Nature - the greatest muse. a little Leaf Mandala inspiration

Ellie BeckComment

On days when I’m lacking inspiration and my mind is in a turmoil (often from the drama of children’s lives), I find that the best way to calm myself, settle my mind, and focus on my day’s projects is to immerse myself in nature.

I am lucky to live surrounded by rainforest, but you can find inspiration in the smallest details of a garden, leafy street or a park. Seeking Mindful moments in nature brings inspiration in numerous ways. As a creative artist I find I often refer back to the environment around me in both a literal way, as well as a spiritual sense.

Walking down my driveway – or you might find a beautiful leafy street – I slow down my breathing and meander about while gathering leaves. Letting my mind focus on each leaf, seeing the unique beauty and appreciating the flaws in the leaves reminds me, as an artist, that it’s the imperfections in my art that bring me most joy.

The process of collecting and gathering leaves brings me back to the simple pleasure of actually seeing the world around me. Noticing colours, shapes, patterns of each leaf as I hold it in my hand before it slips into my gathering basket.

Of course the added benefit is my mind is focused on the small and simple moments in front of me, my breathing slows down and I am readying my ‘self’ for entering my studio and beginning my day’s creative practice. Removing myself from the noise and busy of family life, and taking even just five minutes of actively slowing my breathing, mind and soul seems to spark the creative force inside me; a great way to call the muse to play for the day.

Once inside my studio, before I turn to the jobs list, I really enjoy turning the pile of leaves out onto a white table (piece of fabric, backing board, cardboard or even piece of art paper) and having a play. Even with a big list of things to do, this practice sets my day off on a mindful creative and focused path. You can spend as little or long as you like playing with leaves – often called faffing, in Instagram land. Faffing often uses flowers, but I find leaves are a great way to move past the ‘pretty’ and spend time with the unique, unusual, flawed, critter-bitten, colour-morphed – often a good representation of an art practice.

Ellie Beck Petalplum Red leaf mandala with hands eucalyptus leaves.JPG

A leafy mandala, neatly arranged, colour coded….. whatever evolves as you fall into the silence of leafy-faffing. Don’t set yourself ideals or plans, just see what the leaves talk to you as you sit and play. Often, for me at least, my creativity in my arts practice comes not from over-thinking, but from going with the flow. By settling into a beautiful silence, an introspective mood I can call upon a more ‘me’ version of anything I make.

Once I start over-planning, forcing each move then I loose the freedom of anything I’m trying to work on. This is as true for Leafy Meditation as for my loom weaving, natural dye or even slow stitching projects. And taking the essence of this feeling into my writing helps the words to write themselves, rather than struggling over a pen (or keyboard).

And yes, of course, I’d be holding back the truth if taking the photos at the end of the leaf faffing session wasn’t a lovely part of it too. Capturing the final image before I sweep it all away, returning the leaves back to the garden (or sometimes to my natural dye pots) feels part of the process. Think about Tibetan Monks sweeping away their sand mandalas. But, I do want to stress that taking the photos, and sharing on Instagram, are a by-product and not the reason for the process.  Leafy Mindfulness is an act unto itself – to bring me slow, simple creative inspiration.

** This post was originally published on In the Moment blog here

ways to be kind

Slow & Sustainable Livingellie5 Comments

Things lately haven't been the easiest around here as we may be hoping for. 

Lots of things piling up and sitting solidly in my stomach. And keeping me awake at 1am, 2am, 3am, 4am... Finally to fall asleep at 5.30ish as the light comes up. 

I am trying to be kind to myself. To be gentle and soft. To have few expectations of myself. To see the good in the little moments around me.

I haven't felt this tired since.... well maybe since I had Ross River Fever combined with Barmah Forest Virus. Or maybe since I was breastfeeding two children at once... Anyway. Tiredness adds to the overwhelming feeling of everything. 

I know all the things I have to complain about are nothing compared to so so SO many people around this planet of ours. And I know I have to put it into perspective. But sometimes it's ok to mope and feel down as well. 

Things I'm doing to be kind to myself. To find some quiet and peace and simple joy amongst it all. ::

- daily creative. Crochet, weaving, styling and taking photos, writing

- picking flowers for our home

- sticking things on the wall that make me happy to look at

- reminding myself with verbal quotes - visual cues help too

- hugging my kids when they need it and when i need it

- walking outside in the forest and the fresh air

- ignoring the outside noise that keeps pushing in in in to my brain (oh these school holidays really are stretching us to the limit of patience with both children, who will not stop talking or making noice of any sort. And yes- both my kids talk in their sleep!)

- seeing friends and just being with them - creative conversation is sometimes hard to make; it's ok to sit and be together quietly

- telling myself stories and dreams and planning new adventures

- thinking about a little getaway on my own or with my man (boy do we need some time away together!)

- I bought myself a new pair of sunglasses and they have a rosey tint. I've decided I'm looking at life with a rosey hue this year.

What do you do when you need to be kind to yourself? When life is throwing lots of things at you and you are trying hard to stay afloat?