Creative Channel retreat last summer, we thought about all the ways we could play and create with the participants. We could do wild writing! collaborative painting! play Storybowl!

As we listed all of the things that would delight us, we realized they are actually a collection of practices – the things we have learned to do over the years to wake up, feel alive + keep the channel open. They are what we use to keep the creative energy moving in our lives so that we have access to flow. To our voice. To our unique gifts and magic.

We also discovered that we are all about process. We love to make beautiful things but we also know that opening up + waking up is a gift in its own right. The aliveness that comes from tapping into our creativity + our joy on a regular basis is really what we’re after.

And now we are excited to bring it to you. Join us for a luxurious retreat at Mayacamas Resort in Calistoga, CA. It will be a joy-filled, creative, and deeply beautiful time.

Put down your $500 deposit today + grab yourself a spot!

Here are the details:

When: June 8th -12th, 2014
Where: Mayacamas Ranch
What: Painting, writing, NIA, swimming, story telling, hot tub under the stars, laughter around the fire pit, the most delicious food you can imagine, relaxing, creating, manifesting, sharing.
Who: The most awesome collection of women. 20 of your new favorite people!
Why: To come alive. To connect with your spirit, your joy, your voice.

Prices:

Dorm rate (limited to 6 guests): 1350-
Double rate: 1550-
Single rate: 1950-

$500 deposit secures your spot!

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Click the register button above to pay your deposit and claim your spot!

With love + joy,
Andrea and Laurie

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Some of our favorite practices that we will be bringing to Mayacamas:

Wild Writing. Laurie has been teaching a writing practice for many years called Wild Writing. (She likes to say it’s a healing practice disguised as a writing practice, and I would agree) I have been writing with her this way for almost 10 years. Every piece from my blog that I am proud of started out as a 15 minute wild writing piece.

Intuitive painting. We are going to get messy! And paint. YES. Even if you have never painted. We will show you how to intuitively move, reaching for what delights you. Hot pink! Yes.

Storybowl. This is a game we play in a sacred circle. We pass around a bowl full of story prompts + each person spontaneously tells a true story from their lives. It isn’t about performing the best story, but about bravely sharing a piece of your heart. It fosters deep connection, compassion + joy. Every story is like a little miracle.

Nia. This is a joy practice disguised as a dance class! For the first few years I did Nia, I felt SO UNCOOL. But I loved it. It helped me take myself less seriously and gave me more access to joy. We will move our bodies in joyful ways with a wonderful Nia instructor.

Photography. You know you can’t be in my presence without getting your picture taken. We will do some photo walks + get my best tips on how to take your everyday photography to the next level.

 

 

 

 

Relax, a favorite poem by Ellen Bass

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Magnolias outside my door, Berkeley, CA

Bad things are going to happen.
Your tomatoes will grow a fungus
and your cat will get run over.
Someone will leave the bag with the ice cream
melting in the car and throw
your blue cashmere sweater in the drier.

Your husband will sleep
with a girl your daughter’s age, her breasts spilling
out of her blouse. Or your wife
will remember she’s a lesbian
and leave you for the woman next door. The other cat–
the one you never really liked–will contract a disease
that requires you to pry open its feverish mouth
every four hours. Your parents will die.

No matter how many vitamins you take,
how much Pilates, you’ll lose your keys,
your hair and your memory. If your daughter
doesn’t plug her heart
into every live socket she passes,
you’ll come home to find your son has emptied
the refrigerator, dragged it to the curb,
and called the used appliance store for a pick up–drug money.

There’s a Buddhist story of a woman chased by a tiger.
When she comes to a cliff, she sees a sturdy vine
and climbs half way down. But there’s also a tiger below.
And two mice–one white, one black–scurry out
and begin to gnaw at the vine. At this point
she notices a wild strawberry growing from a crevice.
She looks up, down, at the mice.
Then she eats the strawberry.

So here’s the view, the breeze, the pulse
in your throat. Your wallet will be stolen, you’ll get fat,
slip on the bathroom tiles of a foreign hotel
and crack your hip. You’ll be lonely.
Oh taste how sweet and tart
the red juice is, how the tiny seeds
crunch between your teeth.

Relax, from Like a Beggar, by Ellen Bass