When I first agreed to go along to Justine Hwang’s (@itjustflows) Portable Calligraphy Vision Board workshop, I was genuinely excited.
I mean, I should have known. Her tagline is “Calligraphy that refreshes your heart so you can impact your world”. And she doesn’t take that promise lightly.
We introduced ourselves by choosing a word that describes our focus for the year (or how we were currently feeling — I’d had a rough morning, so was already feeling a little fragile) and sure enough, it was enough to make a couple of us tear up. Thankfully the group was small and intimate, meaning it felt like a beautifully safe space, perfect for sharing.
The next couple of hours were a wonderful blur of guided mediation and mindfulness, focusing on each of the areas of our lives that we’d be writing about on our boards. It was a bittersweet exercise for me, because as much as it felt great to reflect on my achievements for 2018 and set intentions for 2019, I was hit with a realisation that stung.
This was the first time I’d allowed myself to intentionally sit with my own thoughts and feelings in at least 12 months. Between busyness and the fear of what I might discover, I’d been avoiding real “me time”. Which is not only sad, but also worrying as the last time I let life get the better of me, I ended up in hospital on life support. In other words, I ignored all signs that I was physically and emotionally struggling and waited until I went down with a life-threatening illness to take action. Something I swore I’d never let happen again.
Only it did.
Sure, I’m not writing this from my sick bed. I feel pretty good, physically. But I spend my days running, ruled by my Google calendar and never-ending
Equally eye-opening were some of the incredible messages that came up during the afternoon. You know the ones. When you get that gut feeling that provides unquestionable clarity around what you need. The kind of message that you’ll NEVER hear if you keep busy enough to avoid it.
I realised that my priorities are backwards. That I feel inauthentic with the way I’m using social media. That I’m tired and in need of a break, but too scared to say no to clients, so remain stuck on the hamster wheel.
In other words, while my body is holding up for now, my mind is struggling. And when that goes on for too long, the body is always soon to follow.
But back to the workshop.
After all those months of feeling unable to stop and be present, this workshop was the magical solution I’d been looking for. Therapeutic, relaxing, eye-opening and fun, I felt like I not only connected with myself for the first time in ages, but I also experienced a rare, authentic connection with the other women who were there with me. Learning that, despite our different backgrounds, we’re all struggling with similar challenges and worries, and all needed this workshop as desperately as each other.
For 4 hours the world stopped spinning and I got an understanding of who I am, where I’m at, and what I need to move forward in a healthier, more enjoyable way,
I created a pretty (despite looking a little amateurish) portable vision board that contains prompts that I’ll be using to create a guided meditation for myself.
And I learned that you can stop for 4 hours and the world doesn’t end. In fact it gets a little clearer and brighter.
When did we decide that busyness is next to godliness?
There’s nothing wrong with doing lots of things. Most of us are juggling a combination of the following…
Fitness / sports
But there is definitely a line most of us cross that takes us from feeling like productive super women to becoming inefficient, exhausted and overwhelmed shells of people. And there’s no award waiting for us when that happens. No one asked us to do this much. We brought it on ourselves because it feels better to say yes than it does to say no.
But that’s not something we’ll fix overnight.
What we CAN do now is start looking for opportunities to be mindful. To do things because they’re fun. To create for the joy of it. And if you’re located in Vancouver, Justine’s workshops might be just what the doctor ordered!
She has a mix of technical and expressive workshops, but all of them are heart-centred and the perfect opportunity to be mindful for a few hours (something that’s easier done when you have some accountability!) She has 20 years of actual calligraphy and creative lettering experience, but more importantly, she knows how to create a space that’s safe to express yourself and let it all hang out for awhile.
I walked away from the workshop with a full heart, restored hope that maybe I’ll be able to create a life that is on my terms, and a wishlist of other workshops I want to take part in! (Seriously. The perfectionist in me is desperate to learn how to do the lettering properly and re-do my vision board so it’s more Instagram friendly. But hey, what a great lesson in “done is better than perfect”?)
Even if you’re not a local, it’s worth following Justine on Instagram. Her account is so authentic and encouraging, plus it’s full of her beautiful creations. And if you’re reading this wishing you could do something like it but near you, go out and find something! There is literally nothing stopping you, so ditch the excuses and start doing some activities that re-fill the heart tank. It’ll be the best investment you make this year.
Kat is an actor, writer & the creator of GAMEFACE. She started her career off by playing Marilyn at Warner Bros Movie World, went on to perform in the original Australian casts of Jersey Boys & Hairspray. She now lives in Vancouver with her partner where she works as an actor, runs her self-titled YouTube channel, and attempts to learn how to snowboard.