Monthly Archives: July 2014

Do What Makes You Come Alive!

There is a Chinese proverb, “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Those are wise words. They speak to the importance of being true to yourself. They emphasize the power of our decisions. The proverb challenges us to dig deep and find what you’re passionate about so you can pursue your life’s mission.

As artists we often know from an early age what motivates and inspires us. We’re aware that some form of creative expression is as important as the oxygen we breathe. We have found as we grow that our voices are important and we need to share our stories with others. I believe more importantly that creative energy makes us come alive. It infuses us with energy that we can share.

Howard Thurman said, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive!” This is crucial because otherwise we live the life of a zombie. We move through the world with unmotivated, unintentional movements and actions. We hold back our true nature trying to fit in the mold of “the norm”. If we’re not true to ourselves how can we be of service to humanity?

It has taken me a long time to understand the immense power of creative expression. I always liked music. When I was in high school I thought I would become a music therapist. I chose another path, but still like to sing. I found my creative voice as a textile artist. Working with fabric, paint, beads, ribbons, etc. makes me feel like a kid. It provides endless opportunity, and it’s that energy I hope you find in your lives.

Creating art, whether textile or writing, impacts my body, mind, and spirit. It’s quite apparent how lack of artistic expression impacts my mood if I haven’t been in the studio for a while. The moment I walk in the studio and pick up a piece of fabric its as if my body relaxes and I can exhale. What makes you exhale?

Be yourself! Be alive! Be creative!

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Creating Your Own Visual Self-Help Manual

There are entire sections of every bookstore devoted to self-help. We’ve become a self-help culture often drowning in offers that will lead you to freedom, peace, and liberation. I get self-help. At one time in my life I was probably the king of self-help with bookshelves filled with ways to decrease anger, increase prosperity, resolve conflict, communicate better, and a host of other issues. I’ve attended more lectures and conferences than I can count because I find being in the experience more helpful, but as I’ve learned; what you learn only works if you work it.

We’re an intellectual culture. We are often looking for the secret password, the magic wand, or some other totem to guide us to personal freedom, providing us with the keys to the kingdom. We mull things over in minds over and over causing sleepless nights and irritability. What if you could see your thoughts and feelings? How would you seek peace if you had new ways, creative ways of inspiration for living the life you want and deserve?

Eileen Caddy shared, “Cease trying to work everything out with our mind. It will get you nowhere. Live by intuition and inspiration and let your whole life be revelation.” Abandoning the intellectual for the experiential can be frightening as well as liberating. It can reveal, much like dream work, hidden clues from you unconscious that want to be revealed to aid you in living a full life.

I love working in a series when I create art. It’s as if each piece of art is a chapter of the whole. It allows me to express fully and idea or experience. It allows me to refer back to these works to relive something pleasurable or see how I worked out a challenge from earlier in my life through the creative process. My work becomes my own self-help manual. It elevates my senses and creates sparks that I follow till they land in the next work of art.

Create your own self-help manual because it’s specific to you. It doesn’t deal in generalities. It is not a hit or miss solution because it comes from deep in your soul. It is time to live creatively!

Does It Have to be a Masterpiece?

As artists are we caught up in the need for every work of art, every song, every poem to be the pinnacle of our success? You know the answer to the age-old question, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” Practice! Practice! Practice! Believe it or not everything we create will win a Grammy, a Nobel Prize, or the center of a retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

What if your process was the art, would that change how you work or the outcome of your work? I think a lot about process because I want to be immersed in creating, that’s where I find joy and peace. The outcome doesn’t have to be beautiful or noteworthy, but it does have to be honest. It does have to feel representative of my message, my experience, my opinions, or my beliefs.

Art is a healing force and if we get caught up in the trap that everything has to be a masterpiece do some feel like they can’t join the club? Have we imposed a secret password to get into the “art” club? What if we were to employ the benefits of art as we do taking a multi-vitamin daily, would that invite more people to use their creative thoughts and urges?

Incorporating art or creative expression as a practice enhances our lives. When utilizing art as a part of a health and healing regimen it’s the act of creating that gives us the physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits. When we’re able to synthesize our body, mind, and spirit we become energized. We take our place at the banquet table we call life.

If you simply get a children’s coloring book and play with crayons you’d be surprised at the impact on your life. We hang those pictures on our refrigerator when our kids color them, why not when we adults create them? Make the refrigerator your own museum! Use your car as a recording studio and sing your heart out! Stand on a mountain and if you don’t have a poem at the ready recite a nursery rhyme and life the creative life!

Bring It To Life

One of the great things about being an artist or expressively yourself creatively is your ability to bring things to life. We have the vision to bring something to the world that has been lying in wait to come forth. We are devoted to providing the world with a new way of viewing things expanding our reach emotionally and spiritually. We make conscious those ideas that have been bubbling below the surface of our collective unconscious.

I remember when I was writing my dissertation, I fell off the grid. I was incommunicado with my advisor. She was patient with me giving the space I needed growing within my own chrysalis. Then it happened, I had emerged from my cocoon and was ready, willing, and able to create. I asked her about her approach to letting me have the time without anyone harping one me, and she said, “It’s a creative process and your giving birth to something that needs time. I knew when you were ready to give birth it would take off.”

Our ideas, our inspirations, and our creativity come together to gestate. When the time is right the art will appear. Have you ever looked at an artist’s sketchbook? There are too many marks, doodles, drawings, scraps of paper, words, etc. to count. These are the seeds that will eventually become the art we create. These are the components of the story we want to tell. These are our truths we want to share.

Bringing our intentions, hopes, observations, and aspirations to life requires us to be present in our daily lives. It asks us to solve problems and spark debate. What we bring to life eases our pain and that our society. What we birth is our reality. It’s how we show up in the world.

Our art allows us to show our strength and weakness, opinions and beliefs, and our joy and sadness. What we bring to life is limitless. Our inspirations continue everyday, the moment we open our eyes and say good morning to the world.

What will you bring to life today?

Is Art Prayer?

Are we praying when we create? Who or what do we attribute our creativity? How does our spiritual life impact our creative life or vise versa? Is the work we create our way of saying thank you? Meister Echart said, “If the only prayer you say in your life is thank you. It will be enough.”

I wrote a post in April titled, “Going to Church with Mark Rothko”. I had been in Houston at the annual conference for the Global Alliance for Art and Health. One of the sites to see was the Rothko Chapel. It’s a glorious sanctuary with large works of his hanging on the walls. The chapel is quiet with benches and meditation cushions. It’s a place where you can be with Rothko’s larger than life presence, his art, and with your larger than life presence, you!

On Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, she interviewed Rainn Wilson. Many people know Rainn Wilson from his years on NBC’s The Office. This is one of those interviews when you realize how little we often know about those in the public eye. We think we know people because we read a People magazine article or a fifteen second blurb on Entertainment Tonight, but most interviews don’t give the individual the time to explore and express their inner life.

Wilson was quite articulate about his personal life and his beliefs. What caught my attention was when Wilson said, “Taking a paint brush and touching it to the canvas is no different than bowing your head in church.” It was so profound and poetic. It meshed with my own beliefs about art and spirituality and how they are one in the same.

Going to our studios is like going to a chapel. It’s a sacred space that gives us the freedom to express ourselves with purity of heart. Our moments of creativity are transcendent. I believe that any time you can express yourself completely, authentically, and honestly you are in the presence of the divine.

It may sound funny, but I’ve been having this inner dialogue about “giving up pretty” and “striving for meaning”. It’s not that pretty and meaning can’t cohabitate, but I’m starting to think it can’t always be the lead story of the day.

Some may say I’m preaching, and this may sound like a sermon, but the reality is this is my time of ultimate self-expression. This is when I can convey and share some of my deepest thoughts openly. Writing has become a practice, a place where meaning prevails, exploration is key, and peace prevails!

Facing a health challenge?  Looking for education, support, and inspiration?  Visit http://www.survivingstrong.com

Are You “Happy”

I’m addicted to interviews. Interviews allow me to be a voyeur into someone’s life without having to know them. If the interview is good, the interviewer will gain the trust of the guest and be allowed to explore more than just the surface issues that the tabloids are interested in, and get to more of a soul level.

Yesterday I was watching Oprah Prime. Her guest was Pharrell who has been having a breakout year. If you didn’t know Pharrell before “Happy”; I’m assuming you may know him since the breakout song “Happy” took over the world. It’s a good thing he’s not an evil man because a song like “Happy” could have been used for world domination (hope you know I’m just kidding).

Oprah asked him about the song “Happy” and did he know it would explode into a global phenomenon. Pharrell shared that at the beginning he couldn’t get any airplay on the song. It was a struggle. Obviously that has changed and people around the globe are dancing to “Happy”.

They showed a clip, a montage of uploaded videos from people around the globe doing their “Happy” dance. I was watching the montage and started to cry, not because I was sad, but because something so simple as music has transcended to become a global anthem. When they panned back to Pharrell and Oprah both were crying. They both made it very clear that they were “Happy” tears because it tapped into the human need and desire for community and self-expression. The song broke down barriers between nationalities, age, race, and gender.

This is why creative expression is healing. Art doesn’t have any boundaries; it’s limitless. Our creative stories and expressions provide a backdrop for our humanity to shine. Art heals because we give our souls flight when we express ourselves so honestly and authentically.

If you haven’t seen the montage of global “Happy” go find it or simply watch some uploaded videos from people in countries you know nothing about and she how art and in this case “Happy” translates!

I Think My Cat Wants to be an Artist!

I have two cats. They’re both black, in fact their brothers. We adopted them when they were nine weeks old and they are very funny to watch, as you so well know. They have very different bodies and personalities. One of the boys (Zedd) walks and looks like a lion; the other (Dauby) prowls and is sleek like a panther. If I’m in my studio they will come in and browse, look out the window, and should a piece of fabric be lying on the floor that becomes their spot.

Dauby has a greater desire to be in the studio. I have a cat that loves polyester. Dauby doesn’t necessarily want to be an artist, at least I don’t think he does, but he does have a fascination with polyester. He doesn’t want to play with the pieces of polyester, nor sleep on it for comfort, or even create with it; he wants to eat it! Yes, I have a cat that likes to eat polyester.

He comes into the studio and sniffs it out. He will dig deep to find a piece of polyester that he can chew. I’m not sure why it’s so appealing, I personally find cotton fabric much easier to chew and softer on the tongue. Fortunately for all you cat police, he doesn’t swallow it, he just chews it and leaves it around the house.

Yesterday his creative energies must have been flowing. I was sewing and I have a small box of bobbins wound and ready to use. I had left the room for a moment and when I returned Dauby was trying to pick something up with his mouth. If you have ever owned a cat you know that’s not a good sign. I called to him and he took off like a bolt of lightning (remember he’s the panther). I chased him like a good dad would and finally he realized he better drop the goods and run.

When I reached the top of the stairs I found a bobbin with bright orange thread sitting there, abandoned by the thief. Once again I have a renewed sense of hope that my cat really wants to be a textile artist, but something in the back of my mind makes me wonder.

We all have those creative urges and need to express ourselves. I can think of better ways than chewing on polyester, what will you do today to express yourself?

The Observation Factor

If you have your vision, you look, but do you see? Do we have to be taught to see what’s really in our sphere? How does what we see influence our life experience and in turn what we create? I think a lot about this each time I begin to explore how to translate my life experience into a creative experience. Translating my life from visual intake to visual outpouring is as creative as the work that results.

I was listening to an interview with Billy Bob Thornton, the writer, producer, director, and actor. Thornton said, “I watch the world like I’m watching a movie.” I’m intrigued and confused by his statement. When I first heard it I thought it was fresh and new, but then I was wondering if there’s a bit too much feeling removed from the experience as simply an observer. When I thought about it further I would translate that, for myself, to say, “I watch the world like a writer and director”, always thinking about how one thing impacts what comes next.

Observation takes practice, but when you begin to make observation a spiritual practice you will expand how you experience life. In turn, it also means that your level of self-expression expands allowing your art to serve a reflection of your soul. Your ability to observe what passes your view influences how you translate each experience into something meaningful. Your skills of observation provide a context, a filter, for what you believe is important to creating a sense of peace in your life.

Have you ever asked yourself what you’re missing? Try looking at things different such as through the lens of a camera. When I was doing research for my dissertation, one of the studies gave patients in a hospital a camera and asked them to take twelve pictures that intrigued them or they felt was meaningful to their hospital experience.

Recently I saw a news story that asked participants to take a picture frame and walk around the city placing the frame around things they felt were beautiful. You’d be surprised about what you find beautiful when you isolate specific elements in your world by framing it both literally and figuratively.

What will you do today to expand your skills of observation? How will this help heal your world?

Diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness?  Looking for education, support, and inspiration?  Visit http://www.survivingstrong.com

Life As A Musical

The world of Broadway lost a tremendous talent with the death of Elaine Stritch. A talented performer, she originated many roles that many other actresses have been nervous to recreate when revivals of those shows came to Broadway. Her career lasted for seventy years, that’s incredible.

The death of Stritch makes me think about the Broadway musical. When I watch the movie Hairspray, I often think about how life would be if it were a musical. What if every time we faced a challenge we broke into song to express ourselves? What would life be like if everyone around us knew all the dance steps as if the air infused the choreography into their bodies.

This is the healing part of theater, and for me the musical. The ability to draw you in, put a bounce in your step, and have you humming when you leave the theater is like going to church (or in my case synagogue). The uplifted feeling is contagious. It also makes me wonder when will a group of background singers or a troop of dancers appear in my daily activities.

Those who write for the theater, both plays and musicals, are providing us with a platform to explore our fantasies. They are documenting social and political history as in the show All the Way, about the life of Lyndon Johnson. These shows can provide entertainment and education while providing the audience with questions to ponder after the show.

The other part of the theater experience that adds to its healing properties is the fact that it’s live. You’re seeing and experiencing people in real time. There is no editing and they only get one chance to get it right. The ability for these actors to go beyond simply reciting lines, but immersing themselves in a life created from scratch, or recreated based on research is transformative. Any time you get to witness transformation is serves as a springboard for your own transformative attributes.

Go see a show and enter the world of wonder. Give thanks to the actors and actresses who have graced the stages for years and were trail blazers for an art form that personifies passion!

Installations and Impermanence

I often travel the country for work. When I take on a contract I’m in a new city between four and six months. I work diligently to explore my new temporary city and that includes as many of the art venues as possible.

My last contract was in Indiana, PA, north of Pittsburgh. I made every effort to make my days off count and that meant exploring the museums Pittsburgh has to offer. Since the days of the diminishing steel industry, Pittsburgh reinvented itself as an arts town. Along with the many prestigious universities, it has fabulous art museums that spark the imagination.

One of the amazing venues was The Mattress Factory (www.mattressfactory.org). It’s a museum dedicated to installation art. It’s multiple buildings and each one is more impressive than the last. The museum has housing for the artists who live onsite while creating their masterpieces.

I don’t always understand installation art, but one of the interesting things that intrigued me was the ability to become part of the art. When you walk into the art you become part of the art. When you leave the art piece, it changes, and so do you.

Artist Jonathan Latiano strives to get people to be hyper-aware of the space around them. When you’re aware of your surroundings you can weave your way through the space impacting it with each turn. One of Latiano’s premises is that installation art epitomizes impermanence. That’s because it’s created in the space where it’s shown and when the show is over the installation is dismantled. Even if it is recreated it’s impossible for it to be identical to its last reincarnation.

I recently wrote a piece on impermanence titled What Buddhist monks and children have in common (you can find it at www.pilgrimpathway.com).   Installation art is about invention and reinvention. Artists don’t create installation art with the intention of someone buying it for their living room. They create it as an ultimate form of self-expression.

In a world filled with challenges, the ability to reinvent ourselves is a gift. Installation art personifies our ever-changing souls. It’s a mirror for our personal and universal transformations. The impermanent nature of the art is a blessing because it shows us the path to emergence!

Looking to reinvent yourself following a personal or professional challenge?  Looking for education, support, and inspiration?  Visit http://www.survivingstrong.com