12/28/11

Creating Care

Concerned about loved ones and having just finished the book Hunger, I was in a bit of a funk as my husband and I visited Bethlehem PA. I vowed to return to my joyful heart as we stopped into the historic and allegedly haunted Sun Inn, which George and Martha Washington visited. 
Looking around the once posh antique kitchen, I was reminded how lucky we are to be living at this time, in this place, in the US. Most of us have modern conveniences like running water and electricity, the opportunity for education, and some choice in where and how we live and work. Most of us don't need to make our own candles, hunt and butcher our own meats, or spin our own fabric. Most of us need not worry of a flaming death while cooking over the open fire. In fact, most of us here are materially better off than at any time or place in the known history of the world. Our biggest worries and imbalances are often rooted in complexity and excess instead of insufficiency. 


I may not be able to cure the hunger or suffering around me, much less of the world.  I can care deeply that others suffer, while still cultivating joy within. We can feed our own spirits, letting go of worry, sadness, and struggle and instead creating care through attitudes like love, gratitude, hope, and joy.


I wish you and your family a joyful holiday season and time to renew and refuel spirits with positivity and care. 

12/21/11

Happy Winter Solstice

Today marks the shortest day of the year, where darkness engulfs the light. 
Various traditions invite us to shine light into the darkness by stringing colored lights and lighting candles. Similarly, we can invite light as love and joy into our hearts by shining an internal light into our shadowy parts and consciously releasing our own darkness. As lightness makes it's way back into the darkness, the days get brighter, lives lighten, and we can shine our light in all we do. 
I like to play music, dance, and do yoga to chase away the shadows and invite back the light. What do you do to lighten when you're feeling the darkness? 

12/14/11

Creating Friends

There's a heap of craft supplies festering in my basement "to do something with someday" and I have a small group of friends that come together regularly to create. Usually we work on our own projects while eating, chatting, venting, and laughing our way through the evening. It only seemed logical to start using up some of our surplus stuff as we recently gathered to "pimp" a Barbie doll


Yes. I'm aware it sounds a bit immature for adults to spend an evening altering a doll. Yet, it was interesting to see what surfaced as we worked, inadvertently exposing our individual personalities and quirks as we created. I'll share just a few observations.


"Anne," who specializes in organization and efficiency, though never having played with dolls, predictably began and completed her doll in half our time, following through with her well-thought-out plan and happy with the fashionable result:
The rest of us, impressed, doubled our efforts.


"Carrie," incredibly talented and ever questioning, started strong with a concept, painting Barbie yellow (the color of the third chakra, which gives us our unique strengths and confidence), added some funky leggings, and then got stopped, unsure of how she wanted to finish. The rest of us agreed we liked her just like she was:
"Eva," a skilled crafter with a terrific creative energy who latches onto an idea and immerses herself in one creative project at a time, felt that perhaps she put just a little too much bling on her doll. To the rest of us, she looked perfect: 
And I, who likes to improvise on any of my fledgling ideas and see what develops, let loose and managed to start two Barbies, which I have since finished. In the spirit of sharing among creating friends, here they are:

At the end of the evening, our friendships had grown, and perhaps we found a little subconscious self-therapy in the exercise. 


What do you do to share creative energy and create strong friendships?

11/10/11

Move from Within

It's fascinating to watch babies as they learn to move. 
Here's a picture of the youngest yogi in the family, 7 month old Leila.
She moves from her center, and outward from within. 
All her actions originate from her spine, strengthening her 
core with each movement. Soon she'll be crawling, then walking. 
Eventually she'll start working with her arms in front of her, 
and with time gravity will inevitably start to take its toll. 
Hopefully she will always hold her center and know her strength, 
moving from within rather than from her periphery, and following 
her heart rather than being overwhelmed by others and the world. 

Yoga is one way for us to reconnect with our inner strength and move 
in all we do from our center, with ease and grace. 
What helps you to move from within?

10/27/11

Art of Peace

Wisdom traditions encourage working from within for positive change. Morihei Ueshiba, founder of Aikido (a martial art intended to eliminate strife), is one of many who understood that fighting- with our surroundings, others, and ourselves- is the root destructive force in life. Instead, effective paths encourage us to first work on harmonizing ourselves through a peaceful practice, working with principles like forgiveness, cooperation, compassion, and flow. 

In "The Art of Peace," Ueshiba says,"The Art of Peace begins with you. Work on yourself and your appointed task in the Art of Peace. Everyone has a spirit that can be refined, a body that can be trained in some manner, a suitable path to follow...Foster peace in your own life and then apply the Art to all that you encounter..."

Imagine what would happen if the wisest taught, "The Art of Peace begins with forcing others to change." (Hmmm, how has that tendency been working throughout history?)
True wisdom paths will never lead us to seek positive change in something or someone outside or smaller than ourselves, by fighting, or by running off to somewhere else.
Instead, the wise find that right here, right now, is the best place to start. With honest contemplation and acceptance, we can come to let go of our own thoughts, emotions, people, and things we've previously hung on to that are no longer helping us. As we patiently, thoughtfully, and courageously draw upon and develop our inner strength in sync with the energy of the universe, we can grow stronger and aligned in heart, mind, body, and spirit. In harmony with ourselves, we can then effortlessly blend with the world, letting our openness and care attract goodness, beauty, real friends, and whatever else we'd like to be surrounded with.  


To create peace, instead of asking, "How can I change him?" and "Can't she see she's wrong?" try asking, "Why does this bother me?" and "How can I strengthen and create greater peace within myself?"


10/20/11

Big Firsts

We tend to remember the big firsts in our lives, regardless of the outcome- the first day of school, our first date, the first kiss, weddings, childbirth, each new job and boss, and other initiations that create our lives and bring us deeper into exploring our world, relationships, and selves.


There are many firsts that stand out for me, but I'll fast forward to a Saturday morning about ten years ago, when I spontaneously took an alternate route home. Passing by, I noticed the yoga studio was open, and on a whim decided to pop in to find out more and pick up a schedule. Instead, I was persuaded to join the class and give it a try. I had no idea what a journey I was undertaking, or what an internal practice yoga becomes, but had curiosity and a beginner's mind, so watched and surprised myself as I inhaled and exhaled on command and copied the physical postures, bending myself in half, around, and upside down. At the end of class, laying on a quarter inch thin mat on a hard floor, I came to relax more deeply than I knew was possible, feeling life energy coursing through me. Leaving the studio, I knew I'd be back to yoga, and have been, almost daily, since.  
This morning while in final relaxation after yoga, a vivid memory of that first experience wandered into my mind and I let it pass. I replaced it with a profound sense of gratitude for the creative and healing openings and insights this practice continues to lead towards.


What big first was so powerful for you that it stands out and continues to transform your life? Can you still harness the beginner's mind energy that you first brought to it? Where can you stray from your normal path and what might be found there?

10/12/11

Technology in our Lives

Lately the news is filled about technology and its impact on our lives and world. We can speculate as to how we humans will grow from our interconnectivity, wonder 'What will be next?,"or worry that our reliance on smart devices will keep us blogged down and interfere with our abilities to think and communicate as humans. 


Emily Listfield, in Parade magazine's Generation Wired, discusses some of the challenges of raising children in this time of "nonstop connectivity." "The latest research suggests it may even be rewiring their brains." Instead of contemplating and forming pathways to remember, our brains are often busy gathering, skimming, copying, and sorting endless information. Brzezinski and Scarborough opine that "unfortunately, technology is short-circuiting our children's imagination." Kids are showing short attention spans, are rarely alone or disconnected, and often addicted to their smart phones, even sleeping with them under their pillows. 


Interestingly, in Martin Lindstrom's recent New York Times article entitled, You Love your iPhone, Literally. he describes what brain studies are revealing about this apparent addiction to iPhones. As expected, subjects using the iPhone show increased audio and visual stimulation, but even stronger activation of the insular cortex of the brain, which is associated with love and compassion. When torn away from their iPhone, many exhibit stress, in a way most similar to separation anxiety from loved ones.  
Hopefully the feelings of compassion that rise from our iPhones will help us become more loving to our fellow humans rather than toward our smart devices. In his commencement address to Stanford's Class of 2005, Steve Jobs spoke of love, loss, finding what you believe is great and work that you love. He noted that we only can connect the dots of where we're going when we look backwards from the future. Jobs also talked about death as the best invention of life because it clears out the old and makes way for the new. He encouraged living one's own life and following the heart and intuition, because they always "know what you want to become. Everything else is secondary."
The technological legacy left behind from Steve Jobs, who passed on last week, is inspirational, admirable, and impactful. He was an innovative, passionate, and creative genius, with an invisible crystal ball to see into new product future that changed the world. I find it fascinating, too, that Jobs was adopted, dropped out of college, and had sought enlightenment in India prior to his career. He preferred alternative medicine, was a pescetarian and Buddhist. Though early on described as "temperamental," he grew to mellow and share a wisdom in how to live well. 


If we do what we love, have faith in where we're going, remember our time is limited, and always listen to our heart and intuition, we can each come to live our own highest life. We can apply these messages from Jobs to use technology to lead us forward, unite, and create more of what we want, rather than letting our tech gizmos distract us away from presence and trap us in time and energy wasting ways. Also, we can encourage our children towards more real time interactions, tech-free alone time, non-virtual creative activities, and nature romps. We can re-instill ethics education from early childhood to enable growing hearts and minds to make good choices so they, too, can use technology to create a better world. 


Where can you make more time for your passion in life by unplugging yourself from smart devices? Where do you find technology serves to bring you further in your path?





10/5/11

A Song in the Forest

Every day someone somewhere comes up with something so novel 
that it's hard not to wonder, where do ideas really come from
Here is a commercial for a phone that you may find inspiring 
and surprising. I hope you enjoy it. 


9/29/11

Dizzy

I've arrived back after a short break to find that in my few weeks of absence, blogger has new options that allow you to customize your blogging experience. Yes, the universe is ever whirling and in our physical and virtual worlds, we continue to have choices and more choices- sometimes more than are necessary or even beneficial to us. It's almost dizzying.
I'm writing this post as a test to see how the new "Magazine" style pages feel. I invite you to visit the site, play with the various magazine options on the left, and see how you like this interface for the blog, which gives the ability to quickly scan past entries. To me, it feels brighter and busier, like a fun and overly colorful landscape, with the details of where we stand and which direction we gaze omitted for us each to fill in. 
So, I'm curious, what do you think? Do you prefer the old look, or do you like the ability to have a quick overview and options in how you view the pages? 


9/14/11

Whimsi-scape

Each day, I try to do at least one thing differently. I guess it's the scientist in me and years of creating new art products that pushes me to question, wonder, and find out for myself. So, when I heard about a type of watercolor paper that is lousy for painting, I needed to get my hands on some, just to see for myself what it is, how it works, and what it might be good for. As it turns out, just watching and playing, and ignoring my first findings that wondered, "How can anyone sell this as watercolor paper?" I came to like the stuff.  Laying down quick and thick paint and then scratching into it was an enjoyable process that led to completely different results than standard watercolor paper allows. 


Here's a whimsical scape that resulted from the exploration:
My curiosity and wondering transformed into a somewhat 
primitive but magical, reflective, and dreamy world


When have you tried something new and been surprised with a better result than expected?

9/7/11

Re-Creating

Recently when the local thrift store was having a $6 basket of clothes sale, how could I resist? My heart fluttered, anticipating the thrill of the hunt, the bargain prices, the possibility of acquiring without generating more new junk, and, in this case, the good cause- all profits go to the local children's home. 
I headed over, explored, and stuffed my basket with lots of t-shirts, 2 pairs of jeans, capris, yoga pants, and a few colorful scarves. The nice thing about buying used clothes is if they're still in like-new shape, you know they'll wash well and last a long time. The necklines on most of the t-shirts weren't great, so I decided to see how this pile of clothes could be transformed.  


Loving re-creating from old, and envisioning new shapes, I mostly cut and tied. My sewing machine is close to shot, and has always been finicky with knits, so it was quicker to stitch by hand where absolutely needed. The joy of cutting and designing egged me on, but the sewing (though I tried to embrace the process) was simply a means to an end. Painting designs with embroidery thread sounded like a good idea, but after 1 shirt, frustration kicked in
They just don't make needles as they used to. Hand stitching for only an hour, I managed to bend or completely break 4 sewing needles and 2 needle threaders. My fingers were sore and my eyes rebellious, refusing to focus.  

In the end, it cost about $8 and 3 hours of life energy, but I managed to make a week's funky wardrobe that is mix and matchable.  
These clothes feel like creative, yogi me- comfy and free. Will I wear them? Absolutely, I have already, and on the spur of the moment, wearing newly cut-off shorts and a t-shirt, to the upscale Bridgewater Commons mall. Most of the shoppers were dressed in stiff-looking clothes and paying lots more for each item than I did for a week of clothes. I bought nothing, content and comfortable. True, no one asked me where I got my cool clothes; but on the other hand, no one stared or pointed either.


Will the raw cut edges and hand-stitching hold up? We'll see. If they don't, let's hope I'm close to home when they fail.


Will I be embarrassed to be out and about wearing t-shirts skirts and cut off tee's? Doubtful. The last time I truly cared what I was wearing I was 16, heading to a dance, and my sister had convinced me to wear a checkered dress she had sewn. When I walked into the hall, I immediately became the color of my dress and wanted to disappear into a hole and never be seen again. I had only two options: Run, or play it up and have some fun:
Will people judge the cut off look? Hopefully not. After all, respect comes from one's words, actions, and habits. Look at Gandhi, he got away with wearing 1 clean, white sheet and no shoes, and still people listened. Of course, what he had to say and how he said it was important and worthwhile. But, hmmm, what I could have done with that sheet... 


Instead of throwing it out, or turning it into a rag, next time you have a t-shirt that's not quite right, here's a few ideas to give it an interim life:
  • If it's too tight or ragged around the neck, play with cutting the neckline off. Maybe make it real droopy and layer it over a camisole or tank top. 
  • If it's too short or long in the sleeves, try cutting them off completely. Or, change the length. Maybe try a rough, asymmetric edge. 
  • Stretched out neck? Pull it down around your waist, tie the sleeves in front, and see if it fits as a skirt instead. A few strategically placed stitches may be enough to hold it together. 
  • Stains? Embroider or paint right over them. Or cut them out, and layer other colored fabrics behind.
  • Too big? Cut the neck, sleeves, or bottom as you like, then belt with a funky scarf. Or, cut slices out of the sleeves, loop them together, and use as a belt. 
  • Extra sleeve pieces? Slice them and turn them into belts, headbands, watch bands, or tie on bits of broken jewelry to make bracelets. 
What have you re-created lately to give something old a new life? Happy re-creating!

8/31/11

Listening

Recently Julean Treasure gave a TED talk about how our listening skills have been diminishing. He suggested we use the following practices to bring back skillful 
listening and to help raise our consciousness and peacefulness: 
1. Practice getting completely silent for several minutes a day. 
2. Take time to listen to and isolate all the mixed up sounds where you are
3. Pay attention to the "hidden choir"and savor the mundane sounds around you, from the crickets chirping to the whir of the clothes dryer.
4. Notice how you listen, whether you are judging the sound, what it's quality is, how it's making you feel, and if you are actively listening or letting it all drone in the background.
5. When you receive a new sound, notice, appreciate, and summarize it's essence.
To Julean's excellent list, I'd like to suggest we:
A. Stop what we're doing and give undivided attention when others are speaking.
B. Pay attention to each sound we make, from our footsteps to closing doors, eating, speaking, and breathing. If we get silent enough, we might even hear our own heartbeats. 
C. If we remember that all sound is vibration, and vibration is energy, we might want to minimize our contribution to the noisy buzz, and instead move and speak in ways that add positive energy. 
Sounds and words are powerfully creative, and we can all learn to be more intentional 
in the quality of sounds we contribute. With improved quality of sound, 
maybe we'll all want to listen more carefully. 


What do you hear, how is the sound where you are right now? 

8/17/11

Creative Space Available

To create, it's helpful to have a space that's ready and inviting, saving time from
constant preparation and "fixing to work." With that in mind, I decided to dedicate a small 
corner of my yoga room to become my watercolor corner. I needed the workspace to be 
sturdy but portable, so that I can easily slide the table into the next room when space is needed. 

I rummaged my basement and found the perfect ingredients:
An old, dog chewed side table,
a wooden plank and 2 old wooden slats.
With a plan in place, my man was all aboard to help out, 
eager for an opportunity to exercise one of his many power tools. 
 A few minutes later, the table was made.  I covered it with a garbage bag, 
organized my watercolor tools, added a workshop light, and stuffed an old 
t-shirt to raise a little stool to the correct height.   
Ready and organized, I sat right down to paint.
It wasn't a masterpiece, but the process felt perfect.
What activity do you spend time preparing for constantly?
How could you better organize it so it invites you to create more often and with ease?

8/3/11

Discovery





Children absorb themselves in whatever is before them, playing, creating, and uncovering wonders as they go. A child doesn't think about how his art will turn out, but instead immerses himself in the process. 


Here is my grandson Kaj, exploring and creating with markers.

As he drew he exclaimed, "Oh, look! I'm drawing those things that turn into frogs." Here is his completed "Tadpoles:"


A few minutes earlier, using watercolors, he made "Colored Rain:" 


The art process brings openings and a break from the routine for all of us, young and old. This week I'm letting go of my "To Do's" for several days and will be immersing myself in a watercolor and yoga retreat. I'm packing my childlike spirit of discovery, and am looking forward to a new experience and whatever insights develop. 






7/27/11

Smell the Flowers










Connecting with Nature stimulates our senses 
and can overwhelm our hearts with feelings 
like beauty, peace, love, and gratitude.

Stopping to really sense and see, 
we 
can come to feel like we've completely blended with the object we observe. Being present and noticing opens us to our own spaciousness and helps us tune into and expand our creative possibilities.




When was the last time you stopped 
to absorb yourself 
and look deeper, 
feel, and smell 
the flowers?














7/20/11

Masterpiece


A stroll through a museum can inspire awe, 
leading us to wonder, "How did someone create such a masterpiece?"



Viewing Georges-Pierre Seurat's Grandcamp, Evening
 we can focus in 
and examine closer, 

coming to a deeper view of the parts and better seeing how the 

small dots, or Pointillism, come together to create the whole. 

Or we can view Van Gogh's Starry Night in all it's complexity, 
then concentrate on a smaller area, 
uncovering the textures and repeated brush 
strokes 
underlying the entire painting.



In art, we learn to look closely and represent what we see, feel, 

or hear by observing and absorbing ourselves in a series 

of small movements till we're done. 


In the art of yoga, through the repeated activity of moving with our breath 
and focusing deeper within, we come to awaken and expand 
our awareness and can transform our lives.

In the art of life, we grow through various stages, 
learning, 
thinking, 

feeling, and experiencing. Attentive to our unique set 
of strengths, actions, attitudes, 
and the movement of those around us, 

we come to co-create the masterpieces that are our lives. 




Next time you find yourself framed in a mirror, 
try taking a kinder peek than usual, and smile 
at the 

masterpiece you are becoming and are.