Art and Inspiration
Take a break! Catch your breath, look at some pretty colors, and read some words of wisdom for inspiration.
The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge. ~ Bertrand Russell
Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant, there is no such thing. Making your unknown known is the important thing. ~ Georgia O’Keeffe
What is Ubuntu?
The African concept of ubuntu is the “art of being a human being” (Bhengu, 1996). The concept exists in every African language. In Kenya, the Swahili word is utu. In Ghana, the Akan word is biakoye and in South Africa, the Afrikaans word is menslikgeit. It is often interpreted as “I am because we are,” or “humanity towards others,” but is often used in a more philosophical sense to mean “the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity. (Ubuntu Official Documentation)
In our culture, we prize individuality. So living in accordance ubuntu may seem like a strange idea. Yet, it is essential for both personal well-being and success in life. Every person has unique personal and professional goals; and to reach our goals, we must work with others, some of whom have different, even competing goals.
John Donne summarized the ubuntu concept in his famous poem No Man is an Island, the opening lines of which are:
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
Read the complete poem @poemhunter.com/poem/no-man-is-an-island/.
Five Facts about Ubuntu
A person who lives in accord with ubuntu is described as:
- Being kind, generous, friendly, modest, helpful, humble and happy.
- Having a sense of belonging and connection that supports well-being by reducing isolation, anxiety and depression, and strengthening the immune system.
- Having increased self-esteem and self-efficacy
- Not feeling threatened when others are good at what they do or are well-liked.
- Working with others for a common goal, cooperating not competing, respecting not criticizing one another.
Apply the Lessons of Ubuntu
Ubuntu offers us many lessons we can apply to build strong, productive and supportive relationships with others. Some of these lessons include:
- Focus on solving a problem, rather than assigning blame.
- In stressful situations, keep your emotions under control.
- Every person is important and valuable – treat them respectfully.
- Mutual support and concern supports each person in a group in doing their best work.
- When people care about us, we don’t want to disappoint them.
- When the team succeeds, everyone on the team succeeds. Remember no man (or woman) is an island.
Take a few moments and answer the following questions:
A Personal Ubuntu Exercise
- How do I feel when someone treats me with courtesy and respect?
- What does it look like when I behave with dignity?
- When was the last time someone rally listened to what I had to say? How did it make me feel?
- What does it take to really listen to my family members, friends, neighbors co-workers, etc.?
- What one thing can I do to improve my listening?
- Who did I ask for help today or this week?
- Who asked me for help today or this week?
- What does it feel like being excluded from a group?
- How does being excluded affect my self-esteem?
- What things unite me and those around me, no matter what our differences may be?
Using your answers to these questions, identify one thing you can do to build the spirit of ubuntu in your life and do it. Share your ideas with us in the Reply field at the end of this page.
I think that most of us would say that ubunt basically speaks about what it means to be human. ~ Rev. Desmond Tutu
Embrace Your Bordom
I was bored when I was working on this painting. As I thought about it, I realized that I was missing my usual vibrant color palette. That is because, for the first time ever, I was working with a limited palette – only six colors (thalo blue, alizarin crimson, pyrrol orange, quinacridone gold, hansa yellow and ultramarine blue). All the colors you see in this painting come from those six colors. I had to mix those paints in various combinations to create the greens, purples and browns. In doing so, I discovered that psychologist Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD was correct: When you pay attention to boredom it gets unbelievably interesting. I was downright excited by the deep luscious green and olive green I created. They were better than anything I bought in a tube and the browns were delicious as well. The brown square on the bottom reminds me of chocolate mousse –Ymmm!
So let’s learn about boredom. Being bored is actually a good thing and it tends to occur in situations over which we have no control, like waiting in the airport for a delayed flight or in a long meeting. In my case, using a six color palette was an assignment from my art teacher and I wasn’t thrilled about it until I saw what I could do.
Here are five facts about boredom, all of which have been proven by researcher in studies at places like Texas A & M and the University of Central Lancashire in England.
- Boosts learning, creativity, and imagination.
- Leads us to be kinder and more compassionate – for example, giving money to charity, helping a stranger, or volunteering.
- Makes the fun and interesting times more exciting, which leads to greater life satisfaction.
- Is a catalyst for change, driving us to make important changes in our lives.
- Provokes us to set new goals or refocus on what is important in our lives.
Let’s Get Bored!
Given the positive potentials of boredom, can we provoke it or do we have to wait until we are stranded in an airport or in a class listening to a minding numbing meeting?
Good news! We can provoke boredom anywhere and at any time. It is very simple. Here are a few suggestions:
- Do a repetitive task that requires little thinking like cleaning your desk at work or cleaning anything at home or work. Sorting cans, glass and plastic for recycling works well for me to induce boredom.
- Turn off and put away your cell phone, tablet, and other electronic devices. Turn off the TV. Just be with yourself quietly for a while.
- Take a walk around the block without your cell phone and let your mind wander. Or, swim laps.
When you have generated a state of boredom, Alex Lickerman, M.D. suggests that you ask yourself the following questions:
- How can my current circumstances help me develop myself?
- How can my current circumstances help me contribute to the happiness of someone else?
- How would the wisest person on earth look at my current circumstances and what would he or she do in my stead?
Finally, here is a quote from comedian Louis C.K. worth thinking about.
“I’m bored” is a useless thing to say. I mean, you live in a great, big, vast world that you’ve seen none percent of. Even the inside of your own mind is endless; it goes on forever, inwardly, do you understand? The fact that you’re alive is amazing, so you don’t get to say “I’m bored.”
You Are Never Too Old to Play
I was playing when I created this painting and I had a great time doing it. I was playing with shapes, color and textures. Playing isn’t just for kids. It is for all of us. Albert Einstein described play as the highest form of research. If one of the smartest people of any century thinks play is important, who am I to argue with him? Let’s play!
When you are feeling grumpy or overwhelmed, ask yourself “When is the last time I played?” If you are a “normal, responsible” adult, you may not remember when you played. That is a sure sign that you need to play and very, very soon.
I don’t mean competitive “win or lose” play. I mean play that bring us fun and joy and is a catalyst for bigger and better things. According to the National Institute for Play:
- Builds our happiness and productivity.
- Improves our health by reducing stress and increasing well-being.
- Reduces our risk for mental health issues, addiction and interpersonal violence.
- Strengthens our relationships and improves our parenting skills.
- Is an expression of love when we play with family members or friends.
So, how do we go about playing? Like many things adults do, we may overcomplicate our play planning with extensive lists and complex strategies. But the best thing to do is “keep it simple, sweetie! (KISS)” Use just three little steps:
- Pick something that feels fun and easy. For example, one of the simplest ways for me to play is with my dog,
- Schedule a time for play and put it on your calendar!.
- Go play.
If you don’t have any ideas for play, here are some suggestions.
- Think about the fun things you did in the past. Do any of those things appeal to you?
- Try something new that you have always wanted to do.
- Have a “play date” with family members or friends.
- Hang out with children. They will teach you how to play.
- Play with your pet(s). Playing with my dog is one of my favorite ways to play.
- Search “fun ideas for adults” or “bucket list ideas” on the internet.
Sarah Ban Breathnach, the author of Simple Abundance: A daybook of comfort and Joy suggests creating a fun drawer at home to “stockpile small indulgences for “those nights when you feel as if you’d like to pull the covers over your head and never come out. She suggests items such as coloring books for adults along with crayons, puzzles, Play-Doh, LEGOS, etc.
George Bernard Shaw said, We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing. Go play, Right Now!
We live in a culture where happiness is very important. I typed Choose Happiness in the Amazon.com search field and found over 5,000 items for sale– t-shirts, jewelry, coffee mugs, wall hangings, books, pillows, even candles.
Feeling blue or down is a normal reaction. It happens to all of us. Although we want to avoid sadness, occasionally feeling blue is a good thing and is caused by a specific situation or problem. When we allow ourselves to feel blue about a situation, we learn to accept our feelings, which helps us look more objectively at the event that caused our blues. This helps us make better decisions in the future.
So how do we cope with the blues?
- Don’t ignore your sadness. It won’t go away on its own and expresses itself in unhealthy ways
- Try some self-compassion. Don’t beat yourself up over mistakes. Learn from them.
- Confide in a trusted family member or friend who will listen without judgement and refrain from trying to “fix things.”
- Do something you enjoy. Take a walk, listen to music, or meditate. I paint or play with my dog.
How do you cope with the blues? Share your ideas with us in the Comments field below.
Keep in mind psychiatrist Carl Jung’s advice: “Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better take things as they come along with patience and equanimity.
Note: The blues or sadness is not the same as depression which lasts for many days in a row and can interfere with normal life events like spending time with family or friends, feeling hopeless, loss of interest in hobbies, etc. For more information on depression, please read this article Top Ten Signs of Depression.
Do you sometimes feel like this cracked green egg with stress on all sides? Sometime stress makes us feel like we are cracking up and not in a good way.
If you are a living, breathing being, you experience stress. Even animals feel stress. For example, strangers can cause stress in domestic dogs and cats. In the wide, prey animals like gazelles and seals stress about being eaten. Animals the forage for food, like the opossum, owl and even the might giraffe, stress about finding enough food to keep them alive
For animals, their stress in instinctual, for us humans – we create it for ourselves and unlike the animals, we can do something about it. When I feel stressed, I ride my bike, play with my dog, paint or write. In other words I follow Lee Iacocca’s advice and plow that stress into something positive. I get some of my best ideas when I am riding my bike to relieve stress.
How do you relieve stress? Share your suggestions with us in the Comments section below.
I hope this post finds you well and thriving. Have a good week.
We are more likely to thrive when we are:
- Emotionally and socially intelligent
- Finding meaning in life
- Kind and compassionate
- Learning new things
- Living with integrity
- Living a healthy balanced life – physically, emotionally and spiritually
- Mastering challenges
- Treating people fairly
According to psychologist Daniel J. Brown at the University of Portsmouth:
Thriving appears to come down to an individual experiencing a sense of development, of getting better at something, and succeeding at mastering something. In the simplest terms, what underpins it is feeling good about life and yourself and being good at something.
Also, keep in mind that we can thrive in some areas of our lives like work or hobbies, but still struggle in other areas like relationships or health.
August 18, 2019: Appreciation – Flowers for Mom
Original Watercolor painting by Diane Chinn © 2019 All Rights Reserved
One of the meanings of sweet peas is appreciation and my mother loved sweet peas. So, I painted this for her birthday. She would have been 101 years old today (8/18/2019). I show my appreciation for her by striving to live what she taught me – hard work, integrity, kindness and compassion, love of learning, humor and courage.
She was the most courageous woman I’ve known. She was one of the first enlisted women in the Women’s Army Air Corp (WACC) in World War II. There were women offices before her who were nurses or pilots. But, my mother was neither of those. She repaired battle damaged B-29 bombers that could still fly. Think of Rosy the Riveter – that was my Mom. She even met my Dad while in the Army – they were both sergeants.
My Dad died from complications of multiple sclerosis when I was 11 years old. Then my Mom went to college on the GI Bill because she could not see how she could support four teenagers working in a “dime store” (think small Target or Walmart type stores). She earned her Bachelor’s Degree and became a librarian. She loved books and poetry – especially Walt Whitman and Robert Frost. Her favorite poem was Frost’s “The Road Not Taken.”
Her life was definitely an example of that poem and I believe that in some small way I followed in her footsteps on that road. Here is the last stanza of Frost’s beautiful poem:
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Happy Birthday Mom. I love You, I appreciate You and I miss You. Enjoy the sweat peas.
One of the meanings of the calla lily is “overcoming challenges, since the cut flowers can start regrowing in a vase and survive frosts.(@flowermeaning.com)” This seems appropriate in the aftermaths of the shooting in El Paso, TX and Dayton, OH. Now is the time for us to be more courageous – to stand up for kindness, tolerance and justice.
In El Paso, TX, Ruben Martinez, age 11 and wise beyond his years –, wants to help his community heal. He calls it the #ElPaseoChallenge and he is asking each of his fellow citizens to do 22 good deeds (acts of kindness) – one for each of the 22 people killed by the white supremacist at the El Paso Walmart last week. It could just as easily be called the #DaytonOHChallenge for the 9 people who died there the same day.
t could also be Gilroy, CA (July 28, 2019, 4 dead), Virginia Beach VA (May 31, 2019, 13 dead), Pittsburgh, PA (October 27, 2018, 11 dead). Parkland, FL (February 14, 2018, 17 dead). The list goes on and on.
I cannot change the world on my own. Neither can Ruben Martinez and neither can you. And, I am not naïve enough to think that simple acts of kindness will stop the massacres. But, maybe by doing a good deed or being kind to a stranger, that person will feel better and pass that kindness on to another person. Maybe, as a result,there will be one less road rage incident or one less family fight or one less shooting.
This is called an upward positive cycle. Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson at the University of Michigan calls it a way to broaden and build our positive emotions. When we focus on what is working well, we widen our attention and our thinking so that we direct our energies to make best use of our strengths and resources toward the positive. In doing so, we make our small corners of the world better places.
Who knows? If enough people do this, we can create a critical mass, a tipping point at which we overcome our challenges and our prejudices to work together to reduce all forms of violence.
I am doing it. Will you join me and 11-year old Ruben Martinez? Will you help make your small corner of the world a better place?
Read more about Ruben Martinez and the #ElPasoChallenge @ cnn.com/2019/08/06/us/el-paso-challenge-healing-trnd
July 28, 2019: Contagious
Original watercolor painting by Diane Chinn
© 2019 All rights reserved
How do you handle your anger? Do you build or destroy? Here is another excellent quote on anger:
Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy. ~Aristotle
April 14, 2019: Fairness
Original watercolor painting by Diane Chinn © 2018 All rights reserved.
April 7, 2019: Rebellious
Original watercolor painting by Diane Chinn © 2019 All rights reserved.
April 1, 2019: Celebrate Your Inner Fool (Box of Rocks)
Original watercolor painting by Diane Chinn © 2019 All rights reserved.
How will you celebrate your inner fool? I painted a box of rock! Yes, I know what immediately popped into your mind: Dumber than a box of rocks. And yes, I just gave new meaning to the proverbial box of rocks.
This is a Pink Neck Green Pigeon and yes it is a real bird. It is a common sight in Cambodia, Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Original watercolor by Diane Chinn © 2019 All rights reserved.
. You are probably asking yourself: “Self, why is the painted called Chocolate Crystal? Chocolate isn’t a crystal. You are correct, chocolate is not a crystal but cocoa, from which chocolate comes, contains oxalic acid which is in crystal form. Oxalic acide occurs naturally in foods like spinach, kale, rhubarb, sweet potatoes, fruits, nuts, seeds and cocoa. Hence the name.
Original watercolor painting by Diane Chinn © 2018 All rights reserved