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Grounding in the now during moments of transition
It's challenging to stay present when you're suspended between what's happening and what's coming up
Field Notes on Flourishing is a monthly love letter exploring art, mindfulness, creativity, and the question of flourishing — by Ludi Leiva.
One of the hardest things about life transitions is that feeling of being pulled in two directions—like you’re living with one foot in the now and the other somewhere ahead in What’s Coming Next Land.
In seven weeks, I’ll have reached the end of the road in my Master’s degree. I’ll be exhibiting work that’s been in the making for two years. And I’ll be stepping into a future that’s quite uncertain.
To be sure, futures are always uncertain, but when you’re about to start a brand new chapter of life—whether it’s a new job, moving to a new place, starting or ending a relationship, or something else—there is an extra layer of anticipation involved.
For me, being on the precipice of something new leaves me with a feeling of pent-up energy. A part of me is itching to start transitioning to the new thing/situation, but the other part knows I need to stay grounded in what’s currently happening. What this looks like in practice is constantly having to redirect my focus back to the present moment and the work at hand which, in essence, is a meditative practice. “Welcome the present moment as if you had invited it,” says Pema Chödrön, one of my favorite Buddhist teachers. “[The present] is all we ever have so we might as well work with it rather than struggling against it. We might as well make it our friend and teacher rather than our enemy.”
I’m reminded of this practice every day lately when I’m greeted with a persistent Scandinavian winter—a winter that makes my heart sink a bit because, after months of cold and darkness, all I want with every fiber of my being is springtime.
Earlier this week, I was overjoyed to discover the first crocuses and snowdrop flowers of the season. It was a sunny day and quite warm, and I wanted to literally skip down the street screaming “SPRING IS HERE!” But the joy was short-lived because a few days later it was below freezing and snowing again.
Yesterday I felt deflated and a bit angry, so what did I do? Well (after stewing in my feelings for a bit) I changed my strategy from one of resistance to one of acceptance. I bundled up and took a long afternoon walk in the snow flurries. My partner and I went for a cozy lunch at one of my favorite restaurants. I took a long, hot bath. I celebrated a friend’s birthday. Today, I went for a long sauna and a cold swim, surrendering to the present reality—which in this case was being fully submerged in 0.6°C / 33.1°F water.
In other words, I repeatedly regrounded myself in my present [wintery] circumstances, retraining my mind like a stubborn puppy on a leash. Because the truth is: though spring will undoubtedly arrive, it is not here now. What is here now is winter, and resisting that won’t make this reality go away any faster, but it will make it a little gloomier. Even though I’d still like to turn the page to a warmer season, there is a sense of peace that comes from truly accepting the present moment without trying to change it or hurry it along.
Even though I’d still like to turn the page to a warmer season, there is a sense of peace that comes from truly accepting the present moment without trying to change it or hurry it along.
This is the best philosophy I can think of when it comes to navigating transitions, especially those that have you feeling split in two: Fully feel each step on the ground. Don’t hurry your pacing, allow yourself to move with patience and acceptance. Make the best of where you are now, even if you’re so ready to be somewhere else. You’ll be somewhere else eventually, and who knows, maybe you’ll look back one day and, with some distance, pine for those past chapters that were.
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Some recent work:
I had a couple of commissions for the LA Times this month which I really enjoyed making. The first was for the L.A. Affairs column, accompanying a piece about love, loss, and falling in love with a place (Los Angeles). This was an illustration as well as an animation and I really enjoyed getting to animate something since it’s been a while.
I also got to do an illustration for another LA Times piece on Latinx diversity (specifically, the lack of Latinx folks on corporate boards in the US). This is a really important article and I felt privileged to bring it to life visually.
Some works in progress & process:
I did some screen printing on textiles last weekend, which was a roller coaster of an experience. I unearthed an old textile screen in the screenprinting workshop, which was from the 1970s (with fossilized tape to boot!). The prints definitely didn’t turn out like I wanted them, so I’m going to tweak the raster a bit and try them again soon. Still, it was a good experience! The image was a mock-up of a cover image for my MFA project, A Home is a Portal.
I did some riso printing this month as well, playing with some layering ✨
And I also decided to do some large-scale sketching and worked with charcoal for a bit of a switch up from my usual (ink & pencil). It felt good! I love making larger-scale things and I can’t wait to get a larger studio space in the fall so I can make some big works. These are all part of my MFA thesis project.
Sending you a virtual hug ✨
I am wishing you joy and peace of mind, and a fruitful start of the spring season.
Your being here supports my art and writing practice and means the world to me, thank you for reading.
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