No Clowning Around

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All together now…

Love this piece from Jenny Doh’s website Crescendoh!

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Jenny Doh

Counseling people for the last couple of tumultuous weeks, taking in the turmoil people are feeling, post-election. In particular, jews, people of color, and my gay/lesbian clients. What do we do with all of the anxiety that has been stirred up? Get close to people, listen for ideas, read, write, help…..paint. Your unique voice, your unique angle, your view, from whatever vantage point–each voice carries the unique creative potential to to help this all move forward. Its going to take all of us coming together with those voices , creating real solutions, in solidarity. Let your voice be heard.

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Pensive. 16 x 20 acrylics & charcoal

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.”  -Martha Graham

From my office window~get up stand up
From my office window~get up stand up

Seth Godin~ be an artist

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Artists express. Art can illuminate. I feel like there is a lot to express and understand right now. Lend your voice. Be an artist. Or, if you apsolutely cannot attempt that, then appreciate artists.

Here’s a favorite quote from Seth Godin. I love how he stretches the definition of artistry…

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“Art isn’t only a painting. Art is anything that’s creative, passionate, and personal. And great art resonates with the viewer, not only with the creator.

What makes someone an artist? I don’t think is has anything to do with a paintbrush. There are painters who follow the numbers, or paint billboards, or work in a small village in China, painting reproductions. These folks, while swell people, aren’t artists.

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On the other hand, Charlie Chaplin was an artist, beyond a doubt. So is Jonathan Ive, who designed the iPod. You can be an artists who works with oil paints or marble, sure. But there are artists who work with numbers, business models, and customer conversations. Art is about intent and communication, not substances.

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An artists is someone who uses bravery, insight, creativity, and boldness to challenge the status quo. And an artists takes it personally.

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That’s why Bob Dylan is an artist, but an anonymous corporate hack who dreams up Pop 40 hits on the other side of the glass is merely a marketer. That’s why Tony Hsieh, founder of Zappos, is an artists, while a boiler room of telemarketers is simply a scam.
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Tom Peters, corporate gadfly and writer, is an artists, even though his readers are businesspeople. He’s an artists because he takes a stand, he takes the work personally, and he doesn’t care if someone disagrees. His art is part of him, and he feels compelled to share it with you because it’s important, not because he expects you to pay him for it.

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Art is a personal gift that changes the recipient. The medium doesn’t matter. The intent does.

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Art is a personal act of courage, something one human does that creates change in another.”~SG

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Neurofeedback for Anxiety~fast & comforting

Hey, here’s a really cool idea: NEUROFEEDBACK for anxiety

Do you carry around a lot of tension, stress, and anxious feelings in your body? Does your mind race and recycle certain thoughts? Do you find yourself distracted with worrisome, rigid, stressed-based behavior? You may have anxiety. Most people are on the spectrum of anxiety–but some people suffer daily from these symptoms. Ugh. Being a therapist, I’m always on the lookout for innovation in this area.

In a recent article from The Optimist, Neurofeedback was researched and found to be an efficient tool toward managing those awful, anxious states of mind.

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In a nutshell, like the photo shows, clients are hooked up to wires and scanners, and then watch images on a screen. When you learn to control those images on the screen through deep breathing and willful thoughts, you begin to control your nervous system–and your mood.

In the research study, clients began with an MRI. While the fMRI showed which brain regions were active, the EEG measured the activity in the amygdala. Participants are coached to learn deep breathing, relaxing and very subtle states of mind to control the action in their brain.

Then the neurofeedback process begins…by watching a movie of someone riding a skateboard –and trying to control the speed with their minds! Participants were asked to try and mentally make the skateboard go faster or slower. If they were successful,  it meant they were controlling the activity within their own amygdala. Interestingly, participants are simultaneously watching imagining of their own brain during this activity. Gaining control of the pace of the skater –with immediate visual feedback–increases their overall control of brain activity.

Results from the tests revealed that people who are able to reduce unwanted brain activity–can effect their mood.  One researcher commented, “It’s actually quite amazing that this plasticity takes place after one or two sessions.” ONE OR TWO SESSIONS! Its really worth finding a local neurofeedback provider and seeing what a couple of sessions could do for your own peace of mind.

In many ways, its a mindfulness awareness practice, with a focus on developing the skill set to control  body states, breathing, and brain activity. Fun.

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Being Kinder

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-by Copper Wimmin

I’ve decided to be happy. I’ve decided to be glad

I’ve decided to be grateful for all I ever had

I’ve decided to let go of all this pain tonight

I’ve decided t let go of all these demons inside

 

I know…I am blessed

I know…all I ever wanted was this

I know…I don’t need more

I’ve got…what I came for

 

I’ve decided to be open for that little voice inside

Telling me I’m beautiful, it’s okay to be alive

I’ve decided to be kinder to myself when I am sad

I’ve decided to be grateful for all I ever had

Here is the Youtube musical version of this ABSOLUTELY gorgeous song. I’ll tell you how I learned about this song. I am a therapist and was counseling someone who had just recently been bedside, with 8 other women, while a longtime girlfriend layer on the bed dying from cancer. This is the song they sang to their dear, nearly departed friend. I ache thinking of it.

Practicing Positivity

I found an engaging, uplifting article in UTNE on positivity. Positive emotions can change our brains, says researcher Barbara Fredrickson. She broke it down into doable tasks that help increase positive experiences that in turn enhance overall life happiness. Read the whole article here if you want:

http://www.utne.com/mind-and-body/finding-happiness-cultivating-positive-emotions-psychology.aspx

Here’s an excerpt:

What are the specific benefits of positive emotions?

When people increase their daily diets of positive emotions, they find more meaning and purpose in life. They also find that they receive more social support—or perhaps they just notice it more, because they’re more attuned to the give-and-take between people. They report fewer aches and pains, headaches, and other physical symptoms. They show mindful awareness of the present moment and increased positive relations with others. They feel more effective at what they do. They’re better able to savor the good things in life and can see more possible solutions to problems. And they sleep better.

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How can we increase positivity?

One way is to be aware of the present moment, because most moments are positive. We miss many opportunities to experience positive emotions now by thinking too much about the past or worrying about the future, rather than being open to what is. 

Another way is to pay attention to human kindness—not only what others have done for you, which helps unlock feelings of gratitude, but also what you can do for other people, how you can make somebody’s day. We found that even just paying attention to when you are kind—not necessarily increasing how often you’re kind, but just paying attention to the times when you are—can make you more positive.

Another simple technique is going outside in good weather. One of my former students, Matt Keller, who’s now on the faculty at the University of Colorado at Boulder, found that people who spend even just 30 minutes outside when the weather is good show an improvement in their mood.

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There are more-involved ways to increase your positive emotions, such as to practice either mindfulness meditation or loving-kindness meditation. You can also rearrange your life around your strengths. Ask yourself: Am I really doing what I do best? Being employed in a job that uses your skills is a great source of enduring positive emotions.”

 

Here are 2 more that I would add:

Use your morning meditation to conjure warm emotions towards people and pets that you love–creates a way of opening those circuits daily!

 

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Learning to savor. Savoring a positive moment, reflecting on a hug you gave as you walk away, savoring the moments of laughter, savoring the taste of a chocolate cake, savoring a memory of a walk with a friend, etc. Throughout the day, after a sweet moment, close your eyes briefly and savor it.

For more on Positivity, and Fredrickson’s latest book called Love 2.0 go to here website:

http://www.positivityresonance.com

I just ordered her book Love 2.0 and look forward to more inspirations on connections and love!

 

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Retreat

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This piece was created over a couple of days, while I retreated to my summer getaway on Vashon Island. Its where I was born. This is the first year, since I had my son, that he did not come with me. I missed him so much–and all the rituals we usually share. Someday, when he’s not committing adolescence, and grown out of teenage hood, we’ll share our beach walks, our trips to the tea shop for reading & Majong, and our beach fires again.

This year, I truly did enjoy painting and breaking for beach walks. Eating minimally, journaling, reading Billy Collins’ poetry and laughing out loud with no one. Reading a whole biography of Annie Liebowitz.  Painting some more. Podcasts. Listening to the soft waves while going to sleep at night. Feeling the passage of time. So bittersweet.

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Who Said This?

“Something whispered,

something that wasn’t even a word.

It was more like a silence

that was understandable.

I was standing

at the edge of the pond.

Nothing living, what we call living,

was in sight.

And yet, the voice entered me,

my body-life,

with so much happiness.

And there was nothing there

but the water, the sky, the grass.”

by Mary Oliver

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Italy Itinerary

Florence.

“This was Florence, the flattering and suspect beauty this city, half fairy tale half tourist trap, in whose insalubrious air the arts once rankly and voluptuously blossomed, where composers have been inspired to lulling tones of somniferous eroticism.” ~Thomas Mann

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My son is a rock climber. His hands are indiscernible from The David’s. Well, I think so anyway.

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Soaking it up
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From Florence, we travelled to San Gimnano for the day, but ended our travel at Frallarenza, our agritourismo farm. We stayed here in Orvieto for a perfect week.

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“In Italy, they add work and life onto food and wine.”~ R. Leach.  From our tourismo garden, served on pottery made by our host, Selena.

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The stunning Orvieto Cathedral

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The damp, dark, and extremely cool underground well. We walked all the way down for the dank views.

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Make a wish

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Our lovely, perfectly Italian cooking lessons with Selena and Francesco. Tiramisu with heavy cream first, so it can chill while we make several other pastas, sauces, and vegetables.

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Rolling and shaping the Gnocchi, together

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We had Gnocchi with a red sauce and also a pesto sauce. Mashed potatoes and flour (gf). Delightful, rubbery noodle balls.

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Stopping for a shadow photo, late in the day, along cobblestone alleys. This is my first experience in Europe, in Italy. I’ll never forget that every hillside town consists of 800 year old streets and buildings of stone. Quite profound, when you think of the kids growing up in this sort of heritage.

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Rome for a day. I’m overwhelmed by crowded cities. We planned a single night stay here. In 97 degree weather, we agreed to see the Colleseum, The Trevi Fountain (at night) and the Vatican. Inside the Vatican museum is this stellar spiral walkway. Better than the ancient art, as I grown tired of the endless Madonna and Child theme.

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Our final week in the Amalfi Coast. A bright Jesus at a small cathedral in Praiano.

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Truly remarkable stone houses built into the stoney mountains. Many, many stairs throughout Amalfi, laddering up and down from house to house.

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We hired a small boat to ferry us from Praiano over to the town of Amalfi. Home to Lemoncello, fine paper, tiny roads and breathtaking charm. 52, made a dream come true.

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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