What do you crave?

my watercolors

What she craved

She craved paint and canvas, the white of gesso and the shock of alazarin turquoise. She craved blinding fuschia, cerulean blue and burnt umber.

She craved time. To think her own thoughts, to reflect, to stroll with no destination. She craved boredom.

She craved connection, a margarita with a good friend, a playful buzz in the early evening, a bubbly walk home at the magic hour.

She craved dark greens, but someone else to cook them.

She craved laughter, the kind where you can hardly catch your breath.

She craved a chance meeting, a foreign country, a surprise that is so unimaginably good you can only call it a blessing.

She craved a good story.

She craved clarity and sharpness, an on-top-of-it edge. She craved confidence.

She craved an opening, a lifting of the veil, of seeing the truth as it is and not what she made up.

You might remember a post from a few months ago entitled, “Have you ever said yes to that little whisper in your heart?” I mentioned a painting retreat that my heart leapt at the thought of. I couldn’t get it out of my mind. That whisper got louder and louder.

Somehow I was afraid to want it, afraid to ask for it (who did I think I was, too much time away, too much money, do you deserve this, you’re going to be punished for even asking) I noticed so much noise about this one simple desire. I watched myself become incredibly anxious over this very luxurious problem. More judging thoughts came in. (There are people dying in the world and you are having insomnia over a retreat in Mexico?)

But every thing. Every small thing and every big one, is an opportunity for growth, for wisdom and for loving ourselves (and so others) better.

I had some illuminating coaching sessions that week with my two favorite coaches, Rachel Cole and Laurie Wagner. I learned that saying yes to this was about so much more. I understood that I had to tease several things apart– There was letting myself want what I want, there was asking for it, and then there was getting it or not. (The getting it part was actually secondary)

The real lesson was in allowing myself to feel the full breadth of my wanting. More importantly, to feel the vulnerability of wanting something and not knowing if I could have it.

What I didn’t know is that while I was struggling with all of this, my husband and dear friend were scheming to surprise me with the trip as a gift. By the time I worked up the courage to ask, my sweet husband smiled and said, “Well, I was going to wait to surprise you but let’s do it now.” On his laptop, on Skype, was my friend’s smiling face. “Surprise! You’re going to paint in Mexico!” they shouted.

I can’t adequately explain what this gift has opened up in me. It was like an enormous wave of healing washed over me in that moment. (I was elated and grinning for weeks) I saw how wrong I was about something so profound– that I was loved. That my friends and family wanted me to be happy. That whatever childhood story I made up about how unsafe it is to want, might have kept me protected for a while, but it also kept me from letting a whole lot of love in.

There’s more to this story. I can feel it. But for now, I just want to celebrate with you. I am going to Mexico this weekend for a week! To paint with the outrageously talented Flora Bowley. To stroll aimlessly through the colorful walls of San Miguel de Allende. (Insert a thousand exclamation points and emoticons!)

The trip, this gift, is a doorway. I can literally see it in my mind’s eye like a portal to bigger possibilities. Like somehow letting myself want this, letting myself ask for this, was the magic word in some cosmic game. Behind the door are fabulous prizes!

This is a story about listening to our cravings, our deep ones that are so buried we have forgotten about them. This is a story about vulnerability and how scary it feels to want big things (a partner, a family, a voice, to feel less alone, etc.) It is about the healing power of letting others in.

P.S. My friend and coach Rachel Cole will be doing a series of Retreatshops around the country starting this week. They are all about what we are truly hungry for. Her first cities are Austin, the Bay Area (I will be at the one in Berkeley!) into CO, NYC, and on and on. They will be intimate and powerful and Rachel is incredibly wise and present. You are in good hands with her.

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Hi, I’m Andrea

On this blog you’ll be learning with me how to use our voices, share our creative superpowers and live life in full color.

As an artist, photographer, life coach + mentor, I’m redefining what it means to be a SUPERHERO — ‘cause in my world, it’s got nothing to do with capes, spandex or sidekicks and everything to do with tenderness, intuition & baby steps of bravery.



  1. Liv Lane

    Love this, Andrea – how completely wonderful! Love your honesty about your battle between head and heart. So glad love won – in so many ways. Have an amazing time!

  2. DeAnne Olguin Williamson

    Andrea~ This choked me up. I have small kids like you and I have often dreamed of an art retreat but have always pushed it aside as an impossibility at the moment. I’m so glad you’re going. Gives me courage too. I’m going to the next one. FOR SURE!!

  3. shelly reddell

    that’s wonderful! enjoy!

  4. Anna

    So excited for you!

    I am trying to live up to your example, every day… honest, aspiring, falling down and getting back up!

    Enjoy … can’t wait to hear all about it when you get back… and to see your wonderful creations.

  5. Jill

    This, “I saw how wrong I was about something so profound– that I was loved. That my friends and family wanted me to be happy. That whatever childhood story I made up about how unsafe it is to want, might have kept me protected for a while, but it also kept me from letting a whole lot of love in,” opened a little crack in me, along with a little light. So happy for you.

  6. LauraC

    Oh Andrea, I am beaming inside for you. BEAMING.

    My craving showed up on my doorstop today. I ordered a 5D Mark ii with the money I made last year from my photography business. The camera and the business are what I always wanted but never felt I deserved and/or could get there! 2012 is going to be awesome.

  7. moyra

    I can so utterly relate to your fear of asking – Last year I too was in that exact same space, about a retreat – 3 days painting with Flora Bowley. I have to say I didn’t quite get the marvellous surprise of a planned gift, I faced resistance for all those things you mention (too much time away, who was I to want that, or spend that much money on myself) But the Universe backed me up regardless. I earned the money in a job that I was initially passed up for, but got in the end because some one else was ill. And I despite the resistance. And it was awesome. And I do recall using those exact same words to Flora, “You have opened a door”. Perhaps that is what she does? Anyway am sooooo jealous (in a good way!!) of a whole week in warm mexico. ENJOY!!

  8. teryll

    beautiful post on so many levels. enjoy your time in mexico!

  9. Kat

    That signs says it all: YES!
    When you step into your dreams, your desires, your longings, you take us all with you.
    Can’t wait to hear the juicy vivid details of this colour-soaked adventure.

  10. nina

    Once again inspired — and so completely happy for you! 🙂

  11. Michele Clausen

    Wow. This is totally awesome!!! And so inspiring. And awesome. Very awesome. 🙂

  12. ARC

    YAY!! That is so great. What a luxury – to have time to paint, think, and sleep on your OWN schedule. 🙂 One of my Mondo Beyondo items was something similar – a weekend alone to craft, write, think and sleep, and hubby is making that possible for me in the next few weeks. Hooray!! Without taking your class, I would not have thought to ask for it.

  13. alison

    woohoo! so happy for you! have a super magical time andrea! it will probably change your life “for-evah”! 🙂 i love flora bowley! i dreamed of attending the one in bali which is so close to where i live, kuala lumpur. but alas… it will have to wait another time perhaps?

    but super good news is that i will be going for a meditation retreat to mandalay, burma next year and a friend is paying for my flight ticket! how cool is that? i resonate so much what you write about vulnerability and letting love in.

    thank you for sharing. xx

  14. Patricia

    Dear Andrea – Have you ever had the experience when you read someone’s writing and it sounds like it is coming out of your own head? Today’s entry resonated with me; made me smile and brought a tear. Why is it that we support other people’s dreams without hesitation and yet are unable to even recognize our own as being worthwhile? I am thrilled for you. I just discovered Flora Bowley and love the energy that emanates from her words and images. Enjoy. Relish.

  15. Mairi

    what a great story! thank you so much for sharing! it can be a very strange feeling to say what you want and be ok with your wish. i have been struggeling with having a baby -or not- in the past few months and, after a miscarriage, i said out loud to myself that “no, i do not want to have a baby-at least not now”. i have all these voices in my head telling me that i am getting older and that i will have fewer changes for a baby in the future, but what i really want is to have a great, creative, fun, loving life with by wonderful husband. as you said in a previous post “you can want what you want”.

  16. butterfly collector

    Amazing Post! I hope you have the most amazing time too! Can’t wait to read the blog posts about it!

  17. nina b

    i can’t think of any one person who deserves this more than you – I AM SO HAPPY FOR YOU, YOU, YOU!!!!! sending encouragement and excitement and giddy joy to you across the miles – xx

  18. Liz

    Andrea, thanks for writing about this and I’m so happy that you get to go on your magical painting adventure! I’m getting ready for Flora’s e-course that starts next month and I CAN’T WAIT! The bit about ‘letting others in’ is a big one and what an amazing person you are for sharing so selflessly. Right now I’m trying to work up the courage to ask for some Squam love:)

  19. Trish

    Thrilled to hear this…you are a dream come true


  20. denese bottrell

    this entire post spoke to my heart. exactly the encouragement and reminder i needed to enjoy and embrace the opportunities (gifts) that keep coming my way. interesting how i’ve been resisting them because they’re more creative than career oriented. gently letting that thought process go and immersing myself in the creative process. enjoy your trip, Andrea. It will be interesting to watch what this opens up for you.

  21. jana

    Dear Andrea,

    I’ve been an artist mostly in hiding in the 10 years since college, too, and last year I had that little nudge when I found out about a painting retreat in February. I argued back and forth with myself about the cost, the time, etc., but eventually went, and found my mind and heart opened up unexpectedly. It was such a precious time of remembering skill, remembering thought processes…some of the same feelings you wrote so beautifully.

    Thanks for this post!

  22. Susannah Conway

    oh honey, i so understand. I’ll be painting with Flora in Italy in October (my gift to myself 🙂 — it’s the soul medicine i need this year and i really can’t wait. you are going to have such a blast! xx

  23. amy

    Crying over here. Tears of joy. For you, for the audacity of wanting, for the sweet confirmation of receiving.

    Thank you so much for sharing.

  24. Allison

    Your cravings echo mine in so many ways. Being afraid of wanting… like I don’t deserve such dreams… gotta make some adjustments with that line of thinking 🙂 I love Love LOVE reading your blogs and reading & feeling your joy!

  25. Jan


  26. Michelle - ShellsintheBush

    You will have the most awesome time, allow yourself to, enjoy yourself and have fun. Lucky you. 😀

  27. Tina

    Your words are so beautiful! I really love your poem and the story is simply inspiring. Thank you so much for sharing! Flora is the most amazing teacher. In Mexico would be amazing.

  28. jen

    Thank you so much for this. I have been wavering on regsitering for Nia White Belt training for all of the reasons you mentioned(who did I think I was, too much time away, too much money, do you deserve this, you’re going to be punished for even asking)Even though my husband was fully supportive, my friends were encouraging and I wanted/craved it so badly…I just had this almost defiant resistance. Your words were just the gentle push that I needed. I am registering today! Here’s to opening hearts and doors! Thank you!

  29. Susan

    What an awesome surprise! Enjoy!

    My wants are buried so deep, I truly don’t know what they are…how do I find them?

  30. Rebecca F.

    This. This line.

    “That whatever childhood story I made up about how unsafe it is to want, might have kept me protected for a while, but it also kept me from letting a whole lot of love in.”

    Is everything.

    Thank you.

  31. kjersten hayes

    Yay! So happy to hear this.

    Also saw this website recently that made me think of your superhero photo class in a happy, happy way:

    Thought I’d share.


  32. Denise Tanaka

    SOOO happy for you! Hope you enjoy every moment 😉

  33. Mira

    oh Andrea, I can _completely_ relate. And I celebrate you processing through this bundle of emotions. And I applaud your phenomenal husband and friend who LOVE you and support you in following your heart. I too have a small child. And I am not there yet in terms of embracing, cleanly, following my heart. When I do, I have guilt, feel like I need to rush back home, ugh, it’s terrible. Like a tarnish on the joy of… going to a yoga class, being on retreat with my women, taking further yoga teacher trainings. I am inspired by you, and reminded that I need to face this and move through it too. Thank you. I am immensely excited for YOU to go and paint!
    Thank you for sharing about Rachel and her workshops. I am giddy with excitement, it spoke to me and seems doable. I just signed up. Now I have that feeling deep in my belly, you know the one? Excitement, but also nervous.
    And on that note, I’m off to teach my tuesday evening yoga class, but first some dancing to shake all this extra energy loose. Thank you again.



  1. A few of my favorite things « A Thousand Shades of Gray - [...] Painting: let go. be bold. unfold. by Flora Bowley came in the mail. I first saw her work on…

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