Your inner fire.

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“You can’t take the sky from me.” – Joss Whedon

I spent the first week of 2017 with a horrible virus that left me house bound and feeling very sorry for myself. If you are anything like me, you struggle to think clearly or positively when you aren’t well. It colours everything with a horrible shade of blue. You have little clarity or perspective. So you have to be aware of that and remind yourself that your negative view point when you feel like that is coming from the over shadowing illness and not your own mind. And it is important to remind yourself you will be thinking more like yourself again when you are feeling back to normal and back to health.

I had been so looking forward to spending that week contemplating my plans and dreams for the year, allowing myself to ease into the year slowly, to do things I like doing and generally feel like I was getting a head start on myself. But that never happened. So last week was my first week of 2017, that’s how I was treating it anyway. Yes I still felt a little behind, and have sorely neglected social media as well as other commitments I should have worked on. But I didn’t want to start the year the way I ended the last one, in a rush. This whirlwind will creep up on you if you aren’t careful and you will be so caught up in the race, the rush, that you won’t even realise it. In times like that, when I get too caught up, too busy, I lose all insight, I am flustered and probably dampening my creativity, it is not a good place to be. Being busy has become something to strive for in our hectic modern world. It is the true entrepreneurs, the real innovative thinkers that have realised that being busy doesn’t necessarily mean being more productive, and most definitely does not mean being happier . They have learnt to harness their own pattern, their own balance and find what works for them, often being more productive in a lot less time.

So to put a positive spin on my poor start to the year, it was in some ways the best way to start a new year. A slap in the face reminder to not ever take my health for granted. Physical, and mental, health. And to shine a light on how precious it is to be healthy 95% of the time. It has also led me to my main focus for the year, my year of ultimate health. I call it so, as I would say I am pretty healthy already. I take care of myself, eat well, I like to exercise, I try to sleep well and meditate. However, I have a lot of space for improvement, and have possibly become somewhat complacent with my health and fitness. And I realise how much it can impact every area of your life, every area of you. I want to be strong. I want to feel strong. I do not agree with diets, they are quick fix, short term, solutions, but I do believe in changing or adjusting habits and your lifestyle, for life. I am only a week in, but so far I have introduced what will hopefully become my new habits, I won’t bore you with the details, but I am feeling motivated and excited about my new challenges.

I actually love January, I know a lot of people don’t, but I really do feel like it is a clean slate, a fresh start, to think about what worked and what didn’t work the previous year, and to try and re-align what your priorities are, what you want, who you are, who you would like to be, what you would like to do. It is a good time to think about what is important to you and put that first. Make it a priority if you can. Don’t let that light go out. If you have a light on at all, you are one of the lucky ones, and the world can’t afford to lose you.

In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being.We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit. – Albert Schweitzer

One thing I can personally reflect on from last year was that I realised I may in fact be a “people pleaser”. I think a lot of people are, whether they are aware of it or not. I hate the thought of someone not liking me, I don’t like to let people down, and I generally aim to impress. This realisation hit me in a big way, and it has definitely started to change how I think and how I make decisions. If I am doing something mainly to please someone else, I have to question why do it in the first place. I am not talking about helping others, that, in my head, is completely separate and I will always try to make time for that. But doing something, and straying down a tangent because you think it is what someone else wants you to do, doesn’t tend to serve you. So this year, I also aim to care a little less what other’s think. To not be side tracked by what someone else may see for my future. And instead to focus on where my own ideas, dreams, and priorities lie.

In order to have the strength of mind to stay true to you and what it is you want to do, you have to work on keeping your cup filled up. Keep your self filled up. Make time and head space to do the things that keep you physically and mentally strong. Sleep enough. Eat enough, of the right stuff. Exercise. Spend time outside. Spend time with people that lift you up. With people you love. Make time for doing what you love. Make space in your life for it. Only when you have this, can you help fill others up. Love yourself first and your world, and the world of those around you, will open up.

All of this, to me, comes down to getting to know yourself. Building an awareness of your mind, your body, and your heart. Only by trying to understand yourself, and spending time doing so, can you then understand what you really want. And what you need in order to keep your fire ablaze. I think I am some sort of weird introverted extrovert, (apparently most people are a combination of the two and it is very rare to be completely introverted or extroverted, most people have sides of both – this amazing TED talk talks about the importance of introverts) because I know now that I need quite a lot of time by myself, but I also need time with other people. I get energy both ways. It is a delicate balance. I thrive off meeting new people. And, to be honest, at times can be quite comfortable being the centre of attention, or the one keeping the dance floor busy at a subdued wedding. But if I have been running from place to place and taking on more work than I can manage, and have had no time to process it all, and be alone, I will be useless around people, I will have nothing to offer. However, if I have had time to do all the things I know feed me, I will try and give what I have away, I will try and share my energy, I love to make people laugh, or inspire them or show them the light if they are at that time struggling to see it. Which brings me to how much I also need those close to me. Only they really get to seem me when I do feel weak, and burnt out, and incredibly vulnerable. When I have lost all direction and am not myself. They help pick me up and I hope I can do the same for them whenever they may need it.

“Your spirit does not shine when the sun shines and your life is comfortable. It shines when darkness swallows you and you cannot breathe for the strangle of fear. That’s when what was invisible becomes undeniable.”  – Toni Sorenson

When I started to feel a bit better again last week, and a bit more myself, I decided in order to help guide and remind me of my ‘year of ultimate health’, I would do a new illustration which tried to encapsulate what that meant to me. I started with one that was similar to the photo below, a very restorative, meditative, pose. Which I do value, a lot. However, when I started the drawing, something didn’t feel right, it wasn’t working. Which is why I went on with the illustration at the start of this post, which started to make more sense as I was creating it, it felt right. When I am in a good routine of doing yoga every day, I try to do a ‘difficult’ pose, a challenging pose, within my practice, doing so makes me feel strong. There are a lot of yoga poses that are only possible with physical and mental strength, not only to get into the pose, but also the strength to dedicate your mind and body to practicing it, to give yourself time to practice it, day in day out, and to realise that there is no rush, no one to compete with, but that it will happen, if you give a little every day, every week, you will get there. And this, makes me feel strong, confident, and ready to take on challenges outside of my yoga mat as well as on it. So this is my symbolic illustration for the year. Not to mention the burning ‘sun’ in the background, (I call it the sun, but this is a metaphor as I would never attempt to capture something as vast and powerful as the sun itself in an illustration) this is my fire, this is your fire, this is the thing inside you that you need to work on keeping lit. If you let it go out you will have an even longer struggle to get it lit again.

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I encourage you to get to know yourself, get to know where your priorities lie, and from there take action on what you want, what you need, from this year. This is a good time to do it before things start to get too fast, too busy, and you have lost any sight or direction for yourself. And if that leads you to decide to work on letting yourself shine, working on being the best version of you, and trying to stay with that fire every single day, and help others to find and follow their fire, then that, in my opinion, is an honourable, and positive start to the year.

“The human spirit is stronger than anything that can happen to it”  – C.C.Scott

A belated Happy New Year everyone, from a rejuvenated Holly.

If you liked this blog post you may like these similar ones: Awake and Motivation

http://www.hollysharpe.com
twitter: @hollysharpe

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Gratitude.

photo

“Very few people on the planet have the opportunity to even follow their dreams at all. Most people live in poverty, or in communities where the repercussions for behaving how they want are a lot worse than people just talking shit. If doing what you want is an option for you, you should do it, because you’re one of the few lucky people who can. And even if you fail, you will be in a better position than if you’d never tried. Every horrible thing that has ever happened to me has added integrity to my art and improved my understanding of the human race.”

The above was said by Grimes, apparently. I love these words so much, and I love them even more knowing that she said them. I also love her. Have been a big fan of hers for a while, and then I got to see her live earlier this year in Glasgow, and now I am slightly obsessed. She is so amazing. She exudes energy, creativity, and complete and utter individuality. But anyway, she is right. If there is even a small, tiny strand of hope, window of opportunity or thread of chance that you can do what you want to do, you have to grab it with both hands and chase it until you can do so no more. I think the majority of people that aren’t happy, are unhappy because either they don’t know what they truly want, or they aren’t trying to get it, and have decided that it is not possible before they have even tried, which is insane when you think about it, and also because they cannot see how lucky they are with everything that they already have.

I put the above photo on my Instagram earlier, and not that that can sum up how I was feeling today. But I was feeling insanely thankful, and a tad overwhelmed, which happens to me a lot actually. Through a few things I have done over the past year, and things people very close to me have done, I have not had to tread far to witness first hand how unfortunate some people are, how fragile their lives are, how much they got the opposite of a head start in life. It makes my heart bleed, and break, and want to envelope them in all the love in the world. I want to take all their pain away, and stop all the pain that I know is still to come for them. But I know I can’t. I can try, and there are some things I can try and do within my power to help them. But I can’t live their life for them. And if I didn’t feel grateful for so much in my life before, which I did, I now feel even more so. I feel so blessed, so lucky, so fortunate. Rather than feeling some sense of guilt or sadness that for some reason I have been more fortunate in some ways than them, I see it as a chance to be even more grateful, and instead to take advantage of my situation. And to me that means spreading my own positive energy as far and wide as I possibly can. Whether that be through my work, or by each and every time I come in to contact with any other person. Which is not always easy to do, I have my bad days as well. But rather than dwell on those, I try to cherish the good days, the good moments, and hold on to them as long as I can, and to let them radiate to anyone I can connect with.

And until I figure out how to take their pain away, that is all I can do. That, and encourage everyone else to be more compassionate, to think before you judge someone, because you literally do not know what burdens they carry, you do not know what they have been through, you can only try to imagine, but until you have walked a day in their shoes, be kind, be more accepting, and the world will do the same for you.

To come back to the point of ‘The best things in life aren’t things’. The best things I know I have been given are by people. I have been brought up with stability, with a family around me, and with that, so much support, and I know how rare and splendid a thing to have had that is. And through many ways, that has given me love, so much love, and I know that has made me capable of feeling and understanding love, as well as understanding how important it is for everyone to have. So if you are dwelling on the money you feel like you don’t have, or the materials things that you crave for so much, take a step back and look at the people in your life, the love that is hopefully there all around you, and that you can give back to others. Showing someone you care, giving them your time, is more valuable than anything you could every buy them.

– Holly

x

Awake.

Alive

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive”

  • – Howard Thurman

I wrote the following late last night (Thursday 17th Sept) :

Pretty sure I’ve posted these words online somewhere, if not on here, before. But I have been struck by a strong feeling right now how true this really is. I am not long back from working at an event for UGG doing live illustrations and I feel so happy that it went so well. I also feel so blessed that I get to do something for a living that makes me so happy. It doesn’t all the time… and that is why I felt the need to share this, because sometimes, including earlier today, I can be quite negative, and generally was not feeling too hyped about anything. This in itself is frustrating, but I know having ups and downs is just part of life, and I know everyone feels like this sometimes. I can’t help but think that if you are creative the highs and lows are possibly more extreme….? It just feels near impossible to snap out of it at times. And other times I can’t help but feel over the moon, and it feels like nothing can alter that state… but it always ends at some point.

I think part of the reason it frustrates me is because everything I am trying to learn about meditating and Buddhism is about maintaining, or trying to maintain, a steady, contented balance most of the time… without the rollercoaster. I think I need to accept that if you are creative, this is the nature of it, the nature of us, and maybe it is something I have to embrace. I just wish I could bottle the way I feel right now, and use it all the times when I’m not feeling so optimistic and grateful and generally have lots of energy. I try and remind myself of the times when I feel so happy and elated when I am not feeling so….but it can be so hard to make yourself feel something when you just can’t pick up the energy – I did write a previous post about things that I think can help lift you out of this way here.  My point to all this is, tonight I was reminded that I really do come alive when I get to do something I really love. I was in my element, and any nerves I felt prior to it quickly vanished when I realised this is where I excel. There was loud music on all night. There was lots of people there. And I love meeting new people. And most importantly, I illustrated a LOT of people, mainly girls it has to be said. This being one of my favourite things to do, especially from real life people (as supposed to a photograph). And every time they seemed so delighted with the illustration I did of them, which just continued to boost this high. I know I am extremely lucky to get paid for it on top of all that. Afterwards I felt so pleased, and a tad relieved, that it had gone so well, and I felt so full of energy, which makes it so much easier to pass that energy on, to be grateful for everything and everyone in my life, to smile at strangers, and to generally be able to pass on joy, happiness. I really think when you smile the world smiles with you, but sometimes it feels so hard to be that way, even if you do know it is for the best. So, my probably long winded way of saying it… but I want to pass on this energy, this enthusiasm I feel right now. I want everyone to feel like this, because it is true, if you feel alive, invigorated by something, it is inevitable that you will pass on that feeling, you will inspire people, make friends, people will fall in love with you, you will exude energy. And this therefore can only be a positive thing for you, and via the ripple effect, for the entire world.

So please, if you can, try and find whatever it is that makes you come *alive. I am not telling everyone to quit their jobs, (although I would support that decision if you dread your job every day….) but even if it is something you can do in the evenings, or weekends, or volunteer, or online. It can be a small thing, or a collection of things. And if you don’t know what makes you come alive, keep looking, keep looking and try and give yourself proper space, as in head space, to figure out what makes sense for you. What wakes you up?
Pema Chodron, who I have mentioned before and will no doubt mention again, writes a lot about finding, discovering, (and making space to do so) what wakes you up and what makes you fall asleep.

“We have basic energy coursing through us. Sometimes it manifests as brilliance and sometimes it manifests as confusion. Because we are decent, basically good people, we ourselves can sort out what to accept and what to reject. We can discern what will make us complete, sane grown-up people, and what – if we are too involved in it – will keep us children forever. This is the process of making friends with ourselves and with our world. It involves not just the parts we like, but the whole picture, because it all has a lot to teach us.”

– Pema Chondron – ‘the wisdom of no escape’

I also want to add that what I did tonight was something out of my comfort zone as I have never done anything before where I am actually illustrating live at an event, and for a big company who of course I want to impress and don’t want to let down etc… so needless to say, the pressure was on, and the pressure to create very quick illustrations of lots of people non stop for 3 hours… but like I said, I was in my element. I barely had a chance to look around so I almost had no option but to focus, keep my head in the game and do my best… sink or swim. So my point is, another invaluable feeling is when you are scared, or nervous or anxious about something, and part of you would rather turn back and just stay comfortable, just stay at home and not do that thing that scares you. But what if that thing that scares you goes really well and you not only feel *exhilarated that it has gone well, but you are also filled with more courage and confidence to know that you pushed yourself and you succeeded. And therefore next time maybe it will become easier to push yourself further out of your comfort zone.

And one final point, I had a hectic day all day prior to this event, and nowhere near enough sleep last night, yet I kept going (and trust me I NEED my sleep). And I know we all need sleep and food to keep us going, to sustain us and give us energy, and there is no way I could function with little sleep every day, as that way you are effectively running on adrenaline, and that is not healthy. However, what this did make me realise, is that when you do something that wakes you up, that *invigorates you, in some ways this can feed you far more than anything else could, more than food or sleep.

Phew, as usual I did not intend for this to be so long, so if you read the whole thing – thank you! I promise I did try and edit it down, but that never has been one of my strong points…..

And on a side note, I will try and write a bit about/ share pictures from the actual UGG event… It is on my, permanently long, list of things to do…

Holly
x

*exhilarate
1. To enliven; invigorate; stimulate

*invigorate

1.Give strength or energy to

*alive
2. alert and active; animated.

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Change the world by changing yourself.

Hope

“Be the change you wish to see in the world” – Mahatma Gandhi

I’ve been thinking a lot about change recently. And about compassion. Not quite related I guess. Which is to say: I’ve been thinking (or over-thinking) a lot recently. Not much new there really.

I feel like as time goes on, and life seems to throw bigger decisions at you, sometimes it is so hard to know what is the right direction. What is the “right” way to be. What is the “right’ thing to do. I don’t think there is ever one answer to any of these questions. And one thing I think which is useful to remember, (re my post about comparing yourself) is that we are all so different. Each and every person is unique. That’s 7 billion complete and utter individuals living on this planet (don’t get me started on what is beyond this planet, as that is a little too mind blowing). If I’m honest, that fact alone completely over shadows any worries or concerns I had in my own little world. And instead I find myself in awe of this overwhelming miracle which is actually a fact.

With a decent dose of my usual tangents, I will try to get back to what I think my overall point is… For quite a few years now I have taken it upon myself to learn more about yoga, Buddhism, and meditation. I have a whole array of thoughts on them all, which I will for the most part leave aside for another day, in another post/s. But what I do want to say, is that when you feel in doubt, when you are confused and questioning whether you are in the right job, or at the right place in your life or whatever it is you are (constantly) questioning. One thing you can be sure of, in my opinion, is to work on bettering yourself. Now that of course means something different to everyone. However there are probably a few core things which most would surely agree on, such as trying to be a good person, trying to treat others without judgment and without criticism. Trying to be healthier, to treat you body and mind with the respect and love it so deserves, and encouraging others to do the same.

They are just a couple of things which I think most people would feel happier if they tried to improve on them, and for most people there is always some room for improvement within those areas. And I think that once you are focusing on these things, in time the rest will start to fall into place, because your whole outlook will be more positive and with more clarity. I want to try and make my point with a ‘story’ or whatever you would like to call it, which one of my wonderful yoga teachers, Laura, recently shared with us. It was written by an Unknown Monk, in 1100 AD and reflects that we can only change ourselves –

“When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation. When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn’t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family. Now, as an old man, I realise the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realise that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.”

This really said something to me, because I think it is so true. This ‘ripple effect’ of passing good intentions and good energy, but by starting with yourself, makes so much sense to me, and is a lot easier to feel like perhaps you could in fact help change something, rather than feeling helpless and overwhelmed by the state of the world if you start thinking about changing the entire world yourself.

And just to round this up, perhaps on a slightly too cheesy note for some, here are some words which perhaps a lot of you already know, but it’s a nice one to remember:

Promise yourself

To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.
To talk health, happiness, and prosperity to every person you meet.
To make all your friends feel that there is something worthwhile in them.
To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.
To think only of the best, to work only for the best, and to expect only the best.
To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.
To forget the mistakes of the past, and press on to the greater achievements of
the future.
To wear a cheerful expression at all times and give a smile to every living
creature you meet.
To give so much time to improving yourself that you have no time to criticize others.
To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy
to permit the presence of trouble.
To think well of yourself and to proclaim this fact to the world, not in loud
words, but in great deeds.
To live in the faith that the whole world is on your side, so long as you are true
to the best that is in you.

The Optimist Creed

By Christian D. Larson 1912

Hope you enjoyed my post, thanks again for taking the time to read it!
– Holly

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