Wednesday, December 23, 2015

calm and bright

Eek! So it has been a longer lapse than I had realized. Ahem. I blame it on the holidays and my tendency to find inspiration for the perfect gifts that I want to make in the dwindling days before the celebrations kick in. I thrive best with deadlines.

So in addition to my purported commitment to thriving in the holidays I should add to that generating and creating. Wow. I discovered the joys of repurposing sweaters into wonky hats, adding the most stylish of adornments, le pompom, to each. I stitched up eight hats in a handful of days (easily can whip out 3 of these babies in an afternoon session) alongside some homemade concoctions for the skin ... yummy sugar & coconut oil body scrubs with essential oils blend of citrus and mint. Festive AND smooth, that's what my feet say.

In this midst of all this crafting, I had my table easel set up (nothing like adding tubs of paints, piles of brushes, and mounds of paint rags to the festive home decorations) and I whipped out in three days two new Ganesha paintings for a holiday bazaar.  Yeah. My crazy. I don't thrive on this much pressure, but in an effort to walk my talk I donned my big girl panties and fired off an email to my friend who was hosting the bazaar. Putting my work out there is not business as usual for me, but another dear friend pointed out to me the lack of easy access to my work. "Where is the path to your paintings?" she asked and I had to admit, I don't help myself or my art by keeping things hidden away in my home. 

So I inquired whether there was room for my work in the show ... but here's where I back pedaled: I tossed into the mix a "if not now, perhaps in the future ... maybe something with Ganesha?" Of course the response was I would love some of your Ganeshas for the show!  Which meant I had to create some!

So it has been crazy around here but in a good way. The holiday bazaar was loads of fun and I made some wonderful connections, I have a few inquiries for pieces and I have more ideas for future ventures and ways to get my work in the world. It is never comfortable or easy promoting myself, but I am learning that no one will come in if I keep the door closed, locked and the front lights off.  And more importantly, I need to keep the pathway clear to that door so others can easily pop on by.

Now things are quiet ... I've begun my holiday baking ... presents are starting to appear under the tree ... the Husband and the Girl are amusing themselves in a game ... Moose Dog rests with visions of chew bones and liver treats dancing in his head ... after I finish my cup of chai I'm off to the living room and some knitting before the fire ... winding down and resting in this season of rest and renewal. Seeds dreaming in the dark is how one friend referred to this period of time and truly, it is a time to keep dreaming, keep an eye attuned to the light, the magic, the gifts and the hope of Light and Love.

And there will be more of this in the coming year ...

Happy Holidays to you and yours. xo

Monday, December 14, 2015

a quiet obsession ...

Sometimes in all the clutter and chaos (hello? are there no holiday wreaths available? Am I that behind?! And how much can I really knit/sew/bake/make in less than two weeks time? Things that could, but don't, keep me up at night. Not yet  ...) comes flashes of clarity ...

The above was painted two years ago and has been quietly working a spell upon me. For in the following year and a half, all of this has been slowly (and steadily) emerging ...

And while I continue to paint dogs (one pooch is currently in progress on my easel) look who has also been herding into my art ...

And I realize I am soo good at distracting myself, wandering off course while thinking I know my way ... and then there is this moment of realization ... that the way has been consistently presenting itself to me. My secret, unspoken desire has made itself clear to me, finally. It is time to give it my full attention.

Back to the easel for me ... painting on a deadline (amazing, I can actually call up and ask if my work is wanted for a show and wow! Yes happens!

What whispers are you ready to heed? What is asking to come into light or life? What steps can you take to show up for its birth?

Giddy up!  xo 

(in gratitude for friends who ask me "What would it look like to have a studio filled with your art?" and who remind me to allow my work the opportunity to stand in its own light. You know who you are and I love you for being such a brilliant mirror for me.)

Friday, December 4, 2015

wrestling ... with myself?

I've been building upon the theme thriving in the holiday season with daily reflections posted in Facebook and Instagram. It was a wild hair of an idea uttered out loud to a friend right before the Thanksgiving Holiday. "I'll start it on Black Friday!" I declared and having settled that, went on with my regular meandering/wandering/navel lint-picking ways.

Then Black Friday arrived. We had had freezing rain the night before and I was stuck at home. I couldn't even walk Moose, the sidewalks were that treacherous. Okay, maybe I exaggerate a smidgen but it was also cold and windy and I was not venturing forth.  I sat huddled before the fireplace, reading my really good book (Corrag by Susan Fletcher; part of the reading list for Reclaiming the Wise Woman) which had me far away from my present reality. I got up to get some tea when I remembered my intended practive-cum-project.

 Fuck it. That was my immediate reaction. I was right on the edge of releasing it when I realized a committed daily practice was exactly what I needed lest I slip into a mighty crevasse of seasonal ennui, fatigue, and/or overwhelm.  So I began that day at the end of the day, but I began none-the-less. (To see these posts, you can visit my InnerGlow page HERE and scroll backwards to view previous posts.)

I know I shouldn't be surprised, but I always am ... it is not so much the what of practice but the commitment to show up and participate at some level with the practice that reaps rewards beyond anything I could have predicted or envisioned.  

A couple of days ago, I was listening to a very inspiring talk where the speaker was sharing how she starts every day in a "meeting" with her spiritual CEO. In other words, starting out with mindfulness, reflection, and connection with what one holds vital or essential. She talked about writing down her the three things she wants to create that day, which is really just clarifying one's intentions or motivation for energy and actions.

There was this moment of "YES!" and then a crashing down as I looked around me to see the clutter of a day yet to really happen (in my mind) ... me still in my robe and slippers ... the clock ticking ... and an all-too-familiar feeling of "I've missed it again!" I know myself and I know If I reach noon and I have not immersed myself in my work (by which I mean that which excites, engages, challenges and expands me) then the window of opportunity has passed. For that day. I don't give up, but I know anything I embark upon in the afternoon will require a great deal more effort on my part both energetically and mentally. It just is. 

Still, I caught myself about to descend into some nasty self-talk ... you know, The Story about what I ought to have done and how miserable or useless a creature I really am ... 

"It seems I've lived as though there were two of me. Right where I stand is me as I am. Opposite me is another me, one I've never met. She is quite wonderful, charming, and accomplished. She sits longer, for instance, every day, and eats much less. She says and does nothing she regrets. She went to the exercise class I skipped; she didn't even glance at the dessert menu. She has all the potential I have misspent: youth, for instance, time, patience, and kindness. All the while that we have traveled side by side, she has taken a different road, one I've never seen. I am taunted by her perfection."

Thankfully, I remembered the above passage and I recognized I could simply Begin Right Now with my day, choosing what was possible for me in this moment. I looked outside and realized run would help me shift into clarity and alignment. I came home from my run (after seeing a Kestrel - Kestrel teaches speed and action of thoughts must be done with a balance mind and heart along with patience to act at the opportune time) and made myself a green smoothie even though that Perfect Me was screaming about the lack of fresh fruit in the house and the almond milk that was not-quite fresh (but still fine). And it tasted great and I felt great.

So each day I try my best and I honor that what I can do is what I can do. The only one looking over my shoulder, second guessing me is that mythic creature, the Perfect Me. And honestly, she is a tad boring, predictable and not very inspiring to be around. So I pat her on her tidy head and offer her a few oohs and ahs for her impossible schemes before returning to my real world clutter and chaos which always holds out so many interesting surprises, insights and opportunities. 

Just thriving where I grow ...


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

thriving the holiday season

I was recently chatting with a wise friend of mine and we were bemoaning the challenges of the upcoming season. She pointed out how this is the time of year seasonally when we should be slowing down, resting, going within, nurturing ourselves in order to weather the coming winter months. Yet the holidays are anything but restful! Already Christmas music is playing on the radio and my neighborhood is ablaze with holiday lights. I take it as a sign of my success that upon seeing the latest lawn vignette of the 3 Wise Men (complete with cardboard camels) Cowgirl bemoans "We still have Thanksgiving People!" Oh yes, she is her father's daughter.

It is hard for me to balance my natural hermit nature (I am my mother's daughter) with the pressures that the holidays bring. Going out, gathering in large groups, feasting and celebrating ...  oh, I love all of that ... just in small and managed doses ... and that being on my good days, say days long with abundant sunshine. But right now? With the days short and the nights long and cold?  

So how to survive thrive in this season that demands plenty?  If ever there is a time for best practices to be implemented, it is now.  Here is my spin on making a list and checking it twice ... 

#1 Build into the day structured down time. It is law in this house that before bed, we read. As Cowgirl's bedtime is a few hours before mine, I have the opportunity to double the pleasure as I join her upstairs, in the big bed for a half hour of reading and snuggling before tucking her into her bed. And yes, often times I go back to the big bed, read for another half hour and slip into the land of Nod. Getting enough rest is essential for me physically and emotionally. My batteries need the frequent and lengthy recharge.

Both Cowgirl and I are in love with the Terry Pratchett books that chronicle the adventures of Tiffany Aching and the pictsies (or Wee Free Men) who assist her. Tiffany is The Best and most inspiring role model for myself and my girl. 

"This is the school, isn't it? The magic place? The world. Here. And you don't realize it until you look. Do you know the pictsies think this world is heaven? We just don't look. You can't give lessons on witchcraft. Not properly. It's all about how you are ... you, I suppose." (Terry Pratchett, The Wee Free Men)

#2 Mindful scheduling. I love my phone calendar but I still need a wall calendar. I need to be able, in a glance, to see how much white space there is in my week. If I see writing in those squares, I know not to add more. I've learned to accept I am an extroverted introvert: I enjoy being around people, but I need loads of recovery time. When I don't honor this about myself, I am not being kind to myself and I cannot be fully present and kind to the people I am with, especially my family. Cowgirl knows when I say out loud "I am feeling grumpy" her best move is to skedaddle and allow me space and time to collect myself.

#3 Hands on/mind off activity. Every day. Creativity is my form of meditation; it is how I empty out and how I check in with the inner chatter. I cannot and am mindful not to multitask so for me, knitting (or sewing or painting or sketching) is usually done in silence or with calm music playing. There is nothing more grounding for me than a good hour by the fire, a cup of tea by my side and my knitting to help me settle in. All the energy of the day pools away and I am always left refreshed and restored by a session of creative play. 

#4 Essential oils. The past few months I have been consciously working with certified pure oils. These are oils I know to be safe for my use and for my family's use. I have been slowly incorporating oils into my every day routines and introducing Cowgirl and The Husband to the benefits of essential oils in supporting natural immune function and wellness. My favorite tool is adding a drop of lemon or wild orange essential oil to my drinking water. Not only does the water taste yummy, the smell is uplifting and energizing and the oils beneficial in supporting healthy respiration and/or immune function. Now I have Cowgirl asking me to rub oils on her feet before bedtime and we love lavender and a calming blend to assist us in winding down after a busy day. 
{If you want to know more about using essential oils or the oils I prefer to use, please contact me  - lishofmann88(at)gmail(dot)com - and I would be happy to answer your questions or share more information!}

#5 Get outside. Even though the temperature has dropped significantly, I am still grateful to Moose dog for the incentive to head outside on a daily basis. When I walk him at night, I like to look up at the night sky and remember that I am a part of the vastness. There is nothing more nourishing for me than to fill up the spaciousness of nature: to pause and soak up the sound of trees dancing in the wind, the wild geese flying overhead or the sensation of sunlight or moonlight or starlight upon the skin. 

The world rests in the night. Trees, mountains, fields, and faces are released from the prison of shape and the burden of exposure. Each thing creeps back into its own nature within the shelter of the dark. Darkness is the ancient womb. Nighttime is womb- time. Our souls come out to play. The darkness absolves everything; the struggle for identity and impression falls away. We rest in the night.

It is easy for me to get overwhelmed and depleted this time of year, so hauling out my wellness tool kit and reminding myself of best practices is one way I can ensure that rather than merely surviving the holiday season, I actually thrive ... and stay healthy, strong and sane to boot!

{I am a veteran of many online courses and I have to say, this season I've kept my course load lite and am slowly working through and enjoying Scribble Art over on Jeanne Oliver's Creative Network ning site.} 


Friday, November 13, 2015

a dream-come-true

It has occurred to me that all our dreams do come true. Or at very least, the ones worth holding, nurturing, and carrying forward through the long haul of days, weeks and years. It is the dreams made way-back-when that perhaps slip the mind, so that when they finally do manifest, I fail to recognize their origin as a deep-seeded and heart-felt wish.

Thankfully, watching my girl often puts me in connection with my girl-self. And when I remember my child-self, I realize dreams really do come true. It just takes some time. 

But in the realm of dreaming, time is a very free form thing.


Saturday, November 7, 2015

My Autumn Stew

No, I'm not sharing  a crock pot recipe ... although the sudden cold snap has me thinking a pot of slow-cooking, root vegetables in a thick soup does sound warming and grounding. No, I am the one slowly simmering ... allowing myself time to enjoy this season of Harvest by allowing space and time for me to process and digest all that has occurred in the past year or so.

Carving out a chunk of my day to sit quietly, I find it best to keep my hands busy. This allows my mind to do its thing by which I mean churn and process, spew empty out, then reorganize, reconstruct and discover new relationships or new ah-ha's. In addition to writing the last three posts about my trip to Bali, I've been spending time sewing a set a prayer flags started during that trip.

The action of gathering pieces of fabric, creating and stitching has helped me seal in the magic and medicine of that journey. It is my own sort of witch's cauldron or alchemist's brew.

I've also been deeply engaged with making my Inner Alchemy Earth Coven cards. I was a guide for this session so I offered to the collective deck the word Cherish.  

I realized of all the elements, Earth is the one I actively cultivate in myself and my life. Earth is the element I lack, so I must generate it in a conscious manner. Grounding, rooting, centering myself physically and emotionally. It was helpful for me to realize I am actually quite good at it! That I've unconsciously but naturally moved in the direction of creating grounding practices for myself. 

A helpful way for me ground myself is through routine. I may shake up the ingredients: just as my soups and stews are always a free-form play with what is on hand, what appeals to me, what I crave, so too my creative routine may swing from sewing to painting to writing. But creating is something I must do and I realize now it is how I root myself in my life.  It is also how I take the chaos that is my mind and spin it into some sort of crafty/arty object. It is the process that educates me more than anything else.

I've also come to realize that just as I embrace an intuitive approach to creating - allowing the work to unfold in conversation with my creative Muse a.k.a. spontaneous action/inner guidance - so too my day-to-day life is about trusting in the process. It is karma yoga really - showing up and doing my part, but surrendering attachment to the outcome. To be more specific: letting go of believing I can - or want to - control what results from my work, my actions or my words. For this is where the real magic happens.

For too long I've agonized over what I should be doing with my life. There is an intense push in our culture to Make A Difference and Be Important. Of course, who decides what constitutes important or helpful or vital? There's what I set out to teach my daughter and then there is what she learns. I can only do what I can - what feels right for me - trusting myself and trusting her.  A trust stew you might say. 

I have no idea which - if any - of my actions will grow into something bigger, substantial or sustaining. Maybe my habit of a creative practice will be a foundation for my girl. But then again, what may make the biggest impact upon her is the way I wake her up in the morning with a cuddle. Or that I read every night before going to sleep. Or maybe what will matter is not what I do, but what I don't do? 

And by extension, my biggest contribution to this world - my legacy if you will - will have nothing to do with my daughter or anyone I know intimately but will be some seemingly random action that set off a reaction somewhere else. The last minute tossing in of an herb that transforms the stew into some new, exotic dish? 

I just can't know. So rather than squander energy trying to control it all (or plan it all or inspiration board it all) I choose to live. I mean, what is the ultimate creative act but that of living? Showing up, honoring the guidance of my heart and following the creative impulse which keeps me immersed in my life. And then trusting ... it will be what it will be and that is always something marvelous and beyond anything I could have predicted or planned for, never mind create on my own.

  I choose partnership ... with life. I embrace being surprised. Because generally, I always am. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

my Bali high (lights)

Serendipity has me winding up my Bali reflections in this third and final post.

As in yoga practice, exploring a posture three times - once for the body, once for the mind, and a final time for the soul - I am revisiting my Soulful-Escape experience through the many images I attempted to grab onto through my camera. It is impossible to convey the fullness of Bali through sight alone. While each moment is filled with vibrant color, lush landscape, and decorative details there is also a fullness of sounds, smells and sensations (okay, and a dewiness on the skin, aka sweat) that can only be experienced in person. If you dream of Bali (and why wouldn't you?) then I highly recommend visiting the country with people who know and love it. People like Nicole and Em who offer an intimate and creatively rich immersion into Bali's special treasures and delights. 
Nicole & Em, photo by the amazing Tashi Hall

One caveat: once you've experienced Bali, you will want to go back!

And return, I will!  

Some of the highlights of my week and the reasons I yearn to return include:  

audible-gasping, stumbling-to-a-stop views & encounters with nature:

 vivid and expressive sculpture:

Bali is such a decorative place. Everywhere there are sculptures representing revered deities such Ganesha, the remover of obstacles, Saraswati (the goddess of arts and learning) or the Buddha or any number of guardian or protective figures. Usually these sculptures have offerings heaped upon or around them, demonstrating the vibrant and vital way the Balinese bring spiritual practice into everyday life ... in a very celebratory and joyful way!





 life experienced through the lens of celebration and gratitude:

And then there are the many parasols - known as tedung which means "to guard."  They are wildly colorful and whimsical, but they are more than mere decoration. Found at any temple or sacred site as well as in homes, the many colors serve to represent different deities and to describe where they are to be placed.(Red represents Brahma, the aspect of Creation in the Hindu religion and it would be used in a temple devoted to Brahma; black would be used for Vishnu, the sustainer and white for Shiva while black and white - predominate pattern throughout Bali - stands for balance in nature and the cosmos.

In Bali the spiritual and the sensual find balance. The highly decorated is often a place of worship and reverence which tends towards the celebratory rather than quietly introspective.  Every day and every place is an opportunity to give thanks to the divine. As I said in my first blog post, the first thing I noticed when arriving in Bali were many offerings or canang sari placed upon ever possible surface. They are found on sculptures, on the steps of shops or restaurants, in the rice fields and in small hut shaped altars before every home.  Each day I would wake to find a new offering placed in front of the gate to our joglo (lodgings) or in the nearby shrine. What a beautiful way to start one's day: with a moment of reverence, gratitude and beauty.

Of course these human expressions of beauty mirror the natural beauty and sense of abundance found in the vibrant plant life throughout the island.  

Dominating the floral landscape is the lotus flower. Expressive of the spiritual teachings of Buddhism and Hinduism (spiritual purity amid the muck of life; rebirth, spiritual awakening and rebirth are all associated with the lotus), everywhere perfect specimens invite yet one more photograph.

There is no shortage of sights to delight both in the countryside, but also in the city (and in our retreat setting). The scooter riders alone are a constant source of amazement for what (and who) they can carry. 

The temple complexes are well worth the short ride out of Ubud and yes, the journey down (and then up!) the many steps only sweetens the well-earned experience. We were one of the first groups to arrive at Goa Gaja or Elephant Cave and had time to take in the sacredness of this site. 

A second site we visited, Gunung Kawi, is an eleventh-century temple and funerary complex. There are numerous candi or shrines cut into the steep cliff-sides surrounding the area. There are also several holy springs and shrines found if you are willing to climb numerous winding trails. 


All of this is reason enough for my heart to be yearning to return to Bali. But you could strip it all away and still I would want to go back! For the brightest, most vibrant, most heart-filling aspect of Bali is truly the people.  Both the Balinese and the like-minded spirits who opted not to merely visit Bali, but to experience Bali.  I hold so gratitude for all that Em and Nicole created, and for women who signed up for a Soulful-Escape and who made it a dream-come-true.  Matur suksma! (thank you very much


I mean, these women! They hold up more than half the sky ...

I haven't even mentioned the shopping ... 

the joy of following behind Em in her natural environment ...

watching Kristina embrace her inner batik-pompom-tasseled self ...

Or the food ...

There is just too much ... my mind and my heart (never mind my laptop and computer files) are just busting at the seams there is so much to remember, to savor, to share.

the above 2 photos courtesy of Cassandra Edwards

the above two photos by Em Falconbridge

Did I mention I had a good time? 

Heavens, yes ... until the next trip ... this is truly

The End of this Bali Travel-log!