Sunday, August 14, 2016

November Art Journaling Workshop in NYC


"Play & Art"  collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.

Registration for the Master Class Visual Art Journaling: Remembering Who We Are with a Daily Art Practice, at Expressive Therapies Summit in NYC, Friday, November 11th, 2016, with Susan Anand and Lani Gerity is now open. 

This class will be a day long intensive from 10 AM to 5:15 PM at
Executive Conference Center - Friday
1601 Broadway (enter on 48th Street)

The class will offer you a way to present art journaling in your therapy groups or in individual work.  We will be using simple office supplies and collage materials to create journals and then using a variety of “directives” we will explore art journaling as a way of building strength, resiliency, and self-care.

Gretchen Miller attended a version of this workshop in the spring and wrote up a nice blog post about it which you can read here.

#145 out of a thousand ways to have a happy artist's life - Work on your "vagal tone" with art

 "Abide"  collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.

There's a wonderful blog post from  Feb 02, 2013 Psychology Today by Christopher Bergland, The Neurobiology of Grace Under Pressure; 8 habits that stimulate your vagus nerve and keep you calm, cool, and collected".  It's all about engaging our vagus nerve at times of stress.   Christopher describes releasing Vagusstuff, a a natural tranquilizer that we can self-administer, by taking a few deep breaths with long exhales. This is just one simple way of many that we can consciously tap the power of our vagus nerve to create inner-calm on demand. This knowledge alone should be enough to reduce the fear-of-fear-itself and give us "grace under pressure" next time we need it.  The post is a great little read with so much usable information for when life gets stressful.
He also has his 8 habits that stimulate the vagus nerve, so I thought create a little art based on these 8 habits and see how I feel.  Not surprisingly, the result made me quite happy.
 
1. His first habit is to visualize his vagus nerve, to actually see the lacy winding map of this amazing nerve and he includes a lovely drawing to help us with this visualization.  He imagines asking his vagus for assistance, even.  I like the idea but of course I want to create a character that gives me that feeling of calm, something that I can enjoy working with in my art a little more than his lacy drawing, some inner higher being that I might imagine asking for help from in times of stress. (See above)

2. His second habit is practice. He has power written elsewhere that our cerebellum can store muscle memory and allow us to perform gracefully under pressure. Getting the cerebellum run the show with the vagus nerve helps us create fluidity in our thoughts and actions. This goes well with a daily art practice.  Add in a little restorative yoga before art making and I think I'm practicing this one, daily.

3. His third habit is creating flow by balancing skill and challenge. He suggests we get in the habit of continually nudging against our limits. By increasing the challenge gradually you become more skilled and comfortable with more difficult tasks.  Again, this is easy with art making, always learning something new, trying new things, working with accidents.  It's all helpful and flow inducing.

4. Reframe priorites and values. This one is pretty neat.  He bases it on some research that Geoffrey Cohen, a professor at the Stanford University, conducted in  2006. He asked students to write a paragraph about a topic unrelated to an upcoming exam that was inducing stress such as: “relationships with friends and family,” “religious values,” “athletic ability,” and “being good at art” before the exam. This brief writing assignment significantly improved the grades of students.
So of course before we face any challenge that fills us with anxiety, we can create a little art about what matters most.  Even when the stakes are high, remember that every hurdle is an opportunity to learn. Mastery is a process.

5. Use neuroplasticity to re-wire habits of positive thinking.  We can generate positive emotions and learned optimism in our art making practice that will give us grace under pressure. The vagus nerve picks up on signals coming from the 'top-down' and from the 'bottom-up' and uses these signals to re-wire our minds through neuroplasticity.
Dr. Dawson at the University of Glasgow in Scotland: "Evidence from animal studies suggests that vagus nerve stimulation could cause the release of neurotransmitters which help facilitate neural plasticity and help people re-learn how to use their arms after stroke, particularly if stimulation is paired with specific tasks.”  Interesting!

6. His sixth habit is to seek out ways to create daily physicality.  For example cardio-respiratory activity, strength training and yoga stimulate vagal tone and  harmonize hormones and neurotransmitters linked to grace under pressure.  So once again, a little yoga before art making and I have this one covered.

7. His seventh habit is interesting.  Anxiety is contagious: Avoid anxious people. Christopher described how his father, a neurosurgeon, needed to have a lot of grace under pressure. He understood how delicate the sensors of his own vagus nerve were and would ask anyone in the operating room to leave if he or she was emitting too much anxiety.  If these anxious people cannot be avoided he recommends using headphones with music that creates an appropriate mood and blocks the ability of others' anxiety to affect your vagal tone. So when we are involved in our art making we can also listen to this sort of music and this will add layers of association and help the vagal tone as well.

8. His eighth habit may be the best.  Foster loving kindness. He feels that in order to maintain healthy vagal tone it’s important to foster diverse and rewarding social connections. In a 2010 study published in Psychological Science, Barbara Frederickson and Bethany Kok of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill focused their attention on the vagus nerve.
Their article was titled: How Positive Emotions Build Physical Health: Perceived Positive Social Connections Account for the Upward Spiral Between Positive Emotions and Vagal Tone.They discovered that a high vagal tone index was part of a feedback loop between positive emotions, physical health and positive social connections.
In the experiment Frederickson and Kok used a Loving-Kindness Meditation technique to help participants become better at self-generating positive emotions. However, they also found that simply reflecting on positive social connections and working to improve them also caused improvements in vagal tone.  So include a little loving kindness in our art making and see how that feels.  Guaranteed to support the vagus nerve.

So my #145 way to have a happy artist's life is to engage and stimulate my vagus nerve as much as possible, while creating my daily art practice.   Try it and let me know how it works for you!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

#144 out of a thousand ways to have a happy artist's life - Share some totally irrelevant fun!



"Irrelevant Fun"  collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.
Over on FaceBook, I post art daily which is really one of my sure fire "how to have a happy life" techniques, but today I had so much fun with this image, this humorous looking kid, that I thought why not let the kid have some totally irrelevant fun outside her box, outside her regular environment.  So if you'd like to play, save her on your computer and see what fun she can get up to! 

#144 out of a thousand ways to have a happy artist's life, share your fun.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

#143 out of a thousand ways to have a happy artist's life - Putting Together A Traveling Stash for an Art Journaling Workshop

 
  "Let Go of Certainties"  collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.

Collecting and pulling together a stash of mixed media materials for Master Class Visual Art Journaling at Fourth Annual Mid-Atlantic Play Therapy Training Institute is a super endorphin release!  Something about a pile of possibilities is a serious delight for the Artist/Art Therapist.  Eye-candy for the Artist Soul.

On May 15, the workshop hand out will be available.  It will have a list of things you can start collecting to bring with you.  Here's a preview:
  "Art Journaling Stash"  collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.

Monday, May 09, 2016

#132 - 142 out of a thousand ways to have a happy artist's life - Ten Burning Man Principles


"Special Things"  collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.

I have been thinking more about De-Colonization (see previous post) and Susan Anand's and my presentation and workshop at the upcoming American Art Therapy Conference in Baltimore.  Part of the idea of de-colonizing our lives and minds is to learn more about who we are and where we came from.  Most of us have history of mixed cultures and identities which, if we are willing to embrace and explore, are wonderfully creative, fertile ground, as musician Leyla McCalla describes her immigrant/refugee/dislocated person finding her place in the world.

Yes, we need art!  So how do we de-colonize our lives and work happily with our fertile ground?  I just finished reading the Ten Burning Man Principles and I think they are on to something.  So here's my twist on their 10 principles.  I would apply them liberally in any art room, in fact I would apply them  anywhere!

1. Radical Inclusion
Welcome and respect the stranger (and sometimes that stranger is within). Hold no prerequisites for participation in your community.  Be kind.

2. Gifting
Be devoted to acts of gift giving. The value of a gift is that it is unconditional. Try a little guerilla art.  (Experience the connection between creativity/generativity and generosity.)

3. Decommodification
(This on is HUGE!!!) In order to preserve the spirit of gifting and generosity, seek to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising.  Stand ready to create and protect culture from such exploitation. Resist the substitution of consumption for participatory experience.  (Read up on Gruen Transfer)

4. Radical Self-reliance
Encourages yourself to discover, exercise and rely on your inner resources.  (Like working on your thousand ways to have a happy artist's life)

5. Radical Self-expression
Radical self-expression comes out of the fertile ground of our unique gifts.  And we get to determine the content of our own self-expression. Offer this as a gift to others. And of course we can also respect the rights and liberties of the recipient.

6. Communal Effort
Value creative cooperation and collaboration. Produce, promote and protect social networks, public spaces, works of art, and methods of communication that support such interaction.

7. Civic Responsibility
Value civil society.  Find and nurture your place in society.

8. Leaving No Trace
Respect the environment.  Clean up after activities and endeavor, whenever possible, to leave places in a better state than when you found them.  It's not that hard, plus it feels good.

9. Participation
Be committed to a radically participatory ethic. Believe that transformative change, whether in the individual or in groups, can occur only through the medium of deeply personal participation. We achieve being through doing. Invite everyone to work. Invite everyone to play. Make your world real through actions that open the heart.

10. Immediacy
Immediate experience is, in many ways, the most important touchstone in real culture. Seek to overcome barriers that stand between us and a recognition of our inner selves, the reality of those around us, participation in society, and contact with the "more than human" world. There is no substitute for the real, immediate experience.

Try these 10 principles in your happy artist's life and let me know how they work for you.

Friday, April 15, 2016

#131 out of a thousand ways to have a happy artist's life - De-colonization

"Simple Life in the Back Roads"  collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper. 
I read an article on Art Therapists for Social Responsibility FB group, "We Need A Decolonized, Not A 'Diverse' Education."  It was short, and well worth reading and pondering.  One thing that jumped out at me was the idea of inhabiting or occupying marginal spaces, "...practice inhabiting marginal spaces..."  was the directive.  So much of our lives within the dominant culture is about trying to get to the "center," to look like we fit in there, hoping to pass for dominant culture, and hoping no one ostracizes us for our differences.  I believe THIS is the essence of colonization, identification with those we perceive to be cool or powerful.  So much of our relationship with the dominant culture is about being colonized, and that it happens with our consent (sort of).  But we  may not realize it unless we practice inhabiting marginal spaces from time to time.

So how do we find and occupy these marginal spaces?  How do we learn to appreciate the margins?  As artists, I believe the fastest route to authenticity and de-colonization is by creating art every day, for ourselves, for our own enjoyment.  With practice, art making can be a quiet time of reflection, a time of turning away from the pressures of the dominant culture and a time for exploration of the "back roads," and if you allow it, beyond the reach of the mediocre and ever so boring, mundane mainstream.  There is a great deal of life and freedom in the marginal spaces, which leads to a happy artist's life.  May we all find and enjoy the simple and beautiful life in the back roads.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

#130 out of a thousand ways to have a happy artist's life - A little self-care goes a long way towards a happy life

"Be Very Happy"  collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.
Sometimes when we are under stress and need the most self-care is exactly when we forget to look after ourselves.  And this of course adds to our stress and takes away from our happiness.   So the first suggestion here is PsychCentral's 49 Phrases to Calm an Anxious Child .  A whole list of phrases and ideas to reduce stress and anxiety for children, but actually reading through them is very soothing.  For example number 26. “Let’s list all of the people you love.”  This post credits Anais Nin with the quote, “Anxiety is love’s greatest killer.” The author, Renee Jain, says that if that statement is true, then love is anxiety’s greatest killer as well. By recalling all of the people that your child loves and why, love will replace anxiety.  Hmmm, sounds good.

During times of stress and anxiety, we can have bouts of insomnia when stressful anxious thoughts rattle around in our minds.   Combine the list of 49 phrases with a very cool website, The Sleep Sloth!
You can program the sloth to talk to you personally, and you can teach it to tell you what you most want to hear, perhaps one of the above 49 phrases?

What do you think?  Just looking at these two websites can send you in a nice self-care direction and towards a happy artist's life.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

#129 out of a thousand ways to have a happy artists life - Create Secret Messages

"#secretmessages"  collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.
This happy adventure began with an image from Mandy Steward that Gretchen Miller posted on FaceBook.  You know, one of those little creativity sparks that pop up in life from time to time!
So I clicked on the image and I got magically whisked to Mandy Steward's blog and website.  Oh my.  So she has a secret message society with monthly inspirational zines, a wonderful eBook called "What is a Secret Message" and a Magic School.  Whee. 

What is a secret message? A Secret Message is a reminder of sorts for something you innately know at your core. Like a colorful fortune cracked out of a cookie at just the right time. I believe when you find one it can help air out your lungs, melt your heart and bolster your Soul.                                                                                                   - Mandy Steward
What could be better, more fun, more happiness inducing than to think about what secret messages you might be on the look out for and then to create them for yourself? 

"Warning: may cause breathlessness. May cause the first daring trembles of hope. May cause furtive joy.
                                                                                     - Hillary Rain