Sunday, October 27, 2013

Shhh'ing The Self-Critic

"Budding Branch" October 2013
mixed media collage - Japanese paper, textured cardstock, glass seed beads

How vocal is your self-critic?  If yours is similar to mine, then you’re most likely trying to soften or silence your self-critic’s voice on a frequent basis, sometimes successfully hitting the mute button, other times just doing your best to ignore self-defeating dialogue when she eludes your attempts to stifle her.  Despite this ongoing challenge, my self-critic isn’t as loud as she used to be, and I am able to liberate myself  from her a bit more often than in the past.  As I focus on shifting my life into better alignment with my values and passions, and as I work diligently on inner growth, I’m gaining greater control over my self-critic and building courage to explore my potential beyond self-imposed limitations.

I recently donated a mixed media collage to our local Monterey Museum of Art’s upcoming miniatures show and fundraiser.  On registration day, my self-critic shouted at me, “Am I good enough?  Am I worthy enough?” for a couple hours until I brought her down to a whisper, quickly registered and committed to this endeavor before she could speak up again.  I wished to donate and participate as a way to support our local art museum, of course, but also, as a way of pushing my own artistic boundaries, of carving out my own niche in our local art community and continuing on my quest to live a more creatively fulfilling life both personally and professionally.  

"Otter Bliss" Summer 2013
mixed media collage - Japanese paper, patterned cardstock, kraft packaging material, burlap
I had participated in my first miniatures show this past summer with a donation to Pacific Grove Art Center where I am also a member and an instructor, so I viewed this latest donation as taking a bigger step.  The part of me building courage and cultivating a newfound sense of boldness was excited and eager to accomplish this goal while my self-critic was trying to plant seeds of timidity and doubt.  The bottom line, amidst this inner power struggle, was that I had already made my commitment, so last weekend I completed and delivered my humble little contribution.  Deep exhale!  I titled my piece “Budding Branch,” as buds are a symbol to me of hope and the promise of something positive ahead.  This new life of mine is a work in progress, but I keep the faith that there are many positives ahead while remembering to be mindful of and grateful for what’s positive now and along the journey.


When I listen to my heart, it says “shhh” to my self-critic (an unwelcome companion on this journey), and I am free to be more adventurous and “daring” (my cautious version of daring if that isn’t too much of an oxymoron!), to not only aspire, but work toward aspirations, to grow and to find fulfillment in “buds” blossoming.

May your heart, too, speak more clearly over the drone of your self-critic. 
How are you best conquering your inner criticism?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Where There's Smoke

View of prescribed burn on the way home from Monday's errands
Monday's midday sun obscured by smoke

We live near the edge of Fort Ord, a former U.S. Army outpost closed back in the mid-90’s.  Over the years since its closure, there have been many prescribed burns to rid the terrain of unexploded ordnances, and some of these fires have extended beyond their so-called controlled boundaries which was the case this week.  By Tuesday in the late afternoon, the fire was supposedly contained and smoldering, but later in the evening, the smoke grew so thick in our neighborhood that my husband drove to a vantage point just around the block to check on what was happening, and there were flames in view!  Although we weren’t in any imminent danger, the proximity of the fire was concerning, and of course, the resulting plumes of smoke and their unhealthy impact on our air quality has been very unwelcome, bothersome and also concerning.  We’ve heard the constant drone of helicopters (dropping water on the fire and hot spots) since Monday.  This week’s burns have cast an unsettled atmosphere across our entire week. 

With my newfound tendency to reflect on the symbolism of daily observations and experiences, I’ve been searching for a bit of inner clarity to emerge from the surrounding smoky haze.
Tuesday's view above our house
An otherworldly sky

I have always been intimidated by the power of fire and how quickly it can consume and destroy; yet, while fire can cause such destruction on a larger scale, fire can also be inviting and illuminating on a smaller (safer!) scale – a candle flame gently flickering, bright, crackling cheer in the fireplace, the inviting warmth of a beach bonfire, the festive light of tiki torches.  This duality of fire, how it can be beneficial or harmful, surfaces in its symbolism as well…fire as a represention of our passion vs. our rage, its impact on our spirit as energizing rather than extinguishing.  When we mindfully tend to the “fire” within us, we are fueled in powerful, positive ways.  By collectively lighting and nurturing our creative sparks, we can beautifully illuminate our world and wash over that which mars our internal and external environments (like the unease of this week's burns.)   

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Finding My Way

Illustrate a time when you felt trapped…this was another healing art directive at last month’s CHOMP retreat.  I’ve shared the demands of my former career in previous posts, and it was that crazy time in my life to which my mind traveled as I thought about feeling trapped, trying to liberate myself from the confines of pressure and stress.  I eventually escaped (having been nudged out by my layoff) and ever since, I’ve been finding my way, following my instincts and my passions, experimenting, exploring, taking baby steps, taking leaps!  It’s liberating and exhilarating to live life guided by your heart, sometimes riskier and scarier, too, especially when your inner naysayer or critic surfaces or you’re inevitably faced with rejection or challenges.  Despite the unavoidable bumps and potholes in the road, I much prefer entering new territory and traversing a land of possibilities to remaining stagnant and trapped.
Toward the end of each retreat, we share our artwork with the group, and others’ observations often add to the insight we gain from our work.  With “Finding My Way,” I placed a mouse image I found in National Geographic within a box or exit from a maze, then added an escape route greeted by bright green leaves around the exterior, a metaphor for possibility and growth.  I chose yellow foam tiles for the pathway, focusing on my single word visualization and intention for that day – shine.  As I shared this piece, Mary, our facilitator, commented how she liked the trail of cheese I created for the mouse.  It hadn’t dawned on me until Mary’s comment that the tiles did indeed look like cheese!  I chuckled, then thought about how I am finding my way by following my “cheese,” what’s “tasty” to me, appealing and fulfilling.  Hmmm...from funny to insightful!  Mary also noted how the mouse has played such a significant and interesting role in my cancer experience.  It’s always enlightening how a seemingly childlike piece of artwork can convey such depth and clarity, such a strong message from one’s subconscious.  At times when my inner critic is bashing a piece I’ve created, I try to be mindful of the valuable insight I am gaining from this work regardless of its artistic value (or lack of!)  As I wrote in a past post, it’s about insight more than aesthetic, and it’s about healing art helping me find my way.

Wishing to inspire others to tap into the amazing power of creativity in general and healing art in particular is the reason behind me sharing my personal work (despite its sometimes questionable aesthetic!)  How has creativity, perhaps healing art, contributed to your own self-reflection, growth and well-being? 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Capacity For Love

To create a piece illustrating our favorite possession was yet another prompt during last month’s healing art retreat at CHOMP.  Although not a “possession” by standard definition, I thought of love and how we possess the ability to love and be loved, how approaching life with a loving, open heart can reward us in countless ways outnumbering any risks.  Love can be inspiring, motivating, energizing, encouraging, comforting and yes, healing.  A boundless capacity for love…this is my favorite "possession," what fuels my spirit, gives me strength, keeps positivity in the forefront and negativity at bay and creates a purposeful, meaningful life.    

"Capacity For Love"
Mixed media on mat board
Acrylic on watercolor paper, glitter glue, feather, beads, gems