Wednesday, March 29, 2006

What treasures are in the box?

When you look in the box what do you see?
What treasures are already there? Why not look inside and explore the memories, dreams, poetry, images, and stories.

I see so much in there.

For more down to earth, practical applications of this idea of looking within, try looking at simple sparrow's web page.

My good friend eloqui posted the link on her website. Thank you eloqui, you are an inspiration, too! I will try this idea "using what I have on hand." Such a friendly concept.

And you can always trade stuff with folks who may have just what you are looking for.
Come join us at Artella's creative bARTering yahoo group.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Culture and resilience

Yet another collage, my goodness this girl sure has fun with her photoshop!

I was looking at my friend Savneet Talwar's website while preparing my multicultural course for NYU. Savneet is doing wonderful things. I wish I lived a little closer, I'd love to do a girls evening out and mull over ideas... but never mind, I'll mull here and see what I come up with.

One of the biggest problems with teaching a multicultural approach for the art room is the same problems that fish have with explaining water to younger fish. It's very hard to see the thing that you are immersed it.

So I'm always on the prowl for things that will give students "ah-ha moments" when they can suddenly see the culture or cultures that they are immersed in, and of course see how these cultural affiliations help us and harm us.

Savneet has some lovely PDF files you can download and play on your computer like a slide show. One is a presentation for the November 2005 American Art Therapy Association Annual Conference. The title is Journeys Across Borders and the presenters were: Jayashree Iyer, DA, ATR-BC (Hi, Jayashree), Savneet Talwar, MA, ATR-BC (Hi, Savneet), and Pramila Venkateswaran. PhD.

In this presentation I found these questions:

What is the meaning of power and privilege? These words seem to become jargonized, remote, and eliticized by the common parlance of academic worlds. Power and privilege are borders that divide people and become instruments of oppression. In more local terms, we ask, how do people manage or mismanage their relationships with each other? How do people maintain borders as communities keep their distance, vilify and hurt each other? How do people erase the borders to cross over and meet?

This is the very thing that I look for, simple language that we all share, free of jargon, warm hearted and welcoming thought and dialogue. I'm all for it.

One of the presenters,Pramila Venkateswaran (2002, p. 46) created the possibility for permeable boundaries, for an end of violence and elitist attitudes when she said:
I want to receive you without
the interruption of fences
without dagger-tips.

I asked Savneet if she had any suggestions for people interested in examining the meaning of power and privilege in a real way, in an open hearted, non-defensive way, and sure enough, Savneet sent me to look at
Jean Baker Miller Training Institute which is a part of Wellesley College's Stone Center.

The work of the this Institute is based on Relational-Cultural Theory (okay, that sounds a little jargon-y but I'm willing to read on), a model of psychological development that grew out of the collaboration of scholars, researchers, and clinicians at the Stone Center. And Relational-Cultural Theory suggests that "growth-fostering relationships are a central human necessity and disconnections are the source of psychological problems."

And this is jargon free. We can work towards creating a false sense of personal power by creating elitism and snobbery of all kinds and we will end up creating walls and disconnections. Or we can create connections through growth-fostering relationships, open hearted communication, and permeable boundaries. And of course we become more resilient when we create better relationships.

But to really create these connections, I guess we have to be willing to sit down and really look at culture, power, and privilege, where it's real, where it's illusory and keeping us bound and colonized, continually looking to "the authority" for our sense of power and satisfaction. Remember what Adela said in the March 20th blogspot, "if you want to know about resilience just ask the women." We don't need to look to the authority, we can look within ourselves and share the treasures that are there.

So thank you Savneet, Jayashree, and Dr. Venkateswaran for giving me some thoughts to mull over. I do appreciate this very much. And I would suggest if anyone reading this is interested in this topic to visit Jean Baker Miller Training Institute, Wellesley Centers for Women, and Savneet Talwar's website. Meanwhile I'll go mull some more and do some more art and see what happens.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Marney interviews Lani

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Collage of an Asian childhood by Lani.

Wow, this was fun. Try this: see if someone you care about who cares about you will interview you. The kind, generous Marney Makridakis interviewed some of her students as a part of an Artella e-course and we ended up talking about what we care about most in the world, so for me the interview danced from Chinese food to dragons to art making to life in a Canadian Maritimes fishing village to the whole big beautiful picture. Such fun! If you would like to listen to such an interview just click here.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Compassion and Resilience

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collage by Lani

In giving some thought to Adela's idea about asking women what encourages our resilience, I remember a story in Rachel Naomi Remen's book "Kitchen Table Wisdom" about a young man who lost a leg to cancer and his journey from darkness to light. It was a story than encouraged resilience at a particularly dark time of loss in my own life.

In Remen's story a twenty-four year old came to her after one of his legs had been amputated at the hip in order to save his life from bone cancer. When she began her work with him, he had a great sense of injustice and a hatred for all "healthy" people. It seemed bitterly unfair to him that he had suffered this terrible loss so early in his life.

His grief was so great that it took years to begin to come out of himself and to heal. He had to heal, not simply his body, but also his broken heart and wounded spirit.

He worked hard, telling his story, painting it, meditating, bringing his entire life into a new awareness. As he slowly healed, he developed a profound compassion for others in similar situations. He began to visit people in the hospital who had also suffered severe physical losses. On one occasion, he visited a young singer who was so depressed about the loss of her breasts that she would not even look at him.

The nurses had music playing, hoping to no avail to revive her spirits. It was a hot day, and the young man had come in running shorts. Finally, desperate to get her attention, he unstrapped his artificial leg and began dancing around the room on his one leg, snapping his fingers to the music. She looked at him in amazement, then burst out laughing and said, "Man, if you can dance, I can sing."

When this young man had first begun to work towards his healing, he had made a crayon sketch of a vase with a deep black crack running through it. He redrew the crack over and over and over, while grinding his teeth with rage.

Several years later, Dr. Remen showed him his early pictures again. He saw the vase and said, "Oh, this one isn't finished." He ran his finger along the crack saying, "You see here, this is where the light comes through." With a yellow crayon he drew light streaming through the crack into the body of the vase and said, "Our hearts can grow strong at the broken places."

A wonderful story, and similar to the often quoted saying of nineteenth century Chassidic Rabbi Menachem Mendel's: There is nothing so whole as a broken heart.

There is something about this idea of the broken heart being a portal into a rich world filled with compassion, friends, and light that I want to pursue a little more.

Yesterday, I got a newsletter from Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat announcing the launch of their new website, I thought while I'm thinking about resilience and compassion, why not see if they have anything to say.
(They had written the list of 50 ways for children to keep their souls alive during difficult times, which was quoted on Tuesday, September 13, 2005 in this blog.)

I didn't find resilience but I did find compassion.

Frederic and Mary Ann say compassion is a feeling deep within ourselves —a "quivering of the heart" — and it is also a way of acting — being affected by the suffering of others and moving on their behalf. They feel that the spiritual practice of compassion can be likened to opening the heart. They suggest that in order to practice compassion, you allow yourself to be feel the suffering in the world, including your own; that you shouldn't turn away from pain; instead move toward it with caring. Go into situations where people are hurting. Identify with your neighbors in their distress. Then expand the circle of your compassion to include other creatures, nature, and the inanimate world.

Their website is full of all kinds of good things, ways to practice compassion, suggestions for books on the subject, film reviews, wisdom tales and children's literature that touch on compassion and other spiritual practices as well.

Compassion increases our capacity to care and makes us more human and more humane. It is very good exercise for our heart muscle.

Related to this, I've been noticing that as I play the biofeedback, computer game The Journey into Wild Divine there are places in the game where you are encouraged to sit quietly with some very compassionate thoughts, music, and then the biofeedback indicates that things are going well. When things go well you can go on to the next adventure and you can end up feeling pretty good. So what is the compassion / biofeedback / feeling good connection?

Dr. Bob Whitehouse, a psychologist certified in biofeedback, and Sunny Turner a MA/biofeedback practitioner explain the biofeedback component of The Journey this way:
The Journey's biofeedback equipment measures a player's Skin Conductance Level (SCL) and Heart Rate Variability (HRV) with the help of your computer. SCL measures sweat on your finger tips. Increased perspiration indicates increased autonomic nervous system activation, which is associated with increased energy. Of course the increased energy could be a positive excitement like happiness or it could be a destructive energy like nervousness or anxiety.

HRV is calculated from the differences in heart rate from one heartbeat to another. No two intervals are exactly the same. Greater HRV is a healthy goal. In fact, Dr. Whitehouse and Sunny Turner have observed that people who exhibit this tend to live longer and enjoy life more. So that's what's happening in The Journey you sit quietly with thoughts of compassion and you start to feel pretty good.

The Institute of HeartMath is one of many research groups that has been studying the effects of greater HRV. It combines research-based techniques and unique technology to help people fight the stresses of everyday life. Its research suggests that when you increase your HRV the brain is synchronized with the heart and this boosts the immune system. The people at HeartMath are looking at the way that focusing on positive emotions like empathy, love, compassion, and forgiveness actually have positive physiological effects.

They believe that these positive feelings put the human system into some sort of 'resonant frequency,' a state of harmony between brain and body. They believe we are made for compassion. When we can live compassionately, our mind/body system seems happiest, and our physiology seems to function most effectively.

By synchronizing your heart rate with the breath (two skills that can be gained through playing The Journey), you can quite easily reach your heart's Resonant Frequency. Also, Whitehouse and Turner believe that when we are in this state synchronization, something is projected out into the world like ripples out around us which they believe are detectable at eight feet or more in all directions. They believe it can show up in the brainwaves of anyone we touch! So of course who wouldn't want to experience the positive effects of such a state more and more often?

Interesting, no? So I better go work on my HRV's and my SCL's and have some compassionate fun while I'm at it!

Monday, March 20, 2006

More thoughts on resilience.

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Adela, Artella's very own "whooping crone", read the previous blog and wrote:

I think you'd get more "info" if you defined
"resilience" as "the ability to bounce back after
a disaster" and substituted
"allows/enables/assists..." for "causes"...
and looked at what women say, in addition to Figley.

Thinking about some of the women i've known
who are/were very good at "making lemonade",
what they/we share[d] is/was:
1. trust
2. defined "worthy-opponent[s]"
3. impersonal as well as personal objectives
4. determination
5. single-minded spitefulness
6. courage to be "unpopular"
7. conviction

Well, I thought "Adela is right!" How many of my women friends have bounced back from the edge of disaster and what enabled them to do so? What do they feel encourages their resilience?

Here's what Shirley Routliffe of Hamilton Ontario says about resilience:
Here is resilience! and determination and courage!
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Saw this tree yesterday and went downtown with my camera to take pictures today.
What feeds my resilience you ask.
Being in nature for sure-When I get into the woods or on a beach I begin to feel stronger,more confident in my ability to deal with whatever.
Music--maybe Abba,maybe Mozart it could be a lot of different music but that often lifts my spirits and helps me to find my way again.Especially if I move and/or dance to the music!
Journalling or making art(for somebody else-)-maybe just a card.
Talking with friends and just being received without judgement lets me hear myself, work through a problem, and feel like I have what I need to deal with things.
Finding the humour in whatever is going on and playing with it, exaggerating the situations and my feelings about it can help me get perspective and see that I am able to handle whatever comes my way.
That's what comes to mind.
Love to you.
PS-Reading inspirational quotes--i keep a book i add to regularly
and reading your blog and following the links you have shared!

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Thank you Shirley! Love to you too and to that little tree in Hamilton!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Resilience; Finding Our Way Home

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Do you ever wonder how some folks can find their way home, no matter what?

In the classic book on creativity, Learning by Heart: Teachings to Free the Creative Spirit, by Corita Kent and Jan Steward, there is a story of a little boy whose life was filled with sadness and dislocation. His class had a special assembly where the children read their autobiographies. When it was his turn he positively glowed, as he began to read his story with pride, “I came from Chicago with my mother and my cat... My life is very hard to do...” Although his life was hard to do, this child had resilience. He was radiant with it.
In thinking about the difficulties, stresses, and trauma that people go through in a lifetime, I have begun to wonder about resilience, what causes some folks to survive and even thrive after traumatic life circumstance. What do these folks have in common and how can we encourage resilience in our selves.
Charles R. Figley, Ph.D., an expert in trauma and resilience at Florida State University believes he can narrow resilience down to seven components that can be practiced and exercised. They include
1. Insight - a willingness to ask and / or answer difficult questions with honesty.
2. Independence - the ability to distance oneself emotionally and physically from the sources of trouble in one's life.
3. Relationships - the ability to make fulfilling connections to other people.
4. Initiative - a willingness to take charge of problems.
5. Creativity - using imagination and expressing oneself in art forms.
6. Humor - the ability to see the comic within the tragic.
7. Morality - a willingness to act on the basis of an informed conscience.

So to play with these components of resilience and to perhaps strengthen my own while I'm at it, I am working on an e-zine on resilience, "FINDING OUR WAY HOME WHEN OUR LIVES GET HARD TO DO."

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I find playing with old photos in photoshop a very interesting way to play with all 7 components. So try this: Find kid-pictures of yourself and your beloved and put yourselves into an interesting collaged environment. Look for insights in what you create, distance, relationship, initiative, humor, informed conscience, and of course creativity!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Biofeedback meets narrative and play!

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Playing with biofeedback and guided imagery on a video game, who would have thought it would be so much fun? I've been playing with this amazing interactive game for two days now. There's so much to learn. By shifting things in your imagination, you can make all kinds of things happen in this "game" as the biofeedback sensors register changes in heart beat and skin temperature. There are also these wonderful mentors and wise teachers who pop up here and there and talk to you, leading you through this alternative reality. Put on some peach/ginger tea and learn to reduce stress totally without any pain.

"This enchanting game is like having Yoda in your living room! It trains you in mind/body/spirit magic. Become a warrior of the heart, learn to harness the power of your intention, and create a conscious life- all while having fun."

Joan Borysenko, Ph.D., Author, Minding the Body,
Mending the Mind, Inner Peace for Busy People

I don't know about Yoda, but I am enjoying this game a lot. I'd be happy to answer any questions, and for a free demo you can click here:

Enchanted Journey Meets BioFeedback Check out the Wild Divine NOW!

Friday, March 10, 2006

Adventurous Friday

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This will be the last of the world through a sea urchin series, Prospero with his dreadlocks, smelling the ice covered dreadlocked plants.

Discovered a really inspiring photographer's website this morning:
In his art statement he says:

"...consciously and unconsciously an artist engaged in serious work is always raising or dealing with the question: 'What really matters?'"

" I believe that the ability of human beings to be creative depends fundamentally on the health and well-being of our biosphere, the few kilometres of air, water, and soil that surround our planet like the skin of an apple. Quite simply, they are the physical and spiritual bases of our lives, and the only source of materials and tools that enable us to express our responses to questions and feelings about ultimate things. Creation and creativity are inextricably linked.

This awareness now forms the central core of my work. The abstracting of visual elements in order to recognize their particularity has become automatic, but seeing, combining, and creating them as integrated 'wholes' will remain a life-long challenge."

With this in mind I look at the skin of the earth around me very carefully.

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Mouse tracks and shadows on the snow.

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The same picture with watercolor filter.

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The same picture with poster edges filter.

And for something completely different, here's some ideas for inexpensive adventures from Penelope Dullaghan's website.
inexpensive adventures

It's Friday and there are adventures waiting for us!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Trying a new perspective

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Brenda and "the boys" as seen through a sea urchin.

This is an Artist's Happiness Challenge based loosely on the exercises of positive psychologists. Try this: Find yourself a new point of view. Look at the world upside down, or through a kaleidoscope. You may even laugh at how things look. Then create some art. So here I tried the world through a sea urchin. Wow, it's beautiful and it sparkles. And it also narrows the focus. Very surprising.

Then I tried to take this new point of view and create a photocollage in honor of my marvelous, creative wild women friends in Hamilton, Ontario, who have been known to dress up in clown attire when given half a chance.

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For Shirley, Sue, Donna, Maureen, and Mary.

Here are some quotes just for you.

"Those who are willing to be vulnerable move among the mysteries."
-Theodore Roethke

"At the very thought of "circus", a swarm of little long-imprisoned desires breaks jail. Armed with beauty and demanding justice and everywhere threatening us with curiosity and spring and childhood, this mob of forgotten wishes begins to storm the supposedly impregnable fortifications of our present."
-e. e. cummings

"... damn everything that is grim, dull, motionless, unrisking, inward turning, damn everything that won't get into the circle, that won't enjoy, that won't throw its heart into the tension, surprise, fear and delight of the circus, the round world, the full existence..."
-Helen Kelly in a commentary on e. e. cummings' poem "damn everything but the circus"

For some amazing circus related art making stuff, see:
The Tattered Circus
And for Circus fonts (and really all fontaholics must see this whole website):

Friday, March 03, 2006

Changing the world one thought at a time...

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Collage by Lani

I got a message from a happy mom in Texas who with a group of self expressing moms and happy kids are learning how to turn off the T.V. and play together. The moms and kids are making message bottles; filling them with sand and tiny sea shells; artist's thoughts, self made art, and artistic inspirations. They drive all over Fort Worth and drop them off in secret places, waiting to inspire someone else. This mom says her kids would love to find a bottle with a message in it.

Hmmm, maybe I'll have to send a special couple of old message bottles down to Texas.

Yes Stacie, I believe we can change the world one thought at a time.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Taming the wild elephant...

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collage by Lani

I read that Picasso liked to put the things he loved most into his paintings, whether others thought they belonged there or not. So I was thinking about elephants and how much I want to put them into everything whether they belong there or not. I started working on this collage when Tricycle's Daily Dharma showed up in my in-box today.

Don't you love synchronicity?

What Was Wild
As I left my daytime resting place on Vulture Peak, I saw an elephant come up on the riverbank after its bath. A man took a hook and said to the elephant, Give me your foot. The elephant stretched out its foot; the man mounted. Seeing what was wild before gone tame under human hands, I went into the forest and concentrated on my mind. --Dantika, in Susan Murcotts The First Buddhist Woman

If you are interested in a little daily dharma, then click on

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Workshop schedule so far...

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I know, this looks like a collage I posted earlier, but there are subtle changes like spanish moss and more photoshop play.

April 1st in Vermont with Gladys Agell and the Vermont Art Therapy Association
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April 7th and 8th at NYU

Nelson, BC, June 8 to 10, 2006:
Innovation in Arts & Health Symposium
This symposium is sponsored by the Kutenai Art Therapy Institute, Kootenay School of Art, Selkirk College, Academy of Classical Oriental Sciences, Community First Health Cooperative, Interior Health Authority & Nelson and District Arts Council.

Innovation in Arts & Health Symposium Description

The primary focus of the symposium will be to consider the significance and interrelationship of arts, culture and health. The vision is to explore the role all forms of expressive arts play in promoting the health of individuals and families within the community. The connection between an individual’s health and their involvement in creative expression through the practise of various art forms has been well documented. The intention is to demonstrate through presentations and workshops the value of arts and culture in all aspects of health: emotional, physical, mental and spiritual. It is anticipated that the symposium will strengthen and enhance the capacity of organizations in rural communities to build relationships that will open doors for artists to participate in meaningful work in health fields.

Later in June In Mississippi:
Intergenerational puppet-making and storytelling and
Creating Resilience through Puppet-making and Storytelling for professionals and volunteers working with communities under stress.

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July in Michigan: