Lisa Mitchell

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Susan Orr (1941-2018)–Art Therapist and Mentor. Her trust in art lives on.

Sep 15, 2018 | 21 comments

When someone so passionate and creative and beautiful believes in you, it means everything.

Susan was my professor first, and then my art therapist.  In class she handed a thin strip of paper to each of us.  She held the strips fanned out in her hand and walked around the classroom to personally deliver the message.  I read my strip.  It said, “Try Trusting the Art” in a fancy font printed in all caps on a dot matrix printer.  She could have said it directly with words, but it was powerful and special to receive Susan’s hand delivered, four word poem.  It’s been 27 years, but I still have that strip of paper. It’s thick with the scotch tape layers I’ve used to post it on every desk I’ve used since the day I pulled it from the group of gathered strips in her hand.

Her therapy room was filled to the brim with supplies.  She was frugal and conscientious about waste, so the paper was mostly found paper—cardboard boxes, backs of paper pads, miscellaneous piles of mulberry and vellum probably scored at a garage sale.  She was a curious and non-directive art therapist.  She watched with caring eyes; so attentive, non-judgemental, mostly silent.  In my workshops people always ask, “What do you say or do while your client is making art?”  My answer is always, “Listen and Watch.”  And then I say, “If you’ve never had someone attend to your art making in silence with full non-judgemental presence, it’s hard to imagine.  But the experience is profound.”  And I’m talking about how Susan did that for me.  I had heard people criticize her for going too slow in her work with clients.  Her pace was perfect for me.  Her confrontations were nudges in the form of an art invitation.  She didn’t psycho-educate or intervene or give homework. She let the work unfold.  She trusted the art implicity.

Those days I was caring for my 12 month old and grieving my father’s early and tragic death.  I was fresh out of graduate school and my internship was intense. On one of my visits I was frazzled and made the comment that I just couldn’t stand being cooped up inside.  Susan suggested we have our session outside in her courtyard.  We brought the paint out and a large piece of paper and I felt myself expand while my art breathed in the open air.  Spontaneously, I divided the paper with a representation that depicted two parts of me.  One side was the organized, competent mother and intern part of me.  The other side was the emotionally distraught, depressed, traumatized part of me.  I was trying to make the case that these parts had to stay separate and that no one could know about the distressed part.  I told this to Susan.  “I can’t let people know how messed up I am.” Susan wondered aloud, “What would it look like if you connected the two parts?”  I did.  Actually, the colors did it themselves.  I felt like her invitation was magic.  Something inside chinked together like granules of sand being compacted neatly.  Each facet turned to fit with the neighboring granule’s edge. The moment was a turning point for me.  I felt integrated.  I felt the possibility that I didn’t have to cover up or hide.  I felt known and seen.  I felt the power of art to do all of that without needing words to explain it.

There’s another moment that I replay sometimes.  It’s not as nice a scene as the patio art therapy moment.  Susan had a show at one of the galleries in the R street Foundry.  It was many years after she was my therapist—maybe 7 or more.  My husband and I had gone to a cocktail party at one of his colleague’s houses in midtown.  They lived in one of those Victorians with a front porch as big as a living room and a back kitchen that still had the original black and white tile on the counters.  They were midtown chic and happy and collected art.  It was a regular event to go to Second Saturday.  They fixed appletinis.  I’d never had them before and loved the sweet tart liquor.  I was fairly drunk when we arrived at the gallery.  Susan’s show was stunning.  She had used oil pastels to layer textured cloud formations onto wood panel.  Each piece was a representation of a Rilke poem.  I’d never seen texture made with oil pastels in this way before—it was almost like a clay relief.  And her colors were vivid.  And she’d typed out the poems to stand with each piece.  I would have liked to read and absorb and admire them,  but I was drunk. And then when she noticed me and we hugged, I was still drunk.  I garbled something to her that was a congratulations for her show, but it meant nothing because I was too far gone to make a heart connection.  She turned to greet others and do her hosting.  I felt ashamed.  Like I hadn’t come in an honoring state. Several months later I went to her open studio and did spend time with her oil pastel works.  I am happy I got to take them in there in a sober state.  She was gracious and spent time explaining her method of crushing up the oil pastels and then layering them to form the textures. Whenever I remember that gallery moment, I feel like a child who failed a parent in some visceral way.  But she didn’t hold it against me.

Fast forward another several years, and I’m in Susan’s backyard studio choosing jars full of miscellaneous art supplies to take with me to Wind Youth Services.  She was closing her art therapy studio doors and wanted me to have as much as I could take.  I took her jar of corks and her sand, and her artichoke jar full of thread.  I took a rectangular basket full of vellum—I think it was the same vellum that we used sometimes in therapy at her other office by McKinley park.  I took a large collection of clay tools—dirty and well used.  I took a sheet of homemade paper that measured about 3 feet by 3 feet.  I took more jars and a collection of oil pastels and chalk. I took two ceramic bowls that she’d made that held shells and washers.  Part of this gifted collection went to Wind and part to my own studio.  I felt like it was a sourdough starter that had been grown and nurtured for years and was now my responsibility to keep alive.  I felt as if her supplies fueled the growth of my studio and my practice with just the right energy or sentiment or wisdom—or all of that.  Later she mailed me a hand painted card wishing me the very best in my new place and practice.  I keep it, along with the bowls as some of my cherished possessions.

I wrote a piece about Susan in my book.  It credits her with teaching me to trust the art.  What it doesn’t say is that this learning reaches for deeper than the art.  She trusted me in my work.  She sent me clients, she gave me supplies, she told people how good I was.  She saw the crumbled, depressed me and still trusted me.  She believed in me which helped me believe in myself.  I occasionally had thoughts about needing to go to coffee with her or to tell her what she meant to me.  When I left Sacramento I thought I might say goodbye to her and thank her.  I never did.  And I don’t regret that part, because i am certain she knew.  She held me just like I held her.  She didn’t need to know her role in my life because that’s just who she was.  A believer, a truster, a teacher of deep levels.  I won’t’ miss her because I figure ours was an ongoing relationship without having any contact.  And now that she’s dead, that won’t change.  But I do honor her today.  And I hope I have done her sourdough starter justice.  I hope that I have passed on the leftover art supply collection to good people so that it will live and thrive the way she deserves it to.  I will nurture the thread that I still keep and soon it will emerge into something new and powerful and full.  It will embody the trust that she taught me to hold—on a strip of paper, in my art, in life.

Goodbye Susan Orr.  Thank you for your belief in me.  It made all the difference in the world.

Business advise from the end of a successful practice.

May 14, 2018 | 29 comments

 

We can learn from people at the end.

When people are at the end—end of life, end of a relationship, end of a long hard project—they have a unique viewpoint that can only be gained from having lived through it to the very end. I’ve always listened a bit harder to the folks who are generous enough to share their view from their last stop.  When we pay attention to their wisdom, we benefit. So, since I’m at the end of a successful private practice, I want to share something that only now, 2 weeks away from closing my doors, I have come to understand clearly. (If you missed my initial announcement, you can read more about my transition here and here.)

I didn’t come to this understanding all by myself.  As is often the case these days, the combination of art and writing helped me arrive at this beautiful conclusion.  I want to share it with you in hopes that it inspires you to build your work-life so that it feeds you, heals you, and sustains you. Just like mine did for decades. Read More… »

Wisdom from the trenches of transition: Ending a Series

Apr 5, 2018 | 25 comments

The other day, at coffee, Hannah reminded me that artists work in series.  She was talking about her own work—completing a couple of big commissions and her show at the Pence Gallery that I was about to see.  She was in-between projects and inspiration.  She knew it and was trying to tolerate the patience with oneself it requires to incubate the next thing—the next series.  She can feel it changing, but she doesn’t yet know how.

 

As a therapist, my art has been with clients and they’ve come in a series. For I really do believe that therapists are artists and therapy is an art form. Foster kids, families, juvenile sex offenders, teens, therapists…..each time I began a new job or focused my work on a specific population, I was starting a new series.

 

It all sounds really creative and full of flow.  From one job to another, one client population to the next.  Each series building on the last.  New learning, new excitement, a path of curiosity fulfilled.

 

That’s not how it feels.  As Hannah described her own struggles with allowing herself to incubate instead of forcing her next series to come, I had the flash of recognition in my own life.  I’m packing up my office, my home, everything I own, and moving across state lines.  This series has ended—the one that took me all over the country to train therapists to use art in their work, the one that allowed me to work with those difficult teens who spoke through their art like they’d never spoken to a therapist before, the one that brought me groups of passionate therapists who wanted to excavate their souls and share because their well-being depended on it.  I’m closing up shop.  And, like Hannah, I know I have to give room for the next thing to show up.  There’s another series out there for me, but there is no menu from which I can pick ‘what looks good tonight’.  It needs to incubate inside me.  I need to wait for the idea.

 

People ask me, “What are you going to do once you get moved?”  They want to hear about my next idea, my next endeavor, my next series.  They know I am a manifester.  I create things and invite people to participate and it is wonderful.  They want more from me.  They can’t wait.

 

When I can only answer, “I really don’t know.”  I feel my disappointment roll into theirs—and we are a ball of impatience together.

 

Artists don’t stop working when they are in between series.  Their creative mind is always searching and trying out and there’s even actual engagement in the work itself.  They still go to the studio and work.  Sometimes it is just to clean a brush, other times it is to rearrange the workspace.  To outsiders, we may look as if we are doing the same things as always.  We are still creating or seeing clients or writing.  On the inside we are wringing our hands, scrunching our hair from our head, pacing back and forth—waiting.

 

I’ve learned that when I’m incubating, I have to be nice to myself.  I used to obsess about new ideas.  I have old lists of possible groups or classes to teach.  I have half-baked art invitations.  Names and taglines for courses fill notebooks.  In the past, I established a disciplined approach that included an optimal routine for inspiration.  I had to wake early, take my dog for a long walk in nature, do yoga, take a shower, then sit on my bed and download the ideas that I had seemingly plucked out of the river on my walk that morning.  I could incubate and find inspiration about the clients I was going to see that day or classes that I wanted to teach or a blog post I was going to write. The routine was my creativity template.  It worked well then.  But now I see, I was actually in a series.  I had my overall endeavor so well dialed in, that I was in flow and all I needed to do was stay in.  It worked beautifully.  I loved most of it.  Sometimes I was even able to be nice to myself.

 

Now, I’m no longer in that routine.  I don’t need to be and don’t want to be.  I have completed that series, and am waiting for the next.  So when I walk my dog on the river my thoughts are blank and I listen to  the birdsong and the sound of my shoes on the dirt.  I still sit down to write, but not as often, and only to see if there is anything there yet.  It’s kinda like knocking on the door to see if anyone is home, even when you know they are on vacation.  That’s where being nice to myself comes in.  I reassure myself, “You don’t have to know where this sentence will take you.”  I try to relax my breathing and tell myself, “It will come. You don’t have to know, right now, sweetheart.”

 

My coach, Andrea Lee, used to tell me that once we find the stream, all we have to do is stay in the boat and follow it.  The work was in noticing the moment in which the current began to carry us.  I used to joke back and tell her that it felt like the work was in trusting that there was actually a stream like the one she described.  It took so much work to walk around on rocks and follow dead end paths all the while lugging the heavy boat in hopes to catch a whiff of the right waterway.  Now, I know there is that stream.  Actually, I know there are many streams.  But right now, in this transition from California to Washington, from a well developed career series to the unknown, I am floating on an inner tube in the middle of the ocean.

 

It’s not that bad really.  Maybe it’s not exactly an inner tube,  but more like a nice fishing boat with a bedroom below and a little art studio set up on deck.  Nevertheless, I’m floating.  It’s not a passive float, like I’m helpless or a victim of circumstance.  It’s an expectant, kind, midwife-y kind of float.  Where I’m looking for signs of going into labor.  I’m reading the horizon for clues.  I’m engaged, alive, happy—with only an occasional bout of hand wringing or hair scrunching.

 

Are you working on a series?  What is it and how are you keeping it going?

Or are you incubating like Hannah and I?  What can you do to allow this for yourself?  How do you tolerate the in-between?

 

When Therapy Stalls Use ART!

Oct 29, 2017 | 1 comment

The key to good therapy

Clients have difficulties with parent-child relationships, spousal relationships, work relationships, internal relationships between aspects of self, relationships to depression or anxiety or trauma, relationships to personal or cultural history….the list is long.  There is one relationship that often gets left off of the list.  The therapeutic relationship.  The very relationship that is the vehicle for working through the other relationship.  It is also the one that we seldom explicitly address in sessions.  Sure, we focus on establishing and maintaining rapport.  Sure, we diligently sort through countertransference issues.  Sure, we gauge our own experience of connection or presence. However, Scott Miller’s research points to a big problem. Our assessment about the therapeutic relationship is often incorrect.  He says, “If we think we know and we aren’t checking with our clients, then we probably don’t know.”  This is not only problematic when things aren’t going well in therapy.  Even when things are going well, clients still report greater satisfaction when they are allowed to provide their input on what they like and what they don’t.  But, with our field’s over-emphasis on technique, seldom do we spend time asking our clients about their experience of the therapist client relationship.  This is so important that I designed an entire online course about it.   Read More… »

How to Find MOTIVATION for Art and Creative Expression

Aug 24, 2017 | 2 comments

 

What’s the number one question I hear from clients?

It’s not, “What’s wrong with me?” or “Can you help me?” or even, “Will things get better?”.

The number one question I hear from clients is, “How can I get myself motivated?”

Art therapy sessions are full of colorful expression.  Sometimes clients paint, sometimes they write, sometimes they assemble mixed media into meaningful collages.  No matter what kind of creativity my clients use to heal in session, the experience of creative expression in a safe therapeutic environment leaves them with the sense that more art would be a good thing.

In fact, research supports this.   Tamlin Connor (2016) found that subjects who were creative on one day experienced more flourishing and positive emotions like energy, enthusiasm, and excitement the next day.  Connor’s research concluded that engaging in small daily acts of creativity may influence overall well-being rather than simply making us feel good in the moment.

In session, as part of my role of therapist, I supply the motivation for my clients to create.  I carefully craft invitations that both peak my clients’ curiosity and feel manageable or safe enough.  If my client is unable to begin, I supply the gentle compassion that is a carefully calibrated on-ramp to their creative activity.  I’m a cheerleader, a coach, a nurturer, and a space holder.  It might not look like much from the outside, but clients feel it and are enormously appreciative.  And, like I said, they end the session by asking, “How can I find the motivation to make art at home?  It just doesn’t feel the same as it does here in session?”

A few clients should NOT be making art alone.  For these folks, emotional safety is a very tricky issue.  Their art can trigger them to dissociate or become overwhelmed with despair or hopelessness.  It is not a matter of motivation for these clients.  Their defense against these states is wise and protective.  I tell these clients that they should not force it.  They should not judge themselves.  They can find other ways to use their hands to safely create—like handwork (knitting, crochet, embroidery) or gardening.

For those clients that art making is not a trigger and is a safe, healthy activity, I recommend they do more.  And, I let them know that discipline is NOT the whole answer.  Instead, I have a 5 step motivation recipe.

I’d like to share it here for both therapists and clients—we could all use more art and creative expression in our lives.

If you lack motivation, here’s what to do.

Motivation to make art requires the following:

Care:  You must be caring for and about yourself.  This means basic self-care like rest, nutrition, and hygiene.  Understand that self-care is always a work in progress—not something to perfect.  If it is not something you are working on, it will be very hard to find motivation to make art.

Curiosity: You are hardwired for curiosity.  The brain seeks novelty and this fuels your search for things that spark your interest. Many clients are numb to the sensation of curiosity.  They need help identifying what it feels like when they become interested in something new.

Courage: You don’t need much—but there is a leap that art asks us to take.  When clients go from blank page to a mark on the page I acknowledge it as courage.  Practice and recognition boosts courage to do this leap over and over again.

Compassion: Creating a criticism free zone around art making can be achieved through a commitment to self-compassion.

Here are the 5 steps to motivation that I teach my clients:

  1. Make a pros and cons list. What are the costs of NOT making art? What is the worst that can happen? What do I stand to gain? Etc.
  2. Learn to recognize curiosity. “No’s” feel flat and unresponsive. “Yes’” have fireworks.  “Maybe’s have sparklers.”  Rather than ask, “WHY am I curious?” just do #3.
  3. Just do it for 2 minutes. Tell yourself you only have to start and nothing more. Renew this every day instead of committing to a long term regimen.
  4. Slather on encouragement—even if you have to say it out loud and don’t really believe it. Use positive statements that affirm your start. Acknowledge the feelings that you have surrounding art making.  Exercise empathy and compassion for those feelings.
  5. Celebrate! Notice your act of creative expression as a beneficial experience. Be your own best cheerleader.

 

When I teach these steps to clients in session, they can apply them outside of session when it is time to approach their art making.  It is exciting to hear the benefits that clients report as a result of implementing these steps and using the recipe.

I hope this recipe helps you and your clients to find the motivation to create over and over again!

 

Source: Conner, Tamlin. “Everyday creativity as a path to flourishing”,Journal of Positive Psychology, Nov. 2016 (online),www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17439760.2016.1257049?scroll=top&needAccess=true&journalCode=rpos20

 

This is how clients really change.

Aug 3, 2017 | 2 comments

Sometimes it appears that change happens overnight.  Like there is a flip of a switch and in an instant Winter has turned to Spring.  Or a client’s outlook makes a 180 and turns from unshakable despair to undeniable hope.  Or the moment appears when anger dissolves and acceptance arrives and you blink wildly because you didn’t expect it and you still don’t know what you did to help your client get there.  But change isn’t really a lightning bolt of transformation.  It is a slow process that requires space and time and sustained effort.

Creativity is the basis for change.

When we look at the idea of change in clients, we have to give considerable credit to creativity. Creativity allows us and our clients to see new possibilities. When we think creatively, we unhook from what is already known and only then can we cultivate novel ideas. Creativity is what feeds a different story, a different experience, a different sense of self.

Poet Mary Oliver explains what creativity needs in her book, Upstream. “Creative work needs solitude. It needs concentration, without interruptions. It needs the whole sky to fly in, and no eye watching until it comes to that certainty which it aspires to, but does not necessarily have at once. Privacy, then. A place apart — to pace, to chew pencils, to scribble and erase and scribble again.”

Creative thinking is part of our brain’s default mode network.  In order to light up this part of our brain, we need to step away from the information overload and noise of our daily modern lives.  Engaging creatively requires carving space in our sessions for imagining, daydreaming, or just waiting to see what comes in the silence.

So, you see change requires creativity and creativity requires space.  If we want to help clients change, we need to create space.  Space to create.  Space to think creativity.  Space to see new possibilities.

Do you create enough space for change?

I have been watching for opportunities to create more space for my clients.  It’s a really beautiful shift for me as a therapist.  It slows things down.  It invites me to collaborate from a more creative space.  And, I’m seeing some exciting and magical things happen.

Space during session:

If we go to fast, talk too much, implement a jam packed agenda we are not creating space during session.  We need to allow for silent moments and spontaneous discoveries.

How to create space during session:

  • Invite art making.  Each time a client faces a blank piece of paper or canvas, they are literally experiencing space.  Some clients find this very challenging.  The anxiety of the unknown or the “how to do it right” floods in.  If we enter the space with them and gently invite ideas, possibilities,  and reassurance we are creating space in session.
  • Invite further exploration with art.  When a client finishes their art making in session, I have found that this is a crucial moment. It is tempting to dive into discussion or explanation.  Our clients want to make contact with us and their art—to try to understand it.  But, if we create space here—in this already ripe with creativity moment—we are suspending linear thinking and inviting even more creativity.  I like to ask, “Is there anything more your art needs?”  Or I often say, “Let’s just sit with your art for a moment and feel into it a bit.”

Space for imaginative linkage between session and day-to-day life:

When a client has a new insight in session, it is not enough to simply acknowledge this novel experience.  We need to help our clients link the newness to their day-to-day lives.  We can do this by inviting them to use their creativity and imagine what the changes will look like.

How to create linkage:

  • Ask the client to imagine the new insight or skill in a variety of situations.  This can feel repetitive and slow, but it is so very helpful.  You are literally asking a client to create space in their day-to-day lives for the new skill.  If they are able to rehearse it happening in a variety of circumstances with their imagination, it is more likely to happen.
  • Ask questions instead of inform.  For example, you’ve been working with a young client to develop assertiveness and he’s been able to represent assertiveness in his art and with physical movement during session.  He’s embraced the new skill well.  Rather than inform him how this new experience could change his relationships with peers, ask an open ended question.  “How do you think this assertiveness stuff is going to impact your daily life?”  When you ask that question, you are once again, creating space for his imagination to swoop in and link his session experience to his day-to-day life experience.

Space in real life:

We need to help clients find space in their lives for change.  Creative space 50 minutes a week is great, but carving out space in daily life is a challenge that needs support.

How to create space in real life:

  • Recommend a get-away.  Summer camps, retreats, a new club are all environments that create literal space from daily life. When clients get the chance to interact with new people in new environments, they have greater permission to be different from their “back at home” selves.   I’ve had several teens return from their summer camp experiences with amazing reports.  Prior to their camp weeks, we focused on reviewing the new skills they’d acquired in therapy that they’d like to be aware of at camp.  Because the context was so different and they were free from the relationships at home that didn’t give them space to change, they had space and time to experience themselves differently.
  • Identify a specific time and space.  I’ve been asking clients to identify a time and space during their week when they could reliably allow their brains to relax into default network mode.  This might involve art making, but it doesn’t have to.  Many of my clients use the last few minutes of the day, right before they fall asleep, to imagine a video of themselves painting a relaxed, safe, or soothing canvas.

 

Our offices are havens of space in a crowded world.  When we see the role of space as it relates to creativity and change we have the privileged position of providing unique opportunities for our clients.

Bring writing into an art therapy session and be amazed

Apr 20, 2017 | 1 comment

The combination of writing and art in a session is more powerful than either activity alone. 

I’m an art therapist, and I use art in therapy.  Art making is an experience that my clients rely on to make sense out of that which is not easily translated into words.  I “speak” art and teach my clients to do the same.  Art is powerful and so very transformative.  It’s what I’ve used as a healing modality for the last 20 years.

As a result of my writing adventure in Bali with Laura Davis, I realized how invaluable writing can be as a healing experience. The power of the written word is not unfamiliar to me.  I am faithful to my journal.  I sort through thoughts and new ideas with my keyboard.  I sometimes write letters to figure out what it is I truly want to say. Writing is important to my ability to understand and communicate.  But in Bali, I connected with the experience of writing in a new way.  Writing became, for me, another creative process that, when shared with others, is a vehicle for meaningful connection. 

Since I’ve returned from Bali, I’ve been inspired to bring writing into my work with clients.  What I’ve discovered is profound.   When I integrate writing into an art therapy session, my clients’ find that their creative expressions (both the writing and the art) have greater impact.  The writing solidifies the art.  The art informs and inspires the writing.  There is a reciprocal relationship between the expressive word and the non-verbal art.  It’s as if the writing voice allows those thoughts that can’t quite be uttered out loud to appear on the page. Which then paves the way for sharing those very quiet and personal thoughts to be shared.

I have also been incredibly moved by the writing and art integration my Artspace Therapists’ Group is doing.  The deepening that writing invites makes such a difference.  It’s like adding that all important bass line to a jazz piece.  The tune was great, but with the steady driving bass, it becomes rich and compelling.  Something really worth listening to.

Here are some ways to integrate writing and art into session:

Read More… »

Do you ever let your snow globe settle?

Dec 22, 2016 | 10 comments

Art Therapy Invitation for Therapists and Their Clients

During the holidays is the perfect time to purchase snow globes.

Other times of year, they are hard to find. Pick a couple up the next time you are out shopping and bring it back to your office.  Use it, or the following art invitation to ask the questions:

Do you pause and ponder often enough?

Do you teach your clients to pause and ponder too?

 

When I asked a group of therapists to do this art invitation, it was pretty extraordinary.  They were mixed in terms of years of experience, and yet they were closely joined in the collaborative creative rhythm with which I was inviting them to engage.

As I invited them to make collages that depicted their expectations of themselves as therapists, I was imagining a snow globe newly shaken.  The flurry of magazines and scissors–their hands searching and sorting.  The mess was an amoebic mass that ebbed and flowed from the middle of the art table.

As their collage became complete, and I invited them to settle in and reflect.  The scissors stilled, the paper ripping ceased, and the silence of newly fallen snow prevailed.  The quieting was serene, and the pondering was deep. Read More… »

The power of holding art in your hands.

Oct 27, 2016 | 8 comments

Hope Filled Postcard Art Exchanged

 

I got HOPE in the mail and I held it in my hands!

I signed up for Gretchen Miller’s Creative Deed Art Challenge thinking it was a fun idea to be a part of a postcard exchange.  The theme was HOPE which made it feel comfy and cozy.  I made three postcards, infused them with HOPE, and addressed them to Australia, Maryland, and Iowa.  It felt good.  I liked thinking about my hope-filled art cruising around the country and finally landing in someone’s appreciative hand.  I enjoyed following the Facebook images of the others’ who were creating postcards and gifting their hope to the world.  I thought to myself, “This exchange thing is wonderful.  I want to do more.”

Then I started receiving postcard gifts of my own in the mail.  Through the mail slot–real paper, real art, from real people popped through and landed on the floor with such grace and beauty.  To my delicious surprise, the very same people to whom I’d gifted a hope postcard had made and sent me one of their postcards.  We were now linked.  Joined in our endeavor to spread hopefilled art and in our appreciation of one another’s wish to connect in this way.  When I first received each one I traced the texture and line with my fingers and truly honored the handcraftedness of the postcard.  I have carried the three cards with me in my planner and feel buoyed by their presence in my daily schedule. Read More… »

What the Balinese do for anxiety.

Aug 18, 2016 | 7 comments

My 2 week writing retreat in Bali with Laura Davis was an adventure, a vacation, and a profound education. I’m certain I will have many things to share as my experience becomes more integrated. But one big take away from Bali cries out to be told, honored, and even implemented here in the States.

The Balinese practice Bali Hinduism which is a unique mix of Hinduism and Buddhism. They bring strong beliefs in animism and naturism to their daily practices and make it a priority to relate to all things and beings as one. The Balinese are stunningly beautiful people. Their faces aren’t pinched with worry. Their attention isn’t a mile ahead or on what’s next. They are engaged in the moment and their wrinkles are smile lines and crows’ feet mixed with the evidence of living in nature—fully, every day. Yes, the Balinese have struggles. I heard stories of domestic violence, gambling addiction, conflict between tradition and contemporary values, and inhumane treatment of the mentally ill. But, their daily offerings practice gives me ideas about what’s missing in our culture when it comes to coping with anxiety. Read More… »

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