Forget College: invent yourself

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Has anyone else noticed how much pressure and scrutiny is coming down on our teens? To design a profound life by age 18?  By senior year, you better have a great, big, status-oriented career goal to tell everyone about. And trust me, people are going to coming out of the woodwork asking.  Teens are no longer inheriting their family business or farm—they’re expected to invent their lives starting at about 17.  So much pressure.  Just 30 years ago, most senior high students weren’t asked, so where are you going to college? What are you going to do with your career? The obvious response these days, from about 90% of boys my son’s age is: “I don’t know. I sure like playing video games though.”

We were at the beach, ironically to get senior photos taken, and some guy in his 50’s wanders by and says “So where are you going?” Me, the photographer and my son stood in silence, surprised at this short-hand.  I found it annoying. His presumptuous, middle class, college-bound, flippancy. Its classism.

I liked my son’s steady response: “oh, I’m sticking around here.”

But the pressure. I’m stung by it every day. You see, my son is not going to college. He’s doing a gap year, or maybe many gap years. As far as any of us can tell, he doesn’t know what to do except go get a joe-job and start earning money. He wants a car and an apartment with friends. This is about as far as he can see. Okay, he has applied to several fire stations in the area, hoping to get sponsored for fire fighting training. But. He may not get chosen.

We decided as a family a ways back, that a degree for a degree’s sake isn’t worth the debt. Wait until you know what you want to study or specialize in and then commit –heart and bank. But, holy cow, the river floweth with parents and eager seniors all around us–heading off to college! And we’re standing on a rock in the river feeling the undertow, the pressure, the fear of NOT sending him off to college.

Meanwhile, in Italy, where we just visited for a couples weeks, Georgio is graduating with honors from his high school, and guess what? There’s NO college for him. There’s NO pressure for college. There’s NO jobs beyond labor jobs in Italy. Interesting huh? The country has no money, no strong economy, no big trade supplies. This was shocking to learn, and for about an hour I wished we were Italian and that the only expectation on my son was to head out to prune the olive grove.

Life is long, and our paths are non-linear, and we change and grow and suddenly know and act from that knowing. This idea calms me down, and helps me trust my son has his own process, his own life path, his own perfect unfolding, in perfect timing. Here’s a great quote by Anais Nin:

“We do not grow absolutely chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations”

Here’s a painting that starts as a self portrait and ends up wildly different than I originally planned. That’s my life in a nutshell too. There’s not one element of my life today that I imagined for myself when I was 18, 25, or 29. Only at age 30, did did I begin making a choices that show up in my life today at 52.

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“One of the most widespread superstitions is that every human has their own special, definite qualities: That a person is kind, cruel, wise, stupid, energetic, apathetic, etc. People are not like that… we are like rivers… every river narrows here, is more rapid there, here slower, there broader, now clear, now cold, now dull, now warm. It is the same with people. Every one of us carries the germs of every human quality, and sometimes one manifests itself, sometimes another, and the person often becomes unlike themselves, while still remaining the same person.”

~Leo Tolstoy

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In the end, I’m not sure who I was painting. It started out as a self portrait. But, I had to make changes, I had to respond to something inside of me while I was painting, that would help make the next dab of paint make sense. It was all in the moment. In the end, I can look back and scan for meaning. But, like life, I was just doing what was in front of me at the time.

“Do I contradict myself? I contain multitudes.”  ~Walt Whitman

 

The Sound of Yourself~ Graduation

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Well the time has come. My son has finished high school. He has a diploma. He graduated. We held a graduation party and invited friends from all sorts of previous school backgrounds. Its a rite of passage for our son and us, and for everyone. For me, it marks another shift in our relationship to him, and his growing independence toward being his own person. I feel a mixture of melancholy, relief, and pride.

In the end, there’s a big difference between school and learning, and we were creative and daring about both. Thank you to the Montessori and Waldorf communities, homeschool organization, and Running start/Whatcom community college programs.

Thank you to the teachers–inside and outside of school–who built a relationship with him, reaching him and teaching him the most.

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Here is a quote that deeply resonates with me and has been a guiding principle these past few years, as we strove and struggled to make sense of what a true education would be for him:

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Kitchen Pharmacy: eating for brain power!

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A letter to friends, family and community:

I recently spent a day at a medicinal foods conference, and learned tons about current research on foods and amino acids and supplements that can deeply heal cells, tissues, blood, and the overall biome we walk around in. I got tons of information on medicinal foods targeting:

brain health, memory & cognition
inflammation
autoimmune disease
chronic pain
sleep disorders
fasting for health/keto diet

Because of my private practice, I have to take CEU’s annually for my license. I decided to help myself and my clients in the area of mood/brain/cognitive functioning. Everyone at the conference was devouring the research on brain health. I streamlined the information and made a list of the medicinals I am now taking, and offer to my clients. I thought I’d share it with you, even though I am not a doctor and cannot officially prescribe.

Here is the website and a few medicinals I am now taking for increased mental/brain functioning. ((Note: I also take VSL3 probiotic, Vitamin D, Multi-B vitamin for overall health:-))

First off, the place I shop online:

Vitacost is the online store I’ve used for years– for everything from food, probiotics, supplements, herbs, bath salts, dog food, and tons of organics (I use the Bham food coop for all fresh organic meat/produce!):

http://www.vitacost.com

And here is the link to the best Fish Oil for the price (nice orange flavor, highest levels EPA/DHA overall)

http://www.vitacost.com/vitacost-liquid-omega-3-purified-fish-oil-epa-dha

“True Focus” is a compound you may want to try in the mornings (increases neurotransmitter activity, increasing mood, clarity, memory and focus–through amino acids and other medicinal foods. Tyrosine/phenylalanine, etc):

http://www.vitacost.com/now-true-focus

I also take caprylic acid, which is a derivative of coconut oil, only much, much more powerful for brain octane. “Bulletproof coffee” has become a popular morning tonic for turning on your brain and focus—full of fats that saturate your brain and fires up your metabolism (it kills appetite, so force yourself to eat a few carbs/protein for genuine energy):

coffee
2 TB grassfed butter (kerrygold at Trader Joes)
2 TB coconut oil or MCT oil ( or caprylic acid in capsules)
5 drops stevia
cinnamon
blend in a blender or Vitamix

Green Tea Extract. Take this capsule in the morning, as green tea is stimulating. A powerful antioxidant, catechins/polyphenols are excellent for staving off cardio disease, protecting neural health, and reducing free radicals that can turn cancerous:

http://www.vitacost.com/vitacost-green-tea-extract-standardized

Spirulina and/or Chlorophyll are both essential green foods. They are what fish eat to produce all those Omega 3’s we then like to ingest. Try combining fish oil with spirulina for a huge boost in mental functioning. Both of these have been researched to show they protect your brain from dementia/alzheimers, improve mental functioning, protect against cardiovascular disease, and detox your overall biome–much like they do in the Ocean.:-)

http://www.vitacost.com/vitacost-spirulina-natural-algae

Note: you’ll want to use any of these supplements for 60 before deciding if they work. Everyone’s body/brain are unique. Natural food remedies are slower and more gentle to the system, but also provide actual, genuine healing to the cells, tissues, and bloodstream through the body and brain!
in health, love,

LaurelH

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The New Blade

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I keep finding poems that make me cry.  I cry so much more than I used to.  For years, I was too busy and distracted to notice the exquisite pain of things. But my son is getting ready to fly from the nest, and I cry randomly and often. I already miss him. Here is a poem that brought more tears–and some relief as I remember its happening everywhere. Its happened for ages, and in every culture.

The New Blade, by Anzai Hitoshi

My son is using a new razor

with clumsy hands.

Grooming himself as a grownup for the first time,

he spreads his elbows wide, as in a ritual,

very fastidiously, not looking sideways.

From below his temple a smear of blood

as big as a bird’s tongue keeps flowing,

no matter how often he wipes it off,

and he looks a little afraid.

What is hurt in him, I wonder.

His naked back is moistened, shining bright

like a tree trunk with its bark peeled off.

Although he doesn’t seem to hear them,

birds are singing loud in unison

around the young tree trunks.

He doesn’t seem to see it,

but the sea is rolling in the mirror.”

Here is a painting that went through lots of transformation, sort of like me lately.

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Happy Spring everybody!

Your Art, Your Creativity, Makes a Difference

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Thoughts on creativity and art:

When you think about it, Intelligence—the ability in a new situation to create a new response—is creativity. We’re in a new moment. We pull from what we know—our experience and perspective—and come up with an entirely new, fresh response. Each person’s particular mind is extraordinary and unique. We get hurt when we’re young, and that effects intelligence & creativity. But still. Underneath the layers of boloney, we are all creative.

Art as a tool for Change

I often feel guilty that if I’m not paying attention to the collapsing society, that I’m not doing enough.

A lot of things in society are irrational, and I’m just busy warding off my own misery.  (Okay, I’m having a lot more fun than that, but you get my meaning). I swing from guilt –to distracting myself, basically.

It seems unfair to be openly happy when I see so much distress and struggle around me.

But here’s an idea: Reality doesn’t change because of feelings of struggle. Reality is constant, reliable, unconditional. Joy, beauty, intelligence, connection, are operating even if we can’t tell that they are.

How can we notice this more often? Discharging bad feelings and meditating and being creative.  How can I reflect that in my work? (with clients, in my relationships, in my day to day conversations, in my artwork?)

Having a good, meaningful life is helpful and hopeful for everybody. Otherwise, how can we support other people? By feeling bad, miserable, and guilty? I don’t think so.

Here’s a quote from RC on Artist’s Liberation:  “Art has played a significant role in history. It organizes and connects. It reminds us of who we are, individually and collectively.

Art-making is essential to having a good and complete life. When we make art, we are not colluding with or ignoring the problems of society. Art is another tool with which to organize, reach people, and be present.”

My online friend and amazing landscape painter, Lars Stenberg, once said to his university students (I’m paraphrasing like mad): “Don’t get self conscious about your art work, don’t get caught up in its meaning, its contribution to society. You don’t have to worry about that. You just get to be yourself and let your artistry naturally reflect your own human experience….that’s enough.”

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I’d add, if you can even find your voice, or even make time for art, or even appreciate other’s art, or even think creatively once and a while, well, you’re making a difference. We can create change together.

This piece was painted from a photo of myself. A selfie:

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Here’s a link to some fantastic podcasting:

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A poem by David Whyte. On topic.

Loaves and Fishes

This is not
the age of information.

This is not
the age of information.

Forget the news,
and the radio,
and the blurred screen.

This is the time
of loaves
and fishes.

People are hungry
and one good word is bread
for a thousand.

— David Whyte

 

So what would that “good word” be?

I am listening

You are good

I care about you

You make a difference to me

Go to the Limits of Your Longing

I love poetry. I love its density of images and the way it makes me cry. Rainer Maria Rilke is a favorite. I thought he–was a she–for years.  I’ve interspersed a favorite poem by him between photos of this piece:

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Go To the Limits of Your Longing

-Rainer Maria Rilke

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

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Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

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Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.

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Don’t let yourself lose me.
Nearby is the country they call life.

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You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.

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How to be a Poet, or paint like a poet

This is a poem by Wendell Berry, an all-time favorite, folksy, americana, heart-poet. This poem reminds me of how I want to paint.

How to Be a Poet

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Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill—more of each
than you have—inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your poems,
doubt their judgment.

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Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.

iii

Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.

~WB

*      *           *

Its been a weird, hard Winter. There’s been so many challenging experiences, relationships, daily disappointments, disillusionments. Everything is in flux.

Suddenly, a sunny day arrives, some sweet moments with a friend, a piece of art that lifts me up, a good poem, a good belly laugh. Then. Another wave of challenges, hopelessness, frustration. Up & down. Up & down.

I’ve enjoyed the distraction and energy of Instagram….but spend far too much time perusing and learning…and should turn to my own artwork. But. I have been painting all through this Wintery time. What comes through are these flesh & bony portraits. I love Egon Schiele’s work as it helps me find my own expression of struggle and passion.

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Her eyes were originally open, stark and piercing. But its better to take all that energy inside for transformation:

 

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Them bones. Them bones. Them bag a bones.

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I’ve returned to some roots recently, and found some grounding and renewed energy and zest! The sun has been shining every day.

The Power of the Yawn

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Yawning: every creature that has a spine yawns. It’s a built in repair circuit which triggers the parasympathetic nervous system, which calms everything down in your body.

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Yawning is particularly useful when your body is stressed, injured, or ill. If you’ve got a head ache, try yawn “surfing”– where you literally try to yawn over and over–in most situations, your headache will ease up.

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Yawning is very good when you’re scared or upset. Try for at least three minutes of non-stop yawns, including gentle stretching, making little noises, gently rubbing your face or eyes. If you’re doing it well, your eyes should be watering.

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If you’re able to yawn for 10-15 minutes, your stomach may growl. By now, you’ve probably already yawned once?

images-4Twenty to forty minutes of non-stop yawning can also decommission stagefright. Do it until just before you walk out on stage, or in front of the camera.

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Humans have been yawning since the beginning of time, often as a stress response, sort of like dogs. Have you ever noticed when your dog is stressed they stretch, yawn and shake it off? We’re the same. My mom used to work at a community mental health clinic and would no sooner get in the car to drive home….and her body would begin yawning….all the way home. She never understood it– until she learned about yawning as discharging stress from the body.

Babies and kids are masterful yawners.

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Yawning is contagious. Try yawning at a meeting with others. Many others around you will involuntarily yawn. Like laughter and even tears, humans discharge built up tensions through these emotional releases. Discharging is a powerful. natural way back to feeling good again.

Even the Dali Llama yawns.

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(I was yawn surfing the whole time I was trying to write this! So funny!)

Stephen’s gone

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“The fear of death, follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die anytime.” ~M Twain.

And so it is.

Stephen Connella died of cancer on Monday. My heart broke open. I felt death and it consumed me, my energy, and my imagination, and I cried and cried. Our sweet Scottish friend, our surfer and snowboarder and mountain biker adventurer, precious father, lifelong meditator and vegetarian, singer and songwriter of best love songs ever…Stephen’s gone.

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“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.”   ~Steve Jobs

In some ways I appreciate that quote, that everything changes, and nothing stays the same, and that we each just get one LIFE and then we must go. But in other ways, none of us ever accept that bright stars like Stephen die early.  On his last day, he ate his favorite french toast, said his peace, and let go.

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The rest of us get to keep living.  So I have been trying to paint, and to provide attention and love for my clients, and walk the dog in the rain, and listen to poetry. Like a rung out rag, I’ve cried an agonized, and little by little feel lighter. I even had a really good belly laugh with–who else?–my son.

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Kahlil Gibran

“You would know the secret of death.
But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?
The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot unveil the mystery of light.
If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life.
For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one….”