Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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Class Reminder: Liquid Polymer Clay Bookmarks & Art Tag Class

There are a few seats left in my Liquid Polymer Clay Bookmark and Art Tag class is this Friday, October 1, 10:00am to 2:00pm at Ink About It in Westford.

Here is the class description:

In this class, you will learn how to create bookmarks and art tags with liquid polymer clay. First, you will learn how to use liquid polymer clay as a resist with rubber stamps to create art tags. Then we’ll explore how to make polymer clay paper with multiple thin layers of liquid clay. We’ll stamp, color, and embellish the polymer clay paper to create personally inspired bookmarks. You will leave class with several art tags and bookmarks.

And the materials list:

Most materials provided by instructor. Please bring a Staz-On ink pad (black or brown; gold if you have it), 3-4 favorite rubber stamps, scissors, apron, or smock, and basic tool kit. If you have the following, please bring them to class: 3-4 light color alcohol inks (Pinata or Ranger), 3-4 acrylic paints in squeeze bottles (Lumiere or Ranger), Mod Podge or gel medium (regular/soft), an acrylic brayer.

Cost: $40

Here are samples of the bookmarks and art tags we’ll make in this class:

Bookmarks with polymer clay paper
Art Tags with liquid clay resist
Liquid Polymer Clay Bookmarks and Art Tags

You can register for this class by calling Ink About It or stopping in and signing up in person. Hope to see you there!


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Artist Demo, Art Exhibit and An Interview

Artist Demonstration

On Sunday, June 13, I am demonstrating how I create my artwork in polymer clay at Fruitlands Museum as part of Fruitlands 2010 Artisan Series.

I will show you how I create my Klimt and Craze Collage patterns as seen on my business card cases, perfume pens and wine bottle stoppers. I will also demonstrate how I sculpt both my primitive and more realistic spirit messenger heads. To help me explain the sculpting process, I put together this storyboard.

Head Sculpt Storyboard

The demonstration runs from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm

I will also have free mini-bookmarks for people who stop by and a listing of my current workshops.

Art Exhibit

Sunday will be a full day. After my artist demonstration, I head over to the Nashoba Valley Winery for my art guild’s artist reception. The Bolton Artisans Guild has a new exhibit, Summer Dreams, on display at the winery. Summer Dreams captures the colors and memories of summer in the several mediums, including photography, fiber, polymer clay, paper, watercolor, and jewelry. The exhibit runs June 6 to July 5, 2010. The artist reception is Sunday, June 13, 3:30-5:00 pm. Light snacks and a wine tasting will be provided.

An Interview

Last Monday, I was interviewed by the Bolton Common for their Uncommon Conversation feature article. The interview appeared in this week’s edition and is available to read online here.


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Synergy2 Kick-Off Event and Day 1

Synergy2 Kick-Off

It is hard to believe that two years have past since the inaugural Synergy event sponsored by the International Polymer Clay Association (IPCA). This past week I was in Baltimore taking in the fun and excitement of Synergy2 Exploring Connections.

I took my laptop with the intent of writing a synopsis each night. Right; that obviously did not happen. I got as far as writing two and a half sentences. Fatigue tends to set in early after a full day of seminars and socializing. So, instead of an “as it happened” update, I’m giving you a review of what took place during the conference.

Ford and Forlano

Synergy2 kicked off with a presentation by Steve Ford and David Forlano, better known as Ford and Forlano (or City Zen Cane in their early days.) Ford and Forlano have collaborated for over 20 years. In this presentation, Steve and David shared how their working relationship began, how it has evolved, and how they’ve maintained it over the years. They agreed that it is like a marriage with its ups and downs. Not only is this collaboration significant for the length of time they’ve worked together, but since 2006, they’ve worked separately with Steve residing in Philadelphia and David in Santa Fe.

A slide show accompanied their presentation which showed the evolution of their work. It was amazing to see the transformation of their art and the growth and development of their style. 

After their presentation, Charm City Cakes presented this amazing cake in honor of the IPCA’s 20th anniversary. It was quite tasty.

Synergy2 Day One

On Thursday, the seminars started. I attended seminars by Nan Roche (Inspiration from Scientific Imagery), Lisa Pavelka (Build Your Brand), and Barbara McGuire (Incredible Lightness of Learning). In between the seminars, two presentations were scheduled.

Collecting Polymer

The first presentation “Collecting Polymer” featured Elise Winters and Bruce Pepich. Elise is a pioneer in polymer. Bruce Pepich is the Executive Director and Curator of Collections at the Racine Art Museum (RAM) in Wisconsin. Together Elise and Bruce are working to debut a permanent polymer art exhibit (the Polymer Collection) at RAM. Elise and Bruce shared how this dream exhibit became reality. Bruce shared pictures of RAM, explained the museum’s philosophy, and discussed his exhibit aesthetic.

As with many artistic endeavors, money is needed to make bring this event to fruition. Please take some time to read about Bruce and the museum here, read about the collection here and here, and then consider making a donation in support of this exhibit here.

Intentional Evolution

In the afternoon a panel discussion was moderated by Jeff Dever and featured Rachel Carren, Bruce Pepich, and Kathleen Dustin. The panel discussed the evolution of polymer and how to push the medium to the next level. The pertinent points I took away from this panel were to:

  • increase the public’s exposure to polymer via education
  • view polymer as an alternative material that is used as a medium of expression versus technique
  • improve polymer’s credibility as a medium
  • have a vision and direction when using polymer
  • cross-pollinate polymer with other media
  • refer to the medium as “polymer” (and remove the word “clay”)

For more impressions on Synergy2, check out Libby Mill’s blog and Polymer Clay Daily


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Expectations

It is bound to happen in every artist’s life that you experience a customer who is, well, difficult. Now you can define “difficult” any way you want. In my case, it means when a customer places an order but then cannot meet your expectations of payment for said order.

I’ve been extremely fortunate in my art business that I have never had to deal with such a situation until now. The closest I’ve come to playing “collections officer” is requesting past due payment on a couple Net 30 orders. And that situation was resolved without difficulty.  Perhaps it is part and parcel with the economic times. Earlier this year one of my wholesale customers closed the doors to her store. It was sad to hear that she had to close her business.

This situation, however, was a challenge for me because I don’t like confrontation. In fact, I don’t really like the word “confrontation.” (The word just conjures up images of anger and frustration.) But anyways, I truly dreaded dealing with this issue. When you’ve lived a good part of your life as a people-pleasing-I-don’t-want-you-to-be-angry-with-me human being…let’s just say it takes a while to prime the engine, swallow your weeniness, and make that call. No one likes to be a hardass.

But this is a business and in business expectations are set. When you receive an order, you expect that payment will be received under whatever arrangement you and the customer have agreed upon. In turn, the customer expects that you, artist, will deliver your product in a timely manner or under whatever schedule you have agreed upon.

Sounds pretty straightforward and not complicated, right?

Sigh.

To prepare for this situation, I set an intention for the conversation. I used my tingshas to help clear the stuckness I was feeling. And then I made the call. In a nutshell, I set a final, firm due date for payment or I cancel the order.

No one wants to do this. You really do want the customer to get their order. You really don’t want to lose the money. But you also need to stay true to your expectations.  At some point you can only be so accommodating. I keep reminding myself that this is part of business; the good and the not-so-good. But it still sucks.

Here are a few things I’ve learned from this situation:

  1. Set your expectation up front and early. I relied on a previously agreed upon payment plan that worked well the first time and not so well this time.
  2. Follow-up. Don’t let too much time pass between conversations. The “out of sight, out of mind” motto rings true in these situations too.
  3. Rehearse what you’ll say, set an intention, and don’t get angry. Money is an emotional trigger. Don’t feed into your frustration or the other person’s frustration.
  4. Don’t take what they might say personally. Don’t react to their words; just be neutral. Sometimes it is better to say nothing.
  5. Accept that the outcome may not be what you hope for. Not every situation has a happy ending. Don’t dwell on it. Learn from it and move forward.

Though I’m not sure what the final outcome of this situation will be (cue the voice-over: “Will the money be received? Will the order be canceled? Will someone tell me why I’m talking this way :-)”) I feel better knowing that I handled it professionally and with confidence.

What has been your experience in dealing with these situations?


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Who Does She Think She Is?

Quick, name five female artists.

How did you do? Who did you name? Were you able to name five?

ten?

or maybe only three?

This question is posed to several people during the movie “Who Does She Think She Is?”

Most people can’t name a single female artist.

A group of us, all women and all artists, attended a special viewing of “Who Does She Think She Is?” as part of a fund raising effort for the Maynard Cultural Council.

I think I counted 2 men in the entire audience. Maybe 3.

That is a curious observation.

Yes, “Who Does She Think She Is?” is a movie about five female artists. But it is also a movie that talks about society’s perception of women artists and the challenges women face when we wish, no, when we MUST embrace our creative, artistic calling.  All five women in the movie are married and have children. All five women struggle with their roles as artists, wives, and mothers. And not all of their situations have a happy ending.

This is not Hollywood.

The movie reminds us of the role that women used to have in society, before we became a patriarchal, westernized society. Women were leaders and goddesses and powerful. Women presided over tribal events. Women were the glue that kept society together. Women were “cultural muses.”

And somewhere along the way, our role was diminished.

Thanks guys!

(Okay, I know that isn’t true in all modern day situations. I know men who are very supportive of the women in their lives.)

The reality is, however, that in many cases, artists (male or female) are not considered part of the fabric of society. Remember just earlier this year some members of Congress refused to endorse stimulus funds for art groups and organizations because that “doesn’t help create jobs.” We just paint, draw, sculpt; you know, play around but don’t do anything “serious.” And for women this is often even worse.

Statistics presented in the movie reveal that while women often are in the majority in art classes, it is men who make a name for themselves in the field. When it comes to exhibitions at major museums, the majority of exhibits feature art work by men. Is this because the subject matter may be “too feminine?” Is this because those who make the decision on who exhibits are predominantly men? Do women simply give up?

On the home front, it isn’t always better. We see relationships develop and fall apart. We see women striving for independence and the role support, communication, and economics all play in this scenario. I was struck by one artist’s comment that she works and creates in isolation, that no one in her church or at the schools her children attended knew she was an artist. (Of course this film probably changed that!) Another artist compared her situation to being in the woods, alone, and the wolves were circling. Support and networking is another theme that is present in the movie.

“Who Does She Think She Is?” provides insight into the lives of five female artists as they pursue their artistic goals, the roads they’ve traveled, the heartache they’ve endured, and the successes they’ve achieved. Interspersed is commentary by Dr. Maura Reilly, Curator of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art (Brooklyn Museum), Doctor and author Leonard Shlain, attorney and social scientist Raine Eisler, among others.

I left the movie feeling inspired, empowered, and a little depressed. I found myself shaking my head in agreement to statements made in the film, my eyes welling with tears as I felt the pain and sorrow several of the women expressed, and I wanted to cheer as they achieved some level of success and stood fast to their goals, hopes, and dreams.

Regarding the lack of men in the audience; Like I said, the title of the movie implies that this is a “chick flick” and on some level it is. But this is also a movie that should be seen by men (partners, husbands) and women (artist or not), parents, and sons and daughters. It is a learning tool on the lives of modern day artists. It is a learning tool on following your dream and embracing your creativity.

So I ask you Who Do You Think You Are?

To read more about Who Does She Think She Is? and for information on upcoming screenings, click here.


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What A Drag It Is Getting Old

Ah yes, that lovely Rolling Stones song. Next up, the Beatles “When I’m 64.”

The past couple of weeks have left me feeling like a creaky middle-aged woman. (Okay, so I am middle-aged according to some statistics but I don’t like the “creaky” qualifier.) Normally I’m an upbeat positive person. A recently published study even showed that positive, happy women have better health that our cranky counterparts. (I wonder if you can be both?)

What I’m getting at is a literal pain in the a**; the sciatic nerve, the largest nerve in our body that courses from your lower back, through your butt, and down your leg. My sciatic nerve introduced itself to me back in the 90’s when I worked as a Speech-language pathologist at a rehabilitation center. I remember feeling a twinge on my right side. The physical therapist gave me some stretches for my right glute and IT band. I figured the twinge was due to all the years of lugging around therapy materials in a bag slung over my left shoulder which in turn caused my right hip to stick out further to the right. (You’ve seen this posture on any woman lugging a large purse or satchel over her left shoulder. It looks kind of like a distorted S.)

Flash forward several years to late 2003 and early 2004. I’m now having a vise grip like pain in my right glute, the back of my thigh, around my calf, and, for good measure, tingling in my foot. These pains don’t happen all at once all the time. They can be selective and zap you in two out of the four locations. Sometimes they happen while I’m walking. Sometimes when I’m standing. But by late 2003 it is getting really uncomfortable to stand for any length of time; sitting helps but even then the pain sometimes persists.

Our yoga teacher at the time recommended a local chiropractor. Now chiropractic services was not something I was crazy about. I remember the negative attitude expressed by some physical therapists at the mere mention of a chiropractor. I was a little skeptical but also realized I needed to do something. So I scheduled an appointment.

At this appointment I learned that my sacroiliac (SI) joint was twisted. It was literally twisting back and down and impinging on the sciatic nerve. Just writing that makes me feel sore!  But that first adjustment was like a miracle. I walked out of the doctor’s office pain free. I was amazed. I came home and slept for at least a half hour. The stress I was carrying in my body had been released and I finally allowed my body to relax.

I was put on a program of weekly visits that turned to every other week and eventually progressed to treatments as needed.  Cool; this seemed to be working.

But now that pain is back. The reality is it never truly went away. An adjustment here and there was beneficial to relieve the pain temporarily. But after some time the SI joint would twist again and the pain would return.  In the last couple of months I’ve had pain not only on my right side (the original spot) but also on my left side. It might be there when I walk, run, sit for too long or sleep on my side. I’ve stopped going to yoga out of a real or imagined fear that deep twists might throw the joint out of whack. I use a “knee pillow” at night to keep my hips level. Can traction be far behind?

You know how sometimes your body pokes and yells at you until you really, truly listen? I believe that time has come.

For several months I’ve been trying to figure out what is really going on here. I believe the SI joint is twisting. I can feel a difference in the level or height of my hips when I lay flat. One side is definitely lower or back further than the other side. But what is causing the joint to twist? This must be more than simple “weakness.”

I decided to refer to a book I bought a while back, “Muscular Retraining for Pain Free Living” by Craig Williamson. Mr. Williamson is an Occupational Therapist and developed a form of therapy called Somatic Integration. Mr. Williamson believes, and I agree, that we often develop ingrained, dysfunctional patterns of muscle use. We might hold one side of our body tight when walking due to past trauma. A musician might contract a muscle when playing which in turn causes pain over a period of time. How many of us sit at the computer and develop neck pain because of the way we hold our heads and tighten our neck muscles?

The problem is we’re usually not even aware we’re doing this with our bodies. The key is to become aware of our bodies, of the kinesthetic movement, and to teach our muscles the proper way to move. In essence, we need to learn new movements (the correct ones) which will help the muscles relax and decrease or eliminate the pain.

A potential disadvantage to this approach? If you’ve been moving incorrectly for a long time, it is going to take some time to retrain the muscle.

I had a chiropractor appointment on Tuesday. Today I started reading Mr. Williamson’s book and tried out a few exploratory exercises. Just practicing how to walk in a relaxed manner, feet and ankles soft, heel to toe, and really feeling the ground relieved some of the minor muscle tension I was feeling.

So perhaps I am getting old and creaky (or is that cranky?), but if I can retrain my muscles out of a few bad habits, getting older won’t feel so bad.

If you’ve had similar experiences with a twisting SI joint or sciatica I’d love to hear how you’ve dealt with it.

Please note that I’m not negating the services of a chiropractor. I believe alternative forms of treatment are indeed beneficial and should be used in conjunction with traditional medical practice. What I do think is essential in any practice is that we treat not only symptoms but causes as well.


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Dream of a Lifetime

The blog will be quiet for a while as I embark on a dream of a lifetime experience: a workshop at La Cascade in Durfort, France.  I’m nervous and excited about this adventure. I will be computer-free for most of the time as I want to immerse myself in the experience. In the meantime, you can check the links below to read about La Cascade and Durfort.

To read about Durfort, visit this page and this page.

To read about La Cascade, visit this page, this page and this page

And to see more pictures and information from this area, visit Dayle’s blog here.

A bientot mes amis!


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A Most Auspicious Day

dalai-lama

Today was the realization of a dream.  Today I attended two lectures by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. The event was sponsored by the Tibetan Association of Boston. It was a wonderful experience.

I have admired the Dalai Lama for many years. He is a wonderful spiritual leader who embodies so many traits that I try to embody: compassion, empathy, wisdom, humor, realism.

The day started with an introduction by Dr. Lobsang Sangay and a performance by Nawang Khechog. Then with a traditional Tibetan welcome, the Dalai Lama entered Gillette Stadium. As he entered the stadium I felt tears of joy fill my eyes. The love, admiration and respect that filled the stadium was palpable. The drone of horns in the Tibetan welcome music vibrated throughout my body.

Following a welcome address by Congressman Bill Delahunt and the presentation of gifts, the Dalai Lama began his first teaching on the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism.  For this first teaching, the Dalai Lama sat upon a Tibetan throne constructed especially for him. The throne was hand carved by Kunga according to traditional Tibetan Buddhist standards.  It was detailed with intricate Tibetan motifs and symbols of good wishes.  It took Kunga two weeks to construct half of the throne.  In its completed state for today, the throne measured 9 feet high from the ground and four feet wide.  It was adorned with silk brocade.

His Holiness sat on the throne cross-legged. It was overcast and a little windy, so the Dalai Lama took part of his robe and pulled it over his head like a hood. Then he affectionately told those in the front rows how windy it was and recommended they put their hats on as well.

Prior to discussing the Four Noble Truths, the Dalai Lama posed three questions for examination: “What is the Self or I?” “Is there a beginning?” and “What is the conscious mind?”  As he spoke I found myself nodding my head in agreement several times.  At other times I was a bit overwhelmed with the discussion and wished we could take more time to parse the words in order to understand his wisdom.

Following his presentation on the Four Noble Truths, a prayer was offered. The Dalai Lama explained the seven steps that those who are Buddhist practitioners must follow as part of the offering of gratitude, including prostration. He requested that those in attendance who were not Buddhist practitioners be witnesses to this ritual, to ensure that it was followed by the practitioners including himself.

The we took a lunch and entertainment break.

The afternoon was a public talk on The Path to Peace and Happiness.  Here the Dalai Lama sat on a large, comfy chair near the front of the stage. He endeared himself to the audience once more by donning a baseball cap with the Patriot’s logo on it (Gillette Stadium is the “home” of the Patriot’s football team.) By now the sun has come out and it was becoming warmer. So warm in fact that an aide to the Dalai Lama brought him an umbrella for shade. And the Dalai Lama paused momentarily to find his sunglasses in his bag.

In the public talk, the Dalai Lama made several pertinent statements:

Everyone has the same right to a happy life.

Spirituality can be defined in two ways; faith and religion or the basis of a universal value not necessarily in a religious faith.

We create our own problems.

And the path to peace and happiness is found in universal values such as compassion, respect, affection, and warmheartedness.

A clip of the Dalai Lama’s visit can be seen here

****************************************************************************************************************************************************

The Dalai Lama truly embodies these universal values. Yet he is also human and admits to his foibles such as frustration and moments of anger. He encouraged us, when we are in times of frustration, fear, and doubt, to look within ourselves. To find the positive alongside of the negative. To see the beauty and similarities in each other, for we are all one people.  We are, in our essence, all the same.

Compassion can be put into practice if one recognizes the fact that every human being is a member of humanity and the human family regardless of differences in religion, culture, color and creed. Deep down there is no difference.

-His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama

Namaste


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Simply Brilliant

You may be aware that President Obama is scheduled to give the commencement speech this year at Notre Dame.  He will also receive an honorary degree.  Because President Obama supports a woman’s right to choose and because of his stance on stem cell research, the university has received numerous complaints regarding his appearance.

A Harvard Law professor was also extended an invitation to attend Notre Dame to receive the prestigious Laetre Medal which honors a Catholic layperson who exemplifies the ideas of the church. The professor has declined the award and the offer to attend the university because President Obama will be in attendance and she disagrees with his opinion on a woman’s right to choose, stem cell research, and the fact that Notre Dame invited him to be the commencement speaker and that they will give him an honorary degree.

Regardless of your personal beliefs, I’ve always felt that we, as a country, must learn to respect each other’s opinions whether or not we agree on a particular topic.

This situation was summed up brilliantly by Rev. Kenneth Himes, chairman of the theology department at Boston College:

“There are some well-meaning people who think Notre Dame has given away its Catholic identity, because they have been caught up in the gamesmanship of American higher education, bringing in a star commencement speaker even if that means sacrificing their values, and that accounts for some of this.  But one also has to say that there is a political game going on here, and part of that is that you demonize the people who disagree with you, you question their integrity, you challenge their character, and you brand these people as moral poison.  Some people have simply reduced Catholicism to the abortion issue, and, consequently, they have simply launched a crusade to bar anything from Catholic institutions that smacks of any sort of open conversation.”

While Rev. Himes speaks specifically to the situation at Notre Dame, I feel it applies to just about any situation we find ourselves in today. Remove a few words and insert the topic of your choice.  Remember how divisive the Presidential election process was last year?  Think about how you react when someone states an opinion that you disagree with.  Do you demonize the person or group you disagree with, question their integrity, or challenge their character?

I’m not taking the high road here as I’m just as guilty as the next person for doing what Rev. Himes describes. It is through his words, however, that I hope to recognize when I start to react that way.

And kudos to Rev. Himes for presenting a logical and rationale synopsis on this form of gamesmanship.


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More Weekend Reading: Link Sharing

I saved some links from last week in order to share them in this Friday’s weekend reading post. Others are from this week’s Twitter tweets. (Say that five times fast. ‘That, that, that, that, that.’) Must be the first day of spring. I’m feeling a little silly.

Unschooling Leads to Creativity and Passion: This interesting article from Ode magazine really resonated with me. I’ve always felt that our school systems often contribute to the stagnation of a child’s creativity. While this article doesn’t speak directly to schools, it does speak to parents who need to encourage their child’s passion and interests by following them and supporting them in whatever those interests are. Check it out here

Creativity Booms During Recession: This interesting article was tweeted by Alyson Stanfield. The topic: putting together an exhibit inspired by the recession on a shoestring budget. A hopeful sign is that an exhibit based on the recession is a one time event. Read on here.

Dialogue: I was recently pointed to the blog Design for Mankind which features dialogues via video on “the realistic side of living a life of creativity.” This particular post features several artists and freelancers discussing the current economic climate and how they are coping. It is one thing to read about commonly shared situations but seeing and listening to the dialogue can be even better. Watch the video here.  And if balance is a frequent challenge, watch the first Dialogue video here.

Why Make Art: Greater Good magazine devotes the winter issue to art: art and education, art, kids and creativity, the healing affect of art, and more. Read Greater Good here.

Using Down Time: How do you make use of these down times? Seth Godin explains on his blog two ways we can use what he calls “slack time.” Don’t just twiddle your thumbs or watch another cat video on YouTube. Use down time to your benefit. Start here.

Juried Art Shows & Transparency: If you’ve applied for an art show or exhibit opportunity you know the outcome: you get in or you don’t (or waitlisted if that is an option.) David Castle writes about the question we’ve all asked ourselves at one time or another when we receive a rejection letter, why don’t we know how the jury came to their decision. What do you think? Should the jury process be more transparent? Read David’s post here.

On Ego: The wonderful Patti Digh shared this link to an article by Ron Rolheiser on Humility, Ego and Greatness. Many of us have read how our ego is what keeps us down, keeps us fearful, and keeps us from moving forward by being an inner critic. Rohlheiser makes a good argument that ego is not necessarily a bad thing. We need our ego to cradle our self-awareness and self-confidence because a strong ego is what helps us accomplish great things. The difference is that having a strong ego does not mean one is without humility. What do you think? Can we have an ego and humilty too?