Monday, December 29, 2014

the art of attention

i experience a lot of resistance.  it's that complex but often oversimplified phenomena that looks something like this: i want/need to ______; but i'm going to do everything else that is possible to do on this good green earth of ours and in this good green head of mine to avoid ______.  resistance pops up for me on a pretty regular basis.  i have resistance to doing my work.  i have resistance to exercising and eating nourishing food.  i have resistance to personal accounting and records-keeping. i have resistance to housekeeping.  sometimes i have resistance to taking a shower.

i even experience resistance with activities i love:  yoga, creating, writing, walking with my dogs, cooking, gardening, spending time with friends.  some days it feels like i am resistant to life.  

i have done a good deal of work in the past year becoming more aware of when i am experiencing resistance.  more work is needed to increase my understanding and to start breaking through it in meaningful ways.  this year my friend and master yoga teacher cyndi lee will be helping me address my resistance to yoga through discussions that we will publish in a collaborative series of blog posts.  

i wanted my word for 2015 to reflect my movement through resistance, to be a little anchor for me during this year. what is the opposite of resistance?  how would the antidote to resistance be described in one word?  i went through discipline (too rigid), practice (all i could hear was my mom nagging me to sit down at the piano and do my scales), action (made me want to take a nap), focus (feels like a work word), many renditions of "go with the flow" like fluidity, water, river (these began feeling way too loose than what i'm looking for).  by the way, if you are interested in a peek into my own special brand of resistance, the one i employ hundreds of time throughout the day, reread this paragraph.  it just happens to be overthinking.

sunday at 2:30am, i lay awake with an unusual touch of insomnia.  i wanted to read but didn't want to turn the light on and really didn't want to leave the warm bed.  so i grabbed my kindle. you guys, i even have resistance to my kindle.  good books that are stored on there have been neglected.  i've since abandoned my trial period of electronic reading and returned to the paper book, but i admit that it comes in handy at times like this.  

i turned on my device and navigated my way to the last bookmark i placed back in april:  chapter sixteen of karen maezen miller's hand wash cold.  chapter sixteen is about consistently showing up every day to do the work of our lives, attending to the details and maintenance of our ordinary lives.  

it is about attention.

hello word.

hello 2015.

"attention is the most concrete expression of love.
what we pay attention to thrives.
what we do not pay attention to withers and dies.
what will you pay attention to today?"
-karen maezen miller, hand wash cold: care instructions for an ordinary life

Friday, December 26, 2014

be the soul

a few of my favorite words magically strung together by rumi are, "wherever you stand, be the soul of that place."

this is my fifth year of collecting (the now ubiquitous) foot self-portraits.  this simple practice really does serve a purpose for me.  when i stop what i am doing to document where i am at that moment, my presence and awareness and groundedness intensifies.  the end-of-year collection is also a lovely lookback at some of the places i've stood and some of the moments i want to remember.

twenty-fourteen was made of color, flowers, farm markets, making, forests, new friends, books, dogs, yoga, and tiny adventures.

i'm happy i was here to experience, to be, the soul of it all.

more of the same please in 2015.  and these feet, they need to touch sand washed by the ocean called pacific.  they long to stand upon the motherland and be the soul with her sunsets and her tide pools and her fog and her wildflowers.  there is a clear call to be with my own history.

see previous years here.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

sunday grace

though my soul may set in darkness
it will rise in perfect light.
i have loved the stars too fondly
to ever be fearful of the night.
~sarah williams, the old astronomer

on this winter solstice, wishing you just enough darkness to see the stars
and perfect light to illuminate your beautiful life.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

sunday grace

"stretch in the direction of goodness, of bigness, of kindness, of forgiveness, of emotional bravery.
be a warrior for love."
-cheryl strayed, tiny beautiful things

it's 6:30 on sunday morning.  already today i have been led to the edge of judgement and preachiness by a barista who had the annoying ability to be boop-boop-be-doo adorable (cue twirling pinkie in cheek and babydoll eyes looking coyly to an unseen object in the upper left corner of the room) and completely dismissive at the same time.

my impulse was to lay her out, tell her what was what in the big girl world of you-are-being-paid-to-exercise-that-thing-called-customer-service and you cannot treat customers (or fellow human beings) like this, in a way that i feel frighteningly entitled to do.  i wanted so badly to teach her a lesson she would never forget.

this is my automatic pilot when situations are uncomfortable for me:  to wield my sardonic i-know-better weapon, fully loaded with words that will pierce you, hot and quick.

instead, recognizing that the stunned moment we experience in the face of unexpected rudeness is the moment of choice rather than the moment to rally the troops, i take a breath and choose to let it go.  i feel the wash of empathy for all the experiences she will have that will repeatedly nudge her to do the work of her life and relief that this is not my responsibility or privilege.

thank you for the practice, adorable barista.  thank you for the lesson i will never forget.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

a week in color {№16}

honestly, it's been a few weeks of color capturing, but still.    i'm loving all the green and gold with flashes of pink that are happening in my life.

my friend jessica collected and sent me some beautiful guinea feathers from her father's farm in texas. they were promptly placed in kwan yin's winter crown.

i love when shops veer away from those bright red plasticvelvet bows, which i have never understood, and toward beauty.  christmas doesn't have to be red and green.

speaking of veering:  my market had peonies the other day.  it was totally environmentally irresponsible of me, because they had to have traveled all the way from the southern hemisphere, but i could not help myself.

i am totally addicted to european hot sipping chocolate (think rich hot cocoa with a near-pudding consistency).  i made my own the other day, infused the cream with cardamom, and it turned out quite lovely.

even though my wrapping paper collection is rivaling the mason jars as the primary evidence in my involuntary commitment hearing, we decided to use up all those old new york times arts sections to wrap christmas gifts this year.  tied up with a simple gold curling ribbon.

the influence of saturday night fever on my early artistic eye is showing; it's all being painted gold.

stay gold loves.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

sunday grace

bedecking the house is my favorite part of december.  when i was a child, we would pick out a tree and dad would pull down the christmas decorations from the rafters in the garage during the week of my birthday.  it always felt like these activities were meant especially for me.  when we were finished i was overwhelmed by the beauty of the house and there were stirrings of things to come when i would wonder, why can't the house always be this festive?

it's no wonder i feel spiritually connected to illumination and the scent of the forest.

over here the tree is up and lit and holds one hundred vintage shiny brites.  kwan yin has been goldened and festooned with balsam fir and stars and bells and feathers.  there are tiny christmas altars scattered about.  the spirit and lightness is incredibly grounding.

there is deep gratitude for this sense of comfort and warmth and ease.  that there is no need for vigilance or over-preparing or making things busy brings unparalleled permission to rest with both eyes shut.  i am once again reminded that beauty and faith exist in the everyday, in the ordinary.

grace softly scents the entire house.

"grace isn't about having a second chance; grace is having so many chances that you could use them
through all eternity and never come up empty.  it's when you finally realize that the other shoe isn't going to drop, ever."

-shauna niequist, bittersweet:  thoughts on change, grace and learning the hard way

Thursday, November 27, 2014

tiny memoir: san francisco 1994

the layers of heat and smoke in the room mock the layers of cold and fog out on the street.

with each step my boots stick and softly rip away from the floor as i make my way through the sea of bodies to the little table against the wall.

on the stage, the man she loves is giving voice and rhythm to his poetry, gentle and fierce, full of joy.

the music and the crowd drown out our voices, but lifetimes speaking the secret language of girl friendship allow us to understand every word we say to each other.

later, homeward bound, we cross the bridge and slow the car to look back at the city.

like our young selves, it’s lit up in the distance, golden and complicated and spectacular and one-of-a-kind.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

sunday grace {and gratitude}

a golden lotus lamp hangs upside down over the dining room table and illuminates the space. sometimes i sit here in the soft focus of the early morning light, just before the sun peeks over the east side treeline and floods every corner of this room with brightness.  i just sit.  and in a practice of gratitude i take it all in, the mental inventory of goodness and abundance, of all the needs met.  i whisper thank yous and recognize the incomprehension of how this all happened and quickly swallow that always-present chaser of enjoy-it-while-you-can-because-things-can-change-at-any-second, that tastes somewhat like unworthiness.

Friday, November 21, 2014

a week (or two or three) in color {№15}

the last brilliantly colorful, sunshiny autumn day.

goods from our local holiday vintage market.  we have such talented artists here in loveburg (i've added a new local linky area to my sidebar if you're interested).

finally, a green drink that doesn't make me spike, crash and burn.  inspired by the glowing green at little green hive: one banana, one cup frozen mango, two cups spinach, one cup almond milk (maybe more), one scoop amazing grass.  blend until smooth and spinach is emulsified (i.e. no little green specks).

if i had just one free wall in my house, i would have snatched all of these paint-by-number panels that were stacked two feet high in a junk shop.  because a wall of paint-by-number!

the christmas stuff is appearing bit by bit on gypsy hill.

i have a little interview in the current issue of mabel magazine.  it's kind of surreal to see bits of your life in print and a little intimidating to be included with artists and creatives you admire.  the magazine is full of stories and images to inspire and uplift.  stef and liz are doing such a remarkable job with this magazine (and their introduction to the interview made my heart glow).  plus, doesn't luca look so handsome?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

sunday grace

life is a spell so exquisite that everything conspires to break it.
{emily dickinson}

Saturday, November 15, 2014

creative gatherings: a guide for introverts {part two}

a common myth in our culture is that introverts do not like being with people.  introverts love (or dislike) other people the same as extraverts.  as we discussed in part one of the guide, being in large groups for prolonged periods of time is energy-depleting for introverts and we aren't naturally skilled at and don't enjoy small-talk or chitchat.   introverts feel the same human emotions of connection and belonging and have desires to be with people who share their passions, it just might be necessary for us to manage those situations a bit differently.

most creative retreats where artists, writers, seekers, poets, yogis, photographers want to gather are going to be brimming with introverts.   because an introvert's comfort zone is internal and reflective, we tend to fancy the arts, writing and other inner-focused or inner-sourced endeavors.  of course there are many creatives who prefer extraversion with whom we will be retreating or workshopping, but generally you can count on more introverts attending a creative retreat than, say, a noisy and crowded social event where the primary purpose is to mingle with mostly strangers.

but even though we can count on a large number of introverts being present with us at creative retreats, we still have to manage the social aspects of the gathering.  this starts way before we get there.  the good news is this requires a bit of research, something most introverts enjoy.

know your retreat
spend a good amount of time here to gather as much information as you can about retreat options so that you can make the best decision for you and your creative and introverted needs.  i recommend doing a lot of online research.  peruse the retreat website and participant blog posts about the retreat (usually there are links on the website).  how is the overall feel of the retreat described?  what kind of classes and activities are offered?  what are the images communicating to you?

email or call (who are we kidding?  email.) the retreat organizer to gather more information about the energy of the gathering.  how many participants will there be?  what do the social activities entail? what about the schedule, is there downtime/freetime space?  are there places and spaces and opportunities to seek solitude?

talk to friends or connections that have attended retreats.  i like to get an introvert's perspective and an extravert's perspective.

consider the type of retreat.  writing retreats (or gatherings where writing is a primary activity) are probably going to naturally support more introversion.

most retreats are going to have social and extraverted activities.  this is good!  it allows you the opportunity to flex your balance muscles and practice extraversion.

here is a list of retreats either i or a close friend have attended which create space for introverts and extraverts to gather harmoniously:

animyst gatherings
be present retreats
call of the wild soul retreats
creative joy and taos writer retreats
life is a verb camp (this one is on my radar for 2015)
lucky star art camp
squam art workshops

this list is in no way exclusive, there are many many retreat options out there.  research away!

think about your own privacy preferences when it comes to lodging
thoughtful organizers are going to ask for your preferences when it comes to arranging lodging. usually this looks like a question or questions on your registration form about your privacy/social preferences and whether you prefer a single room or to have a roommate.  i have experienced a variety of lodging arrangements at retreats: roommates, single rooms, and staying off-site.

don't automatically rule out the roommate situation.  i've been incredibly blessed with the luck-of-the draw when it comes to retreat roommates (hello sarah and mindy) and housemates and most have become lifelong friends.  you may have the option to request a specific person to be your roommate and the retreat organizer will manage the final arrangement, taking the other person's preferences into account.  you might also want to contact the organizer to talk about how they do their roommate matchmaking and how/if you can help them make a good decision for you.

it's a good idea to let your roommate know you are introverted and you both can come to an agreement about sharing space harmoniously.

a single private room in a house full of people is a good option.  i've chosen this option before and it provides for a good balance of social interaction with privacy.

recently i had the opportunity to attend a retreat while staying offsite.  i attended the regular workshops, meals and evening activities of the retreat, but then left the site to sleep in a private house (this might also be a hotel room). this option allowed introverted me to feel less chained to the site.  i tend to need more alone-time in the morning, so it also allowed me to delay socializing by having my coffee, thinking and morning meditation, then arriving on site shortly before workshops began.

the price i paid for this option was that i missed out on some of the (intoverted-preferred, more intimate) conversations and connections that tend to happen around the retreat site/house at night and in the early mornings. and i really did miss that.

consider how travel options might affect your introversion
the ideal travel situation for my introversion is to drive, by myself, to and from the retreat.  this solitary time gives me plenty of introverted downtime to store energy for the upcoming retreat and to restore energy after the retreat. another option is driving partway by myself and picking up a fellow retreat participant on the way.

flying is another common option for transportation  let's consider how flying generally affects introverts.  even though there are a lot of people in airports and on the plane, there is little social requirement to interact so introverts tend to be okay with flying.  however, you are always taking the chance of being seated (captured) next to someone who needs to talk to you throughout the flight.  when i don't want to talk, i put my earbuds in (before i enter the airport) even if they are not connected to my devise.  this gives most people the subtle cue that i am not open to conversation right now.  hint:  i do this while shopping as well.

if your anxiety increases with flying, consider that we tend to cling to our preferences (introversion or extraversion) under stressful situations.  remember, this is our comfort zone, so it's our automatic happy place.  if you are stressed or anxious for other reasons, your introversion may be exaggerated and interaction may seem more depleting than usual.  we become even more introverted and extraverts become even more extraverted.  carl jung called this phenomenon being "in the grip" of our personality; it happens with the other domains of our personality as well (the other myers-briggs letters).

get a job
where do you find introverts at a party?  in the kitchen.  introverts love to have a little job during social events.  kitchen jobs and other opportunities to help the host give us a break from the responsibility of group interaction.  there may be an opportunity for volunteering or even work-study at gatherings. ask your organizer.

make preparations for your return
before the retreat is the time to think about re-entry (that weird hard time between retreat life and real life).  once you've selected the prefect retreat for you, remember you are going to need time and space to recover energy after the retreat.  this is especially important for introverts.

part four of this guide will focus exclusively on re-entry.  but at this point, when we are choosing the retreat, we need to consider location and dates and our own schedule and real-life responsibilities and give ourselves some buffer time here.

part three will cover how we can care for ourselves during the creative gathering.  it will be up in a week or so.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

sunday grace

because of the dog's joyfulness
our own is increased.
it is not the least reason why we should honor
as well as love the dog of our own life,
and the dog down the street,
and all the dogs not yet born.
what would the world be like
without music or rivers or the green and tender grass?
what would this world be like without dogs?

-mary oliver, dog songs

Thursday, November 6, 2014

creative gatherings: a guide for introverts

it took a bit of courage, borne of sheer desperation to be in the company of artists, for me to attend my first art retreat in 2009 (i went to learn from this beautiful soul specifically, and ended up connecting with and learning from so many more).

i am an introvert.  and i hadn't been in a large group setting such as this since the notorious girl scout camping incident of 1975 which ended with introverted and depleted me, hiding, completely zipped up in my sleeping bag, being "danced" on by fifteen vivacious, (probably) extraverted 11-year-old girls.

large groups are not the preferred social setting for introverts.  but creative retreats, those days-long immersions into art, fun, friendship and relaxation in amazing locales, tempt and toy with our solitary inclinations.  i know well the challenges of going and being there.  i know that some miss out on the experience to avoid these challenges.  with a little awareness and planning and a heap of self-care, introverts can and should flourish at creative retreats.  i hope this guide is helpful for you.  i hope to meet you soon, in person, with your camera or your words or up to your elbows in a rainbow of paints, glowing the glow only you can bring to creative community.

part one:  understanding introversion

i imagine that if you are reading this, you are an introvert.  i hope that a few of you are extraverts; a future section of the guide will include tips for our extraverted kindred and how they can create and play together with introverts at gatherings.

the definitions of introversion and extraversion i use in the guide are based on the myers-briggs type indicator (mbti), which is grounded in carl jung's classic and brilliant work on human personality (and why i spell "extraversion" with an a, instead of an o).  the mbti, when processed mindfully, is such an amazing template for self-awareness.

you may also define yourself as an introvert or an extravert based on our popular cultural understanding of the terms and that may or may not fit into the jungian definitions.  so that we all start on the same page, let's begin with some foundational descriptions of introversion and extraversion.

in the jungian paradigm, the dichotomy of introversion--extraversion describes how we glean and direct our energy and attention.  it's not about being shy or outgoing; a loner or a party girl (although these attributes may be present with both introverts and extraverts).  humans can and do behave in both introverted and extraverted ways, just not with equal levels of comfort.  in the same way we are capable of using both our right and left hands, we have a natural-born preference for one or the other.

jung believed that we are born with and do not change our preference over time.  as we develop throughout our lifetimes, our awareness of who we are increases, we can become more adept at using the opposite preference in our lives, flowing and flourishing outside of our comfort zones.

people are often surprised to learn that i am an introvert because i publicly behave in extraverted ways.  for the most part, i am confident and relaxed in social situations.  public speaking is a primary responsibility of my job. introversion and extraversion are about how we navigate groups of people, company, conversations, relationships, human interactions, but even more about how we recover from those interactions.  extraverts are energetically fed by outward interaction; introverts are energetically depleted by those same interactions and must recover with quiet, solitary space and time for reflection.  after a week of teaching, i have to hibernate.  an extravert with the same job might happily continue socializing through the weekend.

here are a few more general distinctions:

introverts are naturally focused on the inner world of ideas and images.
extraverts are naturally focused on the outer world of people and things.

introverts need space and silence to re-energize their bodies and minds.
extraverts need human interaction to re-energize their bodies and minds.

introverts prefer to interact with people they know.
extraverts prefer to interact with all people, strangers included.

introverts prefer fewer, more intense/intimate relationships.
extraverts prefer many, less intense/intimate relationships.

introverts tend to dislike and avoid small-talk.
extraverts adeptly use the art of brief conversation in an effort to connect with as many people as possible.

introverts like meaningful and intimate one-on-one conversations; depth of relationship.
extraverts like to (and can) work a crowd; breadth of relationship.

introverts need time to gather their thoughts before speaking and prefer to know you before self-disclosing.  they can be hard to know.
extraverts are naturally friendly and often verbally skilled; talking is a way they process their thoughts.  they are easy to get to know.

in the absence of understanding, introverts can seem boring, secretive or snobbish to extraverts.
in the absence of understanding, extraverts can seem shallow, intrusive or attention-seeking to introverts.

still an introvert?  excellent.  introverts are so awesome.

to thrive creatively and in community with other creatives, we start here:

  • we must develop an understanding of our true types.  do you really prefer introversion?  is there a possibility that you may truly be an extravert who was "mislabeled" due to shyness or social discomfort?  
  • understanding that introversion--extraversion is just one dimension of our unique personalities. there are other jungian/mbti factors to consider that impact how we express our introversion. we'll touch on this a bit in later posts.
  • no type is better or worse than the other.
  • we have to understand and embrace our type.  we can't become another type.  we can (and must) move outside of our comfort zones and practice other type expressions to be a fully expressed human and operate harmoniously with the rest of humanity.
  • introverts have to know and apply their own individual needed level of self-care.
  • introverts must become adept at creating their own emotional and energetic boundaries.  we live in an extraverted world and no one is able to do this but ourselves.

in the next post in the series we'll take a look at different types of creative retreats and learn how doing some research and planning before we retreat can set the scene for an amazing retreat experience.  look for part two in a week or so.

if you are interested in knowing your full myers-briggs personality type, i recommend you work with a trained and certified guide.  the free internet quizes don't provide the level of understanding required to find your true type or explore the complexities of human personality, or guarantee you are taking the actual and full instrument.  there is an official online option here; just remember it is ideal to work with a facilitator in order to discover your true type.  sometimes, the only option we have is to do the mbti in our "day job" setting.  the corporate energy/setting may pose some nuanced complications for you.  this is why i am creating myers-briggs for artists.

my friend and extraordinary coach meg worden has an amazing offering that may be just the thing your introverted self needs to softly float through the upcoming weeks:  surviving the holidays with gravy and grace:  for introverts, martyrs + nerds.  

(image captured at 2013 creative joy retreat.)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

serendipity {№3}

last week i spent a few days on the beautiful outer banks of north carolina and attended my third art retreat there. this was a year i expected to go without the space and grace of a creative kindred gathering, but the stars aligned and a few of my work classes were cancelled during the week of serendipity.  i couldn't attend the full time of the retreat, but i fully lived two days of love and creativity and stayed offsite in a lovely and peaceful home.*

i spent one day writing in a circle led by two remarkable women, amy and maya, the founders of food for the soul train.  the writing exercises were powerful and we all brought our courage and love when it was time to share our words.  i loved that the deep intensity of the writing was lightened by humor woven throughout, an egg-in-spoon relay race on the lawn, writing in the sand and making tiny books, maya-and-amy-style.

my second day was spent soaking up the goodness of artist alena hennessy.  the way alena welcomed us and created a warm and gentle space was so lovely and inspiring.  when i attended my very first art retreat in 2009, the painting class i signed up for was the scariest thing on my schedule.  five years later, thanks to many talented and gracious teachers, painting is where i feel most myself.

as always, words seem a bit hollow when trying to describe retreat time.  so i will let photographs tell the story.

some serendipity loveliness:

amy and maya.

my wind-whipped dress finishing my sand sentence for me.

letting the ocean take the words.

making tiny books.

brilliant songbird chelsea making her tiny book.

a prayer.

these words, spoken by maya.

these colors.

beautiful, soulful alena at work.

one of my paintings (photo by alena).

little miracles.

tiny b, serendipitied.

nags head being perfect in october.

a morning mandala meditation that turned into the sacred blue heart of seaglass mary, created with bits from dawn's collection, with the help of a purring muse.

at serendipity if you wander too long on the beach at sunset and the colorful houses start to look the same in the dimming light, you can always find your way back.

listen for the laughter.
look for the twinkle lights.

other moments (of so many) i want to remember:

  • creating with lavi, sharing space with her in both classes.
  • the time in painting class when we were all absorbed in our own work, the ocean roaring outside the doors, and we spontaneously began singing along to mumford and son.
  • holly's radiant face beneath her woodland crown.  
  • chelsea's song about her parents' marriage.
  • the vibrant orange butterfly that just appeared over stevie's head while she was talking about transformation.
  • jen lee and tim manley and the art of friendship.
  • the relatively sedate atlantic ocean, behaving like my wild pacific.
  • jessica.  we connected briefly at serendipity 2011, had a facebook friendship for three years and it was like we completely knew each other, like we've been friends for years.  i love it when that happens.
  • that this is what happens in this far flung community of kindreds:  we share physical space for brief moments, each year if we are lucky, but once connected, we share heart space forever.

previous outer banks art retreat love here, here, here and here (last two are squam-by-the-sea).

*this was the first time i stayed offsite during a retreat (almost always a registration option) and i noticed how this supported my introverted self even if i still missed some of the togetherness and new-friend-making that comes from staying in the retreat houses.  i'm pulling together a future blog post with some observations and tips for introverts while art retreating.  i know the large-groupness of it all can be a challenge and that some introverts might avoid the experience altogether, which is truly a loss for all of us.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

autumn in yogaville

when we get a bit overwhelmed with all the fear/blame/hate swirling around us in the "real world", we head to yogaville to clear our heads and hearts.  you can hike, meditate, yoga, contemplate, love and just be in the beauty and serenity of this remarkable space.

yogaville celebrates the world's religions and spiritual practices:  "truth is one, paths are many."

this is the stuff of yogaville:











we carry all these things with us but sometimes they feel buried too far beneath the world's imprint to access.  yogaville pulls them to the surface and reminds us to work to keep them there.  this often happens when we practice them every day no matter the view.

more yogaville love here and here and here.