Monday, November 29, 2010

Be a spark...

Image of "a spark" from Patti Digh's exercise (see below).

On page 54 of Creative is a Verb by Patti Digh, she has some lovely exercises: "Identify a person who had a great positive impact on you from some time when you were between seven and seventeen years old. Write about that person - what memories does their name evoke, and why? Notice how many of these memories are small gestures, tiny events."

Then create an image that represents the spark they provided. What was that spark?
Find ways to hand on that spark, however small.

The first thing that popped into my mind was a trip to a Buddhist monastery in a resort area in the mountains of Taiwan (Sun Moon Lake).   There was a monk in this monastery who looked at me (one of those kind, understanding looks that people who have met the Dalai Lama describe of that experience) and suddenly said wait, I have something for you, and rushed away.  Then he rushed back again with the most interesting pamphlets on Buddhism.  That evening I read them all from cover to cover, and found them be the most rational, wonderful, amazing things I had read up until that point in my life.

But then other things came along like the confiscation of the reading material and life in general, and so I forgot about the experience.  Much later, as a young adult, I met Professor Sok Hon Ham , a Korean pacifist who had just been released from prison, whose gaze created that same bell-like resonance, a feeling (that was almost like a sound) of being completely understood and accepted.  I realized then what an important, but seemingly small event my interaction the the monk had been to me. How strange and yet wonderful.

So Patti suggests that we create that spark for others, in my case it would be to say or do or just be the right thing to create a feeling of being completely understood and accepted, like the "namaste" greeting where the divine spark in one person recognizes the divine spark in another.  And if there's a way to create that spark for ourselves as well, I think that would be most excellent.

What a wonderful exercise.  Thank you Patti Digh.

Monday, November 22, 2010

This one if for Lumilyon.

Photo of a rock wall, layers from Lumilyon, Pareeerica, and  FlyPaper Textures .

This one if for Lumilyon.  I find her art and blog extremely inspiring in that same way that SARK's game "Transforming what hurts into what helps" is inspiring (see previous post).  Life happens to all of us, bringing loss and sorrow, events that feel so awful that the darkness feels complete.  But as artists we tend to create things with our pain.  And I love what Lumilyon creates!  I find it urges me to look for ways to create even in darkness.  Thank you Lumilyon!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Here's my attempt at playing SARK's wonderful mood altering games!

Bergamasco Boys
SARK's first game is a "Miracle walk" in which you go out of your house or wherever you are, put your hands out, palms up and say; "Miracles, find me now." And then walk until you see or find one- or more! Be aware that miracles may be disguised or in unlikely places. Use love to recognize them. A variation is to say; "Miraculous people, find me now."

So I thought I would try it while walking the beloved "Bergamasco Boys" which is normally a fun, crazy, cold, resistance filled experience this time of year.  (The dark one, Bruzzi, has every excuse for not walking and he can embody resistance.)  Often my head is filled with to-do lists and annoyance with Bruzzi or hubby's recitation of the sorrows of the world.  But try stepping into your life with palms up and saying "Miracles, find me now" and see what happens to your day.  It is splendid!  And everything sparkles!  (The images are all about how the day sparkled because of this game.  Thank you SARK!)

The second game is "Transforming What Hurts Into What Helps" which is what I believe artists do every day, changing stuff that hurts into objects of beauty and resilience! 

Share one thing in your life that's challenging or difficult, and one thing that you're glad about that challenge or difficulty. Something like this:
"I sometimes feel overwhelmed with all there is to do in my life and business, and am glad that I am healthy and able to do things" That reminds us of the "marvelous, messy middle" of feelings. I call it "Practical Gladness" This will further develop your transformational abilities.

Actually the biggest challenge in my life was death of my first husband, when we were in our thirties and totally unprepared for such an event.  I felt extremely lost and the darkness was intense at the end.  But then I noticed people were coming around to help sit with him, and to sit with me.  I wasn't alone at all.  And although it was the saddest time in my life it was also in a strange way, the happiest time.  I felt as though by facing this sense of isolation and sorrow (or maybe it was even embracing it), I was able to join or re-join the human race.  I felt connected to others who suffered loss (and who among us hasn't experienced loss?), I felt brave and resilient, and I felt SO grateful for all who came and sat with us through this time.  It was an amazing experience.

Prospero (one of the Bergamasco Boys) drinking water on a sparkle filled day.

The final game is "Be GLAD No Matter What -  Give Lovingly And Daringly" which SARK explains this way:

This does NOT mean feeling glad when you don't - how annoying. It means finding the glad parts in as many of your feelings as you can and then finding ways to help the world with your GLAD heart. Blog or post your GLAD offerings on social media. It might be large or tiny, common or uncommon. One of my GLAD heart gifts was singing Amazing Grace in the DMV office until everyone joined in!

This will be easy!  For anyone who contacts me at lanipuppetmaker at mac dot com I will send you a  free Glad-No-Matter-What zine, with my favorite collaged morning pages!
Even the frost sparkles today!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

More thoughts on Tulsa's overly busy life style.

Collage by Lani (collage element from Teesha Moore) with Texture Layers by FlyPaper Textures and Kim Klassen.
I've been thinking a little more about Tulsa's situation and I totally get it.  Our lives are way too busy to really listen to our inner artist souls.  We are caught up in the dominant cultures' story which is a consumer story, that when you boil it down to its most basic message that would be thatwe are not enough as we are. And what I think the real story is all about is how we absolutely are enough and the ones who get creative are the ones who figure that out.  So the really important thing for Tulsa (and all of us) to figure out would be how to detach from the big story that the "dominant culture" teaches us. Freedom is within the realm of possibility if we can just detach ourselves.  If we need examples and ideas to jump start our search for freedom, we can visit other artists either virtually or for real, artists who are actually calling the shots in their own lives. That's pretty cool. Not everyone is waiting to be told what they should need or want.  Not everyone is waiting for the perfect life to actually do the things that their inner artist wants them to do. Some folks are doing things anyway. Very nice.

The first person I would want to visit would be Leo Babauta over at Zen Habits.  Leo has a short list of ways to simplify our lives so that we can actually hear our own stories: 1. Identify what’s most important to you. 2. Eliminate everything else.  He suggests we get rid of chaos in our lives and replace it with peace, spend our time doing what’s important to us, spend our time with people we love, doing the things we love to do (for me that's art and writing, for Tulsa it writing and going for long walks). If we eliminate the clutter of all that is not essential, we will be left with only the things we value.

Leo has a fabulous long list of 72 ways to eliminate all but the essential in our lives and I'll mention a few here but feel free to go visit the whole list, it's wonderful, or buy his book and really dive in!  So here are my favorite ways to get more freedom in my life:

#36.  Learn what “enough” is. This one is hard, but think about it.  Isn't it odd that we would feel so empty, so needing of stuff even when our lives and homes are so absolutely full that we might hire someone to declutter our lives?  Or we might buy a book on decluttering?  The fact might just be that we have too much stuff, junk, redundant objects without meaning in our lives.  And yet we are constantly wanting more.   

# 31. Learn to live frugally. I like this one because it means buying less, wanting less, and leaving less of a footprint on the earth. It’s directly related to simplicity. (And the really cool thing is he's got  50 tips on how to live frugally)

# 24. Be present.  Living here and now, in the moment, keeps us aware of life, of what is going on around us and within us. It does wonders for mental health.  (Try yoga or meditation for this one)

# 17. Limit your buying habits. (This one is a bit like #31 but maybe more specific) If we are slaves to materialism and consumerism there is no freedom. But Leo assures us there are ways to escape it.  If we can escape materialism, we can get into the habit of buying less. And that will mean less stuff and more freedom.

# 8. Limit your media consumption. Leo believes that the media in our lives — TV, radio, Internet, magazines, etc. — can come to dominate us. These things can be more compelling than our own stories are to us.  But that doesn't have to be. Try a media fast.  Or try versions of media which give you the most control.  DVD's, books, anything that you can fast forward or turn the page.

And finally #1. (my favorite) Make a list of your top 4-5 important things. What’s most important to us? What do we value most?  What 4-5 things do we most want to do in our lives?  Simplifying starts here: Only when we know, figure out, or admit what is most important, will it become possible to create more time for these things.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Let it all go, Tulsa. Be free now!

Collage by Lani with Texture Layers by FlyPaper Textures and Kim Klassen.
I got this email the other day:
Dear Lani, I wonder what you would say about my situation? I'm an administrator of a small community based educational program and I am so busy that I can't seem to find enough time to do my own writing. I would love to just go for long walks and write, but in reality I'm eating, sleeping, and dreaming administrative nonsense. I'd love to take a sabbatical from all this, but then there would be no pay, of course. I guess I'm feeling a little trapped... Yours, Tulsa

Sound familiar?  Don't we all put off those walks and our creative pursuits because we have obligations elsewhere?  My answer to Tulsa was to use the source of the perceived problem to create the solution.  One of the very best ways to get to do more of the thing you love, is to offer to teach it. If Tulsa is an administrator of an educational program, then she could appoint herself to teach a class on "walking, observing, and writing" or "writing and yoga" or "spiritual exploration through writing" for herself and all the other folks who may be feeling similarly. Lots of people feel too busy to even think and are just looking for an excuse to work creatively for an hour or two in their  busy lives.

I would also recommend Patti Digh's new book "Creative is a Verb" to anyone in Tulsa's situation.  Patti is amazing.  And not only are her books clear, simple, inspiring, but she's got a really nice blog where she's got a whole blog entry for my friend Tulsa and the rest of us as well.   Twelve simple steps to getting what is inside out, via writing, music, dance, or art.  What ever our creative preference might be, these twelve little ideas are for us.

Something else for Tulsa and all of us is over on Dirty Footprints Studio.   Connie has a wonderful post about how to be a "rockstar" or how to quit making those excuses and start living the life you were meant to live.  She says she has a story to tell about what has paralyzed her, what has shattered her and kept her from living a creative life.  She says she needs to release that story, let it all go in order live the life she dreams of.  I'm sure she's right.  Let it all go, Tulsa, be free now.  (Let it all go, Lani, be free now!)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Back from Sacramento...

Back from the American Art Therapy Annual Conference which was in Sacramento this year. Here are some photos from the Crocker Art Museum (which I loved):
African sculpture with layers by Kim Klassen.

Contemporary sculpture with layers by Kim Klassen.

Contemporary sculpture with layers by Kim Klassen.

 Contemporary sculpture with layers by Kim Klassen.

The  most frightening thing at the art museum (for art therapists) was how they sold art therapy in a kit.  Wow!  How to be made redundant with one slick-looking box of art materials...  (Art Therapist Susan Anand displays contents.)

I also learned very clearly (again) that less is more, that we as audience members can only absorb so much information and even if the presenter has more information than can fit in one presentation, it doesn't matter, because we can only receive a limited amount.  I enjoyed many clear, interesting, elegant presentations that took this truth to heart.

And the best thing about this conference was that it was held in a convention center which meant we had to go outside, where skies were blue and Kaltenbach's fountain "A Time To Cast Away Stones" bubbled away on 13th and K.  Just lovely.  (Layers by Kim Klassen)