You know what they say. Start as you mean to proceed. And it’s February. If you weren’t back at work a few weeks ago, you probably are now. So, how can we set ourselves up for success in 2024 now, and be kind to ourselves at the same time? 

The left painting is one that I did a while ago. I ran a competition at the North Sydney Art Markets – whoever came up with a name for the artwork got to keep the original. I think that was the deal, anyway. It was ages ago. But I remember it fondly, because it was the day I met my dear friend Marg – my other dear friend Ali brought her along to the markets, introduced us, and Marg offered a name for the painting – Medicine Woman. I loved it, and I loved that Marg, a medical doctor, saw something of herself and other healers, in the artwork. We’ve been close ever since. 

I’m interested in the idea that we all have medicine to offer. We can be our own medicine, and we can be each other’s medicine as well. We can all heal, regenerate, nourish and create a space for wellness and growth. 

So how do we find the medicine that we need for ourselves and each other? Paying attention is one part of it. But also finding a way to live that allows us time to offer something is also key. That can feel pretty hard at times, because life can be exhausting. 

So then, balance becomes the thing, doesn’t it? One of the key pillars of mindfulness that I explore through my own Mindful Creativity practice is acceptance. To me, acceptance comes in the form of being okay with the ups and downs of daily life. Accepting the wins, the defeats, the bad nights, the good days, the sunny weekends and the drizzly mornings; all of them have something to give us – whether it’s a reprieve, a valuable lesson, a beautiful moment, or a real sense of achievement.  

Acceptance is knowing the swings and roundabouts. Equilibrium then, for me, is finding a way to be strong and supple in the transition, between one state of action, or being, and another.  

Recently, I did an exercise – I sat down and scrolled through all the images on my phone from the last few months. I was looking for photos that represented my life in a state of balance. I wanted to reflect on where the sweet spot was. Between giving and receiving. Between investment and reward. Between using my readily available energy and having to call on my reserves.  The goal of this exercise was to look to the year ahead and take inspiration from those moments – what could I do to have more of these snapshots of equilibrium in 2024? I’ve shared six images below, with corresponding explanations of what I saw in these pics.  

Pic #1: Balancing work/play friendships: I have a portfolio career, which I love and nurture – but it does mean that I navigate through at least three or four contexts each day. So, a bit of compartmentalisation can help. But one of the challenges I’ve felt with this is feeling like I’m disappearing a bit. As though I only exist, at that moment in time, in that particular context. It can make me feel a bit lonely. On reflection recently, I realised that a bit of mix and match between my work contexts makes me feel really happy. It’s about allowing myself to be ‘seen’ on different levels, allowing people to know more than just one small part of me. It feels an important component of my balancing act and so in the year ahead, I plan to focus on letting this happen a bit more. The photo, for reference, is the lovely Janet (a friend from a former work context) – coming out to visit my art studio during the 2023 Arts Trail with her daughter. 

 Pic #2: Celebrating home life achievements: This is a shot of the space in our garden that we’ve been cultivating to get that climbing wysteria effect that we love in cafes and other places where you can sit for a cuppa and enjoy looking up and seeing plants and flowers climbing, twisting, clambering and doing their lovely thing over your head. It was a moment when I looked back and went ‘Ah, this is progress. And we love it.’ Hubby has largely been responsible for getting those vines of life growing, but for me, it was a sense of being able to see the reward, after two years of talking and planting and watching and checking – it made me feel that the balance between effort and reward was exactly right. The pay-off was paying off; and this year we’ve enjoyed the space a lot – summer drinks, reading in the afternoon. Achievement. We’ll take it, thanks!

Pic #3: Finding my medicine: Mandala doodles. I love to paint, and I love to doodle. For me, this is one of the energy-giving activities, the opposite of activities that drain you. This one is as simple as it gets, if there is a mandala or two in progress somewhere nearby, then I’m feeling good. I took the photo because I’d been capturing some course content for my Mindful Mandala course – and again, it was an immediate and heartfelt sense that my energy was being spent in a way that was nourishing and sustaining.  So, the balance is there. Equilibrium looking good and I have something to share; in fact, this is my medicine. Mindful Creativity practices are what I truly love to share in the spirit of creative wellbeing.

Pic #4: The daily rhythm of communing with nature. Flower details! My best days are when I can get out for a walk, preferably early when the flowers are still fresh and the air clean and crisp. Taking photos of flowers on my walks activates my creativity; I feel a huge sense of love for their colours and smells, and the closer I get, the happier I feel. This daily ritual is a 30-minute segment in my day that balances out stress, fatigue and anxiety – and re-sets my sense of self. It’s key to my wellbeing and my sense of equilibrium. It’s one of those no-brainers that I almost don’t need to mention – you’ll no doubt know for yourself the benefits of these kinds of practices – I guess my intent here is to not skip over the basics, but rather to return to them and see them as a set of tools that are tried and tested.

Pic #5: Knowing what ‘feeling restored’ looks like. This is a pic of me and my friend Megsie at the Art Gallery of NSW recently. But it occurred to me when I was looking through my phone pics that I enjoyed the day so much because I had taken a real rest from seeing people over December – it was a quiet period of introspection, especially the last week of the year when I go into quite a deep retreat from the world. And it was this photo that made me realise how valuable that quiet time was – halfway through January, I found myself re-balanced, restored and able to enjoy time with others. Equilibrium restored!

Pic #6 – if all is well, then this happens!  I can’t write creatively after I pass a certain level of stress. So I know that when the writing is going well, things are in their place. This is a pic of me on a recent writing day, out and about. And yes, that is cake and champas, my lunch! It was a great writing day. When it comes to creative and/or passion projects, something key to remember is that no-one else is going to tell you to keep going. Writing is important to me and so I feel a sense of pride when I look at the ways I keep myself on track with getting my current novel wrapped up. And this is the most important way I check for equilibrium. If I’m living in a way that allows the writing to happen, then all is well. And putting in the hard work doesn’t mean it can’t be fun and come with treats. The end! 🙂