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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Creativity Retreat with Jamna

Jamna writes...

Dear Michael,
Having been back in normal life for a week after our amazing creative weekend together, I'm still feeling the buzz. I went through so many different emotions during those 4 days, some nice, some not so nice, but the end result has left me with a positive glow that others around me are noticing too.
After that first day of just having fun, talking, eating and painting, I felt completely relaxed. Day two was such an adventure, I've never seen so much beauty in one day; snow topped mountains, natural waterfalls, sparkly turquoise blue waters and lush green valleys. My heart sang all day!
Day three had a very different feel, I awoke feeling a little tired (too much excitement from the day before I think!) and I also noticed a bit of anxiety. I think this is because I knew what was coming; that 2m x 2m canvas (bigger than me) was awaiting me in the studio. As the morning went on, I could feel my anxiety growing and my head also started to get busy, but the Tai Chi lead by yourself helped calm me a little.

Then the really scary stuff happened, you placed that chair at the top of the canvas and asked me to sit on it. I’d been avoiding this canvas for the last day or so and now you were making me face it. The worst bit was when you announced that you were leaving me alone with it. At this point, I wasn't liking you very much (sorry), I felt like I was being abandoned; left alone with this scary task ahead of me. Scary because I had no idea where to start or what to paint and worst of all; I was worried about making a mistake.

The anxiety was growing again, but as I got started on this canvas and things started to develop, the anxiety slowly subsided and gave way to a feeling of excitement; now I was getting into the flow of things and something was being created. Despite this I wasn't convinced about my creation as a legitimate piece of art, and when you came back to have a look I remember feeling embarrassed. It seemed a little naïve and silly, I was annoyed because I was expecting something a bit more intelligent to come from me. Anyway, you were very positive about it and said it was “lovely” or “beautiful” of something like that. I remember thinking “he would say that”.

I then got to a point where I couldn't do anymore, it felt complete, but I was still struggling with the idea of this being a piece of art. I realised then that I was judging it against my ideals of what art “should” be and needed to accept it as it was.

The next morning when we returned to the studio, something unexpected happened. I saw something very different, I took one look and I fell in love with my creation. At this point my heart rate increased, my breath started to deepen and catch and I had to put both my hands over my heart; I felt like it was expanding with joy and might explode. To me my painting felt alive, it seemed to come off the page, it was three dimensional and there was movement. It felt like there was a powerful energy surrounding it that was communicating with me.

I continued to look at it and I felt a connection, I now understood how art could be so moving and that’s when the tears came.

Every time I think about this experience, I'm blown away. I came to Italy thinking I’d be painting landscapes and that you’d be on hand to show me how to improve on my technique. I never expected anything like this and since my return, lots of questions have been buzzing around in my head.

Jamna: Do you have a take on my experience? Can you tell me about it?
Michael: You travelled a great distance in a short time and were able to do so because the time was right for you. Your rational mind battled and resisted at times of course but your true self just kicked this aside because it knew what it wanted; has always known.
J: You seemed to know exactly what I needed, how did you know this?
M: Don't know really how this works for me with people. Best way to explain it is that I scan, just absorb in depth, messages that folks give out and ignore their left brain chatter and notice shifts. Sounds funny but it's as near as I can get to explaining.
J: I didn't realise it at the time, but I now see that you took me through a process. Can you tell me about this and your method of teaching?
M: Well, the process comes pre-packed in you. You have, everybody has, all the ingredients within them and all I do is orchestrate, just like a conductor of a wonderful orchestra, waiting for pauses and nuances. The orchestra is of course you.
J: Do you do the same with everyone or is it different with different people?
M: As above but always varying in time and intensity. One2Ones are the most powerful because the desire and intensity is strong but group work can be effective too but needs re-enforcing.
J:  You talk about creativity being within everybody, but where does it come from?
M: Wish I knew, it just does. For convenience I call it the Creative Collective and I know that it just comes when clever resistance ends and innocent wonder returns.
J:  Is creativity just about making art?
M: No, it is a state of being which pervades our everyday existence once we have chosen to stay awake.
J:  You said that I’d experience a shift and that this would now show in all areas of my life, can you give me an   example of this?
M: No, except to say it is enough to stay awake and wait in wonder. You will see.
J:  Will this help in my job?
M: It will help you understand your real relationship with your job. Who you are, what it is and how to match the two creatively and effectively.
J asks again:  For clarity, are you saying here that this process will help me understand myself better and therefore my purpose and how I pursue this through my job?? 
Yes, it's throwing up conflicts already I can see by your email. If your nature is alien to your work, you will of course suffer. But you must, must, run parallel in this process by keeping alive your creativity. keeping it strong, as by this you will have the courage to jump clear when the time is right, which will not be far away.

J:  How do I sustain this now that I am back into everyday life?
M:  Colour your life, shape your shapes in life just as you did for your painting. And make imaging as much a daily habit as cleaning your teeth.  Make marks, memory marks continuously.

And I mean imaging as in painting, drawing, getting it out of your head: But this incorporates itself immediately into what you call your life, but of course there is no distinction between the two. Make marks, draw, paint, keep this process alive. Kick it off from the very moment you open your eyes in the morning

Jamna Owen joined Michael for a One2One Creativity Retreat here in Italy last weekend. These are her reflections and then her questions to me which she has kindly allowed me to post.

"To find out more about Starstone's creativity retreats, please visit" or contact Michael at


  1. Pretty powerful stuff Michael. I can just feel the sensory involvement in her creativity. It is interesting that one sometimes has to be drawn back to nature and allow the images that are constantly bombarding your mind jolt you into a rebirth of creativity. Sometimes just watching a mother bird feeding her young or a flower blooming for the first time puts me back in the frame of mind that I need to continue what I was doing. If nature can recreate then should I! This one2one experience seems like it not only was about painting but the entire human experience. Well done.