Friday, February 26, 2010

Storm advisory posted


I:30 Perception of our true nature is often obscured by physical, mental, and emotional imbalances.

I:31 These imbalances can promote restlessness, uneven breathing, worry, and loss of hope.

I:32 These imbalances can be prevented from engaging by developing loyalty to a sacred practice.

I:34 Slow, easeful exhalations can be used to restore and preserve balance.

I:39 Or dedicate yourself to anything that elevates and embraces your heart.

(The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, as interpreted by Nischala Joy Devi in The Secret Power of Yoga)

If emotions are like the weather,

Then an early tornado season

Has appeared in my

Seven day outlook

Morning start off

Clear skies

Fluffy clouds

Still and calm

But as my day proceeds

Hot winds arrive

Stirring things up

Making for volatility

In emotional patterns

Dark clouds move in

The air becomes electric

The absence of bird song

Augurs dangerous storm cells


And even though I know

I am in a precarious state of mind

Still it is shocking

How quickly skies turn

Blue to black to a

Sickly green

Sirens breaking my spell

Shocking me into the realization

That all is not well

In tornado weather

One needs to be on the ready

To find safe shelter

At any given time


Secured rooms

Spaces away from breakable glass

And objects that can shatter

And be sent flying

I have learned

Not to deny my stormy patterns

And to acknowledge

They are a powerful force

That need be respected

And given ample space

To vent its energy

Painful to live through,

To berate myself for my seasons of


Does nothing to ease the


Nor change the necessity

For release of whatever

Seems to build up

It is just energy

The byproduct

Of growth, change,

Pushing myself towards

The edges of what is possible

I try not to despair

For overwhelming as the winds may feel,

Within the context of seasons

I know these storms represent

My struggle to transcend

To a new level

And integration isn’t always smooth,

Some things need be surrendered

So that peace and understanding

Can flow in

I try to remember this

While retreating to my internal basement

Covering up

Holding on

And making sure the ones I love

Are safely secured

Away from any threat of damage

My storms may bring

And so I practice

Patience and trust

Hanging on

With fingers cramping

Nerves frayed

Knowing the prize that awaits

Me if I can endure:

A radiant sky,

Clear vision,

A fresh outlook,

As the charge of possibility

And new beginnings

That always fills the air

After any storm.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Permission Slip

From today's Wishcasting

I give myself permission to:

- Make messes
- Say "no, I don't want to" (and have that be reason enough)
- Make mistakes (they are a confirmation that I challenged myself and not a sign of my being flawed)
- Say "I don't know" (and not feel I am exposing myself as stupid)
- Ask for help
- Prioritize my needs
- Goof off
- Not believe I ought to be able to do everything, all the time, 100 percent
- leave some things undone
- ask for some space/time
- walk away from situations/people who drain my energy/spirit/positive outlook
- Let go of what no longer serves me

And be okay with whatever arises while doing any of the above.

The highest form of spiritual practice is self-awareness with compassion. - Swami Kripalu

Enough said. ♥ Messes to get back to ...

for other permission slip ideas, check here

Monday, February 22, 2010

projects, projects all around

Despite a hectic weekend (Chinese New Year luncheon; fundraiser at Cowgirl's school; a workshop and my regular yoga class on Sunday) I somehow managed to try a new project for 52 Projects. Funny, I said I was not committing 100% of the time to this challenge, but am feeling the pull each week to at least try something new.

This week's project was super fun and easy. We tend to make our own greeting cards at home (I wish I could say it was to be green or be creative but the reality is, there are no convenient card shops nearby and once home, I tend not to venture out again) and needing a card for a friend's new baby, I decided to try a Strip Animation card. A friend gave me this great book "Magic Books & Paper Toys" which has been sitting forlornly on my bookshelf.

Nothing fancy, but it was fun to make! The most important thing I learned was to consider the length of your animation strip and not to let the "panels" be longer than the bottom or top of the card. When you pull the strip through, you can see the other images peeking out on the bottom or the top (I cropped my photos, so you cannot see that here) I figured a month old baby wouldn't mind, so I sent it off anyway.

I am thinking of ideas to do a strip animation in my art journal. I think they would be fun for holiday cards as well. What would else could I animate?

Maybe my dog?

Weekly Reflection (week 8): Excitement!

What is exciting me right now?

Well, I've gone and done it again. Yes my friends, I have fallen under the hypnotic spell of another ecourse magician/fairy/art fae and am wildly working in my art journals. Yes, I have multiple journals piling up, each reflecting a different facet of me. Getting back to my current love, check out the badge on the side here for Art Journal Love Letters. Warning: if you don't want to be wildly inspired, don't look!

Now, what may be one person's - ahem - addiction can be another's liberation. I will admit, I have caught myself about to jump aboard another ecourse barge because, well, so many others are doing it and damn! So many sound sexy, exciting, and outlandishly fun (and of course, insightful.) I actually have practiced some restraint, reminding myself that if the course is really good, it will be around for a while and hey, save something for later.

What I love is when I seemingly stumble upon a new teacher/blog and discover exactly what I had been looking for even though I didn't know that would be. So far, the richest experiences for me have been the ones where I've on the spot decided to sign up. Mermaid Art Camp, Unravelling, Goddess Courses and now Love Letters.

Yeah, I am following my intuition and I am here to say, it feels great! Juicy, exciting, on-the-edge of my seat with anticipation and eagerness to dive in. Most days I have more ideas and projects filling my mind than the hours to accomplish it all. I actually wake up early on my days off so I will have that time to play.

It is like finding a plain cardboard box, looking inside and discovering a treasure trove of riches beyond your wildest imagination. I may be a little odd but seriously folks, I could spend hours watching videos of people making art. I love seeing how they use materials I've never thought of in ways that would not have occurred to me. I find myself looking around my bins of supplies (oh yes, my supplies have swelled from a drawer to multiple bins) with the eye of a mad scientist: how can I manipulate this item to suit my artsy purposes?

I taught an art journaling workshop yesterday and caught myself caressing, sighing and embracing art markers, crayons, bottles of gesso and mod podge as I spoke to my initiates. I think I even cackled a few times, giving away my identity as a practionner of the bright arts of mixed media magic. I was recruiting these women, attempting to seduce them into our artsy circle as we all know power and inspiration thrives on collaboration, support and the sharing of ideas. What blows me away is the immense generosity of the teachers online who so lovingly let us peek into their creative process while injecting into us their enthusiasm and joy.

This is what excites me right now, this is what gets me dreaming and drooling and puts me outside of real world time: art play. Connecting with my messy inner child who is blissfully unaware of labels, judgments, the need to do anything other than what captures her attention and imagination. And I bow down in gratitude to all those who open heartedly tell of their creative journeys and freely share their work. They have created a spiral of art energy that encourages others to join in, adding our stories and our vision which in turn serves to sustain momentum. Where this all leading, I don't care. I just know I've hopped abroad some kind of art love train and I am enjoying the ride!

By the way, please don't mention my little habit to my husband. The extent of my "addiction" is known by only myself and paypal. Oh, and let's not talk about Mr. Dick Blick and his monthly discount coupons that keep me going back for more. Thankfully, I have a partner in my crimes ... Cowgirl is patiently awaiting the start of
her new ecourse!

What is exciting you these days?

Friday, February 19, 2010


Today my Cowgirl will be receiving her next belt from her Martial Arts school. She has been attending a little dragons program for a year and a half and belt ceremonies are held 4 times a year. It is a bit of a running joke with the other parents that belt testing must be coming up soon, as it has been awhile since we wrote our quarterly check for the graduation fee. Cowgirl will be moving from a purple to a red belt, her 7th belt. While this may seem a bit excessive to the point of diluting any real meaning from the notion of "graduating", I have to pause and recognized the enormous achievement this ceremony represents.

At 5 and some change, Cowgirl has been committed to an activity for 18 months. Twice a week we attend class and not only does she still want to go, she continues to be excited and enthusiastic about class. On Tuesdays and Thursdays she will repeatedly ask me "Is it time for class?" She has woken up from naps, still in a trance state and when I have suggested it might be best to skip class, she will hop up and insist she wants to go.

There was only one period, about 9 months into her first year when she resisted attending class. An issue had been her focusing and not goofing off in class. She struggled with this; she is an active child and being still is not her nature. Her first real obstacle, she wanted to quit. She would whine she didn't want to go to class and then when in class, she would be reminded again and again to focus. One time, unable to handle her obvious lack of discipline or any real effort, I swooped in, scooped her up and announced we would be leaving. Her reaction was immediate and loud. A few classes later, she would look over at me and then act out in such a transparent, obvious way, I knew she was baiting me. (Mind you, her actions to others did not appear so egregious, but given our repeated discussions on what was expected of her, I knew she was being lazy.) I did nothing.

Later, as I suspected, I asked her if she was thinking I would come in and take her out of class. Of course she was! I then explained to her that as long as she showed she could not be focused and follow instructions, we would continue to come to class. Once she realized I was committing her to this practice, she yielded and as they say, she shaped up. Now she is proud of her achievement and I have seen the discipline of sticking to a task seeping into other areas of her life.

This is the lesson I believe is imperative she learn: that when things get hard or challenging, we do not give up. That what matters is not the end result, but the process. A faculty member at my college lent me a book called Mindset by Carol Dweck, a professor of psychology at Stanford University. The thesis of the book is very simple, yet powerful. We either hold a Growth mindset or a Fixed mindset. In a Fixed mindset, we had a static notion of our abilities, our talents, and ourselves. When one encounters an obstacle, the perception is a reaffirmation of our set skill levels (i.e., I'm just not good at math; I'm just not creative or talented, etc.) The tendency then is to give up. Someone with a Growth mindset believes the possibility of growth, of learning and developing. Challenges are then perceived as opportunities to learn and through that process expand upon one's talents and skills.

In this model, praise is not to be issued so much for the final product ("Wow, you are really talented") but for the effort put in, for the process and for how the child felt by working hard and overcoming obstacles. When Cowgirl shows me a painting she has made, I will say to her "Wow, you really worked hard on that ... I could see you concentrating on your painting ... you seem to really enjoy making art." We also talk about how she felt making the painting and what she enjoyed.

I have to admit, this is a huge wound for me. Crazy as this will sound, but as a child I was repeatedly told I was creative, talented and smart. Horrible things for a parent to say to their child, right? Well, for my twisted sense of self, yes. As a child I understood talented as meaning things came easily, effortlessly and that certainly was not the case for me. I had to work hard and when my efforts were breezily noted by "of course you did well, you are so smart" I felt like a fraud. I came to believe I wasn't talented, was not all that smart because my work was, well, work. And I had to intensify my efforts lest I be discovered as a fake, a fraud. My academic life was spent running just one step ahead of being unmasked, uncovered and in my mind eventually tossed out as unworthy.

It has taken me a long time to dismantle this crippling notion of myself. I still struggle with a need for acceptance and praise in my work to assuage the voices of doubt and ridicule that thankfully are growing fainter and fainter. But it is work. I hope to cultivate in my daughter a sense of herself as a fluid being, a work in progress and progress being an enjoyable, rewarding process in and of itself. I am reminded that the main advice given by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras for the practionner is this simple, but profound statement: Practice becomes firmly grounded when well attended to for a long time, without break and in all earnestness. (I:14)It is through practice that we come to understand how to return to our center when all of life is attempting to distract us and blow us off course. Practice is how we gain mastery over the never ending fluctuations and come to experience and understand our true essence and being.

My daughter has witnessed this process in my life. When she was very young, she would wake up early in the morning, come downstairs and find me sitting in front of my "portable" altar meditating. Well, trying to! She would sit on my lap and I would focus upon our breaths coming into sync with each other. I would feel our body heat merging into a single flame of energy and I felt a peace I have rarely known. She has also witnessed me slacking off, sleeping in and abandoning my practice. And then she sees me returning again, and we talk about the hard discipline of starting over and the need to repeatedly recommit myself to practice. Today she joined me again in my yoga room, pulling out her mat and watching me practice and waiting, she told me, until I was finished at which time she would show me her poses.

It is the "in all earnestness" that I try to emphasize for her. And it is the sense of accomplishment and pride in succeeding because it required so much effort and work on my part that I hope she comes to understand. Yes, others may praise us for our work, but I hope she understands success is not so much a matter of what others think, but about her own experience and how she views herself. Through commitment, effort and yes, struggle, we encounter growth. We then recognize within ourselves a vast field of unlimited potential that we can draw upon and develop. In the process, we come to embrace a notion of ourselves as capable, creative and wildly inventive. An experience definitely worth the effort.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Be the difference

Another thought provoking question from Jamie for Wishcasting Wednesday: Where do you wish to make a difference?

My first response - what we all wish I believe - was that I hope to make a difference in the lives of my family and my friends. Thinking a little more, I realized I want to make a difference in the lives of my students. As a non-bendy, tired and scattered, middle aged yoga instructor, what I believe I offer my students when we gather is a safe space in which they can learn to tap into and follow the guidance of their inner teacher. I am astonished by the general resistance to believing we each carry all of the wisdom, the tools and the answers that we may need in order to experience ourselves as Whole. This really shouldn't surprise me as I struggled with this notion for most of my adult life and continue to find pockets of disbelieve deeply embedded in my psyche.

What yoga has taught me is nothing less than a miracle. It has mentored me in a honest, trusting and loving relationship with myself. It has helped me to identify the flimsy monsters that lurk in my shadows and to believe I can step into, own and use my power. Like many who have been "reformed" I want to share these lessons with others. I want to make a difference by supporting others in recognizing and celebrating their power, their voice, their belief in miracles and magic, and the truth that at the core, we are all innately Good and Whole.

As I write this, I realize I can be more specific here - and hell, if I'm wishing, I'm going to wish big. I wish to make a difference in the lives of girls and women who seem more prone to abandoning their voice, ceding their power and depleting their inner resources. Lately I have felt a strong pull to teach more art camps for girls and today's Wishcasting has called that impulse into greater relief. I look at my Cowgirl who is a presence and a force greater than anything or anyone I could have imagined for myself when I was younger and I feel an urgency to protect and nurture her sense of self. I never want her to doubt her feelings, her impulses or to question the right for her voice to be heard. Why I ever felt that way, I could spend the rest of my lifetime trying to figure out. I was loved, encouraged, supported and Still I suffered intense bouts of self doubt, never mind the erasure of my body and my spirit.

Someone recently asked me "what would you do if you were not afraid" and my immediate reply was "teach more." It is a responsibility I do not take lightly. The power to influence is great but I hope to make a difference by sharing the gift of discovering and reclaiming one's power. It can happen on the yoga mat, it can happen on the other end of a paint brush. I love both and that is where I plan to stay.

(Update: one of the first Wishcasting Wednesdays I participated in, I wished to create a women's sacred circle. I am happy to report that a little over a week ago I held the first gathering and it was such an amazing experience! There are plans for regular gatherings at the turn of the seasons. I know all of your wishes helped me bring that dream into reality! And in searching for that original post, I discovered another of my wishes - to attend Squam - is also on its way to being fulfilled. I enrolled and got my first choice of classes. So, be careful what you wish for!)

Monday, February 15, 2010


I was not going to post this until I realized if not for "The Challenge" I probably would not have made time for this ridiculously easy and equally enjoyable project. You see, I take these kind of blogging responsibilities quite seriously. Having said I was up for the challenge of trying something new on a regular basis (note: I am not saying weekly!) I did not want to wimp out on my second week.

And it was Valentine's day after all! We had a nice ground blizzard (I had never heard of such things until I moved to the Midwest and yesterday I experienced how Mother Nature can totally whup our butts with some light snow and high high winds) and so the holiday was spent snug at home. Cowgirl was busy watching "Planet of the Apes" with her dad (I know, I know ... she and her dad have a special movie watching relationship that defies any kind of Dr. Spock logic) so I decide to make us some heart necklaces for our combined Valentine's Day and Chinese New Year dinner. I saw these over on the Mermaid's blog and they looked so cute.

Another plus: super easy and fun to make. I think Cowgirl is too young to master the heart shape with scissors but she added some bling to spice them up. I can totally see these made with cute fabrics and more buttons and maybe different shapes like flowers or butterflies for different seasons. But for a quick holiday/snow day project they worked their magic.

And so here I offer what one mama can do with a little paper and yarn ...

Take that mother nature!

(For anyone looking for more magical ways to connect with your child through art, I encourage you to check out McCabe's upcoming ecourse Mermaid Warrior Art Camp 3. Cowgirl and I have done her other camps and they were fantastic. We both love watching the videos and trying out the projects, all of which can be easily adapted to meet varying skill levels and available materials. Check out her blog for more testimonials and videos to give you a taste of what is in store. Cowgirl and I are enrolled ... come on, and join us!)

Weekly Reflection (week 7): Learning curve

What is something I've recently learned about myself?

One of the greatest gifts my mother gave to me was the desire to always learn. She did not work outside the home until I was in high school and the most enduring image I have of her from my childhood is her sitting in the dark blue wing back chair reading books. She went through a Greek mythology phase, then an anthropology and archeology phase and finally, a long lived Victorian England period. Books would be piled up by her chair and she would be deep into one, eating bright orange Cheez It crackers, when I would come home from school. Her love of books and her desire to learn left its mark upon me - and reinforces the notion that our children learn more from what we do and our relationship with ourselves than by what we heap upon their tiny shoulders.

As a child of the Aquarian age, my interests have centered upon Self discovery. When I was in therapy, I would joke it was like taking a course in the most fascinating of subjects - me! I have to admit, I do weary at times of finding lessons I thought I had learned reappearing in my life for an updated revision/rewrite. But rather than discovering new truths about myself, more often I find myself coming to a deeper understanding of something I already knew, but at a very basic level. Thankfully, the life of a seeker while full of long sloughs through swampy terrain, has its wonderful A Ha! moments.

One such recent moment occurred during a guidance session with goddess Leonie. Maybe it has come to your attention that I am - er, um, well ... a tad all over the place. I feel like I am in a new Renaissance age and am dizzy by the array of activities that entice and absorb me. Art journaling, photography, writing, run-of-the-mill mommy crafting, and knitting are some of the ways I have fun these days (and make myself crazy!) I am also teaching a wider range of subjects: yoga, creativity courses, and girls art camp and I am thinking up new workshops I want to run every day. One of my concerns was this scatteredness, a quality foreign to my usual discipline and focus. Unclear about what I ought to be focusing upon, I asked Leonie for her advice (I think I whined "But what I am supposed to be doing?!") She wisely said "Just ask yourself each day: what would feed my spirit right now?"

I was somewhat taken aback by the simplicity and clarity of this notion. Do what feeds my soul? Prioritize me? I've already written a bit about struggling with the notion of engaging in creative work simply for my own pleasure. Call it a hangover from the Puritan work ethic, I feel the need to justify my activities as serving some greater financial end. In the past, I've signed up for workshops always planning to use the material in future classes and have felt guilty about programs I have taken that seemingly led nowhere (but I learned a lot and had fun!)

What is finally sinking into my mind and my bones is this notion that to do something simply for the pleasure it gives me is reason enough. What is also dawning on me is a glorious awareness that I am truly embracing myself as a Creative being. I've always been fascinated by the letters, diaries and writing of artists and the pull they feel to create. Underneath any discussion of an audience or a market for their work, there seems to be this sense of creating as an act as necessary as eating or breathing.

And now I understand what it is that drives so many to make art even when the process can be so painful. I have found creative expression is my way of engaging with my world; it is the way I interact with my life, absorbing its lessons, its magic, its gifts. By creating I complete a cycle of taking in and giving back. My work is my way of declaring I inhabit this space, I am here and this is who I am. If I dare to hope for anything, it is that my actions may inspire others to bravely embrace themselves and their lives, allowing whatever form that expression may need the freedom to sprout and grow.

In my tumultuous twenties and thirties I was tormented by my inability to figure out my niche in terms of the career me. "What do I want to be when I grow up?" I would wail. Now I realize what I want to be is Me. Just me living a good life. Me embracing the notion to simply be is more than enough. And to be authentically me, means engaging creatively and wholeheartedly with my life. I will always seek out ways to learn more about my world and myself. What I understand now is how central creative play is as part of my learning/living process.

Oh, and by the way, I am not taking any chances; Cowgirl has her own pile of books and art supplies handy for when inspiration strikes ...

Friday, February 12, 2010

Practical Magick

Signs of Magick abound

We actively practice

It in our home

but don’t let any unbelievers know

It is not what you think -

We don’t cast spells,

or cook up any newt’s eyes,

And broomsticks and peaked hats

are superfluous

In actuality

When I say “practice”

I mean we stay open to

The possibility of the miraculous

residing within the prosaic,

recognizing that

we can be transformed

in ways bolder

than our imagination allows

To those initiated in its language

Magick presents itself everyday

in ways both

Humble and bold

I’ve seen it too many times

not to believe

Here is my testimonial:

A grumpy morning troll

transmutes into a shining elf child

through mint tea

an elixir healing body and spirit

A queen’s necklace of protection is

disguised as simple yarn and plastic beads,

and domestic fairy folk

camouflage themselves with

button eyes, wooley fur and silent mouths

keeping safe the secrets

known only by those trained in the art

of listening

Sacred pebbles and gemstones appear on our path

reminding us to keep a watchful eye

for earth’s treasures

while garden fairies gift us

inspiration for our art and for our home

Swords disguised as sticks

fend off any foe challenging our

right to dream

while shaggy magicians

boldly defend our

innocence and truths gained

Skilled in magic we discover:

Peanut butter kisses awaken new reserves

of power and energy

while bath time mermaids and water nymphs

cleanse away the day’s debris

We learn the alchemy of chocolate and spices

creates a potion bestowing

radiant smiles,

soulful sighs

and infectious laughter

Animal tracks offer

clues to the lessons and medicine

and songs provide protective charms that

call and unite our tribe in

Love and trust

Wild dances are our way of honoring the passion

of those fairy warriors who went before us,

Infusing our lives with the energy of



And personal expression

Moonlight and starlight illuminate

our dream selves who

race cars

dance with bears

travel to the far off spaces and places on our maps

and leap like kangaroos

effortless and powerfully

over all difficulties

that arise

All this

-and more -

we have uncovered

And the greatest magic of them all?

The realization that as often

as we forget

there is opportunity

For us to remember

And until we do,

there are always

Warm hands to transfer

the courage and curiosity

necessary for seekers of hope and dreams

Now do you see?

Magick speaks a private language

that is understood only

in the chambers of the heart

Are you willing to learn?

Monday, February 8, 2010

New Challenges

Emboldened by the spirit of adventure from a fellow blogger, I am offering my contribution to the notion of trying something new each week. I love the idea of pushing my boundaries wider and wider. With all the wonderful blogs and websites seducing me away from housework and current projects, I am continually reading about some new recipe or art project or technique that I think would be cool to try but which gets stashed way far back in the cluttered closet of my mind.

So here is what I did over the weekend.

Glue batik t-shirts. (And yes, given my bashing of Valentine's day, the irony of me making big heart shirts in celebration of Cupid's day is not lost upon me.)

These were so ridiculously easy and fun to make, I cannot believe I haven't done this sooner. I suppose I've spared family and friends a batik filled Christmas season, but watch out! Easter is coming and this is perfect for Spring themed projects.

The instructions are easy peasy and found here on That Artist Woman's blog. I bought inexpensive cotton t-shirts at Michael's craft store and use acrylic craft paints that I had on hand for other projects.
I cut up some old cereal boxes and slide the cardboard between the front and the back of the shirts so the glue and paint would not bleed through. I did the initial glue "drawing" and let the pieces dry overnight. The next day I set Cowgirl up with water, a brush and paints and let her go at it. She put the paint on pretty thick while the directions have you water the acrylics down a bit. I helped her wet patches that were too dry to blend properly, but she got the hang of mixing the water with the paint. In fact, her shirt came out much more vibrant and fun than my more restrained piece! I don't know how the color will hold up to repeated washing; I will probably wash her shirt in cold water or hand wash as I am sure the colors will blend over time in warm water.

I love the idea of making seasonal banners and have loads of ideas for future projects. Maybe some napkins and a tablecloth? I used cookie cutter forms for my heart design and I can see gingerbread men for a holiday table setting.

Thanks Jane for the nudge! Now, if I could only figure out how to get paid to stay home and do all these great projects swimming around my head and the blog-o-sphere! If you want more ideas, just head over to Jane's blog for ideas!