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!!!!

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Winter Feast for the Soul 2017: Day 38 Perspective

I’ve been thinking a lot about perspective over the past week; mainly as it pertains to a quilt I’ve been designing. I’ve been looking at color and proportion, seeing if it all works. On the other hand, I’ve also been thinking about gaining perspective as it relates to world/national events.

Is it possible to have perspective if you are entrenched in a particular point-of-view? How do we uproot ourselves enough to allow perspective to be a player in our worldview? Have you thought about why perspective is important?

I was watching a terrific documentary Get the Picture about photo editor John G Morris. He quotes Robert Capa, an amazing photojournalist who said, “If your photos aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” I thought this was an interesting quote because he’s talking about perspective. In his case, he is commenting on the impact and newsworthiness of a photo.

Have you ever had someone recommend that you step back and gain some perspective? I have, and I can tell you that statement usually angers me because I feel as if my point-of-view is being negated. I’d much rather someone offers a counter theory/account/knowledge so I can derive my own conclusions.

It’s clear that in the world of politics and religion, perspective is always on the frontlines. It is often the battlefield because we begin to argue dogma instead of personal beliefs, towing the “party” line. Whatever happened to independent thought? Why are we so willing to fall into a trench without critical thinking being part of the equation?

Perspective is something that goes beyond art. It’s something that impacts how we related to one another. Perspective can be our best friend if we allow it to play a part in the equation of our lives!

Winter Feast for the Soul 2017: Day 37 Learning

I like school! My mother always promised me that if she won the lottery, I could go to school for the rest of my life. She hasn’t won the lottery, but I’ve done my fair share of school. I enjoy being challenged. I thrive on building a community of like-minded people. I’m hooked on expanding my treasure chest of knowledge.

The interesting thing about learning is it doesn’t have to be done in a formal setting. I was talking to Jeanne, the owner of the local quilt shop where I’ve taught. The last class I was going to teach didn’t have enough enrollments so the class was cancelled. I asked her why she thought the number of people taking classes had declined. She said that with the huge explosion of YouTube, fewer people were leaving their homes when they can find the information online.

I hadn’t thought about the use of YouTube for learning techniques, or hearing interviews, but sure enough, there’s so much information out there it would make your head spin.

The library is another treasure trove for knowledge. In the town where I live they built a new library. It’s an amazing building and has lots of features beyond just books. I asked the librarian if people were using the library. She informed me that since the new library has opened, they’ve seen a 60% increase in library card registrations.

My most recent method of learning has been documentaries. I’ve watched more than fifteen documentaries on art, artists, and fashion over the last couple of weeks. I find watching a documentary with a creative bent inspires me to get to the studio and create my own work. These stories blaze trails and open my eyes to what’s possible in telling my own story.

I guess what I’m saying is there’s more than one-way to learn. The world is full of opportunities beyond the classroom to learn and explore. Lifelong learning is important because it keeps us current. It makes us more interesting and research has shown the lifelong learning can decrease the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

Go take a class. Learn an instrument or a foreign language. Explore the many avenues available to expand your mind.

Winter Feast for the Soul 2017: Day 36 Restoration

We back up our data on our computers in the case these miraculous machines crash and we need to retain our data. We take old houses and restore them to their original glory. Museums restore masterpieces of art so we can maintain the history of painting, tapestry, and other arts. Restoration is important because it strives to capture the essence of the original. It means we’re valuing what came before us. So why do we always strive for new and improved. The improved I understand, but I guess people haven’t figured out, there’s nothing new.

We’re good at restoring things, but when it comes to restoring our physical bodies, or our souls, we fall short. The New Year brought how millions of people to the gyms and workout arenas for the promise of a new life, only to stop the attainment of the perfect body by week six. Are we looking to restore our younger selves?

How do we “restore” the soul? Is it necessary to restore it, or is it acknowledging its presence and honoring its place in our lives enough? Restoration of our practice of nurturing the soul I completely understand. It’s having a practice that has given me the freedom to explore, expand, and embolden my spiritual practice. I find myself not only committing to the Winter Feast for the Soul, but that sense of commitment has flowed over to other areas of my life. I find myself more attuned to my surroundings.

The question I ponder is, “Do I want to restore myself to its previous version”? I spoke earlier on in the series of posts about evolution. It’s about gaining a sense of clarity. I have unearthed aspects of my consciousness previous hidden. They were hidden, it’s not as if they didn’t exist, I was naïve as to how I could access them.

The place where I see restoration important is our health. There’s a Campbell’s soup commercial with a guy lying on the couch with a cold. He says to his significant other, “When I would get sick my mother would make me chicken soup.” She throws the phone to him and says, “Good, call your mother” and walks out the door.

It’s important to remember that when restoring the body, we may get better, but we may not get well. Restoration to our previous “healthy” self may not be possible, so restoration of our commitment to our emotional and spiritual well-being is crucial.

What do you want to restore? What steps will you take? Is it even possible to restore what you want?

Winter Feast for the Soul 2017: Day 35 Searching

Ever lose your keys or your phone and you begin a mad search to find the lost objects? You experience a sense of panic and hysteria as you feel like a fool for misplacing these everyday items. When you do find the objects you laugh because you try and figure out how they got there in the first place, at times it’s obvious and others it’s like doing accident recreation like the insurance companies.

There’s another type of search, that’s one of an internal process. The one where you have a gnawing question that has plagued you for a while and you keep returning to the question. I found this to be the case while I was in therapy (I guess that’s why I stayed so long) and has continued throughout my meditation process.

I’ve been fortunate to go to grad school twice. The first was to get my degree in clinical counseling. This set me in motion to become a psychotherapist where I would help clients search for answers or at least revise the questions. It was an experience we co-created. The other degree is in Visual Anthropology. I’m hooked on narrative, and I explore how we create stories based on our life experiences.

I was fortunate to study with the Jean Houston. The course revolved around the story of The Odyssey. It was her interpretation of the work first brought to consciousness by Joseph Campbell. Her class focused on the inward journey, the quest and what we’re willing to do to find answers, and the perils we experience on that quest.

This year’s meditation has brought up a lot of questions for me. As we approach the end I’ve been thinking about the next steps of the journey. Unlike past years, this year’s meditation has been more provocative. It has challenged me to stay on track. It has encouraged me to use my creative voice to seek, to play, to grow. I like the idea of searching because it’s the equivalent of the Universe holding a carrot out in front of me as a lure.

The Universe is luring me toward deepening my commitment to my inner life. It is luring me toward a pilgrimage of self-expression, providing me with clarity. It is luring me toward creating a community of compassion.

I’m not sure where I’ll end up, but the search process is in full swing! Stay tuned!

Winter Feast for the Soul 2017: Day 34 Adaptation

Change is inevitable. It’s an unfortunate fact of life because I like hanging out in my comfort zone. I’ve gotten better with change as I’ve developed my ability to adapt. It took a long time, but I consider myself a member of the “go with the flow” club.

One of my most embarrassing moments was many (many) years ago when I was working in a restaurant. I had been at the restaurant since it had opened and we were about to install a new manager of the restaurant. I didn’t say more than a handful of words to this woman for about three months. Trust me, I’m not proud of this story. In fact, it was one of the key events that propelled me to go into therapy (shouldn’t be a surprise that there were a slew of other issues as well).

At one point in my meditation posts I spoke about evolution. I look at evolution and adaptation as partners in crime. The world will bring forth many new events, political, social, religious, just to name a few. Our response has a baseline based on past experiences, the values supplied by our families, the laws of the land, and the mores of our religious institutions. The only problem is times change, leaders change, we’re exposed to new values based on geography, or we find a faith and change our behaviors in accordance with the tenets of the faith.

Sitting in the studio I began thinking about how I must adapt in a world that is full of anger, prejudice, and fear. The easiest way for me to adapt is to speak my truth. I was watching a documentary today titled Rock Fresh. It is the story of graffiti artists who become commercial artists over time.

Their stories were inspiring because they stayed true to their vision. They had stories to tell and although in some cases they were considered vandals, they learned to adapt to their surroundings. They spoke about the importance of shifting from tagging to creating art with a message. These artists adapted to a world where these served a purpose in the communities where they created their art.

The protests covered on the news are the means people are using to adapt to the current social/political system. Non-profits like HRC, Planned Parenthood, and the ACLU are receiving donations/memberships in huge numbers as the community adapts to the tyranny of a government that uses their bank accounts as justification for their hate filled actions.

I’ll explore this more down the road. I’ll adapt to my circumstances the best way I know how like being educated on the facts, supporting causes I believe in, and building community.

Winter Feast for the Soul 2017: Day 33 Focus

It’s said that focus is important for achieving your goals. Thinking about focus was a result of working in the studio. I’ve been working on a few pieces. Two are based on motifs I’ve been working on since the beginning of the Winter Feast for the Soul, and the other is an experimental piece.

Focus refers to attention. When I think of focus it brings images of a camera. I want things in focus because it gives definition to the subject. It gives parameters to what I’m viewing. When I focus I feel dedicated to my process. The interesting thing is focus makes things clear, but often my work is messy.

I remember attending an artist talk years ago at Plus Gallery. The artwork was abstract in a sense. There were some aspects that looked like it had some realistic roots, but it was as if Vaseline had been smeared on the lens.

The artist began talking about her inspiration and her process. A member of the audience asked about this particular show and her response cleared up the mystery. She explained that many days during the week she rides the bus. She would spend hours riding the bus with sketchbook in hand she sketched. The paintings were her vision of the road as she’s passing the sites while riding the bus.

I liked her explanation because it played with the concept of blurry focus. What I was thinking about today in the studio was that focus can be whatever I want it to be because it’s centered on what I’m open and present to at that time. The meditation allowed me to view focus about the experience than an exact definition.

My meditation is about focus. It allows me to focus on my breathing. It allows me to focus on my devotion to my art. It allows me to focus on creativity and storytelling. I’m thinking I’d like to meditate on being out-of-focus and see what surfaces. If I spend a meditation session on that experience I’ll let you in on my insights.