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Thich Nhat Hanh

Thích Nhất Hạnh (pronounced [tʰǐk ɲə̌t hâːˀɲ] (born October 11, 1926) is a Buddhist monk, teacher, author, poet and peace activist now based in France.

Thich Nhat Hanh was born Nguyễn Xuân Bảo in Thừa Thiên (Central Vietnam) in 1926. At the age of 16 he entered the monastery at Từ Hiếu Temple near Huế, Vietnam, where his primary teacher was Dhyana (meditation Zen) Master Thanh Quý Chân Thật. A graduate of Bao Quoc Buddhist Academy in Central Vietnam, Thich Nhat Hanh received training in Zen and the Mahayana school of Buddhism and was ordained as a monk in 1949.

In 1956, he was named editor-in-chief of Vietnamese Buddhism, the periodical of the Unified Vietnam Buddhist Association (Giáo Hội Phật Giáo Việt Nam Thống Nhất). In the following years he founded Lá Bối Press, the Van Hanh Buddhist University in Saigon, and the School of Youth for Social Service (SYSS), a neutral corps of Buddhist peaceworkers who went into rural areas to establish schools, build healthcare clinics, and help re-build villages.

Nhat Hanh is now recognized as a Dharmacharya and as the spiritual head of the Từ Hiếu Temple and associated monasteries.[1][12] On May 1, 1966 at Từ Hiếu Temple, Thich Nhat Hanh received the "lamp transmission", making him a Dharmacharya or Dharma Teacher, from Master Chân Thật

He joined a Zen (Vietnamese: Thiền) monastery at the age of 16, studied Buddhism as a novice, and was fully ordained as a monk in 1949. The name Thích is used by all Vietnamese monks and nuns, meaning that they are part of the Shakya (Shakyamuni Buddha) clan. In the early 1960s, he founded the School of Youth for Social Services (SYSS) in Saigon. This grassroots relief organization rebuilt bombed villages, set up schools, established medical centers, and resettled families left homeless during the Vietnam War. He traveled to the U.S. to study at Princeton University, and later to lecture at Cornell University and Columbia University. His focus at the time was to urge the U.S. government to withdraw from Vietnam. He urged Martin Luther King, Jr. to publicly oppose the Vietnam War; King nominated Hanh for the Nobel Peace Prize in January 1967. He created the (non-Zen) Order of Interbeing in 1966, establishing monastic and practice centers around the world. In 1973, the Vietnamese government denied Nhat Hanh permission to return to Vietnam and he went into exile in France. From 1976 to 1977 he led efforts to rescue Vietnamese boat people in the Gulf of Siam.

Nhat Hanh has become an important influence in the development of Western Buddhism. His teachings and practices aim to appeal to people from various religious, spiritual, and political backgrounds, intending to offer mindfulness practices for more Western sensibilities. As of 2007, he has been based at the Plum Village Monastery in the Dordogne region in the South of France, travelling internationally to give retreats and talks. He coined the term Engaged Buddhism in his book Vietnam: Lotus in a Sea of Fire. A long-term exile, he was given permission to make his first return trip to Vietnam in 2005 and has returned regularly since. He was awarded the Courage of Conscience award in 1991.

Nhat Hanh has published more than 100 books, including more than 40 in English. A journal for the Order of Interbeing, The Mindfulness Bell, is published quarterly which includes a Dharma talk by him. Nhat Hanh continues to be active in the peace movement, promoting non-violent solutions to conflict. He has also been featured in many films, including The Power of Forgiveness showcased at the Dawn Breakers International Film Festival.

From Wikipedia

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Diego Rivera

"Only the work of art itself can raise the standard of taste."

Mexican Artist/Muralist

1886 - 1957

People talk of taste as if it was real.  It is an illusion of judgement.  Every work of art, every poem, and every story has value.  When people begin to label art as good or bad, they are creating false categories that are based on artificial judgements.  What the majority label as good today may be considered bad tomorrow.  You may like something or not like something which in itself is okay.  Liking or disliking reveals something about you.  There is nothing inherently bad or good within the work of art itself.  The sense of good or bad is in the eyes of the beholder.  Any judgement made about a work of art is actually a judgement of the person who made the statement.

While there may only be one person today who likes your art, it does not make the art bad.  Two hundred years from now the majority of people may consider it a masterpiece.  Taste is fickle and useless.

The Flower Carrier

Diego Rivera, the great Mexican Muralist,  painted a number of murals in the United States during the 1930's.  Edsel Ford hired him to paint a mural at the Detroit Institute of Arts which is still on view today.  John Rockefeller commissioned him to paint a mural in New York.  Since Rivera was a communist, he included a portrait of Lenin in the mural.  When Rockefeller demanded that he remove the portrait from the mural, Rivera refused.  Rockefeller had the mural destroyed.  In the 1930's, a portrait of Lenin was unacceptable to the American public taste.  A work of art was destroyed because the subject matter was unacceptable.  Three hundred years from now, most people probably will never had heard of Lenin and nobody will be offended.  Remember public taste is fickle and arbitrary.

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Martin Luther King Jr.

"If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry.  He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, 'Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.'"

American Civil Rights Leader/Preacher/Author

1929 - 1968

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

One of those games we play is:  "Where were you when . . ."  On April 4, 1968, I was a nineteen year old college student at Goshen College in Indiana.  Two months earlier I had the privilege of marching with Dr. King at a Vietnam War protest march in Washington D.C. The murder of Dr. King on my birthday in 1968 impacted me both emotionally and spiritually.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

For the past twenty years I have been sharing this quote by Dr. King in my speeches on leadership.  I believe that work is spiritual in nature.  The work we do helps to cleanse our souls and free our spirits.  Many people see work as a negative condition.  They hate Mondays and grumble about having to go to work.  Many people wish they did not have to work.  But if you have ever lost a job and sat idle for a few months, you appreciate the value of work in your life.

As creative leaders we have a special opportunity to share the fruit of our labor with others. Most of my life I have dreamed of being able to give up my bill-paying job and write full time.  Fortunately, this never happened.  I think I am a better person for having the discipline to get up an hour earlier than everyone and writing before going to work.  Sometimes what we wish for is not in our best interests.  The bill-paying work and the creative work are both important and both have helped to make me a better person.

Be proud of the work you do.  Celebrate the work you do.  Be happy with the gifts you have been given.
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J. C. Penny

James Cash Penny

founder of J. C. Penny

"I am grateful for all of my problems.  After each one was overcome, I became stronger and more able to meet those that were still to come.  I grew in all my difficulties."

American Businessman 

1875 - 1971

What problems are you grateful for?  We all face challenges in our lives and we sometimes let these challenges affect us emotionally and psychologically.  We need to learn to be thankful for the gifts hidden within the problems.  Every problem we face has something to teach us, something to give us.  Creative leaders face problems and challenges in their personal and financial lives like everyone else.  The difference is that we have been given the gift of creativity.  Don't just use your gift for your art.  Use it to solve the problems in your life.

James Cash Penny, age 27

In 1898 at the age of 23 James Cash Penny went to work for a small chain of retail stores.  Four years later, he was offered a third ownership in one store for which he paid $2,000 dollars.  In 1907, he bought and owned three stores.  By 1912 he owned 34 stores.  In 1913 at the age of 38, he incorporated his business under the name of J. C. Penny.  By 1929 the company had 1,400 stores.  The stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression left James Cash Penny in financial ruin.  He borrowed against the cash value of his life insurance policies to pay the payroll in his stores.  The financial setbacks took a toll on his health and he checked himself into a sanitarium.  He later recovered emotionally and financially and spent the rest of his life involved in charitable works.

What challenges are you facing today?  What changes can you make in your life that will help you solve these problems?  The problems we face are gifts that can make us stronger and better artists and writers.  Be thankful that you have an opportunity to learn and grow into a better person.
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Joseph Conrad

"I don't like work — no man does — but I like what is in work: the chance to find yourself."

Polish Novelist

1857 - 1924

Unlike Conrad, I do like to work.  I find that if I don't work I become bored and more tired than when I work.  Although, I do from time to time find myself procrastinating, particularly with creative work.  The creative side of me doesn't want to sit down and do the work.  But I strongly agree with the second half of the quote.  Work does give me a chance to explore who I am as an artist and writer.  Work helps me to understand myself better and to appreciate my talents and gifts.  Work also challenges me and pushes me to go farther than I thought possible.

I believe we ought to celebrate work.  All work is honorable if approached with the right attitude.  Housework and housekeeping is very important work.  So is child-rearing.  Raising and educating the next generation is probably the most important work of all.  I am in awe of people who are knowledgeable about the work they do.  When I meet a sales clerk in a store who knows his product, I compliment him.  I love to listen to the sales pitch of great sales people.  Sometimes I buy and sometimes I don't, but I enjoy the ride.  I celebrate people who work their hands — carpenters, farmers, mechanics.  I am not good with my hands because I am too slow.  Some people have the gift for gab.  I have heard some fantastic speakers in my life.  Work for me is both an art and a skill.

The work that creative leaders do should also be celebrated.  Sometimes people don't understand the creative process and so they don't appreciate the working habits of artists and writers.  Painting, sculpting and writing are not 9 to 5 jobs.  You may work for an hour here and an hour there, but your mind is always working both consciously and unconsciously.  In fact, the unconscious work for a creative leader is probably the most important work and the most difficult.  So celebrate and appreciate the work you do.
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Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Self-Portrait, 1847

"Picture and poem bear the same relationship to each other as beauty does in man and woman:  the point of meeting where the two are identical is the supreme perfection."

English Poet and Artist

1828 - 1882

Lady Lilith, 1868

Having spent over 35 years writing poetry and now painting for the last five years, I am fascinated by the point where poetry and painting meet.  Dante Gabriel Rossetti was trained both as a poet and a painter and spent a lifetime writing poetry and painting pictures.  He once said: "If any man has any poetry in him he should paint it, for it has all been said and written."  And yet Rossetti saw himself more as a poet than a painter.  He also said: "Painting being — what poetry is not — a livelihood — I have put my poetry chiefly in that form."  And I would have to agree with his last point.  While it may be difficult to make a living being a painter, it is even more difficult making a living from writing poetry.  

Is there a poem inside you asking to be let out?  Is there a painting inside you begging to be set free?  I strongly encourage painters to write poetry and short stories.  I think every poet and novelist should pick up a brush and spend a few hours painting.  Remember it is not about being financially successful.  It is about releasing your inner creativity.

Here is a poem by Rossetti:

The Honeysuckle

I plucked a honeysuckle where

The hedge on high is quick and thorn,

And climbing for the prize, was torn,

And fouled my feet in quag-water;

And by the thorns and by the wind

The blossom that I took was thinn'd,

And yet I found it sweet and fair.

Thence to a richer growth I came,

Where, nursed in mellow intercourse,

The honeysuckles sprang by scores,

Not harried like my single stem,

All virgin lamps of scent and dew.

So from my hand that first I threw,

Yet plucked not any more of them.

Here is a video on YouTube showing some of the paintings of Rossetti:

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D. H. Lawrence

"All my life, I have from time to time gone back to paint because it gave me a form of delight that words can never give.  Perhaps the joy in words goes deeper and it is for that reason more unconscious.  The conscious delight is certainly stronger in paint."

English Novelist, Poet and Painter

1885 - 1930

Painting by D. H. Lawrence

Creative expression is not limited to one form.  Poets paint.  Painters write.  Actors paint.  What do you find joy in?  Words?  Paint?  Acting?  Don't limit yourself to one form or medium.  Explore and expand your horizons.  Creativity is open and free.  Perfectionism is narrow and limiting.  We sometimes don't try things because we want to be perfect.  Perfectionism is about technique.  Creativity is about expression.  If we allow ourselves to be confined by technique, our creativity will harden and shrink.  Creativity frees the soul and opens up new worlds.  Technique imprisons the soul and we die a slow death.  What do you take delight in?  What brings you joy?    
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Adages of Wisdom Quotes by Master Sheng Yen

Be busy but happy, and tired but joyful.


It's fine to be busy: just don't let it get on your nerves.


To take on tough tasks, one must prepare to tough out complaints, and to be in charge is to be in for criticism. Yet complaints help foster compassion and patience, and criticism often holds golden advice.


Don't measure success and gain by wealth and rank: to benefit ourselves and others as best we can is all that matters.


Work swiftly, but don't tense up; relax your body and mind and never tighten up.


Work swiftly in an orderly fashion; never compete with time in a nervous flurry.


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Robert May

"Everything connected with Rudolph has a touch of miracle about it, a kindly star."

American Writer

1905 - 1976

Fame and fortune are strange bedfellows.  Most artists and writers desire to make a living from their creative output.  Few do.  Robert May created the character of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer as part of a promotional story he wrote as a copywriter for Montgomery Ward in 1939.  Montgomery Ward distributed 2.4 million copies that year.  Since May worked for Montgomery Ward, the company owned the copyright and May received no royalties.  He persuaded  the president of Montgomery Ward to give him the copyright in 1947 and this one creation gave him fame and fortune.

As writers and artists, we never know which story or painting is going to be remembered throughout history.  Many writers produced hundreds of poems or stories, but only are remembered for one or two.  Many painters spend a lifetime painting, but only a few of their works are well known to the general public.  We have no way of knowing which work of art is going to catch the imagination of the general public.  Think of the Charles Dickens story of The Christmas Carol, one of the most retold stories of our time.  

Enjoy your celebration of the holidays and I hope that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer paid you a visit.
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Theodore H. White

"To go against the dominant thinking of your friends, of most of the people you see every day, is perhaps the most difficult act of heroism you can have."

American Journalist/Writer

1915 - 1986

As artists and creative leaders, we often have to stand alone against the thinking of family and friends.  This is very difficult to do and often we will be criticized for what we think and the way we behave.  This happened to me early in my life.  I grew up in the Mennonite church in central Illinois.  When I was a sophomore in high school, I committed myself to being a minister.  By the time I was a senior, I was no longer a believer in the faith of my forefathers.  This admission was very difficult for both my mother and father to hear.  

Do you stand up for what you believe even though the people around you disagree with you?  Did you become an artist despite the wishes of your parents?  Many parents prefer their children become doctors and lawyers.  It takes a strong-willed individual to become a writer or a painter in the face of parental opposition.  As Theodore White says, each of you are heroes.  Celebrate and appreciate your strength and individuality.
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Janet Fish

"I get up early and ease into the day for about an hour.  Then I start working.  There are a lot of tricks you have to keep playing on yourself to keep at it because every time you hit a problem you want to walk away."

American Painter

1938 -

For a creative leader, diving into a project is the hardest thing to do.  The mind creates excuses to keep the leader from starting.  I rise early and jump right into the day — either walking, jogging or writing.  I don't wait for coffee or the sun to rise.  But I am also good at walking away from the writing if I stumble into a problem or what happens more often is that I walk away just as the creative juices are starting to flow.  It is as if my mind is telling me to slow down, not to go too fast.  

What tricks do you use to get yourself into your creative project — to start painting?  When the creative juices are flowing, how do you keep going?

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Alexander Calder

"The universe is real but you can't see it.  You have to imagine it.  Once you imagine it, you can be realistic about reproducing it."

American Sculptor

1898 - 1976

Untitled, 1968

Centro Cultural de Belem

Lisbon, Portugal

Art and literature are created at the point where the universe meets the imagination.  The way we know the external world is through our senses.  Our minds interpret what they see, feel, hear, smell and taste and create the world we imagine to be there.  Even the most realistic painter or novelist interprets the world he sees with his imagination.  Even the most imaginative artist finds the beginning of his creation in the universe.

What is the universe that you see in your mind's eye?  What fantasies do you imagine to be real in your mind?  Art is always an interpretation of the world.  It is never the world.  It is never reality.  It is a pretend world that we believe to be true.

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Stephen Nachmanovitch

"Creative work is play.  It is free speculation using the materials of one's chosen form."

American Musician/Writer

1950 -

For many people as they grow-up, they stop playing and having fun and in the process they stop being creative.  Being playful opens up our channels of creativity and we explore new ways of seeing the world.  Play involves having a sense of humor and being able to laugh at ourselves and the world around us.  Can you laugh at yourself and your mistakes?  Play also involves celebration of life and the joys of discovery.  Do you celebrate the beauty of being alive?  Play releases the creativity that is stored inside each of us and we try new things.  Have you tried something new recently or are you stuck in a rut?

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Claudia Black

"Surround yourself with people who respect and treat you well."

American Author/Speaker

As creative leaders, we can be very sensitive to the comments of others.  If people negate our art, we may stop painting or writing or even creating altogether.  We face rejection from world every day.  "Oh, you are a writer?  Have you written anything that I might have read?"  We face rejection when we submit our work to magazines and publishers.  I once send out the same haiku to two different publishers by accident.  I discovered my mistake when I open the mail one day.  I received a rejection letter from one magazine and the other magazine wanted to publish the haiku.  

Rejection is very common not only for writers, but also painters and actors.  Think about auditioning for a part in a play or a movie and you are judged not only on your acting talent but also on your appearance.  You are either too short, too tall, too fat or too ugly.  

And some people won't even submit their creative work to the scrutiny of the public eye.  They refuse to give others the opportunity to judge or criticize them.

So the message in this quote is very powerful.  Surround yourself with people who respect the work you do, who don't criticize you, who support you and compliment you.  The friends we choose are very important to our success.  
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St. Francis de Sales

"Be patient with everyone, but above all with yourself."

French Catholic Bishop/Writer

1567 - 1622

These days patience seems to be in short supply.  Most of us are in a hurry to get somewhere.  We hate to wait in lines.  We need to publish that first novel or have that first one-person show before we are thirty.  Sometimes the best things take time.  The best wines have aged for years.  We need to have patience.  It takes awhile to perfect technique.  And the person we are hardest on is ourselves.  We don't give ourselves the time to grow and develop.  Be patient with yourself and your imperfections.  Give yourself permission to make mistakes.  Have faith in your future.
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Franz Schubert

1875 Oil Painting

of Franz Schubert

by Wilhelm Rieder

"I am in the world only for the purpose of composing."

Austrian Composer

1797 - 1828

Composition of
Franz Schubert

Why are you here?  What is your purpose for being?  What is the legacy you are going to leave behind?  In his short 31 years of life, Franz Schubert composed over 600 songs, 9 symphonies and a large body of chamber and piano music.  What is the legacy you will leave behind?  We all will reach the end of the road one day.  When you look back on your life, what have you accomplished?  What have you achieved?

As creative leaders, we need a sense of purpose — a reason for being.  We need to hold onto something that gives our lives meaning?  Why are you here?  What is your purpose for being? 
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Jing Si Aphorism - Inspirational Wisdom Quotes by Dharma Master Cheng Yen

Remain soft-spoken and forgiving,
even when reason is on your side.


Enduring verbal abuse is also a kind of spiritual practice.


The most simple and ordinary life brings the most inner peace.


Do not close the door to our heart. By loving others we too will be loved.


A confused mind suffers agony; an enlightened mind feels at ease.

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Charles Demuth

Self-Portrait (1907)

"Paintings must be looked at and looked at and looked at. . . . No writing, no talking, no singing, no dancing will explain them."

American Artist

1883 - 1935

The Figure 5 In Gold (1928)

Inspired by a poem of

William Carlos Williams:

The Great Figure

One of the lessons I learned early in my career is not to explain my poetry to others.  If I had to explain it, then either I did not succeed or the reader failed to understand.  I would attend writer's groups where we would share our work and then the group would critique it.  Some writers would keep trying to explain their poems if they didn't feel the group grasped the meaning of the poem.  I think the same is true of any art form.  You don't need to explain your work.  A painter shouldn't explain the meaning of his painting.  The viewer has the responsibility in the communication exchange to study the work to the best of his ability just as the reader also has some responsibility.  It is a two way street.  

The Great Figure

by William Carlos Williams

Among the rain

and lights

I saw the figure 5

in gold

on a red





to gong clangs

siren howls

and wheels rumbling

through the dark city.

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Viktor Emil Frankl

"Our greatest freedom is the freedom to choose our attitude."

Austrian Psychiatrist/Writer

1905 - 1997

I believe that everything in life is a choice.  We choose how we get up in the morning.  We choose how we go to work.  We choose our attitudes.  I believe we have little or no control over what happens to us.  We can be in a car accident, be diagnosed with cancer or get fired from our job.  We have no control over preventing these things from happening.  The only thing we have control over is how we respond to what happens to us.  We have 100% control of our attitude.  As Frankl says, we have the freedom to choose our attitude.

What is your attitude to your life?  Your art?  What is your attitude to the people around you? Do you choose to be optimistic and positive?  Or are you grouchy?  Discouraged?  Negative?  Are you always finding fault with people and the world around you?  Do continually make sarcastic comments and put people down?  Or do you look for the good in people?  Even the worst of people have some good in them.  

As creative leaders we choose our attitudes.  Choose today to be positive, dedicated and inspiring.  Choose to find the silver lining in every dark cloud.  Choose to be a better you.  And then you will be a better artist.
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Zig Ziglar

"Most people who fail in their dreams fail not from lack of ability but from lack of commitment."

American Speaker/Author

1926 -

We all have dreams, things that we want to accomplish in our lives, but many of us give up too soon.  We don't have the commitment to achieve what we dream of achieving.  To be an artist in a world where you have to have a 9 - 5 job in order to live requires commitment.  You have to get up earlier than everyone else or go to bed later than everyone else in your family.  You have to steal minutes wherever you can to write, to draw, to paint, to dance.  Sometimes we have to create in isolation, without contact with other creative souls.  We have to force ourselves to write even when our body and mind is finding ways to procrastinate.  Many of us don't have people in our lives encouraging us to create.  In fact, we may have people telling us to get a real job.  We have to be our own coach and cheerleader.  We have to be willing to do what unsuccessful people are not willing to do?  Have you the commitment to be a creative leader?
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Milan Kundera

"Laughing deeply is living deeply."

Czech Novelist/Poet

1929 -

Have you laughed today?  Have you had a deep belly laugh that shook your insides?  We all need some humor in our lives.  Laughter helps to heal the pain.  The life of an artist or writer can be difficult and challenging.  Laughter helps us to survive the barbs of criticism and the arrows of rejection.  Do you know what makes you laugh?  Do you know what makes others laugh.  Seek to put some laughter into your life.  Give the gift of laughter.
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Anton Chekhov

"The role of the artist is to ask questions, not answer them."

Russian Writer

1860 - 1904

What questions are you asking?  Are you curious about the world around you?  Are you asking questions that challenge your beliefs?  As artists and writers we can get in a rut painting the same image over and over or writing the same story again and again.  What are you doing to keep your art fresh and new?  What new roads are you walking down?  What new mountains are you climbing?  Challenge yourself today to draw something you have never drawn, to write a story you have never written, to sing a song you have never sang.
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Kahlil Gibran

"Knowledge of the self is the mother of all knowledge.  So it is incumbent on me to know my self, to know it completely, to know its minutiae, its characteristics, its subtleties, and its very atoms.

Lebanese Poet/Artist

1883 - 1931

The Face of  Almustafa (The Prophet)

How well do you know yourself?  Do you know your strengths?  Your weaknesses?  Your blind spots? Most of us only partially know who we are and why we were born.  Life is an ongoing process of self-discovery.  And life is a process of becoming whom we are meant to be.  We can change who we are if we desire and are willing to change.  Other people can not change us, but they can teach us about ourselves.  There are things other people know about us that we do not know?  If we listen to them, we may hear the truth.  Even our enemies can teach us about ourselves.  Sometimes the people who irritate us the most have the most to teach us.  Often when we are irritated by the behavior we see in others, we are really irritated with ourselves because we behave the same way.  The better we know ourselves, the more honest our art will be and the better person we can become.
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