Amanda Grace
October 2, 2014

The six days passed in a blur, while also having a timeless quality, I had a feeling of elsewhere-ness the entire time. I imagine it was the effect of total and complete immersion in the experience of what it means to retreat.

Oh it was magic, surreal, emotional and I found myself a few times playing referee between the dreams in my heart and the critic in my head. There were some jarring moments between Daisy Jane and Doubting Thomas… the latter more skilled and rehearsed with tactics, in a perpetual attempt to keep me small. He’s a master, but one I don’t intend to serve.

I took two classes, each lasting 3 days.

The first was Art Journalling, facilitated by the beautiful, soul driven, softly spoken but deeply impacting Orly Avineri. This woman has planted in me a serious desire to visit south California where she lives and take her workshop there too. Actually, she might be at risk of me moving into her pocket once I get there.. but she’s cool with that.

I have kept many, many, MANY (see how many?) journals over the years. I have spilled my guts into pages upon pages, letters I never sent and words I never said. When I was younger I even created a written code, so I could freely spill into a page my secrets..  that way nobody could read them in case I died before I ever got a chance to hide my diary. This is how all teenagers think, right? …Silence…

Anyway… of the many, many, ma… you get the picture, I never thought of it as a creative expression. Sure, my pages were full of doodles and I did have one massive scrapbook of almost exclusively imagery (more coding) but I never realised what I was doing!

My Journals 2009 - 2011

My Journals 2009 – 2011

4 years ago, during a difficult time in my life, I engaged in a frantic spilling of myself into a collection of journals I have never revisited, nor do I intend to. I think words have that power. I don’t want to read, or more specifically, re-live that time in my life. It’s done, over… I don’t need to hear about it again. But I’m curious as to what it would have looked like had I have used imagery to express myself instead of words. I imagine looking back would not to be so threatening, because my experience with imagery, is that it does not confine itself to time and place, it’s not problem focussed.

relationships that sustain

Relationships that sustain

To express with imagery transcends problems. I have always found that when I spill with imagery, what gets spilled is not just the problem, but the solution, the meaning and the understanding. In every symbolic expression I have made, whether it be on a page or in a sandbox, I make contact with the essence of who I am, the me I don’t have access to by any other way.


In the beginning, there was only love

I find myself in there. I discover something about what Ken Wilbur refers to as ‘I am-ness’, the part of me (I like to think of it as my soul) that is, always was and always will be, an eternal self. Oh great… I’ve gone deep again… what a surprise!

Surface…. So anyway, that’s why art journalling called to me and I couldn’t have had a better teacher and group to dive in with!

Identity - Eabha

Identity – The spirit of Eabha

Orly’s is an experiential workshop… my favourite kind. To be facilitated in this way is to be facilitated through a process of making meaning from direct experience; learning from experienceI have found no better way to learn and believe me, I have enough ‘theory’ in my head to know how useless it is. If you’re into this kind of thing, just find Orly, if you can’t take a workshop, buy her book. I’m saying no more because I am on the threshold of gushing… actually I already have a foot in the door.

Onwards… to the second of the three day workshops.

Before I do though I have to mention, art aside… the women I met at this retreat were what you would call soul sisters. I was hoping for that. I mean, I went with big expectations (that’s what I do) and I was praying to the universe that it would deliver on the connection front. I could handle coming away no better an artist, no more creative a person… but what concerned me most of all, is that I would come away without having made any connections. 

THANK YOU UNIVERSE… OMG, did she deliver. I met the most beautiful, creative, humorous, courageous, sensitive, heart and soul led kind of people I could have hoped to meet.

There were such honest and emotional exchanges between us, the kind of connecting that requires courage, authenticity, trust, a belief in love and spirit and a willingness to share our histories, or more appropriately herstories.

In doing so, we enriched and affirmed ourselves and each other. I am so grateful for that above all, that I made these kind of connections. I will be talking about three of those beautiful ladies on Monday when I take up the baton from one of whom, who graciously passed it to me, to participate in an arty blog hop circulating the creative blog network.

I have to mention our retreat photographer, Tara Morris. Tara committed herself to this retreat in an unofficial capacity. She accompanied her friend Flora with the modest hope of maybe recouping her expenses by securing a few portraits during the week. Somewhere along the journey from Boston to here, she kicked modesty’s ass (probably flushed it down the plane’s crapper too) and decided to go balls to the wall instead. Hello!… had anything been missing this week, had she not have made that decision, it would have been that.

Tara...look at her all angelic looking!

Tara… looking all angelic!

I looked ‘Tara’ up in the dictionary by the way, it said ‘an explosion of life-force energy’.

A total badass behind the lens, she took such beautiful photos, capturing memory, essence and meaning. She worked so hard and yet still managed to be fully present and an even badder ass up close and personal. She’s also adorable, if she was a seed, I would plant whole fields of her!

So, days four to six was with the Beautiful, Brave and also Badass iTunes playlister, that is Flora Bowley. This was a horse (course?) of a different colour! I hadn’t allowed myself to ponder too much about it, of course I was aware of Flora and her art, but had deliberately not researched (code for cyber stalked) her or her workshop too much on the inter web, so that I could be as free of expectation as possible (even for me!).

Flora doin her thing.. I robbed this from her FB page.. I didn’t take photos… dammit!

I realised quickly that I was going to end up having major respect for this lady. But my god was I out of my comfort zone! It was in Flora’s class that it dawned on me that I am not a painter. ***stop the music*** what am I doing here?

Standing in front of the blank canvas on day one I was confronted with an overwhelming surge of panic, doubt and self consciousness. What am I supposed to do? How…HOW am I supposed to express myself here? Just appear calm Amanda, stay cool… put. paint. on. the thing… just get it on there… layers, LAYERS!! Nobody will notice you feel like you’ve just gone to battle without a sword.

It was during these three days the nighttime dreams started. My dreams are my worry ground. A naked in public dream betrayed to me how exposed, self conscious and vulnerable I felt. Followed by dreams of death, which represented the disturbance in my comfort zone, the threat to my identity as this ‘confident’ woman, a woman with dreams born of a creative self, a woman who knows who she is (Pssst… I don’t, by the way) damn… my subconscious knew it and I knew it.

In Flora’s class I survived by splashing the nervous energies of my inner parts out.. OUT!

Acknowledging my self conscious part…


Everything’s going to be ok

Satisfying my insecure and therefore, angry defeatist part…

Unchartered waters

Placating my comfort seeking and panicky ‘what does everybody think of me’ part…


Just be YOU!

Before finally clearing a space for my brave, believing, willing to try, wants to learn and grow part. She got her chance to step forward on the last day, thank god… She was so welcome!

Stepping Forward

I’m so grateful to Flora for this lesson, because Flora has been developing her creative process over 20 years, watching her paint is to observe someone at peace with putting herself out there.

She trusts her creative self… that takes balls, BIG shiny amaze-balls! That’s what I took from her. Bravery. How does one develop this level of trust and creative bravery? Show up, do it. Hello, metaphor for life!

Are you still with me? Thank you… It has taken me almost a week of coming down, around and processing to be able to sit here and write this, because I wanted to report to you the depth of the experience, the engagement, anxiety and joy of something that, if you go with it, creates movement once the fear and apprehension is acknowledged and overcome.  I wanted to express what this meant on a personal, as much as an artistic level.

I have to mention my gratitude and admiration for Irish artist Pauline Agnew, who’s vision and dream baby this was. I’m so proud to be Irish and to have a retreat of this quality and calibre on our own doorstep, in the magnificent Bantry House was a gift in itself. Pauline made a personal dream come true in realising her vision, but in doing so, she also delivered for many of us, a space to embrace and fertilise ours.

There is nothing that keeps you stuck, like fear of not measuring up in front of others. I have that fear, but I also have a fear of stuckness.. actually it’s more like an intolerance, either way… My fear driven part has a pretty solid, ready made excuse should she ever be given the mantle of decision in my life. But I prefer a democratic inner governance, so tough shit fear, I’m voting for the brave party!

Always, Amanda xoxoxo

16 Responses to “It’s not about measuring up, it’s about showing up!”

  1. Jayne Redmond says:

    wow, what more can i say……….

  2. Vintage 1956 says:

    What a joyful and enriching time for you. Thank you for sharing the experience. Am I allowed to be just a teeny bit jealous? :-)

  3. Marcia R says:

    Your writing is/was beautiful. You are so good at just putting it all out there even when the “it” scares the hell out of you. I love the honesty in your artwork and your willingness to let yourself be vulnerable. I think the universe will indeed answer you. And I LOVE Ken Wilbur so thanks for putting a little of him into your blog post. Now keep making art—LOTS AND LOTS AND LOTS of art.

  4. Ursula1957 says:

    Wow! So worth the wait! Amazed at your honesty! Love your trust, to reveal such inner thoughts, (so fearful of appearing vulnerable, history makes me so) my use of paint, brush strokes, charcoal and canvas are nonexistent, but my love for art is huge! Your paintings show your journey, so much emotion stronger (don’t like to say dark) colors than your usual work, they show the tug of war going on in your soul! How rewarding for you, your hard work paying off. Keep painting, keep sharing, you may not realize how your SELF work, works for others too! Thank you Amanda, thank you daisy Jane! X

    • Thank you Ursula xx <3 It's normal for me to write openly.. I don't think of it or set out to be 'honest'… I'd have nothing to say if I didn't tell it like it was! 😉 Also, I'll never be a fiction writer..Lol

  5. Mel says:

    for someone who was frustrated from her journey back from bantry hoping the blog update would write itself as descriptively as possible, you’ve done your experience incredible justice in that piece of writing! I felt like I was there with you at the retreat at least emotionally. Your paintings are words themselves & I love the visions you’ve created from old journals!! I love that if Tara was a seed you’d plant fields of her! I once created a dance piece for my students to Mumford & sons ‘the cave’ where they started off as seeds I was planting & watering & with the songs crescendo, they’d grow into beautiful strong trees. Growth. You’ve done it in lifetime- loads in these last few years & I’m so proud of you … But mostly happy for you, your soul & your DREAM

    • Ah thanks Mel… I remember that dance routine. It was magic!! You’ll have to post it again Mel.. So uplifting. I remember when I saw it, that song took on a completely different meaning to me & I still associate it with your dance!! That’s art ❤️ love you

  6. Christina C says:

    Amazing Amanda!!! Sounds like this was an incredible experience for you and it was lovely to relive it through your words. Brad and I just received our Daisy Jane Birthday gifts and we LOVE them. They are so special, almost to special to use?! :) Thanks so much and keep this spirit alive! <3 Christina

  7. Wow Floras online course changed my life. Goodness knows what would happen if I did a course in person! Sounds amazing. I love your writing style.

    • Thank you Clare!! Oh it was so special.. The effect will defo linger on me a while! ❤️ we all need life markers and experiences that change us… Especially when that change means becoming more ourselves ❤️

  8. Amanda, thanks for sharing – I got goosebumps. Love what you expressed with your words, paintings and journal pages. I really wanted to attend this retreat, but couldn’t because of conflicts. I knew it would be an amazing life changing experience. Hope to join the group next year. Maybe I’ll meet you there.

    • Hi Debbie, thank you ❤️. That’s a pity you couldn’t attend… I’m sure it’s going to become an annual event and I’m so lucky it’s on my doorstep. I hope you (and I) get to go next year & I hope to meet you too!!

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