Mixing Business With Pleasure

I don’t know about you, but working together with other people can be exhausting!

I am attempting to put my work out there more these days, and that requires coordination with agencies, websites, publicity, payroll and people! I was getting discouraged because I was running into roadblocks at every turn.

“What’s the universe trying to tell you,” says my well-meaning friend.

“That I should crawl back in a hole and never come back out again?” This option is actually very appealing to me. I am an introverted Cancerian, so sitting at home making art sounds perfectly delectable. I don’t think, however, that is what the universe is telling me.

I recently attended a workshop on the neuroscience of creating, relating and resilience, that was quite eye opening. The workshop leader, Joanna Clyde Findlay, is doing research on trauma, and how to help people get beyond the feelings of victimization without getting re-triggered. Anytime you go back into the distressing material, there is the likely possibility that the brain will go back into that state of fight, flight or freeze and re-experience the trauma all over again. Her research is on art therapy, so she has designed a protocol to address trauma. It’s quite simple really. The short version is that first you make a representation of the distressing situation or incident. Then, you change it.

I made a paper sculpture of an obstacle course with myself as a kind of board game figureimg_3040 that has to figure out how to go over, under, and through all the obstacles. It felt hard, unrewarding and downright depressing. It put me back into those feelings of alternately  being over-reactive and angry or else defeated and resigned. When she said to change it, I wanted to throw it out and start all over again. Then in the next breath, she clarified… to change it without throwing it out.

I started cutting out the figure to make her more streamlined which felt good. After working for a while, I started drawing pictures of people on the obstacles. They turned out to be the exact people who I have been working with to start new programs and classes. (The unconscious is uncanny.) Then it dawned on me that the reason my resistance was so great was because of my longstanding difficulty dealing with people. Navigating my needs with theirs img_3041always puts me into that little kid place of being powerless over my parents’ moods and whims. Things like – asking for what you want/need, negotiating, following up, persevering, checking in, clarifying and mixing business with pleasure are all way beyond my skill set.

Anyway, I felt completely different after I changed the piece. It became more like a playground or amusement park where you get to play with different challenges and have fun. (I even put my dog on one. I have a good relationship with him. :))

Over the next couple of days, many of the previous obstacles had started to resolve themselves. I found out about the other people’s circumstances, many of whom were dealing with difficulties of their own. I experimented with new ways of communicating without feeling anxious about whether my needs were going to be met, or not. I let others know that I value the relationship and that made all the difference in the world.

Today I have felt what can almost be described as high. I can deal with other people. They are only people after all. I can care about others in my community and, at the same time, feel cared for too! That can-do feeling is called resilience.

Shedding Your Skin

You may have heard that 2016 is a 9 year. In numerology you add the digits together to come up with the number like this 2+0+1+6 = 9. 9 is a number of completion and endings because next year will be a 1 which is when we get to start again fresh. Also December 12th or 12-12 is considered to be a gateway to higher consciousness so this is an ideal time to shed the old skin and release any energies and emotions that are not yours.

I had a revelation the other night while I was lying quietly in bed in the stillness of the fullsizerender_2night thinking about shedding my skin. The old skin is a metaphor for a habitual energy body that is based on old fears, fallacies and misconceptions from childhood. It is made up of portals, hooks, receptor sites and open invitations for old stuff like limiting self concepts, ancestral patterns, and toxic family members; energies we have been carrying with us for perhaps life times.

Some might be for those people in our lives who can rob us of our power. You know who that is. If you remember Red Dog from the Lynn Andrews stories, he took her marriage basket, which was a symbol for the balance of masculine and feminine energies.

Is there someone in your life who can do that to you?

As I lay there, I could feel that the tensions in my body were alien energies. They were not mine! They are hanging around from ancient maybe ancestral times and may have been IMG_0800the result of trauma and abuse from the past and lingering defensive structures that really don’t serve any longer. Often when I attempt to open up my heart, I can feel a compression that doesn’t allow my heart space to expand. Whatever that is, it is not mine!

Old stories also live in our energy bodies. They have hooks and hangers to latch onto and can get going really quickly. We are powerless to stop the worthlessness, comparisons, and disaster stories unless we remove the sites for them to hang on to. Do you really want to keep that old junker lying around?

That’s where Snake energy can be helpful. We can simply shed the whole energy body coat, pockets and all and be free

When you get this radical idea of shedding your old energetic skin, there is a sense of possibility to really be able to be open to the present. It’s not – “It is what it is.” It’s –“It is what is NOW!”

Peaceful Solstice to you, my brothers and sisters.

Picking Up the Poop

My daily horoscope suggested that I needed to take a self care day for myself today. “Who me? I’m fine,” I thought until I sat down to meditate. My mind bounced from thought to thought like a ping pong ball flooding me with unpleasant memories and associations.

“This is an undisciplined mind,” I observed helpless to gain control. When there is so much rimg_2897esistance to dropping in, walking meditation is always an option. So I meandered over to the small serpentine labyrinth I built in the back yard. Since the stones had gotten rearranged over months of neglect, I replaced enough of them to manage to go around.

Standing at the gateway, I asked my question. “How can I encourage my body to stay calm and relaxed even where there is always pain and suffering?” And then I proceeded to take my first step into a heaping pile of squishy dog poop! It was disguised under leafy debris and still soft and gooshy thanks to the recent rains. As I stopped to wipe off my shoe (thankfully I was not barefooted!), I recalled the time when my psychic friend had stayed over. She noticed the dog poop intermingled in the labyrinth and had a psychic conversation with our dogs asking them to please find another spot. Apparently they did not listen because this is still their favorite, albeit sacred pooping zone.

Anyway, it added to my experience because so much of human life involves cleaning up, reworking and repairing stuff. This obviously includes our emotional fallout and psychic debris from every day existence.

That’s the message I got when I reached the center of the labyrinth. As much as I would love to think I can just keep pushing forward following my dreams, sometimes the wise thing to do is just deal with what’s right in front of us – even if that’s just picking up the dog poop.

Use It For Fuel

If you run in healing circles, you are very familiar with the concept of letting it go. Letting go of what no longer serves is a cliché that has good intention, however, it is vague. How do you let something go? And then it has the unintended implication that you can actually get rid of something as if you can put it in the trash, and it will get hauled away.  Just because it is out of sight does not mean that it doesn’t exist any longer. There it still sits in some landfill somewhere.img_2850

There is a law in physics about how nothing can be created or destroyed. It simply changes form. The molecules just come apart and reform into some other substance.

When I was preparing for a bonfire on the night of the super full moon, I collected an odd-looking seedpod bundle from my palmetto tree. Having flowered in the spring, it was already dead, but, with all its tumbleweed-like branches, it looked like it would make quite a dramatic pyrotechnic display.

On the way to the ceremony, I thought – what if you could use the unwanted thoughts, feelings, beliefs, energy patterns, tension, or body blockages for fuel?

img_2380At the bonfire, the other participants were leery of setting fire to the seedpod. They were concerned that it was going to be too much, that the neighbors would object. Visions of encounters with fire department filled our heads. Sure enough, it did not disappoint. It spewed sparks and flames into the ethers for a brief period of time and then stayed lit long enough for us to release our fears and doubts we had written on paper into the flames.

Lying in bed the next morning a sense of fear came over me. I was rehashing an interaction I had with a client the day before that didn’t go well. I was trying to control the situation, and she was resisting. In retrospect, I could have brought that to conscious awareness, but I didn’t. My ego-mind spun into reaction. “Well, you are just not a good therapist,” and thus begun the internal dialogue. My ego jumped in and started defending itself because it can’t tolerate being exposed as imperfect.

My body got tense and my breath shallow. You know the routine.

Then I remembered – use it for fuel.

Once I got clear, I was able to release it into my body, and, oh boy, the fireworks got started. There was a flood of energy into all the molecules and cells, and I felt a surge of aliveness rush through my body. I maintained the feeling for as long as I could and felt grateful for my newfound ability and understanding of how to transform and transmute energy.

Is Making Art Selfish?

At the end of this last intuitive painting workshop, one participant shared that someone said to her that making art was selfish, and she should focus on her other work in which she is giving to others. Is making art and giving your heart and soul the nourishment and attention it needs selfish?

Not everybody instantly understands what intuitive painting is all about. I can point in the direction of how to make art from your inner landscape, but ultimately it is up to you to img_2814find your way through the wreckage. Yes, wreckage. We bring to the blank paper so much emotional baggage from our pasts, our families and loved ones, and our cultural conditioning that it can be intimidating to dive into the creative process.

What’s going on inside must be acknowledged first and foremost. If not, the shadow aspects will intervene and cause lots of confusion. Once you let yourself know that you are going to listen to the Inner Voice, only then do you get cooperation from your creative spirit. It is safe to show up.

That is why we start each workshop with meditation so that people can get lined up with their true selves.  This is a very important step and helps participants to put their toes in the water first to test the temperature. Your intuition is your ally on the journey, and it is accessed through the depth of your being and knowing.

During the meditation we are gathering our scattered energies and bringing our emotional img_2810lives to the forefront. People think art is about how well you can represent something, but creativity is about giving your emotional life permission to express itself unconditionally. There is no need to suppress and repress our truth. Showing up as artists involves being vulnerable, telling our truth and exposing our emotional selves.

After I finish guiding the meditation, people are free to create. Even with the intention to use our intuition, doubt and hesitation still creep in. During this last workshop, I read this quote from Deepak Chopra as participants were starting to find their way with the materials.

Today I will factor in uncertainty as an essential ingredient of my experience. 
In my willingness to accept uncertainty, solutions will spontaneously emerge out of the problem, 
out of the confusion, disorder and chaos.

img_2822Being able to embrace uncertainty, an important skill when making art, is an invaluable life skill. It involves trusting whatever shows up and how it shows up. It teaches us how to trust ourselves.

Paying attention to our emotional well-being and taking the time to risk expressing our true selves is not indulgence. It is essential to our vitality

As you can see, participants dove right in and explored, experimented and allowed the art to happen. Making art is not selfish. Art is a exquisite interplay of making it happen and letting it happen, and, in the process, nurturing yourself and healing the world!

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Needing a Play Date with your Artistic Soul?

Calling all Artists and Co-creators,

Are you in need of a play date with your artistic soul? There is still time to register for the last painting workshop in the Fall “Mix It Up!” series Sat. Nov. 5th.

Fall is a good time for shedding of the outer layers and letting our inner life shine. What better way than using art materials to let your soul self speak with images to be revealed. Come play with color, shape, line, and symbols, and explore what is wanting to be expressed.

Hope to see you there!

Amy

Mix It Up!

Ongoing acrylic painting workshops taught by Amy Sullivan. Last one for the Fall series. More classes beginning in Jan. 2017.

11 am – 2 pm. Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016

$75/class plus $5 materials fee.

To register:

Find out more and register at Eventbrite.com,

or download registration form from www.SanchezArtCenter.org/Classes.

This ongoing workshop introduces a variety of mixed media effects and techniques to satisfy your artistic soul. Texture, layering, paint dripping, stencils, and monoIMG_0811-printing allow you to experiment and play. Experience new levels of possibility as you loosen up your artistic style and bypass creative blocks with ease. As you get more comfortable taking risks with the paint, you will find it easier to express yourself spontaneously through the creative process. No previous art experience necessary!  Ages 15 and up.

What to bring:

  • A bag lunch and snacks to share
  • A smock, apron, or old clothes
  • A journal for writing

Where:  Sanchez Art Center, 1220 Linda Mar Blvd, Pacifica

Questions? Call 650.355.1894

Comfortable In Your Own Skin

Early on in my career, I worked at a drug and alcohol recovery center with teenage girls. My supervisor asked me what I wanted to accomplish with the girls, and I said I wanted to help them feel comfortable in their own skin.

“That will never happen,” she said dismissively.

On one hand, I understand what she meant, and yet on the other, I still deeply believe that no matter what trauma we have experienced and no matter how spooked out of our sovereign space we may be, there is still an innate capacity to connect to our own eternal, infinite nature. Words like presence, consciousness, awareness, beingness, knowingness, Soul, expanded sense of self, or true nature point to the ineffable experience.IMG_6059

I recognize that there is a great deal of resistance and the ego-mind might squirm a bit. Often feelings of despair, guilt and resentment are lurking just below the surface. You will inevitably bump into many obstacles digging through the bedrock. Perseverance in the vein of allowing whatever is to be as is can melt ancient armouring along the littered pathway.

Judgments about the rewards to be had from going within often impede coming home to oneself. Thoughts like: “I should feel good, positive, loving, wise or ___________, may cause us to give up before we even begin.

Impatience can be easily subdued with gentle reminders to relax, breathe, allow and most importantly… FEEL. 

It’s okay to feel. It’s good for you to feel.

Feel body sensations. That means all body sensations, whether pleasant or painful. Feel your skin using a sense of heightened awareness. Feel the aliveness of your autonomic nervous system, and bodily functions, like breathing, heartbeat, blood flow, and temperature regulation.

Once you catch a glimpse of dimensionless presence, it will intensify as you continue to focus your attention on it, letting it grow and stepping back to observe and watch and quite simply experience.

Welcome home to the place where your soul resides.

Going into the Wilderness through Art

IMG_0836The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.     ~Albert Einstein

Am I just getting old or is time speeding up? People in my circle just seem to be getting hit left and right with major life challenges. As we enter the new world, it is becoming increasingly more important to check in with our spirit, soul, selves frequently throughout the day. One way to do that is to make some art. A daily art making practice has the capacity to be a mini-visionquest, and you can bring food and water!

Creativity is part of our true nature. That means that everyone (whether you consider yourself to be a creative person or not) needs to create. But…

You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself. ~ Alan Alda

To be inspired and allow the creative spirit to come through, you need to be present like in meditation. You need to be able to receive the signal. It doesn’t matter how clever or talented you are if you are not connected. A state of allowing what is present right now is the most conducive. What am I feeling, thinking? Allow whatever is there to bubble up without editing. Notice the resistance but let it go.

Scribble technique: To practice, take a piece of paper and a pen or pencil. Get centered and still for a moment. Then when you are ready start to scribble. Up and Down, left and right. Circular, jagged. Keep going until you come to a stopping place. Now just take a look. Turn the paper around and pick a spot to go in with color. Use markers or pastels to start coloring in sections that get your attention.IMG_0837

Afterwards take a look and start writing down associations. What got uncovered? Revealed? Discovered? What is trying to get your attention? What do you want to change? Feel free to add or subtract. Date it and give your art a title and you are done.

Making art gives us a chance to stop and get into a relaxed state. No matter how fast time is going, we don’t need to be racing around trying to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. That’s the old paradigm. When we are tight and tense and wishing things weren’t as they are, we are denying ourselves. We can neutralize external pressures by taking time to expand into the vibration of our own spirit, soul, selves. Making art is one way to do that.

PS: The first scribble is called “Hummmmmmm…” and is a reminder for me to chant throughout the day. The second is called “Healing Light” and looks a lot like the cast on my broken arm (another story) that needed attention.