Wednesday, November 4, 2009


"Ease and inspiration come from experiencing the present moment." - Leo Babauta, creator of zenhabits.

In the build up to christmas, which usually starts with orders for my carvings 3 to 4 months before, I find myself taking on too much work and then stressing about deadlines. Our short trip to Kosi Bay was a welcome respite. It gave me time to straighten my thoughts and I resolved, once back in civilization, to find little pockets of calm to rejuvenate myself each day. Of course, once home my resolve flew south and I was soon back in the cycle of rush, rush, rush.

Yesterday when feeling particularly frazzled I made myself a cup of ginger tea and parked myself in front of my computer to unwind. As often happens when needing a few words of wisdom, I stumbled upon zenhabits, a blog about finding simplicity in our chaotic lives. One of the first articles I read was Take Lots of Breaks to Get More Done.

"By taking a relaxing and regenerative break at least every 90 minutes, you increase your capacity to do more work. Just like your muscles need to relax after they tense up, you need to relax after short bursts of focused work. Obviously you don’t want to only take breaks. There needs to be a balance and a blend of relaxation and focused effort. But it’s amazing how many people forget the relaxation aspect." - Jonathan Mead

Aah .... the pockets of calm, I had pondered about at Kosi Bay ....I had even started a list while sitting on a sand dune gazing out to sea. As I began reading article after article at zenhabits I added to this list.

1. Nature:
Be present and look ..... really look .... at the miracles of nature. Take time out to photograph, sketch or just contemplate..... the latter being the most relaxing.
"Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished." - Lao Tzu

2. A brisk 15 minute walk.

3. Art Books:
Browse and feel inspired.

4. Journal.

5. Create a daily 10 Minute Collage. I highly recommend Shelley Klammer's Free Online Workshop. She also offers a Creative Intuition course which involves choosing one image to meditate upon.

6. Talk to monkeys: They make me laugh!

7. Really taste and enjoy a cup of ginger tea: 5-6 slices fresh ginger steeped in hot water, add lemon juice and honey.

8. Breathe: (See article at zenhabits on Breathe)

9. Three-Breath-Meditation:
(Watch Mary Jaksch's short video clip)

10. Take a Weird Break to clear the head.

"During my break I do something a little weird like take a short walk and hang from a tree branch. I find that it’s tough to worry while hanging from a beautiful tree. Plus, my creativity almost always starts flowing again." - Karl Staib, guest writer on zenhabits. (6 Amazing Techniques to Staying Happy During a Stressful Project)

Other articles I enjoyed:

While contemplating nature in my garden today I discovered this Natal Green Snake sunning herself on the sill of my daughters bedroom window. She glided off into the plants as if moving on air. Quite the most beautiful creature!


  1. Good advice, all of it.

    I do take breaks, but I usually find myself wasting time at the computer when I do. I'll try to use my breaks more wisely and creatively in the future.

    Wish I had a monkey to talk to.

  2. I like what you have posted and it brings home that we all need to take a moment and center our energy, focusing inward, reflect upon what surrounds us and then move forward.

    A few links are out of order and would need to be redone.

    Thank you for sharing and enjoy the day,

  3. lovely post and reminder - my daily walk is my time to clear my head, think through things without interruptions and kick start my day - it's a habit I'm glad I formed :)

  4. Love this post--- will check out zenhabits for sure... after being to Japan, I need to take in the moments there.

  5. Kim, when there are plenty of chores to do I daren't go onto the internet because I'm not disciplined enough to stop after half an hour.

    Egmont, thanks for mentioning the links. I kept pasting a second http:// which threw the links out. They're all fixed now.

    Jeane, walking is a good habit I need to reinstate!

  6. I'm a big advocator of the nap/cake break myself!

    And thank you for posting this missus, I needed to check out the link...and also eat a bun! x:)

  7. I definitely need to slow down. I read the title of this post as Pockets of CLAM. I thought you brought home some clam shells and were using them in one of your works. Ha... This has some great inspirations for ways to relax and get more done. I hope you are able to do so. I know you are working hard because you haven't posted much lately. Take care of self.

  8. Thanks for the links - and a reminder that I have some fresh ginger I can make into tea!!! Beautiful pix - snakes are always mesmerizing in their movements, after my initial startle reaction when I first spot them!!! LOL

  9. What a great post on the beauty of self care, and awarness to the moment we are actually in. Beautiful images, even Ms. Natal Green Snake, who after all was enjoying a break in the sunshine herself!

  10. Take a weird break - this one appeals the most to me! I'm a great believer in working for an hour then having a short break, so this week I'm going to make sure those breaks are weirder than normal!

  11. Thank you for this post... this is something we all need to learn. Breaks, more breaks. Slow down, let it happen... not forced... now I'm inspired to paint/sculpt a snake... ~PJ

  12. Just the post I needed I am taking a break form tight muscles from sanding tiny objects the last hour!

  13. your posts are always so appropriate for the moment for i was finding myself in the crazy mode today. i've heard the break theory applied towards study habits for better information retention. what is that saying "everything in moderation"? ;)

  14. all good things to be doing...found Zen habits a while ago whilst looking for something else entirely
    and was very grateful the Fates had directed me to it

    the other habit i find useful [acquired during porcelain class] is that of centering
    i was learning to do it with clay
    and found that i needed to do it for myself as well

  15. Hi Robin,

    I find myself doing a lot of those same things except for talking to monkeys... I talk to my dog!

    Gotta get used to those snakes....ugh! Even your picture freaks me out..... must be a past life thing!

  16. Ilike the idea of breaks, I seem to do more of them now I have reached my venerable age!
    I do think we rush around too much and need the time to stop and re organise our selves.
    We miss a lot if we dont.
    I must get back to the 10 minute collages now I am home.

  17. i fell into Zenhabits lately too...

    when you said "talk to monkeys" i laughed so. I love your monkeys. I was journaling how the birds esp. always make me laugh, and these crazy jumping fish i got here, they just hop up and plop across again and again randomly and it makes me silly.

    Christmas is almost upon us; i can feel that feeling happening...

    what are those pods, they are marvelous.


  18. doing something weird.. maybe not weird for a child but for an adult, I like to swing on the swingchair in our garden which is still their and try to touch the brances of the three nearby - so refreshing and relaxing.... xDorie

  19. How refreshing to read your musings (as always) - and how affirming to hear how powerful breaks are. Though I hadn't thought about how important they are... when I am working hard, I usually do take a 20 minute break from time to time and have tea, read or pop outside. I know that I feel better, but now that you mention it, I think I am better focused for the time off. Love your list and am off to make some ginger tea!

  20. Oh... I love your little pockets of calm... seeing your new work and all of it's pockets... the silly monkey... time to have a cup of tea and all the photographs you share here of your life... roxanne

  21. Another fabulous post with so much common sense advice. I share your chaos towards Christmas, so many orders to fill etc. I'm going to take your wonderful advice and take time for me and do something weird once in awhile.

  22. for some strange reason, both this one and the previous post have not been showing on my blogroll. i came by anyway and i'm glad i did.

    i've just gotten up, and i have to go through both these posts once more, slowly with my cup of ginger tea...nothing like a few good posts to begin a day with :-)

  23. Good advice. Not sure about the monkey fun but a refreshing walk is great. I ride my stationery bike on my deck listening to classical for me!

  24. I walk daily for me and nightly for The Girls (two dogs altho they may as well BE Monkeys!). How I love the snake... my Chinese zodiac sign. ("The little dragon" is what some call it but let's get real. "Dragon" makes folks smile -- You holler SNAKE and folks MOVE!)

    Just when I think you cannot outdo yourself, you outdo yourself AGAIN. What a delightful post this is.

    Candace in Athens

  25. Little pockets of calm...what a perfect description of something we all need. Thanks for the artfilled reminder!

  26. We do need to take care of ourselves, both physically and mentally. Lovely post and lovely images (and as always thanks for the links). I tell work today I felt like going for a walk outside and hanging from a branch(used to love doing that as a kid). Wonder what the "Managers" would have thought...he hee!
    I agree, those 10 minute collages with Shelley Klammer are wonderful. Thank you for introducing me to them.

    Jacky xox

  27. Love the recipe for ginger tea!! I don't have a monkey to talk to either, although my blog mate talks to me sometimes! I hope blue and white stripey mice "count"!!

  28. I have been meaning to write to you for the longest time. I was born in Durban 1n 1952 - left Africa at age 10. Yet, Africa stays with me even though I have never returned, I still smell it and feel it. Thank you for your wonderful blog and beautiful pictures that always take me "home".

  29. Oh, R. This is just what I needed today.
    I have finally taken the plunge and handed my notice in at work. I am taking a year to establish my Mosaic work and hopefuly get some sold. To say I am a wee bit scared is an understatment, but my beloved is right behind me and turning 50 is having a profound affect on me!

    This post is so full of insight and info, thankyou again!

    ps any tips on surviving this new venture would be very welcome;)

  30. Donna, I'm dying to hear about your trip to Japan.

    Mimi, you would get along with SARK. She promotes napping.

    Lisa, I enjoy clams too :-) Thanks for caring.

    Oogleboops, at the moment there seem to be more snakes than we've ever had in our garden. I am no longer startled when I see one but I need to remind myself to take care because some snakes are venomous. The Natal Green Snake in the photo is not unlike the Boomslang which is one of the most venomous snakes.

    Leslie, the snake is back again today and has been lying on the sill for 5 hours so far.

    Annie, let me know how weird :-)

    PJ, don't you just love the loopy spirals ....ideal to paint ... or sculpt!

    Julie, so glad I could help :-)

    Lisa, everything in moderation.... balance .... exactly!

    Indi@, I definitely need to centre myself regularly. With all the rushing about that you do I would say its essential.

    Manon, talking and playing with ones dogs should have been on my list!

    Penny, I'm looking forward to seeing your collages.

    Mansuetude, plopping fish ... what bliss! I've been trying to find out what the name of the tree is. I'll try the nursery and let you know. Thanda.

    Dorie, I always wanted a swing chair!

    Beverly Ash Gilbert, we've become addicted to ginger tea. It's very soothing for insomniacs.

    Roxanne, there were three silly monkeys at my window that day. They were feeling left out because the mums had all had new babies.

    Ro, I can only imagine how rushed you must be with christmas ordsers! Try tyhe ginger tea. Its also great chilled.

    Priya, I'm glad you popped in too. Have a great day!

    Mary Ann, monkeys are so funny and the laughter is therapeutic.

    Candace, lol .... could be fun....watching people fall over themselves to avoid the snake.

    Seth, we need a reminder at this time of the year don't we.

    Jacky, if you decide to surprise the managers pleeeease let me know!

    Found Art, not everyone has blue and white stripey mice. They would definitely count!

    Beverley, I'm thrilled that you find a little bit of "home" at my blog.

  31. I also wanted to thank you for not only sharing your own wonderful work but for all the "research" you do in providing us with visual treats from other artists. Thank you!

  32. Beverley, I'm just so grateful that anyone would want to read my posts. Thank you for taking the time to comment!

  33. Herhimnbryn, what an exciting venture!!! I have emailed you with a few tips so if it doesn't reach you let me know. Sometimes my replies to comments via email get lost in the void.

  34. Ha ha! So I'm not the only one who talks to monkeys? In my case it's usually to tell them off for wrecking my frangipane trees!! I enjoyed this post - I need to take more breaks too - have been at the computer for 2 hours already this evening...

  35. AH, AND OM, AND MUCH GRATITUDE for all your exquisite reminders...
    (see, monkeys know too...laughing and hanging from trees all the time)

  36. as I stressed about all the work I have yet to do, this came as a GREAT reminder! a heartfelt thanks!

  37. Hi Robyn, this is such a wonderful post. Even as I simply read "little pockets of calm" i felt myself take in a slow deep breath and release tension in my shoulders! then you fill us up with resources and inspiration for tapping into that pause that will reinvigorate as well as calm - love it. Thanks so much, and happy chattering with those monkeys :) xox K

  38. Thanks seem to have a great gift, in posting on what I need to read.
    I feel I have just crawled into a pocket of calm, reading this wonderful post.
    Jo xx

  39. Good to see you back and taking a "break" with us! I love the concept of hanging from a tree. Must try it. And that snake is beautiful - poisonous?

  40. Robyn, I love it all- my question is how do you deal with the snakes??
    I am so terrified that even your pictures make me uncomfortable. The idea that they are venomous is more than I can cope with. Do you think living with them makes you less afraid? I am not a cowardly person but the idea of that snake on my windowsill absolutely freaks me out.
    Your scaredy cat bloggy friend in Washington State. Joan T

  41. Great post! I know I say that everytime but everytime you amaze me and inspire me with great collections and stories and art!
    Love your 'pockets' above. Who ever gets that is very lucky!
    Number 1 is exactly what I did today and I was even blessed enough to find TWO bird's nests!

  42. I can see how hanging upside down from a tree would be relaxing. Whenever my neck muscles get all tensed up at work, I like to go in the bathroom and hang over from the waist, just letting my arms dangle. Sometimes my spine will pop back into place. The increased blood flow to my brain is relaxing as well. I don't think seeing a green snake outside my window would do it for me though.

  43. Caroline, I think you need to take a break from the computer :-)

    Nancy, yes they do ....monkeys take life lightly!

    La Dolce Vita, glad you found a pocket of calm today.

    Karin, thanks so much.

    Thanks Jo. Remember the breath meditation on your long flight to the states.

    Heather, no the snake isn't poisonous. Now be careful when climbing trees ..... you've already had a broken limb this year :-)

    Joan, the snakes tend to keep to themselves. This particular snake is harmless. Now if I found a Mamba on my window sill I would freak out but the more snakes I see the less afraid I become.

    Thanks Lucky Dip Lisa. Lucky girl finding 2 nests!

  44. just what i needed,a post like this.
    thanks robyn you are truly a source of inspiration :)

  45. Robyn, as always, a treat to visit your lovely space! Thank you for sharing your great list (I often have to remind myself to breathe - and it works!) and for the link to zenhabits. I've already bookmarked the 72 ways... I can see how several of these would help me live better and I'm going to keep popping back...

    Also, months ago you kindly shared your ginger tea recipe with me and it's become something I rely on to help me sleep. Plus it's yummy! I just wanted to thank you for that :)

  46. You have such a lovely blog - I just happened upon it and I can't wait to take my "pocket of calm" to read it thoroughly!

    I will be back - often!!

  47. Can't believe I almost missed this post. I love lists and make them all the time. So glad I got to glimpse this one!

  48. Robyn, I have a dog that acts like a monkey,...well actually he looks sort of like a monkey too... will he do??? he's pretty goofy... I call him Captain PP, among other things..

    Thanks for all the reminders... especially the breathing... much needed!!

  49. zen habits . . . i find the name alone relaxing! i'm off to check it all out!

  50. Thanks for the great post... a good reminder!

  51. Stevie, I must remember to try that exercise. There was a time when seeing a snake outside my window wouldn't have done it for me either

    Megha, you made my day!

    Kendalee, the ginger tea has been such a boon so I try and force it on everyone who will listen :-)

    Thanks Tracey.

    Curio, I find there is so much to take in that its impossible to read every post even when the blog is in your sidebar..... and I just can't resist adding more and more blogs to my list.

    Gwen, Captain PP qualifies :-)

    Julie, enjoy!

    HeartFire, amazing how we need reminding.

  52. reading your beautiful post, a quote popped to my mind...don't know who said this: Most people know clearly what they don't want, but it's much more difficult for them to know what they really want".
    Concentrating on beauty and silence and nature makes you hop over to the positive side of your life.
    Thank you!

  53. Uschi, so true .... I find if I can be alone in silence, appreciating the beauty of nature, I feel calm, my mood improves and I'm able to cope with most problems. A little pocket of calm for me today was reading Donna's post, Purity of Mind. I'm sure you will enjoy it.