Monday, April 27, 2015

Within The Flaws, Cracks And Breaks

I consider myself a recovering perfectionist and will likely continue on this "road to recovery" indefinitely.  The tendency toward perfectionism is a stubborn streak within, and although I've made progress in learning how to temper this streak, it periodically regains its power, sometimes as a speed bump that slows me down, other times as a road block that halts me in my tracks.  I take a deep mental breath and figure out my way around, over or through...

I am working very hard to make peace with imperfection - within myself, in my art and in my life.  The reality, of course, is that nothing is ever perfect!  With this obvious truth, embracing imperfection should be simple work, shouldn't it?  Why, then, is it far from simple for many of us and typically most difficult to embrace within ourselves?

I've discovered that admiring what is "perfectly imperfect" is often most easily accomplished in nature where grace exists in a broken or misshapen seashell, a wilted flower or fallen tree.  

Despite the Leafy Thorn Purpura aka Leafy Hornmouth's misshapen appearance,  
this lovely shell is one of my favorite, although infrequent, beach finds! 

This Fairy Lantern aka Globe Lily lost one of its petals, but still caught my husband's eye on a recent hike,
and I, too, paused to admire and capture its beauty.

I also value the worn, subtle beauty in old, vintage and well-loved items - a soft, faded handkerchief, a scruffy childhood stuffed animal, the tattered pages of a favorite book, the rusty patina of aged metal, the wabi-sabi aesthetic of earthy pottery.  

Interesting shapes and textures at the site of an old barrel mill
in the Fall Creek Unit of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

As we observe our surroundings, our awareness of the beauty, grace and inherent value in what is flawed, cracked, broken or otherwise less than pristine can inspire us to appreciate our own inevitable imperfections.  They are tangible reminders of the less tangible, yet very valuable flaws, cracks and breaks within ourselves and our lives.  By reaching a comfort level with our perfectly imperfect selves, we achieve a level of self-acceptance that liberates, empowers, centers and completes us.  The connection to our true essence becomes much stronger.  The lyrics from a Leonard Cohen song shared in an older post enter my mind again...the cracks allow the light to get in.

May you celebrate all that is perfectly imperfect around you and within you!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Significance In The Smallest Of Things

I am feeling a sense of current overwhelm with heartfelt concern for several very dear friends facing serious health challenges, a constantly busy schedule, the ongoing need to catch up on what's fallen behind, an intensifying urge to hasten the slow progress made in attempting to banish accumulated clutter and disorganization, a few minor health issues of my own as well as developing health issues with our elder cat.  When overwhelm mounts, it can become increasingly difficult for us to maintain perspective and balance.  I've discovered, however, the most powerful antidotes are often in the subtlest moment, the simplest experience or the tiniest bit of wonder or spot of grace.  There can be great significance in the smallest of things, calming, healing power in the "little things."  Recent "little things" that have dissipated some of my overwhelm...delightful tiny nuggets of sea glass and shells found along the shore and sweet little Spring blossoms of forget-me-not and borage spotted along a trail and in our backyard...

       What small things have you noticed uplifting you lately?

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Seeing And Seen

As a continuation of yesterday’s post, I created a second mixed media collage during last Thursday’s Healing Art retreat which ended up blending two prompts together.  The first prompt I randomly selected was to depict being truly seen by a person (or persons.)  Initially, I was unsure how to depict this experience., so I was encouraged to select another prompt instead, and the second prompt I randomly chose was to depict one’s vibrant self.  I felt undecided between the two, but instead of thinking too long and hard about either one, I stepped over to a bin of materials and began to rummage through the odds and ends within.  This particular bin contained a hodge podge of fabric scraps, card stock, old calendars, old greeting cards and a solitary Audubon magazine.  As I flipped through the magazine, the eyes of different birds immediately captured my attention, then I picked up a notecard with a simple window design which felt synchronistic with the window image in the first mixed media collage, "Lushness Of Possibility," I had made earlier that day.  Soon, I was again immersed in an effortless flow of creating.  After assembling the bird and window images, I added abstract flowers I found in an old calendar and several soft pastel rubbings of a simple flower template.  As I finished this second piece, its meaning suddenly became very clear.  The birds were a loose interpretation of our Healing Art group, of being, indeed, truly seen, heard and understood by our facilitator and fellow participants with whom I’ve formed an undeniably strong bond.  It was actually a fellow participant who shared her perspective that the window in my collage reminded her that we can view in both directions, within ourselves and outward to others, and her perspective fit my depiction perfectly and inspired me to write yet another poem.  I then realized that the soft pastel rubbings of blossoms represented me and my soul, healing, growing, blooming and shining brighter, and this is how “Seeing And Seen” became a blended depiction of both prompts, my vibrant self being truly seen by my Healing Art friends while truly seeing them in return. 


Through an open window,
I am seeing and
I am seen.

Glimpses of
and soul 
and the stories 
in between.

Looking inward… 
a vibrant spirit 

An unfolding
of deep 
and true 

Looking outward…
many wings 

on a migration

by Lisa Handley

I hope you'll share your inspiring experiences of feeling truly seen or truly seeing others...

Monday, April 6, 2015

Lushness Of Possibility

The time I spend creating, contemplating and connecting with others during Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula’s monthly Healing Art retreats is most precious.  Regardless of a lengthy to do list or full calendar, I always try to reserve this time, to allow a few hours to become fully immersed in the intuitive flow of creating expressive art, to follow where it leads and find out what personal significance is revealed in the process.  I’ve been a regular participant in these retreats for over 3 years, and the experience has been tremendously beneficial to my healing and well-being as a lymphoma survivor, mentally, emotionally and physically, too.  I discovered, while receiving treatment, that focusing energy on creativity has a powerfully calming effect on the body.  My blood pressure is normally at lower levels, but it would often rise much higher at the beginning of treatments, then when I turned my attention to tracing and cutting images for notecards, collaging or painting, it would drop back down to a lower level.  Even now, I still bring along art supplies to occupy extra time in the waiting room when appointments are running late at the doctor’s office.  This creative activity helps ease any anxiety I may be experiencing as I wait for test results.  Tapping into creativity and art in all forms can be calming, uplifting, enlightening and healing for any of us!

During the past couple Healing Art retreats (prior to last Thursday’s most recent retreat), I encountered some unexpected and perplexing difficulty in flowing freely with creative energy.  I found myself frustrated and disheartened as my self-critic picked apart my creative process and the end result of the art itself.  My head was getting in the way of my heart!  When we follow our hearts and intuitively create, that’s when our inner wisdom can be heard and the “magic” of deep meaning and insight can occur.  These experiences always have the potential to be very profound and powerful.  Our heads can step in later to  contemplate how the resulting art feels and what it may be expressing.  My stated intention for last Thursday (we always share our intentions for the day with the entire group) was to “go wherever the flow was taking me.”  I welcomed last Thursday's intuitive wave, and riding it was very liberating.  Creating seemed effortless and indeed in the flow which led to meaningful insights and an overall sense of gaining more healing inner wisdom.  

For the first directive, we selected an image or two to incorporate into a mixed media piece.  I selected images of a circular window and dainty flowers which I collaged onto a background of soft pastel rubbings.  In my interpretation of this piece after it was completed, what surfaced were “blossoms” of opportunity visible through an "open window."  The following morning, I felt inspired to write this short poem to accompany this piece...


Through an open window,
I can see the lushness of possibility,

by Lisa Handley

There are, of course, two sides to possibility, the negative, worst case scenario and the positive, favorable outcome.  I've been focused over the past few years on the ongoing inner work of shifting my perspective, more often, to the positive "lushness of possibility."  In doing so, I've discovered that "open windows" always exist if we believe in them, take time to see them and open our hearts to what comes into view.  

When you immerse yourself in intuitive, creative flow, what "lushness of possibility" blooms for you?