Saturday, December 26, 2009

It's Hailing Inside

Storm Brings Beauty, encaustic, 8" x 10"

Storms bring wind, rain, circling leaves, fallen trees, flooding, dynamic thunder and lightning, even tornadoes and hurricanes. Storms can also bring snow, sleet, hail the size of golf balls.

There are internal storms, too. They're the kind that sometimes remain hidden deep down in the belly or just under the surface near the heart. Sometimes we let them out and spin in our own cyclones, feeling the intensity of emotion or pain. Other times, we disguise our storms carefully, or do the opposite: we can't keep them inside for one more minute and we begin to crack and boom. We can ride our storms out, watching as they (and we) move in their (our) shapes and patterns. These storms can also hurt ourselves or others in the process of expression, even when we don't mean for this to happen.

Try this:

When you experience internal storms of the mind, body, and soul, what do they look and feel like? Do you hail inside? Experience flash floods? Are you the tree that has been struck by lightning? Take out a piece of paper or your journal and describe your emotional landscape with storm metaphors. When there is pain inside you, how does Mother Nature manifest in your gut, your heart, your head, your bones?

And now think about what you do to calm the storms. Write down ways in which you let your storms release or let go, leaving you--and others--in one lovely piece. Uncover the beauty that comes after a storm, when everything is left to settle and slow, when you know in your body that the sun will rise again and show itself like a sunflower emerging from a winter landscape.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Signs from the Body

Scar Matrix for Healing the Heart, encuastic, 8" x 10"

"Like dreams, body symptoms present information of which we're unconscious. In a dream, this information comes as symbols. In the body, it comes as symptoms. Both mean the same thing: signs!...They mean something. They have wisdom, metaphoric power, method in their madness. They are one of the languages the soul uses to get across to us something about itself. The word pathology, in fact, means the speech of suffering, the logic of pain, and in order to understand that logic, in order to speak to the wild imagination at work in symptoms, we must bring to it a certain supple and symbolic imagination." -- Gregg Levoy, Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life

The art piece you see above is a representation of my "speech of suffering," of my "logic of pain." The symbol of a circle, a very common symbol used by many cultures (and often the first symbol drawn by most children, I just learned), is also my symbol to represent the pain I have felt and continue to feel in my heart area in response to the loss of my father.

I imagined this symbol while receiving a potent and emotional CranioSacral session with Ella Nacht in Kirkland, WA. We were investigating the tightness in my chest and diaphragm area, and the knot near my heart, just to the left of center.

Ella asked me, "What does this area feel like?" Tears streamed down the creases of my eyes, filling my ears, and she gently took a tissue to them so little tear lakes wouldn't form there.

I told her, "I feel like I am alone. That everyone has forgotten I lost my dad, just over a year ago. I feel neglected in my loss." Ella placed one hand on my heart and the other on my back near my left scapula, cradling me with her touch.

"And what does this area look like," she asked?

"It's a circle. There is pink and red in there, but the area right near my heart, where I feel pain is black and brown and scarred. It's sticky and deep. I feel open and loving in the world, but that dark part remains hurt, maybe even angry."

After some breathing and more of her CranioSacral work, I felt I could breathe more fully. She then asked, "What does this area need?"

I didn't use my mind to answer, but rather my heart itself spoke: "Light, it needs light. It needs to be seen. I need to give it a life through art...and it's okay if it's not pretty."

So that was the beginning of this art piece. It emerged from my body itself as I was guided by a gifted practitioner who created a safe place for me to explore the sensations and images in my very own being. I left the session so grateful, and with the lovely realization that I often do this very process with my own clients. How powerful to receive what I often give.

During my second session with Ella, I shared my art piece with her. She noted that that dark area looked like a healing matrix, the criss-cross pattern tissue makes when it has torn and is now healing. I hadn't noticed that before, and suddenly I realized that not only was this art piece one of expression of sadness, anger, and damage, but also of healing. That aching part of me was actually healing itself. My body and mind were working to heal it, just as my body would work to heal a torn hamstring muscle.

I was inspired to share this art piece -- and my story -- today after reading a chapter called "The Language of the Body" in Levoy's book Callings. I was struck by the way Levoy described the power in tuning into pain -- whether physical or emotional -- and almost amplifying it to understand it as I did in my session with Ella. Levoy writes, "Draw your attention to it [the pain]. Forget what you think is going on, why you have it, what it means, and again, just focus on the experience of it."

When you do this, you may find that your body has a message for you. Perhaps the message is an image or word or metaphor or feeling. Perhaps it is something concrete and very specific. Whatever it is, what you see/feel/hear/taste/smell/touch is a sign from your body. You are being given a gift when you tune in to the pain, listen to it, and give it light. You may even find that you are in the process of healing your pain by just acknowledging it and giving it the room to express itself.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Egg Tribe, encaustic, 5" x 5"

A few years ago, my friend Laila Atallah introduced me to the concept of "belonging to a tribe." As a holistic career counselor and life coach, she often helps her clients determine where they belong -- in terms of careers, but also in terms of their lives in general.

I remember one day when Laila and I were in her kitchen (always a great place to have conversations) and we examined where we felt we belonged. Who were "our people," meaning who ignited us, inspired us, made us feel good? Who made us think, had similar interests, cared about the same things we did?

We began listing certain characteristics we appreciated in friends, and we also began to contemplate what made us "grow out of" certain friendships. Had we changed? Had others changed?

Here's a list of questions I've just spontaneously created to help you examine your tribe, community, friend group, network, or whatever you'd like to call it. And maybe you have several tribes with which you are drawn.

1. When in social situations, how do you like to be received or treated?

2. Do you find yourself yearning for connection and action or wanting quiet contemplation -- or a combination?

3. List some activities that you love to do. Examine why you love these things.

4. List some activities that repel you. Examine why these things push you away.

5. What values do you hold firmly, that you can't imagine changing?

6. What aspects of yourself do you wish you could accentuate or illuminate?

7. List three objects that comfort you.

8. List characteristics you love in other people that you don't necessarily cultivate in yourself.

9. Are there certain things that will make or break a relationship for you?

10. List 10 characteristics of your authentic self -- the self that you've had since childhood.

After you've answered these questions, circle any important words or phrases that feel of significance to you. What can you glean from these words? Is it clear that you are drawn to very intellectually-oriented folks or people who love to be politically active? Maybe values are most important to you, so finding people with similar ethical philosophies is how you create your tribe. Maybe these questions highlight that you are malleable in your actions and tastes, open in your ability to fit into many communities.

You might also like to imagine how you might have answered these questions as a teenager. How different (or similar) might be your answers?

Feel free to post your insights and responses here!