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