Winter Feast for the Soul 2017: Day 39 Mentors

Who do you look up to? Who took you by the proverbial hand and nurtured your talent, your gifts, and your spirit? We live in a culture where the idea of mentor has been bastardized. Instead of looking for mentors who develop others, people look for authority figures that will save them. I’ve been contemplating this issue for years.

I’ve been a self-help book junkie. I scan the bookshelves at Barnes and Noble and online at Amazon looking for the next wave of people who will impart their “systems” for a better life. I’ve listened to podcasts, online tutorials, and subscribed to countless magazines awaiting the arrival of the next big name in human development. I admit, I’ve been looking for a guru. I’ve wanted to worship at the feet of an individual who will guide me to enlightenment.

It wasn’t until I went to grad school this last time that I realized it wasn’t a guru, self-proclaimed or not, that I was in search of, but a relationship. I’ve really been looking for a mentor. I’ve wanted someone who was willing to set their own agenda to the side and use their knowledge, skill, and talent to help me grow. The amazing thing is I already had that person in my life and instead of nurturing it to its fullest possibilities, I’ve allowed it to wax and wane.

I had lunch with my mentor today. She’s been in my life for the past ten years. She has encouraged me, nurtured me, and worried about me. The amazing thing about a mentor is even when I kick and scream and push her (them) away, she holds me close (literally and figuratively).

If you’re lucky enough to find someone who will take you under their wing, let them in to your life. Work like hell to keep them in your life. When you find that person cherish them. Allow them to bestow upon you their love, affection, and spirit. These people don’t come into our lives every day, but when they do they will change your life, your worldview, and allow your gifts to be expressed!!!!

Winter Feast for the Soul 2017: Day 24 Understanding

The idea of “understanding” has emerged a few times in the past twenty-four hours so I figured I should probably explore it. I’ve come to “understand” that things present themselves for a reason and my meditation is the best time to dive deep.

My favorite quote is, “Show me and I’ll forget. Teach me and I may remember. Involve me and I’ll understand.” I carry that concept around with me as a corner stone of everything I do. It’s the way I like to learn, and it’s the way I’ve learned to teach.

The concept of understanding also arose when I was watching a video on Chinese brush painting. The instructor stated there are three steps to brush painting, watching, doing, and understanding. I thought about this for a while after watching the demonstration because it’s how my mentors have guided me throughout my life. I learn best when I can be an active participant in the learning process.

My understanding was challenged today when the U.S. Senate with the help the Vice President of the United States confirmed Betsy DeVos as the Secretary of Education. I’ve seen the news channels, the petitions online, the public outcry to politicians stating she’s not the right candidate for our children and public education.

After the vote I’m feeling quite discouraged. My meditation time was spent trying to understand, but the only answer that keeps arising is money and power. I’ve spent my career as a mental health professional and life coach striving to understand the process of people’s lives and working hand-in-hand to alleviate their pain and make strides for success.

It feels like there are two modes of understanding, one deep, personal, and authentic, and the other filled with empty promises, self-serving agendas, and despair. I obviously prefer the first, and as I sit here writing I am declaring that I will attach myself to the former and know in my heart that I’ve made a healthy conscious choice.

I choose for understanding to be kind and compassionate. I choose for understanding to serve as a pathway to betterment for all. I choose for understanding to expand my realm of acceptance and inclusion.

It’s not as if I’m going to agree with everyone in the world. If I work toward understanding and attempt to see the world based on their life experiences, their belief systems, and their social and cultural circumstances I’ll be a more peaceful individual walking the planet.

Winter Feast for the Soul: Day 12 Commitment

I’m committed. Fortunately I’m committed but I haven’t been committed (in the locked up sense). I’m committed to staying on a path. I’m committed to looking at myself on a regular basis, taking an inventory of my character and my actions. I’m committed to serving my community.

As usual I didn’t know what I was going to ponder during my meditation, but what came flowing through me today was my quilting practice. I’ve been a quilter since 1992. It actually started in college when a friend said she was sewing nine path pillows and did I want to learn. I started and made a few pillows. At that point there was something about sewing (by hand) that made me want to explore quilting. It was dormant for a time and then I saw a ten-week program on PBS and my desire to quilt was reignited.

I took a class, and bought a sewing machine.   Today I have closets of fabric, a cabinet of thread, and five sewing machines. I watch videos, scour books on textile art, belong to an art quilt guild, and have studied with a teacher for many years. Quilting/art is my pilgrimage.

I’ve found that my commitment to quilting gives me peace of mind. The act of sewing, stitching, and embellishing textiles provides a creative space that allows me to express myself at the most authentic level possible. Using my creative energy is better as mood altering and consciousness expanding as therapy (for the most part).

What surprises me the most is the length of time I’ve been engaged in creating quilts. The idea of taking small pieces of textiles and putting them together to make something that is unified amazes me. Engaging in a practice where there will always be room to grow and improve challenges me. Being a part of a creative community allows me to feel connected. Having a practice that serves to share my voice with the world is invigorating.

I’m blessed to have found something that gives me joy, makes me feel alive, and I can share with the world. Being committed to this path gives me something to lean on during the good times and bad. It provides me with a place to retreat and regroup or to put forth in the world as my act of participation in humanity.

If you find something that draws you in and won’t let go don’t ignore it, commit to it!

Winter Feast for the Soul: Day 9 Art of Observation

I’m admitting that I have a habit of jumping to conclusions. I can be known to be quite reactionary. This reactionary stance is something I’ve been working on for years because many years ago it got me in some sticky situations. I can’t tell you why I’ve been so reactionary. I’m sure Freud and Jung would come up with early childhood trauma, and yes that did happen, I don’t think that’s the answer. I did learn, as a sense of self-preservation, to be on the offensive, but that too has subsided over the years. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t roll over and play dead, I’m just more even keeled about my actions.

I was exploring the art of observation during my meditation because Siba (my 7 month old Bernedoodle) was acting strange. She’s a growing pup and quite ravenous, but last night she didn’t finish her dinner. When we awoke this morning and we went through our morning ritual of going out and then breakfast, she didn’t rush to her bowl. I wouldn’t normally worry because there have been days when she eats a bit and saves the rest for a mid-morning snack, but today was different.

As the morning progressed I started to become concerned because Siba hadn’t touched her breakfast. I was already planning on when I could take her to the vet. Tuesday I said because our vet Dr. B works on Tuesday. In the past, I would have rushed to make an appointment assuming she was sick. I had already come to the conclusion in my mind that she had some type of obstruction and was going to require surgery (I’m not melodramatic, am I?)

I decided to let her just sleep and I sat next to her on the couch. I was petting her and she began to snore. She wasn’t acting sick (I know canine sick) and that was what allowed me to sit back and just keep watching her. It took a while but at 3:30pm she decided to have breakfast. I guess she’s just living the life of luxury figuring that the food would be there when she was good and ready.

It has made me think about how many times in my day should I just sit back and observe.   What am I missing when I rush to a conclusion and what does feeling the fear do for my view of the world. I’m an artist so I should be pretty good at the art of observation, but I guess it can be situation specific. The question for today is how do I expand that stance of observation before acting into my daily life.

I may be surprised at what I learn about others, and myself at least for today that’s the hope!

George Balanchine is Profound

I love watching dancers dance.  The summer is great because “So You Think You Can Dance” is on the air and along with phenomenal contestants; they always have outstanding dance guests perform.  Last night Benjamin Millapied’s dance troop LA Dance Project performed.  It’s amazing what happens when a group of people come together, train together, rehearse together and perform together how intentional each movement is in the choreography.  The performance was magical, unfortunately the dance troop isn’t performing anywhere close to where I live or will be traveling in the coming months.

It was following a contestant’s performance when Nigel Lythgoe, the show’s executive producer, stated,”George Balanchine used to say, ‘I don’t want dancers that want to dance.  I want dancers that have to dance”.  I grabbed for my pen and scribbled those profound words down because they capture what it’s like for any artist.  We don’t just want to create, we have to create!

It doesn’t matter the medium you choose, but as Twyla Tharp used to say, “we all have a creative DNA”.  It’s that “creative DNA” that infuses every decsion about our creative endeavors.  I find it incredible because I am always thinking about color and texture.  I may not have a piece I’m create for an exhibition, but I’m looking at how it will be reflected in decor throughout my home, or the pictures and ink I used to write in my journal.  I can’t think without thinking about color!

As I move forward on my dissertation, I’m continuously reminded that the goal, aside from completion, is to further my platform to teach.  I believe we haven’t focused enough on the healing impact of art and that through my research we’ll have a deeper understanding of how art allows us to create meaning in our lives.  I teach because I have to; it’s in my blood, always in my consciousness, and directs every action in my life.  Sharing my experiences, what I’ve learned through trial and error, extensive reading, and exposure to art or all types is what continuously propels me on this mission.

What is it that you “have to do” in your life?  How do you express that inner drive, passion, and life mission?

Some Learn Lessons Earlier Than Others

Winter Feast For the Soul…Day 3

Last night I was watching Oprah Winfrey’s Master Class.  The guest of the evening was Goldie Hawn and the format is just her with the camera.  It’s structured so the guest can discuss their life and the lessons they’ve learned along the way.

During her share, Hawn told a story about being a dancer and getting ready to perform in the third grade when the teacher said something that shook her to the core.  The teacher told her (and the other students) that they had to be perfect.  It’s interesting that someone so young could know that perfection can’t be attained.  She heard this statement and immediately didn’t want to even attempt to dance because she knew she wasn’t perfect.

It wasn’t until she discussed this event with her mother that things turned around and she danced her heart out, doing the best she could.  She learned at a young age that trying to attain perfection isn’t possible and the attempt futile.  Let’s face it, even Adam was missing a rib.

As I began working on my meditation piece I noticed about 10 minutes into the meditation that the stitches we crooked.  There was a split second when I considered ripping the stitches out and getting them to align more “perfectly”.  Goldie Hawn’s words whispered to me and I made a point of continuing.  The next couple of stitches were a bit difficult because the tendency is to want to focus on the crooked stitch.  It does everything but hold a neon sign over itself, testing me to see what I would do.

In the end I simply continued stitching and let go of the need for it to be perfect, or even close to perfect.  The time I am stitching isn’t about perfection; it’s about peace.  It’s about engaging my heart, soul, and hands in a process to deeper my understanding of myself and the world I live.

It’s nice to know that this type of lesson didn’t take something more horrific to learn.  Today I know that my lack of need and desire to attain perfection is what actually makes me perfect in the Universe!

Winter Feast for the Soul: Day Thirty-Four

I guess it’s true that teachers come in all shapes and sizes.  What surprised me most this practice period is that the teacher doesn’t even need to have a heartbeat.   The teacher can be a tool that’s used and through a mind meld becomes a great teacher.  I’ll explain.

I began stitching the cloth and felt a bit of resistance.  I wasn’t in the mood to struggle with the piece or with the practice.  What I found was that the needle and thread became the teacher.  It was as if the needle and thread came to an understanding first with the cloth and then with my hand.  What happened next was a blessing; I experienced ease.  The needle began to glide through the layers of the  fabric as if they were doing a well choreographed dance and I was merely the spectator. 

At one point in the process I felt resistance and found myself holding my breath.  What I realized was that the cotton I was using breathes and it isn’t alive, so why aren’t I breathing.   It seems like a no brainer, but I obviously gave it some thought.  The cloth let me follow its lead and it was a great teacher.  You may believe that I’m simply anthropomorphizing the needle, thread, and cloth, but what I’m really doing is showing the connectivity between everything that exists.  I don’t have to believe I’m special simply because I’m human, everything can be special and nothing can be special; I guess that’s the take away from the practice.

I hope you find your teacher in the most surprising places; it makes the journey more fun!

Blessings to you…