Monk in the World Guest Post: Michele Chung

I am delighted to share another beautiful submission to our Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Michele Chung’s reflection, “Always We Begin Again.”

I first learned about this phrase “begin again” right here on Abbey of the Arts. It is the best piece of wisdom for a recovering perfectionist like me. The idea to “begin again” gave me permission to stop the incessant self-criticism and this obsession to dwell on my latest “failed” attempts. It reminded me to focus on moving forward in my journey.

Growth is often a dance that takes three steps forward and two steps back.  Last year, I started a new job, lost the job, and moved out of the house we’ve stayed at for 8 years. Changes abound. After the dust settled, I had more time, and started to draw and paint again. It’s challenging to return to a craft after being away for so long. I’ve forgotten even the most basic skills. While re-learning all of the elementary lessons, doubts crept in. Can I ever recover my muse? Perhaps I was a “one-hit wonder” and my best works were long behind me. I felt defeated. Now then, how do I move forward? Always, we begin again.

Beginning again wiped clean my own expectations and gave me the permission to just be a “beginner.”  As such, I had nothing to lose, and nothing to prove. Eventually, I regained my creative confidence, and entered my artworks into a local art show. Although my works have been accepted by the show in the past, this time, they were rejected. Once more,doubts and disappointments snuffed out all of my creativity. I was depressed, and lost my desire to paint. Every stroke felt like a step towards failure.

What I didn’t realize was that the rejection was a perfect way to work through my tendency to look for outside approval. After the death of rejection, always, we begin again. This time, I had a better understanding of my innate desire to create beauty. I create because it is my pursuit and expression of beauty. People’s feedback still affects me, but they no longer hold much importance.

As we begin again, we shed off the burdens of the previous day’s success, failures, compliments and criticisms.  We begin again in freedom to enjoy the journey itself. The journey is made up of many small steps. As I continued to draw and paint, I realized that each of my artwork is a culmination of the many hours I’ve spent in observation and practice. The process involved both successful and unsuccessful moments. However, every step I take, I’m building on top of all of these experiences.  I’ve benefited from my “bad” days as well as the “good” days. Each step contributed to my growth. As I consistently learn to “begin again” I’ve seen breakthroughs and growth in my works – often when I least expect them.

Being faithful is a key element of growth. With any growing process, we can only develop lasting change if we persist and participate in that process. Learning to begin again has helped me deal with disappointments, rejections and burn out. When I feel discouraged, and want to throw in the towel – always we begin again. I can return to that place of being an absolute novice, and enjoy the childlike wonder in discovery and play. After all, it is that curiosity and joy that first drew me into the creative world, and that is a great place to be.


Michele loves creating, reading and learning about all things contemplative. She lives in Silicon Valley with her husband and a house full of books. Currently, she’s focusing on developing her artistic and writing skills. You can find her writings at mzchele.wordpress.com, and her artworks  on Instragram: @imagochele.

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