Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Creating a visual spa...

This is a very interesting video that Cathy Malchiodi shared on International Art Therapy Organization's facebook page.  It explains why looking at what we believe is beautiful is good for us.  Semir Zeki, professor of neurobiology at University College London (UCL), is a pioneer in the field of neuroaesthetics. He is also founder of the Institute of Neuroaesthetics, co-located at UCL and in Berkeley, California. Professor Zeki’s research into the brain’s visual system shows that when we look at something we consider to be beautiful, the feel good parts of the brain are being activated and dopamine is released.

Zeki’s research included a neuroimaging study designed to investigate the neural correlates of beauty. Ten participants were shown 300 paintings and asked to classify each of them as beautiful, ugly, or neutral. (Not all agreed that a particular painting was either ugly or beautiful.) The participants were then shown the paintings again using fMRI. “Beautiful” paintings elicited increased activity in the orbito-frontal cortex — involved in emotion and reward — while “ugly” paintings stimulated increased motor cortex activity, as if the brain was preparing to escape.

Want to test it out for yourself?  You can read about a very clever on-line way to release dopamine in your own brain, just using your computer.  Go to Gretchen Miller's post on the Pinterest website and read about our latest little addiction.  Gretchen and I have been busy "pinning" images that we like; interesting quotes, beautiful architecture, inspiring landscapes, lovely colors, interesting textures, all sorts of things that stimulate the one third of our neocortex devoted to visual activity.  (And I can tell you dopamine is involved!) A mini vacation for the eyes.  I've visited many new-to-me blogs and flickr accounts and am learning just how many of us artist folks are actually out there in the world.  If you ever felt alone in your love of art, this website will teach you that you are so very not alone.

Create a visual spa for yourself to visit at any time, and if you keep adding to your collection and looking at others' collections, then it's always fresh and new.  Lovely!  Amazing!

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Common Miracles Project

"Hoping for sun" with  the help of  FlyPaper Textures.

What do you do when the skies have been gray for days and most days it's just raining too hard to see what color the sky actually is?  You could sing "It's a lovely day tomorrow" but actually I'm more of a "be here now" type of person so that doesn't work for me.  What does work is actually getting into it.  Taking photos of something which embodies the feeling of the day, making some art of it!  So here's a Noah's Arc birdhouse sitting on an abandoned well in Prospect.  I love it.  Perfect.  I then I thought I could take it a bit further.

Close up of "hoping for sun" with  the help of  FlyPaper Textures.

I've been reading the lovely blog Gingerblue.com, and after some research in well-being, happiness, and even a bit of neuropsychology, Chel Micheline has come to some lovely conclusions.  She's cultivating a sense of gratitude for the small, simple things in life, and she's starting  to feel more positive feelings on a more regular basis, feelings like contentment, well-being and even relief.
There's a growing feeling that "things are okay."   During the day, she collects small, simple things that she is grateful for.  This is very similar to Seligman's 3 Blessing exercise, which you can read about here.
So I thought try Chel's idea with my blog. She wondered what would happen if a few people began to collect and share the small things they were grateful for.  She wanted to know: What small, simple things brought you comfort today? What made you feel a little more okay? Is it one thing, or ten things, or two HUGE thing or five tiny things? She's inviting us to join her in her experiment. Would you be willing to share your own list on your blog? Maybe once a week or once a month or whatever you like?  For more details see The Common Miracles Project.

My first "common miracle," my socks with  the help of  FlyPaper Textures.

I really like these socks!  They are just socks but they make me smile every time!

Jenna's herb garden with  the help of  FlyPaper Textures.

For a  little bit of happy nostalgia, I visited Jenna in our old house.  She's been cooking up a storm, as usual in her Little Red Kitsch'n.  Nothing makes me happier than to see folks doing the thing they love in the place they love!  So here's some shots from my visit.

Jenna's very full freezer with  the help of  FlyPaper Textures.
She was getting ready for the market tomorrow and I was looking for some cupcakes for dessert.
 So here's my last little common miracle: dessert.  Cupcakes from Little Red Kitsch'n!  Yum!

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

"A teaspoon of light in the darkest tunnel"

Image created for Collage Obsession Challenge with  the help of  FlyPaper Textures.

Over at 14 Secrets we are missing our friend Deb Gilchrist.  We have several art projects that we are working on in order to channel our feelings, soothe our grief, and create gifts for each other and Deb's family.  So one of the activities we are working on is garlands of inspiration and healing.  We are actually creating paper chains from links inspired by daily prompts.  Today was my turn to provide the prompt.  I had been watching a most wonderful video about some work being done with the Christchurch earthquake and this clip really got me thinking.  

Peter O'Connor (Associate Professor at the School of Critical Studies in Education of Auckland University) was working in the rubble in the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan China and previous to that with victims of abuse and violence, using drama and art education to provide therapeutic activities for folks struggling in that situation.  Now he’s part of the Auckland University initiative which offers arts based workshops to Christchurch earthquake victims. These workshops are creative responses for schools, very practical strategies, ways to deal with, make sense of what happened.  They are not doing this as "therapists" he emphasizes.

In one particularly amazing workshop he tells the first lines of a story.
“A girl gets up and gets ready to visit her grandmother.  As she is getting ready, she trips and tears her cloth of dreams.”  Peter then says "Normally I would have a picture book and show you what that would look like, but I don’t have one with me.  So can you imagine what it would be like to tear you cloth of dreams?"
One child says "I think all the dreams disappear."
Another child says "I think it's the saddest thing that could happen to you if you tear your cloth of dreams."
Peter then says "Could we create a new cloth of dreams?"   The children use crayons on plain muslin filling it with all wonderful things.
Peter then suggests that maybe the girl in the story would be able to repair her cloth of dreams if she had the right thread.  “And if we could create a thread that could repair anyone’s cloth of dreams, wouldn’t that be great?”  So he asks "What would the recipe be for the magic thread, to repair this cloth of dreams of the little girl who tripped and tore her cloth while getting ready to see her grandmother?"

There were many wonderful answers but here’s one little girl’s particularly poignant list:
"…for special thread you will need:
1 tsp of light in the darkest tunnel
10 cups of love
2 tsp of belief
1/2 cup of adventure
3/4 cup of hope"

Finally they had a very complete list so Peter asked, “how would you combine them?”  "You need a cloud bowl to put everything in."

So they created an imaginary “cloud bowl,” that they all held in the center of their circle.  And then they put the various elements into the cloud bowl.  Peter asked for sensory type descriptions of these elements.  Is 2 tsp. of belief light or heavy?  What color is love?  Does hope have a scent?  And with each description, the element went into the bowl.

Finally the little girl who had the list above said “now we need the teaspoon of light in the darkest tunnel.” The teachers all had tears in their eyes.  Everyone had a sharp intake of breath as if to say, did she really just say that?  Did someone in our room really say that?  It was what Peter called a "the moment of gift" recognized by everyone in the room.  Then Peter asked “how do you add a teaspoon of light in the darkest tunnel to our cloud bowl?”  The little girl said, “you need to sprinkle the light in,” as she mimed sprinkling a teaspoon of light into the cloud bowl.  “See,” she said, “the light goes through everything!" 

Just beautiful!

So my prompt for us was "what would we add to the recipe for this magical thread that would repair our cloth of dreams?"