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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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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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