Sunday, December 31, 2017

#172 - 177 out of a thousand ways to have a happy artist's life; Six Self-Care Lessons

"Be Inspired Every Day" collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.
Jane Claire Hervey wrote a helpful article about artist Yayoi Kusama's self-care lessons for Forbes Magazine. She suggests that if we are feeling a little burnt out and uninspired here at the end of what was a very difficult year for most of us, we should take heart from Kusama's ideas about self-care.  They can carry us into the New Year and to remind us to take care of our best asset (our selves!): 
Kusama's first idea of self-care is to normalize rejection. Rejection is okay, we all experience it from time to time. If we normalize it, we won't be afraid of it. If we accept that rejection is part of the process, then we can be brave enough to create truthfully. Hervey tells the story of how Kusama was actually physically removed from her installation at the 33rd Venice Biennale for selling portions of the exhibited work throughout the opening reception. She was examining the relationship between art and consumerism—the message was not appreciated by the powers that be.

Kusama's second idea that we can say "no" to what we find dull, uninspired, or unbearable. Because she had been frustrated with her early experiences at Kyoto Municipal School of Arts and Crafts, she began to explore Western modern art and eventually moved to NYC to launch her career. Being active in the pop-art scene in New York in the late 1960s, Kusama took part in anti-Vietnam War protests featuring her performance pieces with naked participants. She bravely sought out and associated with Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Georgia O'Keeffe and others.

Kusama's third idea is that we should invest in our own wellbeing. She found that being very busy and pressured is not necessarily a good thing. She was first hospitalized because of overwork and exhaustion, but in 1977 actually moved into Seiwa Hospital for the Mentally Ill in Tokyo, and has lived there (by choice) ever since.

Kusama's fourth idea is that we should explore methods and approaches to work, find the things that actually help us create our best work. She discovered that institutionalization did not have to stifle her creativity or her productivity. "It doesn't matter at all that I work in hospital or anywhere with limited space. Every day, I'm creating new works with all my might," she told The Huffington Post.

Her fifth idea is that we should appreciate our mentors and enjoy our tribe. Kusama's personal and professional friendships with Georgia O'Keeffe, Donald Judd and Joseph Cornell helped her enormously throughout the difficult times in her life.

Kusama's sixth idea is to fall in love with the process. She believes that success, fame and money do not make our work exciting, pleasurable or meaningful, but falling in love with the process will. And that makes all the difference. She continually credits her daily
art practice as a source of sanity and stability, referring to the actual work itself as medicinal and prescriptive. She wrote in her autobiography Infinity Net: “I fight pain, anxiety and fear every day, and the only method I have found that relieves my illness is to keep creating art. I followed the thread of art and somehow discovered a path that would allow me to live.”

Here's to Kusama's daily art practice and self-care lessons. May they help us steer our way into the new year.

For more information on “Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors” check here.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

#171 out of a thousand ways to have a happy artist's life; Compassion and the Happy Artist

"Abide" collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.
While working on the above collage, I was listening to a talk by Paul Gilbert on compassion focused therapy. He spoke of originally using cognitive behavioral therapy in his psychotherapy practice, but noticed that some of his patients were having difficulties in their attempts to change their unhelpful patterns in thinking, belief, and attitude. The common element in this group was a certain amount of sternness and self-criticism. They seemed to be unable to show kindness or warmth towards themselves.

He talked about the evolutionary and developmental reasons for this harsh inner voice and then explained how Buddhist psychology and neuroscience helped him think about creating more compassionate inner voices, more warmth and kindness. As he put his ideas into practice it seemed that his psychotherapy practice was becoming more effective. His experience is that using compassionate mind training helps people develop an inner warmth, safeness and self-soothing so that they have the tools to successfully work with their depression, insecurities, and stresses.

 At about the 32 minute mark in this talk, he guides his audience in some breathing exercises to access the parasympathetic nervous system, and some neutral vs. friendly exercises to help the audience experience the difference between the two.  Then he started focusing on compassion, helping his audience find their inner wisdom and compassionate selves.  

It was a lovely experience to listen to the talk while working with art materials, highly recommended. I may need to do this some more, practicing a little more self-compassion and art.

Monday, November 27, 2017

#170 out of a thousand ways to have a happy artist's life; Using Art and Imagination Turn Anxiety Into Calm.

"Calm Heart" collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.
While working on my morning pages, I was listening to a talk on YouTube by Marty Rossman.  It's a very encouraging talk, if you are ever disturbed by anxiety (and is there anyone who isn't disturbed these days?)  He explained how often times anxiety is caused by runaway imagination and obsessive thinking about worse case scenarios and how this helped us in our evolution. But today it is often used against us, keeping us glued to our media and devices. So he uses the imagination to relieve stress, and literally change our lives. He takes the audience through an evocative guided imagery experience. As he talked, a part of my mind was occupied with his evocative imagery, while another part work on this art piece. Actually there was a blending of his evocative imagery with the choices I made for this piece. Now when I look at it, I can see aspects of his talk and guided imagery and I can feel a sense of calmness.

I may need to print is out and have it where it can be easily seen when the the media and my devices begin to feel like they are too much with me.

Friday, November 24, 2017

#169 out of a thousand ways to have a happy artist's life; Play with questions.

"We Can" collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.

This one is a little experimental. I created the morning pages above and somehow I didn't feel completely satisfied. I ended up turning the statement into a question which oddly somehow felt very free, full of possibility. Could it be that questions create more creative space in our minds and that the use of creative space has a very positive neurological effect on us? Feeling the need for research.
"Can We" collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.

Monday, July 31, 2017

#168 out of a thousand ways to have a happy artist's life; "Hacking your brain" for happiness.

"Art Affects Reality" collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.
This one is from Dr. James Doty's Ted Talk on why we might want to activate the para-sympathetic nervous system. He explains how we have become hyper-stressed in modern culture. He believes we are using our sympathetic nervous system (fight/flight/freeze) way too much. We are actually damaging our health, work, relationships, and creativity if we don't take breaks from our culturally induced stress, anxiety, and depression.  And there is a solution. Doty believes that we can switch on our para-sympathetic nervous system using compassion for others and ourselves and when we do this the positive effects on our health are obvious and measurable. It has been shown to boost our immune system, slow our heart rate, lower blood pressure, and decreases our stress hormone levels. We actually feel happier.
He suggested that if he told us he had a pill made of sustainable, organic components that could assure you of these effects (including happiness) we would consider it very valuable. The only thing that would be required would be that after taking this pill we would have to sit in silence for 15 minutes and slowly breathe in and out and focus our intentions on compassion. Doty said that it would soon become obvious to us that we didn't really need the pill, just the sitting with the compassionate intentions.
Well, guess what, try the same thing with a little daily art activity, maybe 20 minutes or half an hour, just because it's kind of fun, and think about your intentions to be a little more compassionate in the world. You will find yourself down regulating, switching out of your sympathetic nervous system and switching into your para-sympathetic nervous system.
It couldn't hurt to give it a try.

Friday, July 14, 2017

#161-167 out of a thousand ways to have a happy artist's life; Seven things to do in dark times.

"Dark Times" collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.

The first six ways to have a happy artist's life came from a Facebook post by Gretchen Miller, as so many of these Happy Artist's Life posts do. It was about transforming life’s difficulties into awakening and benefit. The original article is here about a meditative practice with six ancient Buddhist slogans. Well worth the read!

#161 - Turn all mishaps into the path. If you have been through "mishaps" or dark times in the past and faced them with patience or bravery, you will know what this one is about. There's nothing like fairly intense "dark night of the soul" to open our awareness and our compassion. And a daily art practice can be a comforting way to go through the darkness.  The article is describing using meditation as a contemplative practice, but for me, I love my daily art practice. I can say “Yes, of course, this is how it is. Let me turn toward it, let me create art with it, let me go beyond entanglement to gratitude.” This I can do. And that makes me happy.

#162 - Drive all blames into one is an interesting slogan which seems a little opaque but actually means that you can’t blame anyone for what happens. Even if it’s actually someone’s fault, you really can’t blame them, or you can but it gets you nowhere. Something happened, and since it did, there is nothing else to be done but to make use of it. If you want to get somewhere, move forward, there's nothing else to do but make some art of it. This I can do!

#163 - Be grateful to everyone. This one is pretty clear. Cultivate this sense of gratitude all the time. Even if people are "misbehaving" there are things to learn, things to be grateful for. Practicing gratitude leads to a very happy artist's life. We can feel grateful for what is possible for us in this moment, no matter what our challenges are. If we feel grateful that we are alive at all, that we can think, that we can feel, that we can stand, sit, walk, talk, and most especially make art—if we feel grateful, we are happy and we maximize our chances for well-being and for sharing happiness with others. We can do this!

#164 - See confusion as buddha (awakening) and practice emptiness. Whew, this one is a little harder.  The author of this article, Norman Fischer, suggest the meaning is to view our daily human problems in the light of actual birth and actual death. If we can do that, we are practicing with this slogan. Every moment of our life, even (and maybe especially) our moments of pain or despair or confusion, is a moment of buddha, a moment of possible awakening. When our mind is confused and entangled, we can take a breath and try to slip below our desire and confusion. We can notice that in this very moment time is passing, things are transforming, and this impossible fact is profound, beautiful, and joyful, even as we continue with our misery. Especially if we are making art.

#165 - Do Good, Avoid Evil, Appreciate Your Lunacy, Pray for Help. Okay, another tough one but worth the effort. Doing good is basically genuinely being helpful and kind and thoughtful in as many small and large ways as we can every day. The results will make us happy.

Avoiding evil is actually paying attention to what we say, think, and do with generosity and understanding—and purify ourselves of most of our ungenerous thoughts and words. I'm thinking this is definitely a practice.

Appreciating our lunacy is a way of appreciating the demons inside us, developing a sense of humorous appreciation for our own humanity. We are are so not alone in our silliness! We can laugh and not take our failings (or those of others) too much to heart.

Praying for help is asking for help and for strength to do what we know we must do. It can be a stated intention, a willingness to look for and accept help where ever it comes from. We are not alone.

#166 - Whatever You Meet is the Path. This slogan sums up the other five: whatever happens, good or bad, we can make it part of our spiritual practice, we can make it into our art. I love knowing this is possible.

#167 - Practice contemplating opposites is from a yoga lecture by James Reeves. He was discussing the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali which offers a simple directive: "Vitarka badhane pratipaksha bhavanam." ––Sutra 2.33
This translates to: If we are disturbed by a negative train of thought, a way to derail the train is to contemplate the opposite kinds of thoughts. Pratipaksha means opposite and bhavana means contemplation or meditation. If we do this we are realizing that thoughts are just thoughts, yes there is this negative thing in our life which we are thinking about in a way that feels like a train out of control, but there are also other kinds of thoughts, other kinds of feelings. Look for the opposites.  This can broaden our perspective and create some space for ourselves. We unhook ourselves from this particular train of thought.

By practicing the cultivation of opposites our life can start to feel more manageable. Patanjali is asking that if we have angry thoughts, remind ourselves of compassion. We can even draw out our compassion. If we have violent thoughts we can remind ourselves of peaceful and loving thoughts. This could soothe the pain, tension, and stress of our runaway negative train of thought. And it can make our art very interesting.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

"Fostering Resilience & Inclusivity with Diverse Populations: Projects for Personal & Social Change"

Are you coming to Expressive Therapies Summit in October? Need some time with art materials and your tribe? Want to learn how to support a culture of resilience, resistance, and inclusivity among diverse populations? Join Susan Ainlay Anand, Jordan Potash, and Lani Gerity at Pratt Institute Friday the 13th for an all day workshop. "Fostering Resilience & Inclusivity with Diverse Populations: Projects for Personal & Social Change"

"Resistance Art " collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.
Friday, October 13, 2017
10:00 am  -  5:15 pm
Fostering Resilience & Inclusivity with Diverse Populations: Projects for Personal & Social Change
Pratt Institute - Friday
200 Willoughby Avenue, Brooklyn

Graduate Department of Creative Arts Therapy, Co-Host

Lani A. Gerity, DA, ATR
Susan Ainlay Anand, MA, ATR-BC, ATCS, LPAT
Jordan S. Potash, PhD, ATR-BC, REAT, LPCAT, LCAT

Drawing from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words and Edith Kramer’s teachings on being “maladapted” to injustice and oppression, the presenters will provide context and inspiration for using daily art and creativity to build social cohesion, resilience, and, ultimately, change. In this daylong master class participants will learn easy-to-follow instructions for creating non-threatening, resilience-building individual and group art projects. Consideration will be given to eliciting personal stories of cultural strengths and group resilience narratives. Examples of case material and arts from various communities experiencing stress will be discussed to illustrate the importance of fostering strengths, resilience, and sublimation in the art room. Through storytelling, deep listening, art exchange, and group creation, participants will learn how to support a culture of resilience, resistance, and inclusivity among the diverse populations they find within their art rooms and other treatment settings.

Eligible for 6.0 Clock/Credit Hours: NBCC, ATCB; ASWB, APA, MFT, Nursing; SWNYS, LCAT
Not eligible for APT Credits

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Legacy of Edith Kramer

Information about The Legacy of Edith Kramer is up on the Routledge website. Very exciting for Susan Ainlay Anand and myself and all the wonderful contributors. (Feeling delighted and grateful)…/Gerity-Ana…/p/book/9781138681248

Friday, June 16, 2017

#160 out of a thousand ways to have a happy artist's life; Develope Your Interior Artwork.

"Interior Artwork2"  collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.
Having spent the last two years working on The Legacy of Edith Kramer, I have grown increasingly interested in parts of Edith's legacy that were less familiar to me; Bauhaus, Friedl Dicker-Brandeis, and the dark times leading up to World War II. I have been giving some thought about the importance of speaking out, of resistance and maladjustment to a culture of repression, bullying, supremacy and injustice.  So when How to Be an Artist, According to Wassily Kandinsky popped up on my Facebook feed, I got interested. 

Here are a few of the lessons in a nutshell, but for more, please go to his original work on line, for free (free stuff makes for the happy artist), Concerning the Spiritual in Art (1911).

Express your inner world, not the latest artistic trends.

Approach color as a window into the human soul.

By creating original work, you will further the cause of humanity.

"[Art is] ...the mysterious expression of the mysterious..." (from Autobiography, Wassily Kandinsky, 1918.)

The commonality here between Kandinsky and Edith, is the emphasis on the interior life. Edith talked about that we were losing touch with our inner life. That in order to be true to ourselves, in order to be original, we needed to be able to access our inner life. Being a student of Bauhaus via Friedl Dicker-Brandeis, the way to access the inner life was through a daily art practice.

So if you want to be able to look at the culture you are in and consider if it is aligned with your ideas of justice, creativity, humanity, and not just follow what the culture dictates, you will need to be able to understand your own thinking about these things. You will need to be able to access your interior life.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

#157 - 159 out of a thousand ways to have a happy artist's life - Create meaning

"Don't ever lose heart"  collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.
While creating my morning pages, every day, I try to be selective about what is playing in the background, often a dharma talk or current research on compassion and neuroscience.  So yesterday I was listening to Scilla Elworthy at the Dare to Care Youth Gathering - Empathy and Compassion in Society.

She was talking about having spoken at a rave (yes, as in music event) and she was asked what can we do with the world being in the condition it's in.  How do we keep from losing heart?  She suggesting a 3 step process:
#1. Find the one thing that breaks your heart, that has always broken your heart. The desire to heal this broken heart will give you energy to continue in spite of all odds.
#2. Find the things that crack your heart open with respect and joy. This can be people, books, ideas, art, friendship... many things. These things will help you heal the broken heart.
#3. What are your skills, your gifts? They can be used to help heal the things that break your heart. Using them in acts of generosity towards alleviating the sorrows you find in the world.

Just three things. Very simple, very easy. And you will find yourself able to create a happy, meaningful artist's life.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Workshop Alert

Susan Anand and I are heading to LA for the Expressive Therapies Summit.

MARCH 30 - APRIL 2, 2017



"Create Magic and Beauty"  collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.
We will be working on various resilience strategies, all day, but the classes are separated so you can take one or both.  The first class will be a simple narrative and puppet-making class with it's roots in Neuroscience.  We will crate simple book structures to house our puppets and narratives.
In the afternoon we will be working with clay to create worlds and stories of possibility.  So important in today's uncertain environment.  Hope to see you there.

Friday, 3/31/17

10:00 am  -  1:00 pm
Paper Puppet People, Fairytales, and Neuroscience
Lani A. Gerity, DA, ATR
Susan Ainlay Anand, ATR-BC, ATCS

In this 3-hour workshop, we will provide permissive, easy-to-follow instructions for creating paper puppet people and simple book structures for eliciting pro-social responses. Based on Bruce Perry’s neurosequential model of treatment and educator Peter O'Connor’s work with survivors of traumatic events, participants will learn to weave story, drama, and art into fairy tales and personal narratives of cultural strength and group resilience. Examples of case material from various cultures will be used to illustrate these therapeutic activities that engage the brain from the “bottom,” where experiences are stored, to the cortex at the “top,” where we make sense of our experiences. Using this integrative model, we begin each session with positive tactile experiences and memories, then slowly add "higher” processes, such as humor and insight, that foster possibility and hope for our students, clients, and ourselves.

2:30 pm  -  5:30 pm 
Clay Worlds & Stories for Creating Resilient, Inclusive Communities
Susan Ainlay Anand, ATR-BC, ATCS
Lani A. Gerity, DA, ATR

In this 3-hour workshop, we’ll focus on the importance of fostering strengths and inclusivity through multidisciplinary expressive arts activities within a clinical or educational plan. We will review some of our work within social environments in need of resilience, particularly those that have struggled with depression, loss, and trauma. Building on the work of well-being and positive psychology experts Peterson and Seligman, and positive art therapy specialists Chilton and Wilkinson, we have developed easy-to-implement, fun processes that foster strengths and resilience through creative activity featuring clay and story. In our observations, which will be illustrated by case materials, working in small groups through storytelling, deep listening, and group creation helps to support a culture of resilience and inclusivity that clinicians, educators, and helping professionals of all types can use in their daily work with people of all ages and circumstances.