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take summer with you into the fall – art and self-care retreat in mexico

“Bronwyn brings light, love and beauty with her presence and her workshop. Her insights, support, experience and wisdom have enriched me in just the one week I was blessed to spend with her in Mexico. This was not my first experience in women’s retreats and I hold it up as an example of what is possible at their highest level. I was inspired and given practical tools to grow in my creativity, body, heart, and spiritual life. This will not be my last retreat with her and I look forward to an ongoing journey with her!”                                                                                                                   ~Laura Flanders Roush, Monterey, California, March 2014 Artful Living in Mexico Retreat Participant

“Thank you for creating and sharing this fabulous week. It was a perfect balance of soul work, creativity, and movement with beautiful like-minded women and in a warm, sunny, inspiring place. I am so grateful that I was able to join you and am heading home truly inspired.” ~Heather Marie Moon, Lansing, Michigan, March 2014 Artful Living in Mexico Retreat Participant

I’m going back! Seven days of art, mindfulness, movement, and deep self-care, all in the intimate setting of beautiful Hacienda Mosaico, a private artist’s retreat in Puerto Vallarta. This retreat is open to three to twelve women only. This year’s dates are November 16 – 22, 2014. To learn more, click here. Now, take a look at the scenes below, from last winter’s retreat, and tell me in the comments which scene appeals to you the most, and why!

IMG_7480

IMG_7512 IMG_7482 IMG_7525 IMG_7529 IMG_7548 IMG_9097 IMG_7570IMG_7571 IMG_7595IMG_9105 IMG_7740 IMG_7823 IMG_7888 IMG_7895 IMG_9445 Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 10.28.26 AM

You should be here, don’t you think?  {Art retreat in Mexico!!}

Love,

About Bronwyn: Bronwyn Simons’ vision is of a world where we are all able to live daily lives of deep connection, purpose, and joy. She’s an artist, writer, teacher, and retreat leader whose work has touched and transformed hundreds of women’s lives for the better. Her next big adventure is the Artful Living in Mexico retreat at gorgeous Hacienda Mosaico in November 2014. The Artful Life Blog provides a daily touchstone for women seeking to live more soul-satisfying lives.

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lunar musings

moon-maiden

I’m so sorry I missed celebrating the Full Moon in Capricorn with you on Saturday. I was off in the woods on an all-girl camping trip with three wise women and two brave and smart young girls. At sundown on Friday, we hiked along the lake shore to visit a tiny archipelago of islets, the perfect spot to sit on the rocks and witness the full moon’s stunning entry into the sky.

How was the big juicy moon for you? Was your weekend awash in emotion? Did you feel like the pieces you’ve been trying to make sense of since the New Year were finally starting to come together? Are you feeling full of a new vitality, life force, and pressure to grow? Did you get a chance to practice emotional maturity, or did you give in and get swept away by the current?

Remember, one of the functions of the Full Moon is revelation. The energies of this recent Capricorn moon likely shed light on your growing edge, where ever that is in your life. What did Saturday’s big, bright moon illuminate for you?

For me, this whole year has been a celebration of my growing edge. Which means I’ve been uncomfortable a lot, and happy a lot. Back in February, my sweetie took a job that takes him away from home for two weeks out of every three, which means that I live alone for two thirds of the time now. It was hard at first. It bumped me out of my comfort zone, disrupted all my routines (and we Taureans love our routines,) and made me downright lonely. To cope, I had to start getting off my tush and saying “yes” to things. A theme developed – my “yes’s” were leading me to beautiful adventures in circles of women. I was picking up a thread I had dropped a decade ago, and it was feeling really good. As I move out of the Mother phase of my life and into Wise Woman territory, it feels perfectly right that art, creativity and circles of women should once again be at the center of my life.

So Saturday’s moon found me exactly where I should be for now – celebrating, creating, and having adventures in a circle of women. I hope the moon found you in your just-right place too. And if not, I hope she lighted the path towards that place.

Love,

About Bronwyn: Bronwyn Simons’ vision is of a world where we are all able to live daily lives of deep connection, purpose, and joy. She’s an artist, writer, teacher, and retreat leader whose work has touched and transformed hundreds of women’s lives for the better. Her next big adventure is the Artful Living in Mexico retreat at gorgeous Hacienda Mosaico in November 2014. The Artful Life Blog provides a daily touchstone for women seeking to live more soul-satisfying lives.

 

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raw wraps, vegan sushi, and grilled fava beans: food choices and self-love

grilled fava beans vegi nori wraps, vegan sushi raw-wraps raw spring rolls raw wraps

Last week I embarked on a gentle program of self-care – 21 days of clean eating, regular cardio, and a return to my mindfulness meditation practice. All of these things are regular features of my life, but daily consistency is something I struggle for. Since consistency is my word for 2014, I have been spending the last six months gently returning to happy healthy habits when I get off track. The persistent, gentle nudging of the self back into healthy self-care, without self-punishment or shame, is in itself a powerful practice. Yesterday was a reward for my work towards consistent self-care. It was one of those rare, perfect days that felt balanced and lovely, the kind of day I want to create more of, in which I am living my work and my dream, and caring for myself deeply. I woke early and sat up in bed with my tea and filtered sunlight streaming in through billowing curtains. I did some writing and worked out my week’s goals in my planner. I followed this with 15 minutes of mindfulness meditation and prayer. I headed out to Kundalini yoga – it turned out my class was cancelled, but I got to spend ten minutes chatting with friends in my teacher’s beautiful garden, and see her sparkly face. The rest of the day was spent moving between the art table and the computer, working on a special writing and illustration project I’ll be sharing soon. I took a break to make and eat the raw wraps you see above. After work I went to a beautiful Vinyasa yoga class in my friend’s yurt, which had all the doors thrown open to the garden. After, a quick plunge in the ocean, a walk with the pug, and an al fresco dinner of cold grilled salmon, new potatoes, and salad with friends.

Of course, so many days are so much less than perfect. But lately, my life has held many, many beautiful days, days that fit me perfectly, days that let me love my life. How has this happened? Am I just lucky? I am certainly blessed. And I have worked hard. And, I think most importantly, I have gotten to know myself really well, and gently loved myself through some tough changes and challenges. I think the self-love part is key. Without it, all the luck, hard work, discipline and self knowledge you can muster still will not add up to the blessing of golden days. Self-love allows the self-discipline to really work. And then we can create an inner climate conducive to joy. Today I’m thinking about how this applies to what we feed ourselves.

I had an interesting conversation with a friend recently, about the thin line between healthy, sensible eating, and disordered, punishing eating. We all need to find our own balance here, but the key, as with so many things, is self-reflection and self-awareness. I have come to love my own entirely unique relationship with food – as with many other aspects of my life, the top point of my fulcrum for balance is pretty high. I mean, the up-down swoops of my personal teeter-totter are HIGH! then LOW! I used to think something was wrong with this. I really wanted to change. I wanted to try to be a moderate type of person who did more or less the same thing every day. Instead, I will work with intense creativity and output for 12 hours a day for weeks at a time, then I will sit down on the couch for a month and breathe and read. I will become enamoured of a subject or a new skill, and I will immerse myself for months, read everything on the topic, and practice intensively. Then I will leave it behind one day, and only gradually incorporate it back into my daily life. And it’s the same with my health and food patterns. It took me years of self-observation to realize this isn’t wrong. The balance is there. The consistent pattern is visible over time. This is my natural rhythm, and in midlife, I am beginning to finally see its beauty, and to value its gifts. Talk about a different drummer! My rhythms do not fit with the rhythms of the conventional world. But they work for me. They are perfect for me. And sure, I need to make gentle self-corrections sometimes to make sure I am living my rhythms in the healthiest way – but trying to change my natural pattern into a completely different kind of pattern? Nope. That is a waste of my precious energies, and it’s not something I’m willing to do any more.

What about you? Have you gotten to know your natural rhythms? Does your low, stable fulcrum make daily consistency your thing? Or are your waves bigger, balancing out only over time? The important thing is not what your pattern looks like, but whether you are living the healthy or unhealthy version of it. You will get really good at the things you repeat consistently. So we must be careful what we get good at!

These are things to consider when you decide to embark on a lifestyle change. Know your natural patterns, and be honest with yourself about not only their healthy, but also their unhealthy manifestations. Do research and create your own program for change, or work with a trainer or nutritionist who will help you to personalize things. There really is no one-size-fits-all with health and food choices.

Our own rhythms, of course, are embedded in the larger rhythms and patterns of nature. I am awed and fascinated by the beautiful and complex patterns that are created by the interaction of our energies with the greater energies around us. Not only does each of us have a unique personal pattern, but the way our personal pattern meshes with the greater pattern is also completely unique (think harmonies and fractals!) Of course we all share in the greater harmonies of the seasons, the movement of the earth and planets, the phases of life. This is why eating seasonally and locally can be so healing and powerful. By doing so, we are choosing to connect our bodies and energies in a deeper, more tangible way to the natural rhythms of our surroundings. This leads very naturally to greater well-being.

Raw foods make all kinds of sense in the Summer. It’s hot and we’re not that hungry. We want to feel light on our feet. And local gardens are bursting with gorgeous live food. Over the next few weeks, my goal is to maximize the amount of raw, live, local food I prepare and eat. It’s exciting to receive my organic local farm box each week, empty it out on to my counter, and allow my creativity to play with the new and sometimes unusual ingredients. Above are some of my recent creations. The vegi nori rolls are adapted from the recipe in Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Diet. The raw wraps are inspired by the raw wraps in Raw Essence by David Cote and Matthieu Gallant, and the grilled fava beans are from Martha Stewart via my food grower! When I eat like this in the summer, I feel like I’m feeding body and soul for the season. Add a little grilled fish, some green juice, and the occasional glass of very chilled sauvignon blanc, and I’m happy.

My wish for you is that you feed yourself with joy. Feed yourself with love. Allow yourself to see food outside of the context of punishment and reward. Begin to see food as a way to connect more deeply with yourself, your natural rhythms, and with the energies of the world around you.

About Bronwyn: Bronwyn Simons’ vision is of a world where we are all able to live daily lives of deep connection, purpose, and joy. She’s an artist, writer, teacher, and retreat leader whose work has touched and transformed hundreds of women’s lives for the better. Her next big adventure is the Artful Living in Mexico retreat at gorgeous Hacienda Mosaico in November 2014. The Artful Life Blog provides a daily touchstone for women seeking to live more soul-satisfying lives.

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caring for yourself with love, not shame

21-days-of-self-care

Today I am embarking on a 21-day cleanse.

I celebrate the current popularity of  cleanses because I know how powerful it is to take time away from our usual habits for deep, mindful attention to nourishment. As well, the ritual aspect of a period of limitation offers beautiful opportunities for self-reflection and connection to spirit.

On the other hand, the popular concept of a “cleanse” can refer to any number of practices which focus on deprivation and often end up being more self-punishing than self-loving. And I don’t really love the term “cleanse” itself. We should be starting from a place of deep self-care and a desire to maximize our enjoyment of life and our ability to nurture ourselves, not from a place of shame or a sense of fearfulness that we may “need cleansing.”

So while I am wholeheartedly in favour of a loving time-out to support our health and assess our habits, I’m less enthused about anything that might promote shame-induced deprivation. And let’s be honest, it can be a thin line.

It’s not so much about the book, diet, or program you choose to follow for your cleanse – it’s much more about your attitude towards yourself, your goals and intentions for the cleanse, and whether or not you have the ability to listen deeply to what your body and spirit really need. Simple self-reflection is the key to getting it right. Here are some questions for you and your journal if you are considering embarking on a cleanse:

  • What are my goals for this cleanse? Are they realistic and self-loving? I like goals that focus on positive feelings “I want to feel more bright and connected to nature,” or realistic, attainable and self-loving physical goals “I want to sleep more soundly.” I’m not so keen on goals that focus on soley on appearance “I want to be thinner,” or are unrealistic “I want to completely heal my chronic health condition.” If your goals fall into the latter category, can you think about translating them into positive feelings and attainable baby-steps? “I want to feel lighter on my feet,” “I want to be slightly less dependent on my asthma inhaler.” Honestly, a healthy cleanse will encourage weight loss, and will improve some chronic health problems, and that’s all good! Keep that on your radar! But putting your spirit and your positive emotions at the center of your endeavour will make everything gentler and more loving, I promise.
  • Is this the right cleanse for me, or am I trying to do too much, too fast? You know this one – start where you are. I already eat a mostly plant-based, mostly local, organic whole-food diet, so it’s not a huge stretch or me to try 80% raw vegan for three weeks. It would have been a huge stretch, and way too hard on my body and emotions, for me to try this back when I was a fast-food eating city-dweller. Be gentle with yourself!  Maybe all you need to do right now is replace your afternoon latte with a green juice. Keep it real and self-loving. Focus on the positive feelings.
  • Am I motivated more by love, or by shame? Whew, I know! This one can be hard to look at. The trouble with shame is that we bury it. We hide it from ourselves. This is where it can help so much to pay attention to how your feelings actually feel in your body. You know what love feels like – that softening around your heart,  that sense of spaciousness in your rib-cage, your shoulders relaxing and releasing as your lips curl into a smile. This is what loving decisions feel like! Sadly, you also know what shame feels like. That icky sinking feeling deep in your gut, the constriction of your chest, your eyes and chin dropping as your shoulders tense up. That is what shame-based decisions feel like. Listen to your wise body – she will let you know where your decisions are coming from. If you embark on an endeavour motivated by shame, you will find ways to sabotage yourself. You will feel deprived. Your health will not be enhanced. If you set out with love, your chance of success dramatically rises, and you are setting yourself up to feel happy and joyous about your actions. The positive feelings alone will have a good impact on your health!

Later in the week, I’ll be sharing more about my own goals for the next 21 days, and I’ll be checking in regularly here and daily on Instagram, if you’re interested in my progress! If you’d like to join me, consider committing to practice one positive healthy habit for the next 21 days, and let’ see where we can get! (Share it in the comments for accountability!)

About Bronwyn: Bronwyn Simons’ vision is of a world where we are all able to live daily lives of deep connection, purpose, and joy. She’s an artist, writer, teacher, and retreat leader whose work has touched and transformed hundreds of women’s lives for the better. Her next big adventure is the Artful Living in Mexico retreat at gorgeous Hacienda Mosaico in November 2014. The Artful Life Blog provides a daily touchstone for women seeking to live more soul-satisfying lives.

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Joanne yeadon - Thankyou for this Bronwyn. I have been feeling lately that I need something like this but was not sure when, where and how to start. This gives me inspiration. I love the way you encourage small steps carried out with gentleness and love which make things so much more do-able. Am going to work on a couple of things to do over the next 21 days which are achievable for me. Sending you love and positivity for your 21 days, joanne xx

Bronwyn - That’s great Joanne, and thank you!! Self-love is key. xo

we need pleasure

SONY DSC Have you given much thought to your relationship with pleasure? Because it’s an important relationship.

My grandmother was a woman of great charm and elegance. She had an eye for beauty, and a way of moving through the world that was serene, and sometimes almost regal. She also had a lot of really strict rules about pleasure. All of these qualities left their marks on her daughters and grand-daughters.

The closets of her minimal, modern homes were always spacious and bright. They were orderly and smelled of fresh laundry and Estee Lauder products. Crisp clothes were hung neatly in categories, and the top shelf was filled with her shoes, all stored carefully in their original boxes.

There was something else on that high shelf though, and she would pull it down sometimes in the afternoon; it always seemed to be on a sunny day when she was in a good mood.

It was a small box of chocolate covered cherries.

I’m guessing she bought a new box every couple of months. Because these were a rare treat, and you never had more than one. And never two days in a row.

She would pull down the box and open it, offer me one and take one herself. She obviously took a great deal of pleasure in this little confection. Her approach to this pleasure was to keep it secret, dole it out carefully, not often, and in small amounts.

It was evident in other areas of her life as well, that she spent a good deal of energy policing her own and others pleasure. This was paradoxical, though, because she, like all the women in my family, like me, was a woman of Venusian qualities; a lover of beauty and sensuality, art, good food and drink, flowers, men, personal adornments, conversation, and love. In other words, a lover of pleasure.

Grandmother was in many ways my most important female role model and mentor as I grew, and I watched her carefully for clues about how to navigate the seemingly dangerous waters of sensuality and pleasure. (Because I got that message early: pleasure can be dangerous.)

Overall, it was confusing:

In the realm of consumables, chocolate covered cherries, wine, dessert, meat, and butter were clearly dangerous substances to be consumed in small amounts only. However, cocktails could be consumed with impunity, as long as a gentleman was mixing them for you.

In the realm of conversation, expressing your opinion was a pleasure limited to one-on-one exchanges with other women. If you wanted to flirt, or talk in a neutral, academic way about art and culture, well, those were pleasures you could indulge as much as you wanted in mixed company.

As for the bodily pleasures: swimming, sex, sports, etc., were all completely okay, as long as you did not visibly express anything other than mild ladylike enthusiasm during their performance. Massage, giving or receiving, was highly suspect, as was dancing.

I tell you all this not to be amusing, or cathartic, or to disrespect my Grandmother, to whom I owe so much. I share this in the hopes of bringing to light this idea, that we all have a lot of personal rules about pleasure. And they are worth examining. Because they are not necessarily serving us.

I suspect that a great deal of our personal suffering – anxiety, addictions, disordered eating, sexual issues, body issues, intrusive guilt feelings, even depression – can be traced back to a distorted relationship with pleasure.

Pleasure is an evolutionary force. It’s a natural and beautiful thing. And it’s also powerful. Not good, not bad, but powerful.

giorgione-venus-asleep

Like all powerful things, pleasure is best handled with skill, not fear, not guilt, not ignorance.

But do we learn this? Do we learn how to skilfully manage our relationship with pleasure? No, I think most of us learn about pleasure in the same way that I did – as children, watching the adults around us mismanage their own relationships with pleasure.

We all need to give and receive pleasure. We need to learn to freely receive pleasure from others and from the world around us, without fear, guilt, or the mismanagement that can lead to abuse. And the question is, can we trust ourselves to handle this potent force?

Yes, I think we can.

And the first step is really getting to know our pleasure-selves. What brings us deep pleasure? What pleasures do we allow ourselves, and what do we deny? What are our rules about pleasure, and where did we learn them?

Food for thought, and perhaps for journaling and sharing. If you’d like, share here in the comments. This is part one of a little series I’m writing on pleasure, so I will be back later in the week with some deliciously specific ideas for increasing, and freely enjoying, your pleasure.

About Bronwyn: Bronwyn Simons’ vision is of a world where we are all able to live daily lives of deep connection, purpose, and joy. She’s an artist, writer, teacher, and retreat leader whose work has touched and transformed hundreds of women’s lives for the better. Her next big adventure is the Artful Living in Mexico retreat at gorgeous Hacienda Mosaico in November 2014. The Artful Life Blog provides a daily touchstone for women seeking to live more soul-satisfying lives.

 

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