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Jeni Chen Posts

Can one get high from teaching a class?

I had so much fun in my art class for 3-5 year old kids today. I am feeling high even after class.

I was thinking about birds and how young kids can learn to draw birds. The best way is to look at real birds but they move so fast that even I have trouble drawing them from life.

I thought I would borrow books from my local library about birds so at least we can see pictures of many kinds of birds and maybe feathers.

Then I found this book:  Bird Builds a Nest: A First Science Storybook by Martin Jenkins and illustrated by Richard Jones.

It is an awesome book for younger kids. It is simple and to the point. Yet it is packed with information and a super fun read. I was able to ask the kids questions throughout the book and they were all eager to answer them. What’s more, it is beautifully illustrated!

After reading the book, I showed the kids two tree branches. One died in our backyard and I was able to bring it in to show the kids how the big branch diverted into medium branches and then small trigs.

I asked the kids to touch the tree branch and feel the roughness of the outer bark.

Then I showed them a drift wood that I found on the beach and asked them to feel the smoothness of the branch now that the bark had been washed off.

I showed the kids how to draw the tree truck. Maybe we can add long and/or short lines to show textures. Maybe we can add dots. We also observed different colors on the tree branches.

I showed them different color leaves: Green ones, red ones, brown ones and ones with dots on it. We also have different shapes of leaves, a long vine with leaves and a pile of trigs.

After drawing our tree trunk, branches and leaves, we started building a nest using strips I cut from newspapers. I told the kids that I made a mistake by drawing one of the tree branch right in the middle so now I don’t have enough space for my bird. I tried again with a vertical sheet of paper and let the kids choose the color of the paper and its orientation.

After that, we build our birds from shapes that I cut out. I have medium circle for the head, big circle that I cut in half for the body, quadrilateral for the tail, triangles for the beak. The kids were really happy when I showed them 2 triangles make the bird sing.  

We glue eggs to the nest. It was so funny that a kid insisted on having only one egg. Another kid wanted 12 eggs.

Some of us also decided that we want to add worms to our pictures.

Somehow I enjoyed this lesson so much that I wanted to share it. This is the first blog post that I wrote about my art class which I am calling Miss Jeni’s Art Lab.

I called it an Art Lab because I want the kids to experiment and explore just like in a lab.

Also my first few jobs were in labs. Maybe that’s why I enjoy this class so much?

Combining science and art is so much fun!

Artwork by Arielle, 4 years old

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I am a puppet controlled by my crazy thoughts

I am learning a lot about myself recently as I began observing my thoughts like Michael Singer described in his other book The Untethered Soul. I have a lot of crazy thoughts, for example:

My husband’s baby sister is getting married. We are flying to Taiwan to attend her wedding.

Usually I would book the flight tickets when we visit his family but this time I thought I would delegate and let him take charge.

Oh, I was in for a rude awakening!

At first, I was doing quite well. I didn’t ask him about it since the wedding date wasn’t confirmed yet.

Then my oldest friend told me she’s going back to Taiwan as well. She said the price was $900 when she checked but after she got approval to take time off work a week later, the flight ticket jumped to $1400. That triggered my insecurity about money!

I started asking my husband if he’s booked the tickets yet. He informed me that his sister just decided on a date a few days ago.

“A few days ago? Why haven’t you booked the tickets then? What if the price increases like my friend said?”

I started checking on his progress more frequently. My husband said he’s booking the tickets but he’s just too slow for my taste. He talked to the travel agent but he didn’t book right away. I started getting worried.

Almost every day I asked him if he had booked the tickets and if not, what was his plan. I hovered over him when he’s on his computer to see what he was doing. I could feel he was getting agitated by my close watch.

I didn’t want to say out right to him to just book the tickets already! Because that would mean I am trying to control the situation. So I went online to check the ticket price myself. The price was still the same as the travel agent had quoted.

I relaxed a bit until the next day.

I told myself not to check the price again because I was going with the flow of life, letting go of control, leaving things alone and trusting everything will work out.

BUT I JUST COULDN’T!!! So I checked the price again.

Then I checked his phone to see his progress on booking the tickets. I couldn’t just ask him because that would mean I was controlling (See, I told you my thoughts made me a crazy person).

Then I saw that he got my name wrong!!! My mind started going really crazy now!

“How can he get this wrong? I even gave him our passports and told him to use the names on the passports to book the tickets! How can he be so careless?”

I realized I was getting really mad and started observing my thoughts more closely.

I told myself that the tickets are not yet confirmed and my name can still be corrected. But my mind was not having it. “How can he be so stupid?”

Another time, I might have been so angry that I would’ve stayed mad at him for a whole day. But then I asked myself if it’s worth having a bad day because of something that can be easily corrected.

I allowed this situation to be an opportunity to observe how crazy thoughts can ruin things and just watch the thoughts as Michael Singer described.

Luckily, the anger passed when you shine a light of awareness over it and didn’t blow up into crazy proportions.

My thoughts are crazier and more easily triggered than I’ve ever realized.

I bought The Untethered Soul years ago and I’ve read it before. I’ve forgotten what he said in the book (I just remember that it’s a good book) and I have not notice how crazy my thoughts are and how they are controlling my every move until now!

I am going to read Michael Singer’s The Untethered Soul and Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth every year so I can keep those crazies in check.

PS. Both books are on my most recommended and must read book list!

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What is this “Energy” thing?

In Michael Singer’s The Surrender Experiment, he posed interesting questions that made me want to meditate so I can observe myself. I’ve been doing meditations on and off for several years now. Sometimes I find it helpful, sometimes I don’t know why I am doing it.

When I meditate, I feel tingling sensation in different parts of my body sometimes. I Googled what it meant but couldn’t find any answers at the time.

Michael Singer talked about the energy flowing between his eyebrows. He would focus on that energy to get back to the present moment instead of being carried away by the mind chatters.

Eckhart Tolle also talked about being present by feeling that subtle energy flowing within your body. He said you can pay attention to that energy even when you are reading or doing other things.

Then I remembered (just now as I am writing this) Dr. Sue Morter said something like that too, that you want to pull the energy back to your central channel (along the spine of your body), instead of scattering your energy outwards because your attentions are on different things in the outer world.

Interesting how the information was always out there but I was oblivious to it?

Growing up in Taiwan, I was familiar with the concept of energy (Chi). I saw people including my grandma doing TaiChi or QiGong in the parks. My favorite Chinese novel series was often about the protagonists finding secret sutra that taught them how to control their Chi and they became the best martial artists as a result of practicing it. In TV dramas, martial artists can fly near the tips of the trees because they mastered their Chi (kind of like in the movie Hidden Dragon Couching Tiger).

Then why is this energy thing still feel so elusive to me?

As an artist, I am learning to pay more attention to when and how inspirations pop. For me, ideas usually show up when I am coming out of my sleep state while my mind is still quiet. I can also feel an good idea has a different energy. It feels like excitement, enthusiasm or passion. Sometimes, I can sense different energy, maybe it’s emotions (aka energy in motion) from other people’s music or paintings.

I was just listening to Michael Singer talk about consciousness and energy. Who are you? Are you the thoughts, emotions or the awareness that is consciously observing these thoughts and feelings? Look at the mirror, who is looking? I tried it today and I could feel that when I look at myself superficially, it’s from the front of my head, around my eyeballs. But if I ask who’s looking, it felt more like its coming from the back of my head. Then I did some meditation and I felt energy swirling around the back of my head, around my neck and throat; A few turbulent energy shot up in my chest. I have no idea what that was but I know my heart area always gets tight and my breath becomes shallow when I was under stress. Then I got distracted from meditation and wanted to get up and do something else.

What I learned from Michael Singers’ The Surrender Experiment (from my current understanding is):

Step 1: Do the inner work: mediate, quiet the mind, let go of yourself (the mind chatter, your preferences, your ego, the past and the future).

Step 2: Be present, do your best work whatever you are given right here and right now, take one step at a time and don’t worry about trying to figure it out because the Universe is on top of it. Ram Dass said something like this too according to this article: Ram Dass, Who Inspired Steve Jobs to Visit India, Had a Very Simple Lesson for All of Us.

Step 3: Accept and make peace with wherever you are now. Really make peace with it. Appreciate where you are now.

You can find weekly talks by Michael Singers here:

Below: a sketch I did while reading Eckhart Tolle’s book.

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Get out of the way and let Life do its thing

I just finished reading Michael Singer’s The Surrender Experiment again. I bought the book seven years ago and I’ve forgotten how incredible his story was. It started out nice and easy but it just got crazier and more amazing! And this time I have a different understanding. I know because I wrote down some notes in the margin years ago when I first read it. For example, I wrote “positive thinking?” beside the line “the Bhagavad Gita says that one should raise the self with Self.” Now I think he meant acceptance.

He wrote “come to peace with myself.”

That line really touched me. Maybe I haven’t even come to peace with myself totally. Thinking back, I am always trying to get to a better place. Maybe I didn’t even accept that I am a mom now (my son is 12 already) and that I chose to stay home and take care of my family. My mind would get pulled away to the future all the time. I remember thinking about going back to work when my baby was just a few months old. Maybe I still haven’t really accepted that. Sometimes I enjoy cooking or cleaning because I know I am taking care of my family but a lot of time I just hated all the mess and chores that I had to do around the house. It made me grumpy and mad at the people who I love the most because I blame them for being messy, using too many cups/dishes (aka drinking/eating too many times a day) and not helping to clean up. I also realized that sometimes, I ignore my problems and push the negative emotion away. I thought that was staying positive but I didn’t really deal with the emotion and it’s probably stored in my body somewhere.

What stood out to me reading The Surrender Experiment this time, was how much he kept saying that it was enough. He was happy where he was. He just wanted to go back to the woods and meditate. He was totally content. He was at peace. He was always talking about this perfect person, employee, or situation and how perfect they were.

Even when crazy things happened to him, things that would make me so mad and try to fight the situation, he would say this was what life had brought to him, it’s an opportunity for him to let go of his personal preferences and he faced it with all his heart. He did everything to the best of his ability, stayed present and just took one step after another. He’s totally content with this step, not even thinking about the next step and whatever life brought him, he just embrace it with his whole being. This is not what I was taught to do growing up or by our society. I set goals, I work towards it and there are always more things I want. I am always on a treadmill chasing after something and not feeling content. Whereas Michael Singer is totally going with the flow of life, content of being wherever he is and life just kept bringing him more and more amazing things. I love how he said to just get out of the way and let Life do its thing. Eckhart Tolle said life is the dancer, we are the dance. At first I thought that didn’t make sense but now I am starting to understand.

I think Michael Singer’s story is a great example of what Abraham Hicks was talking about when you quiet the mind, you raise your vibration and allow all the things you’ve ever wanted to come to your life in perfect timing and combinations that you couldn’t even imaging in your current understanding. Abraham kept saying getting ready to be ready. I was confused about what it meant but now I think it’s the inner work like quieting the mind and letting go of personal preferences. Once you quiet the chatter, you are able to hear your inner being who knows the answers.

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We are literally stardust!

I was watching some videos about the James Webb Space Telescope. YouTube automatically suggested some videos with Neil deGrasse Tyson in it. In an interview, deGrasse Tyson talked about his new book Starry Messenger and how we are literally Stardust that achieved consciousness to contemplate and participate in the great unfolding of the universe.

Wow. I love that! I’ve always been fascinated with Outer Space. When I was younger, I thought about becoming an astronaut. My old profile picture was me in space because my Chinese name literally means “Contemplate Universe”.

Then YouTube suggested another video with Neil deGrasse Tyson in it about parenting. He said when you have kids, don’t even think about staying clean and tidy. He saw a mom pulling her child away from a puddle of water and that’s a lost opportunity to learn about the properties of water, velocity, force, action and reaction etc.

So true!

I told my son don’t do this and don’t do that because I didn’t want to clean up the mess.

The other day my son smashed an electrical fuse (with glass) then burned it inside the house (without asking). A few days later, he asked me if he could throw some eggs on the lawn and see what happens.

If I haven’t watched that video, I would most likely said no.

In the video, there were also clips from Dr. Gabor Mate and Dr. Shefali. When I was working on my picture book Emet’s Box, I kept thinking why do we listen to others and not follow our hearts? I found Dr. Mate’s talks about attachment and authenticity very insightful. I didn’t know Dr. Shefali before but I wanted to learn more about her work. She said children teach us how to be in the present moment and to accept them as who they really are because we haven’t really accepted who we really are!

Yes. That’s my most important work.

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Surrendering and accepting is not giving up

When I feel low or down or not good enough, I listen to Abraham Hicks on YouTube. I always hear something that lifts me up.

Abraham said when we get too specific by trying to figure things out before we are ready for it, we create resistance. I’ve been trying to figure out what to do next with my art career. The more I think about it, the more confused I get.

Abraham said to go general and just look for better feeling emotions. I made a list of good feeling words and post it on my wall right in front of my computer. You can download the printable poster for free here:

I remember years ago, when I was living in my parents’ house because I couldn’t even afford to buy a two-bedroom condo in my city. When I tried to figure out how I could buy a home, I got angry at my situation, the real estate market, the people bidding up the prices, etc.

Then, for a little while, before I go to bed or when I wake up, I would lie in bed and appreciate my room in my parents’ house. I really appreciated my privacy and freedom within this good sized bedroom.

When I look back now, I felt like it wasn’t that long before all of a sudden, I was able to buy a three-bedroom townhouse. I still couldn’t believe or understand how it all happened.

Eckhart Tolle said acceptance is one way to become present with the now. He gave an example of getting a flat tire. Maybe you are not happy with it but once you accept the situation, you can deal with it with a clear head. Maybe you will even enjoy the act changing a tire.

Abraham Hicks said accept the current situation and appreciate all the good things you already have in your life right now. This reminded me of how I was appreciating my bedroom in my parents’ house.

Aha! That is the secret!

When I was trying to figure out how to buy a home, I was thinking from a place of “I don’t want to stay in my parents’ house anymore!” That was not accepting my current situation and my thoughts were coming from a place of not good enough. Once I accepted and appreciated my situation and my room, things just happened, almost magically.

In this action oriented society where everyone is chasing after the next great thing, I have to retrain myself to bring my focus back to the now. I may not be ready for the next step in my art career right now but I can appreciate and enjoy the project that I am working on currently.

In Michael Singer’s book, The Surrender Experiment, he said we are tiny beings within this vast universe; stop resisting and start going with the flow of the universe by surrendering. Now I think surrendering or accepting the now is not giving up. The ultimate proof of us being okay with our current situations is appreciation. Once we are okay with the here and the now, we will then be ready to move to the next level.  

I am doing my own experiment with my life to see if appreciation will lead to wonderful things in my life. It happened with my home and my picture book.

I think I can do it again.

PS. In this video (around 19:48), I talked about how I felt genuine appreciation with my life just before getting a publishing contract for my picture book.

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Adding space between thoughts

When I got COVID, I stayed in my room for two weeks. The time alone gave me new understanding to what Eckhart Tolle said about “adding space between thoughts.”

A friend who’s also a mom told me to enjoy my time alone as she enjoyed hers, other than the discomfort of her symptoms. She was right!

During quarantine, I didn’t have to get my son to school, cook or clean (except my own room). I had a lot of time on my hands. Everything slowed down. I was still working on a couple of art commission jobs but I had time to work on those every day and I didn’t feel stressed or in a hurry. There were periods of time when I felt bored. Cleaning my room then became enjoyable. The slowing down of pace brought me genuine peace and joy that I hadn’t felt in a while.

Is this why Eckhart Tolle said to add space between thoughts and actions? He suggested taking one (or three) deep breath throughout the day. Really feel the air coming in and out of our body. I thought I could do that easily but it was not as easy as I thought!

I either forget to do it or my mind tells me “you don’t have time to take one deep breath, you have to finish this first!”

Oh, how tricky the mind is.

Ekhart Tolle said the ego is always talking about the past or the future, never the now. It says hurry, achieve this thing (in the future) then you can be happy.

Have you ever achieved something that you’ve wanted for so long and once you got it, you were happy for a while then you felt, is that it? What’s next? Then you are on this treadmill always running after the next thing and the next, feeling stressed that you haven’t get there yet. But during all this, the happiness you can access is right here in the now, in the space between thoughts and actions, when you slow down and connect with it.

I want to feel that genuine peace and joy again. My first plan of action is to get up from my desk every 30 minutes to walk around and take at least one deep breath. That’s my goal for the rest of the year.

Dr. Libby Weaver talked about this “Rushing Woman’s Syndrome” and how stress relates to creativity and weight loss.

Picture below: I made these art cards by adding another piece of white card over the painting to represent the space between thoughts and action where it is just “being.”

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Life is an upward spiral?

“Jeni, I’m at that place again!” My good friend who’s also an artist messaged me. I know exactly what she’s talking about because I’ve been to that dark, confused place many times before. Maybe you know that place too. One day, you are living life like every thing is fine and the next day you are not so sure about anything anymore.

I sent my friend a little sketch explaining something that I’ve heard from Dr. Sue Morter:

She said something like life is an upward spiral. You thought you were back to the same place but you are actually at a higher level now.

I’ve just finished reading Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth from cover to cover again. Every time I read it, I find new nuggets of gold in it. Maybe as I live life, I learn new things from my experience and gain deeper understanding of his wisdom.

As I journey through this adventure on earth, I want to record these findings on this blog. I would love to hear from my fellow travelers about your experience and learning in this time-space reality =)

PS. I learned about Substack from Ali Abdaal’s Youtube video: Why everyone should start an email newsletter.

PPS. This is a repost from my email newsletter on Substack.

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The Installation

The art installation for my CreateSpace Public Art Residency took place over the Culture Days weekend on September 24 and 25, 2022.

I have learned a lot during this residency.

At times, I felt fun and excitement because I got to try new things, such as working with sound and light.

At times, I felt stressed and asked why I wanted to do such a complicated project with so many moving parts. Then I have to remind myself to choose empowering thoughts just like the purpose of this project. Instead of saying “why, this is so hard”, I changed my self-talk to “I am happy that I get to try something new. Just do my best and don’t worry about the results now. Whatever happens, it’s all good. I can do it!”

I tested the installation at my parent’s backyard before the official installation weekend. Originally, I wanted the lights to be on top as if looking at the stars at night. I wasn’t very happy with the result so after having dinner I played with other ideas and options. You can see a glimpse of the inside (picture below) but stay tuned for a video of the installation.

There are a lot of improvisations along the way. My original idea of hanging the ribbons at the site of the installation didn’t work because the trees there were huge with no branches low enough for anyone to reach. We ended up hanging the ribbons around the installation and around the white tent for the art activities.

On the second day, we tied a yarn from the installation to the activity tent so people can hang the ribbons themselves.

We also decided to put chairs inside the installation for people to hear the audios. The site I’ve chosen was very important to the installation so I decided to put some chairs outside the exit to let people know that I want them to feel the difference between the noisy mind chatter (the installation) with the spaciousness and quietness of nature.

I am so happy to see and hear people enjoying this project. At first we were a bit worried that kids would be afraid of the fear-based thoughts but I saw children playing and laughing inside the installation as if it were a maze.

I also saw children playing with and chasing the ribbons flying in the wind.

A young woman told me she needed this as she was currently facing a problem.

A young man said he didn’t know what he wanted and sat there pondering this question before writing on his ribbon.

At the end of the first day, I counted 99 ribbons. At the end of the second day, we moved all the ribbons to the “wishing trees” where they are going to stay for about a month. Then I am going to weave them into a “Tapestry of Hope.”

I am so happy that I get to do this project. Isn’t life just like this? We have an idea and we work on making it a reality. We don’t know what we will get at the end. There are many twists and turns and lots of improvisations along the way. At the end if we get to share what’s meaningful to us with people and touch someone in a positive way, isn’t it all worth it?

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Thank you for the audio recordings

Thank you to all the brave people for sending me audio recordings of their fears and/or worries!

***(Please see how you can experience this art installation here.)

I am surprised by how many people said similar or exactly the same things!

I also think and feel a lot of the things people are saying on these audio recordings. I am also learning about some of my hidden worries and fears!

Although the purpose of my project is to become more aware of our thoughts and to pivot them into more constructive ways of thinking, I now hope people experiencing this art installation will realize that you are not alone! You are not the only one who feels this way. It also made me question where did we get those thoughts and believes from? Are we all brainwashed by mass media? Our society?

I tried to get recordings from a diverse group of people, from different age groups, genders and cultural backgrounds with different languages spoken at home (see the list of languages I have below). Shouldn’t I get a wide array of different fears and worries as we have different life experience? It’s probably not diverse enough but still, why do I keep getting the same fears and worries? Who’s been feeding us these disempowering thoughts?

For example: I was having tea time with other moms, one of them said she felt guilty for leaving the kids to her husband for a couple of hours. Why do women feel guilty when they spend time for themselves? Why do women feel like they have to do everything, take care of the kids and build their careers?

Another mom said she’s afraid any wrong words and/or actions will negatively impact her children’s life forever. She’s one of the most loving moms I know and why does she feel this pressure to be perfect? I know for sure she’s not alone in feeling this way.

As I am working on this project, I am reading Matthieu Ricard’s A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill: Happiness.

In this book, he said we spent time on getting a degree, building a career, raising a family, exercising our bodies but we don’t spend time on developing the skill of being happy.

It starts with going inward, becoming aware of our thoughts and managing those thoughts: knowing which ones lead to pain and which ones contribute to well-being.

Matthieu Ricard is a genetic scientist turned Buddhist monk. I like how he references scientific studies like an actual scientist. And scientists believe positive thoughts have an evolutionary advantage because they help us “build resilience and influence the ways people cope with adversity.”

I made a booklet that explains the project to people. I was planning to hand them out during BC Culture Days but it took me seven minutes to print, fold and staple each booklet. I’ve since then made my booklet into a single sheet (double-sided) that you can read below or download here (Chinese version 中文版):

Here is a list of the languages I have in the audio recordings so far:
















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