Artist, Author, Inspirationalist
Flora Bowley’s vibrant paintings can be found in galleries, public spaces, and printed on unique licensed products sold worldwide. Flora combines twenty years of professional painting experience with her background as a yoga instructor, massage therapist and lifelong joy seeker to infuse her teaching and painting style with a deep and authentic connection to body, mind, and spirit.
Flora has inspired thousands of people to “let go, be bold and unfold” as they step more bravely onto their creative paths. She is the author of Brave Intuitive Painting and lives among a vibrant community of artists in Portland, OR.
My personal practice is…
I used think my personal “practice” needed to involve fancy props like meditation cushions, candles, altars, sacred objects, yoga mats and at least an hour of seriously focused time. While that scenario does still happen on occasion, my relationship to my practice has dramatically shifted in the past five years. Currently, I think of my personal practice as something that is organically woven throughout everyday like a big colorful tapestry. This approach feels much more integrated and harmonious for me. It is also much less “goal” orientated and forgiving. No more beating myself up for missing my meditation practice — oh the irony! Now I just meditate when I’m standing in line at the grocery store, and other unassuming locations.
At this point in my life, I pretty much consider anything done with conscious awareness and mindfulness to be a “practice.” I’m particularly interested in breath awareness, doing one thing at a time (a constant practice), connecting to my spirit guides/the cosmos/anything bigger than myself, showing up in the world in a loving and open-hearted way, taking care of body/mind/spirit, expanding my creative edges, and shaking up my reality. Often these practices show up in bite-sized moments stolen in-between the mundane, while other times they become the focus of my entire day. Again, it’s a very fluid situation these days.
How did you discover your practice?
Since I was small, I’ve been a seeker, an explorer and a maker. I now consider these “ways of being” to be integral parts of practices. When I turned 18, I made the move from Wisconsin to Colorado. Seeking deep connection, self-knowledge and adventure, I quickly found the “alternative tribe” I craved so much growing up in the Midwest, and life began to revolve around music, art, social activism and various forms of mind expansion.
A few years later, I discovered painting, yoga, Vipassana meditation, backcountry snowboarding, veganism and the never-ending world of self-help and spiritual guidebooks. I jumped on the “Landmark Education” train, went to massage school, became a yoga teacher and started to travel the world. After six-months of volunteer work in the Gulf coast post-Hurricane Katrina, I eventually I found myself in the Pacific Northwest where I discovered an even more alternative community involving annual trips to Burning Man, large-scale collaboration and a deep sense of community.
I mention all these momentous life pursuits because they each opened my heart and mind and connected my soul to its path in some kind of unique and radical way. The practices I now hold near and dear are a result of these years of truth seeking and personal development. Interestingly, my passions for painting, yoga, meditation, travel, community building and personal development are at the heart of my work as a retreat facilitator, painter and writer. Life has an amazing way of rallying around our most passionate pursuits!
Why do you practice?
They keep me grounded, open and awake in a world that can often feel super overwhelming and fast paced. In many ways, my practices are all about service, both personally and globally.
How frequently and for how long do you practice?
Like I mentioned, I no longer think of my practices as very compartmentalized activities, however I do try to sit quietly for ten minutes every morning before I start tasking. Ten minutes feels so doable and it makes such a huge difference in my day. I also take one or two yoga classes a week, go on a walk with my headphones almost every day and try to dance in some capacity once a week. My painting schedule is super random, but I tend to get the painting “itch” if I’ve been away from my studio for over a week. I also take a bath almost every day…I suppose that could be considered a “practice.” It definitely soothes the soul.
What’s something that gets in the way of your practice and how to you move through it?
Traveling is probably the thing that gets me the most off kilter. I tend to travel for a few months every year teaching painting retreats in far away places. Time zone changes, cultural differences and having to be “on” most of the time definitely takes its toll, but I’m learning more and more how to maintain my practices on the road. Remembering to meditate every morning and do a little “protection” ritual around my energy before I teach makes a potent difference. I also make sure to take time away from my students, which usually happens on my daily walk. I’m also getting better at seeking out things like massage and yoga classes when I’m on the road — I no longer consider them an indulgence. Again,
What supports you in staying committed to your practice?
It’s really the most basic things like getting enough sleep, moving my body and eating well that keep me connected to all my other practices. If I’m able to get to bed before midnight, my days are much less foggy and more focused. Cooking for myself is huge, and also one of my biggest struggles. I’m constantly forgetting to eat. However, when I do feed myself properly, everything else seems so much easier!
What role does your practice play in your work?
Being self-employed as an artist, teacher, writer and “inspirationalist,” my practices and lifestyle are very much integrated into my work life. In fact, people seem just as interested in what I do in my daily life as what I am painting or writing about — there’s actually very little delineation between the two. As my audience grows, I see myself more and more as a role model, so it’s becoming increasingly important to walk my talk. It’s really important for me to continually push my creative boundaries, while staying committed to self-growth. This is what I ask of my students, so this is what I ask of myself as well. The tagline on my website reads, “Brave Intuitive Living,” so that about sums it up.
Describe someone you know whose practice inspires you.
I tend to be most inspired by people who are pushing the envelope in some way —- people who are out on the edge creating a new way of thinking and being in the world, and standing up for what they believe is possible. I’m blessed right now to share space with two women who fit this description. Pixie Campbell and Kelly Rae Roberts are both artists, writers, healers, teachers and change-makers who possess an amazing amount of integrity, drive and passion. They definitely practice what they preach on the daily and inspire thousands of women to do the same. Check them out!
A practice I’d like to explore is….
Something I’ve always wanted to do is record my dreams every morning. I know there is so much information coming through in this way, and I’m sure just a little dedication to writing my dreams down would provide me with all kinds of insights into my waking life.
Anything else you’d like to share about practice.
There is something I often find myself preaching to my students about which really relates to this subject of practice. The conversation is about “Doing the work.” There is a tendency, especially as life gets faster and faster, to want to skip over the journey in order to reach the destination. For example, my students often want to discover their unique style right away. However, developing a style takes time and only results from having a dedicated painting practice. I usually tell them to go paint 100 paintings and then get back to me on the style question. This usually gets the point across pretty fast.
Go here for more on Flora and her Brave Intuitive Living.