Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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A Year of Mindfulness: Eliminate Filler Words

Each Monday during 2012 I am sharing a mindfulness practice based on Jan Chozen Bays’ book How to Train a Wild Elephant. You can read more about the book and mindfulness here.

Last week’s practice was Leave No Trace which essentially means to pick up after yourself before you leave a room. How did you do with this practice? My big challenge with this practice was cleaning up in the kitchen. I have a tendency, especially during the day, to let the dirty dishes collect in the sink.

With this practice I found myself not only cleaning the dishes instead of letting them sit in the sink, I also dried and put them away. It did feel pretty good to get everything cleaned up and out of the way instead of letting it linger. The one caveat to this practice: my studio. I may pick up a little bit, here and there, after I finish for the day. But cleaning up completely? Nope.

This week’s practice: Eliminate filler words. Oh boy, this could be a real challenge. Filler words, such as “um,” “you know,” “like,” etc permeate our conversations today. Some say it is because we’re afraid of silences in conversation, so instead of silence, we use a filler word. Some say it is because we’ve become lazy in our speaking skills. And others may say that these filler words “fill in the space” while we think of the word we’d really like to use.

Whatever the reason, filler words are an unconscious habit that can be difficult to change. That is the challenge this week. Eliminate filler words.

Reflection: I think you’re all enlightened until you open your mouths. Zen master Suzuki Roshi


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A Year of Mindfulness: Leave No Trace

Each Monday I am posting a mindfulness practice based on Jan Chozen Bays book, How to Train a Wild Elephant. To read about last week’s practice, visit here.

How did you do with the first practice, using your non-dominant hand? I found that eating with my left hand was not too troublesome, though I did the practice primarily at breakfast which is usually a less challenging meal. However, when it came to brushing my teeth, ugh!

Using my non-dominant hand to brush my teeth required that I slo-o-o-w way down. I felt like a little kid learning a new skill. After some time, big brother right hand wanted to take over and “get the job done.” And I think that was the point. To slow down, to take notice of the experience, and to feel the movement & sensation of the activity.  Something we take for granted these days because we’re always rushing around, moving from point A to point B, and not paying a lot of attention to what we’re doing.

Pretty neat trick.

This week’s practice: Leave No Trace.

The goal of this week’s practice is well, um, to clean up after yourself. Pick a room, like the bathroom or kitchen, and leave no trace. Instead of putting off the picking up of stuff (your dirty clothes, doing the dishes, etc), do it sooner rather than later.

Reflection: Each time we bring to routine activities an awareness of ‘now,’ we raise our vibratory frequency and cause the freshness of the moment to fall upon us. -Dr. Michael Beckwith


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A Year of Mindfulness: Use Your Non-Dominant Hand

Around Christmas I started reading the book How to Train a Wild Elephant  by Jan Chozen Bays, M.D. This book had crossed my path a few times over the past few months, showing up in email newsletters and catalogs. When I saw it on the shelf at Willow Books, a locally-owned bookstore, I felt like the Universe was telling me to finally buy the book.

The premise of the book is to use mindfulness as a way to reduce stress, improve health, and improve quality of life. Jan Chozen Bays, a physician and Zen teacher, developed a series of practices to help us cultivate mindfulness in our daily lives. These simple practices, one for each week of the year, are presented in this book.

Chozen Bays defines mindfulness as deliberately paying FULL attention (my emphasis) to what is happening around you and within you-in your body, heart, and mind. Mindfulness is awareness without criticism or judgment. She then explains the importance of mindfulness, the benefits of mindfulness and some misunderstandings about mindfulness.

The Benefits of Mindfulness

1. Mindfulness conserves energy by reminding us “not to fritter our mental energy away in trips to the past and future, but to keep returning to this very place, to rest in what is happening in this very time.”

2. Mindfulness trains and strengthens the mind because it helps us “become aware of the mind’s habitual and conditioned patterns of escape and allows us to try an alternative way of being in the world.”

3. Mindfulness is good for the environment. “Mindfulness involves resting our mind in a place where there is no anxiety, no fear….Relaxed, alert awareness is the antidote to anxiety and fear, both our own and others’. It is an ecologically beneficial way to live a human life; it changes the atmosphere for the better.”

4. Mindfulness creates intimacy because “mindfulness is a deceptively simple tool for helping us to be aware. We have to open our senses, becoming deliberately aware of what is going on both inside our body and heart/mind, and also outside in our environment.”

5. Mindfulness stops our struggling and conquers fear because it “helps us stay present with experiences that aren’t pleasant.”

6. Mindfulness supports our spiritual life. The tools of  mindfulness “are an invitation to bring attention to the many small activities of life.”

Week 1: Use Your Non-Dominant Hand

As I work through this book, I will share with you the mindfulness practice for each week on Mondays. Some may be easier than others. Some you may already practice. I invite you to try each practice or those that speak to you. Share your thoughts about the practice if you like.

To start us out, the first practice, as mentioned in the subject of this post, is to use your non-dominant hand each day for some ordinary task. Examples include: brushing your teeth, eating, or writing.

Reflection: To bring possibilities into your life, unfold beginner’s mind in all situations -Jan Chozen Bays


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Sketching: Making It A Practice

Well, it didn’t take too long before I faced potential boredom with my sketching. In the days after returning from France, I looked around my house and thought “what is so interesting here that I’d want to sketch it?”

There-in lies the rub. It isn’t so much a matter of what looks interesting to sketch, it is a matter of making it a practice no matter what the subject matter. If the only reason I sketch is because the subject is interesting, I would’ve quit long ago. (And, in fact, I did quit sketching, several times in the past.)

This is when I had the bright idea to use themes or topics as my basis for sketching. Deciding on a theme or topic is a challenge in itself, however, it seems to be working for now.

The “What Do I Want To Sketch?” Phase

Glass Vases

Pear

Remote

Meals

Sunday breakfast

Salad

Breakfast bowl

Place setting

Cloth Napkin

Flowers

Sunflower

Globe Thistle

Did you know that Globe Thistle are made up of multiple tiny five petal flowers, like tiny stars? One of my favorite flowers and I never looked so closely at them until I tried to draw one.

Bee Balm

Another favorite flower whose petals sparked an idea in my head for an art doll.

Until my next post,

A bientot.


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The Daily Head: Jumpstarting My Creative Mojo

As the result of several disruptions and interruptions in the studio the last few weeks, I realized the other day that I’d lost my creative mojo. Between the health issues, the ice dam damage, cleaning the studio, moving out of the studio, back into the studio, and then out of the studio again, I was beginning to feel like I didn’t want to engage in anything creative. I didn’t want to start a project only to have it sit because I couldn’t get at my tools. I found myself languishing over the computer, puttering on Facebook, sending emails, watching TV.

Most of disruptions and interruptions were out of my control. I had a mini-meltdown during part of the craziness, which may have helped me release some negative energy, but it wasn’t going to change the situation or fix it any quicker. I’d get my head back in a better place, start grooving on some artwork, and then have to stop for one reason or another.

Somewhere in all of this, I also started to feel like my art was “too serious.” That I couldn’t just goof on it, let loose, and have fun with it.

Over the weekend, I was struck with an idea. Boing! I needed some way to jump start my creative mojo, something that wouldn’t take too long to do and that would let me play around at the same time. And preferably it would be something that held my interest, especially if I’m challenging myself to do it everyday.

And so was born THE DAILY HEAD

I like sculpting heads. I can usually sculpt one in an hour or less, especially if I’m not heavy into detail. Sculpting heads allows me to be playful in their creation. And I’m not limited to sculpting. I could draw one, paint one, photograph one. The variety of media available is probably endless. That’s a good thing if I’m going to do this on a daily basis.

This also gets me to be a little more consistent in my blogging.

Now I don’t promise perfection in this challenge. I may miss a day here or there (or several if I’m out of town.) But the idea isn’t to achieve perfection. It is to allow me to play and to remember why I make art.

So with all that in mind, here is THE DAILY HEAD for today:

Polymer clay head

Daily Head 4/4/11

This little guy is about 1.5″ long, made from Super Sculpey mixed with a bit of gold clay, sanded, washed with white acrylic paint, and buffed.


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Roman Pillar Face Earrings

In the run up to the Bolton Artisans Guild’s 7th annual holiday show this weekend, I found myself playing around with the idea to make earrings.

Yes, earrings. Something I have not done in several years. Perhaps it was working with the students in my Polymer Clay Boot Camp class that triggered this idea. Or maybe it was my desire to try something different.

Whatever it was, I did indeed find myself sketching an idea for earrings. Earrings that were inspired by our recent trip to Italy and influenced by the ruins of Rome and all the sculpture.

The result are these Roman Pillar Face Earrings.

Roman Pillar Face Earrings

Each earring features a face taken from a mold of one my hand sculpted faces or from one of many face molds I’ve collected over the years. The face is mounted to a background of textured pearl and black clay and framed by a rope of twisted black and white clay. After curing and sanding, I applied a patina of black acrylic and then buffed each piece to a nice sheen.

The earrings are 1.5″ long and .5″ wide.

I created two pairs with each face. What I found intriguing was that even though a particular face mold was used multiple times, no two faces ever came out the same. Each pair has its own personality and distinct qualities.

Venetian Mask 1

Venetian Mask 2

Roald 1

Roald 2

Buddha Face 1

Buddha Face 2

Creating these earrings has been a lot of fun. It feels good to create something different from my usual small scale sculptures. Sometimes stepping out of the box and trying a new (or returning to an old) format can ignite ideas for future work as well.


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Standing at Water’s Edge: Chapter 7

Connecting with the Audience and Meeting Deadlines

The final chapter in the section on relationships deals with the artist’s relationship with the audience. Dr. Paris starts this chapter with the following sentence:

The difference between artistic self-expression and creating a work of art is engagement with the audience. In creating a work of art, the artist is reaching out for the audience, attempting to convey or communicate feeling, experience, or idea. The artist is hoping to touch the audience in some way, to elicit a certain kind of response from them.

And the nature of our engagement with the audience throughout the creative process is largely determine by what perceptions we have about the audience. Such perceptions can include what they need and want and their expectations. Are they appreciative, approving, admiring? Or are they critical, hostile, withholding?

Where do these assumptions come from? From our previous experience and encounters with audiences. Positive experiences cause us to anticipate future positive responses; likewise a poor experience will cause us to anticipate that the next audience will also be critical. And when the experience was negative, we may stop our creative process or deny that the audience’s response matters at all.

This reminds me of the belief that if you’re rejected, the problem isn’t you; the problem is with the audience, the jury, the gallery owner. While this may be true in many cases (e.g. your contemporary art isn’t a good fit with a country theme show), we still take this rejection personally on some level.

In addition to our previous experiences with audiences, our assumptions about what to expect with and from others can be traced back to childhood.  According to Dr. Paris, new research on parent-infant interaction suggests that the way parents relate with their child forms the child’s prototype of relationships throughout life. That is, early interactions with parents organizes the child’s assumptions about what to expect from others. So a child who has regular and frequent moments of shared enthusiasm with his/her parents comes to expect this response and feels safe enough to allow immersion with others.

If our original interactions with others involved feelings of rejection or dismissal, we have the potential to develop more positive interactions but only if we understand how our reflexive positions help to re-create and maintain old patterns.

Dr. Paris also briefly discusses “parallel identities” where a child/adult is secure in his/her artistic relationships but insecure in his/her personal relationships. This often occurs when a child begins artistic expression and performance at a young age, develops confidence while performing, but cannot transfer those same feelings to personal relationships.

Maintaining Self

“The ultimate challenge in engaging with an other…is retaining our own sense of self while still responding to the needs of the other.”

Here Dr. Paris refers to our ability to maintain a balance with our audience. Do we concern ourselves with self-preservation, that is “I do what I do and the audience can like it or lump it.” Or do we only meet audience demand, that is “What I do is only as valuable as the audience’s response to it. I must give them what they want.”

While we may bounce from one extreme to the other, as creative types we cease to be truly creative if we merely fulfill a formula for audience approval. This belief can be applied to more than just a creative, immersive experience. Consider how you feel if you do anything in life just for someone’s approval.

Deadlines

How we deal with deadlines depends on several factors, including how we experience boundaries, especially those imposed by others and how a deadline is presented. Imposed deadlines can feel inhibiting; they become something to resist and rebel against. If the “deadline-imposer” is perceived as insensitive or unreasonable, we may feel paralyzed by the deadline. If the “deadline-imposer” offers support, we feel strengthened and supported.

Creating our own deadlines can be a way to reduce resistance. We do not feel at risk of being controlled by an outside force and we may view the deadlines as “helpful containers for our creative process.” Personally, I know I work better with deadlines, whether set by my self or set externally by an other. However, it is often easier to fudge a self-imposed deadline because an external force is not controlling the deadline.

Finally, Dr. Paris states that deadlines can be experienced as incentives; small, bite-sized, manageable chunks that help us remain engaged in the creative process and to fend off overwhelm. A reward along the way (chocolate chip cookies or taking a half-day hike?) or a celebration of your achievement at the end (hot fudge lava cake or a massage?) can’t hurt either.

Guides

Dr. Paris offers three guides at the end of Chapter 7 to help us understand our relationship with audiences.

1. To explore our assumptions about our audience. Make a reality check about your assumptions. Are these assumptions based on past experiences with audiences or based in previous experiences in personal relationships?

2. Set your own deadlines. With externally imposed deadlines, create your own smaller deadlines within the allotted time frame.

3. Break projects down into small chunks. If breaking a project down into manageable chunks isn’t your thing, break the project down into time frames. Setting time limits is another way to contain anxiety. Spend 30 minutes on a task and if you can’t immerse after 30 minutes, call it a day.

Join Me

I invite you to join me as I read Standing at Water’s Edge. You can purchase the book through Amazon, Dr. Paris’s web site, or perhaps find it at your local library or bookstore. My goal is to post every 7-10 days a summary of the chapter and share any a-ha moments that occurred. I welcome your comments on this and successive posts. Share your a-ha moments and experiences while reading the book. You can join in at any time. If you have a blog and are also writing about your experiences with this book, please include a link to your blog in your comment. I’ll include your blogs at the end of my posts.

Book Outline

Standing at Water’s Edge is divided into three parts with 10 chapters as follows:

Part 1: The Secret World of Creativity
Chapter 1: The Secret World of Creativity
Chapter 2: The Light and Dark of Immersion

Part II: Relationships
Chapter 3: The Need for Others
Chapter 4: Finding Strength in Mirrors
Chapter 5: Finding Inspiration in Heroes
Chapter 6: Finding Comfort in Twins
Chapter 7: Connecting with the Audience and Meeting Deadlines

Part III: Stages of the Creative Process
Chapter 8: Approaching Immersion
Chapter 9: Diving In
Chapter 10: Coping with Disengagement and Reentry


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Just Tell Me What To Do

As part of this transition period and potential new journey, I asked a dear friend if she would do a Tarot card reading for me. We used a lovely deck called the Tarot of Transformation by Willow Arleana and Jasmin Lee-Cori. Out of the three decks presented to me, this was the one I was most drawn to. And I could definitely feel an energy from the deck in both of my hands as I shuffled the cards, spread them on the table, and repeated my question over and over in my head.

We did a three card spread which included reading the interpretation of my chosen cards, asking questions, and lots of discussion.

Now I know the intention of doing a Tarot card reading is to assist or guide the receiver as she deals with the situation that lays before her. That is why the cards are interpreted and questions are asked. The cards are not supposed to tell you what to do, though perhaps the cards might confirm something you already know deep inside.

And that is part of what this reading did for me.

But oh how I wish they would just tell me what to do!

I come from a long line of years of doing what has been expected of me (don’t we all, especially women?) or doing things based on other people’s advice or suggestion. So to think about truly doing something because my inner voice is rising up and poking at me and getting antsy with me is scary and overwhelming.

What if I fail? What if this still isn’t the right thing to do? What if I really don’t know what I’m doing? What if…what if…what if…

Smudging

Last week at the health food store I bought a 3-pack of mini-smudge sticks.  Smudging is a ritual common among Native American tribes that involves burning a bundle of sage, cedar, or sweetgrass and gently waving the smoldering stick around the area (or person) to clear negative energy. You can read one explanation about this ritual here.

I’m not sure what prompted me to buy the sticks that day but I’m glad I did as I used one of them yesterday to clear my studio. I chose a sacred white sage bundle, lit it from the flame of a candle, and as it started to smolder I walked around the studio asking for the negative, old energy to be cleared and to welcome new energy and creativity.

I cleared all four corners of the studio and my desk area. In the process I also cleared the space around me as the smoke had a tendency to envelope me as I moved about the studio. When the ritual was completed, I extinguished the sage in a small polymer clay bowl filled with sand and set both items on my altar.

Poor Pippin wasn’t too happy with this ritual. He laid on the floor the whole time watching me move through the studio. When I was finished and I bent over to pat him, he scrunched up his little furry face and seemed to say “Mommy, you smell funny.”

The scent of the white sage stayed in the studio for quite some time. While it was a little overpowering at first, I gradually got used to the smell and found it rather soothing.

More Messages Along the Way

One of the cards in the Tarot spread indicated that I need to spend more time in prayer, meditation, and in opening up to my intuitive nature and awareness. Going away on vacation took me out of that daily schedule/structure I had started. I did return to my seated meditation yesterday after almost three weeks of absence. It can be so hard to get back into this habit, even though I know it is good for me. It is like restarting (or starting, for that matter) an exercise program. Certainly a few minutes in silence is better than nothing. And I’m returning to reading my affirmations and writing daily in my gratitude journal.

Ironically, my Daily Om horoscope for yesterday was titled “When Opportunity Knocks.” One line in the horoscope said “It may be that an optimistic mood coupled with the belief that your prospects are thriving has opened your eyes to avenues previously hidden from you.” and “…consider reexamining your current goals so you can be sure that they are reflective of your aptitudes and outlook for the future.”

On Twitter, two quotes caught my eye:

Don’t deny your “gut feeling” it could be your calling trying to keep you focused on what’s important. (posted by Paul Peixoto)

Today’s Practice – Let go of the need to explain yourself. (posted by Jackie Walker)

Perhaps these are more small messages for me to become aware of on this journey.


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Starting Over

…And all you want to do is stay in bed.
…And all you want to do is nothing all day.
But if you do that you’d be missing the world
because it doesn’t stop turning whenever you want.
You have to get up, get out and get gone
…and have some fun
…and get living

The Cure
“Gone” from Wild Mood Swings

I was completely exhausted by 6pm this past Saturday after the completion of my second art show in two consecutive weeks. That shouldn’t be any surprise as this second show was an event that I helped organize for our local art guild.  Compared to preparing for the Paradise City show, our guild show was relatively easy. I just didn’t realize how low I was starting run and it all caught up with me on Saturday evening.  As they say “Stick a fork in it…it is done!”

The curious thing that happens, though, after putting so much energy into these events is the post-show let down. All I’ve wanted to do for the last couple of days is sleep. My energy and motivation to get much done as been pretty low. I know I should heed what my body is telling me.

I think this let down is more intense, however, as several other events also drew to a close this week.  My seven weeks in Christine Kane’s Uplevel Your Life Mastery Program ended on Sunday. My 16 week Creativity Coaching training course with Eric Maisel also winds down this week. So many things ending at once. No wonder I want to sleep.

During these last few weeks I let slide several other things, like blogging, cleaning and clearing the clutter, Twittering (okay, maybe not such a bad thing to not spend a lot of time there) and some emails. My focus was singular: shows and shows.

One thing I’m not doing is beating myself up over the slippage. It doesn’t do me or anyone else any good. So I let some things slide; life happens. And now I start over.

Starting over began on Sunday by completing my weekly Sunday Summit which I didn’t do during all the show prep. This is a great little tool that asks you several questions about the previous week. You review your accomplishments, your blocks, you do a little self-coaching, and then you set priorities for the coming week.

Monday I returned to clearing and cleaning by setting aside 30 minutes to repack all my show stuff. Normally I might let that sit for a week or more. Not this time. This afternoon I’m sitting here looking at a nice clear studio floor. I have a few sniggly bits to clean up but otherwise everything is put away until the fall shows. Getting that stuff out of the way feels really good.

Continuing along the clearing and cleaning line I finally completed the list of donation items I’m giving to the Arts Alliance. I intended to deliver these items early in May. Ouch; talk about procrastinating. I’ll pack up those goodies as soon as I finish this post. Another item checked off the list.

With the end of the Uplevel Class, I’m going back to Day 1 and starting the course again. I plan to re-read one lesson each day. I’ve blocked off time to review my affirmations twice a day and am trying to return to daily journal writing at night. The summer is a great time to work on some new habits.

There are a few events coming up that I need to get ready for as well: submitting pieces for the Canvas Project, working on my submission for the Historical Interpretation Exhibit, and, most importantly, my trip to Southern France for a workshop with Dayle Doroshow.

I’m starting to feel more awake now and am definitely ready to start over, start again, and keep on plugging along.


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Day 8 of 37

8ball1

Today is day 8 of my 37 day challenge. A week ago today I decided to reduce the amount of sugar in my diet. This has mainly focused on sweet treats and candy that I love to eat as a snack or for dessert, especially chocolate.

The first few days went well though I wondered if, in my quest to decrease the amount of sugar, I was instead replacing sweets with salty treats. When I last wrote about this challenge I’d recently stuck my nose in the candy jar and inhaled the chocolate smell from the candies. That alone was enough to satisfy my craving at the time.

My dedication to this challenge over the weekend faltered. It started on Saturday when I had an organic chocolate toaster pastry for breakfast. Granted it had “organic sugar” and not the usual corn syrup or high fructose corn syrup content. But my decision had been made and I ate it. About an hour or so later I felt exhausted. Is it possible to start eliminating sugar only to re-introduce it and have it fatigue you? I mean only 6 days had passed. Was this my body reacting to the chocolate toaster pastry?

Or was it the fact that we’d been to see Tower of Power on Friday night and didn’t get to bed till after midnight on Saturday morning? Perhaps it was a combination of both.

Later in the day my dance with chocolate and sugar continued when we had a cup of hot chocolate after returning from errands. Again, this was an organic chocolate and sugar mix. But chocolate is chocolate and sugar is sugar (this was not stevia or anything like that.)

It really tasted good but an hour or so later my body had another reaction. Hmm….

I knew Saturday would continue to be a challenge as we were attending the 60th birthday party for our friend Bruce. I knew there would be a birthday cake. Sure enough, the batter was half chocolate, half white. And oh the white frosting and frosting balloons. Yes, this too tasted good.

Sunday I again felt exhausted and had to take a nap in the afternoon. Another late night on Saturday plus a bit more sugar than I’d had in recent days.  Coincidence? Who knows.

What I do know is that there are certain days of the month when being without sugary sweets is much more challenging than other days of the month.

So Sunday, day 7, was my day to regroup and get back on with the plan. Today I faltered slightly with a chocolate chip coconut cookie (blast those Keebler Elves!)

Is it bad to say that I’m not feeling terribly guilty as I know these days will happen? These are choices I’m making so the only person I’m cheating on is myself and my commitment to the challenge. As someone once said you simply “dust yourself off and start all over again.”