Monday, April 10, 2017

resiliency toolkit: create something

some things i'm currently making:  a painting, an outdoor oasis, a mala, a mural

building resiliency and regulation in our everyday lives is an essential life skill.  there are many exercises and brain games we can learn to self-regulate after stress or trauma that are taught in specialized courses (and they are amazing).

often the most effective methods of regulation are built into our everyday lives.  you are likely already doing them. being more intentional about naming them self-care and doing them on the regular (like every day) will go a long way to serve your body and soul and smooth out that hilly ride between sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.

you've seen the "how to take care of yourself lists", right?  these activities are great, but sometimes they don't appeal to certain personalities or lifestyles.  i like to think of resiliency-building occurring within four broad domains: creativity, reflection, movement, and connection.  simply define how you care for yourself on the regular within these four domains and then mindfully do them.

let's start with creativity.

i am an artist, so making art is a huge part of this domain for me.  but let me make this perfectly clear:  you do not have to be an artist or do art to be creative.  think of creativity as building or growing something positive, whether it's dinner, a poem, a garden, a song, a child, a home, a machine (you get the picture).

creating something employs the opposite energy of destruction.  so much of our stress and trauma are about things being destroyed, whether it's a carefully scheduled day or the planet.  use your creative energy to balance that. practicing creativity on a daily basis builds an inner reservoir of this energy for when destruction makes its expected visit.

using your hands, voice, and body to make and fix is also an effective way to discharge the energy of trauma.  our bodies naturally want to build and repair and help.  go with this instinct.  put your hands to use.

so...how do you get creative?

take care loves.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

sunday grace: the garden and preparing for glory


yesterday was the first perfect day of spring in virginia:  sunny, clear, clean (lots of rain earlier in the week), and a beautiful seventy degrees.  we spent the day preparing the front and back yards at gypsy hill so that they can achieve their maximum glory in the months ahead.  the work was quite unglamorous in the sense that it involved more shovels and fertilizer and wheel barrels and trash bins than flowers and lemonade.

i couldn't help but think about the work as a metaphor for life, soul, and embodiment right now:

  • where are the spots that require more digging?
  • how is the ground?  is it packed and settled so tight that it supports, but is bereft of nutrition and aeration?
  • what areas need extra nourishment?  which balance of nutritional components is optimal for current conditions?
  • what are components that may require thinning, pruning, transplanting?  how will they thrive under different circumstances?  more light needed here?  more shade and shelter for this?
  • what needs to be respectfully moved to the compost bin?  how did it once add to the beauty and meaning here?
  • who are the people who show up to do the hard, down and dirty work with you?

i'm reminded of a poem i first read in my adolescence.  it's totally corny but i still love it so much. upon reading these words at age eleven or twelve, i began to discover my first real sense of personal power and agency in the world.  

comes the dawn

after a while you learn the subtle difference
between holding a hand and chaining a soul.
and you learn that love doesn't mean leaning
and company doesn't mean security.
and you begin to learn that kisses aren't contracts
and presents aren't promises.
and you begin to accept your defeats
with your head up and your eyes open
with the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child.
and you learn to build all your roads on today
because tomorrow's ground is too uncertain for plans.
and futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight.
after a while you learn
that even sunshine burns if you get too much.
so you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul
instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.
and you learn that you really can endure,
that you really are strong
and you really do have worth.
and you learn and learn,
with every goodbye you learn.

-veronica shoffstall

plant your own garden, actual and metaphorical.
happy sunday junebugs.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

sunday (equinox) grace: how to spring detox

how to detox•mixed media on wood•lisa parks

i'm already seeing them:  the inevitable reminders that now is the time to detox our bodies with three-day juice fasts and foregoing coffee (um, no way).  i understand there are good intentions here and that some humans may benefit from these measures, but when i am inundated with these reminders, i often start to buy into the myth that there is something very dirty about me.

i'm wondering if you are like me and get really excited about the idea of a clean slate.  you may also be like me and get very motivated on "official start days" like january first, any given monday, or the first day of the season (tomorrow is a double:  a monday and the beginning of spring!).  you may also be like me and notice a rapid decline in said motivation about four days in...

i have to figure out ways to stay present with my "improvement projects".  i prefer to greet the change of seasons with a transitional approach, rather than the burn-it-all-down-and-start-anew tactic.  (plus, for many people, radical nutritional plans and even mainstream juice fasts are not designed for or are healthy for their particular body.)

for me, this softer transitional approach is needed.  here are some possibilities:
  • the most critical poison to eliminate from your body, heart, spirit, mind, and life is the toxic human. you likely know who they are, but sometimes it's hard to tell.  pay attention to that inner whisper of "that feels weird"/"hmm, they said that, but did this..."/"well, now i just need to take a big ol' nap and never talk to another person ever again"/"maybe it's me....."   there is no better time than now to set the boundaries.
  • write a farewell haiku to winter.  or write a story about something beautiful that happened this winter.
  • unhibernate.  unfurl limbs.  move the body.  scrub the skin.  breathe the air.  see the light.  dip your toes in a running stream of melting snow.  find the blossoms.

  • turn hope into action:  plant wildflower seeds, collect or purchase books for a children's club in an underserved neighborhood (here are some great recommendations), donate useful and beautiful things to your local domestic violence shelter.
  • ask yourself, how can i be more awake?  the spring equinox heralds physical awakenings, but what about the awakening of the mind and spirit?   explore limiting beliefs.  conduct a values inventory (if that sounds weird to you, hit me up in person, facebook, etc. and i'll share a simple way to clarify personal values that i teach in workshops).  are there areas of knowledge and discernment that could use fine-tuning?  how do you value and respect and love and express in this sea of humanity?
  • consume the foods of spring that celebrate where you live.  if you live in an area without a year-round farmers market, attend opening day.  i'm inspired to make a grilled flatbread pizza topped with arugula and kale pesto, appalachian cheese, garlic scapes and morels.  or maybe roasted radishes.


  • ponder the ways you can bring more lightness to your life.  that may mean switching out flannel sheets for cotton.  that may mean giving all the windows in the house a good cleaning. that may mean wearing clothing that is lighter in both texture and color.  that may mean transforming that mass of heavy long hair into a pixie cut or coloring your hair robin's egg blue. that may mean losing five pounds.  that may mean beginning a process of releasing a pattern of thought or being that keeps you heavy and dark.
  • make space.  this could done be in your physical environments such as your home or yard or office by editing out stuff and curating a more open space. or it could mean opening up your body; you might have the tendency to curl in and hug tight during colder weather so your body wants to expand.  warm up your body and try some yoga postures: pigeon to open the hips, ardha chandrasana to give your body that amazing wide open feeling, supported supta baddha konasana to open the heart and the hips.  

have a magical spring moonbeams.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

the art of self-care


i learned the hard way to make self-care a non-negotiable in my life.

now, more than ever, we must take the time and make the effort to cultivate a sense of release, rest, and restoration. we must become practitioners of stepping out momentarily in order to step back in with authentic presence.

i encourage you to make a list of ten activities that are easy and accessible for you to do on a daily basis.

here are my go-to saving graces:

  1. sit down on the ground.  breathe.
  2. do a little (or a lot of) yoga.
  3. go outside, whether it is to touch bare feet to grass or gaze at the stars.
  4. pet my dogs.
  5. make something nourishing and beautiful.
  6. smush some paint around.
  7. silence.
  8. take a bath.
  9. write or read something.
  10. get good sleep.

what are yours?

Monday, February 27, 2017

some things i'm learning


"i'd rather learn from one bird how to sing 
than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance."
-e.e. cummings

i'm a lifelong learner.  how about you?

i'm currently learning:

  • how to be a yoga teacher (currently working on my 500-hr teaching certification and it's gloriously intense)
  • how to hold space and build resilience for humans affected by trauma (by this time next week, i'll be fully certified to teach trauma-informed yoga)
  • how to house-train our newest canine love, kiki, with extra patience and love.  we adopted her and she has an unknown history, but we are suspecting some abuse or neglect history as she is super smart but is inexplicably resistant to peeing outside and chews power cords and she startles, cowers and hides when we try to address it.  
  • how to navigate the differences between co-creation, collaboration and competition in my community, while maintaining authentic connection.  
  • how to build a geo-dome.
  • how to refinish wood floors.
  • how to read tarot cards (i've been intuitively reading them for years, but now i'm getting some official training).
  • how to build resilience in communities within a context of collaboration rather than using and/or falling into the trap of the savior/hero model.
  • how to keep bees.
  • how to let go and move on with grace and good will.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

the winter of slow liberation


buried, 36"x36", mixed media on wood, by lisa parks

i started this post with the intention to check in.  because this entire winter has felt a lot like checking out.

i'm still working on my 500-hr yoga teacher training, still working on soul studio curriculum, still painting, still puttering around my house, creating and dismantling tiny altars here and there.  tiny altars for rest, for protection, for healing, for the right words, for courage, for liberation.  still sitting before those tiny altars, face dimly lit by the little flames, staring at the gathered goddesses and creatures, willing x-ray vision to animate their myths so that they inform my own story or so i can recognize my human self in them, heart slowly blooming with insight and inspiration and ideas.

still softening and opening to what my role is in this brand new world.  liberating all the seeds that were buried.

.  .  .  .  .

in other news, artist liz kalloch's tools and talismans series is featured in issue no.4 of amy butler's blossom magazine.  the entire issue is stunning.  my own tools and talismans, beautifully rendered by liz, are shown on pages 150-151.  see the entire issue here.