Personal Development & Dreamboard Workshops For Women in Durham Region & Clarington

Zen Jen

I am… Zen Jen.

This summer, I’ve made a commitment to myself to really and truly do what feels good to me, and what is right for me no matter what anyone else thinks. In the past, I’ve put my own needs and desires on the back burner most of the time because I was busy making sure everyone else’s needs were met.  Yup, I’m a woman AND a mom.  It kind of goes hand and hand!

Our Cottage on Stoney Lake

Our Cottage on Stoney Lake

Part of giving myself what I NEED … is spending time at my cottage.  My cottage is absolutely one of my favourite places to be.  It’s where I feel grounded, where I get connected and it’s also where I relax and take care of me.  I do a LOT of thinking, dreaming and planning when I’m at the cottage.  When I’m there… I do what I want and get back to the simpler joys in life… like being out in nature, reading, swimming and being creative.

Our  cottage is on a family island (that’s been in our family about 140 years!), there are 6 cottages in total and all (but one) are owned by family members.   My mom’s cottage (mine) is 120 years old! (yes… it’s a “real” cottage… no wi-fi, there is an outhouse , no insulation and not a “new” item in sight!) I’ve been going there all my life (and so has my mother, her father and HIS father) My girls (now 18 & almost 16) have been going there all their life, and it will continue for their kids and grandkids down the road.  I feel SO blessed to have this incredible history and space that means so much to all of us.  I am VERY aware of how fortunate we are to have this space and give thanks every time we are there.

Gorgeous sunset from out on the kayak

Gorgeous sunset from out on the kayak

One of the things I enjoy the most, is going out in my kayak alone.  It’s so peaceful.  I have a few favourite back bays that I like to visit… there are no cottages and very few boats go past . You may happen upon another kayaker or canoist… but 90% of the time… it just me on my own.  My back bays and kayak time is where I gain clarity, peace and calm.  I listen to the sounds of the water lapping, the loons calling and the whispering of the bullrushes in the breeze….watching the sunset on the lake in a kayak, well, there are no words can describe how beautiful it is! (the photo doesn’t do it justice!)  I live in the moment when I’m out there.    Sometimes I play some “zen” music or listen to a guided meditation as I kayak, making it even more calming.  I am able to disconnect from my worries, and simply breathe and appreciate the beauty and abundance around me.

It INSPIRES me every single time.

My other passion when I am there… is painting.  I’ve always been “crafty” and love to draw and paint, but at home… I never seem to find the time.  When I am there, without the distractions and “busy-ness” of work/home/family, I find I take that time.  This past week, I was up with my daughters for our annual girls week (LOVE this week together!) I had seen a Facebook post with an image of a woman with her eyes closed looking so calm and peaceful with flowers in her hair while we were up, and it inspired me to get out my sketch pad and paints.   It reminded me of how I FEEL when I’m at the cottage and when I’m out on my kayak.

Zen Jen

Zen Jen

At first, I didn’t quite know what to do.  In all honesty, that’s probably one of my biggest reasons I don’t draw or paint as much… I can never seem to “think” of something to do.  So I thought of the peaceful lady image, and started sketching my own version. The next day, I got out the paints, and again… felt the indecision of “how” to do it… what colours, what would look “right”, what if I “screwed it up”… then threw that worry out the window and just picked the colours that made me feel good.  So out came the purple, teal, pink and orange (if you haven’t guessed by now from my website and branding… I LOVE colour!) I know these weren’t traditional portrait colours, but they felt good….so I went with it (back to the doing only what feels good for me thing)  As I started to paint, I just went with the flow and let my intuition guide me (always the best way to go)  I was totally engrossed in the experience and feeling of the painting and felt called to keep going in bursts over the next two days.

I painted on the dock, listening to the boats go by and feeling the sun on my face.  I painted up on the porch at night with a glass of wine listening to the frogs and feeling the breeze of the cooler night.   It was wonderful!  I felt calm, creative, connected. I started adding more things, experimenting with colour and shading.  I didn’t know “who” she was when I started, but when I was done… I knew.  It’s me when I am at my cottage. It’s Zen Jen.

It’s actually the first piece of art I’ve made in a very long time that I felt proud of and really connected to.   I normally keep my art to myself (and almost did, because you know… I kept noticing the lines I didn’t cover, the spots I’d missed…) but this time I wanted to share it with others AS IT WAS, perfectly imperfect (just like me!) so it became my new profile picture on Facebook.  I had an overwhelming response from it (and even had someone offer to buy it!) and was told that it really resonated with others, that they could identify with it and it made THEM feel calm, peaceful and connected.  Wow. I was blown away that others saw and felt what I did when they saw it.  I know I’m not the only one who is searching for that feeling on a regular basis.  It kind of validated that I am on my right path and that I need to keep up with my art.

Out on the kayak, with our family island in the background.

Out on the kayak, with our family island in the background.

When I do honour my own need for solitude, my need for relaxation, contemplation and creative expression… I feel better.  I’m a better mom, better wife, better friend… and better business owner.  I’ve learned that it’s ESSENTIAL for my well-being to take the opportunities as I can to feel the way I want to feel.  I know that everyday, I want to feel Calm, Connected, Creative, Abundant, Joyful & in Harmony (my Core Desired Feelings) I may not be able to be at the cottage all the time, but I’ve found ways to keep that feeling alive when I’m at home (walking, going to the beach, listening to music, meditating…)

I’m not sure when I’ll be back up at the cottage (since we share it with my mom and brother,  it’s not always available) but I know that if I want to keep that feeling going now that I’m back at home and working again,   I can just look at my Zen Jen painting hanging in my office or even close my eyes, and picture myself skimming over the top of the lilly pads in my kayak, the smell of the lake, the sound of the breeze in the trees… and it calms me and my anxiety and stress seems to melt away.

How do YOU want to feel everyday?

What are you going to do to take care of yourself this summer to and keep you feeling the way you want to feel?  I’d love to hear how you are going to take more time for yourself and connect to what brings you joy in the comments below.

xo Jenny

If you’re interested in getting away and experiencing some of what I have at my cottage… you may be interested in my upcoming RISE Retreat in September that I run with a friend… click HERE for more info.


  1. Hello Zen Jen,
    Great post. One of my most treasured memories will always be visiting your cottage, talking about Zen Jen and Zi Gypsy Warrior Princess, and kayaking your peaceful bay with you. Great post, great painting, great life! #FF

  2. Your picture(self portrait) is truly unique and beautiful. I struggle with the same feelings you do re painting. Thank you for sharing your experience and encouragement…and your lovely Zen Jen.

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