A Meditation & Pep Talk for Facing a Blank Canvas


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Recently, someone looking for creative encouragement pulled me aside. She said, “it isn’t just that I haven’t approached a blank canvas. I’m terrified. I’m frozen. Paralyzed.” She went on to tell me a version of a familiar story from childhood that left her with a creative block, that left her feeling she could only create if what she created was ‘perfect’. 

Reflecting on her words, I found my heart bursting. For me the time at the canvas is SO FAR from performance and perfection. In fact, with reflection I can see that every brush stroke I make is an act of loving awareness. Not because I’m perfect and centered and without fear, doubt, worry, regret. But because my painting practice is a spiritual practice. And when the brush is in hand, something shifts for me. I can see that each mark is either love or a direct call for love.

Do you know what happens when you create from this place of love or a call to love? Magic. Absolute magic. There is a shifting and re-ordering within you. It is a completely new experience. And the result, when you look at your creation is you only feel the fulness of love and the call to love. You are actually blinded to critical thoughts. It is incredible. So how do you get there?

Here is a meditation and pep talk to help you on your way.

Imagine a small child you adore. Past or present.
Can you see the sweet roundness of their face.
Imagine the wideness of their eyes, the lightness of their step, the playfulness of their movements.


They bring you a picture.
It is a simple circle with lines emerging from the circle to the left and right, and two lines out of the bottom.
The child’s face lights up, and she reveals, “It’s you.” 
Now your face lights up.

You gaze again at the paper with frayed edges.
And you see her creation anew.
You soak in the total and complete perfection of this creation.
A smile spreads across your face.

You reflect that even in a few years, the child could never create this again.
There is exquisite beauty in the rawness of this piece, this moment.
As the child grows, their pictures get more precise. Their lines get heavier.
Eventually the child puts down the brush.
Either distracted by other activities,
Or believing they are no good at putting brush to canvas.

Now imagine you are that child.
You are laughing and playing.
You do a little hip shimmy as you choose paints 
For no reason other than the joy of being alive.
You have no thought of failure.
You only desire to paint what you love with the colors you love.

Begin here friends. Begin in innocence. Let yourself be led by love, led by joy. I could give you instructions. I could talk to you about mixing colors, layering, blending, texture and more. We could do that. There is nothing wrong with doing that. And it isn’t necessary.

The point isn’t to learn how to paint. The point is to play, create, explore, dwell in discovery, curiosity, possibility. This is not about what is happening at the canvas. This is about what is happening in your heart, mind, and life.

To step up to a blank canvas, with joy, intuition, freedom and curiosity comes naturally to a child, and often calls for bravery as an adult. That is what creativity invites us to.

Are we willing to be quiet enough to hear our hearts desire even in the small things like the color of paint? Are we willing to be quiet enough to hear where our heart is bursting and where our heart is aching? That is the invitation of creativity. Not to create some perfect impression of the world around you. But to transform, release and discover the world within you. And to wrap all you find there in love. Begin here and what arrives on the canvas will be secondary to what arrives in your heart.




Awbury Arboretum Opening

Thank you Awbury Arboretum and Michelle Synnestvedt—who led yoga— for a joyful art opening last night. My paintings felt right at home amongst all the beautiful trees and gardens.

It was delightful to practice yoga together in the space and make new connections--what a joy-filled, laughter-filled gathering.

Each time I connect with people at events I'm reminded that we each have a story and it is a blessing to get to witness and share this path of life together.

All art on display is available for purchase. Message me if you fall in love with a piece!

Here are some pics from the opening:


How to Commission a Custom Piece

More than a third of the pieces I create are custom commissions for collectors. I am now accepting commissions. Woot!

If you have ever loved a piece and it was sold, or it didn't fit in your space, or you've want to see me to a specific subject matter...this is your chance!

Working (playing!) with collectors on the art for their home, getaway or office is a very joy-filled, collaborative process. Never commissioned art before? No problem! (I work with a lot of first-time collectors).

Check out this infographic of the process…or this video to learn more about the process and message me with any questions and to get started!

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A Prayer for Times of Hopelessness

“Finding Light” (c) Bronwen Mayer Henry 36” x 108”

“Finding Light” (c) Bronwen Mayer Henry 36” x 108”

A Prayer for When You Feel Hopeless

There is a place so dark, raw and empty that it is most profoundly hard to pray. You may have a concept of God in years past. You may wish you had one. And yet all you feel is the darkness. The loss. The emptiness. The terror.

This is a prayer, written as a story/poem of sorts, humbly offered for this time.

Dear gentle God,

We come before you with empty hands, broken hearts, tear-stained faces, bodies weak with fatigue. Our minds have raced for so long, and now we feel lost. We offer this prayer filled with unknowing. Unknowing of your existence. Unknowing of hope. Unknowing of how we will go on.

Our insides are destroyed. The worst has happened or is imminent. We thrash around. How can this be? Why did this happen? Is there not another path that could have opened? We cry. We collapse. There is no comfort here. No words can change this reality.

And yet we are still here, God. We are here with our broken hearts and our helplessness and our hopelessness.

What can we do? What prayer can we say? Why even bother?

Someone says, "There is a reason."
We shout, swear, throw over a chair, break dishes.

Someone says, "There is always hope."
A bitterness rises in our mouth. We want to be sick. They don't know.

How do we find a prayer of hope here?

There are no words.

The damage is done. The worst has come to pass.

Finally fatigued with our thrashing, our anger, our tears. We lie down. Collapse. On the cold hard floor of this harsh reality.

We lie there for hours. Hours that stretch to days and weeks. Perhaps our bodies rise, going through motions, and yet our spirit stays on that cold hard floor.

Can you reach us here God? Can you come to us?

God of beauty and music, sunset and flowers, what do you have to do with this kind of pain? This kind of loss? This unrelenting pain and fear?

(pause, stillness)

Wait, what is that?

You lie down on the cold floor next to me? You pull a blanket around me.

I feel the hardness still below me.

Your hand is on my shoulder.

An unexpected warmth moves over my skin.

There is a sound. I haven't heard it before.

It is a deep vibration.

It resonates out.

The sound pulls me.

It carries my heartache. It doesn't stop it. It moves with it.

It is not the shush for a crying baby. I realize this is the groan of a laboring mother. A deep, soul-rocking sound.

A long time I lay here, this warmth enveloping me. This sound carrying me. Have I fallen asleep? Am I waking up?

(stillness, pause)

Something shifts in me. This pain.

Is it possible it won't kill me? Is this pain something different? There is something new about it. Is the guttural sound of my heartaching--a laboring? the sound of breaking open?

I breathe.

It is all I can do. I breathe. I realize something new is arriving within me. What new fragileness could be born of this experience that has torn me in half?

Asking this question I feel uncomfortable. 

I notice my arms and legs.

Having been bent over in grief for so long. Clutching my stomach. I forgot they were there.

I didn't know this might move through me.

That I might survive.

Completely changed.

When all I felt was darkness.

I didn't know that light would pour through this wound, surrounding me.

May it be so.

Dear God of all things big and small,

May it be so.

May the impossible pain and loss of this situation miraculously be filled with light. May I somehow, far beyond my comprehension, find a way to let this not just be death and loss. May it be a way for light to stream in, through and around me.

May the heaviness I feel be lifted as I look around and remember your loving presence.

May I remember how you lay with me, midwifing this loss with me. How I was never alone.

May I find strength and courage with time to be with others who know this unbearable pain.

May I never offer saccharin comforts of a certainty that does not exist.

May my intimate knowledge of this despair keep me remembering the fragileness of every moment.

May I surrender control and yet not release my ability to be part of love and light that surrounds us all.

May I embrace that love and light around me.

May I hold tenderly this experience that I thought would destroy me.

May I proceed gently, as my wounds are raw.

May I show up in this moment,

Breathing. 

May I awaken to all the love and light surrounding me.

Amen.
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This prayer and painting "Finding Light" (36" x 108") I created for Finding Hope 2019. They will be on display at Bryn Athyn College, on April 6th, as we focus on expanding our capacity to be present with one another in hard times. We talk about the impact of suicide, addiction, domestic violence, sexual abuse, and mental illness and show up with support, compassion, and resources. Photos Include some of the creative process, including the Finding Hope team writing prayers on the canvases before I painted.

Ten Blessings from the Creativity and Freedom Retreat

Creating a retreat with Martha Nash Pitcairn, founder of Ignition Academy was a dream. The fact that eleven women joined us, played along, showed up BIG, tenderhearted, open and loving was a dream come true. Though much of what happened from the weekend is hard to capture in words, here I strive to share some of the joy and insights.

1. Being Part of a Team

I absolutely adored the opportunity to create this space with Martha Nash Pitcairn from Ignition Academy. The trust and confidence we had in each other, the passing back and forth of workshop time, working together was equal parts freeing, empowering, and laughter-inducing. I have a lot to learn from this wise woman, and I’m humbled to serve on a team with her.

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2. Brave Hearts

Most common phrase heard at beginning of the weekend...”I’m not a painter.” or “I’m not creative.” etc. It took close to 50 hours, but participants finally dropped this ‘I’m not creative.” narrative. Now, it wasn’t our goal that participants become painters. Our goal was that they broke through limiting thinking, that they broke through negativity, that they explored the canvas as a safe space to be brave, to take risks, to try something new, and a place to be new. They showed up with brave hearts and as a result transformation happened.

3. The Ugly Phase

On the morning of the second day people were diving into their canvases. As I worked alongside the group I realized I had forgotten to tell them something. I forgot to warn them about the ugly phase. How many paintings have a moment that is raw and uncomfortable and new and well, ugly. And that it is normal and okay to dwell in this space. I’m grateful for the knowledge of the ugly phase and that everyone persevered through this discomfort.

4. Solitude in Community

There is something profound about being in silence together in community. During the weekend we had five sessions of silent/meditative painting time. There is something about the accountability, the shared showing up that buoys the spirit. The experience is very similar to meditating in a group. You get to be alone and part of the whole at the same time.

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5. Unexpected Timing of Breakthroughs

It was awesome to see people continue to step into the creative space. To show up with deep presence and courage. Breakthroughs creatively and on deeper levels came at unexpected moments. It was an important reminder for me to keep showing up, keep creating the space, keep stepping into it, and be curious and open to what wants to unfold, to trust the process.

6. The Blank Canvas

Throughout the weekend, one person painted a white canvas white. A meditation on emptiness, undoing, letting go. It was an awesome reminder to the rest of the group to not take anything to seriously, to let go, to remember the empty space.

7. Painting Outdoors

A few participants (myself included) chose to paint outdoors (hats and gloves included!). I found the experience to be completely invigorating and led to new energy in my heart and on the canvas. I can hardly wait to get back outside. Something about the wind in my hair, the gentle nature sounds, alongside the movement of paint and color is soul-nurturing.

8. Creativity in Community

Though we each worked independently on our canvases, there was some invisible way that we were bonded together. We witness each other's paintings come to life and in the end the lessons that were learned individually were shared collectively and there was a deep sense of belonging and understanding.

9. Sister-hood

From the first moment people started arriving, there were introductions and hugs. I was blown away by the way everyone showed up for each other in loving community. In a shared space of vulnerability a deep bonding happened.

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10. Begin Again

It was only 12 hours into the retreat that Martha and I found ourselves beginning to dream and scheme about future retreats. Oh the places we'll go...