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Making Sweet Love to the Shame Monster

Why is it sooooo easy to talk mad smack to ourselves?  Treating ourselves like toilets, garbage disposals, manure piles?  On the one hand, I’ve heard it said, that we would never speak to others as unforgivingly as we default to with our own selves.  And sure, maybe we wouldn't speak so unkindly to others out loud… though it's pretty uncanny in how the ways in which we dialogue with ourselves translates onto how we view and treat others.  I’ve noticed in my own attitude and behavior, that when I’m swimming in pools of self-shame and harsh, unrelenting judgment, it gets cascaded onto others through impatience, mistrust, blame, sarcasm, and withdraw. 

Not cute.  And definitely not the path to manifesting sacred connections and my wildest dreams.  

I heard a Dharma talk recently by a wonderful visiting teacher at the Sacramento Buddhist Meditation Group who said, “in Buddhism, we’re not so concerned about the why, we’re much more interested in the how.”  In applying this idea to relentless self-criticism, I’m reminded that it doesn’t really matter why we rip ourselves to shreds in every opportune moment, and it doesn’t really matter that we understand exactly where the patterns come from.  Because, for one thing, we can never fully understand where everything is sourced.  We can spend a whole lot of time and energy psychoanalyzing the love we didn’t rightfully receive as children.  We can know that the roots of our self-deprecation are generations and lifetimes deep, and socially and culturally fueled through unjust systems of human exploitation.  We can intellectualize all of this, yet still, cover up our radiant natures through endless stories of not being smart enough, good-looking enough, strong enough, creative enough, brave enough, supported enough, socially accepted enough, rich enough, energetic enough, whatever…. enough.  Understanding the why’s can be helpful in releasing ourselves as the sole cause of all of our problems, but it also puts us in a position to cast blame elsewhere, which ultimately takes away our power to change.  In order to heal and grow out of being locked inside our own masochistic thought patterns and the self-destructive behaviors that follow, we have to take the responsibility back, which means shifting from why to how

And so instead of asking, why do I have all these issues?

The question becomes, how do I free myself from this suffering?

Here’s a "how" that's working for me:::

For starters, I'm getting super curious about that nasty voice inside my head -- how it sounds, what it’s saying, and when it tends to show up.  The most obvious route for building this awareness are quieting of the mind practices (I tend to be more of a yin yoga + walking meditator), which gives me the opportunity to pay close attention to what’s arising in my thoughts and how these thoughts are expressing themselves in my body.  By setting up regular, quality time for quiet observation of what’s going on upstairs – I'm providing myself access to a much deeper awareness and therefore control in shifting my oppressive mental dialogues into something that is way more aligned with the truth of my higher self. 

After becoming more aware of when and how this voice plays itself out, it's time to get radical on it.  Yep, you guessed it -- make sweet, sweet love to the shame monster.  Love it til it tenderizes into something soft and non-threatening.   Here’s where it gets mind blowing: The parts of us that are so convincing that we are good-for-nothin' pointless human beings, are the same parts of us that are dying to be seen and heard.  They are the parts of us that need to be loved from the sweetest of intentions.  And yet the tendency is to get angry, solemn, and frustrated, meeting shame with shame, you know the feeling... I call it the "down to crawl into a hole and die" feeling.  Casting shame on the things we don't feel proud of in the first place is the very response that perpetuates cycles of internal conflict and behavioral suffering.

Here’s the thing I’m really starting to understand:  We can’t break unwanted patterns through willful banishment fueled by feelings of never wanting to experience those ugly thoughts and behaviors again.  But we can melt them down, softly, and often slowly, through some good ol’ fashion tender-loving-care medicine.  It’s the way of the alchemist and the Divine Mother.   

A sampling of some of my shame monsters I'm willing to share on the world wide web. 

A sampling of some of my shame monsters I'm willing to share on the world wide web. 

There’s a practice that I learned from one of my favorite spiritual teachers, Matt Kahn, around loving what arises.  ALL of what arises.  When we catch that nasty voice doing its nasty thing, he guides us to meet it tenderly, call it what it is, and “love the one who…”

The miraculous thing about naming it, is that buried deep down inside each and every one of our shames, is the most magical of our powers.  For example, my highly sensitive nature that holds me back from enjoying many social functions, experiences, and environments, is the same part of me that provides others with a great sense of calm and ease when sharing space.  My sensitivities make manifesting peaceful settings and situations a top priority for my sanity, which can feel shameful and embarrassing when I have to decline invitations to hang out with people I really like and care about.  But it's also the part of me that gives me the ability to tune into others on a deep soul level and be of healing service.  

and so... I love the one who is highly sensitive.  

Making love to the shame monster isn’t something we do a couple of times and then become all healed up, flying high on the wagon of self-praise and encouraging love talk forever more.  It’s something that we practice over and over and over and over and over again.  And because the goal is always to shame ourselves LESS, it’s crucial that we offer ourselves the deepest levels of kindness and forgiveness when we find ourselves back in our old, self-shaming ways.  It’s certain that, I HATE MYSELF FOR HATING MYSELF (and I only speak from experience) will only hold us hostage from our true divine power. 

And so with alla that, I invite you to keep an “I love the one who….” log.  Get them shame monsters up and out and onto the page, cushioned in declarations of your love.  It's most likely going to feel like straight buffoonery, declaring love to the dark and painful parts -- and that's perfectly okay.  The point is to get into a habit of offering love medicine to yourself, and witness how your life transforms as a result.  

Remember: these logs aren’t for anyone else’s eyes (unless you so choose to share them with your most trusted companions), and so the invitation is to be as real and honest as possible, about anything and everything that feels like shame on your heart. The healing potential of this practice is profound, and you deserve a clear and spacious heart, mind and body available to receive the most brilliant miracles and manifestations.    

When you make peace with yourself, you make peace with the world. --Maha Ghosananda

Thank you with all my heart for being here.   

 

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who the f*ck are we though, really?

Confession: Over the past 6 years, I've had 9 or so different business card and/or website identities, each designed to capture the “new me” that was ready to emerge in the world.  I wish I had saved all those cards... fashionable relics of all the twists and turns of my becoming.  It's a funny thing we do in this culture, call ourselves the things that we are doing.   

Some of the things I've called myself in recent history are:

  • a photographer
  • a writer
  • a body worker
  • an abstract painter
  • an arts educator
  • a jewelry maker
  • a creative arts healer
  • a resident service specialist for elders
  • a reader of oracles
  • an interviewer

Not a bad potpourri for half a decade's work.  Some of these things are more past than present, though I still do a lot of them--at different times, and in different ways.  They are pretty fluid in how they melt into and inform one another, yet I've felt a lot of shame over the years for starting and pausing on so many paths.  I've felt many times like I had serious issues, swimming against the pressures of commitment, focus, and mastery.  

It's just that... there's so much wonder to try on in this incredibly time-sensitive experience called life. 

When I asked my girl Lano, my radically creative Tucson soul sista, if she'd design the latest version of me in the form of yet another business card -- she made a very wise suggestion.  “What if this time, you put only your info and omit the title?”

Um, duh!  Why didn't I think of that 6 business cards ago?  

Between each of my identity shifts is this familiar yet dreadfully uncomfortable space where I realize that something feels incomplete or not quite right about what I've been doing and enthusiastically claiming, and that something else is vying for my attention.  This space feels as exhilarating as it does excruciating, knowing the winds of change are upon me, yet not having a clear vision as to what’s happening next.  It's also pretty embarrassing announcing to my friends and family that I'm changing up the life plan again.   

Currently flowing through one of these periods, I’ve started a professional brainstorming partnership with a power sister, Jeanne.  She has a similarly diverse array of interests and offerings-- she teaches yoga and body rolling, is an HR specialist, a community organizer, an attorney, writer, musician, and probably other things she hasn’t mentioned yet.  At our first meeting, the very first topic that naturally rose to the surface for a couple of girls like us, was this baffling question around identity.  

We sat on the floor on zafu cushions across from one another, totally bewildered.  Eyes wide open, we pondered... "well, who the f*ck are we though, really?" 

I'm more curious lately, not so much in trying to figure out what I oughtta do next, but in becoming intimately aware and connected to how all of the things I do and have done capture the essence of who I am.  So that when I show up in the world, it's as authentic and true as I can muster.  

I’ve also been working on un-believing that being multi-passionate and wildly curious about my full-range of capabilities (what some may refer to as commitment issues) is eventually going to ruin my life.  Instead of dialing into that preprogramed mental fear station, which paralyzes magical manifestation, I’m instead giving myself more solid ground to trust on through processes of self-inquiry and investigation.

Currently, the inquiry centers on this question of work identity, and all that it entails.   

Is it the combination of our greatest gifts and strengths?

Is it what we’ve studied the most faithfully?

Is it how we make money?

Is it how we effect others with our presence/products/services? 

Is it what makes our heart sing the most consistently?

Is it the hardest stuff we've been through, becoming our greatest opportunity for helping others?

Is it what we ultimately have the most faith in?

Is it what we’re the most curious about in the moment?

As I swim through another welcomed yet terrifying transition period, I’m finding it relevant to dive deep into questions like these that help clarify what it is I'm actually here intending to do.  If you find yourself in a similar quandary, I invite you to join me in the process of creating an IDENTITY Map.

A simple process that when made space for, can bring a whole lot up and out, allowing room for the purpose path to expand and blossom.  

Some guidance on how to get started:

  • Get yourself a piece of paper.  I like it big, but any size will do.  I have a large drawing pad, 11x14 in. that I use for brainstorming.  There’s something about the bigness that gives me more capacity to think expansively. 
  • Gather some colors. The medium isn't important.  Crayons, markers, colored pencils, highlighters, whatevs you got going on in the junk drawer.  
  • Position yourself in a place that feels comforting.  My choice today is outside of a coffee shop, because 1) coffee, 2) natural light and fresh air, and 3) that buzz of anonymous stimulation. 
  • Write "IDENTITY" in BIG letters anywhere on the page.
  •  From there, explore the questions listed above, and/or anything else that comes up for you. 
  • Get messy, get colorful, get weird, explore connections. 

And by all means, if you feel inspired to share when you’re done, post a picture of your map on the Process Art and Oracles Facebook Page, or share with me privately, as I’d love to see what evolves for you. 

And if there are any identity questions that prove helpful for your process, offer them up!  We can all benefit from your breakthroughs. 

Here's what came up for me today//

And truly, thank you for being here.  It's your presence that brings me the greatest sense and understanding of who I am and what I'm here to do.  

 

in love and support,

 

Halley

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Scratch Magic

This post is about the beginning.  That rich and exhilarating stage that precedes any creative output.

A seed has been planted, an idea has entered the scene and it’s hollering at a frequency that only the bearer of said seed can hear, “flush me out!” 

And though brainstorming what this precious seedling is gearing up to be feels like the beginning, there’s something that happens even before that. When we know full and well that a creative project is upon us, except it’s a vast, barren landscape that we’re staring off into.  Inside the void, we sense a deep well of everything that’s possible, which translates into a whole lot of diddly-squat. 

One of my personal creativity bibles is a book called, The Creative Habit written by the great choreographer, Twyla Tharp.

I’m going to let Twyla do the talking for a minute:

The first steps of a creative habit are like groping in the dark: random and chaotic, feverish and fearful, a lot of busy-ness with no apparent or definable end in sight.  There is nothing yet to research.  For me, these moments are not pretty.  I look like a desperate woman, tortured by the simple message thumping away in my head: “You need an idea.”  It’s not enough for me to walk into a studio and start dancing, hoping that something good will come of my aimless cavorting on the studio floor.  Creativity doesn’t generally work that way for me. (The rare times when it has stand out like April blizzards.)  You can’t just dance or paint or write or sculpt.  Those are just verbs.  You need a tangible idea to get you going.  The idea, however minuscule, is what turns the verb into a noun—paint into a painting, sculpt into sculpture, write into writing, dance into a dance.

And so she sets us up with this incredibly relatable experience – groping in darkness, desperately seeking that sparkly idea that will turn our verb into a noun. 

As I’m sure many of us can attest to, ideas aren’t always just casually kickin’ it, eager to be manifested.  Most of the time, we need to show the idea that we’re ready for it to enter us.  And so Twyla gifts us with a concept about how to move ideas from unseen realms into workable realizations, something she’s termed scratching.  Scratching is the way that artists intentionally set out to acquire new ideas. 

Twyla gives us some examples:

“A film director is scratching when she grabs a flight to Rome, trusting that she will get her next big idea in that inspiring city.  The act of changing your environment is the scratch.”

 “An architect is scratching when he walks through a rock quarry, studying the algebraic connections of fallen rocks or the surface of a rock wall, or the sweeping space of the quarry itself.  We see rocks; the architect sees space and feels texture and assesses building materials.  All this sensory input may yield an idea.”

Reading this stuff out of a book is cool and I’m so grateful to Twyla for providing us with this super useful framework. But because grabbing a flight to Rome for creative inspiration is a pretty far off reality for folks like me, I need to hear how this scratching stuff actually goes down for real people in my real life. 

outfits.jpg

My friend, Ariel Madrone, is launching her career as a fashion designer.  She's built a beautiful collection of wrapping jackets, crop tops, and sexy tunics that she debuted at the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission’s yearly gala. She started designing clothes because, during her travels abroad, she was constantly moved by the native textiles of the regions and how they communicated stories of the people who made and wore them.  In terms of how she identifies as a designer, she describes herself as being motivated by the textiles more so than by the “fashion."

The textiles she used for this collection include vintage kimonos, luscious golden velvet, and bold, black and white striped linen. I had the fortunate opportunity to model one of her designs at the event, and my goodness.  I was utterly mystified; astonished by the way her vision became such a whole, authentic, and drop-dead gorgeous reality.  So I sat down with Ariel post-show to talk about how she scratched that one out. 

Ariel's mood board

Ariel's mood board

When I first introduced the topic of scratching to her, it took her a minute to formulate what that meant for her process, as it wasn’t something she felt she did consciously. When Ariel decided she was going to submit to the call for designers, there were some things required in her application that she initially felt resistance toward, but ended up paying off big time for her end product.  One such thing was a “mood board.”  She had never made a mood board before, a collection of visual clippings and inspirations. It was to her great luck that the day before she was assigned a mandatory mood board project, her boyfriend brought home a box of National Geographic magazines that he found on the side of the road.

So she flipped through those National Geos like a 1992 elementary school collage project and built herself that obligatory board -- before she went shopping for her material, before she envisioned any of her shapes and designs, and before she started her sketches.  The first image that really grabbed her was one of some Hasidic Jews and their black and white striped wrapping garments that hung down their backs.  (What did I wear at the show? A black and white striped wrapping garment that hung down my back). 

Then there was the picture of the deer — the inspiration behind her first creation: that figure-thriving, velvety golden dream-come-true of a dress.

Ariel's mood board and sketch integration

Ariel's mood board and sketch integration

How a picture of a deer becomes a super sexy dress is the magic of a creatively inspired mind, but without the image to serve as a launch-off point, all there is, well, is the void.  This is why scratching is so key and why knowing that that’s what we’re doing makes future idea-hatching feel potentially less desperate and threatening.  

Oh, I also asked Ariel how she scratched out those cornrows and amazing thick, blocky brows she had us all sporting.  She scratched that straight from her middle school days, from her predominantly Mexican girlfriends, in the predominantly Mexican hood she grew up in--back when Sacramento had a bit more cultural segregation.

Ariel in black surrounded by her creations.    Hairstylist: Shannon Ward   Makeup: Karina Martin, Ari Dee, Nicole Matta   Photographer: One Thirteen Photography

Ariel in black surrounded by her creations. 

Hairstylist: Shannon Ward

Makeup: Karina Martin, Ari Dee, Nicole Matta

Photographer: One Thirteen Photography

So obviously, you’re going to want to stay tuned in to Ariel Madrone.  She’s currently scratching out her next collection, a submission to Sacramento's Fashion Week.  I asked her if she’s going to make a mood board for her future projects. You better believe she is.

To get in touch with the lady behind the magic, email her at arielmadrone@gmail.com and like her page on Facebook to stay updated.

Would love to hear your about your scratch magic--do share in the comments!  

Scratch on. 

Halley

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How We Show Up

Mural by Sofia Lacin and Hennessy Christophel of LC Studios

Mural by Sofia Lacin and Hennessy Christophel of LC Studios

The other day in yoga class, my teacher, Aaron, spoke some simple, yet profoundly resonating words.  He said, “The hardest part of the practice is simply showing up.”  And boy, did he hit the nail on the head with that one.  It's that hot yoga variety, and you’re doing things with your body under sweltering conditions that you would never do left up to your own devices.  Or rather, I would never do, left up to mine.  Which is why I have to show up for the dang class.  Not only am I exerting myself physically in intense heat, I’m also being called to be with my body, mind and breath in a really intentional way: a perfect recipe for all degrees of resistance. 

                                  Art By Dana Rader

                                  Art By Dana Rader

Though something happens when I simply show up, and every time it surprises me-- once I'm in that hot room, stretched out on that turquoise mat, there exists no other option but to flow with it.  I move in the ways that I'm guided to, excited by where my body can go, while honoring where it can’t.  And the immediate return of those blissed-out, mind+body sensations makes the challenge of it b-e-y-o-n-d worth it. 

Being such a prominent feature of the human experience, I think about resistance a lot.  And not just in terms of sweaty yoga practices, but in relation to creativity as well.  Simply showing up to the page or the canvas or the keyboard beyond the initial excitement of starting a new project can be the most excruciating aspect to living a creatively inspired life.  Though it is by far, as I’m sure we can all agree, the most important part.  Because without it, ain’t nothing is getting created.

I’ve had the fortunate opportunity to get to know a lot of very creatively active and committed people-- the kind who show up for their creativity day in and day out.  Because I know how hard it is, and because the goal of this blog is to be a source of collective creative nurturing, the only thing that makes sense for this first post is to look into how we work through our resistance and show up for our creativity.

To give you a diverse array of perspectives on the matter, I’ve consulted my personal crew of creativity gurus and goddesses:

                        Art by Rosaura Unangst of Pigment and Parchment

                        Art by Rosaura Unangst of Pigment and Parchment

Rosaura Unangst | pigmentandparchment.com - I show up for my creativity by practicing self care. In the past I let go of self care completely and that was detrimental to my artistic life. How I show up for my creativity is by getting sleep, eating regularly, and being kind to myself so that I am energized and ready to go when it's time to dive into my art world. 

Sofia Lacin | lcstudiotutto.comI show up for my creativity with an energetic physical power and open eyes. I try to pretend I am doing it all for the first time. I work in my habitual practice to lead me to the freedom of fluid and open work. It's always the most beautiful. 

               Lit Mag by Janna Marlies Maron

               Lit Mag by Janna Marlies Maron

Janna Marlies Maron | www.jannamarlies.comThe hard part for me to articulate is that I don’t know how consciously I think about “showing up for creativity,” because I have trained myself to incorporate it in as much of my life as possible. From big things like creating habits around getting up early to give myself 30 min-1hr of writing every day to little things like using colored pens when I write by hand, I try to surround myself with things that will foster a new and fresh perspective every day, even in the little things like writing a to-do list. This also includes constantly learning and seeking input from others as much as possible. I know that my ideas and my work always have room for improvement and they are only enhanced when others contribute.

Trista Dymond | tristadymond.com - How do I show up for my creativity... with a mixture or resistance, anxiety, anticipation and excitement. A part of me is convinced I shouldn't do it. A deeper pert of me tells me it's the only thing worth doing. And so.. the build up is the worst as both sides battle it out. If I were to dissect the split section of decision-making, it could be summed up as: Should I create or should I find something else to fill my time and convince myself that it was a better choice to not create? Once I do actually show up, the hard part is over. Slowly and then quite quickly I fall into my creativity and am healed. When I'm done I walk away thinking "there, that wasn't so bad, now was it?" and ruefully I answer myself with a sheepish smile and a simple "..no."

Jack Craig | jackpcraig.comTry it. See what happens. Try again.

                                                             Tables by Jack Craig

                                                             Tables by Jack Craig

Dana Rader | stripedesigngroup.com - I show up for my creativity to feed my soul.  My soul longs to create and when I provide it with creative projects I am truly happy. It relieve stress and opens the window of opportunity to achieve goals in the arts as well as every other avenue in my life. 

Ceramics by Michelle Kolososki of Adora Bella 

Ceramics by Michelle Kolososki of Adora Bella 

Michelle Kolososki | adorabellaceramics.bigcartel.com - It is my belief that we are all gifted by a greater energy.  My gift is my art, it is the greater expression of self that I have the pleasure of sharing with others.  For that I am incredibly grateful.  Not a day goes by that I don't feel full of thanks that I get to share the divine aspect of myself with others by making for them.  I believe that every piece I make has a connection to someone and it will find them once it is released.  So, I pray when I make, after I make and before it leaves me.  I ask for its owner to be found and that the vessel will bring this person it is meant for joy, happiness, health and prosperity.  That is how I show up for creativity, by acknowledging that it is divine and every day I desire to do my job as thoughtful as possible.  

                               Art by Mandy Lechner

                               Art by Mandy Lechner

Mandy Lechner - I keep my art supplies handy.  I try to keep a project out, waiting for me.  If I'm not feeling it, I do something else.  I start another project or pick up one that I've laid aside. So I usually have four or five projects going.  I think five is a good number. And I don't wait for some kind of mood to come. To refer back to a quote I heard a long time that has stuck with with me,"Write [or in my case, paint] at once and don't wait 'for the mood' The mood comes, in writing [in painting]." (Vivien Eliot to Henry Eliot)."

Ahhhhh. This honest, raw, soulfulness is why surrounding myself with creative folks has been my most consistent good choice in life so far.  There are many ways to feed the soul.  While creative expression is a very potent and illuminating way, so are things like gardening, volunteering, climbing trees, meditation practices, reading books, and deep human-to-human connection.  I don't have to tell you.  You know what does it for you.  Though whatever it is, and however you do it, here's this important reminder: when you show up for yourself and feed your soul, you simultaneously feed the collective good of humankind.  It's never selfish to show up for yourself in a way that enlivens and invigorates.  Never, ever, ever.  My highest hope is that when you finish reading this, you show up for you.  And please don't be shy.... share with us your unique way of doing so. 

                                    Installation by Trista Dymond

                                    Installation by Trista Dymond

xo 


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