Monday, December 19, 2005

More thoughts on Simplicity

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Missouri Art Therapist, Carol Lark, sent me this picture as a holiday gift. Isn't it beautiful? (Thank you Carol) It's called "Point of View" and it's what she does when she goes to her place in North Carolina! Sigh. She says, "This was taken at dawn one perfect, still morning in October on Long Creek, just around the corner from our house on stilts......"

After getting this from Carol, and also after reading Keri Smith's blog about her traditional Newfie gift giving which brought tears to my eyes (you should read it and see if you don't get tears as well), I thought I'd give this examination of traditions a try. (see yesterday's blog) After all, why not do the things that bring tears to your eyes? Why not do the things that mean the most to you. Why not do All That Matters.

I'm not much of a scale person, so here are the traditions that have been a part of my life at one time or another at this season, and my general feeling about the memories of them.

Giving gifts - Actually, it's always been the thinking up of gifts and the creating of gifts that I've always loved. I love the creativity and endorphin rush involved in generosity more than anything.

Receiving gifts - Of course this is really fun, but I think the fun of the previous tradition lasts longer and is more complex. (Except the above surprise gift of Point of View, of course)

Wrapping gifts - Again, if I can be creative with this I do enjoy it.

Sending cards - The past few years I've made little books for Christmas cards, and I REALLY enjoyed that.

Putting up and decorating a tree - I have enjoyed this very much, in the past, before cats came into my life and started deconstructing
the trees. Now I don't do trees.

Decorating your home inside - Love this as long as the decorations are out of the cats' reach!

Baking - As a kid and a few times since, one of my favorite things to do was bake and decorate ginger bread men. Wonderful!!!

Making and hosting the holiday meal - If it's a non traditional, vegetarian friendly meal, I love this. I've also been to many pot-luck Christmas dinners that were really the best. Doing it yourself is good, but doing it with others is Great! One of my favorites was a Christmas dinner with other Peace Corps Volunteers in Korea. The effort we all made to give each other a good Christmas away from family and familiar friends was stunning. After dinner we went caroling. This was perfectly acceptable in Korea, since singing in groups after a big meal is taken for granted.

Visiting family - This can be tough if you and family don't see eye to eye on the issues of simplicity, consumption, Politics, War, etc.

Visiting friends - Very enjoyable esp. if your friends are tolerant about your feelings towards simplicity, consumption, Politcs, War, etc.

Attending religious services - I love the carols and I love the celebration of the birth of the man who taught us to turn the other cheek, to love one another, and that the meek shall inherit the earth.

Listening to holiday music - I love traditional carols sung by English Choirs in Cathedrals, or St. Martin of the Fields. I used to attend the Winter Solstice Concert with Paul Winter et. al. at St. John the Divine in NYC and have always loved that.

Plumb pudding and reading A Christmas Carol - These are my absolute top favorite things. (I know, traditional plumb pudding has suet, but there are ways around that.)

Watching holiday programs on TV - I'd rather go to the dentist and get a root canal.

How would my holiday be if I did only the three to five things that I cared most about? Well, wouldn't that be blast?! You would end up with more time to do just what you want! Wow!!! (Karen Jones is so smart!!!)

Now suppose I choose to change or end a particular tradition, say the craziness around gift-giving with siblings; who gets what, who doesn't get enough, who wants what, why'd you get me this for goodness sake, I've only been your sister for your whole life, etc. etc. So if I wanted to end that particular stressor, what would I say?

“Because I cherish our sisterhood very much, I wanted you to know that I’m foregoing gift-buying for the holidays from now on. I will now be focusing on the simplicity and peace of the season. I would very much like to give gifts that are personal and hand made, as I've done in the past. I will be returning to things simple and meaningful. Maybe even something as simple as the fixings for a batch of cookies. They are fun to make and fun to eat!”

Wonder if my sisters read this blog?

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Longing for simplicity...

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Longing for simplicity, I've been searching the internet for simple wisdom, simple holiday ideas, and simple art. Here's what I have so far.

Dr. Karen Reivich (who writes newsletters for Reflective Happiness) has some suggestions for those of us feeling a bit overwhelmed by the pace of the season and the pressures of the media.

How can we make this season more enjoyable? First of all, she says, don’t try to do everything. It’s great to catch up with friends and family, but if your holidays are packed hour to hour, then there will be little time left for you. So start with a list of the activities and events that bring you the greatest joy and meaning during the holidays. Make sure you balance your “to do” list with some of the things on your “joy and meaning list.”

Make sure to spend time with the people you care about – building and reveling in those connections. For most of us, it’s the time spent with the folks we love that makes the holidays most meaningful.

Finally, pick one or two activities that you enjoy on your own, so that you have something fun to do when you can’t be with the people you care about. Spend time reading a book that you’ve been wanting to read, make some art, or stroll through a museum. Remind yourself that the holiday season is short. So if this is not your favorite time of year, just remember it doesn’t last very long. It might not be the best two weeks of your life, but it is just two weeks.

From Karen Jones of Benevolent Planet and her new idea packed Humane Holidays eGuide we have the following ways to evaluate traditions, to see if we are actually doing what matters most to us:

All That Matters
On a scale of 1 to 5, rank each of these holiday traditions according to how much you enjoy it
(circle the appropriate number).
1=Not at all 2=Not very much 3=Could take or leave it 4=Enjoy it 5=Love it
Giving gifts 1 2 3 4 5
Receiving gifts 1 2 3 4 5
Wrapping gifts 1 2 3 4 5
Sending cards 1 2 3 4 5
Putting up and decorating a tree 1 2 3 4 5
Decorating your home inside 1 2 3 4 5
Decorating your home outside 1 2 3 4 5
Baking 1 2 3 4 5
Making and hosting the holiday meal 1 2 3 4 5
Visiting family 1 2 3 4 5
Visiting friends 1 2 3 4 5
Hosting a party 1 2 3 4 5
Attending parties 1 2 3 4 5
Attending religious services 1 2 3 4 5
Listening to holiday music 1 2 3 4 5
Going caroling 1 2 3 4 5
Watching holiday programs on TV 1 2 3 4 5
Other: _____________________________ 1 2 3 4 5
___________________________________ 1 2 3 4 5
___________________________________ 1 2 3 4 5
___________________________________ 1 2 3 4 5
___________________________________ 1 2 3 4 5
Now circle the three to five that you ranked highest. How would your holiday be if you did only these three to five things?
Now, with a red or other colored marker, circle the things for which you hate the process but love the results. (For example, you hate the work of decorating but love how it looks when you’re done.)
> If the results are truly worth the effort, consider whether you can hire or arrange an
exchange with someone. (For instance, you’ll bake cookies for a friend if she’ll hang your
> If the pleasure you get from the results doesn’t really balance the effort it takes for you to achieve, consider eliminating or scaling back that tradition.
For each tradition you practice — especially those you ranked with less than a 4 — answer the
“Questioning Tradition” survey which follows.

Questioning Tradition: _____(you fill in the tradition you want to question)_____
Do you know how this activity became a tradition for Christmas or Hanukkah?
" Yes " No; I’ll look it up now
Do your personal beliefs support these origins? (For example, do you believe that three Wise Men brought gifts to honor the birth of Jesus, the son of God?)
" Yes " No
If Yes, does your practice of this tradition reflect that of the holidays’ origin?
" Yes, it’s pretty much as it was intended
" No, the quality and/or quantity involved bear no resemblance to the tradition’s original
If No, why do you practice this tradition at holiday time? (Check all that apply)
" It’s expected
" I enjoy it
" I never even thought about it
" The kids would feel deprived if I didn’t do it
" I don’t know how to scale back or stop
" Others would think less of me if I scaled back or stopped
" Other: ______________________________________
Do you want to continue practicing this tradition?
" Yes, exactly as I have been
" Yes, but in less quantity
" Yes, but with more quality or meaning
" No; I’d prefer to forego it
How might you alter your practice of this tradition to reflect your true wishes? Try completing this sentence: In a perfect world, I would honor this tradition by….
How might you share your wishes with those who have come to expect the usual practice from you?
If you choose to change or end a particular tradition, here is some sample wording you may wish to use in an email or card to family, friends or colleagues:
“Because I cherish our bond/friendship, I wanted you to know that I’m foregoing [tradition] for the holidays and instead focusing on the simplicity and peace of the season. I would love to share your company/connect with you by phone one day during the coming weeks. Until then, I wish you a warm and wonderful holiday season.”
Can you come up with appropriate wording for other situations? Write down some sample

Now make a list of activities you might like to do instead of the traditions you’ve been
practicing more out of habit than desire. Examples might include taking an evening winter
walk, watching a holiday movie marathon, hosting a holiday dessert party. Decide if you
want to replace some of your “old” traditions with some of these new ones.

Then if you decide you want to spend some quality time on your own, during this season here are some ideas from the Reflective Happiness website.

Take some time during this busy season for appreciation of beauty and excellence
1 Note at least one expression of natural beauty around you every day (sunrise, clouds, sunset, sunshine, snowfall, rainbow, trees, moving leaves, birds, flowers, fruits and vegetable…etc).
2 Make your surroundings as beautiful as you can.
3 Listen to a piece of music or a watch a film and look for what it is that touches you.
4 Visit a museum and pick a piece of art and again, look for what it is that touches you.
5 Explore expressions of beauty in different cultures.
6 Explore beauty on the face of a child, and on the face of an elder.
7 Note how goodness of other people affects your life, do this exercise weekly.

Feed your curiosity and interest in the world
1 Expand your knowledge in an area of interest through books, journals, magazines, radio or internet, for half an hour, three times a week.
2 Attend a function/lecture/colloquium of a culture that differs from yours.
3 Find person in the area of your interest and learn how he/she increased his/her expertise in that area.
4 Eat food of a different culture, find out about its cultural context and the traditions and stories around this food. Become aware of your thoughts and feelings about this experience.
5 Make a connection with a person of a different culture and spend time with him or her to learn about his or her culture and traditions.

"Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend." — Theophrastus
"So spend it well." Lani

Friday, December 16, 2005

Honoring the Spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Future.

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I believe that Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" is one of my favorite pieces of literature, and what ever faith we may practice in this life, I believe that there's truth in this story, perhaps more now than ever, during these dark times. It's a very generous, warm story. Here's Fred's monologue to his Uncle Scrooge:

"There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say," returned the nephew.  "Christmas among the rest.  But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round -- apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that -- as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.  And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!"

From Charles Dickens' A CHRISTMAS CAROL. (If you click on this link, you will find a complete version. A gift for you.)

Here are some more gifts. Keri Smith has a pdf file of a Christmas Tree to cut out and decorate. Very clever. Look for it in her blog, Dec. 2. Click on the Portable Tree image. Print out, cut out and glue or tape together.

And one more gift that if as full of gifts and ideas as Scrooge's open heart after the ghosts visitations. If you are way tired of advertising and consumerism during this season, or if you live on a starving artist's budget, or you just want to find new ways to give gifts and celebrate the season, then this is for you. Go immediately to and have fun.

And finally here's my Altered Victorian Christmas Card, having totally submerged myself in the world of Dickens for weeks. Best wishes from Prospect, Nova Scotia. Merry Christmas, and God Bless Us, Everyone!

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Saturday, December 03, 2005

The Prospect Players and A Christmas Carol

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Jim Lindsey as Scrooge

What fun! Lights, sound, staging, blocking, makeup, direction, acting, props, flats, set design, scripts, SFX, production...

All this, fishcakes, beans, and apple crisp.

What more could a person want!

Are we having fun yet?

Friday, December 02, 2005

An Open Letter for Edith Kramer

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Dear Edith,

Sometimes it's good to know what your students learned, so I would like to express a deep sense of gratitude and inner satisfaction for the many things you have taught me.

One of the more important thing I learned was the idea of story-telling in the art room, and how appreciative the people we work with are, when we can furnish their minds with inspiring, challenging, sometimes scary and ultimately reassuring stories like Selma Lagerlöf's THE WONDERFUL ADVENTURES OF NILS.

I loved hearing about how you told the story of the little boy, Nils, and his struggles to become human in your art studio at the Wiltwyck Boys' School. I can also understand how the boys identified so strongly with the character Nils and all that he was learning from the old, gray, lead goose, Akka, that they begged you to tell them more stories about Akka. She was probably helping them to become human, too. How satisfying it must have been for them to paint with you and hear these stories.

In looking through the slides of your work, your home in Austria, and photos from your family, I realize another thing I have come to value is history, and the idea of being a part of a lineage; that we could learn the things you learned from Friedl Dicker, and that others could learn these things from us.

One of the best things I learned from Friedl through you, was that you don't have to wait until your analysis is complete to do good things in the world. Friedl told you that she thought that something was wrong when she felt most alive while she was imprisoned, that this must be masochism and should be analyzed. In actuality, her ability to remain fully alive under extreme adversity served her and the children she worked with in Terezin. I find this comforting because I doubt that a perfect analysis is anything I will be able to achieve in this lifetime, and if Friedl could do good things under such impossible conditions, then surely I could do some good, too, with conditions that aren't too bad.

Another aspect of appreciating history and of being a part of a lineage is the sense of community this engenders. I learned to appreciate that so much when visiting you in Austria. The sense of history and community is so very alive there. You aren't just Edith Kramer there, you are "their Kramer", in a way held by them, as if they create a transitional space for you and each other with this feeling of history and community. This feeling is more deeply satisfying than any extrinsic reward I could think of.

And finally I believe that you sparked in me the desire to search for things that provide inner satisfaction (more art, more puppets, more beauty and puppies) and to search for the part of the super ego that is kindly and care-taking, the inner-Akka, or even, perhaps, the inner-Kramer. The search for these things has been the best adventure of all. It must surely compare with Nils' adventures with Akka, and I have learned everything about being human from this adventure.

So for all of these things and for so much more, I would like to say thank you, Edith!

Your loving student,
Lani Gerity

PS - Here's a quote from the end of The Further Adventures of Nils, when Nils has become human and tries to say good bye to his friends and companions, the geese:

"He sat down on the sands and buried his face in his hands. What was the use of his gazing after them any more?

Presently he heard the rustle of wings. Old mother Akka had found it hard to fly away from Thumbietot, and turned back, and now that the boy sat quite still she ventured to fly nearer to him. Suddenly something must have told her who he was, for she lit close beside him.

Nils gave a cry of joy and took old Akka in his arms. The other wild geese crowded round him and stroked him with their bills. They cackled and chattered and wished him all kinds of good luck, and he, too, talked to them and thanked them for the wonderful journey which he had been privileged to make in their company." -Selma Lagerlöf

PDF version here

Friday, November 25, 2005

Inspiration for Getting to Our Dreams

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Cold, stormy Atlantic in November with Edward, Prospero, and now Bruzzi.

Walking the dogs has been a wet, cold, dreary activity these last few days. Coming inside to the warmth of the wood stove, I find I'm drawn to collecting quotes that made me want to say YES to things.

"You must not for one instant give up the effort to build new lives for yourselves. Creativity means to push open the heavy, groaning doorway to life. This is not an easy struggle. Indeed, it may be the most difficult task in the world, for opening the door to your own life is, in the end, more difficult than opening the doors to the mysteries of the universe." Daisaku Ikeda, Buddhist thinker, author and educator

Yes, open the door to our own lives.

"The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves." Carl Jung

Yes, let the creative mind play!

"Courage does not mean lack of fear, for only the foolish are fearless; it means doing things in spite of your fear. Confront those fears, take risks for what you believe, for it is only then you will find what you are capable of; you will discover that if your intentions are good, the worst your opponents can do to you is really not that bad. Go out and make a difference in this world." Kofi Annan, Secretary General, United Nations

Yes, have courage!

And then I found these two quotes which made me sit right up straight.

"The only people that we cannot reach, are those people we refuse to touch." Hasan Davis

"Art is not a part of life, it is not an addition to life, it is the essence of those pieces of us that make us fulfilled. That give us hope. That give us dreams and provide the world a view very different than what it would have been without us." Hasan Davis; artist, attorney, and activist.

Who is Hasan Davis, and how can an attorney know so much about art and dreams? So I look for Hasan Davis and I find he knows everything about dreams, art and inspiration.

Diagnosed Learning Disabled/Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder at an early age, arrested at 11 and expelled from alternative school at 18, Hasan earned his G.E.D. from the state of Georgia Department of Education.

From there he went on to Berea College.  After being expelled from Berea twice, Hasan returned to receive his B.A in Oral Communications.  The year he graduated Hasan was elected President of the student body, homecoming king, and was the recipient of the Navy V-12 Award for his active role in all areas of student campus life. While at Berea Hasan  made  a name for himself in the theater department and on the forensics team.  After Berea Hasan decided that with his learning difficulties and history of educational challenges he should go to Law School.  After three and a half years Hasan received his Juris Doctor from the University of Kentucky.

Recently, Hasan was appointed to the Federal Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee, in 2004 he was elected Vice-Chairman of the JJAC.  Hasan has served as the  Chairman of  the Kentucky Juvenile Justice Advisory Board since 1999, and is Past Vice-President and a founding board member of the Boys and Girls Club of Madison County.  In 2001 Hasan was selected as a Rockefeller Foundation Next Generation Leadership(NGL) Fellow. In 2002 He was hired as Consulting Co-Manager of the Next Generation Leadership Program.

Artistically, Hasan has been recognized as an educator and performer.  he uses his work to create an experiential environment for new learning and appreciation to take place.

(This material is from

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"Broadly, I guess I talk about self-actualization, about getting from where you are to where you want to be." Hasan Davis

So we can open doors to get to out dreams. In fact we should open those doors and live as creatively, artistically, and splendidly as we possibly can.

Thank you Hasan!

Thursday, November 24, 2005


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Matthew Bernier and Judith O'Hare have a new book just about ready to hit the bookstores. As of November 22 one last galley was returned for correction.  The book to be ready very soon!

Can't wait.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

e-news and links

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Some wonderful links:

The National Gallery of Art of Washington, DC, has an interactive kids section with collage machines and all kinds of amazing fun.

Keri Smith gave a talk to design student at UCDavis on how the artist's journal can influence their lives. She also has a pdf file full of journal prompts which you can download for free when you click here.

If you or the folks you work with are using photo shop and need some amazing textures, this is the place for you:

And for Art Therapists in the New York area here's a symposium full of good things:
Friday & Saturday
December 2-3, 2005
Sponsored by:
the New York University
Graduate Art Therapy Program and
the Department of Art and Art Professions
NEW YORK, NY 10003-6680
Symposium: Art as Therapy with Children, Friday & Saturday, December 2-3, 2005
This symposium is held in honor of Edith Kramer, a practicing artist
and pioneer in the field of art therapy, whose extensive work with
children and adolescents has educated and inspired art therapists
throughout the world. In 1973, she came to New York University
and established the Masters Program in Art Therapy. Author of Art
Therapy in a Children's Community, Art as Therapy with Children, and
Childhood and Art Therapy, and numerous articles, Edith also received
her honorary doctorate from Norwich University. The American Art
Therapy Association awarded Edith Kramer with the designation of
"Honorary Life Member" as a mark of its highest esteem. Currently,
Edith is an adjunct professor at NYU, and continues to create and
exhibit her own artwork.
As the profession continues to evolve and grow, art therapists are faced
with changes in licensure in addition to other new challenges.
This symposium is an opportunity to reflect on art therapy's
beginnings, while also examining the current role of art therapy in
schools, hospitals, and communities, and its impact on children's
social, emotional, physical, and creative growth. The program will
begin with a tribute to Edith Kramer, followed by a full day event that
includes keynote speaker, Laurie Wilson, and a panel discussion
with Gladys Agell, David Henley, and Judith Rubin.
» Practicing Art Therapy in NYC's Public Schools:
Marygrace Berberian, ATR-BC, LMSW
»When life and death intersect: art, therapy, children, trauma
and bereavement: Robin F. Goodman, Ph.D., A.T.R.-BC
» Art Therapy in a Residential Treatment Facility:
Christina A. Grosso, A.T.R., B.C.E.T.S.
» Embodying the Aggressor; Art Therapy with Children Exposed
to Violence: Diana Milia, ATR-BC
» Adapting Art Therapy for Children with Physical Disabilities
and Chronic Medical Conditions: Pamela R. Ullmann, ATR-BC
» "hate Katrina": Critical Incident Art Therapy with Evacuee
Children, 5-days post-Katrina: Stephanie Wise,ATR-BC, B.C.E.T.S.

$20 Students (lunch not included)*
$40 Professionals (lunch not included)
$10 Film Night: Students/Professionals (may be paid in advance or register at the door)
* All proceeds from the conference go to the Edith Kramer Scholarship Fund

Please contact the Office of Special Programs Tel: (212) 992-9380

Registration Deadline is
November 22, 2005.

(I know, it's the 23rd but I just got this today.)

Saturday, November 19, 2005

How does your garden grow?

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So my art garden would be a place to play creatively, a place to be inspired and fully animated by color and laughter.

My art garden would have places to rest in the shade, wish granting fairies who's whispering wings could be heard on the breezes, treasure chests full of amazing ideas and art seed packets, castles to explore, and bottomless wellsprings to quench every longing.

My art garden would be a welcoming place for all heroines and heroes who had traveled far, with pure hearts and nobel intent, on their life's journey.

My art garden would have a wise old woman who would smile a generous smile and hold a twinkle in her eye as she spoke the kindest words imaginable.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Virtual Art Garden

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Wouldn't it be great to have a virtual art garden where you could play at any time of day or night, where the weather is always perfect for art making, and friends are always close at hand to laugh with you?

What would you put in your garden?

A castle?

A magical wellspring of inspiration?

Caves full of pirate's treasure?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Thoughts About Happiness and Stress

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Edith Kramer as a child, with her Grandmother.

As part of my campaign to bring more creativity, joy, and subversive happiness into my life, I've been going through my slide collection and creating scans. Once scanned I can use photoshop and have the most amazing fun! So this is formerly a slide of Edith and her grandmother. She assured me it was very posed. But I do love it. There's something very special about the relationship between a grandmother and granddaughter. I'm all for it!

Then I got some downloadable images from Art-E-Zine for supporting the website. More fun. More play. More subversive happiness:
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This tricycle e-wisdom came yesterday morning, with a most interesting topic of happiness and stress:

"As soon as we become attached to any idea--happiness, success or whatever--there is already some stress. Clinging is itself a stressful state, and everything that derives from it is also stressful. For example, try to clench your hand to make a fist. As soon as you start to clench your hand, you have to use energy to keep your fingers clenched tightly. When you let go of the clenching, your hand is free again. So it is with the mind. When it is in such a state of clenching, it can never be free. It can never experience peace or happiness, even if one has all the wealth, fame and power in the world." --Thynn Thynn, Living Meditation, Living Insight

So instead of clinging to an idea, why not create the things that make you smile. Create a visually pleasing still life for the table where you take your meals.
Then while you have your next meal, pay attention to the still life. Notice its various aspects; colors, textures, line. Notice the overall feeling. Know that this is a gift you created for yourself, for your own enjoyment.

No clinging, no stress. Just a pleasant meal made a little more pleasant by you for you.

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Jug and flowers from Edith Kramer's home in Austria.

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I create this collage of Tintern Abbey and Flowers. It makes me smile.

Monday, November 07, 2005

E-news and links

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If you are looking for inspiring posters for schools and libraries, or if you would just like to look at some inspiring posters, The Foundation for a Better Life, is offering a set of five posters to schools and libraries. These posters are from their values-based billboard campaign. You can see all of FBL's billboards here. To request posters, please e-mail the Foundation at Include your name, school name, street address (no PO box) and phone number (for shipping purposes only) along with the reason for your request. Each is considered separately and only one set of posters can be sent to each school. Incomplete requests will be not be answered and no posters will be sent without all necessary information.

For resources on Creativity and innovation check out the Creativity Web.

For an inspiring film clip of what looks like should be an inspiring film of a journey in a yellow vw across America go here.

Art heals has links of examples of how artists and arts organizations can and are engaged in helping bring relief to those affected by Huricane Katrina (and now Rita and Wilma too).

Who has made a difference in your life?

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Two Grandmothers Postcard altered by Lani

I just filled out the most amazingly heart warming survey. Answering these questions about someone who has made a difference in my life and why... well it just felt like a gift! I can't think of a better way to spend a few minutes. Try it and you will see what I mean.

Every once in a while we meet someone who makes a huge difference in our lives. When we're affected by these people, we know they've made our lives, and the world, a better place.

Do you know someone like that? Tell the world about a person who made a difference in your life by going to:

Fill out the short survey and then see how you feel!
Let me know!

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Adventure in Ontario

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We had a wonderful time in Ontario, lots of hard wood autumn leaves (something we miss in our life by the sea), lots of freinds and family. Many gifts, many surprises and a lot of joy. Photos can be found here.

By Norman MacCaig

I give you an emptiness,

I give you a plenitude,

unwrap them carefully.

-one's as fragile as the other-

and when you thank me

I'll pretend not to notice the doubt in your voice

when you say they're just what you wanted.

Put them on the table by your bed.

When you wake in the morning

they'll have gone through the door of sleep

into your head. Wherever you go

they'll go with you and

wherever you are you'll wonder,

smiling about the fullness

you can't add to and the emptiness

that you can fill.

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Thank you, Maureen, for being there and for the wonderful poetry and art work in every corner of your house!

Homage to Brian Andreas & the Story People

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Collaged old postcard by Lani
The Tricylist and Passenger are myself and my younger sister, Lucia.

Every day I get a little email from the Story People in Iowa.
Here's today's story:

" Life Cycle
This is a special bike that's not very good at listening to excuses, so it takes you exactly where you really want to go & if you kick & scream it makes you pedal harder & go up steeper hills until you're too out of breath to complain & after awhile, if you're lucky, you start to see that it doesn't really matter if you laugh or cry, because it just wants to ride like the wind"

Isn't that perfect?
Don't you love Brian Andreas?

Monday, October 24, 2005

A morning walk on the head land with Edward and Prospero.

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I'm taking a course from the Benevolent Planet called Consciousness Cornflakes, a little bit of a wake up in the morning that follows you through the day.

Last week's Consciousness Cornflakes had to do with our consumer culture. I always thought that culture was the way we passed on good ideas and art, how we learn about who we are, and the way spiritual practices are handed down. I always thought culture was an inside-out kind of thing. But consumer culture is from the outside, from the market place. So here are some thought provoking questions for you from my bowl of cornflakes.
How much of your time and attention is drawn to advertising, shopping, earning money, acquiring more and better things? What have you been worrying about, or at least feeling concern about, because of various consumer messages? Do these things add meaning to your life? Do they merit the degree of mental and emotional energy you have been giving them? I find advertising tells me that I don't have enough of almost everything material, that I don't have enough status, and that my hair is the wrong color. Harumph I say.

To counter those messages, I tried a fun little exercise on my morning walk with Prospero and Edward on the Prospect's head land. I started counting sense experiences. 12 sounds, 12 colors, 12 tactile feelings, and what happened was the inner chatter of the consumer culture telling me I needed more this or that was completely stilled. I felt the wind, saw amazing snow buntings flying in a flock, heard the waves, felt the various kinds of ground beneath my feel; slurpy soft earth, gravel, rock, driftwood boards over the really wet bits. I found myself smiling a huge, big smile, like Alice Walker's panther Lara.

So now when my Consciousness Cornflakes email comes in and asks me on a scale of 1 to 10, to rate how closely the consumer culture's values are reflected in my life, my priorities, my morning walks, or what I believe is important and meaningful I can say 0. I don't have listen to those anxious messages any more, I can experience my life; the colors, scents, and sounds, and I can breathe deeply with freedom.

Alice Walker's Panther Story

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There is a story about panthers in "Possessing the Secret of Joy" by Alice Walker. In this story there was a panther and his wife who were very much in love. Their tribe had an extra female so the panther couple had to take this female as a co-wife. Lara was her name, and she wasn't at all happy, because she was unloved and everyone knew it. Days would go by and the only voice she would hear would be her inner voice.
Soon, she began to listen for it, because it would tell her very sweet things.
Lara, it would say, sit here where the sun can kiss you. And she did.
Lara, it would say, lie here, where the moon can make love to you all night long. And she did.
Lara, it said, one bright morning, when she knew herself to have been well kissed and well loved, sit here on this stone and look at your beautiful self in the still waters...
She was calmed by the wisdom of this inner voice, and so she looked into the water and saw she was beautiful! And she could see she was well kissed and well made love to by the moon.
I really like Lara's inner voice. I believe I will spend more time in the light of the sun and moon and see what happens... I may find the secret of joy...

Thursday, October 20, 2005

"Learning to Love Us More Every Day"

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This is the cover of "Learning To Love Us More Every Day; The Best of Lani Gerity's Alternative Arts 'Zines (Vol. 1)"

I was talking with a social worker/artist the other day. She was expressing some distress about how to bring more art into her life, how to carve out the time in a day to do more of what gives her joy. I do hear this a lot, so I started thinking, why not have a little more art, joy and happiness in our lives? Don't we all deserve a life with at least some art and creativity woven into it? Maybe the artist/social worker is taking an either/or approach whereas maybe it would be possible to take a both/and approach, looking for little ways to build in more art, more of what gives her joy. It wouldn't mean that she would have to become a starving artist or anything like that to have more joy in her life. It would just mean building in the minimum daily adult requirement for happiness inducing creativity and art.

With my fairly comprehensive background in art therapy, masters and doctorate in the discipline, I keep coming back to the simple idea that by making art, and doing our very best, we learn to feel deeply happy, to pay attention to our life and the things that matter.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Wild Child Wisdom Weekend

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Photo by Denise Mihalik.

Dear Sisters in Succulence,
What a weekend we had,
Image hosted by Photobucket.comlaughter,Image hosted by Photobucket.comjoy, Image hosted by Photobucket.compaint and SARK all in one place, all in one weekend. (These photos from the Motherbead collection) Manifested by Artella and magical Marney. Our WildChild Wisdom Weekend was held at Wisdom House, a beautiful restored convent on 54 acres in Litchfield, CT. The three-day weekend was filled to the brim, something beyond abundance, with creative workshops, imaginative activites, uninhibited joy, lively child-like energy, amazing artists, succulent wild women, tears, and many new found friends. Thank you sisters, dear!
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Art work by Melissa Chapin, one of our marvelous workshop leaders.
A huge highlight for me was helping Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy with the staging of her heart-opening, wild, most succulent presentation. (I got to do lights and sound and whisper back stage.)

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SARK and Zura in a photo altered by me. SHhhhh, don't tell Denise or Nici what I did to their pictures!
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Another great thing was being with so many artists all in one place. Whew! The last two images are from Glenda Miles. She's wonderful! And you can order her magical wands and dolls for gifts or for yourself, just Click here. OR Click here.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Final Happiness Challenge

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Altered Japanese Postcard by Lani

The Artist's Happiness Challenge has been a wonderfully interactive e-course consisting of six artistic challenges (lessons) based on the current research being done in the field of positive psychology. The participants have made it wonderful. I have been posting the challenges here, so that you can have the structure of the exerience and create your own happiness!

Sixth Challenge.

This is the last of the six challenges. This one will be one that I would encourage you to get creative with and do feel free to share the results if you like.

The idea is one that came about again through a migraine. (I find headaches a perfect research play ground where I can observe the rise in endorphins and lessening of pain and consider the implications. And I can't help but be curious about this phenomenon. And yes that's one of my signature strengths.) So anyway, there I was with a migraine, in the back of a car that was heading to somewhere Ontario and it was close to Christmas, so I was giving some thought as to what I could make for family and friends. What I noticed was the more I thought about making gifts, the less of a hold the headache had, the happier I felt, the more creative my gift making ideas got and the cycle kept up until I had no headache and I had a nice list of interesting things to make for others.

So here's the challenge. Think about what you could do for someone else, art wise. It could be a random act of anonymous art or something for someone specific. An art seed packet for an artist friend, homemade bookmark in a library book, you could start up a round robin art exchange with a group of friends, or make some artful guerilla street art.

Evaluate your happiness feelings while you think about this challenge.

Complete your art gift and present it in what ever way you choose.

How did you feel while creating your work of art?

How did the other person react if you were able to know this and if not how did you imagine people reacting?

And how were you affected by their reaction?

Monday, October 03, 2005

Artist's Happiness Challenge #5

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Playing with postcards again - altered by Lani

The Artist's Happiness Challenge is an e-course consisting of six artistic challenges (lessons) based on the current research being done in the field of positive psychology. I am posting challenges here.

5th Challenge

Do you remember the Brief Strengths Test in the Happiness Questionnaire? Seligman teaches that knowing your strengths makes it easier to achieve more meaningful forms of happiness.

Being able to think about, rank, and examine our strengths gives us permission to flourish and helps us in times of adversity. Betsy Rodriguez, a Bethel, Connecticut, family therapist-turned-life coach, says her awareness of her strengths helped her cope with the sudden death of her parents. In the days that followed the accident, Rodriguez comforted herself by expressing her second signature strength—appreciation of beauty and excellence—while writing her mother’s obituary. At the funeral she consciously tried to use gratitude, her third signature strength. “I went up to everyone I knew, thanked them for coming and told them my parents would have been so honored that they were there,” she says. “It made me feel strong.”

Betsy Rodriguez's story can be found on the Psychology Today website.
The Glee Club: positive psychologists want to teach you to be happier. Can they succeed?
by Willow Lawson
Publication: Psychology Today Magazine
Publication Date: Jan/Feb 2004
Last Reviewed: 17 Jun 2005
(Document ID: 3208)

Here's the challenge: Honoring our strengths.
Go back to the questionnaire and look through the strengths. Which ones do you know have helped you in times of adversity, through the long dark night of the soul? Looking through my test results (yes, I took the full version of this test at I see that Bravery and Valor was my third strength. When I think back on the most difficult period of my life I have to agree that this was probably the one strength that pulled me through, but that appreciation of beauty, love of learning, and creativity were not far behind.
So now the idea is to create a piece of art which expresses gratitude to our strengths. Look for ways to symbolize, honor, and celebrate these strengths. If you create a postcard size piece you could mail this to yourself. Another idea would be a mini shrine from an Altoid tin. See or for examples.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Time for the creative process

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Prospect at dawn.

Here are some more thoughts about this Artist's Happiness Challenge:

In "Authentic Happiness," Seligman tells a story of a colleague who has a new pet, an Amazonian lizard, but the poor creature is pining away. He doesn't want any of the food being offered to him. Finally the professor gives the lizard a ham sandwich (which the lizard ignores) while he reads the newspaper from cover to cover. Once the paper is finished he throws it down over the ignored sandwich. Immediately the lizard becomes very interested. He rustles around in the paper, stalking, shredding and then pounces and devours the sandwich. This Amazonian lizard has his own set of signature strengths; stalking, shredding, and pouncing. He was pining away because he wasn't using these strengths. Once he could practice his strengths, he began to flourish.

But what I'm noticing in giving this e-course, Artist's Happiness Challenge, is that time to practice our "signature strengths" is a huge concern for most of us. "How long will these challenges take?" "I don't have any time for serious art making in my life right now." "I've got so much on my plate." We've all heard these questions and comments before. We've probably made them as well. But we run a serious risk of depleting our own vitality if we don't take time for ourselves, for practicing our strengths. We run the risk of pining away like the professor's Amazonian lizard.

Wouldn't it be better to take a little time for ourselves every day, to practice our strengths, or even to find ways to build our strengths into our everyday life? Would you like to know how? Here's a newsletter from friend and creativity coach, Jane E. Ward:

Jane E. Ward’s Creativity News Letter
Part One of
“Three Techniques for Insuring That You Will Create Every Day”
The first technique for creating every day is..
… Create First ...
Would you like to finally end the problem of the demands of
daily life continuously preventing you from creating?
Of always ending up frustrated at the end of the day when
you've once again been too busy to make your art or to write.
Successful Creatives always have time to do their art because
they make their art the first thing they do everyday.
Financial advisors tell you to pay yourself first, to take a
little off the top of every pay check and put it away in savings
before you pay anyone else.
Successful Creative also pay themselves first,
in a stress free, uninterrupted block of precious time.
How to achieve this:
Get up in the morning when the house is still asleep,
before your busy day begins and create for two hours.
Whatever life surprises you with in the rest of the day,
you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you worked on your art.
Always pay yourself first every morning with two free hours to create ,
and you will never feel too tired or too stressed after a busy day to
create again.
If you usually procrastinate about whether to do your art at the end of
the day
now you can procrastinate about something else far less meaningful.

Tomorrow morning set your alarm for two hours early and try this.
I think you’ll be amazed at how fresh your mind is
and at how much you can accomplish .

Added Bonus: Sunrises

“Success as an artist to me is when you go to sleep your last thoughts
are about creating.
When you wake up in the morning your first thoughts are about creating.
It comes from the gut, from your insides.” ~ Marilyn Bonnett

IN THE NEXT ISSUE Part Two - Technique Number Two: Creating on the Go
Jane E. Ward is an artist and creativity coach and can be reached for
consultation at
and through her website
And her art work can be found here

Thursday, September 29, 2005

E-News & Links on Puppetmaking

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I just received a most wonderful question, do I know of any good online sources as well as books that give puppet making ideas and techniques to teachers.  I do love puppet making questions! If you are just starting to look around at Puppet Making, you are in for a treat.

I would start here:
Click here.
You can find almost anything you want on these pages, so many links that you could get lost except that they tend to categorize everything so well.

Puppeteers of America is also an amazing place to start.
Click here.
And their Links page is priceless.
Click here.

And of course there's Bread & Puppets. I am so in love with these guys!
Click here.
They have a downloadable catalogue, and towards the end of the catalogue there are puppet making instruction booklets for sale, cheap.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Fourth Artist's Happiness Challenge: Gratitude Art

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Playing with old postcard of Korea.

The Artist's Happiness Challenge is an e-course consisting of six artistic challenges (lessons) based on the current research being done in the field of positive psychology. I am posting challenges here.

Here's the Fourth Challenge; Gratitude Art:

This one comes from Dr. Seligman's teaching at the University of Pennsylvania. He was trying to figure out an assignment for teaching "altruism vs. fun" and he asked his students to come up with a task that would be altruistic. One student suggested they have a "gratitude gathering" and that each student could bring a guest that they would then read a testimonial about, as a way of showing gratitude.

In "Authentic Happiness,"Seligman has simplified the task to a gratitude letter to the person of your choice and a visit to this person to read the letter.

So here's my idea, instead of a letter, create a small work of gratitude art for the person of your choice. Find ways to express what it is about this person that you are grateful for within your piece. Then give it to them, and explain the meaning of your work.

After you have done this, give these questions some thought:
1) How did you feel as you were planning your response to the exercise? How did you feel while creating your small work of art?
2) How did the other person react to your expression of gratitude? And how were you affected by their reaction?
3) How long did these feelings last after you presented your gratitude art?
4) Have you thought of others with whom you wish to share your gratitude?

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Third Artist's Happiness Challenge - The Duchenne Smile

The Artist's Happiness Challenge is an e-course consisting of six artistic challenges (lessons) based on the current research being done in the field of positive psychology. I am posting challenges here.

The Third Challenge is ready when you are. It has three parts to it.
First, you need to go to: where there are some short "self esteem games" developed by doctoral students from McGill's Department of Psychology: Jodene Baccus, Stéphane Dandeneau and Maya Sakellaropoulo, under the direction and supervision of Mark Baldwin, an associate psychology professor.

There are three games to choose from; EyeSpy, WHAM!, and Grow Your Chi. In these games you are given the opportunity to find DUCHENNE smiles (genuine, lit up from inside) from PAN AM smiles (false, based on airlines' hostess smiles) and even grumpy faces. Play any or all of these games. My favorites are Grow Your Chi and EyeSpy.

Basically these games teach you to look for the smiling/approving person in a crowd of frowning or bland faces, repeatedly and as quickly as possible. In order to successfully and accurately identify the smiling/approving face, you need to get in the mind frame of “Look for acceptance, and ignore rejection because it slows me down”.

(The web site also has some downloadable PDF's of their research. A very nice website!)

Now on to part two: Once you've played the game a little and are sensitized looking for the Duchenne smile, start making a small collection of these smiles. I don't think the rather giddy, self-involved, manic smile (does it have a name) you see in advertising is quite what we are looking for. What we want is the smile of your grandmother who hasn't seen you for a long time, or the smile of your best friend who is so glad to see you. It's a smile that lets you know that you are cared for, because you are who you are.

Now on to part three: When you have your little collection of Duchenne smiles, take one that you like the best and use it to create a small work of art, an Artist Trading Card (2 and 1/2 inch by 3 and 1/2 inch on card stock or heavy water color paper). Your next challenge doesn't come until Thursday, so you don't have to do this one all in one sitting.

Ysaye Barnwell of "Sweet Honey and the Rock" has a song called “No mirrors in my Nana’s house.” She had a friend who lived with her grandmother. There were no mirrors in her Nana’s house. "How did you know how you looked in the morning," Ysaye asked. Ysaye's friend told her, "I look into her eyes and I knew I look just fine, the beauty that I saw in everything was in her eyes. I never knew from her that my skin was too black, or my nose was too flat, or that my clothes didn't fit." Ysaye tells a related story in which a distraught child goes to her grandmother after being teased in the school yard. “Someone called me such and such” the little girl said. The grandmother responded, “If you want to know who you are you look into my eyes.” Ysaye suggests we should get our perceptions of ourselves from people who love us, by looking into their eyes, by listening to them describe us.

Your Duchenne smile Artist's Trading Card should give you that same feeling. Put it somewhere visible where you might need a little positive reflection. Have fun with this and tell me how it went. Also if any one knows the name of the self-involved, manic, giddy smile I'd be happy to know it.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

A compassionately fruitful idea

Collage by Lani

I joined a new listserv recently called Compassion Fruit ( This is a place where ideas for creative altruism flourish and bring forth amazing fruit. It began as a joint adventure between Artella ( and Benevolent Planet ( when the founders of those two sites wanted to create new ways to effect positive change, to celebrate inspiring and inspired lives, and to restore faith in possibility.

Yesterday this fruitful message came through:

Tonight's news had a story about a family of survivors that has been adopted by a community. Their family Bible and the family pictures saved as they were leaving their flooded home, was what they were most thankful to have. Many of the survivors have extended families who have also lost items like family pictures and Christmas ornaments. What if there is a way that we can help people began to make new keepsakes to be cherished? Some options might be:

~Books or albums for putting new pictures and treasures in. A kit that allows the giver to decorate the book. Maybe a disposable camera included to give with the gift. Good gift to give to a family.

~Boxes for collecting pictures or putting new cherished items in. The kit would have things that the giver could use to decorate the box with. What kid wouldn't love to get a special place to start a new collection?

~Picture frames. Kit to decorate the frames with a choice of paint, stickers, fabric, etc.

~Christmas ornament kits. Variety of different kits that could be made by both adults or children. Good gift for a child to give the parent. Grandparent gifts. It would be so hard to think of not having the ornaments that one has collected and used yearly and that contain so much of a family's history in them: Your child's first year ornament, the first ornament your child made, etc.


One of the responses read:

...I loved your ideas and I think that it is a wonderful and creative way to help these who have lost s much. I know that some child of any age would love to do something fun and creative..... I work with children and i know that they would love to be able to help put the creative package together. How do we go about it?

Art can transform the world.

To which Kama responded:

... If we can get commitments from people to make kits; someone to figure out the distribution; and someone to find a good source of glue, scissors, etc. Variety in the kits would give options of choice for giving. Maybe we could get them to distribution points before Thanksgiving weekend when the holiday gift season begins.

... I would be willing to commit to making about 6 to 7 dozen packages of fabric picture frame kits and ornament kits by Nov. 18. I have the materials already.

Yes, art can transform the world. And giving hearts can enhance the transformation with joy.

Art Therapists and Associations collecting for those working with Katrina evacuees.

Linda McCarley
North Texas Art Therapy Association
8340 Meadow Road
Suite 136
Dallas, Texas 75231

Joan Phillips
Art Therapy Center
123 E. Tonhawa, Suite 108
Norman, OK 73069

Attention: Susan Anand
Art Therapy Program - Hurricane Katrina
If items are shipped by UPS or Federal Express use the address:
Lutheran-Episcopal Disaster Response of Mississippi
Ascension Lutheran Church
6481 Old Canton Road
Jackson, MS 39236-2402
Supplies sent by the US Postal Service must be mailed to:
Lutheran-Episcopal Disaster Response of Mississippi
Ascension Lutheran Church
PO Box 12246
Jackson, MS 39236

To help in Florida please contact Craig Siegel

If there are other Art Therapists or Associations willing to be involved in distribution, please let me know.

Friday, September 23, 2005

More thoughts on Mood and Creativity

Old Taiwanese Postcard Altered by Lani

Dr. Seligman was asked this question on his website ( 'What is the relationship between happiness, depression and creativity?'

Seligman described some of Teresa Amabile's research, in which she either induced sadness or happiness and looked at creativity using routine psychological testing. She found that sadness reduced creativity and happiness increased it.

Seligman believes it's a little more complex than that sounds, that a positive mood jolts us into a neurologically different way of thinking from a negative mood. He uses over thirty years of psychology department faculty meetings as his research playground. I'm sure we've all experienced what he descibes, these airless, joyless meetings conducted in rooms without windows or redemption of any kind, full of people who would rather be almost anywhere else. Seligman describes the ambient mood of these faculty meetings as being on the "chilly side of zero." He believes this general mood makes everyone extremely critical. He observes that this negative environment causes the faculty to man their “battle stations," to focus on what is wrong with any new idea, any new suggestions, and any candidate for a new faculty position.

Seligman has observed that positive mood, in contrast, moves people towards ways of thinking that are "creative, tolerant, constructive, generous, undefensive and lateral." People are willing to look for what is right rather than find fault with everything. Rather than looking for sins of omission, people start to hone in on the "virtues of commission." His observations lead him to believe that these positive, creative ways of thinking are occurring in a different part of the brain with a different neurochemistry from the typical negative faculty meeting, with it's highly critical thinking with it's "chilly side of zero" mood.

He suggests you design your mood to fit the task at hand. So tasks that usually require critical, analytic, grumpy thinking (like doing your income tax, or deciding who you need to fire) can be carried on rainy days, in uncomfortable chairs, and in joyless institutional type rooms. Being miserable or grumpy may help you make better critical decisions.

Seligman believes that other life tasks call for creative, generous, and tolerant thinking. Most artistic and associational activities should be carried out in settings that will buoy your mood. Make sure your furniture is comfortable, your music joyful, and that there's enough sun light and fresh air available. If possible, for these activities at least, make sure that the people around you are unselfish and of good will.

In Keri Smith's blog ( there is an amazing story unfolding in Palm Springs. Her husband and his best friend created a film about dancing in the street, using a digital camera, put on the film clip setting. The film was entered in the Palm Springs Film Festival where it is doing very well, to everyone's surprise. As a part of their creative Palm Springs film festival adventure, Keri, her husband and his best friend started dancing on the street corners. The responses were wonderful, as you might imagine, but every day a particular woman stopped to tell them that they were making fools of themselves, that people don't do this sort of thing in Palm Springs. Then someone called the police and four squad cars of policemen came to talk to Keri, her husband, and his best friend. In the end they couldn't stop them because no law was being broken.

She concludes "... if you are passionate about what you are doing, tell your story as directly as you can, the world will respond to it. ... 'Use what you got.' don't wait until your situation is perfect (until you have the right space, the right equipment, enough money.) Begin now.

don't worry if people tell you you are crazy.

'We are fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance.' -Japanese proverb"

Have a challenging but happiness filled weekend.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Second Happiness Challenge: Finding Flow

The Artist's Happiness Challenge is an e-course consisting of six artistic challenges (lessons) based on the current research being done in the field of positive psychology. I am posting the challenges here.

Here's the Second Happiness Challenge: Finding Flow!

This second Artist's Happiness Challenge has to do partly with Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's research on "flow" and partly with "Grandma" Layton's contour drawings. I got the idea from their work, and from my own observations. One morning I had a slight headache while engaging in my morning routine of journaling and drawing. As I wrote my thoughts ("this headache is awful, I wish it would go away, etc") the headache intesified. When I began drawing a still life with one of my puppets in it, following the puppet's contours with my eyes, while my hands created the same contour on the paper, everything fell away. I was completely involved in the contours, and I had no awareness of time, headache, or anything else. It was definitely one of Csikszentmihalyi's flow moments. I paused, noticed how I was feeling, began to write it down in words and the slight headache returned. When I went back to the contour drawing, the headache disappeared. It was as if endorphins were being released in the process of contour drawing.

Then I remembered how "Grandma" Layton took up drawing at the age of 68 to help deal with her depression. She took a class in contour drawing. She believed that the process of drawing and looking hard at things as she drew them, caused the lessening of her depression and a change in her feelings about her life! She described finding drawing as a miracle. It seemed to me to be related to my own sense of endorphin release while engaging in drawing contours of puppets.

So here's the challenge. Find an object that has interesting contours, get comfortable with paper, pen, or pencil, but forget the eraser. This is about experiencing the process of eye seeing and hand drawing, it's not about judging if the line is perfect or not. If you have time constraints, set an alarm, preferably in another room, for 20 or so minutes. This will let your mind relax so that for this small amount of time you can become fully engaged.
(Csikszentmihalyi describes flow as intense experiential involvement in moment-to-moment activity, where attention is fully invested in the task at hand.) Then draw slowly and as carefully as you can, letting your hand create the contours as your eyes follow them. When you have completed a drawing, see how you feel. Does it seem like maybe it would be a good way to start the day, with a little contour drawing, or a 3 good things, piece of art?

To see some of "Grandma" Layton's contour drawings, go to:

And to read some of Csikszentmihalyi's work go to his website:

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Creativity Research

"Yes, there were fairies in China"
(old postcard altered by Lani)

Paraphrased from Harvard Business School's E-Newsletter "Working Knowledge"
July 29, 2002

Teresa Amabile has done some really thought provoking research for creative types who are curious about what they do, why they do it, and how they could do it better.

While she was working as a professor of psychology at Brandeis University, she studied professional artists who occasionally did commissioned work. She wanted to study the effect of extrinsic rewards on creativity. The situation was perfect because the artists received contracts specifying their monetary "reward" up front for some of their work, but did other work completely self-initiated, with no guarantees about sales. Dr. Amabile found that, overall, their commissioned artworks were rated by art critics as significantly less creative than their self-initiated work. The judges didn't know which works were commissioned, and they weren't familiar with any of the artists' work previously.

Also while at Brandeis, she did a laboratory experiment with creative writers. She wanted to see if their creativity would be affected by having them focus on extrinsic motivations for being a writer, such as getting rich and famous, versus intrinsic motivations such as enjoying the process of writing. After getting the writers to think about one or the other set of motivations, she had them each write a brief poem that was later judged by critics who didn't have the details of the experimental conditions. The critics found that the creativity of the poems was significantly lower in the group who thought about extrinsic rewards, than in the group who thought about intrinsic rewards. This supported one of the main findings of Dr. Amabile's entire research program on creativity: The Intrinsic Motivation Principle of Creativity. People will be most creative when they feel motivated primarily by the interest, enjoyment, satisfaction, and challenge of the work itself, and not by external pressures or inducements.

Thank you Teresa Amabile!

Monday, September 19, 2005

First Happiness Challenge

The Artist's Happiness Challenge is an e-course consisting of six artistic challenges (lessons) based on the current research being done in the field of positive psychology. I am posting lessons here.

Here's the first Happiness Challenge:

Andrea Scher of paraphrased something she had seen at an art show of Creativity Explored in San Francisco that described Utopia as "a place where everyone has to look for things. And then they find them."

The happiness challenges will be just this kind of Utopia, we will be looking for things, and then we find them!

The first challenge is "The three good things challenge" base on Martin E.P. Seligman's research at the University of Pennsylvania with what he calls The Three Blessings (trademark, copyright). Seligman found that when his subjects wrote down three good things that happened to them each day for a week, there was an increase in reported happiness and decreases in depression and anxious thoughts. He retested his subjects and found that they were maintaining their observations of good things, and were also continuing to maintain their increasingly positive outlook.

Turning this into an art challenge was quite easy. During my morning art journaling, meditative time, I would incorporate 3 good things into my art work, sometimes drawing objects that would represent the things I chose and sometimes imbedding words into the drawing. I started to look for "good things" during the day, collecting things in my mind, a very enjoyable way to go through the day, I must confess. There are endorphins at play with this challenge, for sure.

A good example of this idea can be seen on Cynthia Korzekwa's website "CARDBOARD RETABLOS." She creates simple everyday art of things she's thankful for, easy things to be thankful for, like an umbrella when it rains or the smell of coffee, or the wag of a dog's tail. She uses basic materials, paint, cardboard, and simple thoughts.

So that's your challenge. Create a work of art that has three things imbedded in (or three works with one thing each) for which you are glad. If you do this every day for a week, I guarantee you will start to notice some shifts. Also, I'll be sending out a new challenge on Thursday. You can respond to that challenge, AND work your three good things into your response.

We all know that what I may have in mind, or the way I might solve this problem will be different from the way you might solve it. That's kind of a wonderful thing, especially if we are willing to look at how we solved things and learn from each other.

Any questions?

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Today's Art & Inspiration Links

Does your Art Room need some strategically placed quotes?

Do you want some puppet theater directions and other practical fun projects?

More interesting art activities:

Princeton's Art & Play stuff:

Kids Can Press - excellent web site, good publisher with lots of free stuff:
Art books for kids with down-loadable chapters for you to preview.
My favorite is the Jumbo Book of Art:
You have to click on the search tool and either type in Jumbo Book of Art, or go down to category and choose art, and see what else is available.

From Diane AuCoin; Women's Art Links:
Great links. Thanks, Diane!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Keeping your soul alive in tough times

Altered Postcard by Lani

For Children:

"50 Tips for Keeping Your Soul Alive in Tough Times"


by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat


We all have roots in the past and branches reaching for the future. Use the wisdom of your ancestors to help you enjoy the whole experience of being alive.


Let animals be your spiritual teachers. They have plenty to show you about love, patience, and being yourself.


God the Creator loves artists. Feel free to express your creativity at home and at school.


The soul appreciates beauty and will see it in some pretty surprising places. Relish all its discoveries.


Listen to your body when it speaks to you. Remember it is a temple of God, and take good care of it.


Banish boredom from your life. There is always something interesting to be seen, felt, or made known.


Be a caretaker in your world. The Earth needs looking after and as a child of God, this is one of your responsibilities.


The soul flourishes when you share your adventures with a community. You are connected to others in more ways than you think!


Don't compare who you are or what you have to anybody else. In God's scheme of things, each of us is unique and totally irreplaceable.


Your soul is compassionate. Allow your deep feelings for others to move through your words and deeds.


We all encounter many little deaths before our last day. Study the lessons in these experiences, and they will help steady you.


Keep a diary. It is one of the best ways of honoring your spiritual journey — the sights you've seen and the people you've met.


Pay attention to your dreams. They can be spiritually revealing. Try to unravel the images in your dreams and see how they unfold in your waking life.


Seek out men and women to guide you on your journey who show by their lives that aging is a blessing and not a burden.


Never put down the enthusiasm of another person, and don't allow anyone to do that to you. Your excitement and commitment are very precious resources.


Engage in a regular spiritual exercise program by praying, meditating, and reading sacred texts. But don't show off your spiritual muscles.


Explore the wider world of other cultures and different spiritual traditions. It's amazing how much you can learn.

18. FEAR

Trust in God's love of you, and fear can never build a fortress in your heart.


The saints have a secret: they give all their attention to whatever task is right in front of them. Stay focused and live in the moment.


Forgiveness begets forgiveness. Once you've accepted the forgiveness of God, it's your turn to forgive others — no matter how much they've hurt you.


Have and be a good friend. Friendship teaches us about sharing, tolerance, and loyalty.


Every day be sure to give thanks for all the gifts you have received from God and others. Do it at every meal and in between, too.


Happiness usually comes in small doses. The secret of happiness is to be pleased with what you have and not to always be wanting what other kids have.


Be an angel for others whenever you can. Angels have been there for you when you've needed them. Keep the gift moving.


Be welcoming. Create an open house in your heart for all peoples and things, especially those that are different and strange.


Find ways to spark your idealism. Put it into action, and it will become an eternal flame.


Trust your intuition. By tapping into your inner voice, you'll learn what makes you special and develop your character.

28. JOY

Joy animates all deeply spiritual souls. Plug into this divine energy, and the lights will never go out.


Believe that justice can be achieved. Whenever you get angry at injustice, remember that you stand on the shoulders of prophets and whistle blowers who put their lives on the line for what they believed in.


It is always worth the effort to try and do the right thing. That is how we give our lives meaning.


The ways of the Spirit are mysterious. In a world created by God, we're all detectives looking for clues.


Notice those moments when you feel brand new inside. Cherish and encourage that feeling in others.


Will this turn out okay? Will that person like me? Worrying about outcomes can stop you from acting in the first place. Give up worrying, and just do the best you can.

34. PLAY

Playing around is a good and holy thing. Don't let anybody tell you otherwise. God loves people who can have fun.


Everybody needs a little pat on the back to keep going. Be lavish in your praise of others.


Treasure your privacy and times alone. Silence is an oasis for your soul.


Relationships are workshops for spiritual discovery. Classes start in the home and continue in school. Some courses may have to be repeated. Be loving and kind, and you'll graduate with honors.


Taking risks is essential to spiritual growth. You need to test your principles and find out what you are made of.


Rituals feed the soul. Plan celebrations regularly to count your blessings and express your commitments.


Make good use of the spiritual resources that are available as sources of strength, renewal, and transformation. They may be books, people, hard times, or breakthroughs.


Cultivate self-esteem. This is inner wealth that makes you feel rich all the time. And no one can take it from you.


Those times in your life when you come upon one thing while looking for another are magical moments of grace. Notice them.


Share the spotlight with others. God appreciates solos, loves duets, and rejoices in choruses.


Don't travel too fast — you may miss the best sights along the way. That goes for everything from walking to eating to studying.


Look for a soulmate. Life is wonderful when you have someone with whom you can share your deepest secrets, fears, and pleasures.


Faith and hope will always help you get through the day. Don't make them ride in the backseat. They are soul-savers who belong up front where they can see the road ahead.


Turn away from those who walk all over your soul. They'll never give you what you deserve or need.


Spirit speaks through stories, movies, novels, paintings, cartoons, drama, and dance. Our souls are nourished when we pay attention.


Don't ever hold back your tears or laughter. They are expressions of your soul.


Keep wonder alive in your life by seeing the world with fresh eyes. is a multifaith website on ways to practice spirituality in everyday life. You'll find book, audio, and film reviews; ideas and links for 37 essential practices; e-courses; online practice circles; teacher profiles; inspirational quotes; video and audio clips; articles; daily celebrations; discussion guides; galleries and art meditations; blogs; and more.

"When poisons get too heavy..."

Quote from Thomas Ashcraft, used with permission.

This is one of my favorite quotes by one of my favorite artists, Thomas Ashcraft, a creator of worlds, collector of astronomical sounds, (which you can listen to herel ), sculptor, designer, astronomer, poet and experimenter.

If you visit him at you can find amazing little sculptures like this and this wonderful story about his grandfather.

A m a t e u r W a r t H e a l e r

In the old country, my Grandfather was known as a "Puh -`sway-tah",
that is to say, he was an amateur wart healer.

He had an ability, a sort of innate sympathy and empathy, for connecting with the micro-cellular realms where viruses come into form.

People would seek him out and show him their warts. They would hold out their hands or turn their cheeks to him or show him wherever their warts were. He would simply look at the wart and say, " Bye-bye Wart." It wasn't too much more dramatic than this. And the people would be on their way.

Generally, they would just go about their business and over days they would forget about their warts. Then one day, they would remember and say, "What about that wart?" They would look and the wart would be gone. This is how it usually happened.

My Grandfather had a knack for this. He took no money. It was just something he could do.

( Perhaps he "un-formed" the virus? Perhaps he relieved a tension or a worry in the person that fed the virus? I'm not sure.)

I remember him saying, " And for the orneriest of warts, for the most recalcitrant ones of all, there is always the Remedy of Time."

Monday, September 12, 2005

The Happiness Challenge

For the last few days I've been developing two focus group e-courses that will be offered through Artella. Being focus groups means I'm working out the kinks but participants get the course material for free.

The Heroine's Journey; An Artists' Retreat e-course

The Heroine's Journey is an e-course designed for artists and art therapists working in palliative care, hospice, or with grief and loss. The caregiver often ignores his or her own needs for renewal and healing while taking care of others. It is possible (and necessary) to do both and this e-course will help the artist create their own meaningful and restorative journey with relaxing exercises in art making as well as the creation of healing metaphors and narratives.

The Artist's Happiness Challenge for Artists

The Artist's Happiness Challenge is an e-course consisting of six artistic challenges (lessons) based on the current research being done in the field of positive psychology. The course will begin with a few happiness quotient questions so the participant will be able to
evaluate his or her level of life satisfaction and joy, and after the art challenges and tasks there will be a follow up questionnaire so the participant will have a sense of growth in life satisfaction and joy.

The format for both courses will include two lessons a week for three weeks, sent out via a Yahoo group. I chose the Yahoo group because it allows for dialogue, questions and answers as well as a place to display art work.

At the end of the three weeks we will examine the possibilities for using either the Heroine's Journey or the Happiness Challenges in art therapy groups.

There will also be a brief survey to be filled out at this time.

Can there be too much happiness in this world?