They tried to bury us, but they didn’t know we were seeds
During difficult times, the metaphor of seeds holds particular emotional sway. The idea that those who have suffered immensely might bear fruits later has global resonance, one that extends over time, space and movements.With the current challenges facing the world such as #Covid19, #blacklivesmatter unrest and financial instability it is more important than ever to cultivate a growth mindset and to learn to be find benefits in challenges. Nobody is immune to the far-reaching effects these circumstances deliver, but when we look around it is intriguing to discover there are so many very different personal perspectives on what these realities offer. Some may feel buried by the challenges, and struggle to adapt to the new norm. This can trigger frustration, a state of victimhood and helplessness often resulting in depression. Next door however another person faced with the exact same circumstances will rise to the challenge, creatively adapt and even thrive.
What is it that allows some people to blossom when presented with misfortune while others are buried by their challenges?
The general understanding that suffering and distress can potentially yield positive change is thousands of years old. In spirituality many of the teachings of Buddhism or Hinduism contain elements of the potentially transformative power of suffering. Psychologists at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte coined the term “post traumatic growth”.This can best be defined as positive psychological change experienced as a result of adversity and other challenges in order to rise to a higher level of functioning.The attitude of being open, flexible and accepting of circumstance allows certain people to grow from times of trauma. Post traumatic growth involves "life-changing" psychological shifts in thinking and relating to the world that contribute to a personal process of change that is deeply meaningful.
I know that this is a strategy that has helped me personally to survive some of the darkest times in my life. For ten years I have struggled with chronic illness. I suffered long periods of being bed ridden, having chronic fatigue, meningitis, dementia, being wheelchair bound, losing sight and speech and debilitating pain for many years. Perhaps it might be hard to find the positives in a situation like this but the truth is my illness created the ideal environment to experience personal and spiritual growth. I got to a point where I had to take stock of everything, question everything and discover my true values. I lost my health, career, financial security and home but through a process of being stripped down to nothing I got the opportunity to reinvent myself and this is an amazing gift.
This year I was thrilled to be awarded an arts grant from #KingstonArtsCentre and I am able to visually explore personal and spiritual growth. My test work ‘The Love Garden’ uses an interdisciplinary approach, merging art and science and I hope it will lead me to create a sculptural work in the future that evolves over time to bloom through crystal formation. Through #seedfunding from @Kingstonartscentre I am grateful to be able to dig deeper into what personal and spiritual growth looks like and plant a seed from which a future installation can grow. I have been experimenting with many different materials to see what I could get #crystals to form on. I’m influenced by organic forms and natural texture and I look forward to creating weird and wonderful magic with my work.
I know that right now many of us are going through challenging times as our world changes rapidly and we may feel we have lost control. Many people may have lost jobs, fear for their health or find the unrest in the world unsettling. This lack of control is something I personally struggled with for many years while bed bound. I resented missing out on all the simple pleasures life offers, like being strong enough to go for solitary walks, having the cognitive power to read a book or enough energy to work as an art director in my chosen profession. I understand and I want you to know that although you may feel helpless you in fact do have tremendous personal power, that of choosing how you view the changes.
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” Viktor Frankl, holocaust survivor
When we choose to change our point of view on any given situation, the facts remain the same, but a deliberate shift is made in how we see it. If we choose to see illness or loss as a challenge instead of a problem we are presented with new possibilities to experience life more fully and to become a more whole human being. Asking ourselves questions like ‘what is this situation trying to teach me’ or ‘what is the positive being offered in this challenge’ is fertile ground for new life and personal growth. As we shift our thinking about our situation, there is a change in emotional tone and the meaning that we give to our life circumstances. That doesn’t mean we aren’t striving to improve, but it does mean we can learn to be grateful for what we have. For me during illness it meant reframing my view ‘I wish I could still do the job I love’ to ‘I am so grateful that I have the opportunity to heal’. We can choose to move our experience from a negative frame to a more hopeful one, filled with opportunities.
I hope my art can inspire you if you are struggling and help you see your problems as challenges from which you can bloom.
Nicoleen Agnello is a conceptual visual artist and energy healer working as the Flamekeeper. Her emotionally charged work seeks to burn away the skin to examine the beautiful vulnerability that makes us human and is truth. As an artist she seeks to bring light to the shadow side to transmute the often unacknowledged emotions we all carry in order to heal them. She is intrigued by cross-disciplinary art forms and her arts practice includes installation, painting and video. Her guiding belief is every person is equal and valuable, we are one, and we are all connected. She has won many awards for her conceptual art direction throughout her 20 year career in the advertising industry as an art director. She has had three solo shows, received finalists and commendations and been awarded a solo exhibition Cube at Frankston Art Centre to exhibit her most recent installation ‘My Love is Bulletproof’ 2019.
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