My Body is my Home

Process painting by Jenny Hahn
Process painting by Jenny Hahn

I just had the joy of leading a process painting workshop this last weekend for a group of 25 women as a part of a Creative Renewal Retreat. The room came alive with courageous wild women who were ripe ‘n ready for creative expression, dipping their brushes into a vibrant spectrum of tempera paints and seeing where the brushes wanted to go. Process art (and painting, specifically) is very much about shifting from the head to the heart and seeing how the body wants to move with color from moment to moment. In fact, one of the ladies shared with me after the retreat that moving more into her body and heart was her greatest take-away.

For me it’s been a long journey to come back into my body, one that has lasted decades and is still happening on some level. I imagine this is true for many people and especially for women. We’re taught from such an early age that the body is “bad” and has to be kept in line through some form of control. We’re taught that it’s dirty and smelly and needs lots of products to keep it presentable. We’re taught that its needs are not always in our best interest and that our hungers and desires must be monitored. We’re taught that its natural appearance is not good enough and that we have to spend a lot of money and time to make it look a certain way. We’re even taught that others get to make decisions about our bodies for us, and that we don’t always have the freedom to choose.

It’s no wonder that during my formative years I developed an eating disorder. I was uncomfortable with my body and its natural hungers. I was terrified of feeling heavy emotions. I was even skeptical of my sexual energy. And more than anything, I felt a need for control in my life.

Painting for process was one of the tools that helped me unlock the door to this physical form and reconnect with my body and her needs. In fact, my teacher used to suggest when there was discomfort in the body to symbolically “hand the paintbrush over” to that part of the body and see what it wants to paint. This can be a powerful practice indeed. When we’re feeling a gripping tightness in our belly, what does the gut want to paint? Perhaps interlaced swirling snakes? Or a primal scream? Maybe tears flowing out of the gut’s eyes? If we’re in judgment of our bodies and our sexual expression, what would the body paint when we metaphorically hand the brush to the pelvis and let it express?

Psychologists understand that the body and the central nervous system can hold and carry unexpressed emotions and even trauma in need of healing. I find that allowing the body to move and express and paint without the interference of the mind and inner critic is one of the many ways to access that which is unspoken, unfelt and needing expression. I am not a therapist, but painting in this way has helped me find wholeness in my own life and reclaimed that parts of myself I had abandoned or abused.

In addition to using process painting, here are some other ways I’ve worked to come home to my body:

  • Turn each meal into a meditation: When I was working to heal my eating issues, I began to “bless” my food before I would eat it, then imagine the nourishing qualities filling my body as I ate, and finally sit silently for 5 minutes with my eyes closed when I was done in order to relax and breath into my belly and envision that healthy digestion was providing my body with every nutrient it needed.
  • Move in joyous ways: Our bodies are made for movement, and if we sit at a desk for most of the day chances are we need to add conscious movement to our routines. I recently started attending a weekly fitness class (having a buddy really helps to keep one accountable)–but I also love to dance, to swim, to go for walks and hike in the mountains. Other joyous ways to move include love-making, playing with kids, silent discos, yoga in the park, and hula hooping.
  • Carve out time for restorative care: These days I’m better about noticing when my body is exhausted and my nerves feel fried, and (when I’m conscious) I take an evening to find balance. Sometimes this means soaking in my tub with epsom salts and essential oils; sometimes it means attending a restorative yoga class; sometimes it’s as simple as laying down with an eye pillow over my closed eyes and listening to soothing music until my body feels restored.

Our bodies are gifts. They allow us to move and express in this physical world. They allow us to feel pleasure and pain and ecstasy and everything in between. I am grateful for my body and I now do my best to take care of her… to feed her when she’s hungry, soothe her when she’s stressed, rest when she’s exhausted, move and dance and play and pleasure her in every way. She is my vehicle for expression in this world. She is my home.

The story of “Creatrix”

Creatrix, ©2019 by Jenny Hahn

“You are the universe expressing…
What worlds do you wish to create?”

It was a winter evening as I sat cross-legged on the floor in the middle of a room full of fellow yogis, just a few short months ago. We had shared many hours of silent meditation as part of a New Years retreat, and our instructor began to close out the day by leading us in a metta practice (“metta” is a Pali word meaning “loving-kindness”, and refers to a meditation on compassion.) He used guided imagery, painting a cosmic picture in our minds. With a gentle voice he suggested that the big bang was powered by love, and that we were each created by that love. He suggested that within the “cosmic body” we each wear, that another big bang occurs every time our heart beats. Our heart is the center of our own inner universe.

Innerverse, by Jenny Hahn

I recalled a painting I did back in 2010 titled Innerverse, and suddenly I had a flash of a new painting so clear it was as if it already existed. Similar to Innerverse, the painting in my mind had a vibrantly glowing spiral galaxy at the heart center of a body, but this body had more definition as a female and she existed within the swirling darkness of the cosmos, bringing together the darkness and the light in a sensual body.


“Cosmic being of light, you are the love of the universe expressing as you.” These words are scribbled in my journal, along with a rough sketch of what I saw during that meditation. I already had a fascination with the colors of outer space, with vibrant nebulas and glowing galaxies.

process photos

True to my creative approach, I began with loose color and form and allowed the image to emerge slowly over time without pre-planning how the end would arrive. The process of creation took around 4 months of devoted attention and curiosity. The result: A depiction of the Divine Feminine as powerful creatrix ~ grounded in her own body ~ blooming open ~ holding the creative power of the universe and allowing it to emerge from her own body, from within out.

As women, our power to create is not limited to the womb and new life within… it imbues every intention we hold, every desire we bring to fruition, every idea we birth into the world. It is my hope that this piece inspires every woman (and every person) to tap their own inner power and creativity. It is inherent within each of us and originates from the heart, blooming outward through the cosmic body we each wear.

spiral galaxy with hand

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Nature’s Majesty — why as an artist I love to travel

Painting "Majesty"

People often ask me what inspires my paintings. I usually answer that the images come from within, guided by my own meditation practice and the impressions that arise from inward contemplation. In fact, the very act of painting is itself a meditation for me that requires deep listening, surrendering and trusting the process.

Travel inspiration

But that’s not the end of the story. I am inspired outwardly by the world of nature and the colors that I perceive through her magnificence. The purple undertones of distant mountains, the golden fuchsia of a bold sunset, the warm siennas of canyon rock … color feeds my soul.   

I’ve had the privilege over these last couple years to do some cross-country travel to lead painting workshops. Road trips are my favorite way to travel. From the road I can witness the changing terrain and the the sun’s position across the open sky. I can squeal in excitement when the moon begins to rise big and orange on the horizon, or when I spot a wild animal grazing on the side of the highway. From the Smoky Mountains to the canyons of Utah, from the Rockies to the Cascades of the Pacific NW … a return to Mother Nature is a return to balance — guided by cycles, seasons and splendor.

My absolute favorite time of the day is the “Golden Hour” before the sun goes below the horizon — that magical time that artists have chased for ages. The beauty of dusk, with its radiant hues and shadows, was part of what inspired the piece at the bottom of this post titled “Majesty.” And there will be many more pieces to come.

Nature studies


While I do not identify as landscape painter, I do love to incorporate aspects of nature into nearly every piece I create — even into the figure itself. This is why it’s important to study nature and to paint from life whenever possible. When we travel we have the chance to step out of our regular day-to-day routine and see the world with fresh eyes. And to allow new ideas to enter our consciousness. Sometimes they’ll even end up in a painting 🙂


Majesty, by Jenny Hahn
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Painting as a Mirror

The process of painting brings me face to face with the truth of the moment… to the ME that cannot be escaped. There can be no masks, no fabrications. This can be a scary place, truly, but a place as real and as honest as it can get. In this way, painting is like a mirror of my internal experience.

I’m not talking about the way the painting looks, which is a physical result, but painting rather as a verb. The process of showing up to the vastness of the unknown without instructions or a road map. Facing whatever is there: The internal voices in my head that question and moan and try to convince me to ditch the studio to go get something to snack on, or go have a beer…ANYTHING but face the apparent emptiness and uncertainty that is felt in my gut.

But staying with the truth of the moment can bring some interesting results: It’s as if the doubts and fears are like the terrifying monsters that stand guard at the temple of the Divine. After seeing them for what they are and courageously stay with them, or even take a step forward, they will eventually be silenced and bow before us, opening the way to a new reality.

So this is our practice… The “Hero’s Journey” as Joseph Campbell called it. Standing in our courage and journeying into the unknown, unmoved by fears and distractions and driven by a deep-seated desire to know ourselves and find our bliss. And it starts in the present moment, right where we are, without masks, standing before our painting. As sobering and humbling as it is, where else in our lives can we find such moments of pure honesty?

Courageous Love

Sensibility, a process painting by Jenny Hahn
“Sensibility”, a process painting by Jenny Hahn

Love is not just a feeling.

It’s also a state of being. An intention. And one that can be cultivated regardless of what’s going on on the outside.

Attention. Openness. Acceptance. Curiosity.

Are these not forms of love?

Rather than the manufactured shiny red plastic Valentine’s love that is supposed to look a certain way—and, as it turns out, can be quite shallow and hollow—I’m talking about a love that’s able to embrace the grittiness of life. It’s able to embrace our experience of the present moment exactly as it is.

This kind of love is not a memory of the past or a fantasy of the future…it is the aliveness and texture and flavor of the timeless NOW, and can only be experienced NOW. This moment is always rich and full, regardless of the content of this moment.

This kind of love is not dependent on feeling good. In fact, we can feel like shit and still feel the embrace of love. Things don’t have to be pretty or pleasant. We can be messy, irritable, bored, lonely, or in pain. And all we have to do is to get curious about whatever it is. Bring awareness to the experience. And hold it lightly with compassion and acceptance. And then we can zoom out and see that the entire feeling of said shittiness is actually floating in a sea of acceptance and love.

Courageous love.

This love is unconditional. Independent of conditions. It’s not fickle. It doesn’t judge. It sees with eyes of acceptance and embraces it all. It also is not dependent on people or accomplishments. Let me repeat: Not dependent on people or accomplishments! It does not have to be earned. (This is a tough one, at least for me.) It’s easy to project our love onto others that believe that they’re the source of our love. But in actuality, they are a reflection of it.

This love is the natural state of our own deep awareness. Therefore, it comes from within. In fact, you could say that it doesn’t come from anywhere… it’s who we are. So there need not be any striving or wishing or longing–it’s already here now. It is the unconditional tenderness of the awakened heart. Your heart.

So whatever it is that you’re experiencing right now, give it attention. Open to what it has to say. Accept it as it is. Explore it with playful curiosity. See it and know it. Embrace it. Fully.

We are cultivating a new kind of love.


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Sensibility, a process painting by Jenny Hahn

The senses are awakened in this figurative process painting that poetically captures the act of smelling a flower: the intimate yet simple experience of olfactory arousal, pure present-moment awareness, and the union and connection between self and the surrounding world.

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Moonrise Gratitude

Moonrise, by Jenny Hahn

“May the gratitude in my heart kiss all the universe.” —Hafiz

Ahhh… the the sight of the full moon rising–especially when it’s low on the horizon in glowing golden hues–is one that inspires wonder and brings gratitude to my heart. I’ve always been in love with the moon and all of her mystery.

I just recently completed this painting “Moonrise” as a commission. The moon is believed to represent feminine energy, cycles of life, renewal, and illumination. In this painting, a glowing celestial body rises with symmetry amidst trees and twilight hues of purple and fuchsia. The colors of dusk bring a softness and whimsy, with twinkling stars shining in the distance. My hope is that when you view this painting you feel an inner calm that evokes stillness. And perhaps a sense of wonder and acceptance of the unanswered mysteries in life.

Whenever you look into the night sky, may you experience gratitude in your heart and beauty in all your surroundings.

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The Story of “Becoming”

An inside look at a painting that reflects life’s transformations

Jenny with painting "Becoming"

‘Becoming’ is a process of growth… of coming into being. It is more than a superficial word of flattery (that suit is very ‘becoming’ on you…) It is a recognition of something new being born. Often the process of becoming is slow and is not without pain or loss… we must let go of what we were in order to become who we are becoming.

I recently completed a commissioned piece for a dear friend who has been a long-time supporter. As I worked on the painting and allowed the image to unfold in a very slow and deliberate way, it was as if I were intently listening to a subtle voice who was giving me clues about this friend’s soul direction. He and I had talked previously and I took notes about his life path. I learned about his difficult childhood in which he was bullied for his lack of confidence, and how he grew up in a place that couldn’t fully accept his for who he was. I learned how, many years later, he found teachings that made more sense to him and how in recent years he has been called to walk the path toward leadership–serving and making a difference for others.

From fear and shame to courage and commitment, this friend is living a transformed life. In his words: “The moment I say yes, I allow transformation. It happens in an instant.” He shared with me how he’ll take anything on now. On the court of life he is playing the game full out.

In this painting, the themes of life and transformation shine boldly in vibrant hues of orange and golden pink. What was previously held down now bursts forth with vitality in a supported way. Whatever darkness was previously holding us back can become the launching pad when the time is right. But it’s a process.

Process pics



As the painting morphed and changed along the way, the following phrases popped up for me at various stages and I jotted them down…

  • A seed
  • A diamond in the rough
  • A sweet boy
  • A tulip on fire
  • Taking flight
  • Rising & blooming
  • Bloom of becoming
  • Transformed
"Becoming", by Jenny Hahn

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