Tag Archives: Inner work

12 Steps to Living with the Election Results

Dear readers: I have started several posts since last week’s election results and haven’t decided which impassioned essays will live or die. In the mean time, I come bearing gifts, this one from Nicholas Kristof of the (notoriously liberal) NY Times. 

Link to complete original article

Winning While Not Winning

Back in September I applied for an artist’s residency at Big Bend National Park, an opportunity to live and work for a month in one of our largest and most remote wilderness areas, right on the Mexican border (image above.)

As I worked on the application, I gained a new understanding of why I paint the way I do:

My painting is both objective and reverent observation, a deep, active appreciation of the natural world.  My aim is to inspire others to look more deeply and develop a more profound appreciation for our world.

tulippoplarblossomsw

I wrote quite a bit about why painting on the Border would be important to me, and I’ll explore that in a later post.

I didn’t get selected for the residency. When I got the email I was mildly surprised, as if I really believed I would. In the email from the National Parks Art Foundation was a personal note that I was one of the finalists. Which felt really good.

Last year’s Artist in Residence at Big Bend was painter Dawn Waters Baker. I fell in love with her work instantly. I feel it beautifully captures what I had imagined creating at Big Bend.

Please go look at Dawn’s beautiful paintings and leave her comments if you can.

Dawn talks about ‘the emotional landscape’ –  not what is there but how we experience it, what we feel. That really comes through in her luminous paintings. They are filled with awe and a deep respect for the space. And she called the final show Reverence.

I’ve never been one who takes rejection particularly well. But this was a whole other experience. I got to know myself better by applying. I looked forward to bigger, more spacious paintings and the magic of a desert landscape. I enjoyed dreaming about how I would fulfill the residency requirements. And then I fell in love with Dawn’s paintings.

I feel complete, or pau as my Hawaiian healer friend Carol Burbank would say. It’s all good.

A Clouded View

When I come downstairs in the morning I open the door for my two critters, who trot happily out the door. They always greet the day with tails held high, so delighted to greet the world. I sip my coffee and come to consciousness more slowly.

PuppyKitty
Char (l) and Lily

In fact I’m cautious how I approach the day. Will I get it right, make progress, be successful? Or will I fail to complete enough tasks to feel at peace? Did I do well enough yesterday? Will I be ready for tomorrow? These processes are running constantly, just below my regular awareness.

Yesterday I was reading a list of affirmations from my therapist. I mentally knock them off: nah, not me, unh-uh, not for me, nope—then I come to one that hits a nerve:

“The present moment is perfect, even if I don’t like what’s happening.”

Somehow this one stops me, For a flash I see it: a perfectly beautiful world, my pets here with me, blue sky, soft green grass, the shimmering water beyond. I hear birds and feel the soft air on my skin, and think “how could I not see this a moment ago?” and with that, a shadow falls over my thinking again, doubt and judgement resume their program.

I felt a cloud of negativity lift, and I saw the world clearly, just for a moment. It was a bit astonishing. I’ve worked hard at keeping destructive thoughts at bay. I’ve learned to rely on my higher power and find peace in uncertainty.  But this – this grey film over my reality, I don’t want to see the world through gloom colored glasses!

I listened to the magical wordsmith Caroline Casey yesterday:

Expectation and Disappointment are dance partners. Better that we dwell on Willing, its dual meaning of intention and availability.”

Now that I’ve seen beyond the veil, I can’t lose this: a brighter world is right there, just behind that grey. That if I feel low, hopeless, or worthless it’s  only my old distorted view, and I can shift perspective.  That I can upgrade my thinking by deciding where to focus.

And when I forget, please do remind me!

wingcloud

To Stand Under

How do we learn to live with people who aren’t like us?

Mahzarin Benaji researches unconscious bias at Harvard. She discussed her fascinating and important research  this week on the podcast On Being.

Dr. Benaji uses the word “implicit” instead of “unconscious,” because of

“the implication that the unconscious is this incredibly motivated, smart process that is constantly trying to do things that are in my interest and shove away the deep dark secrets of my childhood that I don’t wish to remember. And the science has not produced good evidence for that.”

Her book, Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People asks the question:

“‘Are you the good person you yourself want to be?’ And the answer to that is no, you’re not. And that’s just a fact. And we need to deal with that if we want to be on the path of self-improvement.”

 

Who is ‘Other’?

According to Dr. Benaji’s findings, distrusting the ‘other’ has provided, until recently, an evolutionary advantage: discernment about who to embrace into one’s community was a useful filter in an agrarian culture.

But in today’s global world, this inner program doesn’t serve us when we are, for instance, hiring someone, or choosing the best candidate for a program. Someone who looks and speaks in strange-to-us ways is quite often the best choice. Yet those who haven’t experienced multiple cultures in a community like a university, urban life or the workplace still operate from this ancient, implicit view. This might explain some of the Trump phenomenon.

Apparently without direct experience of ‘others.’ we are not inclined to consider their humanness. In the wake of the horrifying Orlando shooting, teaching tolerance is clearly an urgent need.

Instead of the word tolerance Dr. Benaji prefers the word understandingUnderstand comes from Old English and is literally stand, read as viewpoint, and under meaning beneath or unconscious.

You are the Unreliable Narrator!

For an example of how unreliable our automatic perception can be, have a look at the Selective Attention Test video. If you haven’t already, watch the vid and follow the instructions carefully.

Are you willing to challenge your automatic assumptions?

Please share your insight!

Thanks to Univ. of Haifa School of Social Work for the header image.

defy reality: be an artist

This recent post from Chuck Wendig’s blog Terrible Minds got to me:

Nobody wants you to be an artist.

It’s for a lot of reasons. Some come from a good place — they think, hey, we want better for you. The life of an artist is hard. Be a bricklayer, a doctor, a ROCKET LAWYER, something, anything. Art is how you lose. Art is how you die. Don’t be an artist, because we don’t want to see you struggle, starve, and go mad.

Some of the reasons come from a deeply cankerous place: jealousy (“why do you get to fritter away your hours MAKING ART and I have to sell toilets?”) or misunderstanding (“art isn’t work, it’s just lazy piffle for lazy losers”) or alien menace (“ART GIVES HUMAN BEINGS HOPE AND IT MAKES THEM MORE RESISTANT TO HOSTILE TAKEOVER FROM EXTRATERRESTRIAL FORCES”).

Some governments don’t want artists because art is truth, even when couched in illusion or deception. Some schools don’t want art because how do you test art, and everything is about the test, goddamnit. Want to get a mortgage? Tell them you’re an artist and ha ha ha oh shit.

Art is a hobby, art is a waste of time, art is a thing you do when you’re in elementary school or in the retirement home. It isn’t a life. It isn’t a career. FUCK YOU, NO ARTING.

Chuck Wendig’s blog goes on to explore where his will to persist arises from. For him, it involves a lot of fierce defiance, a big don’t-tell-me-what-to-do with a lot of cursing. And, I get that, being infuriated by this ignorant culture and the stacked deck that creatives seem to face.

illustrator: Shricka

But what if that “F-you” attitude doesn’t really energize you? What if your art needs to be about connecting and caring? What if you really DO care what other people think?

To some extent Chuck is absolutely right, Nobody wants you to be an artist. There’s plenty of discouragement to go around.

But listen inside: YOU DO. YOU want to create, pursue, invent, explore.

Then get to work.

Forget perfection. You can’t control success. You aren’t anybody else. You are you. It doesn’t matter if anyone believes in you. Let their disbelief charge your batteries.

You can believe in you.

Focus on today. Not tomorrow. Not next year. Make something. Create something.

That’s the place I need to dwell. I want to paint. I live for creating. So, back to work! I have buttercups to paint. It’s great work if you give it to yourself.

How to “Not-go” to that Dark Place

“You have to not-turn to anger, not-turn to resentment.”

That advice comes from a man who spent 26 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, to kids who find themselves entangled in the juvenile justice system. He’s helping them know themselves through writing, and to learn to manage their chaotic lives and hopefully survive the system.

Stay

I was intrigued by his negative verb:  ‘not-turn.’

What is the parallel positive equivalent? My friend pointed out that ‘not-go’  is really ‘stay.’ But stay where?

I think when we’re anxious or angry or stressed, the place we seem to be in isn;t a good one. And we don’t necessarily wake up to what’s happening until we’re already reacting. If we wake up at all.

Mindfulness

So where is it we’re supposed to stay? That’s where the mindfulness comes in. In my own story, it has taken me many years to become aware of the vicious self criticism that undermined my sanity. It operated without my awareness, defeating my confidence at every turn. I looked in the mirror and I looked terrible. I created something and it was pathetic. I offered myself to people and awaited harsh criticism, because that’s what I lived with all the time, inside my head.

Clearly I couldn’t ‘stay’ there!

I’ve finally learned, imperfectly, to ‘not-turn’ on myself, ‘not-turn’ to the excoriating self-talk. In order to do this, I had to learn go back to before it was activated, so I could halt the process before it got underway. Which was tricky when I believed that self-critical voice to be a true part of me. That voice seemed so real when I began this quest. Which is why it was so difficult to gain control over.

I am Not My Thoughts

Through meditation, particularly mindfulness techniques and body centered methods, I learned to be with myself in a way that allowed me to observe the self-talk arising. It’s a process of recognizing a mind pattern and realizing that it’s ‘not-me.’

Now I have a place to ‘not-go.’

for more on mindfulness I recommend the books and videos of Pema Chodron and Eckhart Tolle

*featured image from the installation Lyon Art, the Abode of Chaos

 

 

Share Some Self-Love this Valentine’s

This beautiful card and others like it are on sale just in time for Valentines Day, in an effort to promote more genuine self appreciation.

dust-again

 

How about a self-love Valentine this year?

While it may be true that there are certain, say, presidential candidates who don’t need encouragement in this area, most of the people I know could benefit from more sincere self-appreciation.

I wrote about Terri last year in THIS POST

What if we didn’t just wait, hoping that others might notice we need love and appreciation? What if we had a day to honor the best in ourselves?  Well, Terri St. Cloud of Bone Sigh Arts posted this on her blog: “Let’s put the Heart in Valentine’s Day”.

You’ll find some heartfelt examples there. And I bet you can think of people in your own life who deserve more love and credit for goodness than they give themselves.

Let’s give it a try. First, spend a little time considering what you need, and see how you can give yourself more. More peace, more time, more love, more patience; more compassion. And look for ways to share this gift with others who need a little, or a lot, of encouragement to honor themselves.

It just might make the world a better place.

A New Year Dawns

I’ve been grumpy about the unseasonably warm weather – over 70° leading up to Christmas just didn’t feel right. But heading into the end of the year, Voila! And it’s so crispy cold that the bay has frozen.

There is a beauty to the frosted morning, a certain chilled pink and blue glaze over lawns and hills. White clouds lift from chimneys like weightless cotton candy. I don’t think of the water as noisy, but the hush when the bay freezes is palpable.

I love winter. It has it’s place in the cycle of life, for hibernation, rest, reflection. It’s a time of meditation, reading and stirring a cauldron full of veggies to warm the belly. For a cat in the lap. For contemplation and planning, for reviewing and resolving to move ahead.

skatersWelcome, winter. Thanks to the Solstice we know your time is limited. I will enjoy you while you’re here.

The Last of the Granny Witches

I come from a long line of weather witches and empaths. My foremothers are czech farmers. Deep within, we know the ancient ways.

Appalachian Ink ~ Home of Anna Wess (and Granny)

We are a peculiar breed. Our roots grow deeper than the cedars, and yet we don’t know precisely where or who it is that we grew from. We are a mystery as old as these hills themselves, and it doesn’t take much figuring to know that we are enigmas of intentional design and destiny.

gw1

God knows our names.

We are not Northerners — damn Yankees, the men folks’ Confederate influence called them — and this we know without a doubt. I myself was always preened into believing I was a Southern child, born out of notions of gallantry and romance, but the fact is, I ain’t a low country belle and I’ve never picked a shred of cotton or been to a debutante ball.

We are not peaches.

And these mountain women before us were not delicate flowers or distressed coquettes. In these old heirloom hills, the women are…

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My Shadow, the Fannibal

One definition of myself holds that I’m a kind-hearted person who shouldn’t love violent and scary stories, serial killers or for god’s sake CANNIBALS.

But, due to the mysteries of fandom, I find myself on the edge of my seat tonight, and tweeting with a few hundred thousand, maybe more, Fannibals for the finale of the NBC TV series Hannibal.

I swore I wouldn’t watch it. I didn’t like the books, and Silence of the Lambs was too creepy. I don’t need a vicious killer show to watch, life is too short. I don’t remember what changed my mind, but it was only a few months ago that I watched the pilot episode and I was hooked from the beginning.

I’ll not try to sell you on the show; it’s been cancelled, (although vigorous Fannibal lobbying may have some clout) it’s about an elegant murderous cannibal and a mentally unstable profiler who have an unhealthy obsession with one another – not everyone’s cuppa.

If I did make my case, it would sing the praises of the writers and particularly their excellent gender swapping of key characters. Also, the use of myth and alternative states of consciousness is fascinating as well. The Wendigo and antler theme are amazing and beautiful.

I would also laud the art department, including the food stylists, who work under the direction of none other than Jose Andres of restaurant fame. Everything to look at in this show is a feast for the eyes.

Well, one more surprise, for me, as I am still scratching my “I’m supposed to be a nice girl” head: I’m cleaning out folders on my Mac and find a painting from 2010 called Integration, that I created for some very deep and intense therapy work.

henkelp3intergrate

It’s very Hannibal-esque. I guess I should have known.