Friday, July 24, 2009

Blooming Fire, Fire Blooming

Fire Abloom, mixed media collage, 5" x 6"

Today I had a session with the multi-gifted Karen Floyd of Design a Better Life. Karen helped me with navigating the themes, obstacles, and intricacies of my personal life and my life as an entrepreneur. She conducted a powerful reading, which revealed areas where my strengths lie and areas for which I have room to grow.

The whole experience was enlightening -- or rather, full of light. I felt revelation after revelation -- in my body and mind -- as I encountered my obstacles, uncovered my gifts, and learned where I can empower myself to be authentic and true to myself as a healing and creative one-woman show. We re-framed negative thinking, re-imagined a different way of seeing and being, and acknowledged my gifts in a productive way.

One thing I will share with you from the session has to do with re-framing. I have always been told that I am too sensitive and too quiet. These two descriptions have been little cactus prickles in my side. I think it's the "too" part that has felt punishing. So Karen came up with a way to re-frame these gifts. She said, "What if you called yourself available and aware instead of quiet and sensitive? They're both true." She continued, "and your gifts are in your ability to be available and open to people and your keen (and sensitive) awareness of others (and of yourself) " I sighed a big ah-ha and watched her cat (who was joining in on the session) roll onto his back.

That was just one of many ah-ha moments with Karen today. If you are wanting to explore your life and your work in a safe, intuitive, and creative setting, I encourage you to see Karen (or at least visit her multi-faceted website).

I left feeling full and light at the same time, knowing the next steps I need to take to make a leap in my business and to feel more grounded in my life.

The art piece above is my artistic representation of what transformations I see in myself as a result of the session. There is a fire blooming inside of me, ready to take off as creative abundance; there is warmth for those around me in my healing work; and the fire helps me nurture my own heart as I grow and heal myself.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

One Way to Re-Assemble Yourself

Regaining Strength, mixed media, 6" x 8"

So what do you do when you've been metaphorically pooped on? (BTW, thanks to my friend Kristen for that phrase.) What do you do when someone is unkind to you, uproots the ground you're standing on, makes you question something about yourself that, prior to the encounter, you felt quite good about?

This is what I do: I put myself back together by creating art. Well, to be honest, first I cry a little (or a lot) and allow myself to feel off-kilter for a while. I feel sad, I get mad, I become very existential in my thinking and really think about the issues, and then I become so exhausted that I take a nap in the heat of the day with my two cats flanking my sweating body.

Then I try walking. When I feel stuck, I move. Physically move. So I "walked it off" a little, but I still felt the negativity in my gut, stewing away.

And when the walking and talking and crying are over, I create art. The piece above was my way of dealing with an encounter that unnerved me this week. I was feeling stuck just talking about it, and certainly with letting it rot in my mind and body, causing a big stomach ache yesterday. So I put myself back together with some found images and watercolor crayons.

I identified what I wanted to feel again -- strong, open (but safe in this openness), confident, and clear. And I identified the chakras that I felt were affected by this upsetting encounter: my third eye, throat, solar plexus, and root chakras. I made these chakras strong, circular, and radiant. And I added two protective bird guardians to remind me of my support system when moments in life go awry.

I hope that you don't get squashed by someone's (perhaps unintentional, but toxic) words, but if you do, I advocate what I now call "Re-Assembling Art." Put yourself back together with images and paint and pens and found objects and whatever else you are called to use. You are whole, but may not always feel like it. Return to that feeling of wholeness and show yourself how strong you are through image-making. Re-assemble the parts you feel been have tattered or broken or smeared or smothered or blown apart--and begin to shine again.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Metaphorical Currents

Illuminated Flow, mixed media, 6" x 12"
(click image for larger view)

"When we close the door to our feelings, we close the door to vital currents that energize and activate our thoughts and actions."
-- Gary Zukov, The Seat of the Soul

This past weekend, I ventured up to my family cabin in the mountains and soaked (literally and metaphorically) in the American River. Whenever I spend a significant time around water, I seem to swim more deeply in the realm of emotions. I become more emotionally-centered. I pay close attention to how I am feeling. I begin to feel more authentic. Now, in my regular, every-day, going to the grocery store life, I already live quite deeply in the emotional realm. It's the way I came: sensitive, emotional, empathetic, empathic. But there is something different, perhaps something transformative, that happens to me when I swim in the ocean or sit by a mountain river.

What happens is that I lose words. I lose the ability to specifically and authentically describe the beauty around me or the feelings inside that are soaking in this beauty. It does not seem adequate to say that the river is gorgeous. Or that I feel free. Yes, those are starts, but they don't encapsulate what I mean. They don't feel complete -- or completely whole.

So instead of finding language for my emotions, I made them into art, like the art piece above. I used color and texture and gesture to express my mood. And then I began to think about how creating metaphors can be equally as potent. Instead of the river being "wonderful" and my feeling "nostalgic," I realized that the river was "a vein flowing to my heart where my father lives."

In Mari Messer's lively book Pencil Dancing: New Ways to Free Your Creativity, she writes: "You don't have to name a feeling to experience it consciously. You can meet a feeling on its own muddy ground by creating a metaphor that uses a figure of speech to describe it." By creating art and constructing spontaneous metaphors on this mountain adventure, I was able to go deeper and understand myself more clearly. I became more visible to myself. More attuned.

Messer also writes: "Metaphor preserves and explores your feelings without turning them into a concept. Metaphor eliminates the middleman from your translation queue so the flavors of your feelings are not filtered. It gets you out of the mind-set that you that you have to know everything in an intellectual way. You don't. In fact, scientist and writer Rachel Carson said, 'It's not half so important to know as to feel.'"

So I didn't have to analyze the fact that the river made me miss my father, I could just jump to feeling it and in just feeling it came understanding. Using the imagination takes the how and why out of the equation. Image and metaphor are all about who and what and where. The creative mind cuts to the core of emotion and makes the feelings come alive through images and creative language.

During my image-making and creative play in the mountains, I began to think about how I use metaphor and imagery during my healing sessions with my clients. Sometimes a feeling word is just the tip of the iceberg. The word anger is a start, but what does it look like or feel like in the body? Or what about neck pain? To say that it is painful doesn't actually say very much. But to describe it as a barbed wire coil tightening at the base of your skull is much more potent -- and real. I can feel that. Pain comes in so many forms. Is the pain emotional or physical? And what does it look like, feel like, taste like, sound like?

Try this:

Next time you find yourself saying/thinking/feeling an abstract emotion, honor that word and then take it to a deeper place. Understand its intricacies through image and metaphor. What does your sadness taste like? What does your hamstring pull look like from the inside of your body? Messer writes that creativity "is the ability to cause other people to experience what you saw, heard, tasted, and felt." Share what you experience with others, but give them the fantastic imaginative versions. The ones that reveal your authentic self. When your partner asks, "How was your day today," resist the temptation to say "fine" or "okay." Maybe you tell him/her, "My day was a donkey on speed with a hint of paprika and I feel like a metal yo-yo singing."