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Saturday, August 13, 2016

I seem to be working these days but not talking. So, lets see some art! An idea put itself forth for a series of artistic vests, with asymmetrical lines, stick pin closures and knit fabrics. Having fun with it and plan my fall line to be from this set. And I get to hand dye the knits or sew in pieces of previous artwork. Great fun.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Still Squeezing By?

I turn 62 next week, and for a few weeks now, lots has been going wrong and lots going right. At this ripe age, part of me still wants to find the formula that will give me a smooth ride. Do I actually want a smooth ride? Not sure. A friend said recently he thought I was a "rebel" according to Gretchen Rubin's book Better Than Before. A rebel being someone who needs her own reason for doing everything, and is not motivated without that key element being part of the landscape. That sounds truer.

Anyway, I have something a little slippery to talk about today, that seems somehow linked to this rebel theme. As an artist, I do batik, silk and bamboo dyeing and patterning, silk painting and shibori mostly, and also teach these skills. My edge is always the juice of discovery and pushing the tide of creativity, both for me and my students. 

I completed a commissioned piece recently that I was unsatisfied with and preceded to do another, closer to my own aesthetic. This was better, but problems arose and in resolving them, I was pushed even further into creating a edgier, more beautiful but risky "art piece." Sure I wanted to please my customer, but the demand of life and art for me to be coherent with who I am/what I am doing as an artist and a connected spiritual being was much stronger.

After years of spiritual journey and believing in the value of inner coherence and transparency, has life finally called me out to stand in this space, and only in this space? Yikes- no more sliding or squeezing by!  

This "inner demand" seems to be everywhere in my life these days. Where before, I was satisfied to be pleasant and easy sometimes for others, now I must find a way to voice what's true for me. And this urge has no regard for how hard this might be, considering I value kindness, too. Is this aging? I think it is for me. Aging seems to be about getting very clear and living it.

Case in point. I'm preparing to facilitate Conscious Aging workshops here in Pennsylvania, and as I study for the certification, I am also beginning to look for partners, places to host the workshops. Although I am very excited about the program, I am getting very little response to my "well crafted" positive emails. 

What's missing? I think its life once again, demanding I have the courage and clarity that the program will demand from its participants, and I'm not quite there yet myself. I've been thinking and saying these kinds of thoughts for so long, while able to slide around a little and chose where to live them and where to slide. Maybe the easy ride is over, replaced with juicy opportunities that offer much deeper satisfaction, along with coherence.

This is a slippery idea. On one hand, I wish to be compassionate toward myself, honor where I am and be transparent in connecting with myself and other people. On the other hand, I am in this spot of inner demand, until I am not. Perhaps I've created no way back. You know the idea that life insists you live at the level of your understanding? Well perhaps life thinks I've had enough wiggle room.

Here's what it looks like now: 

  1. Being conscious of what I am feeling whenever I don't feel wonderful. 
  2. Take the time to feel and understand what I am feeling, and probably say it out loud, without concern for how long it takes. 
  3. Then look at my wholeness, the entire landscape of all the conflicting feelings and needs, order them up and act in an way that's fully in coherence to all of it.
At 62, am I old enough and skilled enough to know myself a little, willing enough, to be clear, coherent and transparent?

There is some relief and comfort inside, that I finally get to do this. That I give it to myself as a big gift. A mature gift, not for the wimpy part, or the 8 year old part of me.

Is this true for you, too? I would love to hear about it.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Coherent Road to Conscious Aging

Have you ever been working on making a spiritual leap or wanted to understand something deep, only to notice that life has already just thrown it at you so you could actually see it, feel it and have your answer before you ask?This seems to be the way I learn, or the way life has decided to teach me.
Case in point. I love looking at aging as a new frontier: I think most people are so shocked by what aging does to us and takes from us, no one is driving the car--everyone (mostly) is looking backwards at what was, or trying like crazy to seem like it doesn't phase them.

I am shocked too with a body that doesn't work or look like it used to, the loss of family members... But something in me insists that life IS intelligent and that there IS something else happening here. There's got to be scenery, depth, feeling, mystery, good new stuff we couldn't even imagine when we were thirty.

So, I have an Excited!About Aging site where I post anything I find on great aging, and a website to teach creativity as an aging-well tool. I even teach Art Classes for Alzheimer's. But I want something more-- it feels like I am still outside the theater wanting to go in, but not finding the door. Or the dance that leads to the door and opens it.

Enter IONS wonderful program called Conscious Aging. I read about it and knew I had to become a facilitator--that way I'd have a front row seat to the transformation that happens when we are awake and conscious to life's amazing aging tango. I signed up. Got the materials,just knowing in my heart that I am going to love this. Which I do. I will be facilitating this remarkable workshop on excavation and new life skills in a few months.

And of course, this means doing the workbook myself and reaching out to create opportunities and community to do the workshop. Slowly doubts creep up, can I do this well? (push it down) Can I really make the contacts that will welcome this program? (stuff the thought away, I'm busy learning how to facilitate Conscious Aging).

And so it goes. I do have a toolbox of processes to see what's going on inside and I use them often, but it is seeming like a bother in this context. I'm so juiced by the program and busy learning it.

Then of course it hits me like a brick wall. I don't want to feel what's going on. I want to pass go and collect my $200. I don't really want to be conscious of my fears, feelings of doubt, unforgiveness, shyness, lack of compassion toward myself while I learn to teach Conscious aging! Boy the joke is on me!

Life, in its astounding intelligence, is making sure I learn all about the chapters of conscious aging NOW, before I teach it. Self Compassion, Forgiveness toward self and others. Reaching out to others and telling the truth. Feeling what's going on and naming it. Understanding that death creates life. Letting a new vision of aging find you.

This facilitator, at least, will be well versed in all of these hard areas before she runs the program. I would even say it's not possible for me to teach the program as who I am right now. Life wants me to be that future person who has done the work. I love it. Life in action, making us do the work, to become fully coherent as we hold the space for folks to get conscious about aging. I'm happy to play the fool and bow once again to how great life it, just doing its thing, all by itself.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Happiness Paradox

Close up of recent silk abstract painting

Lots going on inside and out. In teaching a silk panting class with a new format this session, my intention was to bring more of my whole self to play. My personal interest in doing larger, abstract silk paintings, led to teaching it, planning a sort of creative “free-for-all” of experimentation. The surprising result was more relaxation—I was doing it to please myself, and therefore was more centered. And more experimentation and expression by the students resulted too. Teaching is such a teacher for me, paradox though that may seem, and a bringer of joy.
A last piece moving its way through my layers of self is the happiness controversy. My art work is flow and focus, the natural world is a joy almost all the time, and friends, growth, exploration give me great happiness. It feels like life is handing me beauty each day, with a forceful “Here! Take it! This is for you!” And then there are people in my life that are afraid of happiness. Life is hard, don’t let the god see you smiling too much, gotta be serious, there’s danger here! I had a sad, weepy mother and remember deciding I could only bond with her and love her by being sad too. So this mindset is entrenched.
Is it wrong to be happy when others are sad? Is it betrayal, foolish, unloving? I went digging deep and found some gold in there. I unearthed deal-making: here’s some happiness for me and some commiseration for you; I can be a little happy but not let in the BIG joy that I feel pressing against me so often. I found the prison of serving a god I don’t believe in—that of life as suffering, we must be afraid of bad things. And I found the betrayal of self and arrogance of refusing the aliveness that life is thrusting toward me. Now there’s is a sad thing. Still I couldn't let go of the idea that being happy when others are sad is wrong. Being happy is selfish and makes you a bad person, the ego roared.
That crazy thought did it for me. I saw that commiserating is not love! Supporting others sadness when I don’t agree is dishonest, honoring false gods and unhelpful. And, it’s lying—expressing from a place I am not. I need to own that.
Then a wave of huge energy exploded inside. It said, “I will not refuse aliveness”—whatever joy, beauty insight, pleasure life offers me will be taken, with both hands and with gratitude. Sure there is not only joy and happiness, but it is such a gift, such a true thing when it comes, it must be acknowledged and taken as a sacred thing.
So.  Art from happiness? Maybe not always bright colors, maybe contrast and exploring dark corners when they call. But the joy of making art, teaching people to see what I see, letting the Tao flow through and being here to watch and co-create is truly joyful. I’ll leave you with a great quote from the Tao of watercolor, by Jeanne Carbonetti:
When I was a child I was whole. I simply painted, and I was glad. Later, as life grew more complex, I split into many selves and I learned to judge them all. Some parts were good, others bad. Some were to be loved, others to be rejected. I judged my paintings, too, and myself as a painter. I became something else.
But later still, in the quiet of a time when I was too tired to judge and weak enough to listen, I painted again, and then I saw that the mistakes, failed efforts, and the bad paintings had brought me to a new place--a break-though painting of my first major series. My life changed that day, and I became myself again.

For painting had taught me the Tao.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Extreme Diversity as Art and Contribution

I saw something in passing today that gave me what felt like an electric bolt in my heart. Browsing on the TED site for talks about aging and creativity I saw this:

Temple Grandin: The world needs all kinds  of minds  ( 
Here's the TED blurb about the talk: 
Temple Grandin, diagnosed with autism as a child, talks about how her mind works -- sharing her ability to "think in pictures," which helps her solve problems that neurotypical brains might miss. She makes the case that the world needs people on the autism spectrum: visual thinkers, pattern thinkers, verbal thinkers, and all kinds of smart geeky kids.

What she's speaking about is an idea I have always naturally believed and find myself growing in my engagement with Alzheimer’s and Dementia folks in my Art for Special Seniors classes. I am doing these classes because I can, and I have great patience for this population. But the truer, deeper reason is that I am so excited about the idea that everyone is a contributor: that the perspective offered by every single person, especially those with off-center or unacceptable worldviews, is unique, important and in need of full expression. 

I love the senior and altered mind populations and create methods, exercises and artistic journeys that allow those without a trusted voice to actually look at what they see, hear and feel and express it. It's great art to me! Like Van Gogh, or Modigliani, there is a unique eye/ear/experience here asking to be spoken.  I find myself holding my breath as she expresses what a curve in her drawing feels like, or why he chose this particular picture to add to a collage. It’s all about nuance and my experience is that these expressed nuances are valuable to well being and contribute to the whole in unseen ways. So, in a sense, it’s about empowering the ability of each person to distinguish what is perceived, and to express it. Which is also my own deeper journey, I guess, of always becoming more conscious and expressed. Thoughts need space to move and complete themselves.

Taking this thought further, what if Alzheimer’s could be seen, rather than just a disease, as a human adaptation, providing something the collective whole needs? Or, in expressing what IS there, greater quality of life is available and unimagined ideas can move and complete?

If you think this idea is superficial or dangerous? First consider: it is a unique eye to contribute to the art of life. It also gives voice to what’s here, reducing the frustration and fear that often accompanies illness. If I've learned anything as a human and an artist, it is that where you are in life at this very moment is important. Not where you or others think you should or could be. And mostly I've noticed that those with Alzheimer’s are having a way better time of it than their caregivers, who are usually stuck in should/was/isn't.

A comment under Temple's TED talk talks about a Danish man who is primarily employing people with Asberger’s syndrome. He found that it was perfectly possible for them to work commercially with tasks that required focus and dedication of a specialized mind. Not surprisingly one of their most valued services is intensive software testing and meticulous documentation. The hardest part for him was to make his employees go home from work and not work overtime.  Love it!

Grandin said we need to help students with unique minds be successful. And it starts by recognizing the value of each person as contribution. I am contemplating this idea as one of life's arts. Diversity expanded exponentially, as life keeps using those fractals to divide, mirror, alter and grow. What do you think?

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Big Global Self

Thomas Huebl, a German Mystic I am studying with said yesterday that we are all becoming a global mind, that if we live in culture, we can't help but become it and become conscious of it. With the internet, smartphones, international customer service, blogs, international groups, we are in touch with people from somewhere else many times every day. As I logged onto my smart phone this AM, I realized, it's true. I'm on the net each day, even the silk painters organization I belong to has hundreds of active, contributing members in India, the middle east, Russia, Africa, Iceland. And they are sharing their experiences while sitting in their countries, painting and selling and having families and friends. He's right! We can't really pretend anymore its just us or just me, without really shutting down or resisting. And yes, I do get overwhelmed so easily and do shut down. And for me, with lots of family in Egypt, Hawaii, and friends from all over the globe that are now in America, too, I'm cooked in it. They bring all that culture, superstition, habit and worldview sweeping in with them at every conversation.

But what do you do with all that?
First I realized that I WANT to be global. I have always loved things exotic, people, art, smells, weather, all of the otherness that traveling and reading brings, not to mentions friends from everywhere. And in my art classes for Seniors with Dementia and Alzheimers, I'm really just going over another bridge, thirsty for what they see, feel, smell, experience from that realm. That doesn't scare me in the slightest. Then why does being engaged full time as a global being exhaust and frighten me?
Here's what I see. Feeling and experiencing what others see,etc, I often jump right out of my body--my boundaries are gone, and I'm IN their experience, lapping it up. And that scares my body, there is no one here with it. Second, a mental glitch says quietly in the background, who's right? What's true? If they see this and I see that, well, who's experience is truer? The great "compare-er" clicks in. And that scares my body even more.
So for me, it's not just the global experience, its all the mental baggage that goes with it. Having said that, I seeI have the desire to let it all flow in and out. See, feel experience it all. Don't compare, don't take it personally, keep an open mind. it is all here. This gigantic global self is evolving every nano-second. As a cell in a big body, I can only wonder at its awesome scale, stay curious.

Because I've seen that everything I want is "over there" on the engaged side of the gap, I might as well, just take it in. Keep watching. Keep processing.

What's your experience?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Staying non-Reactive to get what I need

Things Keep Going Wrong!

Do you rant and rage when things go wrong? Do you shut down, separate yourself, want to sleep, fight or get superstitious? I had reason to look at this idea today, in the middle of an ice storm. In the past few weeks, 2 computers crashed, 2 snow blowers broke down, I fell on the ice, my partner’s ceiling feel in (from snow melt leakage), a new website didn’t launch, my health insurance got all messed up, aches and pains from snow shoveling… Urgh!!!
Here’s what I noticed. That when things go wrong, any kind of bump on the landscape, I tend to panic, if even a little, and go into fear to varying degrees. There’s a little voice that says “if I don’t rail against this, I’ll be telling life I like it, I want more.”  But is that true? I dug into it and felt those feelings of needing the drama.  Although I have to say, in all my years of working with computers, for example, drama never did a thing to solve the problem! And in all my years with my guy, my arguing with his negativity never did a thing to change him or help me. It’s beginning to look really dumb to keep up this reactivity.

Here’s the thought, “I need to be reactive to get what I want.” But is it true?
When I’m reactive, I close off from life, and from my intelligence—it’s a kind of blindness/deafness insulation. And it never helps the problem.
When I cross the bridge and stay open, present and engaged with life, something really interesting happens. Here’s an example from yesterday. When my Virus Software stopped working on one computer and I didn’t freak out (it had happened recently on 2 other computers), I just called up chat and got a techie on the line. He took control of my computer and had it fixed in 15 minutes. What a great guy!  Another example an insurance snafu with a prescription. I called up for the third time, but without anger, and this time got a woman on the phone who said: no, we don’t have it but let me call the dr’s office while you are on the phone and straighten it out.
Is it possible I got 2 great customer service people on the phone in the same day? I was thrilled. And moreover, I was more fascinated with this great experience than with getting the problem solved.
And this is what I noticed. When I DON’T shut down and stay engaged and don’t fight life, I get what I need but I also get in a deeper sense what I really love—great experiences with people, interesting interactions, the chance to be really appreciative!

Yikes! What if I did this everywhere, every time I hit a bump—stay aware and engaged, let go of fear and see what’s around. I am excited. Maybe for me the reverse is true:

If I stay Non-reactive-I get what I need, want and get to be satisfied and engaged.