Sunday, June 27, 2010

Making memories; creating identity (& some Best Shots)

Cowgirl and I just spent the weekend attending a Chinese Heritage camp. Last year she attended a culture camp with her friend Ava, whose family we met while in China 4 years ago. This year's camp was different in that it is for families brought together through adoption with parents attending workshops and volunteering for various support duties throughout the weekend. While Cowgirl's story is her own to tell, what I am taking away with from this weekend is the power of older children and young adults as role models for my child. As a mother, I am aware of my responsibility to provide situations where my daughter can have contact with positive and supportive individuals with whom she can identify with and who inspire her. This past weekend I watched her fall in love with her counselors and be enthralled by the culture of her birth country.

the final event was dim sum at a local Chinese restaurant

It was an amazing experience to walk into a room and be the minority; I was a volunteer in an art class and with the same group of third graders in the Culture Village where music, craft, food and costume displays were set up for the kids to experience. To see the children excited to learn about their heritage and celebrate their connectedness was a privilege. These kids did not know each other before this weekend and yet they all fell into a camaraderie that was effortless and intense. Cowgirl was particularly smitten by her counselors, young adults who volunteer their time to work with these kids with a desire to give back to their community. The community being Chinese-American but also adoptive.

the kids enjoyed a field day with sponge races, sled pulls and lots of water play

There is so much for me to process from the weekend and Cowgirl and her best buddy have been in perpetual motion, so I haven't had the chance to catch my breath never mind shift through my thoughts and feelings. We have more travels ahead as we are off to visit family for a couple of days before heading home. We will be returning tired and worn out but from having a full out balls-to-the-wall level of fun that only a five year old is capable of maintaining. We added onto our Life book, the story of our Family which began 4 years ago this past week when we received Cowgirl's referral picture and report from China. Much of what Cowgirl experienced seemed to skim over her, but I believe seeds were planted that will support her as unravels her identity and begins to map out her story. a Memories were made, positive impressions planted and Cowgirl found the love of her life and his name is Eddie.

Cowgirl with two of her counselors, ready to embrace her Eddie

the grand finale: each grade performed a folk tale or song; here the girls are enacting "Pulling the Carrot"

The first night families gathered at a splash park to cool off; Cowgirl was in her element

Summer is in full swing ... do tell, what are your plans for fun? What summer memories are you planning to create?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Strawberry Moon

This full moon is known as the Strawberry Moon here in the U.S. and Rose Moon in Europe. Unlike other dream boards, this month's impending full moon seemed more uncertain for me. "Play with all sorts of dreams" was the prompt by Jamie Ridler. But I've been feeling overwhelmed by the flood of ideas, inspiration and numerous paths that seem to be popping up in front of me. Which one to choose? What to focus upon?

Uncertain as to how to proceed, I just dove in. I gathered the words and images that called out to me and let myself trust in the flow of creating. Only now, reading Monica's prompts for this full moon am I struck by the orderliness of my dream board. I see the structure or the grid of starlight through the trees and the background patterning of hearts acting as an anchor for the seeming chaos of ideas bubbling up inside me. I find myself recalling summer evenings from my childhood when I would sit outside on lounge chairs looking up at the stars and dreaming of the future that stretched before me. This memory recalls a sense of relaxing into time rather than feeling rushed or hurried. My hope is to reconnect this Summer with that more ease-full way of being in time, rather than racing against it.

"It's not too late" reminds me acting upon my dreams is always possible and each day is an opportunity to start. "Here we go" conveys the sense of adventure and playfulness that I have been trying to cultivate in my work and in my life.

I know structure and practice are essential to my staying balanced and grounded. Committing to a practice is how I honor the value of what I am doing and I am integrating creative activity into my life with a quality of reverence previously reserved for my yoga practice. Art and Yoga are my guides into understanding myself and understanding my world. Now I notice the Minoan snake goddess who holds a snake in each hand! The snake or serpent is one symbol for the energy of Kundalini which is the goal of Yoga practice. To awaken and to attune to this energy is to tap into our fullest potential as creative, spiritual beings. The times I have touched upon this experience are "A HA" moments when another piece slips into the puzzle. To have an "A HA" moment is an act of grace, but as the saying goes, practice makes us more accident prone.

I am putting my trust in doing the work, committing to the practice and accepting that it will carry me to the destination that is perfect for me. What this moon is teaching me is to focus on the essentials, focus on the underlying attitudes and not get so tangled up in surface flash and glitter. Stay true to my heart, honor my strengths and acknowledge my weaknesses as places for growth.

I am looking out tonight upon a cloud covered full moon. The days leading up to this night felt chaotic and confused, but as the clouds drift by I am gaining some clarity on my present situation. I am taking time to reflect upon where it is I have been and pausing to enjoy this period in my life. Like a child, I am stargazing and allowing myself the time to let my ideas float through my consciousness while my dreams slowly take form.

Meanwhile, Cowgirl and I are on a little adventure which I will tell you more about when I am rested. Suffice to say, before any new undertaking, rituals need to be honored. Blue toes freshened up for adventures ahead. Stay tuned to find out more!

Don't forget: next Friday, July 2 will be our first Painting with a Purpose giveaway. Details here; make your donation now (just click on the badge over to the right) and enjoy 4 chances to win an original painting. Here is a sneak peak at our work-in-progress:

What dreams is this full moon illuminating for you?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Weekly Reflection (week 24): My Creative DNA

"... a little self knowledge goes a long way. If you understand the strands of your creative DNA, you begin to see how they mutate into common threads in your work. You begin to see the "story" that you're trying to tell; why you do the things you do (both positive and self-destructive); where you are strong and where you are weak (which prevents a lot of false starts), and how you see the world and function in it." (Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit)

I found this concept intriguing: how would I describe or define my creative impulses? Why am I drawn to certain forms, certain styles and mediums and what is my unique perspective? To understand what my world - or life - view is would be to understand the story I am trying to tell through my work. And according to Tharp, to have a handle on my perspective will help me to hone in on my strengths, my gifts and my story.

When I was in high school, my art teacher encouraged me to apply for a scholars award in the arts. I'm not even sure what I was applying for and at the time was baffled by my teacher's sudden interest in me as student. While I loved art, I was not particularly gifted. Or more fairly put, I was not given the training nor the tools to develop whatever artistic talent I might have possessed. But I filled out the application and struggled over the section that required me to compose my Artist's Statement. (Again, I do not recall my teacher providing me with any practical guidance; it is no wonder I felt helplessly inept and under qualified.)

At sixteen, I wonder how much insight I could have possibly possessed? Certainly not enough to formulate a well developed artistic vision or statement of purpose. I had recently seen an exhibit of Georgia O'Keeffe's work and I recall I wrote something inspired by her quote: "When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it's your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else. Most people in the city rush around so, they have no time to look at a flower. I want them to see it whether they want to or not." I cannot imagine I had enough pieces to submit; I know I did a pencil drawing close up view of our jade plant, putting forth my best effort to evoke O'Keeffe's close-up and intimate views of plants and flowers.

Now, 30 years later, I realize my creative impulse is heavy inspired by that early experience of Georgia O'Keeffe's art. What I love about her art is a physical expression of nature through paint. It is like she felt the mountains, the trees, the flowers through her body first and then translated that experience onto the canvas. When I look at her work, I feel a physical connection to the forms; I can sense bones and muscle underneath her mountains and through her work I understand on a visceral level my connection to nature.

I've been thinking about the other artists that have shaped my creative DNA. (Or maybe it is I am drawn to them because we share a similar outlook?) Long before I studied art history, I loved the art of Vincent Van Gogh. I love the vulnerability and intense humanness - the longing, the passion, the hopefulness - of Van Gogh's artistic and written expression.

"How can I be useful, of what service can I be? There is something inside me, what can it be?"

"For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream." -Vincent Van Gogh

Again, I am drawn to the physicality of Van Gogh's art. The swirl of brushstrokes, the texture of paint, vivid colors all conveying his physical and emotional experience of the scene he has depicted. In general I relate to the art of the Post-Impressionist and the Fauves who use color, form, line and symbols for emotionally expressive rather than descriptive purposes. Matisse is another artist whose rich use of color and decorative patterning and compositions has inspired me greatly. He once said he wanted his art to have the effect of a good armchair after a long, hard day. What I love in his art and what I believe I am drawn to do in my work is to recreate the sense of joyfulness, visual delight and wonderment over the magic of the world around us.

Frida Kahlo's art inspires me to delve deeply into the realm of personal imagery; to use art as a means of self exploration and perhaps exorcism of fears, doubts, pain and sorrow. I love how her work balances both the richness and the pain of human experience. I love her inventiveness and her unflinching examination of herself as a subject.

As an undergraduate I wrote my senior art history thesis on Robert Rauschenberg. I had never considered his impact upon my aesthetic until now. Rauschenberg and other artists of the sixties challenged us to reconsider what forms, materials and subject matter constitutes "art" and they opened up the possibility that art can be made from the scraps and subject matter of our prosaic world. Low on funds for materials, Rauschenberg simply used his bedspread quilt as a canvas for a painting. He gathered imagery from mass media and transformed it into a new visual language. In a word, he delighted in stuff. He turned trash into beauty. Or rather, he found beauty where others might only see junk. He once said: "Painting relates to both life and art ... I try to act in that gap between the two."

Rounding out this list (because I could go on and on ...I haven't even mentioned Giotto and the awe inspiring experience of visiting the Arena Chapel and being surrounded by his fresco cycle that paved the way for the Renaissance ... I think I've open up my Pandora's box) is the environmental artist Andy Goldsworthy. I became familiar with his work a few years ago when I saw the film Rivers and Tides. Watching Goldworthy work and talk about his process, my reaction was "That's IT! That is how I want to feel! That is how I want to engage with my world!" It is not so much a conscious decision to be "making something"; rather, my impulse is a need to experience life through art making. To grapple with understanding myself and how I fit into the scheme of things in this wide Universe, I feel like art is the means by which I can form some kind of cohesive response to the question "why?" It is what tethers me to my world; it is, I am now realizing, a form of worship and a means by which to offer and acknowledge my gratitude for this precious life.

What is the story I am trying to tell? I think I can begin to answer that by considering this question Tharp asks: "What do you and your role models have in common?"

I would say, an intense examination of what it means to be human; a deeply felt desire to connect; a playful, joy-filled approach towards life; and a conscious choice to celebrate and seek out the sacred in the everyday.

How would you describe your creative DNA? Who inspires you and why? How do you wish to tell your one precious story?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Falling Skies and other observations

Stormy weather has my brain operating at half speed. The husband said it best when he moaned "It is hard getting any sleep when the gods are playing bongo drums all night long!" (Of course, he rolled over and went back to sleep while I had to get up and get ready for work.)

Amidst this volatile weather, I am finding it hard to get my bearings. I've seemed to heap my plate too full with deliciously activities and am suffering from overload. With today as the official start of summer I wish to declare my intention to allow spaciousness into my life at this. My intention is to take time to linger, absorb and just BE this summer. I feel like I've been grabbing on to too much and I am needing to practice opening my hands and allowing the gifts of this time to fall into them rather
than snatching at everything that comes my way.

Opening to receive rather than filling up, that's my goal. It's a matter of perspective. And a matter of trust, knowing everything will come in its proper time.

Here are a few of my quiet observations from the past few days. My attempt to slow down and look intently at this life I've so carefully crafted and needing to enjoy:

For a fun summer project, consider joining in on an art postcard swap over on Wishstudio blog. Make 5 original inspiration postcards to send off to others and in turn receive some summer inspiration delivered to you the old fashioned way - through the mail! Details are here ... come on, join me!

What are your summer plans? How do you intend to enjoy yourself?

(Painting with Purpose Update: Cowgirl and I have begun our first 8 by 10 inch painting and already I can tell it will be hard for me to part with it! And if you heard a loud BANG this morning, it was my jaw hitting the desk when I discovered you all have already donated $235 to Half the Sky Foundation! What an amazing feat! We are pumped up and ready to paint our little hearts out! First give away is July 2nd. Keep posted for sneak peeks at our paintings.)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Week Reflection (week 23) & Painting with a Purpose Update

we are hard at work!

I know, I know ... it is the end of the week and you are asking "Where is the Weekly Reflection?" In all the excitement of Painting with a Purpose, I decided to save my reflection for the end of the week. But first, a little update on our project!

Cowgirl and I are busy at work planning and perfecting our collaborative process. We did a few practice pieces (one of which is further down in this post)

And dear Mr. Dick Blick sent me a coupon for a discount off of my entire purchase, so we gathered up some new supplies including 8 by 10 inch canvas boards for the give away paintings/prizes. I do have a question: I was thinking it would be nice to add a small wire hanger accented with beads to match each piece. Something along the lines of this:

What do you think? Too much? Nice touch? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

I want to thank everyone who has left such inspiring comments regarding Painting with a Purpose. And some people have already donated! That is fantastic and we are super energized to make each painting as vibrant, inspiring, and joy-filled as we possibly can. If I didn't get back to you (some people do not have blogs listed) please know that each and every comment lifts our spirits and carries us forward. Thank you! Also, please know you can donate by check/mail if online isn't your thing. There is a link on the pledge page to download a form to mail in with your donation.

Keep posted for more sneak previews!

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This week I found myself wondering:

Who am I?

I just ordered my business cards from and I'm very excited. I also find it a bit humorous as I have yet to create a business for which to hand out said cards. But new cards has been on my "to do" list since January when I was down to my final hand full of yoga biz cards.

My biggest dilemma and the reason I've put off ordering cards for so long is I had no idea what to put on them. My previous card simply read "Kripalu certified Yoga Instructor." But teaching yoga is just one of the many things I want to do in the coming months and years. I recently discovered via a fellow Flying Lessons classmate that I am what she calls a "Scanner." She gives beautiful description of a scanner: someone who likes to experience and try new things, moving fluidly between worlds, extremely curious (sounds like a typical Vata to me!) Um, yes, all true ... but I like to think I am more than just skimming the surface of things which is how scanner sounds to me. (This is not to knock what is a wonderfully helpful post with ideas on how to structure a scanner's list of interests/identities. Do check it out!)

Years ago I was in a weekend yoga workshop when the facilitator asked us all to write on a piece of paper the answer to this question: Who am I? I wrote my response and sat back, a bit baffled to see everyone bent over their papers still writing away. What were they writing on and on about? Seriously, I was confused. And then came the time for people to volunteer to read out loud what they had written down: mother, teacher, social worker, data specialist, wife, yoga teacher ... the lists went on and on. I looked down at my paper, a bit shocked to read what I wrote: I am whoever I choose to be.

Of course the rest of the time was spent making collages around all those personae people had written down. I slinked off for a coffee as I felt like I had no connection to this exercise. I did feel a little superior, like I had seen the trick in the question; all those years in graduate school taught me something about the construction of identity, self and gender!

another collaborative piece with Cowgirl

But now I am back to thinking about that paper and what my response really means to me. In all honesty, I still struggle with disengaging notions of worth from work and concepts about self generated by authentic questioning versus those imposed by outside forces. Deep down inside, there is still a little bit of that little girl who needs an daddy figure to tell her she did a good job and validate her worth.

There is a delicious moment when I am in deep relaxation practice and I go into this zone where everything slips away. The heaviness of me - my expectations, contradictions, anxieties and ambitions - is gone and I am just there: simply being, simply presence. It is like waking up from a long, deep dream; and for a brief moment as I come out of it, I have no earthly idea of who I am. And I love it.

I used to know a woman in town who kept changing her first name. It drove me crazy that as soon as I was used to one name, she would select another based upon the new path she was embracing in that moment. I was always thinking about her by her former incarnation. And it is true: what pushes your buttons touches upon a truth deeply buried or denied. Yes, I have to confess, I have 3 names I can lay claim to: my given name, a Buddhist name (although, I do not feel I have followed that path very well), and a Sanskrit/yoga name which is how I am listed on the schedule for the yoga center where I teach. Oops, add a fourth - my online name Lis to distinguish me from all the other Lisas out there. (I was still surprised to learn that Lisa was the most popular name for a girl in the 1960s.)

But I am also aware of a strain from being so "all over the place" as I wrote out my list of scanner personalities and realized all my various names. I want to be open, fluid, changeable but I also want some sense of an internal compass, a direction for all my energy. Thanks to my new list, I realized I was ready to make up a business card, to put it - or rather ME - out there.

My cards are on order. I used some of my favorite photographic images from the past year for one side. On the information side it will read:

Lisa Hofmann
artist • writer • creative explorer

I like the idea of being a Creative explorer. Right now, I am not claiming any one area as my own but venturing out into new territories, open to new adventures, new roles. I know whatever I become it will be my unique blend of my interests and skills. I'm in no hurry to plant my flag in one spot. I am on a expedition of understanding and connection. My card will be my way of leaving a trail with those I meet on the path.

So, I ask you: Who are you?

(I am thrilled to pass on these links to Milena's thoughtful responses to a couple of recent Weekly Reflections. Thank you for playing with me!

(another message i was receiving loud and clear this week: when things get chaotic, that is when i need to dive deeper within, return to my practice and seek stillness in whatever form i can find it in!)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Nourishing a Hope: Painting with a Purpose

I wasn't planning to participate in Wishcasting Wednesday today because I have this little chicklet of an project that emerged yesterday in my consciousness and I have been consumed with creating the perfect nest for her to thrive and grow. But when I read today's prompt, I knewn she needs to be introduced to you all now.

What do I wish to nourish?

I wish to nourish this dream:

I am calling this project: Painting with a Purpose: A Summer of Creative Connection. Through this project, I want to nourish Hope for children who may have little to hope or believe in. I wish to nourish connection through painting: connection with my daughter but more importantly, connection with the children who live in Welfare Centers (orphanages) in China. I wish to nourish the message of Half the Sky Foundation's Art in Our HeARTS art a-thon and raise money through my art to sponsor a child in the "Somebody Loves Me" program.

This is a project near and dear to my heart. For the first 23 months of Cowgirl's life she lived in a Social Welfare Center in southern China. I know she received good care there because she came to us not only very healthy, but able to express affection, curiosity and most importantly, trust. She attached to us quickly. Parenting an adopted child, the issue of attachment and bonding is the number one concern. The ability to form intimate, loving and engaged relationships is created through our having been attached to our parents or a primary caregiver in the first years of our lives. Sadly, many centers lack the resources and staff to provide the intensive individual care necessary for healthy attachment.

All the children who are held and loved will know how to love others ... Spread these virtues in the world. Nothing more is needed. (Meng Zi, c. 300 B.C.)

The mission of Half the Sky Foundation is to provide individual care and stimulation for children living in welfare centers. Their stated goal is "to ensure every one of China's orphans has a caring adult in her life." I have supported this stellar organization ever since Cowgirl came into my life. When they announced their summer Art a-Thon project, I knew we had to participate.

Here's the plan: Starting now and until the end of July, Cowgirl and I will be collaborating on small scale paintings (5 x 7 and 8 x 10 inches I am thinking) on canvas board. Each week we will create at least one new painting with a theme selected by Cowgirl (oh, this could get interesting!) Beginning in July and running for 4 weeks we will be offering a give away of the paintings. On Fridays I will be posting an update of our progress and a chance to win one of our collaborative pieces. To enter you must make a donation to Half the Sky (more info on this below) and leave a comment each of the 4 Fridays (be sure to let me know you donated!) We will select a name at random on each of the following Monday mornings.

Things will get rolling on Friday, July 2 with the final week being Friday, July 23. Depending upon the response, I may add a bonus week on Friday July 30, so stay tuned! I image we will have more than enough art to share, so who knows what bonus offerings may bubble up in July?

You only have to donate once, but in order to qualify each week for the drawing, you must leave a comment and include in your comment that you made a donation.

To visit my pledge page and make a donation now simply click here. Or use this badge over on my sidebar:

I want to nourish the belief in myself and my daughter that what we do does matter; that we each can make a difference in our own, unique way. I want to nourish the conviction that Art can save lives and that art is a vehicle for hope, understanding and connection.

As I wish, so may it be!

(Please help me spread the word! Any suggestions, support, tweets, or shout outs as things get rolling will be greatly appreciated (and humbly accepted.) And if you are unable to comment, please feel free to email me: Lishofmann(at)novia(dot)net)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Mother guilt (and my Best Shot)

For the record, I will state that I have a pretty good set up going on in my life. I work part time with benefits (meaning vacation, holiday and sick leave) and my job is fairly flexible. After years working retail and then adjunct teaching, it is a huge relief to know that when I or my daughter are sick, I can simply choose to stay home without any guilt over how my absence will impact co-workers. I work a 4 day work week with afternoons and 3-day weekends to spend with my family. I do not bring work home with me, nor do I stress about it once I walk out my office door. Sounds ideal, doesn't it?

But with Cowgirl leaving the world of preschool and becoming an official full time student (kindergarten is full time where we live) next fall, I am feeling huge guilt and remorse over the absence of unstructured time in her life. It is a feeling that has been nibbling on my emotional toes but last night felt like a great white shark ready to snap at my heart. As I struggled to fall asleep, I was remembering all the summers I had as a child when days seeped into each other with the only routine to speak of being play. When I was very young, we would spend summer's at the Jersey shore, my dad driving down on weekends. Weekdays were spent with my mom and the pack of neighborhood kids I roamed around with. I was either on the move via my blue hand-me-down boy's bike or sauntering in flip flops to the bay or ocean for swimming, card games on beach towels, or sandcastle building. Adventure was an excursion to the drug store or 5-and-dime to see what our quarters would buy us. A new Archie comic book was a celebration and evenings at a putt-putt golf course this child's dream of perfection.

This summer will be Cowgirl's third time in summer school. I know she has a blast, has access to so many wonderful activities, other kids (which our neighborhood lacks) but still this huge BUT has logged itself in my throat. School mornings I have to drag her out of bed and down to breakfast. Her demeanor is crabby and whiney. On "home days" (non-school days) she is up at the crack of dawn, playing and happy to just hang out in her p.j.s all morning. She gets up early because she doesn't want to "waste time" - her words - sleeping in on a home day. Now, she never wants to leave school when I pick her up, so I am pretty certain her resistance is not because of a problem at school. I think her resistance is to the busy-ness of another school day.

I totally get this and I wonder how I would have felt as a child not to have enjoyed long summers which invariably ended with a level of boredom and readiness to head back to school. And I understand she doesn't know anything different so my guilt has more to do with my expectations and memories. I guess I miss not having a long string of days in which play is the main objective, busy-ness is replaced by laziness and boredom acts as motivation to become more creative, silly and spontaneous. Life seems far more mapped out and planned these days. I suppose my challenge for us all is to figure out ways to loosen things up a bit. Slowing down and making a priority "spacious time" as I like to think about it. Time when things are allowed to unfold, plans change and the attitude of "why not?" prevails.

How do you built spacious or unstructured time into your child's schedule? Or even into adult life? Summer always seems like the season for loafing, lolling, cloud gazing and general relaxation. Am I the only one feeling anxious about facilitating all this?

Happy Monday! Here are my best shots of spacious time from this weekend.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Inspiration Friday: Scratching my creative itch!

The first steps of a creative act are like groping in the dark: random and chaotic, feverish and fearful, a lot of busy-ness with no apparent or definable end in sight.... You need a tangible idea to get you going. The idea, however minuscule, is what turns the verb into a noun - paint into a painting, sculpt into sculpture, write into writing, dance into dancing. (Twyla Tharp - The Creative Habit)

The habit that Tharp uses to approach her blank page she calls scratching. Like scratching a lottery ticket to uncover your prize, or as Tharp explains it "It's like clawing at the side of a mountain to get a toehold, a grip, some sort of traction to keep moving upward and onward."

I love this notion of scratching. What gets me started on a piece or project? How is a seed discovered and then planted? How do I coax creativity out of its dark cave?

As much as I tend to be an orderly, organized person, I am discovering my need for some sort of controlled chaos in order to free up my creative juices. My own personal scratching technique is to be sure I have a couple of projects ongoing to turn to when inspiration strikes. If nothing else, in those seeming lulls of creativity, I have to remind myself to do some prep work. Using this means readying my materials like gesso-ing some journal pages or postcards, shifting through my photo files and uploading pictures to Flickr, or cleaning out my materials bins and discovering new scraps of background papers, magazine clippings and other ephemera that I have collected and which may spark an idea.

When working, I like to move around from project to project striking when inspired. Often when I am working on one piece, I have an idea for another piece and while something is drying or when a piece is marinating, I then move over to a second or even third piece. I am finding my postcard paintings are fantastic vehicles for scratching an idea or image or color scheme that may move into a larger format later on.

Other ways I scratch or stretch out my creative muscles include drawing up inspiration from nature:

Children's books are great sources for inspiration. An image, character or technique pops out at me while reading to Cowgirl and I secretly stash that book away in my art space to peruse and explore later on. (Oh yes, I steal freely from Cowgirl's collection!) The illustrators of children's books are some of my favorite artists and their imagery and styles appealing to the child in me.

Paying attention to Cowgirl's stories is another way I mine for artistic gold. Her imagination and spin on the seemingly ordinary always has me rushing for my journal to jot down ideas. A series of images based upon the antics of our otherwise lazy dog Moose has been particularly fertile ground. Cowgirl has a wonder spin on language: reading the weather section in the paper, she will inform us "Today is sunny, tonight is moony ..." She loves me "all the numbers" (which means a lot) and is wise to the times when I am trying "egg her up" (her interpretation of "buttering someone up.") Lots of good visual puns there!

Any kind of movement - taking a walk, free form dancing, yoga - are all ways to shake off the cobwebs, get the blood flow moving to the brain and stimulate some fresh thinking. Tharp writes about this and it is amazing how I can begin my yoga practice with my mind all cluttered, confused and tied up in knots. Even 15 minutes of movement and focusing upon my breath has the incredible effect of resetting my mind so thoughts flow freely and easily. (Yup, got my bit in for 21-5-800!)

Of course a huge place to scratch is here online. You all are some of my favorite sources for ideas, challenges, and projects. I sometimes wonder if my best pieces of writing are over in someone else's comment section! But as I read and write in others spaces, I often find myself typing my way into a new topic to be explored here and in my written journal.

My absolute favorite way shimmy into creative flow is to watch How To videos. For a mega-normous dose of creative juiciness, any video from the always inspiring Connie of Dirty FootPrints Studio has me humming and buzzing with art making potential.

Oh yeah, can you feel that?! Aren't you ready to hop to ASAP? (And if you feel inspired but intimidated, then I encourage you to check out Connie's newest e-course offering entitled BIG. I'll be there along with some super wonderful art lovelies painting our hearts out this July. And just to be clear, Connie does not know I am posting her video or writing this. I have grown so much as an artist - there, I said it, I am an artist! - and a huge dollop of gratitude is owed to the generosity of Connie as a teacher and as a fellow traveler on this crazy path of art and yoga. Okay, love letter over ♥)

Anyone who meditates will tell you, once you start scratching, the itches become endless. Not what you want when sitting on the zafu trying to focus on the breath, but hallelujah YES! when surrounded by paints, pencils, paper and pen.

What ways do you scratch for creative ideas? Thinking about your scratching habits, it is useful to have your list handy so the next time the paper seems especially white, you have your habits ready to move over the hurdle of that blank page.

Meanwhile, I ask you: Isn't ecstasy supposed to come before the laundry? I'm just wondering where mine went ...

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Leapin' Lizards!

I almost skipped today's Wishcasting as I thought I pretty much covered the subject of leaping here. But as I walked Moose in the golden glow of early morning, new forms of leaping tumbled through my brain.

How to answer: What leap do I wish to take?

I wish to leap into my dreams
To leap into flight
Into my truth
Into my calling &
My passion

I wish to leap over
my fears
notions of lack
rocks of self judgment
the mud puddle of comparison
the quagmire of inertia

But really, when all is said and done, I wish to leap into contentment for all that is available to me right now, as I am, as life presents itself to me.

Santosha or contentment is one of the foundational principles in the Yoga Sutras. To understand contentment, the opposite state or discontentment is often considered. Attachment and desire drive discontentment. Feeling a lack, believing what is out there will make me happy/better/more fulfilled only deepens my sense of discontent. To be free from grasping, desire, a sense of incompleteness is to experience Santosha and a happiness that cannot be effected by outside conditions.

Santosha, or the practice of content-ment, is the ability to feel satisfied within the container of one's immediate experience. (Donna Farhi)

When at peace and content with oneself and others (Santosha), supreme joy is celebrated. (Nischala Joy Devi)

Supreme joy ... yeah, I wish to leap into that.

(you could say I also leapt into a new challenge - Thank you Lisa! - of 21 days of yoga practice and writing. I am ready to commit ... or be committed!)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Weekly Reflection (week 22): organic growth

[H]ave patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer. (Maria Rainer Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet)

I've definitely been reflecting upon and searching for a healthy perspective on process. To say I've been feeling overwhelmed and limited would be an understatement. Part of the problem is my diving into so many rich programs undertaken with the intention to gather an awareness of the tools available to me. My problem is I immediately jump to the conclusion I should have complete mastery over everything: Photo Shop, Blogger, Blogging ... never mind the other lists from my life. And I believe I must always know exaxctly where I am headed before embarking upon any journey. Part of my personality is easily overwhelmed by too much stimulation (there goes my Vata-ness again) and my eye-on-the-prize tendency (the Pitta or fire element in me.)

I cannot put my finger on it, but there is also this sense "out there" (or maybe I'm just creating it in my head) that the boat is taking off and I had better jump on board or risk being left behind and losing my one big chance. And I find myself reacting rather than mindfully engaging.

Funny how the signs are all around me to slow down, pace myself and understand the false demons that plague me. I keep pulling the Isis card which counsels that a current situation involves a past life or childhood event. Thinking about my more immediate past I am aware of a pattern in the area of my vocation. I have felt compelled to make a clear cut decision about what it is I want to be - university professor, yoga teacher, activist just a few labels I have tried on - and then I single-mindedly pursued those careers. I am realizing that I choose a label and then try to squeeze myself and my life into that form rather than allowing my vocation, my calling, to emerge organically out of a process of exploration.

Even when we were preparing to bring Cowgirl home, I had this panicked sense that I wasn't prepared; that I should have been reading more, studying more. I despaired that instead of art history (or yoga), I should have been studying child development, pediatric nursing and Chinese to be really be ready and able. Now I am understanding total preparation is an illusion; a favorite saying of mine is "planning is priceless; plans are useless." So here I am planning and studying and gathering more tools than I every could hope to employ. What I need to remember is the second half of that statement: the part where living happens in the Now and plans are tossed out as life shifts and changes.

As Cowgirl moves through her changes, each stage is marked by a period of complete chaos and then a break down before she masters a new skill and moves into a new phase of development. I recognize this process in her (the calm phases only become apparent when the calm is over) and now I am seeing the same is true for me. My utter confusion as to how I am to proceed marks my moving from one stage of growth into another. I have a sense of something ahead, but I am lack mastery of all the tools and understand that will take me there. It is a process that must be lived through, not rushed. Skill, mastery, understanding develop best when allowed space to integrate and process.

So I am thinking a lot about organic growth. As the Rilke poems suggests, I am trying to live the questions and let go my fixation on the end result. I do not want to put myself into a hot house environment to force growth. I want to have patience and acceptance about where I am in my process. I am embracing the title of Explorer. And with exploring, it is given I will get lost, make wrong turns, lose track of time and space but hopefully have a journey full of discoveries and new adventures. And perhaps the end of my exploring is to arrive exactly where I am but with a new understanding of who it is I want to be.

Organic growth - what would that look like for you? How do we resist the compulsion to measure our growth against another's thereby stunting natural development?