An avalanche of emotions coming at me like a wave rolling in from the ocean. Sensations of disillusione boiling up inside of me. Lockdown continuously being extended, my son being educated by screens, Ms. Askew, our hero! opinions about us Melbournians, I need to hear a different conversation. I will burst like the pressure cooker my dad would use once a year when he wanted to make jam, I knew that things would get sticky if I didn’t walk.
I venture out into the wetlands; I remember the words from respected elders. They reminded us, “listen to country, listen to nature.” I walk through Point Cook Coastal park; the swishing of the trees is a welcomed sound to my ears. So calming as I approach the bay I hear lapping waves onto the shore line. The shimmering sun through the trees as it hits the water reignites fantasy, dreams and imagination. I sit at the water’s edge and the sound goes beyond the waves, as they roll onto the shore picking up fragments of sand and making the sound of a gentle shaker. My mind is calmed, my ability to reach beyond our physical reality has been reignited.
Janet Slom, MFA Creator of the Mindfulness-Based Self-Expression Program
Today I feel excited and as always, I have no idea what I’m going to do, nor do I have any expectations. I feel excited, I feel excited to be in the presence of Janet’s wisdom, I feel excited that there are going to be other people on line, I can’t wait to find out where all the participants come from and most of all, I am over the moon that my closed and dearest friend, fellow life creator Jaana will be online embarking on this orientation with me.
Today I choose to scribble, I have nothing more to offer. I grab my sons Sharpies all the colures on offer and a pile of white paper to scribble on. People come online from all around the world, Various states all around America, Berlin; Germany, Melbourne; Australia and more. Janet take us on a guided meditation to clear us of any distraction and brings us into the space. As we open our eyes she speaks and guides us into our practice of making marks.
I find myself sticking to one color, literally just making marks like my son did when he was 3 years old. I don’t mind this, I feel excited and I feel like I want to enquire, I’m not sure what I want to enquire into, but I feel excited to enquire. Then the word Inquisition comes into my head, my first reaction or through is surprise.
Inquisition, I admit to myself that I don’t really know what this word means, I don’t think it’s positive because I know there is something that happened in history called the Spanish Inquisition, I think? And I don’t think it was a positive event that went down? I try to push the word aside, wanting to stick with excitement and enquiry but inquisition is strong almost like it wants to be heard by me, like it’s demanding my time and attention so I very sneakily, making sure no one can see me, I reach over for my mobile phone and type in Inquisition and the meaning is ‘A period of prolonged and intensive questioning.’
My heart laughed, I can’t remember a time outside of hard-core partying and traveling that I wasn’t in a state of prolonged and intensive questioning, questioning who I am? Where do I belong? Why am I so unlovable? Why is every member of my family so clever and I’m so stupid? I know the answers to those questions now, my enquiries now are different, but I love to enquire, and the truth is that I will be making enquiries to my life and looking for expansion until I no longer have the energy for it anymore.
What was important for me this time was the word ‘inquisition’ and the meaning of the word; ‘a period of prolonged and intensive questioning.’ And then before me sat Jaana, someone who for me is ALL about creativity, from the first moment I met her she has shared her creative world with me, when I declared myself as not creative, she would swish under me and encourage me to keep digging, keep searching for that inner creative wanting to break through the rigid structures that I had put in place. Reflecting, she used to say me, “it doesn’t matter how it turns out, just have fun, make a mess, get messy and give it ago.”
I have known Jaana for the past 20 years and I feel like she was the first person that I ever spoke my soul truth to, I feel like our first meeting was the first time I ever shared my inner most secrets of wanting to write as she listened so intentively to my words and then proceeded to be my first point of inspiration. At no stage over our 20-year relationship did she ever make me wrong for not writing, she never got angry with me, she never got frustrated or said “Yariet, just go study writing at university.” She simply listened, offered herself, always listening and brainstormed ideas with me, often reminding me that being a storyteller, being a writer is who I am, she could see it, but I couldn’t.
I realized, that the day I met Jaana in The St Kilda Backpackers in Melbourne, sitting on the patio, listening to Pearl Jams Last Kiss, sharing cigarettes, that moment was the beginning of my inquisition, my period of prolonged and intensive questioning, she has been there the whole time and I know she reads my blog posts when she can because that’s her incredible commitment to people, that they find the inner creative in themselves, it doesn’t have to look a particular way, it could simply be making collaging, that is her thing.
Many years ago I supported her whilst she was completing her Masters in Art Therapy, actually she supported me, I left the session with the life catchphrase; ‘Jump into the glitter’ she created it with me so that when I was feeling stopped I would imagine ‘jumping into the glitter’. Jumping into the glitter has followed me for so long and slowly, slowly I keep ‘jumping into the glitter’ The Majestic Red Shed, this blog, my nook and what’s to unfold has all been and I know will continue to be under that watchful eye and support of Janna, wherever each us is in the world. Yes there are others, there are other brainstormers of life and I’m sure you will meet them, but it seems Jaana was the beginning of my inquisition.
Part two of our session with Janet …
Are you serious? on a computer, making marks, drawing lines, 16 of us online, what’s the point? It’s going to be a mess; this isn’t going to work!
I tell myself that it’s the exercise, I got this, stop thinking about it and make my mark, be a contribution and see what happens? What appeared before my eyes lights me up, the colors as I contribute to the on-line white board, choosing different colors from the pallet, choosing different thickness for my brush tool, choosing shapes so that I can contribute to this incredible community of life enquiries.
As I scribble, the picture looks one way and then suddenly, the picture updates and three layers of online mark making updates, I squeal with delight at what’s unfolding before my eyes, I see new dimensions, a new way, new possibilities, this is it the new world, a new way of being exposed to the world as it unfolds before me.
I see a new vision, a foresight of us truly embracing ourselves, embracing who we truly are and learning new ways, new possible ways in different areas of life, cultures that we have never had access to before now available to be embraced, new ways of building sustainable economies at our figure tips.
Don’t get me wrong, I can’t wait to sit in my creative nook with fellow creators up close and personal, but I feel blessed that today I have found a global way.
Breaking down boarders, breaking down different – embracing cultured induced ways of being, life being generously and vulnerably shared with and by strangers – making a mess without judgement, making a line and at the same time finding freedom amongst the same lines.
for Mindfulness-based self-expression (MBSE) program with Janet Slom
Janet Slom, creator of the mindfulness-based self-expression program and author of An Artful Path to Mindfulness.
NB* MBSE is a way of life, this 4-day recipe is a snippet for what’s possible.
20 Minutes a day (preferably when you wake up, if first thing in the morning doesn’t work, then any 20 minutes you can grab)
Blank paper (as much as you have)
Whatever you have Infront of you that will make a mark on blank paper.
20 minutes every morning will be broken down into 5 minutes of meditation or self-awareness to clear your mind and bring you into the present moment.
15 Minutes will consist of your drawing equipment, blank paper and making marks, doodling, scribbling, seeing what happens, don’t think about it, don’t even look at the page, close your eyes, just go for it, actually! Try make it as ugly as possible, make your doodling as messy as possible.
After 15 minutes is done, date the page, feel into the sensations of what mark making brought forth for you and write down the first two words that come to mind, put the page aside ready to come back to after 4 days.
Sounds so simple doesn’t it! Go for it! Give it ago, I would love you to share your outcomes?
“Make it ugly, make it as messy as possible,” … Janet’s words made my eyebrows perk up, a pressure inside of my body leaves, these words free me from any attachment of perfection, getting the exercise right, or trying to produce a Picasso. I don’t draw, nor am I an artist so the chances of a Picasso would probably never happen, but making drawing messy or ugly, that, I can do, that is true freedom that I can embark on with ease.
Once Janet had created the experience with us I didn’t give it another thought, I always have blank paper and pencils within reach and I meditate for 20 minutes every day, I will add this 15 minutes of doodling after my meditation, so I went about my day and didn’t give it another though.
I have posted the picture first so that you can see the picture and then read about my experience with my marks in your mind.
My mediation was calm, my mind felt at peace, I grabbed a grey led pencil and white paper, I started making lines, squiggles, coloring in, shading between the scribbles, circles began to present themselves on my page, it was certainly no artwork but it was scribbles, and I was surprised at what presented itself. I wrote the date and the words pleasantly surprised, flow and content.
I mediated and felt wonderful with my meditation, but not really in the mood to doodle, I had so much to do, BUT I said I would doodle so I will. I start, not feeling very inspired, I feel frustration and a lack of direction, not knowing where to go with this doodling thing? I started with my grey led pencil and white paper but as I was scribbling I noticed circles coming through again, ‘what’s my obsession with circles? what does that tell me about my brain? does it represent my life of running in circles getting nothing done?’ My mind, isn’t it amazing how I can put so much meaning into scribbling circles, I have a chuckle and realize that 15 minutes of scribbling and doodling is a long time, I see the oil pastels and need a distraction, I decided that my scribbles need color so I grab them and start coloring with them, like a child, I like all the bright colors they make me feel happy. I date the white paper and write the words circles, color, frustration, not knowing where to go?
Once again, I didn’t want to do my exercise, I had a lot on, I notice how time is such a commodity to me despite level 4 lockdown, I really just wanted to get on with my day and didn’t really want to sit around doodling BUT I said that I would do this exercise, so like a diligent person I settle down and begin.
My initial thought staring at the blank page was “Janet said, make it ugly so here we go.” Like every morning, I start my exercise with my grey led and white paper. At first I simply run the pencil over the page like a snake, this took me back to our standard 5 school tour to Cape Town, all the girls would sit with their pencils lightly held to the page, the movement of the bus would do the drawing, after some time of staring into nowhere and letting marks appear on the page drawn by the jerking of the old bus, we would fill the gaps with shading, patterns and colors, swapping pens, kokis, pencils until we arrived at our next destination.
I return my awareness to my page and see a bird like figure present itself to me, I choose to flow with the bird that has presented itself to me, how cool, I reach over and grab my pastels, I begin to outline what I see, personally, I thought it was very cool and high fived myself in my head, my 15 minutes was up, I dated my page and my words for today were, you said make it ugly, moody, surprised.
Today was interesting because my doodling journey started in my meditation. It wasn’t that I was thinking about doodling, it was more like my thoughts were separate to my meditation and me, but if I try to explain, colors visited me in my meditation, they were all separate, organized and each color had it place. When I finished meditating, I decided that today I was going to mix my colors, today I was REALLY going to make a mess and make it ugly. I started with my first oil pastel color, going round and round in circles, yes, circles again, picking up the next color and going over the first color, and the next color going round and round, over the first two colors as I worked my way through the full color pallet. The final color, white! The white melted all the color’s into each other, it was magnificent to watch, to experience, to feel, the thick pastels peeling up, running into each other, eventually my 15 minutes was up I scrunched my page up with excitement, showing it up in the air, I gather my self ironing out the drawing as best as I could and then I wrote the date and around the edges of my mess I wrote,
‘you said make it as ugly as possible, today I’m mixing my colors, breaking down boarders,
Who gives a shit, no more caring what others think, it’s exhausting, I’m exhausted!’
On the back of my drawing I wrote: …
“Today during meditation, I realized I always try to keep my colors neat and not mix them,
Today when I do my exercise, I’m mixing them,
Janet said make it as ugly as possible,
You want ugly Janet,
Well, I’ll give you ugly!!!
Breaking down Boarders,
Tired of looking good,
Tired of keeping everything neat,
You know people and life are always going to keep coming,
But today fuck it!
I’m mixing my colors,
I’m breaking down my boarders,
And I’m finding myself in the mess and ugliness,
And braking through!
I haven’t posted music here for a while but this I had to share. Brian and I discovered Bongeziwe at the Port Fairy Folk Festival in 2019, I think? it can be a bit of a blur sometimes. We had never heard of him but he was from South Africa, and if you haven’t noticed by now i’m always on the search for anything South African, i’m always searching for a taste of Africa in any form so that my soul can feel nourished.
It’s always interesting going to listen to someone you have never heard before, any sound is possible and you don’t know what you going to get, giving that we were at a Folk Festival Brian and I sat in comfort that it wasn’t going to be some sort of screaming, we hoped.
Bongeziwe came out on stage, young, fresh, huge smile and humbled by how many people had come to see him. He sporadically shares brief stories of his songs and life in South Africa and breaks into melodic song, singing in his home language of Xhosa, his voice is beautiful as he takes us on a journey to another place. I had no idea what he was saying and that didn’t matter as his varied rhythms and harmonies where simply euphoric to me, the sound of Xhosa was pure magic to my ears as I was taken back to South Africa, imagining the veldt, the animals, food, cultures, colours, sunsets and all the incredible people I have met each with a unique energy and South African humour that I miss so much.
I remember leaving the tent, soul filled to the brim feeling so proud that South Africa is producing such incredible talent and so sad knowing the state of country. Wondering what it took for Bongeziwe to get on an international stage, it would be no small feat.
Bongeziwe comes across as himself on stage, I believe that he is exactly where he is meant to be, performing, singing and providing Afro – Folk rhythms for our tingling ears to hear.
My story when I realized my Dad was entering his final stage of life, transition to death.
This journey has been just that, a journey. I’m not sure if it’s been a long journey or a short journey in the bigger scheme of life, but what I am sure of, is that it has been a journey.
“Daddy you have been an adventurer, a story teller, a party animal, an optometrist, a father, a husband, a friend and so much more in this life time. You have brought tears of laughter to anyone who knew you and sometimes confusion with your stubbornness and archaic ways of being, saying that we all have our “things” and that’s the way life rolls.
You where defiantly an honest man, we always knew where we stood with you and you never gave one of your 6 children more than the other, even if it meant slicing a chocolate bar into 8 even pieces so that each person got a taste.”
For me this journey of departure first came to light in December of 2016, this was when I suddenly realized my father was old and there was no turning back for him nor me. I asked myself in Jan 2017 when saying good bye to him at Birmingham Airport, does he know how much I love him? Do I know how much he loves me? And is there anything unsaid? The answer to these questions were Yes, yes and no, I said good bye feeling sad but complete with my relationship if he departed this world.
The second part of my journey, saying farewell to my dad was in Sep 2017 when he formally got diagnosed with dementia, it took ‘no return’ to another level. I asked myself those same questions, checking in again, does my daddy know how much I love him? Do I know how much he loves me? And is there anything unsaid? Again, the answer to each of these questions was yes, yes and no. I couldn’t understand why I was so upset, my answers to my questions where indicating that I should be ‘complete’.
My fist little glimpse of clarity came from my wise and soulful friend Janna. She shared with me how in the Buddhist culture, death is the next phase of life, just like we go through a toddler phase, teenage phase, early adulthood, career, empty nest, my dad was entering his next phase of life, he was transitioning to death. She explained how when her husband’s father passed, the whole family slept in the room with him so that he was never lonely and he could transition peacefully, during the night before his passing one member of his family would get up in their own times, sit with him and talk to him until he passed.
When she told me this, it was like a fog lifted, my dad was entering the next phase of life, every human born will eventually reach this next stage of their life, it’s impossible to avoid, to avoid death, you would have not been born at all. Maybe in that moment I realized that in the bigger scheme of nature he wasn’t special, to me he is special but in nature, what is happening to him is perfect and natural.
I realized that as his child he was the panicle for me, my source and no matter how old I got, or how old he got, he will always be my father, my perfection (no matter how imperfect he was) he was the person that I looked to for guidance my whole life, even when I started my family I still looked to him to learn and enquire, I saw him as eternal even when I knew the logic of death, I didn’t know the feeling of death especially when it was coming for a loved one.
The thought of him losing strength and especially when he had been SO strong all his life was heartbreaking for me. The realization that this once vibrant adventurer and storyteller was slowly going to lose the spark in his eyes as they turned grey, that he was losing laughter from his belly, the strength from his muscles and those passionate stories from his voice box was literally sole destroying for me to even think of. But again, this is how life rolls, so I chose because there was no other alternative and unfortunately, or fortunately, death doesn’t offer solutions for me the child but especially for my father the person facing his fate after all this time of life.
I asked myself for the second last time, does my daddy know how much I love him? Do I know how much he loves me? And is there anything unsaid? (This is my last opportunity to get anything unsaid, said) and the answer to these questions remained yes, yes and no. So, then I, the child, waits. I wait till the last bit of energy leaves his body and then he is gone from this life. I don’t know what my mother will choose to do, bury him so he bio degrades into the earth and his energy returns to its source. Or perhaps cremate him, and flush his ashes down the toilet because he is gone so why bother? she said this once and then giggled, neither the right way or the wrong way, we all just wait?
I ask myself one last time? Did my Daddy know how much I loved him? Did I know how much my daddy loves me? And was their anything unsaid? The answer to these where a definite yes, yes and no.
Yes, he was clear of my love for him because I phoned him and told him when I did The Landmark Forum in 2006 and repeatedly after that.
Yes, I know how much he loved me because I made him tell me all the time, it became a game of laughter and an opportunity to experience his awkwardness around the expression of love, he would laugh until eventually he would say it in a funny quirky way. I also witnessed the actions of love he would show me when he came to Australia by painting, planting and tiling even when I didn’t ask, I learnt that he showed his love in actions, not in words.
And No, we had nothing unsaid because I called him during the Landmark Forum and said what I had to say and he said what he said, and in that moment, I realized that my dad was my dad and he was only ever going to be that for me, my dad, who loves me very much and who I love very much with all our imperfections and perfections.
To complete my story with one last request, yes! A request of you, the reader or listener. I urge every child reading this to call your mom and Dad NOW. Let them know how much you love them and let them know how grateful you are for everything they did for you. If there are things unsaid, say them, if you don’t know find a way to get trained in completion and communication. Because let me give you the big tip children, and remember we are all someone’s child, at one time or another, your parents are going to take that turn, their eyes are going to lose their spark and color, their bellies are going to empty out and their bodies are going to wither until there is nothing left and if you haven’t done the work, no number of tears, solitude or regret is going to bring them back, by then it’s too late.
A message was sent to me via whatsapp, “Yariet, I thought of you when I saw this.” I LOVE getting messages like this, not only because someone is thinking of me but also because they have taken the time to think of me and my journey of life, what a privilege.
It was an online talk called, “An artful path to mindfulness with Janet Slom” a South African born creative who now lives in America. She is a professional artist, internationally recognised teacher, speaker, author and social entrepreneur. It wasn’t her impressive resume that got me but the simple fact that she is a South African now living abroad. I knew I would get my little fix of South Africa, even if it was the pronunciation of a word, that would be enough to feed my soul for a little while and besides the woman that sent it to me is quite extraordinary herself so I trusted her.
People came online from around the world and yes, from South Africa, I was instantly nourished and didn’t need anything more. Janet spoke, her voice so gentle, melodic and soft, we went into a meditation and when we all opened our eyes we were present. It felt like I had Janet all to myself despite all the faces staring back at me from my laptop screen.
She had a blank piece of paper and a black koki, texter or magic marker depending where you are located in the world. Janet asked us to start by making a dot on the paper, we all followed her instruction, she spoke of being free, not thinking of right and wrong, being yourself, do what calls to you or feels right. Then she said, “draw a line, don’t think, any line coming out of your mark, through your mark, just go for it!”
It’s amazing how hard it is to let go, all those voices in my head telling me this is stupid, this feels weird, I’m not an artist, what am I doing here? Argh! So many little conversations wanting to break me down and not participate fully. I thanked them all for coming and chose fun and inspiration and that is what my experience became. After we completed making our lines a couple of us got to share our experience and then we closed with a meditation.
Below is my drawing, but really, what I showed up for was the words that I would receive from Janet, the words that she spoke and the words that jumped out to me as I sat there free as a bird in Melbourne’s first round of lock down.
I will call this Listen to your heart …
Make a mark, playful marks
Our broken lives and
Hearts of creativity
We sit here during uncertain times,
Listening to the voice in our head,
Waiting for what’s next, waiting for life to return to “normal”,
Searching for where we fit into this new life.
This is not playful distraction,
You didn’t come here for me to entertain you,
You have come here for your life,
I was once told that I wasn’t good enough,
Thank goodness, I listened to my intuition,
Thank goodness, I listened to my heart,
Thank goodness, I didn’t listen to the outside
Because if I did, I would have given up.
This is about your heart, this time is about me,
This time is about shaking us up to find our voice.
Listen to your heart, listen to your humanity,
Listen to what the world needs,
You can’t listen outside,
Listen to your heart.
Creativity in all its forms, is the lifeblood to humanity.
Nothing worthwhile comes in a minute,
This is about living your life from the inside out,
Live with integrity.
Thank you for sharing your vulnerability,
The time has come to sit together,
The place of your heart is the place of interconnectivity.