Sunday, December 29, 2013

Where Are All the Imps & Mischievous Ones?

Being The Pink Dog of Happiness
I have something serious to talk to you about. It's been up on my radar for a bit.  Yesterday I began a conversation with myself about it and then I continued the conversation today with my daughter.  I realized it's a seldom discussed subject and perhaps we are all really starved for it. Before you peek at the next sentence, can you guess what it is?  If this were a card I'd have a little bit of paper covering the word but I can't do that here. Hopefully your crafty eyes have not darted ahead and you have filled in your own special word about what you think we all need more of in our lives and are not really getting.

I've been thinking about fun. Fun and lightness, lightheartedness, and my personal favourites foolishness, perhaps even impishness.  Where are the imps and mischievous ones these days?  It seems to me what our culture often sells us as fun is merely escapism and indulgence. Not to say that a movie or a novel, a dish of ice cream or a new toy can't be fun.  But at the end of the day how does it make you feel, that's the question I've been asking myself.  Do I feel nourished and restored or do I just need more? Do I feel joyful and revived or a little dirty?  Am I  on the prowl for something else? Or do I feel a little used and empty after that last new sweater or the eggnog latte?  Those are the the little elf questions that have been popping up and asking me to look at the details that make up my life.

An ocean of fun at Tofino, BC

Our culture is so busy convincing us of all the things we need to have and do to have fun, messing with our heads and hearts in sly marketing kinds of ways.  Just today as I waited to watch a Ustream teaching, a kindle advert told me that if I liked to read, I'd want the new kindle. It showed me happy pictures of young women with cats on their laps, cozy sleeping partners nestled beside them.  Surely my life would be more fun with a kindle?  And if I didn't buy a new kindle was the implication, I didn't like to read? Fun it seems has been hijacked, kidnapped, gagged and tied by the advertising industry, made into a thing, a lifestyle.  They have sucked all the life out of fun and put a price tag on it (whoops, that little rant was no fun was it?) Note to self, the truth is not always fun. Back to fun.  Are we having any yet?

When I took the awakening joy course, James Baraz asked people to do things that were fun for them.  Hmmm, a lot of us had to stop and think about that.  How do I have fun?  What do I regard as fun? Do you have some fun everyday?  I think often I am so busy getting done what needs to be taken care of, that I forget about fun.  I often choose work.  I like to cross those things off my to do list and fun isn't on it.  I have even watched myself doing things that I think should be fun and realized for whatever reason, that I'm not really having fun, I'm not fully engaged.  I'm half there, watching myself, watching others.  I might be noticing petty annoyances (it's cold out) or thinking about the next thing I have to do.

Fun Spots Tofino BC

I once heard a yoga teacher make an interesting comment.  She said something like, "I pretty much resist everything, except lying on the couch drinking a latte."  And I could identify with that!  I could see how I look forward to things until it's time to do them and then by some strange twist of mind, I'd rather stay home or do something else.  I read some research a while ago that made me realize I'm not alone.  People expressed the most happiness when "planning a vacation".  Not actually taking the vacation, but planning it was the fun part.  Hmmm.

So I realized a couple of things.  Culturally fun isn't valued for adults.  And many of us don't really know what is truly fun for us, what feeds us and nourishes us.  I'm not talking about fun substitutes, you know the tofurkey of fun, nope I'm talking about the meaty, luscious, drippy stuff that makes us smile from the inside out, leaves us feeling full and satisfied, corners of the mouth turned upwards.  And to find that thing we have to be like the Sherlock Holmes of fun, snooping around for signs, just the smallest ones, for those mid afternoon shafts of sunlight across the floor, the handful of paint chips we surreptitiously collected at the hardware store for no reason at all other that we like those colours.
A little Buddha 6"x6"

The more I explored the idea of fun, the more I realized that like so many things, it was an attitude of mind, something that comes from the inside and radiates out, not the other way around.  If you spend time with children, you probably know about fun.  They don't need much, a couple of fingers to turn into a spider, a cardboard box that becomes a house.  Fun is everywhere if you know "how" to find it.

You know how people pick words that they want to focus on for the next year, important words, weighty, thoughtful words like silence and love.  I've never been very successful with that. My words usually crinkle up and dry out by the first week of January.  Some years I find them all mouldy and sour under the couch.  But maybe FUN could be my word for 2014.  Maybe at the end of 2014 if I explored fun with enough gusto I'll have a great big freeway of neural pathways with on and off ramps that flash the word "fun" in big neon letters.  Who knows, but it could be fun.  I'll keep you posted.  And if you really want to have a little fun, watch this bonus video below.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Geography of the Art and our Internal Compass

"Geography of the Heart" New Work at Cafe Talia 
It's been a weird couple of weeks in my world: time consuming email crash, got the flu, vacuum stopped working, then pretty much right after I stopped whining a largish painting sold and I got a small art show hung.  As I watched it all unfold and unravel, it was interesting to observe.  Again I was reminded of my preference for things to unfold as "I like". You've heard me talk about this before. Of course you say, who wishes for the flu, who hopes to spend 2 days mopping up after an explosion in  their inbox?  Excellent point. But the subtle thing is the mind's arguing with what is, evidenced by impatience, grumbling, imagining that things should be otherwise.  When the desirable things arrived I could even see the slightly edgy excitement of them, which felt uncomfortable in the body.  There was a subtle background note of the nose sniffing around for more "good stuff" as the "desirable" unfolded.  I could see the imbalance at both ends of the spectrum.

At one point a line from a Zen poem popped into my mind: "the way is not difficult for those who do not pick and choose" . Here's the whole poem if you're interested: "Affirming Faith In Mind".  As my mind staggered back to centre I realized I wasn't chicken little and the sky wasn't falling.  This was simply life unfolding as it does and I could do what needed to be done and not terrorize myself with whining, clutching and looking like an embodiment of Edvard Munsch's "The Scream"(perhaps that's a little too dramatic?).  I sometimes forget that it is my railing against what is, rather than the circumstances, that really makes life suck.

Cafe Talia with painting "Continents of the Heart"
It reminds me of a teaching story about a farmer who lets his old horse loose and it runs away. The villagers say, "that's too bad."  The farmer says, "who knows?"  The next day the old horse returns followed by a beautiful wild stallion.  The villagers say, "that's wonderful, now you have 2 horses."  The farmer says, "who knows?" The story continues.  Here's the link to the full story but I know you're getting the gist of the story: "how do we know what's good or bad, really?"  And for me this is such a good reminder of how small our focus is.  How do we really know?  The most helpful position is to simply be with what is and take the next step that needs to be taken.

The Density of Air 12"x24"

 I have been reading some interesting stuff by a German doctor named Rudiger Dahlke who talks about the fact that the human mind is so drawn to divide things up into light an dark and wanted and unwanted.  Even our word de-cision means to cut in two.  He warns about chasing "the light" and how one side of a pair is likely to draw in it's opposite, in it's attempt to seek balance.  Harmony and balance are what create health.

Crossing The Fields in Winter

Dahlke has an interesting view of illness.  He says our illnesses are in fact messages from our bodies about imbalances or things that are missing in our lives  that we have consciously rejected or ignored.  Our symptoms are telling us we need to deal with these things.  I find this so interesting.  Of course the trick in this is to hear the message accurately.  I think part of why I find this so interesting is that it feeds into this duality of picking and choosing, of liking and not liking what comes up in our lives.

peeking in the door at Cafe Talia

I will end with a quote about "Geography of the Heart" that I used in my artists statement at Cafe Talia:

“... Setting the compass of our heart, no matter how rough the storms, how difficult the terrain, even if we have to back track around obstacles, our direction is clear.”
- Jack Kornfield

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Rushing Toward Beauty & Building Resilience

8"x10" Footprints On The Earth Oil & Cold Wax

While I was painting this afternoon I noticed at one point, how much I was in a hurry to get a part of the painting that I didn't like covered up. That little palette knife was just doing 90 in a school zone.  I could feel the rushing, the almost breathless way I went after the offending spot.  And I thought to myself, "isn't this interesting?  What's that all about?"  And it struck me that this is very like me in many parts of my life, this lack of tolerance for the imperfect, for the messy, a reaction that often leads to feelings of frustration.

Feeling sick?  Let's get that out of the way.  Messy kitchen?    Messy life?   Let's get that cleaned up. A Longing for problems to disappear in a poof.  Hmm... in a hurry to make the ugly; beautiful, the imperfect; less flawed.  A magnetic draw towards beauty and perfection.  Definitely encouraged by our culture, I think we all have this in varying degrees.

8"x10" Uncovered Oil and Cold Wax

And aiming oneself in the direction of clean and tidy and beautiful is a fine intention, let's not get weird here. It's perhaps the rush away from mess and chaos, that requires reflection.  And how we handle the movement from what we "find undesirable" to it's counterpart is vital to our well being, I think.

It came to me how much depth and complexity I rob myself of, when I hurry to get things all "nice" without appreciating the nuances of messy.  Perhaps I miss finding the interesting hidden line or shape, or a new direction in a painting I am in a hurry to get resolved.
16"x16" Tethered  Oil & Cold wax

Maybe I am thinking about things in this way because I've been dealing with a dental adventure that found me having a tooth extracted last week.  Around the same time I came across a German doctor who writes about finding meaning in illness. His take is that the healing lives in the more complicated crevices of understanding, buried in the deeper meaning of our symptoms, instead of in the headlong rush to get those symptoms out of the way. In the same breath that it makes sense to me, I also want to get on with what interests me (some habits die a slow painful death)!  I've gathered my arsenal of natural remedies and am marching my little holistic army toward that dental infection.  The inclination to be well is fine, don't get me wrong, it is the energy we bring to it that's important, I think.

I was reminded of the quality of "resilience" in my work, my health and some frustrating encounters with Samsung's customer service this week. I listened to a talk by Joan Borysenko a couple of weeks ago on "stress hardiness" or resilience and it really resonated with me. Unfortunately I can't link you to that talk because it's no longer available but here's a similar one. She talked about the 3 C's of stress hardiness: 1. Commitment- a sense of purpose and engagement with the world.  2. Control- a belief that our actions can make a difference.  3.  Challenge - an understanding that life is constantly changing but viewing that change as exciting rather than scary.  Here's a nice little blogpost someone wrote about it.

I am really working on #3, viewing the less desirable ones as exciting.  How about you? I wish you a stress hardy week.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Brain Surgery Without Scalpels

10"x10" Mixed Media with Cold wax  "Setting The Inner Compass"
Near the end of September I had the pleasure of doing a weekend retreat with Rick Hanson.  I really like how he marries the Dharma to current brain research.  He even gives it a fancy layer cake kinda name: "applied neurodharma".  I'm all about the applied part of the layer cake.  If our spiritual practice doesn't help us lead increasingly saner lives, then what it's all about?  Can we be a little kinder to that neighbour who seems annoying, a little less reactive and self centred when family needs call? Can we just be quiet and listen more sometimes?

One of the major tenets of Buddhist thought is "there is suffering in this world".  I know people that say Buddhism is "negative" because it focuses on suffering but to quote John Cleese, it's really just stating the "bleeding obvious."  It didn't invent suffering, it just stopped long enough to observe this phenomena.  I used to sit with people in my old Sangha who would say they had no suffering in their lives.  This always made me raise my inner eyebrow.

6"x6" mixed media with cold wax "Following The Dots"

I liked the matter of fact way Hanson defined suffering.  He handled it like this: "Craving causes suffering and what causes craving but states of deficiency and deficit." So when we feel liked we're missing something, that we "need" something we are in a state of suffering, be it mild or intense.  If we're sick and we want to be well, that "wanting" can cause us all kinds of agitation and discomfort. If we want a cup of coffee, that can be a pretty mild form of craving (or not), one we might not even identify as suffering.

He went on to round things up with his trade mark clarity.  As humans we have 3 basic needs.
-the need to feel safe
-the need to feel satisfied
-the need to feel connected.

If these needs are not met we wander into states of deficiency which trail off into states of suffering (not one of the 50 states to the south of me, though it could be present in any of them)

Our need to feel safe relates to the oldest part of our brain, the limbic system and is the part of the brain that's hardest to change.  This is the "fight or flight" part or as Hanson referred to it "the avoidance system" of the brain.  So if you ever wondered why it is so hard to step out of the fear response, it's because this is the hardest part of the brain to change.  Hard to teach an old brain new tricks? Apparently.

This ancient part of the brain spends a lot of time scanning the environment for danger.  While this stirs anxiety and reactivity, we can thank this part of our brain for our basic survival as humans.  Hanson suggested that we spend time reminding ourselves that we are safe in the present moment (if of course this is the truth), noticing and taking in our sense of safety in our home, our car, wherever we may be. When we're feeling safe, we are open to experience feelings of peace.

6"x6" mixed media "Highways That Lead Home"
Our second need as humans is to feel satisfied or accomplished, as opposed to frustrated or disappointed.  This relates to what Hanson called our "approach and reward system". The sub cortex or mammalian part of the brain handles our needs for satisfaction.  Here we are concerned with opportunities for food, for career, for the creative aspirations of our lives.  When these needs are met we feel contented and grateful.

Our third need is to feel connected to others.  You may have read  stories of babies failing to thrive in orphanages because they are deprived of the very basic human need for connection.  Our cortex is the source of our primate need for relationship, inclusion and our need for basic human warmth.  Our need to be seen, liked and appreciated are part of our basic human needs.  This is the part of us that feels love, compassion and kindness in relation to others.  The absence of  feelings of connection are sources of hurt, loneliness, and unworthiness.  We have all experienced these whether real or imagined.
6"x8" mixed media "Pilgrimage To The East"

Hanson talked about green zones and red zones as ways of thinking about these systems.  When our needs are met, we are living in the green zone.  If we feel deficient in any one of these areas we tip over into deficiency and find ourselves in the red zone.

One of the things I found  interesting was how we can deal with the "deficient" states when we find ourselves there.  I think finding our way out of the red zone is often a source of confusion.  If you are feeling deficient in the "need for connection" area of life ie, feeling lonely or left out", it's not hugely helpful to notice that you feel safe, or to work more diligently on your career aspirations.  That may improve things slightly or temporarily, but the real need for love and connection is not being addressed.  This clarity is so helpful when we (or others) are experiencing suffering or feelings of things not being right.  And while a bag of popcorn tastes good, it doesn't really address feelings of unworthiness or feeling left out.   Hanson recommends taking in the good in all areas of these systems, reminding ourselves regularly where in our lives we are safe, accomplished and loved.  Over time we can actually change the structure of our brains by taking in the good in our lives.  And who among us doesn't wish for a new brain sometimes??

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Dharma of Art or Two Days In Jeane's Studio

 painting by Jeane Myers

It's amazing how things fit together if you let them. I recently spent a weekend on retreat with Rick Hanson and then slipped below the 49th parallel to spend some time in the studio of Jeane Myers from Art It.  The retreat and the studio time melted deliciously into a unified whole, where painting and dharma practice had the sweet, tantalizing flavour of a favoured treat. The days in Jeane's light filled studio were punctuated with conversations that plunged immediately into the deep end of the pool. "It's not really about the individual piece, it's more about the process and how it connects to the rest of the way we live our life." I'm paraphrasing Jeane here. Yes, yes, I have seen how painting is the condensed milk version of what I spill out in the world.

She asked questions that I stumbled and sputtered over, like "why do you paint?"  This is not casual, filling the space question.  Jeane, a former theatre director is gathering; gathering information so she might help you find that button you dropped on the sidewalk and have been searching for, forever.

Jeane Myers Studio

If you stop by here once in a while you have heard me whine about frustration with my process, how I feel I don't know what I'm doing and that I am never happy with what I paint. (that's the Coles notes on my whinging as the Brits call it).  And there are great similarities in the way I go about my life, hoping for the quick, tidy fix and on to the next thing.  "Distress tolerance" Hanson calls it and it's a muscle I'm working on.

Another studio view

I have followed Jeane's blog for some time now and I LOVE her work. On many occasions I have been stopped in my gumboots as she obliterates a painting that I would have called a keeper.  This fearlessness and dedication to growth and process hooked me.  I see in her a person that is willing to stand on the edge, who rejects security in favour of growth.  In a way, the how she does it, is almost more important than what she does, for me.  But it's what she does that stops the eye and makes it settle down for a closer look.

We are such interesting creatures, us humans. What I told Jeane I was on the hunt for was "form" in my work.  I felt that abstract composition was a big hairy mystery to me, well actually I left out the hairy part.   By hour 2 of our time together a little light started flashing on the internal dashboard.  I didn't really come to learn about form and composition.  I came to learn how to have a conversation with my painting. And isn't that life?  Often what we think we need is not really it.  We just need a wise guide to push aside the tangled branches and show us where the trail really is.

small work I did in Jeane's studio

I needed to be able to learn from my work.  And doesn't that translate into every place in life? If someone can give us the tools, we can fish forever, instead of constantly coming back like a little bird, hoping someone will feed us.  Jeane displayed a razor sharp knack of cutting through the tangle and getting to  the real issue.  And while I had read about this "conversing with your work" I just never really got it.  I had puzzled over John Daidoo Loori's descriptions of standing in front of his work and waiting for something to shift. For me shift never happened, maybe without the f, but that's another story.

Somehow by the end of the first day, somewhere inside me I understood what "having a conversation" meant. By having me constantly turn my work around, it somehow released my busybody, thinking mind. That simple process freed a deeper, inner eye.  Suddenly I felt more comfortable, more connected to the work.  My goodness that canvas and I were chattering away at each other. I teased that I was channeling Jeane.  But in truth there is something communicated energetically by someone who knows what they are doing and has trust and confidence in the process.

Jeane's work waiting to go to the Simon Mace Gallery

In one of her posts Jeane talked about finding the "arbitrary" parts of a painting, the parts that don't work, the parts that detract and weaken the real meat (tofu for you vegetarians) of the piece.  When she wrote about this in her blog, it seemed like she was speaking in tongues.  What?  Arbitrary?  I couldn't imagine identifying the arbitrary.  And yet as we worked and looked and talked, slowly I could see it.  I am still on training wheels with this one, but I have some sense of "the arbitrary".  Before it truly sounded like a foreign language.

It was 2 days packed with so much learning, more than I could ever imagine.  Sometimes it felt like things were being communicated by osmosis.  As a teacher, Jeane displayed a complete lack of ego and  generosity of spirit.  "Here, what do you think is arbitrary in my painting?  How would you do it if it was in your style?"  She was so interested in figuring out the puzzle of what I needed.  My hunt was her challenge.  You can travel a long way to find a Dharma teacher with that same curiosity and attention to the task.

More of Jeane's painted goodness

One of the things that impressed me the most about Jeane was her understanding of how to learn from her process and the actual piece in front of her.  I loved drinking in her positive attitude (no that would be guzzling). At one point she said something like, "you have your pros and your cons. What is really interesting and where all the excitement is, is in the "cons".  That's where the work and growth is."  As someone who has spent a lot of time feeling frustrated by the challenge this was like being teleported to another planet.  Sometimes we have to look through someone else's eyes to be able to really see.

So we never took out a colour wheel or talked much about paints or galleries.  We jumped right off the deep end, me with my water wings and Jeane swimming out in front, calling out that the water was fine and that you could learn a lot from just putting one arm in front of the other.

And while my retreat with Rick Hanson was great, I can't even begin to communicate what 2 days in Jeane's studio were like.  I wish for you all, whatever your art, a mentor, an art spirit that is just the right fit for you, to encourage you and to fish out of you all that is good and amazing. It's in there.  Some people excel at helping you dip into the pond of what's hiding in your heart. If they're like Jeane they actually thrive on the challenge.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Preparing The Inner Canvas

8"x8" mixed media on panel (at ArtCraft)

I have been struggling a lot with my art process lately.  It's my koan. I feel like a living example of Ira Glass' quote.

But truly I've been doing this for a long time in one form or another.  Just somehow with some of the reflection on  my mental habits and the energy of my sitting practice, it's become more clear.  Sometimes that makes it more painful.  (Koan # 109 Is shit shittier if you see it more clearly??) But in some ways it feels like something that is becoming larger until it explodes and turns to dust (and or debris) and disappears. Am I just trying to put a good spin on it, all dressed up like Pollyanna with nowhere to go?  Or am I responding to the inherent emptiness in all our thrashings?

Some days the experience of frustration is so intense that I'm thinking, "why am I doing this? I am terrible at it. Why don't I just give up?"  And then I see Mara's shadow and I catch on.  Yes I could throw out all the paint brushes (I had a friend who threw his golf clubs into a lake) but where would I be then. I am chasing something and some days it feels like it's just around the corner.  And some days it's on another planet.
11"x14" mixed media on panel

The judgmental mind causes a lot of grief when we don't see it for what it is.  It's true that critical reasoning can offer helpful information but when thoughts kickstart the destructive emotions into gear and pedal out a long line of unhelpful thoughts and feelings, critical thought is a bitch.

I looked at some lovely photos from a family friend this morning that oozed beauty and serenity.  And as I sat I was reminded of a comment a monk made to me when I asked him about my frustration with my painting process. He said something to the effect that "if you want to paint peace, you need to be peace." And while that makes a lot of sense to me I often end up on the short end of the peace stick.
Visitor at our back door (outside!)

As I sat with all this I was infused with a lovely feeling of tenderness and I thought that's what I want to come out on to the canvas.  I could see in my minds eye how that tenderness would look on the easel.

And so it is the unwinding of this habitual way of being in the world that is our real work, not the painting, not the writing, not whatever it is that we do.  When we can in fact "be" what it is we wish to share with the world, then it will come through us.  Until then we're just preparing the canvas.  And that's good honest work too.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

A Shrieking Gibbering Madhouse On Wheels

11"x14" mixed media on panel Your Heart From Space

On Sunday I had the great pleasure of doing a one day retreat with Buddhist teacher Howie Cohn from San Francisco (which he jokingly called Bagdhdad North, as he described doing walking meditation on Market St.).  We spent the day exploring "awareness". We sat. We walked.  And we noticed how we went about this. We noticed the stories we tell ourselves about what we do. "I'm bored. I'm tired. I can't do this.  My neck hurts.  Am I doing this right? Yada yada yada. We all have our own little 100 act plays that we never tire of running.

Sometimes if you look hard enough you get the feeling that you're entirely made up of stories, with some rather convincing footnotes. Mostly we don't notice our stories because they are so insidious but if we open to them we can notice how they colour our day and our lives.  Is that grey or hints of blue I see on your horizon?  Our stories can energize and encourage us or suck the life out of us before we even get out of bed.  They can make us sick, they can trap us in inertia. So it's interesting to just become aware of that hidden ticker tape that runs through our heads.

After lunch I was tired and so my concentration waned. Instead of just noticing what it was like (ah, this is what it's like to be tired, that would be awareness) I threw down a little story. "I didn't sleep very well last night. I'm so tired. I'm not getting anything out of this now. It's hot in here. My meditation was so clear and bright this morning. This afternoon is a waste." And when I went out to walk I went for a rehash  until I realized, "you know you have a choice.  You can carry on down the rabbit hole, Alice or you could stop right here and rouse some energy,"which I did.  I also realized this was not a foreign  movie in my world.  I often travel with my own personal rabbit hole, regardless of the situation.  In practicing awareness, not only do we get to breath and walk and notice how blue the sky is, but we get to see our habitual cloud patterns and land forms. Pema Chodron calls them propensities. And Howie reminded us, that this is the first step in the direction of freedom; seeing what we get up to.  Mostly we just get up to it, period, the end.  And mostly we don't like to look, because, well, because it's not all that pretty.

 Howie tossed out this quote to remind us about what goes on in the story mill of our minds: “Somewhere in this process you will come face-to-face with the sudden and shocking realization that you are completely crazy. Your mind is a shrieking gibbering madhouse on wheels barreling pell-mell down the hill utterly out of control and hopeless. No problem. You are not crazier than you were yesterday. It has always been this way and you just never noticed. You are also no crazier than everybody else around you. The only real difference is that you have confronted the situation they have not."― Bhante Henepola Gunaratana

8"x10" oil & cold wax "Quarry Beach"

He reminded us that  how we see things is not necessarily how they are.  So little of what we experience is sensed directly.  Our perception is filtered through the tea strainer of memory and ideas. "Your mother is not the same as your ideas about your mother."  Does that seem obvious?  Maybe, but we don't often act as if this is true. It reminds me of how I bumble about in my communications with others, how I take my point of view for granted and how this can make me impatient and insensitive.

And at the end of the day when we all agreed on the value of awareness like it was some giant and tasty apple pie, someone asked "why is it so hard to practice then?" Howie offered suggestions that might be helpful including the importance of a like minded community of practitioners which he emphasized with this little tidbit:  "When you see geese flying along in “V” formation, you might consider what science has discovered as to why they fly that way. As each bird flaps its wings, it creates an uplift for the bird immediately following. By flying in “V” formation, the whole flock adds at least 71 percent greater flying range than if each bird flew on its own. 

When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to go it alone — and quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird in front. .

When the head goose gets tired, it rotates back in the wing and another goose flies point. Geese honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.

When a goose gets sick or is wounded by gunshot, and falls out of formation, two other geese fall out with that goose and follow it down to lend help and protection. They stay with the fallen goose until it is able to fly or until it dies, and only then do they launch out on their own, or with another formation to catch up with their group.

Can you hear me honking at you?  Whatever you answered, you're right.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Navigating By Heart

A Cave In The Heart 10"x10" mixed media
The other day while exploring the second hand store of my inner landscape I discovered the vast navigational powers of the heart. But perhaps you are more sailor-like than I, and already knew about this awesome device?  I  was combing the cluttered inner shelves of stories and regrets, moments of delight and longing, rubbing off dust and cobwebs, when I came across this valuable but rusty bit. I mean I have bumbled around with this navigational heart-tool, using it  haphazardly, perhaps even recklessly at times. And there have been stormy situations where I suspect this knowing tool steered the course while I choked and sputtered below deck.

But as I painted the other day, the words "navigating by heart" bubbled to the surface of my little mind pond and I realized that for once this is what I was doing. The imposing navigational device of my mind had dropped off the charts (perhaps for scheduled maintenance?).

Continental Heart Drift mixed media 8"x10"
I am not negating the awesome powers of the mind but sometimes reason and logic are not the best tools in the chest.  Perhaps they are best called into service as gathering tools?  The mind can collect and process vast quantities of information, bringing home jewels and treasures. And maybe then the navigational tool of the heart is called into service, working its magic, making  choices, charting the way through narrow or difficult creative channels where the course is best steered with the heart.  Sometimes you prepare a checklist for what you want in a new home or what elements should go into a story you are writing but in the final cut, you buy that home with your heart or the story veers deliciously off course to become something you hardly recognize.   When we trust our hearts we may find that the heart can know what you need when the head doesn't have a clue.

Rounding The Cape of Good Hope mixed media 12"x12"

And so it is with the process of creating as you stand before your project. The head is limited to what it can conceive of but the heart is open to unknown possibilities, its maps and charts are less well defined, more amorphous.  Because of this the heart has a reach that is greater than the head's and that's why it's navigational powers hold such strength.  The heart is charting the course by a map that the eyes cannot see, traveling in terrain where the mind doesn't go.  There are stars shining in the darkness that the heart navigates by.  There are tangles in the bushes that the heart somehow eerily anticipates, if you let it.

I recommend heartily (pun intended) that you get yourself over to the hardware store of your inner knowing, close your eyes and pick out a heart compass that is vibrating at just the right frequency for you.  Pick up a few and hold them.  You will know the right one by how it feels in the palm of your hand. There are wonderful topographical maps and charts of vast inner oceans waiting for your heart compass to navigate. I wish you wonderful travels.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Evaporating Into The Ether

12"x12" Continental Drift of the Mind

Friends, I really have evaporated into the ether and have no explanation to offer. Perhaps it is the intense smell of honeysuckle wafting from the large tangle of blooms on my back deck that keeps me outside until dark and render me invisible . Maybe it is the miraculous tang of garlic scape pesto on new potatoes that has kidnapped my tastebuds.

It might be the ridiculous conversations I have with Siri on the new ipad that has found its way into my house.  Or it could be the many talks I listened to on Hay House that makes me more and more convinced that the world we live in is swimming in information and connections, that all I have to do is "think it" and you will receive it immediately??  You have been getting those messages, haven't you??

But I could just be lazy and distracted.  That is a good human possibility too.  These days of late Spring, the ones tipping precariously over into summer, have been filled with satisfying activity.  If you live in or around Salt Spring, I will draw your attention to ArtCraft where both my art and that of over 100 talented art and crafts people appear. I did spend some time getting ready for that, that counts in my defense, yes??

16"x20" The Colour of Silence

There is the garden to tend and if it is to be done at all well, it requires time and attention. We are eating radishes and greens, garlic scapes, broad bean, kale and perennial arugula and green onions from our own little patch right now.  There is nothing quite like washing off and popping a white icicle radish straight from the ground and into the ol' cake hole,  except maybe  a kale flower plucked off as you walk by.  And if you want to watch an inspiring TED talk about guerilla gardening, check out Ron Finley here.

I visited the city where I grew up and can report I did originate from somewhere on this planet but it was somewhat foreign to me.  Revisiting old places gave me the feeling that we are slightly homeless in this world.  Those old places that I imagined were home, don't match the film track of memory and the current landscape lacks the depth of memory so it feels as if we are afloat in this vast, groundless  universe (not in a bad way, but in a way that asks us to give up our search for security).

Just for fun here are  links to  Joe Dispenza's TED talk and David Hamilton's website.  I thoroughly enjoyed their talks on Hay House. It's always about how you use that grey stuff between your ears. And on that note I will dive back into the greenness of deep space, very unapologetically. I will continue to send you messages.  You can return them unopened if you like or respond in kind. Happy solstice.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Art of Asking Beautiful Questions

Journey 6"x6" oil, earth pigments, cold wax

"Poetry is the art of asking beautiful questions."  That line, from the workshop I did with David Whyte last Saturday, has rented a small bit of space in my head and keeps popping out for air.  Whyte showed us plenty of Irish hospitality (without the single malt) He read to us, told us stories, steeped us in poetry and asked us beautiful questions: questions like "what star just appeared in your life, that you did not know you were following?"

I think Whyte's poetry has such wide appeal because he invites each of us into the interior of our lives in ways that are both practical and mysterious. He takes us on a pilgrimage to somewhere we didn't know we wanted to go, but when we get there we recognize it as the necessary destination.  On Saturday he took us to the wind swept shores of Gallway Bay  and held us up to peek out the same window that Wordsworth did at Cambridge. He stood with us at Finestre while the moon hovered over our shoulders and we threw away our old boots.  He read from his most recent book "Pilgrim" and reminded us that he'd never walked the Camino but after a few more  sentences (because he's Irish, he said) he would be convinced that he had.

Royal Roads University (David Whyte workshop was here)

But mostly Whyte urged us to "start close in, don't take the second step or the third, take the first step, the one you don't want to take." He saw his job that day as teasing us out of our cocoons and onto the path to be "nourished and disturbed". The day was spent weaving in and out of the highways and side roads where we might have "conversations".  He invited us to have the courageous conversation, the one we don't want to have.  It might be with a friend, a spouse, your child, with yourself.  It's about being brave enough to say the thing that needs to be said. He observed that we are often afraid to initiate these conversations because we're not sure we can handle the response we'll get. There are so many conversations we can have: "with the horizon, with silence, with the unknown."  A good question Whyte suggested, is "what conversation am I not having with my heart and mind?"

He reminded us that the stories we tell ourselves, the ones about how things are, about how we are, are really conversations. He suggested that if we engaged in conversations with others in this same way we talk to ourselves we wouldn't have many friends! I found this framing of "self talk" as conversation helpful in looking at the stories that rattle around in my head.  "No, I guess I really don't need to say that, it's not very helpful. I really could open a different conversation."  News flash!
Too warm for a sweater in Victoria?  With the Camas at Beacon Hill Park

Whyte invites us to cultivate a relationship with the unknown.  We spend most of our time shying away from the unknown, trying to wrap things up and get them into the cage of the known asap.  But the truth is we are always walking into the unknown.  If we could do some sort of measurement we would probably find there is more unknown to us than known.  And  so we have this uncomfortable relationship with a large part of our life. Whyte suggests we could ground ourselves in the unknown.

In his summing up Whyte suggested our first step was to stop having the conversation we're having now. That's the only pathway to change. Most of our conversations arise from habit. If we stop the conversation we're having now then the opportunity exists to begin a new conversation.  And the new conversation can emerge out of the silence. Conversation gives rise to invitations which produce seeds that can then be harvested.

Such a rich opportunity, to consider what is it that I want to say, need to say or conversely what is it that I'm avoiding saying? And why am I avoiding it? An even more interesting question. And now, let the conversations begin.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Conversations With The World

11"x14"  acrylic on canvas - Geography of Moss

I woke this morning to a phrase whispering in my head "everything is sacred".  I have been holding up words to the light as potential talismen and good travelling companions, but perhaps I have a phrase, instead?  The impatient me is apparently on holiday and I am happy to roll things around a bit and swish them gently to get a feel for them.  Perhaps sometimes when you look for something, what you find is a little different than what you went in search of.  To find what you really need, you require the gift  of openness.

Often we're so busy looking for answers and solutions, that we can't see one that hovers slightly outside our line of vision.  I imagine this happens to me quite a bit because I often charge off with fixed ideas of what I'm looking for and I'm very often in a hurry to find my "answer" and get on with the next thing on my list.  Life is always holding out valuable little lessons on in it's gentle palm, along with our solutions if we can just scrunch up eyes the right way and pull the slightly ethereal into focus.

On this grey, rainy morning other seemingly wise words floated up, cloud like  "Everything is whispering to you".  This made me think of David Whyte's poem "Everything Is Waiting For You" and then I thought of how he speaks of conversations.  Yes, we are always having conversations with the things around us and with the thoughts that manifest. Often we do all the talking (we're a bossy lot, us 21st century, logic addled peeps).  What if we could get really quiet and listen a little more (says she to herself. Always what we write is what we most need to hear).

11"x14" oil and cold wax on paper "Travel Diary"

The veil of sleep was lifted off ever so gently this morning because I was treated to a little snippet of dream.   In my dream there were rows of u shaped hoops in a garden. Each with a small rose plant by it (bush would be too large a word here).  I was going along the rows with cuttings and tying them carefully with a twist tie to the hoops.  Trouble is I was tying them up in the air, not at ground level, so they had no access to the nourishment of the earth.  I took this as a conversation about projects I have been engaged in and ones I am eyeing on the horizon, the rows and rows of things. It seems I am being  reminded that  even if I work very hard at something, if it is not rooted in some ground that can nourish it, how can it grow.  I hear whisperings about wasted effort, about more care and attention to what is truly important.  I hear whispers about being "grounded".  Often I find my dreams are very literal with a slightly funny edge to them.

So this seems a little Monday reminder to us, as we walk into a new week, to see everything as sacred, and as a conversation.  Everything is whispering to you, even the parking ticket, the plugged sink, the steaming cup of strong coffee you are drinking.  What if we took time to really listen and see?  How would our week unfold? Come tell me the stories of you conversations and I will tell you mine. Happy Monday.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

What's In A Word?

road through the mountains 20"x20"  oil, earth pigments, cold wax on panel

Last week Robyn at Art Propelled wrote about her word for the year: "Stillness".  I was inspired by her post.  Janice Mason Steeves painted "Silence" for a period. I'm not sure if it was a whole year but she focused on that one word in her work for an extended time.  There is something in me that is drawn to this idea, the contemplation of one word. Perhaps it is the simplicity; the fact that my pea brain might be able to hold a single, solitary unattached word, a free floating group of letters revolving around a thought, a feeling, an essence.  The other thing that draws me, moth like to this idea, is the opportunity to dive deeply into a word, to watch it grow, expand and fill my world.  I could inhabit the word, no maybe if I was lucky I could become the word.  Say if the word was poodle, people might start looking at me and remarking, " don't you think she's starting to look a bit like a poodle, no, no maybe it's just the new haircut?"

Stillness, silence these are lovely words. I see the potential for exploration and growth with these words as companions.  I remember having a conversation years ago with a doctor, who had said some things I didn't care for. I reminded him that words are powerful and that they have the potential to either hurt or heal.  We use them so off handedly in our everyday world.  I can't count the times I have been wounded unintentionally by a dull thud of a word.  And I can only imagine the number of dangerously sharp words I have flung in haste and unawareness at others.  Perhaps we could heal ourselves with a single word? Or the other way around?

May Peace Increase On Earth 20"x 24" mixed media on canvas

So Robyn got me thinking about choosing a word for the year (even though we are well into the year). I liked her idea of having a friend to bounce your word back and forth with over the year; someone to exchange word musings with.  But then there's the important thing; the word.  What word would I choose?  I am a bit of a curmudgeon with a slight rebel streak, so I wouldn't want anything too "nice" or "sweet", and I wouldn't want anything sentimental or over wrought. And nothing too assertive or aggressive.  I don't want a word like "do" or "change" or "athlete" as suggested on one website I looked at.

I think first, my word needs to be personally meaningful.  It needs to be something like a koan, something that intersects or expresses something I want to be or have more of in my life (as in Janice an Robyn's words).  It needs to have these qualities to keep me engaged I think.  I don't want to leave it languishing in a book somewhere after a few days, crying sad little print tears that run like mascara because I have given up on it so soon.

With Our Thoughts 16"x16" mixed media on canvas

I am thinking about "ease" or "trust" as potential words.  Ease sounds a bit lazy and maybe a little "new agey" and "trust", well it sounds a little like motherhood and apple pie.  (This is me rolling the little word marbles around.) Lazy or apple pie?  hmmm.  These words call to me because I'm a "struggler".  I am inclined to see things as difficult or make things difficult, more difficult that they need to be.  And in the seeing of things as hard, well you know how that goes....  But I am working on letting that part of me dissolve like sponge toffee left out in the rain.  So I thought, what if I had a word I could hold like a little talisman, a little magical, glowing bit of the alphabet.  A word that might relax that inclination to wrestle, to stop me from writhing around like someone tangled up in a bedsheet, even when there is no bedsheet.  Now that would be a good word.

And how about you?  Do you have a word? For the year?  For the day? Do words call to you, sing like sirens, take you on little journeys?  A good word is a powerful thing. And a good companion.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Painting In The Life Lab

8"x8" The Ocean Has Stories To Tell (available on etsy)
I have been painting away without that much to show for it.  And that has become okay for me.  Big lesson for the art materialist!!  It seems we like to have something to show for our time. Our cultural and educations system encourage this, don't you think?  It seems I have relieved a lot of internal pressure by moving from a place of feeling frustrated about this lack of output (where I spent a lot of last year) to being okay with just being with the process.  And it seems I had to go through that frustration to get there.  As my old Zen teacher would say, "it's not on our timelines.  We do our work and then let go."  And that allows things to shift on their own.

My painting sessions work  best when I settle myself first with some meditation or sitting before I jump in.  If I am too quick to pick up the brush I end up mucking about.  Painting is so akin to spiritual practice.  I mean it's the same in life. If I jump into something without the ground of awareness firmly gathered around me, I tend to muck about and potentially get in trouble in one way or another.  The good thing about trouble or mucking is that once you recover your awareness it's always instructive!

The other thing I've noticed as I  spend a lot of time in the studio is that I have "go to" things that I do on a canvas.  How much like the rest of life is this??  Habit. I have painting habits that have evolved and they don't always serve me well.  It can be like the definition of insanity "doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."  So sometimes I find it's good to change up the surface I work on or the colours I favour, or the time of day I work. This movie about Gerhard Richter is really interesting if you work in abstraction.  Even he gets mucking about and finds himself painting over and over things that don't quite seem right. It's a great watch.  He says things like, "sometimes I like a painting for a day or two" and "I know when something is done, it just feels right."

8"x8" cold wax on canvas "The Forest Has Wings"
I've been listening to a lot of Tom Campbell lately. He's a Nasa physicist with some very interesting ideas about consciousness and reality. He says we're all evolving toward love which is the highest form of being.  Kind of interesting for a scientist, don't you think? He says things like our human existence is a kind of learning lab and that we are always evolving (or dying), that there is no static state.  This idea is pretty akin to the Buddhist idea of impermanence.  There is also a great talk by scientist, Rupert Sheldrake here (Sheldrakes talk is the second one on this link) where he expresses some pretty interesting ideas about the nature of consciousness.  It seems these ideas have caught my interest as an explanation to how things work out there in the world and beyond. It offers a new relationship to the world around us. The world of the paranormal and the normal are actually not separate.  For these guys the world of the paranormal is not crazy and unexplainable.  They make perfect sense of it. It all fits together, just as we imagined it should; and has some interesting implications for what we do and how we do it.

As always life is deeply spiritual experience for me.  I listened to a great talk via "The Awakening Joy" course by Zen Hospice leader, Frank Ostaseski.  It reminded me how easily and habitually I steel myself against what I don't like with "resistance".  How subtle resistance can be.  Often I find that in trying to fix or heal some health issue I am subtlely resisting it. I just want it to go away!  Non resistance doesn't preclude trying to work with problems, it just means we also need to be with them.  Sometimes the solution is contained in the problem itself, well maybe always??  And how can we find it if we are so busy pushing it away (says she as she talks to herself) He pointed out the simple maxim of"what we resist, persists."

Oh and in case you are inclined, like so many of us, to say unkind things to yourself, you might enjoy watching Kristin Neff's TED talk on self compassion.  That's all I know for today! Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Trust & Asking

If you haven't seen this TED talk by Amanda Palmer, you absolutely must. Okay, you don't have to but I swear, your missing something if you don't.  Especially if you're an artist because she plays with the concept of how an artist makes a living. By happenstance and personal awareness Amanda fell into a relationship of "trust" and "asking" with her audience.  She found that the people who loved her music were willing to support her in a monetary way, especially when her record label cut her for selling the small sum of 25,000 records.  So now she gives away her music and asks people to support her, 2 separate acts, instead of the one that we usually associate with making a living in the arts: you buy something and pay for it.  She's raised a million bucks this way!  Awesome, yes?

But that got me thinking about visual art and if somehow her brilliant paradigm could translate into offering visual art to audiences in the same way?  So I'm tossing this question out into the stratosphere.  Is there a way this might work for visual art?  What are your thoughts on the subject?  Really, I want to know.  Because I love this idea.

First my little mind goes, well there's the material and the shipping.  But you know Amanda Palmer had to invest a huge wack of money to record her music, and then there's the hours of creation that went into it. It's a big leap, believing in yourself and trusting that others will also believe in you enough that you can continue to do your creative work.

I love the idea of doing something that goes against how our consumer culture is structured.  I love the idea of trusting people.  I love the idea of connection with our audience, whatever the medium.  I love the idea of feeling that people support each other.  Is that fairy tale stuff, people?  Am I related to Peter Pan or some other ethereal character with wings?? Or perhaps that's Polyanna leaning over my left shoulder?

Journey 6"x6" on etsy

There is  a lovely young man who does some heavier work for us around our property and when we first met him we asked what do you charge.  He said, well you pay what you think it's worth.  And you know, we probably always pay more than the going hourly rate.  And we think fondly of him, we think of him as generous and trustworthy.  We know that we are supporting him and his family and it makes us feel good at the end of the day when we hand over a little pile of bills!  We never imagine that he isn't working hard enough or that he's adding in a little time here and there, or that we aren't getting our money's worth.  It's weird, but then so is the way our minds work.  There is something about this "trust" that makes us all feel good and empowered.

oil, cold wax on paper, 8"x10" on etsy
So my mind is turning these things over, sifting through the ideas, following the threads of each loosely woven thought.  There is something about these ideas that carry the scent of the new economy on the breeze. The potential for change, for growth and evolution make me feel excited and hopeful. There is a spiritual aspect to this way of exchanging creative life for monetary support; one that embodies faith, trust and connection.  Am I crazy?  Is this possible?  And if so how do we express it?  Where do we pick up the thread?

I am working on it and if I wake up with any fully hatched brilliance I will let you know.  Last night I woke up from a dream where I'd been bitten by a small copper coloured reptile.  But that's another story.  I'll save it for next time.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

This Mysterious Thing

What is a life? This mysterious thing we possess, given to us without asking, without instructions. This quivering mass of flesh cast into a place alive with chaos and joy and danger, with it's own momentum, with it's own sweet and terrifying signatures. Do we live it on auto pilot like the one in my gas stove, always lit just a little, burning a low flame?

Where does the journey of our heart meet the road map of the soul? Can I really taste, see, feel? I mean deeply, in some way that passes through this paper thin skin into the deep parts of me that are ready to lap it up, that are waiting to experience the richness and terror of being alive, unprotected, unmitigated, Open.

This thing I call my life seems stitched together by bits of everyday experience:  a chance meeting here, a movie, a piece of art, a song, a bar of soap. Occasionally insights bubble up from the deep well of knowing that lives inside me, and I say, ah I see now. Something inside me is ignited and I see motives, and maps and visions of possibility. I see tiny keys to doors locked somewhere deep inside some past me, some future me, some simmering me.

Sometimes I think my heart has been locked inside an armoured car for years and then mysteriously it is set free by a song. Sometimes it seems I can hardly feel anything and then a friend pulls me into a gallery and we understand how strength and vulnerability are interwoven, as we gaze on a sculpted face.  Sometimes just when I think I can never really know another being, someone stirs me with a story of how they died on an operating table and came back to life. Sometimes when I'm thinking it is too hard to be alive I am offered a parent's story of navigating the churning waters of a child's addiction without a compass.

Here are the bits that have been flavouring the rich, vital and surprising broth that is my recent life.  Tell me what fantastic journeys your life is taking you on these days? We are travelers without a map, following the gulf winds of our hearts. Wishing you a wondrous journey that opens your heart and affords you good passage. And always we know there are no safe passages through the straits and isthmus of an authentic life.

I am smitten by the integrity, purity and commitment to supporting the environment and traditional cultures of the personal care products at Sinfully Wholesome.

I have been singing with joy at the dignity of the human spirit after watching the documentary "Searching For Sugarman"

I have been gobsmacked and mesmerized by the beauty and serenity of the sculpture of local artist Lynn Demers.

And I have been tantalized by the fermented creations I've been conjuring up in the kitchen: kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi and pickled ginger. Looking forward to making some sourdough and other goodies when I get my copy of Sandor Katz "The Art of Fermentation"

Oh yeah, and there's been some art but that's for next time.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Noticing Things

Weather Map of The Heart 12"x12" cold wax on canvas
I have been noticing things, things like how much I want from a moment, just a single innocent moment. When I sit, if I am honest with myself, I see the long slender digits of desire greedily fingering the air. I want this moment to be a certain way. I might want it to make me happy or entertain me, make me feel safe or comfortable or offer me a little drama so that I might escape from the boredom of a grey February morning.

All this wanting and noticing is like what is happening in the kitchen of a fine dining restaurant while you sit out front sipping wine and chatting.  But when I sit quietly in the kitchen of my mind, I see how much I try to cook the moment so as to make its flavour just right for me. I am kneading and pulling on each little fibre of now.

I also notice how I am not content to just work the moment but I lean anxiously into the future looking for the next moment or hour to please me, seeing what I might wring from the day. If we are honest we can notice how much we "want" without pause:  how we want things to be easy or simple or sweet, people to cooperate with and like us, how it would be nice to get some good news or a special treat.  Fill in the blanks. And with all the wanting I notice what it stirs: agitation, busy mind, nervous energy. I notice all these underlying weather patterns of my heart and mind when I am quiet. If I weren't sitting in meditation they would simply form the ground which the day travels over.

All this noticing reminds me to stop, to take a breath and just be. I remember how pleasant it is to just be right here, right now, without wanting.  And I notice how hard this is, how the momentum of habit has hardwired wanting into my brain.  I notice how much energy is preserved, even cultivated in this state of not wanting, how my heart sighs in relief when I am simply with life as it is.  I notice the startling and mysterious sound of rain drops plopping into the pond as I make my way around the shore. I am gobsmacked by the chartruesey greenness of the moss on the roof.

As I did a drawing exercise from my Frederick Franck book the other evening I notice how hard it  is to really see.  As I drew a small fallen leaf from my indoor ficus tree, I notice how my mind jumped ahead to fill in the lines with how it imagined the leaf looked.  I noticed how hard it was to slow down and simply see, to let the hand follow the eye. The mind is such an impatient, bossy creature!

So in between noticing things, I have been making my own cold wax with gamsol and beeswax. It smells divine, sweet like the beeswax (even though the gamsol is a petroleum based product). This seems much more do-able for me than the orange oil solvent which was a natural product, but intensely smelly. Turpentine is a natural product and also intensely smelly.

I have been doing an online course with Eric Maisel which is essentially coaching for artists. I am liking it a lot.  It deals in this lovely straight forward way with how to actually get down to work, how to deal with some of the unhelpful self talk that can surround the creative process and lots of helpful info on working with stress and anxiety and thoughts about marketing.

I have been listening to the World Tapping Summit!  Have you heard of tapping or EFT.  It uses meridian points (as in acupuncture) paired with some statements around things that might be issues for us; health issues, emotional issues.  I am finding it really interesting and it feels like there's something to it.

And thanks to Eric Maisel I have actually been painting everyday, first thing in the morning that's the trick.  I have some coffee, do my qi gong, make my juice and go off to paint for a while. January has flown by and now February is blasting through. I hope your winter days are rich and filled with inner and outer adventure! Where has this new year carried you off to?