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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Paint Cinque

As I round the bend toward the end of Part I of my online process painting class, AROUSE, I continue to be struck by how much I've learned about me. Today, while I considered my personal boundary issues, I struggled to try to find the origin for them.

Its no secret...I don't like to be touched. I'm far better than I was a few years ago. I'd gotten to the point where I felt as if I'd fall out on the ground if someone touched me for any reason. Today, if I see it coming, I can steel myself and make ready. Yes, I am talking about other people touching me. Yes, it actually requires preparation on my part. This is, of course, not true of everyone. I frequently hug my husband and feel fine about that. But, he will tell you that I'm not a 'touchy' person.

The scary thing is when someone comes up behind me and I don't feel their presence before they touch me. I'm less able to control my startled and sometimes angry reaction to that type of invasion. There are many possible reasons that I'm over-sensitive to touch. Historically, I've been in violent situations going back to very early life. I've lived in great chaos in certain portions of my life, some of which was my own making. I have been aggressive, myself, projecting that aura out into the world. But, in the end, I (again) return to issues of trust and boundaries.

Its a great struggle for me to allow people close enough to physically touch me. I don't welcome it. And, most often, I don't feel comforted by it. Clinically, the term for me is "tactile defensive." I am extremely tactile sensitive -- I don't like clothes made from unnatural fibers, because I find the way they feel against my skin to be so distracting and offensive that I can't clearly focus on other tasks. I can't stand for my skin to become upset or inflamed (which is a real treat since I have auto-immune issues that sometimes cause this), because any lack of symmetry makes me a little crazy, hence the reason I take great pains to care for my skin. I won't eat certain foods if the texture is unappealing on my tongue.

The accepted medical treatment: medication and systematic desensitization (SD). I abhor the idea of medication, or anything that blunts my senses. Lets face it, I spent way too many years trying to shirk any emotion or sensation at all. The last thing I'm willing to do is to minimize them, now, even if they're unpleasant. As for the SD, I'm doing that, but not in the way that its typically used. I don't continually expose myself to physical touch in order to allow myself to be less sensitive to it. Instead, I explore the ideas of touch and my resistance to it. I experiment with touch in a variety of settings to allow me to better facilitate successful interactions with others. I journal and blog and talk about my issues. I have environments where that is okay. I have friends who are receptive, or who have similar issues who help provide support.

I don't want to overstate the obvious. Being a person of tight control, most people don't notice how uncomfortable I am with touching others. Its not a germ phobia, although that has been a piece of it, in the past. Its really not a phobia of any kind. Its an issue of trust. Will you hurt me if I let you in too close? Physically and emotionally. Can I trust you? How frustrating that I'm just resolving these issues in my 40s! I wish that I'd managed it, long ago, like most folks. But, if wishes were horses, even beggars would ride. And, I just have to travel my path, no matter where it leads or what obstacles are upon it.

I'm in no way sorry for the lessons I've learned. Some are wonderful. Some, are harder. All are important. What have you learned about yourself, today? What are you doing about it? Blessed be.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Paint Cuatro

While I was preparing myself for my process painting lesson for AROUSE, I was reminded of the most wonderful experience I'd recently had at a Sound Healing workshop I'd attended with Angela Blueskies at KarmaFest. Angela and her companion, Adam, used many different instruments in the process of the hour-long experience...flute, guitar, drum, etc.

But, perhaps, the most powerful was Angela's voice and the voice of the participants. In the construct of using sound to find a place of healing, a place to bring about (or manifest) what is needed in your life, it was a powerful example of the utter radiance of the human essence. I remember being struck by how amazing it was to feel the Om vibration in and about my body, the way it sounded when listening from the inside and the out, the length of time I could continue to push the sound from my body, the tonal quality of the sound as it came into absolute perfect match to the other participants' Oms.

I should probably mention that my cats, Sunny (seen here) in particular, are always drawn whenever I work on my process painting. No matter what my activity, they can't seem to stay away.

Today, as I was experimenting in my painting, I decided to do an Om meditation to see what would happen. It was no less powerful than the previous workshop. As I practiced breathing deeply and allowing my breath to flow freely, or be forced, or to sing out of my body, the Om continued to vibrate in a way that attuned my being. No matter what I did, I couldn't help but be amazed by the power of the sound to engage my soul and heart and body in a way that nothing short of making love is capable of creating.

As my brush whispered across the board, all I could feel was tune -- the same tonal quality as my own breath. In fact, all things became connected in sound in the way that I have always known they were. It was a glorious representation of what it is to be interconnected...attached, but not dependent. And, for a few brief moments, I had the deepest sense of true form...true energy. I realize that this may sound flaky to some folks, but it brought tears to my eyes.

Because, it was then that I remembered....creation is a spiritual process. I am a spiritual being. My life is guided and protected. I am on a path that I was meant to follow. I am learning those things that I was intended to know. For this time, I feel awake....more aware than I'd ever felt before.

The ambiguity fell away for a few blissful minutes and I was sure, as sure as I breathe, that I'm as intended. There are no words to describe the feeling of acceptance and assurance that washed over. No words.

Blessed be.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Paint Drei

As I work through the process painting workshop of AROUSE, I'm struck by the reconnection to my individual senses, my expanding knowledge of how they overlap, and the incredible memories that arise during each exercise.

Today, I had quite the most illuminating experience. I was eating a spoonful of peanut butter. This isn't new. I frequently eat PB right out of the jar, with a spoon. I actually prefer tastes to be simple and uncluttered. I like to be able to discern each individual component of something I'm eating. Its why my meals tend to be simple and minimally processed, with the exception of baked items which I covet and crave in a way that is inexplicable.

What struck me, while I was eating this PB, is this: I'd forgotten that eating is a sensual experience. Its amazing, the body's response to the introduction of any stimulus, but particularly something that offers such an incredibly varied sensation like food -- it engages your eyes, your tactile senses, smell, and taste. Sometimes, even hearing (for instance, crackling skillet or grill sounds). I don't know about anyone else, but I also have a variety of emotional responses to food, as well.

I'm particularly impacted by textures. I strongly dislike foods that I believe are unpleasant, texture-wise. For instance, the absorbency of dry bread in my mouth is unbearable. I cannot stand the way that it sucks away all moisture and then sticks to the roof of my mouth. Actually, just thinking of it engages my gag reflex. I do not like things that are perfectly smooth, like applesauce, or slimy, like very ripe banana. While I have no problem with the taste of any of those things, I will not eat them because I find the texture so abhorrent.


When I was a young woman, I wouldn't eat in front of other people. I remember explaining to the man that has since become my husband, that eating is an intimate experience and that I didn't feel comfortable in company, as a general rule. That situation lasted until my mid-20s. I'm not sure why I abandoned that particular point of view, but (like many other things) I think it went the way of being pushed aside because I was just too busy with children and house and work and more. So, like a zillion other innate knowledge that I once held, it was relegated into my big file cabinet called "Get Over It, Michele."

Interestingly, most of my 'new' experiences in my 40s are really just remembrances of things that I'd always known, but have forgotten, or ignored, over the last 20 or more years. While I hesitate to sound melodramatic, I think its a truth that I absolutely lost myself in my 20s and 30s. I forgot who and what was important to ME and went through the motions of making myself disappear while I fed my career, children, husband, education, community, and every other external aspect that I focused on. I'm not asking for pity in this area. Perhaps, those behaviors were necessary at the time. Regardless, it was MY choice to follow that path, and the results and consequences and benefits are mine, as well. Today, I'm a well-educated woman with a career (albeit, one I'm not sure I wish to continue), a respected reputation, two adult children raised, a long-term marriage, and a reasonable amount of 'stuff.'

I also have many lessons under my belt about what NOT to do. Unfortunately, it was necessary for me to learn many of those 'the hard way.' That's OK. I've made a multitude of mistakes, many of which I can still see the results of, today. Trying to learn from them and be grateful for the lessons is the way that I manage the fallout. Sometimes, there are amazing benefits as the results of difficult circumstances. Those are true gifts from the universe, I believe.

For today, my lesson learned: chew slowly, smell carefully, touch gently, see openly, and hear clearly. Engage in the glory of EVERY experience. The simplest are often the most memorable.

What will you savor, today? Who will you share it with?

Blessed be!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Senses in Practice - Paint Deux

So, I'm continuing in my journey in the AROUSE online class that I'm taking. And, today, I most definitely recognized that a JOURNEY is what it is. I sometimes forget that life is constantly in motion, moving forward, no matter what my choice or intent. While I can go sideways, upwards, backwards, and down in my own development; life ONLY moves forward. And, with or without my consent, so do I.

There is no such thing as still. I am never still. I am in motion, constantly. My husband actually says that this is true, even while I sleep. {Side note: You would think I'd be very thin? Hmm. Will have to give that some thought. LOL.} As long as breath is in my body, my body moves. So, how do I balance that with my need for serenity? Easy.


Long ago, I gave up on the idea of mindfulness meditation in the tradition that requires utter stillness while you learn to disregard those little annoyances and distractions that are messages from your body -- like an itching nose, or a charlie horse in your toes. And, you are instructed to just 'sit through it, notice it, and let it go.' I'm so in awe of people who are geared for that type of self-discipline! I'm not one of them. And, you know what? That's totally OK!

I needn't perfect the ability to do anything or everything. What I need to do is to learn what is right for ME -- yep, no one else, just ME. And, I'm not one of those folks who do that form of meditation. You know what works for me? Sound healing, dancing trance, singing, walking labyrinths, and creating. I require meditation that allows me to become deeply aware of the messages of my body and to respond to them, accordingly. If my nose itches during movement, I scratch it. It doesn't detract from my meditative state. In fact, the relief of that annoyance, typically deepens it.

Many will disagree with me. That's OK. Your path is your own, just like my journey is mine.

Here is today's work. It absolutely brought home to me, that movement is eternal. It also reminded me that my journey belongs only to me. I am a study in movement. When I started painting, I had no concept of what would evolve. Even as it took form, I was struck by how what I thought some object was going to turn out was incorrect. As long as I didn't insert my own will, it just naturally became what was intended.
The other thing that struck me as terribly important: my senses and soul speak to me in symbol, more than in words. I don't necessarily have to interpret them, but (in the end) it often becomes obvious. My senses overlap and impact one upon the other...they are not individual, no matter how hard I try to focus on one particular thing.
Today, I was overwhelmed with gratitude, with freedom, and with joy. I'm a lucky, lucky girl.
What are you doing on your journey? What will you do today to recognize your motion?
Blessed Be!

Celebrating Moxie and Power as a Woman

I saw this and was swept away by it. The big, brave blog hullaballo! I found the Sacred Circle blog after linking it from another blog I read. When I read the stories of the women, it brought tears and smiles to my face! I'm humbled to be able to participate with stories of such powerful, amazing women.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Sunshine Blogger Award!

The Sunshine Blogger Award


Today I was honored with the "Sunshine Blogger Award" by the blog, "Witch Cats Blog." I feel especially honored because this is actually the first and only blogger award I've EVER received. HUGE Thanks to Kim for honoring me with reading my blog!

Now, the rules for accepting this award are as follows:

1. If you are nominated, you must blog a post linking back to the person/blog that nominated you.
2. You must answer some questions, nominate ten fellow bloggers and link their blogs to the post!

3. You should comment on your nominees’ blogs to let them know you’ve nominated them.

Here are the questions:
1. Who is your favorite philosopher?     Nietszche
2. What is your favorite number?  13 and 26 (yes, I have two!)
3. What is your favorite animal?   It depends on my totem at the time. My constant companion - the raven
4. What are your Facebook and Twitter URLs?  I don't Twitter (I know, blah blah) and don't have a FB page for my blogs. I put myself out there, right here.
5. What is your favorite time of day?   Sunrise
6. What was your favorite vacation?   Berkeley Springs, WV
7. What is your favorite physical activity?     Hiking
8. Favorite non-alcoholic drink?    I only drink non-alcoholic things (LOL) -- herbal tea
9. What is your favorite flower?    I have SO many! If I had to pick only one: daffodil
10. What is your passion?    insight
And here are the blogs which I nominated:
2) A Trace of Rabbits
3) Broom with a View
4) Hug a Tree with Me
6) The Sisters Elemental
8) The Life and Times of a Contemporary New England Witch
*(Please feel free to decline this award if you so wish to as I understand that some bloggers do not choose to participate in any kind of blog awards for their own personal reasons.)
Bright Blessings!!!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Senses in Practice -- Paint

For those of you who weren't aware, I'm taking an online expressive art class called AROUSE from Hali Karla at LilyWheel Slide Studio. Because, of course, I want to protect the integrity of the class, I will not share the course content with you. However, I do want to share my thoughts and work and process as I go along for a variety of reasons, but mostly to assist me in promoting my own awareness.

I should say, first, that I haven't had a paintbrush in my hand to do free-painting in many, many years. Actually, I believe the last time I painted anything other than walls and stencils was in my early 20s. I'm not sure why that is, but I believe that I abandoned the activity, along with lots of other pleasurable pursuits, in the process of raising kids, working two or three jobs, and going back to school. And, there was also that small voice in my head that said I wasn't good enough, so why bother. I'd be less than truthful if I didn't include that fact. So, needless to say, this was an entirely newly remembered experience.

In truth, my paintings of early years were often done in the middle of the night, with an intensity that was almost out of control -- a desperate need to complete whatever thing was coming out of my head. Paint was never my favorite artistic medium. I preferred charcoal and chalk pastels -- things that I could blend and use directly with my hands, move and smudge and bring to action. But, when I did paint, I painted BIG. On huge canvases that took up walls, those were my preferences. I wanted room to play with paint. THAT was the experience that I'd forgotten and the one that came home to me in vivid color, today.

As I worked my way through the first set of exercises, which included writing prompts and experiential activities designed to awaken sensation and awareness, I was struck by the most wonderful thing: PEACE. I felt completely at ease. I didn't worry about what was going to be, whether my thoughts differed from other people's, or if I'd remember how to blend paint. Nothing mattered. I just breathed, and wrote, and experienced, and (for all practical purposes) played.

And, guess what? I didn't forget how to blend paint, or how to choose my brush, or how to position an easel or a foam board. I remembered. I didn't forget how to layer color, or how to be simple, or how to add texture. 
I learned a few new things, too. Its my preference to paint unencumbered. For those of you who need me to be direct, I mean unclothed...or, as close as possible to it (obviously, I can't be parading around the yard Au naturale, since I live in town and have neighbors who would likely call the police once they got past their initial shock). But, when I put that brush in my hand, my immediately response was to find my clothing annoying.

The other thing that struck me: painting is a sensual, joyous experience. I was well aware of the aromas of the paint, the feel of the brush tips against the board, me swaying while considering and angling for the next step. I found my eyes closed as often as open, and lilting music playing in my head. For a second, I regretted not putting music on to play, but then I realized that I'd have been deprived of the sense of my own rhythm that felt quite right.

Let me say this with unequivocal consideration: it doesn't matter how the final product looks. I needn't create perfection or something that looks like a copy of a natural object. That wasn't what was intended, nor what is important. What I loved most of all about today: the EXPERIENCE. It was clean and lingering and sensual and pleasurable and joyful. It put me in touch with ME. And, I have my own voice, my own song, my own vision.

So do you! What is YOUR Where do you hide them? How do you free them?


Blessed be!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Forgiveness and Water

I follow some blogs that are loosely related to art therapy in some form or another. I forcefully agree that art is the expression of internal circumstances; and, that it allows some emotions and perceptions to exit when they are otherwise blocked by the inability to speak them. I feel no differently of any form of expressive modality, or therapy, if you prefer. Having been trained as a traditional therapist, in the 'talking cure,' I understand well the way that expressive motions (whether it be art, movement, creative writing, or any other craft) loose the waves of internal life that are otherwise dammed.

For whatever reason, over the course of years (and there are actually many, many reasons), I lost my own ability to express myself through artistic, non-verbal means. I was, very much, encouraged to reclaim that part of my spirit after joining a closed FB group (Art of Prayer) which I connected to from one of the blogs I regularly follow, LilyWheel Slide Studio. In that group, I found a variety of people, artists and spiritualists and regular folk, who were working with their own understanding of meditation, prayer, or another form of sacred space, while expressing it with many different media. Perhaps, most wonderful was the incredible level of emotional support and encouragement from group members to each other. Its truly a community. I was hooked.

This one is called "forgiveness and water." It was a prompt from the group's leader. It was such a lovely idea. I hadn't realized how infrequently I think about my inner life and what is swirling around in there. Don't be mistaken, I self-evaluate on a regular basis and discuss it with other traditional therapists; however, that is not the same thing as connecting to the part of yourself that is your essence, the innate form of you. Some people call this life force, energy, or soul. To me, it is the inseparable part of self that cannot be severed or forced to comply. It is an element, but independent. It is eternal. For simplicity, I will call it 'soul,' which is my normal term.

Connecting to that part of me that is not rational or logical is something that I've done only through meditation, prayer, and yoga. I had forgotten that it is open to expression via artistic means. I had forgotten my place as a creatrix. And, more importantly, I'd forgotten that its a process. The practice is individual and personal. It can be shared or not. I can't explain how I ended up with the images that I did. I can tell you the symbolism that I recognize in them -- blues and greens for water and emotions; golds and pinks for daybreak in the morning sky -- the start of something new; creation and infinity at the center, in the brightest white; the four directions/quarters around in corresponding colors (brown for earth in north, purple for air in east, red for fire in south, blue for emotion in west), each touched by the purity of spirit in the center.

Perhaps, the most important thing that unfolded during the formation was what I learned, or rather what I remembered. I remembered that forgiveness is an act of divinity that I perform as a gift to myself. I remembered that forgiving makes ME free and whole, again; that it joins me to all of creation and the blessings there. And, that forgiveness always signals a new beginning, a new birth -- even when something else ends. This is the cycle we follow.

I framed and matted this one to remind me how critical the lesson. And, to enjoy the remembrance of the evolution, the fluidity of creating, the joy of it.

My challenge to you: EXPLORE...FEARLESSLY. It matters not whether you draw perfect circles or stick figures. It matters only that you trust in the process. Go ahead, get out your colored pencils, or crayons, or whatever you have handy. You don't need fancy equipment. Breathe deeply and think about a word...any word that speaks to your current situation in life.


Blessed be.