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Jeni Chen Posts

Volunteers Needed to Record Audio

As part of my CreateSpace Public Art Residency, I am inviting people to observe the voices in their heads and pivot any fear-based thoughts into more empowering thoughts.

During the BC Culture Days weekend (September 24-25, 2022), I will play audio recordings of a collection of people’s worries and fears as part of my interactive art installation.

My idea is to magnify what goes on in our mind and invite people to become more aware of the voices in our head.

I am looking for volunteers to record audios of their fears and/or worries. The audio recordings will be anonymous and mixed with other people’s recordings.

Examples of Jeni’s mind chatters (I’ve recorded myself saying this list on my phone):

  • I don’t know how.
  • I have to do something but I don’t want to.
  • I need to finish this right now.
  • I hate losing money.
  • The mess pisses me off.
  • I regret my decision.
  • I should’ve known better.

Here are some of the ways you can help:

  • Arrange a meeting with Jeni to record the audio
  • Record the audio on your phone and upload the files here
  • Write down your worries/fears on this form and we will read/record it for you

To read more about this project, check out the table of content here.

To experience this interactive art installation on September 24-25, 2022, check out the event information on the Richmond Art Gallery website or the BC Culture Days website.

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CreateSpace – The Booklet

I am making a booklet to go with my CreateSpace public art installation. It’s a way for me to explain the purpose of the project. Since there will be lots of kids during the BC Culture Days weekend when my installation will be up, I made the booklet with kids in mind. I am trying to make it easy to read with lots of illustrations.

You can download the entire booklet here (Chinese version here下載中文版) or read it here:

Download the booklet here

Download the booklet in Chinese here 這裡下載中文版

As I was drawing and working on this book, I found a video on Youtube (I like to listen to or watch something when I am drawing).

Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations – Panache Desai: Discovering Your Soul Signature

As I was listening to Oprah’s conversation with Panache Desai, I thought this is exactly what my project is about. I found Desai’s book in our library and borrowed it immediately. Once again, Oprah has introduced me to another must-read author.

One of the big takeaways is the practice of non-judgment. I first learned about this concept of non-judgment from Deepak Chopra. I tried it on my mother-in-law and miraculously turned our hostile relationship into a harmonious one. I am a believer of this kind of teaching ever since. In Desai’s book, he talks about acceptance of ourselves without judgment. Can you imagine if we have a hostile relationship with ourselves? No wonder people are suffering mentally and emotionally.

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My CreateSpace project’s connection to better mental health

In this video, Dr. Joe Dispenza said “Our thoughts can make us sick. We can think about our problems, imagine the worst case scenario in our life, and turn on that stress response just by thought alone. The science says that stress can push the genetic buttons that create disease. If our thoughts can make us sick, is it possible then our thoughts can make us well?”

If yes, I would want to think thoughts that “make us well.” The purpose of my project is to pivot the voice in our head to better feeling thoughts. “To dispel the mental toxins that cause unhappiness” as Matthieu Ricard said in his book A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill: Happiness.

Matthieu Ricard said we spend a lot of time and effort on studying in school, building a career, exercising our body, building relationships but we do very little to improve our inner state which determines the quality of our life!

Why is that I wonder?

According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental health:

  • In any given year, 1 in 5 Canadians experiences a mental illness.
  • By the time Canadians reach 40 years of age, 1 in 2 have – or have had – a mental illness.
  • Young people aged 15 to 24 are more likely to experience mental illness and/or substance use disorders than any other age group.

Johnathan Haidt, a social psychologist and professor at NYU said in this video that there is a spike in anxiety, depression, self-harm, suicide amongst preteens and young teens. Because of social media, kids are now facing bullying and peer pressure at a whole new level.

Shouldn’t we also teach kids the skills to better mental health?

Johnathan Haidt and his co-author had compiled data and information on Better Metal Health here:

Dr. Libby Weaver talked about this “Rushing Woman’s Syndrome” and how even “perceive” stress plays an important role in woman’s health and weight. She said when we are under stress (perceived or real threat), our body runs the Sympathetic Nervous System where we burn glucose for fight or flight. When we are calm, our body runs on the Parasympathetic Nervous System where it is digesting, repairing, growing, creative and burning fat!

After meeting with people from the Richmond Art Gallery about this project, they gave me some really good ideas. Because I already have this concept of what I wanted to do in my mind, I am thinking strictly on how to make that concept into a reality. I didn’t really consider other options. After talking with other artists, I realized that I had such narrow focused thinking, even on a creative project!

During one of the workshops of the residency, the guest artist speaker also suggested talking with other people and other artists. Sometimes, great ideas are from these discussions which could happen any point during the process. Listening to others help us see different perspective and open our focus to more possibilities.

Maybe that’s why we should talk to people when we are stuck in a mental rut. I know I felt better after venting my frustrations and troubles to trusted family and friends. Especially if I couldn’t get out of the downward negative spiral by myself. They help me reaffirm and gave more strength to the better feeling thoughts.

It’s so interesting that as I am working on this project, I started reading Matthieu Ricard’s A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill: Happiness. On page 38 he said: “happiness is a skill, a manner of being, but skills must be learned.”

I am so grateful for this opportunity to share my learning through art with others.

Hopefully, after people have experience my temporary public art installation, they can take away something to add to their toolbox for better mental health.

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What to write on the ribbons and why

One of the many benefits of having mentors is that they share ideas that you’ve not thought of. Collin, a mentor from the CreateSpace residency suggested that I try the ribbons now and see how they weather in the elements (please see previous posts for project descriptions).

I am trying different markers and just by trying, I learned the nuances of things:

From left to right:

  • Sharpies work well as long as I write big and in capital letters. The alphabets bled together and were illegible when I write in lower case (done in orange Sharpie).
  • Get wider ribbons
  • Fabric marker is very smooth to write with on the ribbon. Although it bled a little bit, it’s still legible and acceptable.
  • Water-based acrylic marker did not work well because it bled, dried up fast on the surface of the ribbon and when I reload the paint, it created blobs of paint on the ribbon.
  • Posca markers work pretty well. The tip is very fine so it kind of scratches and get stuck on the ribbons but if I write slanted like italic, it is smooth.
  • Oil-based paint markers are harder to use because they dry up as I write. I have to press down on the tip to get more paint and it smells. The white one didn’t work at all.
  • I was surprise that the roll of ribbon ran out after making 6 strips or 5.5 strips as one is very short. The roll is 18 feet long and has smooth looking surface.
  • As I tie the ribbons on the tree, I want to make sure it’s secure but also easy to take down. Need to ask my boy-scout husband about different knot options.
  • When I was taking pictures of the ribbons on the tree, the writing with the neon green Posca marker kind of shined and it looks nice. It was mentioned that it kind of blend in with the trees and leaves.
  • Buy different colour ribbons so they are more visible on the trees. I bought the lighter colour ribbon so I know the writing will show. I will try if the markers work on darker ribbons.

Some pictures of the ribbons on a tree:

As for what to write on the ribbons, it’s based on the teachings of Dr. Joe Dispenza and Esther Hicks.

In this video, Dr. Joe said think about a problem that you have right now in your life. On a piece of paper, write down the thoughts and feeling associated with the problem. Write down how you speak and act if you are trapped in a box with this problem. Then imagine you are out of the box and the problem is resolved. How would you think, act and feel then? I like Dr. Joe because everything he taught is science based. If you like science and how it relates to human potential, it’s interesting to read his books.

Esther Hicks also wrote about many tools to train our brain to think empowering thoughts. I believe our brain is a powerful tool if we can learn how to use it. It requires practice as I find myself going back to the old habitual ways (Dr. Joe talk about this too and it’s because habits are energy efficient but limiting when you want to create something new).

As I think about what to write on the ribbon, I used Esther Hicks’ idea to “think better feeling thoughts”.

Take one problem I have for example: I hate losing money (because of the bear stock market).

This led to me think about that time long ago when I sold my condo too early and lost on the “potential” of making more money (how funny my brain works to hate losing “potential” money) and that I don’t know how to make more money, etc. On and on and on and it felt terrible.

As Esther Hicks suggested, try to think better, even slightly better feeling thoughts:

“It’s all in the past now. I am doing alright right now. I am learning and getting better and better. I have control over my own thoughts and point of view. It would be nice if I have more money than I can spend. I would feel secure, free, fun, relaxed, adventurous, joy. I am taken care of. I don’t have to get there right now. I can just relax and enjoy this moment right now. Right now at this moment, everything is well. I love my life. I appreciate having my family. I am happy that I can sleep in. I enjoy good food, a cup of hot tea and reading a good book. I am happy that I am doing what I love and what brings me joy…”

Then I felt excited and I started working on my ribbons.

Wherever you are in your life, you can move tiny step by tiny step toward where you want to be. I think one of my biggest problem is that I want to get there right now, at this instant!

I am really starting to believe the power of our mind.

Before my picture book was published, I didn’t have much going on in my art career and one day sitting on the couch, reading a book with my family by my side, I felt this genuine appreciation. I felt that there’s nothing more I could ask for in my life. Shortly after (maybe several months to half a year), I got the publishing contract!

There are several examples that I can think of in my life that when I start to appreciate the simple things in life, more was given to me.

I want to mention my list of good feeling words on my wall behind my monitor (again). It’s there as a reminder. Even if I don’t know what I want, I know the feeling that I want. Maybe I will ask people to help me add to my list of good feeling words.

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Looking for participants in my CreateSpace Public Art project


Part 1: Before BC Culture Days weekend

During the pandemic, I see a lot of divisiveness in our society and if I look at the root causes, I find thoughts and emotions rooted in fear which are common to all human beings, regardless of age, race, identity, physical ability, etc.

As part of my CreateSpace public art residency, I am inviting people to observe the voices in their heads and pivot those voices into more empowering thoughts.

During the BC Culture Days weekend (September 24-25, 2022), I will cover a tent with dark fabrics and play audio recordings of a collection of people’s worries and fears inside the tent. My idea is to magnify what goes on in our mind and invite people to become more aware of the voices in our head.

I am looking for volunteers of different age, race, identity, language spoken, religion, etc to record audios of their fears and/or worries. The audio recordings will be anonymous. You can also write them down and we will read/record it. To see some of Jeni’s mind chatters, check out this blog post. If you are interested, please contact me at

Part 2: Outside of Richmond Cultural Centre During BC Culture Days Weekend (September 24-25, 2022)

During the BC Culture Days weekend, the public are invited to walk through the tent that represents the mind chatters. As they leave the tent, they will face a tree-lined green space which represents opening our heart to the spaciousness of our true-being. People are invited  to move to that new space where they will write down the thoughts and emotions they would like to replace their fears with on strings of ribbons and tie these ribbons to a wishing tree.

Part 3: Tapestry of Hope

At the end of the project, I will weave these ribbons into a Tapestry of Hope that represent the choices that we have every moment by choosing to think and act based on love rather than fear.

I love Anita Moorjani’s idea that each of us is a thread in a huge beautiful tapestry and we have the choice to touch another person in a positive way, even in a small way (which could multiply!)

As part of my life journey, I want to learn how to be my most authentic self and live a fulfilling life. As I read books and learn about the teachings of wise people, I found (regardless of the authors’ race, religion or approach to life, etc) this basic common thread:

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi*

Purpose of the project:

Matthieu Ricard, a French scientist turned monk (and artist) said:

“Happiness is a skill… they need to be developed. That’s what education is about.”

“It involves understanding which thoughts, words, and actions inevitably lead to pain and which contribute to well being.”

Through this project, I hope to practice and bring awareness to the fear based thinking that divide people. I truly believe that if we can choose to think and act out of love (rather than fear) or just be reminded to appreciate the simple things in our lives, we can be happier with not only ourselves but with each other.

Here’s a list of authors that talk about the voices in our head and how to transform them into more empowering thoughts that contribute to deep and lasting well-being.

Eckhart Tolle

Michael Signer

Esther Hicks

Anita Moorjani

Dr. Joe Dispenza

Matthieu Ricard

*I found this article about the origin of this quote attributed to Gandhi.

To follow the progress of this CreateSpace public art residency, please check out the list of blogs here.

Below pictures are my project site proposal to the City of Richmond:

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CreateSpace – Inspirations

This public art project, as with many of my artworks, was inspired by the books that I kept by my bedside table. Many of these authors I’ve learned from Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday. As I am trying to figure out this life on earth and learning from these “thought leaders” and visionaries” as Oprah calls them, I get inspirations for my art. Some of these spiritual teachers include Eckhart Tolle and Michael Singer, both of which talked about the “voices in our heads.”

Michael Singer said in this Super Soul Sunday interview, the voice in your head is not the real you. You are the consciousness that is aware of this voice. I’ve heard some names for this voice: mind chatter, mind freak, ego, mini me and it’s based on fear. Our true self is much bigger and rooted in love.

As I became more aware of this voice in my head, I am trying to listen to what it is saying. Here are some of the common thoughts that I’ve observed in myself:

  • Replay of things that happened in the past (this person said this and I should’ve have said that)
  • Things I worry about (too many to list here but I will give an example later)
  • Fears (usually felt as emotions and I tried to avoid thinking about it)
  • My to-do-list
  • The funniest thing I observe is that I would actually imagine in my mind how I would do some of the things on my to-do-list, even mundane things like mopping the floor. But this is pretty useful when I think about how I would create my art or work out each panel of my comics.

I think the mind is a very powerful tool if we can learn how to use it correctly. When it is rooted in love or from our true self it is an amazing tool. But when it is rooted in fear or what Eckhart Tolle called the ego, all hell breaks loose and we see people fighting or even killing each other.

As Tolle said in this interview, we can choose to take our attention away from our incessant thinking and try to feel the energy inside our body. Can you feel your hands right now without touching anything?

Another spiritual teacher I love is Esther Hicks. She said often times, it is difficult to stop a train of thought when the momentum is too strong. She recommended meditation to quiet our mind. Just sit comfortably and listen to the air conditioner or something like that. She also said if you want to jump to a positive place from a negative place, it could be difficult because the gap is too big. But we can take baby steps.

In her book, Ask and It’s Given, there’s an exercise called “Which thoughts feel better?”

Right now, I am waiting for a shipment of my picture book Emet’s Box to arrive and I have to deliver them to the schools that I visited. The estimated arrival date is between June 20 – June 28 and the last day of school is June 29!

I know it’s a small worry compare to a lot of problems out there in the world right now but I just can’t stop thinking about it because I really want the students who have ordered my book to get it before the end of the school year.

Last night, I couldn’t hold it in anymore and I spilled my guts to my husband about my worries. He said it’s out of my control and the books could arrive any day now. But my mind won’t shut up with more worries such what if the estimation was wrong? What if they changed the estimated date of arrival?

Instead of thinking “my books have not arrive yet”

I feel better when I think “my books can arrive any day now.”

If this doesn’t work, I tell myself “whatever happens, it’s all good” or “I will figure it out when the time comes.”

On the other hand, if I keep thinking along the line of “my books have not arrive yet,” then I would add to that thought and started blaming: why didn’t I order them earlier, why did my publisher not get back to me right away, is there something wrong, etc.

If I think my publisher is probably very busy with two new books coming out and I feel better because that is a better feeling thought.

I also have a list of good feeling words on my wall. I think about the feeling that I want instead of going down the negative spiral. Or I can do something else to distract myself, meditate, take a nap, go for a walk, read some inspiring books, watch comedies, etc.

“It is out of my control now, there’s no point struggling against it and suffer.”

“We’ll know in a few days if I make the deadline of delivery of not. No big deal.”

My thoughts go up and down but when I am aware of it, I can do something about it.

Oprah said: What you focus on expands, and when you focus on the goodness in your life, you create more of it. Many other spiritual teachers said similar things and from my personal experience I am learning to believe it more and more.

In this public art project, I am inviting participants to become aware of the voices in their heads. What are they saying? Are they judging, critical, blaming, encouraging or empowering? What if we have the choice to pivot our thoughts step by step to ones that help us rather than harm us (and everyone around us)? What if we are able to break out of our past conditioning and choose to use our amazing mind to empower us?

The first part of the project is where I invite people to record their deepest fear or worries like I’ve shared here. During BC Culture Days weekend, I will set up a dark tent where I play these pre-recorded audios to mimic the chatter in our mind.

Participants on BC Culture Days weekend (Sept 24-25, 2022?) can walk through this tent to experience the mind chatters made obvious. The participants then open the blinds of the tent to face an open green space surrounded by trees. It is spacious, quiet and beautiful, representing our true inner being. This is where participant will be invited to write down what they want instead. Wishes, dreams for the future, or simply better feeling thoughts or just feeling they want like I’ve posted on my wall (see below picture).

PS. As I am writing this, and working on my own thoughts, I got a message from my publisher that the package is arriving tomorrow. Thank you!

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Izzy and ZigZag does koan

I haven’t drawn any comics since March 2022. My excuse is that my picture book Emet’s Box was released in April and I was busy working on that. Then, I had a table at VanCAF in May 2022 and I was busy gathering all the EJ Rascal comics that I’ve drawn since 2016 when EJ was 5 years old. I had over 100 comic strips that I compiled into comics books and printed at home to sell at VanCAF. When I was going through all my comics, I felt a sense of accomplishment and wanted to create more comics. At the end of VanCAF on Sunday, I had dinner with some friends who came to visit at VanCAF. One of the kids brought my comics to dinner and two other graphic novels written and illustrated by a well know person and published by the big five. But I noticed the kid would read my comics, put it back into her pocket and took it out to read it again after a while. This happened several times during dinner. My DIY comic book got a little wrinkled but a lot of love. It felt so good to see a kid enjoying reading my comics. This reconfirmed my earlier feeling that I want to make more comics and to get better at making comics.

Last year, I’ve read a book on Zen Buddhism and I wanted to draw comics about KOAN. According to, a koan is “a paradoxical anecdote or riddle, used in Zen Buddhism to demonstrate the inadequacy of logical reasoning and to provoke enlightenment.”

I love the ideas of contradictions and shattering our logical reasoning. These are something that I see in flowers which inspired my paintings.

This morning I woke up thinking maybe I can draw one comic strip per day. Or one per week so I will get better at it.

So I did one today.

This was inspired from a Youtube video that I watched yesterday: “Meditation Is Good For Nothing” – Zen Master Shohaku Okumura.

I do meditation regularly and I was intrigued by the title of this video. Basically his master said if you want to get something out of your meditation, there is this egoic desire which pulls you away from the now. If we are thinking about achieving enlightenment through meditation, we are thinking about the future. But if we have no desire or wanting during meditation, we can be one with the now and that’s where our power is. I think it’s the same as appreciating the now, be satisfied with whatever we have in our life right now. When I feel overwhelmed or frustrated or not having clarity, I told myself that I don’t have to do anything right now and I feel calmer and more relaxed. I think I was conditioned to do things quickly so I can achieve results quickly and that took out the fun of the doing.

I was going to make this series of KOAN comic black and white only but I ended up colouring just the main characters. I tried so many purples for ZigZag (my son EJ said it’s ZigZagi because he named the characters).

I will see how I feel about my comic style as time goes. I just need to make more comics so I can get better. Another great video I watched recently: THE PRACTICE by Seth Godin | Core Message Basically he says 1. Make more work 2. Commit to sharing your work on a regular basis.

I also bought Scott McCloud’s Making Comics which is a great book. He shows you how to make comics in the form of comics.

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CreateSpace – Choosing the Site

I want to set up my temporary public art installation outside of Richmond Cultural Center where there are a lot of trees and enough space for my tent. During BC Culture Days, this area will have a lot of foot traffic and I can invite people to participate. The other day, I went to the site to take some pictures.

(Picture on left): I can set up the “mind chatter tent” on the green space and when people leave the tent, they will come face to face with the trees. I noticed the construction noises coming from across the street and it may interfere with my sound recordings.

(Picture in the middle): I wonder if I can set up the tent on the walk way so it’s easier for people to walk on especially if it’s in the dark tent.

(Picture on right): This is a nice space, further from the noise of the street and construction site, lots of trees in from but the green space is not leveled. It may not be safe to walk here.

I also notice the trees are very tall with no low branches for me to tie the ribbons on. I have to look around for other trees and found this row of trees right beside the entrance to the cultural centre. See pictures below:

The only thing is that the entrance is a bit further from my tent. I may have to ask people to write on the ribbon right after they exit the tent but walk over here to tie their ribbons. I will need someone to help me guide people here. There also may be other tables here during BC Culture Days and access to the trees is a question. The good thing is that the trees are right by the entrance to the Cultural Centre. If I leave the ribbons on for a while (say a week to a month), more people can interact with the ribbons and wonder about what they were. I will make a sign to let know know about this project.

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CreateSpace Public Art Residency – Project Concept

I am so excited to be part of the 2022 CreateSpace Public Art Residency. My initial concept for the public art project that I described in the application is as follows:

During the pandemic, I see a lot of divisiveness in our society and if I look at the root causes, I find thoughts and emotions rooted in fear which are common to all human beings, regardless of race, identify, physical ability, etc. My project concept is to have audio recording of a collection of people’s deepest fears. I want to create a space that represent our mind and play these recordings as if these are the chatters in our brain. Then the participants can move to a different space where they will write down the thoughts and emotions they would like to replace these fears with on strings of ribbons and tie these ribbons to a wishing tree. I imagined this to take place at the plaza outside the Richmond Cultural Center with lots of trees surrounding it. At the end of the project, I would weave these ribbons into a tapestry of hope that represent the choices that we have every moment by choosing to think and act based on love rather than fear.

I really enjoy bouncing off ideas with STEPS advisors during our first one-on-one meeting and working out my project concept in more details. Here’s a concept sketch of my project.

This is going to be a multi-stage project. First I will need to contact the city to get permission to use the space outside of the Richmond Cultural Centre where there are a lot of trees and space. I will set up a dark room (maybe it’s a tent with dark fabric covering it) that people can enter and hear the recordings. Because there will be speakers, I’ve decided to install this public art project during BC Culture Days weekend (Sept 24-25, 2022) and be present at the location.

The dark room and the recording represent the mind chatter. Maybe I will not just record fears because there will be children. Rather, I will invite people to notice what the voice in our brain is saying. I find a lot of my own mind chatter is to-do lists, going over things to do, judging things, worries, etc.

People then exit the dark room/tent from the opposite side. They will have to physically draw aside the curtain and come face to face with the beautiful tree-lined space. This act in my mind represents opening ourselves up to the vastness and spaciousness of nature and our true being. This is freeing, liberating and maybe these can be the working title of my project.

Under the trees, there will be a table with ribbons and markers. People can write their hopes and dreams on the ribbons and tie the ribbons on a tree (need to get permission for this too).

The tent and speakers will be there for the BC Culture Days weekend but the ribbon can stay for a week to a month. After which I will collect the ribbons and weave them into a tapestry of hope.

I really like the idea that each one of us is a thread in a huge, beautiful tapestry and our every thought, word, and action can touch another thread/being in a positive or negative way and the choice is totally ours to make.

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Why I wrote (and illustrated) Emet’s Box

After my son was born, I had a lot of time at home contemplating about the meaning of life. This time, I was not only thinking about myself but also about this new life in my care. What should I tell him? How should I teach him? Later, I realized that I am learning as much (if not more) from him than him from me.

I came across a quote by Joseph Campbell and it had a huge impact on me. He said:

“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.”

I started asking what makes me feel alive? ( “feel alive” has made its way into Emet’s Box).

I love how my son wakes up every morning with a big smile and jumps right out of bed, ready for the day. At night, I can see that he is tired but he is still able to squeeze out energy to play. I want to have that kind of excitement waking up every morning and that kind of passion for living life!

I used to feel guilty if I am having too much fun. I would tell myself that I should be doing the more responsible (less fun) things. I think this idea was drilled into my head when I was growing up. Young children intuitively know how to live for a sense of life and they know being alive is the meaning of life! I wanted to tell children: don’t let anyone tell you how to be you. Only you know how to be you.

Joseph Campbell told his students to “follow your bliss.” The idea came from the Sanskrit Sat-Chit-Anada which means Being-Consciousness-Bliss. He said he didn’t know what being or consciousness was but he knew his bliss. He thought if he followed his bliss, it would lead him to being and consciousness.

I am trying to follow his advice.

Every time I visited the artsy district in my city, I would feel a surge of energy. I even wrote in my journal that I am destined to be an artist. I am going to art school.

I started drawing and painting with my son. He made this painting when he was one and a half years old. Grandpa was so proud he framed it and hung it in his room.

I also started taking art classes and volunteering at school art programs in my local art gallery.

Emet’s Box came out of my observation of young children. They are so carefree and creative, it’s inspiring! My hope is that they will always remember the spark, the brilliance and creativity that they were born with.

I want to encourage children to hold on to that feeling of being alive. Even if they have forgotten it like me (or Emet), it’s ok, as long as they look for it again.

The world nowadays is so complicated. There are so many different opinions and perspective out there (and more choices too). How do you know which one is right, which one is wrong? What do I tell my son? I realized that I am not going to be able to watch over him 24-7 and he wouldn’t want that either. I do believe that every one of us has a higher consciousness or inner guide that is all loving, compassionate and understanding. The only thing I can tell my son is to tap into this higher power to guide him in his life and the way to find that is to follow his bliss.

Joseph Campbell said: 

“…if you do follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you’re living somehow. And well, you can see it. You begin to deal with people who are in the field of your bliss, and they open doors to you. I say, follow your bliss, and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.”

Later, I came across Ken Robinson’s books and videos. His “Do Schools Kill Creativity” is the most watched TED Talk of all time. From his work, I understood the impact of the industrial boom and the need for schools to train future workers that follow the rules and not deviate from what the factory bosses wanted them to do. But now we are way past the industrial age. We need young people to be creative again, to think outside of the box and not afraid of making mistakes.

Ken Robinson encouraged people, especially young people, to try different things in order to find their interests and talents. When you are at the interception of your interests and talents, you are in your Element. (Some of his books are “The Element” and “Finding Your Element.”) Robinson also described being in your element as being “in the zone” which is very similar to “Bliss” that Joseph Campbell was talking about.

Both Ken Robinson and Joseph Campbell said finding your element (or bliss) is an organic process. You don’t know where it is going to lead you. You just have to follow your heart and trust that the path will light up. I always feel that everything that happened in my life happened for a reason. Maybe I couldn’t see it now but if I look back from a future point in my life, everything will make sense.

I like the original bio I wrote for Emet’s Box. It shows my acceptance of the uncertainty of life (it’s like an adventure) but they were edited out. Let me know what you think!

When Jeni Chen was a little kid living in Taiwan, she wanted to be Madonna (the singer) when she grew up, even though she could not carry a tune. She also watched a lot of Hollywood movies and wanted to move to America (later, her family immigrated to Canada which was close enough). In high school, Jeni fell in love with the magic of science. Because she liked working with her hands and was good at doing experiments, she ended up working in laboratories. Then she read some books about building businesses and buying real estate and she wanted to try those. Jeni thought about whether to get a puppy or a child. The baby that came inspired her to draw comics and obtain a Fine Art Certificate from Emily Carr University of Art + Design. Jeni never thought she would do public art until she was selected for a few in her city. She made a story about the feeling she got when doing what she loved and it became a picture book. Jeni realized that life was unpredictable but trying different things that she was interested in had led her to many wonderful experiences. Jeni has no idea what she will do next but is excited about the new adventures that she will be on! She would love to hear from you about what brings you joy and you can find her at

Note: Both quotes by Joseph Campbell came from The Power of Myth, originally an interview of Joseph Campbell by Bill Moyer.