A beautiful thing

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How to Master the Art of Living
Posted: 30 Jul 2014 12:09 PM PDT
By Leo Babauta

Imagine you had a gorgeous blueberry sitting on the otherwise empty plate in front of you. You pick it up gently, place it on your tongue, and begin to taste it.
You already know how a blueberry tastes, and so when this one is a bit riper than you’d like, you make a face, feel the disappointment, swallow it with displeasure.
Or perhaps it tastes exactly as you’d expected: no big deal. You swallow, and move on with your day.
In the first case, the blueberry was disappointing because it didn’t meet expectations. In the second, it was boring because it met expectations.
Now try this: have no expectations of how the blueberry will taste. You don’t know because you haven’t tried it yet. You’re curious, open to a variety of tastes.
You taste it, and really pay attention. You notice the tanginess, the firmness of the skin, the sweet mushiness of the center, the complex flavors that emerge as you eat it. You didn’t know how it would taste, but this is brilliant! It’s new, because you’ve never tasted anything quite like it.
This is sometimes called the Beginner’s Mind, but I think of it as a mind free of expectations.
The blueberry, of course, can be anything in life: any experience, any person you meet, any cup of tea, any task before you, any interaction with a loved one, any thought that enters your head, any moment of the day.
If you approach any of these with expectations, they will often disappoint or frustrate you … or be bland, blah, usual. And you move on to the next disappointing or frustration or usual experience, and so on, so that life is nothing but a series of things you barely like and barely notice.
If you approach each moment, each task, each person, without expectations … and just see that moment or person as they are … then you will really see that moment. Really appreciate it. Experience it like you’ve never experienced anything before, because you haven’t.
This is the Art of Living.

The Worlds That Open Up
When you learn to approach each person and moment and task without expectations, it transforms everything. New worlds open up to you.

A handful of examples:
• Procrastination: Let’s say you have been putting off a big task at work because you’re dreading doing it. Maybe it’s a big project, and you have this feeling of overwhelm. It’s a lot of work! You are expecting to have to do hard work you’re perhaps not good at, expecting failure or difficulty. But letting go of the expectations means you don’t know how this task will go … you go into it with an open mind. You try it and see how it goes. You learn from the experience no matter how it goes.
• Habits: You enter a new habit with the expectation that it will be amazing, change your life, and you’ll do great. And when it is inevitably harder than you thought it would be, and you’re less successful at it, you’re disappointed, discouraged, frustrated. So you lose motivation, and give up. If instead, you let go of the fantasy of how this habit will go, and just be open to what emerges … you can just do the habit. Just be in the moment with it. Then, no matter how it turns out, you’ll learn something.
• Frustrating person: This guy at work is frustrating you because he’s not doing the work the way he should, or maybe he’s being inconsiderate somehow. Your frustration stems from an expectation of how this person should act. They don’t act according to this ideal, and so you suffer. Instead, you can put aside this expectation that people will live up to your ideals … and just be open to them. They will behave imperfectly, just as you will. Accepting the person as they are doesn’t mean you do nothing … you can let go of the frustration, and see how they’re having difficulty, and it as a teaching opportunity or an opportunity to help them … with no expectation that they’ll love your lesson or follow it, but just with the intention of helping someone.
• Kids don’t behave: When your kids behave badly, it’s the same problem — they aren’t acting according to your ideal. But of course they’re not! No kid behaves ideally, just as no adult behaves ideally. Do you behave ideally? I certainly don’t. I’m rude when I’m in a bad mood or tired. I’m not proud of that, but I struggle to be considerate or cheerful sometimes. Everyone does. Your kids are struggling, and you can be compassionate and help them. Kindly. That is, if you can let go of your expectations that they’ll behave perfectly, and accept them as struggling, beautiful people who just want to be happy, just like you.
• Your body: You aren’t happy with your body, because it’s not perfect. It doesn’t meet your ideal, your expectation, and so you dislike it. That’s not good, because this self-discontent means that you’re less likely to do healthy things. Often we think that dissatisfaction with ourselves motivates us to change, but in my experience this discontent means that you don’t really trust yourself to stick to changes and so you make excuses when things get hard, and quit. I’ve done that a lot. When I am content with myself, I trust myself more, and I stick to things more. So let go of expectations that your body will be perfect, and just see your body as it is, for the beautiful thing it is, independent of society’s ideals of perfection. You’re great!
• Each moment: As we enter each new moment, we expect things from it. We want it to be fun, amazing, productive, according to plan. And of course each moment has its own plan, and will be its own thing. So we are not happy with it. Instead, we can drop the expectations and just see the moment as it is. Just experience it, noticing, appreciating, being grateful. This is mastery.
This is just the start. We can learn that plans, goals, ideals … these are all fantasies of what we’d like life to be like, and they’re not real. We can learn to let go of the fantasies that inevitably occur, and just experience life as it is, as it happens.

This is the Art of Living.

How to Master the Art
Mastering the Art of Living is not as easy as you’d expect, as you’d fantasize. It takes practice. It means learning to be mindful of when you have these ideals, expectations, fantasies. It means learning to see the frustrations, anger, sadness, loneliness, and irritations as signals of the expectations you have and didn’t notice.
It means practicing that, and then practicing letting them go.
That means a lot of practice, and a lot of remembering to practice.
But that’s the fun of it. You drop the expectation that you’ll be perfect at this practice, and just try it. You learn from the trying. You get better. You learn some more. And each moment, along the way, is a miracle to be appreciated and enjoyed, so the process of mastery is a succession of miracle moments.

That’s a beautiful thing.

Words of wisdom from Zen Habits.
Photo by me.

Ooh Baby

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First, let me tell you about the new hard drive I got this weekend. It’s a Seagate Wireless Plus. It’s about the size of a smart phone – just a little thicker – and its for mobile device storage. It also works as a hot spot which is really a nice plus (probably where the name came from) when you like sitting in your car or at a restaurant whiling away the hours learning new iPhoneography tricks like I do.

Which reminds me…found a great new resource for that as well…www.thetheatreprofessor.com (definitely worth a visit!).

The hard drive is 1TB. And so far I’ve uploaded 19,438 images.

I didn’t have that many images on my cell phone or iPad – it also lets you upload from your computer too – which is great if you’re like me and have a few images stashed here and there.

I have no idea how many images a terabyte will hold (it’s one level up from a gigabyte, if that helps at all) but I have several more places to pull images from yet- so I guess I’ll find out sooner or later – hopefully much later.

One slight problem though – it doesn’t seem to like Raw images – so either I will have to revert the Raw images and re-upload or try and figure out a way around it.

So anyway….while I was at the restaurant whiling away the hours tonight, I stumbled on some of my Lensbaby images. I’d forgotten how much I love looking at them. This image is straight out of the camera – no post production work here at all.

Is this not the most delicious looking light OR WHAT?!?

I made this photograph in Colorado – the birthplace of delicious light.

Yum.

With One iPad

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It’s been really hot lately. The kind of hot that keeps you comfortably indoors at all times (if at all possible).
I have a favorite chair in front of a window that I like to sit and watch the birds at the feeders. They don’t seem to mind the heat at all.
This evening there was a young rabbit nibbling at the ground underneath the feeders —and I let my mind wander…

Here are the steps that led to this creation:
A photograph of a magazine model was imported into iColorama.
I painted over the image (preserving the eyes) with random paint tools
I saved the image and imported it into Procreate
I selected an ink tool and drew shapes
I then painted around the shapes with another color
And then touched up with more ink lines.

Pure fun!

Art of Subtraction

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Here is a simplified example where I grabbed an image from my camera roll, painted over it with blue, outlined a few simple shapes with a pen tool, and erased within the shapes to reveal the original image.

The great thing about it is that you can change the opacity before you start drawing (if you’re not into surprises) and be as precise as you’d like with your drawing (for placement purposes).

I’m still using my finger to draw and paint, mainly because I like the rough, organic feel it gives but also because I’m really getting into this new, spontaneous way I’ve found to create art every day – but using a stylus would give you even greater control.

Btw…it’s the iColorama app I’m using — I have it for both the iPad and the iPhone – they’re a little different and (I’m ashamed to admit) I can’t seem to figure out how to use the one on the phone – but I prefer working on the larger screen anyway.

Melts in Your Mouth Not in Your Hands

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Another great thing about using an app to make art besides no messy fingers (and that’s a pretty good reason in itself) is the ability to add layer upon paint layer without worry of overloading the substrate.

In this example using iColorama (my latest obsession) I’ve started with an image from my camera roll. I then ‘painted’ over the image to create a solid color background that I could then ‘reveal’ selectively by erasing and then adding to by adding even more layers; erasing, adding, erasing, etc.

Changing up the ‘tool’ selection created variety and also gave me a chance to experiment and see what would happen.

And since this was just an exercise in experimentation, I felt absolutely no pressure to create art.

Now, how easy was that!

Finger Painting (on the iPad)

I am currently obsessed over a new app I’ve recently acquired, “iColorama”, and have been trying to figure it out now for quite some time. As you may remember me saying a while back, I’m heavily right-brained and these sorts of things never come that easy for me. And of course there is no user’s manual either (not that I’d read it anyway).

I learned about this app while reading an article (or two) about the technique that artist Sarah Jarrett uses to create her unique and imaginative iPhone portraits.

There is so much to this app -it’s amazing what a couple of dollars will buy these days…and I am discovering more and more as I play with it.

Today I decided to see if I could replicate painting with acrylics – I wanted to try and get that layered, glazed look and I like the results so far.

After finishing up in iColorama, I opened the image in Glaze and then in DistressedFX to see what other effects I could come up with.

I can’t emphasize enough how freeing it is to have so many art tools at your disposal whenever you have a free moment to ‘play’.

There is no longer any excuse for not taking a minute or two out of our busy days to make art.

And what a difference that can make.20140707-221247-79967491.jpg

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No Regrets

imageWhy We Have Regret
By Leo Babauta
We’ve all heard the phrase, “No regrets!” usually uttered when about to do something a little unwise perhaps.
And yet, as alluring as the “Living Without Regrets” philosophy sounds, it’s not always so easy.
We regret missed opportunities.
We regret things that made us feel dumb.
We regret not telling someone we loved them more before they died.
We regret not spending our time more wisely, accomplishing more.
We regret procrastinating, not forming better habits, eating too many sweets, not writing the novel we always wanted to write, not reading all the books we planned to read, not mastering Russian or chess or the ninja arts.
We regret getting into bad relationships, or making mistakes in a past relationship.
Yes, we regret things, and sometimes it can be consuming.
Why We Have Regret
Simply put, we regret choices we make, because we worry that we should have made other choices.
We think we should have done something better, but didn’t. We should have chosen a better mate, but didn’t. We should have taken that more exciting but risky job, but didn’t. We should have been more disciplined, but weren’t.
We regret these choices, which are in the past and can’t be changed, because we compare them to an ideal path that we think we should have taken. We have an idea in our heads of what could have been, if only a different choice had been made.
The problem is that we cannot change those choices. So we keep comparing the unchangeable choice we actually made, to this ideal. This fantasy can’t be changed, and it will never be as good as the ideal. The unchangeable choice we made will always be worse. It spins around and around in our heads.
Why can’t we let it go? What’s so important that we need to keep thinking about it?
Why We Keep Thinking About Regret
I’ve noticed that I have a hard time not thinking about a bad choice because of how it conflicts with my self-identity.
We all have this idea of who we are: we’re good people. Perhaps we’re smart, or competent, or good-hearted. We make the best choices we can, of course, because we’re good people. Even if you have self-doubt and a bad self-image, you probably think you’re basically a good person.
And so when someone else attacks that identity — insults your competence, calls you a liar, says that you’re a cheater — it hurts! We get angry and defensive. We can’t stop thinking about this offense.
And when we believe we made a mistake, this also is an attack on that identity. We made a bad choice … why couldn’t we have been a better person and made a better choice? This bad choice conflicts with our idea that we’re a good person.
So the problem spins around and around, without resolution. There’s no way to solve this problem, because the bad choice can’t be changed and we can’t resolve the conflict with our self-identity.
How to Let Go of Regret
In examining why we have regret, and why it’s so hard to let go, we can see a couple of root causes that we can address:
1. We compare past choices to an ideal.
2. We have an ideal identity that conflicts with the idea of the bad choice.
These both revolve around ideals, which are not reality but our fantasies of how we’d like reality to go. They’re made up, and not helpful. In this case, these ideals are causing us anguish.
So the practice is to let go of the ideals, and embrace reality.
Here’s the reality of those two root causes:

1. The choice we made in the past is done, and we can’t change it. And in fact there’s some good in the choice, if we choose to see it. Being able to make the choice at all is an amazing thing, as is being alive, and learning from our experiences, and being in the presence of other really great people, etc. And we can be satisfied with our choices and see them as “good enough” instead of always hoping for the perfect choices. Some choices will be great, some won’t be perfect, and we can embrace the entire range of choices we make.
2. We are not actually always good, and in fact our identity can encompass a whole range: we are sometimes good, sometimes not, and sometimes somewhere in between. We make mistakes, we do good things, we care, we are selfish, we are honest, and we sometimes aren’t honest. We are all of it, and so making a bad choice isn’t in conflict with that more flexible (and realistic) self-identity. It’s a part of it.
That’s all easier said than done, but when we find ourselves obsessing over past choices, we can 1) recognize that we’re falling into this pattern, 2) realize that there’s some ideal we’re comparing our choices and ourselves to, and 3) let go of these perfect ideals and embrace a wider range of reality.
This is a constant practice, but it helps us not look for perfection, not constantly review past choices, but instead find satisfaction in what we’ve done and focus in what we’re doing now.
Regrets are a part of life, whether we want them or not, whether we’re aware we’re having them or not. But by looking into the cause of regrets, and embracing the wide range of reality, we can learn to be satisfied with our choices, happier with the past and happier in the present moment.
And that is a choice you won’t regret.

Another great article to make you think…and a newly finished acrylic painting.