• A Mindfulness Tool for Unwanted Thoughts

    Today I would like to share a tool I learned years ago when I was struggling with anxiety. It can be an extremely effective tool with practice, even though on the surface it seems very simplistic. I think I originally learned it from the spiritual teacher Jack Kornfield.

    My creation this week uses a mix of media. I created the bird by lino-cutting. I then took it into Photoshop and completed the composition using a combination of drawing and photography. Copyright Bren Michelle 2017.

    When you first become aware of a thought that is unwanted or unhelpful, imagine you are on a bus. Ask yourself if you are happy with the direction the thought is going in. The bus is a metaphor for the thought. Is this a bus you want to be on? Is it taking you somewhere you would like to go? The final destination may be somewhere very unpleasant and difficult to get back from.

    Is this a bus you want to be on? Is it taking you somewhere you would like to go? The final destination may be somewhere very unpleasant and difficult to get back from.

    If the thought is unhealthy, make the decision to get off the bus. When I do this I visualise pressing the button, hearing the buzzer it triggers and feeling the bus slow to a halt. I step off the bus and into the warmth of the sun.
    It helps to have a place to go immediately; I like to think of three things that I’m grateful for (new things each time) so that my brain does not default back to the unhelpful thought. If gratitude practice doesn’t appeal to you, choose something that you like to think about. A healthy problem for the brain to work on is an ideal distraction – what your next art piece will be, what to have for dinner, what to do on the weekend etc – anything that can engage the brain long enough to change course.
    It takes quite a lot of practice but can be powerful – especially when adapted to suit yourself. Allow yourself to be curious because some thoughts need to be investigated or explored (and some very important thoughts make us uncomfortable), but become an expert at recognising when it is a good time to get off the bus. With time, just pressing the buzzer may be enough to switch the thought off.
    This tool can be a good one to teach kids too. I hope that is helpful. Good luck!

  • An Authenticity Mantra and Why We Need One

    Once again I’ve found myself listening to Brene Brown, a truly inspirational speaker. The teaching of hers that I am exploring this week is the importance of being authentic. It has inspired me to adopt her authenticity mantra:

    “Don’t shrink. Don’t puff up.
    Just stand your sacred ground.”


    For my image creation this week I have been experimenting with simple shapes and textures. This piece uses a texture I created while lino-printing, and a crack texture that I drew by hand.

    What Brene found, through extensive research, was that ‘fitting in’ is the primary barrier to belonging. True belonging, she claims, only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world. She says fitting in is all about assessing a situation and acclimating to it. When our goal is to fit in, and it fails, the resulting emotion is shame. When our goal is to be genuine – our authentic selves – and it doesn’t go well, the result can be disappointment, confusion, perhaps sadness or another emotion, but it is not shame because our self worth is not on the line.

    True belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world.

    Being authentic allows us to connect deeply with people, particularly those that share the same values and desires as us. It liberates us from the pressure of trying to be perfect or what other people want us to be. We can act consciously in line with our core values and beliefs without being swayed by the forces and influences around us.
    The spiritual leader Pema Chodron makes an important point about the authentic self:

    “The point is that our true nature is not some ideal that we have to live up to. It’s who we are right now, and that’s what we can make friends with and celebrate”

    Pema Chodron

    There is an exceptionally good recording of Brene Brown speaking on this topic (and more) on Audible. The recording is called The Power of Vulnerability: Teachings of Authenticity, Connection, and Courage and is made by Sounds True. I highly recommend it, and if you are not already a member of Audible you can sign up and get this recording for free.
    So remember: “Don’t shrink. Don’t puff up. Just stand your sacred ground.”
    Why not make this your mantra too?

    The Power of Vulnerability: Teachings of Authenticity, Connection, and Courage by Brene Brown

  • Seek Out What Magnifies Your Spirit

    Hello and welcome to my new blog!
    Hi, my name is Bren and I create design under the name Bren Michelle. I’ve had a big break from creating while focusing on my young family, but now it is time to get back to it! ‘Inspired’ is a project I’ve initiated to keep myself learning, creating, and growing – as an artist and as a person. It’s a commitment I’ve made to live more mindfully and meaningfully. It’s a way to keep interesting snippets I’ve found in one place for reference, and to share them with friends or anyone who may enjoy them. Most importantly though it’s my way of getting inspired; I hope you will find something here to inspire you too. Posts will be sporadic no doubt, as life is busy and unpredictable, so please follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Bloglovin for notification of updates. So, here goes…

    Blackbird by Bren Michelle. Copyright Brenda Michelle Sutton 2016.

    Seek out what magnifies your spirit. Patti Smith, in discussing William Blake and her creative influences, talks about writers and artists who magnified her spirit — it’s a beautiful phrase and a beautiful notion. Who are the people, ideas, and books that magnify your spirit? Find them, hold on to them, and visit them often. Use them not only as a remedy once spiritual malaise has already infected your vitality but as a vaccine administered while you are healthy to protect your radiance

    Maria Popova (Brain Pickings)

    Maria Popova has created one helluva good blog over at Brain Pickings. I recently rediscovered it and wondered how such an incredible resource managed to slip out of my consciousness for so many years. But what a beautiful reunion, and it is there to dive into whenever time presents itself. I’ve got a lot of catching up to do!
    The excerpt above was taken from a post detailing Maria’s greatest ten learnings from ten years of Brain Pickings. It’s a must-read in my opinion and as a bonus Maria links to the things she most loved reading and writing about in her first decade of Brain Pickings. Brain Pickings was included in the Library of Congress’ permanent web archive in 2012, so, it’s safe to say I’m not the only one who thinks the site is something special. I can guarantee you’ll find something of interest in the ten years of Brain Pickings post. Enjoy!
    Bren XXX