This month's interview comes from a woman I connected with during Liv Lane's online blogging course. A home- and family-focused mixed media artist, Carin Cullen nurtures her family and lives her heart's true path in the UK. I hope you find Carin's interview as inspirational as I do! Images courtesy Carin Cullen.
What activities make your heart happy and your life full of meaning and purpose?
I love taking care of my home and my family. I am a home body at heart. I am also a memory-keeper by nature and love combining art, photography and storytelling to make and keep our family memories. For me it's a form of gratitude, a way of showing that I appreciate the life I have and the opportunities that come my way, even when times are hard. And I love when my art or blog posts resonate with others and inspire them to try out artful memory-keeping for themselves.
How did you discover your heart's true path? How do you continue to discern what is true to your heart?
I have been into drawing, photography and storytelling for as long as I can remember. My big thing as a child was drawing. I shut myself in my room for hours on end, drawing the same bird ornaments over and over, practising light, shade and scale long before I knew that’s what I was doing. I was fascinated by them. Later, when I got my first camera, I became slightly obsessed with taking photographs. And storytelling was always there in the background.
So the interests have always been there, but it’s only been in the last few years that I have started combining them in a way that feels truly meaningful to me. And getting to that point has been a very gradual process.
I used to think that I had too many interests, and tried to let go of most of them to make things easier for myself. It didn’t work. I happily let go of some of my minor interests, but the main ones all wanted to stick around. I now realise that I hadn’t figured out what brought them together. For me, they were/are family and memory-keeping. When I figured that out, everything else made sense.
Even though I’ve discovered what makes my heart sing, I try to be open and flexible so I can let new ideas in. I carry on playing and trying new things. It keeps things fresh.
What rituals do you practice that help you listen to and honor your heart?
I’m an avid journaler and try to write most mornings. It’s a great way for me to keep in touch with my thoughts and feelings on pretty much everything. If I have a niggling feeling something is not right, that’s where I bash it out until I find a way to rework it or let it go. If I have the spark of an idea, that’s where I develop it. It keeps me honest.
On top of that, I try to be very deliberate with my time. I don’t over-schedule, and I make time for something art related every day. Some days that may be something as easy as watching a video of a technique I’m interested in trying on YouTube, others it may be putting a layer of paint on a canvas.
Lastly, I try to get enough sleep (which isn’t always easy with young kids around), because NONE of the tools I use help one little bit if I’m too tired to pay attention to what they’re telling me.
Think about a time when you got off track. What did you do that helped you return to your heart's true path?
I got way off track for most of my twenties and thirties. There were too many other things going on in my life at the time for me to concentrate on art, like moving abroad (I was born and raised in Sweden, but moved to the UK in my early twenties), getting married, setting up a house, and being bedridden for a few years. I missed it, but I just couldn’t do it. Then when my daughter came along, my creativity came back full force. But it still took another few years before I found my way back to art.
Two things helped me get back on track.
1. When I was bedridden I got really good at listening to my body. To begin with I mostly used it to learn my physical limitations, so I wouldn’t overdo things and be in more pain than necessary, but I soon realised my body sent pretty clear signals about other things too. I just had to learn to listen to them.
2. Journaling. I gave up journaling for most of those years too. When I picked it up again, it didn’t take long to figure out what was missing from my life and start doing something about it.
These days, I also have some wonderful people in my life who are great at mirroring what I say in such a way that I can see what changes I need to make before things go too far off track.
Are there tools (e.g., vision boards, to-do lists, mind maps) that help you stay on track?
I'm a great believer in free writing (stream of consciousness journaling). It's usually where my artistic dreams make themselves known, and where I figure out what works for me and what doesn't. I also use mind maps, thumbnail sketches and to-do lists to develop ideas and stay on track.
Tell us about your heart's community: Who are your supporters? How have you found people who believe in you, accept you and cheer you on through your journey?
My mum, my husband and my bestie in Sweden are some of my most vocal supporters, which is great, because no matter what happens in my online life I know they will always have my back.
Having said that, I also feel very lucky to have found a great community of likeminded people online through blogging. They are a truly amazing bunch of women, who support each other and cheer each other on.
Also, I recently started an artful memory-keeping Facebook group for people who like to take an arty approach to memory-keeping. It is growing steadily in numbers and is a lovely place for inspiration and support.
What is a book, song, artist or quote that inspires you?
Shortly after I rediscovered art in my late thirties, I came across the famous Anais Nin quote "And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom". It spoke right to my heart and has been my guiding quote ever since. Whenever I feel insecure about sharing my work or my journey with others, this quote sets me straight.
Registration is now open for the upcoming
Heart’s Path Discovery Sessions!
If you’re seeking your heart’s true path, join me for a 3-week in-person Heart's Path Discovery Sessions this fall in the Minneapolis area. Heart’s Path Discovery Sessions offer a set of guideposts for discovering and living your heart's true path, a strategy for finding what activities you love and then living with intention and with a greater sense of meaning.