My writing/art project (the one I have been working on for 16 and a half years) is unfolding in new, fast and lovely ways. The ghosts are happy and all is locking into place.
The creative process has been a windy, strange and incredible path through a dense and dark forest until now. All of a sudden that path is straightening, flattening, welcoming me to the field- a sunlit meadow of flowers.
I had a stress dream last night that I lost control of the project again. I woke up in a sweat and ultimately a sense of relief that I am the gatekeeper – secure, older, wiser – and the ghosts are safe with me.
I have made a commitment to them to not agree to any new collaboration that feels wrong. To enter into the sharing of the project with open heart and delight. To not agree to anything that does not align with my spirit and with the narrative I have been entrusted to tell.
Pulled an angel card just now and lo and behind- these two popped out.
My latest favourite daily practice is to quickly sketch and then saturate the drawing with watercolour crayon and coffee. I love the feel of the wrinkled page. How the coffee ages the image. The way a drenched drawing has a life of its own – beyond my control.
I am most in love with the drawing’s ghost. What happens on the other side of the page. I am moved by how the resulting image seems to illustrate the concept of fading memory.
“Not only something, but also someone could be there and not there at the same time. And that someone: me.”
Spontaneous drawings may relieve psychological distress, making it easier to attend to things.We like to make sense of our livesby making up coherent stories, but sometimes there are gaps that cannot be filled, no matter how hard we try. Doodles fill these gaps, possibly byactivating the brain’s“time travel machine,” allowing it to find lost puzzle pieces of memories, bringing them to the present, and making the picture of our lives more whole again. With this greater sense of self and meaning, we may be able to feel more relaxed and concentrate more.
I haven’t posted for awhile. That’s not to say I haven’t been writing, drawing, planning, thinking, working.
A new job started January 15 and somehow 5 months have sped by. Work has given me a place to land. During that time there have been some exciting new developments…
Ah, blah blah blah. Fuck that. I don’t need to write that.
I have been thinking a lot lately about death.
Oh my God. That is nothing new. Ugh, start again.
I am sitting in the kitchen at my favorite spot, by my windowsill garden. There are fragrant buds on the jasmine plant. The rosemary and mint are sprouting new branches where I snipped off leaves for cooking and for my water. I do not take this seat, this spot, for granted. My role has changed. And I celebrate that I have been given the gift of …
Ugh. I am just regurgitating the same old musings. That’s OK. That’s what this journal process is all about. But I have been away from it for awhile. And if I haven’t been writing in this online journal, what have I been doing creatively, that is?
I have been stitching.
Thought after thought after thought.
Stitch, stitch, stitch
Obsessed with stitching. And what have I been stitching about, quite obsessively in fact, is that I want to be OK with dying tonight. Not specifically tonight- but “tonight.”
What do I mean by that?
What I mean is that I know I will never complete all that I want to do… and that is OK. If I die tonight, not having completed all I want to do– that has to be OK.
Stitch, stitch, stitch…
What I do know is that I want to relax into life (and death)- relax into its unfolding.
Stitch, stitch, stitch…
Depression has had me by the throat many times. I have desperately tried to find a way to ease my pain. And the fear of the effect of my pain on my family. There have been times I admit, I have forced myself to look forward and walk with an even pace. Simply to get off that proverbial bridge. Death, or thinking about it, has been a way to cope. The option has been a way to get through the day.
Stitch, stitch, stitch…
I have been lucky not to have tried to hide from it- to numb it. My mom needed to numb it. And that is a sadness I will always carry.
Last summer, I made a pact with myself to live life as a second chance. To die into life. To be a ghost. To walk in peace amongst the noise, haste, stress, pain, joy. To understand all the ups, downs. I was so tired of resorting to perseverating thoughts. I made a pact. Life as a second chance.
I realize that dark journeys help me understand the characters I research, and feed my quest of understanding of human nature. The understanding of ghosts I walk among. How else could I walk the path of those I write about?
Stitch, stitch, stitch…
So much happening. With so much to come. What makes me feel this peace? What makes it different now?
I am older. I am old. I am approaching the other side of the staircase.
I am truly blessed to enter this new chapter of my life- I call the chapter putting on the crown.
I am so blessed to have been given the gift of art to use in every aspect of my life. It heals me, it unmasks me, it opens me wide open, it hides me. It allows me to live. And to die into life.
And if I die tonight, I am ok with all the unfinished projects, knowing my life is mine, and my children’s lives are theirs. They are grown. And how incredible is that?
Photo evidence that once upon a time my feet could do this. Grateful for the once upon a time. Grateful to still be here with creaky bones, spreading body, soreness, slowness. I am still here. Grateful. Especially for the discipline that dance taught me.
I have so much I could write about the two days. But for now I will list just a sample of words I scratched furiously into my SKiP sketchbook…
Radical imaginations, weaving process, verbal to visual, resist, politics of care, intersectional framework, history can be a weapon/tool, mutate change, visible thinking, metaphorical typography, critical creativity, Gutenberg Parenthesis, porous pedestrian, kennings, serendipidoodle, fringed oddity,spurned desire, Sanburgian synthesis, scheduled creativity, the way out of the box is the shackles, pareidolia, storytelling ethics, mark making…
I am so excited to build on the connections made at the symposium.
Some photo highlights from my two days:
A huge thank you to Jason Toal and the entire team for including me!
1. CREATE freely. Do what you love. What relaxes you? For me, it is drawing and embroidering.
I recall a piece from 3 years ago:
2. Capture chapter highlights:
There are two main elements that constitute the foundation for this life renewal:
[LIFE REVIEW] The first element is the exploration of what has gone before as a way of clearing the path for what is to come… Life review examines the emotional attachments to the shadows the previous actions cast in the present. This process of looking back needs to be accomplished with very soft eyes and an accepting heart. We need to keep a journal in which we record the bright days of inquiry and insight as well as the dark nights of the soul.
[MINDFULNESS/INSIGHT] The second element is to become more present, more mindful of the process we call our life, cultivating a soft-belly practice as a means of opening to the moment without clinging or resistance… a daily investigation of the heart and mind.
3. Explore another source regarding listening to the messages from the heart:
Thank you Patti Henderson for today’s quote:
When I talk about “creative living” here, please understand that I am not necessarily talking about pursuing a life that is professionally or exclusively devoted to the arts. When I refer to “creative living,” I am speaking more broadly. I’m talking about living a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear.
And while the paths and outcomes of creative living will vary wildly from person to person, I can guarantee you this: A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life and a hell of a lot more interesting life. Living in this manner is a fine art, in and of itself.
Scary, scary, scary Let’s talk about courage now. Because creative living is a path for the brave. And we all know that when courage dies, creativity dies with it. We all know that fear is a desolate boneyard where our dreams go to desiccate in the hot sun. This is common knowledge; sometimes we just don’t know what to do about it.
Let me list for you some of the many ways in which you might be afraid to live a more creative life: You’re afraid you have no talent. You’re afraid you’ll be rejected or criticized or ridiculed or misunderstood or—worst of all—ignored. You’re afraid you don’t have the right kind of discipline. You’re afraid you’re too old to start.
Now you probably think I’m going to tell you that you must become fearless in order to live a more creative life. But I’m not. Creativity is a path for the brave, yes, but it is not a path for the fearless, and it’s important to recognize the distinction.
Of course that doesn’t mean your fear won’t show up. Your fear will always be triggered by your creativity, because creativity asks you to enter into realms of uncertain outcome, and fear hates uncertain outcomes.
The road trip Here’s how I’ve learned to deal with my fear: I made a decision that if I want creativity in my life—and I do—then I will have to make space for fear, too.
Plenty of space.
I decided that I would need to build an expansive enough interior life that my fear and my creativity could peacefully coexist.
“Dearest Fear: Creativity and I are about to go on a road trip. I understand you’ll be joining us, because you always do. I acknowledge that you believe you have an important job to do. But I will also be doing my job, which is to work hard and stay focused. And Creativity will be doing its job, which is to remain stimulating and inspiring. There’s plenty of room in this vehicle for all of us, but understand this: Creativity and I are the only ones who will be making any decisions along the way. You’re not allowed to suggest detours. You’re not allowed to fiddle with the temperature. Dude, you’re not even allowed to touch the radio. But above all else, you are absolutely forbidden to drive.” – Elizabeth Gilbert
To feel the anguish of waiting for the next moment and of taking part in the complex current (of affairs) not knowing that we are headed toward ourselves, through millions of stone beings – of bird beings – of star beings – of microbe beings – of fountain beings toward ourselves.
– Frida Kahlo
I had a real awakening in 1986 when I took the CREATIVE PROCESS class at (what was then called) Emily Carr College of Art and Design with Kitty Mykka. It was a LIFE CHANGING CLASS that introduced me to the theory, practicality and universality of the creative process.
Beware! I now know a language so beautiful and lethal My mouth bleeds when I speak it.
– Gwendolyn MacEwen
Kitty also took my journaling work deeper than I had ever gone before, opening for me a safe personal space in which to process my work and my life.
And as three decades have gone by since that Fall of 1986, I continue to embody the creative process. I often tell my students that process for me is much more important than the end product. That is why I love street art- I put it out there- it will (de)volve as it will. The ongoing process is what intrigues me.
As I approach age 55 in a few weeks, I feel a renewed sense of peace at my core. Not only is my creative process not attached to the outcome- my life is not attached to the outcome. These days, if I feel a sense of angst rise up as I try to juggle all my projects, or look at my bank account, or worry about family and the future, or fall into saudade, or feel guilt for deciding not to pursue certain projects so that I can commit fully to certain partnerships, as I worry I am not prepared for a session, or as I plan the road ahead and feel overwhelmed looking at the to-do list, or as I think think and over-think, or as I work on my graphic novel worrying if I am on the right track, or if I feel helpless to help someone in need- my heart releases and my mind is reMINDed to not be attached to the outcome.
And it is a lesson I try to instill in my art students. It is a way to quiet the inner critic without stifling it. To not be attached to the outcome sets us free to create.
I don’t mean to sound dismissive, but START WRITING. There is NO SUCH THING as “too late” in the arts. Trust me. START. – Patton Oswalt
Is that Self Compassion? Is it maturity? It is PROCESS. TO STAY and LIVE IN THE MOMENT- to (try to) ride it, no matter how difficult that moment might be.
Let your indulgence set me free. – Shakespeare, The Tempest
There is no doubt that art has saved my life. And I am not attached to its outcome.
Catacomb of Veils will be the largest art piece at Burning Man 2016 and one of the largest burned sculptures in the history of the event. Everyone participating in the creation of Catacomb is all-volunteer with a commitment to the transformative power of temporary art. – SOURCE
Part 2 of 4: THE INSPIRATION
As I mentioned in Part 1: The Project–Catacomb of Veils speaks to my passion for the creative process- from the inspiration, to the idea, to the planning, to the development, to the implementation, to the product to the celebration to the release.
Preparation: the problem is investigated in all directions as the thinker readies the mental soil for the sowing of the seeds.
Incubation: no direct effort is exerted upon the problem at hand.
Illumination: connections between the seemingly unconnected.
Verification: testing the validity of the idea and reducing the idea itself to an exact form. [SOURCE]
And personally, research and inspiration (inspiration preceding and evolving out of research)are integral parts of each stage. Inspiration is about ALLOWING the tangents. Going along for the ride with eyes open wide. Catacomb of Veils takes inspiration from the landscape itself. And it inspires our own further research, helps us make connections, pulls out the past, brings us to the present, facilitates contemplation of the future, holds space to grieve, immerses us in magic and allows us to let go through temporary nature.
For example, let’s take a look at the word Catacombs.
What are they? Will investigating them enrich our understanding of the creative process of the Catacomb of Veils project? Enrich our connection to it? Where does your mind go as you get inspired by this project?
Inside Out Project Summer 2015 was made possible by a generous grant from the Province of British Columbia – Ministry of Justice: Victim Services and Crime Prevention Division
INSIDE OUT PROJECT- OWN YOUR JOURNEY: breaking the cycle of violence through creativity Activities Report
Location: Mountainside Secondary School, North Vancouver, BC, Canada
Ian Powell: photography, digital media
Kat Thorsen: therapeutic art
Erin Ross: animation
The Inside Out Project Summer 2015 was a three-week intensive arts-based program for youth ages 13-20. Using therapeutic art, photography and stop motion animation participants were taught skills in self-empowerment, peer-to-peer interaction, and how to make healthy, non-violent choices. The goal for the Inside Out Project was to help youth-at-risk address the root causes of violence (with a special focus on violence against women) through creative expression.
Arts-based prevention programs allow for alternative experiences of what life can be like, helping at-risk students discover their own talents and creative energy and providing opportunities to develop their inner resources and explore new options for the future. Using a rich and creative curriculum around the themes of violence prevention, self-actualization, empowerment and creativity– facilitators of the Inside Out Project encourage participants to own their journeys.
The Inside Out Project engages participants with the arts, allowing for successful experiences on which to build the resilience and psychological hardiness as well as providing tools to be able to better meet personal and community challenges and to make healthy, non-violent choices.
Between July 6 and July 24, 2015, 11 participants completed the three-week curriculum.
Week 1 Highlights
• Chalk Talk: How does violence affect how people live their lives?
• Photography introduction
• Vancouver Police Foundation Mounted Squad field trip
• Art journals
• Discussion and reflection on Shane Koyczan’s Ted Talk: To this day- for the bullied and the beautiful.
• #BESTYOUth Emotional Intelligence Workshop (with guest facilitator, Laura Mack)
LIFE SKILLS addressed during the three-week curriculum included:
o Anxiety tools
o Emotional intelligence
o Behavioral pattern recognition
o Chalk talk
o Peer to peer counseling
o Project planning
o Mind mapping
o Interview skills
o Creative process and expression.
CHALK TALK defined:
Three groups of 3-4 students work on three sheets of large paper, silently writing on the topic: how does violence affect how people live their lives? Each group moves at regular intervals to each of the three sheets- adding their thoughts and reflections on existing work. A large group discussion follows. The discussion and subsequent key points serve as a starting point for the final group video project around the theme of violence prevention.
FINAL GROUP VIDEO PROJECT OUTLINE:
Title: Inside Out Project- Own Your Journey
Subtitle: Breaking the Cycle of Violence Through Creativity
Chalk Talk: footage and audio (participant interviews)
Like nothing mattered other than drugs. Honestly, I didn’t even care about myself. I didn’t care about what I did. I didn’t care about going to jail. I didn’t care about dying. I didn’t care about anything. I just cared about using. And that is not who I am. It’s crazy how different it made me, like, I don’t think I would recognize myself I saw myself on the street like that.
Well, like, I guess when I’m being creative, it lets me let out all my emotions and like everything that I’m thinking, just like, let me be crazy on a page or whatever… and like when I used heroin it would, like, take it into me again. It wouldn’t let it out. It would just shove it back down and make me feel better that way. Instead of expressing it. That’s why I think I should probably do more art.
The Inside Out Project run by Kat Thorsen, Erin Ross, and Ian Powell this July truly changed my life. Two days before the program started I lost a friend to a heroin overdose. I could have chosen to fall back into my own heroin addiction but the Inside Out Project helped me stay strong throughout this hard time in my life. Honestly, I don’t think I would have made it through without the love, support and whole-hearted care everyone in the program gave me. The Inside Out Project saved me from myself. It saved my life. – Miko
• Vancouver Police Department Mounted Squad field trip: tour with Cst. Darcy Henkel, discussion on violence prevention and use of horses, as well as photo essay opportunities. PHOTO ESSAY LINK: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAE1F99nQXM
• Operation Sock Monkey (OSM) craftivism workshop: OSM is a volunteer-run initiative in support of humanitarian organizations that provide laughter, hope and healing to communities around the world affected by disease, disaster and social/political turmoil.
• #BESTYOUth- Growing Together (ViRTUS /TELUS ®): emotional intelligence workshop with guest facilitator Laura Mack.
Key learnings from #BESTYOUth:
o Get to know your best self
o You always have a choice
o Your values are your inner GPS
o You can learn how not to snap
A SMALL SAMPLING OF PROGRAM MOMENTS:
Wow- even though I KNOW, from years of experience, that art heals, art builds connections and art saves lives- experiencing it again and again never ceases to amaze me. I just completed a three week intensive with 11 amazing youth. (I am so honored to have worked with you all!) It takes a lot of courage to dig deep and these 11 youth certainly did that. Watching them develop and form connections in these past three weeks has certainly been a highlight in my career as therapeutic art facilitator. [Special mention to Miko Philip for bravely sharing her personal story on which we could build our creative expression.] Here is their final project video on the theme of “breaking the cycle of violence through creativity.” Huge thank you’s as well to Ian Powell,Erin Ross for developing and facilitating this program with me. And thank you’s to Lenore Kane and Laura Mack for adding significant enrichment to it. – Katarina Thorsen, July 24, 2015
INSIDE OUT PROJECT: OWN YOUR JOURNEY- Breaking the cycle of violence through creativity
Inside Out Project – Own Your Journey SUMMER 2015is a three week intensive arts-based program running out of Mountainside Secondary School (July 6-24, 2015) for youth ages 13-20 that uses the vehicles of therapeutic art, photography and stop motion animation to teach life and transferable skills while developing self-empowerment, peer to peer interaction, community connections and by providing tools to make healthy, non-violent choices. The goal for Inside Out is to help students address the root causes of violence (with a special focus on violence against women) through creative expression. The program allows students to creatively reflect on self, to work in a team and to experience critical engagement and transformative changes that shift their attitudes and behaviors in order to prevent violence. Three experienced facilitators (Ian Powell, Erin Ross, Kat Thorsen) provide instruction and support.
The program begins with a focus on self, moves into teamwork and ultimately into community.
Week 1: SELF
Photography, therapeutic art, journaling, drawing to focus on self-regulation and creative process
Week 2: TEAM
Team building, project planning, stop motion animation, self and group-directed learning
Week 3: COMMUNITY
Project completion, self-evaluation, community outreach, presentation and celebration
I love that I can have a sit down with my heroes on a warm Saturday night and just shoot the shit. Tonight we contemplated creativity, the artist and the why.
Here are some highlights:
I believe that we all have strands of creative code hard-wired into our imaginations. These strands are as solidly imprinted in us as the genetic code that determines our height and eye color, except they govern our creative impulses. They determine the forms we work in, the stories we tell, and how we tell them. I’m not Watson and Crick; I can’t prove this. But perhaps you also suspect it when you try to understand why you’re a photographer, not a writer,or why you always insert a happy ending into your story, or why all your canvases gather the most interesting material at the edges, not the center. In many ways, that’s why art historians and literature professors and critics of all kinds have jobs; to pinpoint the artist’s DNA and explain to the rest of us whether that artist is being true to it in his or her work. I call it DNA; you may think of it as your creative hard-wiring or personality. – Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit
The practice of any art demands more that mere savoir faire. One must not only be in love with what one does, one must also know how to make love. In love self is obliterated. Only the beloved counts. Whether the beloved be a bowl of fruit, a pastoral scene, or the interior of a bawdy house makes no difference. One must be in it and of it wholly. Before a subject can be transmuted aesthetically it must be devoured and absorbed. If it is a painting it must perspire with ecstacy… The anatomy books will tell you one thing, or many things, but looking at an eye or an ear to render it in form, texture, color yields quite another kind of knowledge. Suddenly you see– it’s not an eye or an ear but a little universe composed of the most extraordinary elements having nothing to do with sight or hearing, with flesh, bone, muscle, cartilage. – Henry Miller, To Paint is to Love Again
… these grandmothers and mothers of ours were not Saints, but Artists; driven to a numb and bleeding madness by the springs of creativity in them for which there was no release. They were Creators, who lived lives of spiritual waste, because they were so rich in spirituality- which is the basis of Art– that the strain of enduring their unused and unwanted talent drove them insane…. What did it mean for a black woman to be an artist in our grandmothers’ time? In our great-grandmothers’ day? It is a question with an answer cruel enough to stop the blood… Our mothers and grandmothers have, more often than not anonymously, handed on the creative spark, the seed of the flower they themselves never hoped to see; or like a sealed letter they could not plainly read. – Alice Walker, In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens
There is no such thing as motivation in my world. As an artist, I am driven, I am compelled, I am thrust forward by a force so rooted inside me, so convincing, that it seems futile to try to explain it. Although it has a name: passion. Passion is the mortar that holds my creative assemblies together. It is the motor of my actions. Because it is in perpetual motion, it has an impatient edge to it. It is urgent. And because it invites my arts to grow, it is essential. – Philipe Petit, Creativity- the perfect crime
Walking my old dog in Stanley Park today oh so slowly. My body brutalized by flu. Every joint aching. My head pounding with a migraine. Can there be creativity in that? If I can stay truly present- not deny it or be annoyed by it- what words come out? Where does my mind go if I ride this? I let the words flow and type them into my iPhone…
These ghosts and angels
These relics of the past
This hope and the hopeless
The gentle and crass.
The pterodactyl yawning
The weight of the bus
The root and the rooted
The foot of a tree
The story left buried
Released not yet free
Let me just lie here a little while on this dirt floor shh… shh.. at the foot of this tree with a root for a pillow shh… shh… let me just close my eyes and try to stop the pain and nausea, pull a leaf over to over my shoulder, curl my left arm around my old dog shh… shh… let me just lie here awhile in the shelter of the rhododendron bush. I don’t ask for much just a few minutes of shh… shh… and the root can wrap around us and pull us deep deep down into the dirt floor and I’ll just shh… shh… be here forever…
You will then email me a shipping address and I will create your unique journal. It will take about 3-4 weeks to receive it.
Group rates available for 5 or more.
And yes- you can then share these exercises. And share your results with me! I’d love to see where you take it! There is no right or wrong- just freedom! My goal is to spread the empowering/expressive force of creative journaling!
Bliss- walking my old dog slowly, oh so slowly, in our West End neighborhood listening to the sweet song of the white-throated sparrow. Miraculous.
I walk with a smile on my face. I am filled with self-love for truly the first time in my life. I know my own worth and I can sing it from the rooftops. Today. For today is all I have, and that is beautiful! And lo and behold-
The sparrow reflects self-worth. If a Sparrow totem has entered your life, ask yourself if you know your own self-worth. The sparrow will show you that even a common little bird can triumph.
The song sparrow reflects the chakra energy awakening from the heart and throat. It reminds us to sing out our own song of dignity and self-worth. [source]
The Sparrow is ever vigilant in her goals. She is always bustling for her food, foraging for her nests, and gathering for her young. Fastidious and productive, the Sparrow is a reminder that idle hands (and idle minds) should be avoided in order to live a full, healthy life.
She is a master of flight, and camouflage, and as such the Sparrow teaches us to use our creativity to get around in life – think outside the box, and be creative in solving our problems.
As an bird totem, the Sparrow speaks of higher thoughts and ideals. She beckons us to keep our burdens as light as we can in order to avoid a heavy heart. [source]
Birds hold so much meaning to me. And they always feel like messengers, telling me to pay strict attention.
Sunday AM.Woke up at 6:30.Showered, prepped.Cozy.Slept so well as the room was inviting, the bed so comfortable and the light so right.Going to grab a coffee while I can and then come back and savour these moments in the cabin.
Chatted with others in the kitchen about fathers and death.Such camaraderie in that.Prepping for 8:30 start on the Raven drawing.
After breakfast, we sat in opening circle and pulled Goddess cards.
Participant 1 pulled “Mary Magdalene” and that message certainly resonated with what this participant focused on this weekend: self-love/heal the situation with love.
Participant 2 pulled “Mother Earth.”Though the message at first seemed environmental and about taking care of the planet, upon reflection it also became about taking care of the self and the inner world.
Laura pulled “Sorceress”- making complete sense to me. I love watching Laura move into new, richer, visible leadership.Trust.I am so blessed to watch my dear friend blossom and expand her work.
Participant 3 pulled “True Love”- a card that shone with the message of the gift of staying in the present.
I pulled LEAP OF FAITH- again!!!Take a risk and put your heart’s true desire into action!
Our drawing session began with a Raven drawing and unfolded into an image of grounded perspective and reflecting the work we have been doing around archetypes.Water (LOVER), Earth (WARRIOR), Raven (MAGICIAN), Crown (SOVEREIGN).
A bio break and then snack time with Saria’s delicious muffins and blueberries plus crumble and whipped cream.Bliss.
Laura has taken us into more perspectives around the work we have been focusing on at this retreat- providing tools to carry with us as we “re-enter” our lives.Clean Talk, Clear Actions.
We are now journaling around what awaits us as we step back into the world.
Deep breaths.Address a piece at a time.In small steps.TRUST.Trust that I am taken care of.This pause from my daily life certainly feels cleansing, but certainly stepping back into it feels slightly ominous because this experience truly allowed me to take a real emotional dive/mental break from TV/Phone/To-do Lists/Worry/Fear- is it possible to allow myself to carry this lesson forward into my life “on the mainland”?To be cleansed by this LEAP OF FAITH?
Filling this journal with stream of consciousness and drawings has been the greatest feeling.Dancing again, teaching, creating, being together, being in the structure of the yurt during processes, pausing and being, being nourished by this welcoming land, being nourished by glorious food, being taken care of but also leading, guiding, sharing who I am as a creative force.
It is Sunday AM and I am tired. A plane flies overhead.Reminds me that tonight I do not open my computer or prep for the week.Leave that to tomorrow.The yurt is being pelted by leaves.Loud leaves.
The participants role played and practiced clean talk.
Then off to a beautiful Mexican lunch with Saria.We presented her with our art piece: Creative Prayer and I read her “A Breakfast for Barbarians” by Gwendolyn MacEwen. To me, the poetry of Gwendolyn MacEwen partnered perfectly with this retreat and this particular poem was a perfect thank you to Saria.
my friends, my sweet barbarians,
there is that hunger which is not for food —
but an eye at the navel turns the appetite
with visions of some fabulous sandwich,
the brain’s golden breakfast
eaten with beasts
with books on plates
let us make an anthology of recipes,
let us edit for breakfast
our most unspeakable appetites —
let us pool spoons, knives
and all cutlery in a cosmic cuisine,
let us answer hunger
with boiled chimera
and apocalyptic tea,
an arcane salad of spiced bibles,
tossed dictionaries —
(O my barbarians
we will consume our mysteries)
and can we, can we slake the gaping eye of our desires?
we will sit around our hewn wood table
until our hair is long and our eyes are feeble,
eating, my people, O my insatiates,
eating until we are no more able
to jack up the jaws any longer —
to no more complain of the soul’s vulgar cavities,
to gaze at each other over the rust-heap of cutlery,
Laura shared more tools to sustain the experience of the retreat and we reviewed our original intentions from Friday evening.
My original intentions:
Stillness of the heart
I truly feel I have met my own intentions during this retreat.I allowed the fears to come up and I met them with love and stillness.I navigated the journey with Laura with ease, being present to changing currents.I allowed myself to welcome back the dancer.I even sang!I know that I now infuse and exude all the lessons of my life and I can maintain my intentions to be present, to allow, to have stillness of the heart. I immerse myself in the creative process- not to escape but to simply BE- to allow stillness, connection, action, results and move back and forth through the spiral.No judgment.
The SIMPLICITY in all this is that I have gifts that I love to share and those gifts are my guardians.I am safe.I am me.I am taken care of by the peacefulness of the creative process, by the stillness of knowledge, by the trust.
That is one thing I’d like to share with the group: TRUST.When the fear arises, fall back to stillness and trust. Unravel the past from the present, from the future, the depression from the anxiety from the peace and give them all space to dance and breathe together, to let it all BREATHE.
After lunch, Laura took two participants through the Symbols Way process. Beautiful and profound moments and insights.
We had a labyrinth drawing break before dinner- we added the labyrinths to the Cyclops Goddess. A friend came by who lives on Bowen Island and joined us for dinner; she gave me a beautiful book as a gift from her SFU class: The Flight of the Hummingbird. Again- magical connections as the theme of the book is the power of taking small steps to achieve a big goal. “I am doing what I can.” – Dukdukdiya. Recall the LEAP OF FAITH theme this weekend!
After a lovely salmon dinner and chats about restorative justice and all that good stuff, we headed back to the yurt for the final process. I loved the experience of scribing for the participants and gathering information for them as a take away tool. Then dessert and I moved my things into the Writer’s Retreat cabin to have the experience of that cozy lodging.
At 9 PM we all returned to the yurt to dance. Intense muscle memory came back and I literally gave myself to the dance. I was stunned, relieved, at ease, grateful… Obviously, I will feel it in my joints and muscles tomorrow [I actually didn’t! My body is loose and pain free] but my soul was thankful to revisit the dancer- who is seemingly alive and well.
How could I have left her so dormant?
She wasn’t dead. She was dormant.
Like the floor of Death Valley covered in flowers after a rare rainfall. Seemingly nothing grows there until the right conditions arrive.
I allowed myself to welcome back the dancer- “dance” in the schedule was the one thing that made me hesitate more than the anticipation of darkness.
PART 4 October 18, 2014 SATURDAY AFTERNOON: THE SYMBOLS WAY
Laura took each participant through the EXTRAORDINARY POWERFUL process called the Symbols Way. I find the process not only a valuable tool for self-exploration, but a paradigm shifting exercise that changes the way I view my life. The imagery is so rich, so tangible. Laura brings such depth and safety and beauty into the facilitation. I loved scribing the processes for the participants through mind-mapping. Each process took a little under two hours.
Sample of the mind map I created for myself when I went through the process with Barbara Cecil and Laura- the process truly a gift I treasure forever:
“At a personal level, The Symbols Way is a way to reflect on your calling, unique to the phase of life you are in. the process yields personal clarity, rooted in one’s central core of meaning. At an organizational level it reviews current reality and reaches into relevant and meaningful possibilities for the future.”
Part 3 October 18, 2014 SATURDAY MIDDAY: THE CYCLOPS GODDESS
Laura explained the Symbols Way process and got us in the frame of mind to fully enter the process this afternoon.
As part of our facilitation posters, I had reflected the 4 archetypes in my own way, and I feel the imagery I chose worked well within our natural Xenia landscape:
But before each participant was taken through the Symbols Way process individually, we dove into more messy creative process. I took the participants through my chakra drawing exercise— taken from previous lessons I have shared with other students. I love building and re-interpreting.
We drew a human figure and then went on to drawing a 3-D eye. We wrote the chakra chart and started incorporating the lessons thus far. It was truly a GO WITH IT exercise, creating a CYCLOPS GODDESS that we just kept layering on top of!
Of course, I had to look up the meaning of the CYCLOPS to see why she was appearing:
Blind, yet seeing. Ego vs spiritual enlightenment.
CYCL: the circle, the wheel.
HERE WE GO. More magic! How appropriate that the words in the chant we sang on the way to the sanctuary last night were:
We’re spiralling into the circle, the circle of our wheel.
We’re spiralling into the circle, the circle of our wheel.
We are the weavers, we are the woven ones,
We are the dreamers, we are the dream.
We are the children, we are the chosen ones,
We are all part of the web.
We also journaled around the matrilineal question: What was your mother’s name? And if you know them, your grandmother and your great grandmother’s names? What are some qualities you or others associate with each of these women? This was a great way to “set the scene” for beginning the Symbols Way process.
6:30 AM The darkness did not overwhelm me last night. The porch lights from next door were enough to illuminate to make me feel calm. At times my heart wanted to race but I breathed through it. Amazing.
My sleep was like skipping stones though. Perhaps tonight I will feel safe to fully fall asleep.
Laura woke everyone up with a GONG! We are still in silence. The breath I felt in the sanctuary was one of the best moments of silence- felt like the deepest heart-est breaths.
Laura just came back with a surprise cup of coffee. Bliss.
At 7 am we have breakfast in silence then at 8 meet for walking to the labyrinth (still in silence) then to the yurt for opening circle…
Before breakfast I walked with my coffee to the yurt. I keep being pulled to it. Set up the archetypes using iPhone compass to fully align with NSEW directions.
I then stood for a long time leaning on the fence looking out over the meadow, feeling Mamma and Pappa.
Ready to let go of pain and unhappiness. Just allow the joy of my childhood to be what now lifts me. I am loved and I am deserving. I am a daughter. A woman in very aspect. I am “the mother.” There is no power or fear in that. I full step into me. Let go and start fresh yet carry on. To be in this childhood summerhouse-type setting is powerful. I have a ball in my throat and tears behind my eyes that need to burst forth but sitting at breakfast now.
Recalling dinner by Saria last night. Exquisite. Shepherd’s pie, mixed salad (with everything from the garden), beets in orange juice and vinegar… baked glazed pears with whipped cream, fresh muffins. I just want to keep writing but I need to pause. Grab a cup of coffee and make sure I eat. The breakfast spread: everything including grilled avocados with egg. I had muffins, granola, yoghurt, fresh fruit. A participant sits beside me. Voraciously reading about the history of the property. I love her curiosity, and tireless quest for knowledge. A kindred spirit that needs to ingest, to feed on life through research.
This experience is intensely safe. Comforting. Excited about the day ahead.
The labyrinth walk in silence. Profound. The walk in, I had scattered thoughts, breathing into this early morning musings by the meadow. In the centre, I felt peace and clarity and white light. I cried throughout the walk outward, grieving, mourning, letting go. Holding, releasing, allowing.
“The poet Marianne Moore famously wrote of ‘real toads in imaginary gardens,’ and the labyrinth offers us the possibility of being real creatures in symbolic space…In such spaces as the labyrinth we cross over [between real and imaginary spaces]; we are really travelling, even if the destination is only symbolic.”
― Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking
I picked up two mottled leaves as I started to walk outward. They represent Mamma and Pappa as they entered the last few days before their hearts stopped.
But did they stop? Did the family not just pick up the beat as we synchronized with them? I had my ear to mom’s chest as her heart stopped. But I beat with it and carried it on for her.
How could I not consider this life that I have truly miraculous and worth living? Truly miraculous and always worth living.
Opening circle and breaking silence in the yurt at 9 AM. We reflected on our dreams, our experience in the sanctuary and at the labyrinth. Laura introduced the Symbols Way and the 4 archetypes that we will focus on this weekend- encouraging us to ask ourselves:
Where are you now?
What archetype are you not so in touch with?
Our first art-making session included mark-making and revisiting the labyrinth by tracing our steps on top of my drawing. Delicious.
“Show not what has been done, but what can be. How beautiful the world would be if there were a procedure for moving through labyrinths.”
― Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose
Stay tuned for Part 3: Saturday late morning- Cyclops Goddess and the Matrilineal question to set the stage for Symbols Way…
“THE MOTHER-DAUGHTER RELATIONSHIP is at the headwaters of every woman’s health. Our bodies and our beliefs about them were formed in the soil of our mother’s emotions, beliefs, and behaviors. To become optimally healthy and happy, each of us must get clear about the ways in which our mother’s history both influenced and continues to inform our state of health, our beliefs, and how we live our lives. Every woman who heals herself helps heal all the women who came before her and all those who will come after her.” – Dr. Christiane Northup
And for information on more workshops and retreats!
A HUGE THANK YOU TO LAURA FOR PROVIDING THIS OPPORTUNITY FOR ME.
SPECIAL THANK YOU Saria, and to Angelyn, Loretta, Fran and Lorena
Here are some journal excerpts so you can get a small glimpse as to how powerful the experience was for me.
October 17, 2014 FRIDAY
Sitting in the kitchen at Xenia with Laura as Saria makes Shepherd’s Pie. We took the 11 AM ferry- lunch at Artisan’s Square then to Xenia to prep and settle. Expecting guests at 6:30 and the large Yurt is all set up.
Everyone has arrived. Angelyn comes to visit as we wait for dinner and talks about the history of Xenia.
Opening circle after dinner (checkins, intros, intentions, expectations, What is the crossroads that you find yourself at this time?) We chanted and sang as we walked in the rain to the Sanctuary.
Laura read a beautiful quote on LISTENING. We then went into SILENCE (to end at 9 AM opening circle on Saturday after breakfast). We sat in silence for many many pregnant minutes. Ok- so THIS is indeed SILENCE.
We walked back to the lodge and ate dessert. I walked to the yurt to get my journal and enjoy the space for awhile. I am now back at the Maple Lodge (sharing it tonight with Laura)- prepping for bed.
I had panicked at the sanctuary- that familiar trigger as the darkness felt like a black pool of ink floating above me and descending. But I found I could stay with it. I breathed deep breaths in time with my heart and I was right back to being with my parents at their last breaths. My heart beat with theirs and as theirs slowed mine carried on- carried on beating for them.
But I am now feeling angst come up as I anticipate turning out the lights.
Xenia is inviting me to feel safe. Enveloping me in magic. And I am ready to see it, hear it, experience it and give myself to it.
Recall seeing two deer– gentleness, move through life and obstacles with grace, sensitive, intuitive, ability to change directions quickly, to be in touch with life’s mysteries.
Recall seeing the little frog trying to get in through our door at Maple Lodge.
“As symbol of transition and transformation, this spirit animal supports us in times of change. Strongly associated with the water element, it connects us with the world of emotions and feminine energies, as well as the process of cleansing, whether it’s physical, emotional, or more spiritual or energetic.” [source]
I took the frog as an invite to dive into creative process- and as a reminder that this weekend is a leap of faith on our part. He was a small frog- ie. small steps, take it easy. Recall that Laura drew the Aine: Leap of Faith goddess card yesterday and I drew it today… [I drew it again on Sunday!] Hello!
“Allow yourself to trust that the Universe will support and guide you where you need to be. Virtue recommends going on a nature walk, meditating, or praying to aid in making a decision upon what your heart truly desires. Once making that decision, the Universe will provide for you! You will begin to see helpers come your way, sudden opportunities opening up for you, or even books that can help you along your journey. But none of this will happen if you do not take action steps and get started on fulfilling your dreams. Do not get overwhelmed. Breakdown your goals into smaller tasks to complete over a period of time. Be gentle and kind to yourself, but remain focused.” [source]
It was interesting falling into silence— very liquidly somehow. Texting, mumbling, writing may not be full silence- but hey one step at a time. OK- lights out. Be still my heart. The deer and frog protect.
Stay tuned for Part 2 Saturday morning…
And for information on more workshops and retreats!
We will provide you with tools for gaining insight and shifting perspective using inspiring themes such as archetype symbology and shadow-work. Self-reflection activities will take you deeper into your own journey while group experiences expand your mindset.
Laura will share authentic leadership exercises to assist you in gaining perspective on your personal and professional challenges. Kat will guide you through creative process and expression and will facilitate those precious aha moments we all love to celebrate.
What we’re offering you is a weekend of Safety, Gentleness, Nurturing, Discovery and a wee bit of Wildness!
“My mission is to create opportunities for inspiration & transformation.”
Laura is a business consultant, facilitator and writer. She has a broad understanding of both the rewards and challenges of entrepreneurial life as well as the corporate and non-profit sectors. Laura is an associate consultant with ViRTUS, and Authentic Leadership Global, Inc. She brings a variety of facilitation, strategic planning, team building and leadership tools into her practice. Known as a connector, Laura is passionate about sharing her experiences with ‘netweaving’, actively connecting those with similar interests and activities. She also is a volunteer facilitator of restorative justice with the North Shore Restorative Justice Society.
“My mission is to awaken creative expression through global art initiatives.”
Kat is a Vancouver artist, craftivst and therapeutic art facilitator and is passionate in her belief that art can heal and build connections. Kat facilitates arts and crafts workshops for all ages across the Lower Mainland and coordinates Frames Film Project, an arts-based program providing life- and employment skills for local at-risk youth. Her popular interactive art events and street art encourages participants to become part of the creative process. Kat published her first book, Drawn Together- Maintaining Connections and Navigating Life’s Challenges with Art in 2013. Her next book is a true crime analysis and graphic novel based on her research into a historical Vancouver murder mystery.
The Labyrinth is an Archetype, a divine imprint found in spiritual traditions in various forms around the world. By walking the labyrinth we are discovering a long forgotten mystical tradition which becomes a metaphor for our own spiritual journey. The walk is a shared journey – an activity which communities can do together to coalesce and unify vision. The labyrinth is a mandala that meets our longing for a change of heart; for a change of ways in how we live together and for the energy, the vision, and the courage to become agents of transformation.
I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wandering awed about on a splintered wreck I’ve come to care for, whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions, and whose beauty bats and shines not in its imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them.
― Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
Experience self-discovery, connection and the glorious insights that being in nature provides as we embrace the gorgeous BC rainforest and island setting of Xenia Centre.
You will be nurtured by amazing fresh food and our Xenia host Saria will be available throughout the weekend to provide healing sessions.
Why Xenia? “Xenia” stands for the cross-pollenation of ideas between guest and host. It means hospitality and being friends to the stranger. Xenia has always opened its doors and heart to whomever finds their way down here. Xenia Centre is a gift to humanity, evoking service, she offers back peace, presence and a direct experience of ones true nature. Through so much love and attention being poured into her, Xenia has impacted the lives of thousands from around the world. This is truly a sacred place, a place that brings us home. In 1994, a young widow with a small child risked all to convert a dilapidated old sheep farm into one of the worlds most beautiful and unique sanctuaries. Against all financial advice, she followed her souls yearning to service this mission, the dream of Xenia called Angelyn to its birth.
Would you like to spend an evening exploring the healing power of human connection through a gentle introduction to netweaving and creative expression? Bridge for Healthand the Burnaby Public Library present this free workshop by an authentic leader and facilitator Laura Mack, and therapeutic art facilitator Kat Thorsen.
Laura Mack is a businessconsultant, facilitator and writer. She has a broad understanding of both the rewards and challenges of entrepreneurial life as well as the corporate and non-profit sectors. She is passionate about sharing her experiences with ‘netweaving’, actively connecting those with similar interests and activities. She also is a volunteer facilitator of restorative justice with the North Shore Restorative Justice Society.
Katarina (Kat) Thorsen, is a Vancouver artist, craftivist and therapeutic art facilitator and is passionate in her belief that art can heal and build connections. Kat facilitates arts and crafts workshops for all ages across the Lower Mainland and coordinates Frames Film Project, an arts-based program providing life- and employment skills for local at-risk youth. She published her first book, Drawn Together- Maintaining Connections and Navigating Life’s Challenges with Art in 2013.
Authentic human connection is paramount to our well-being and general overall health, and we can actively seek out it out through netweaving. Netweaving is the evolution of networking, allowing for more authentic connection, genuine communication and caring interaction. During this two-hour workshop, you will open your heart and experience the healing power of interaction through netweaving exercises, hands-on tools, group discussion and gentle creative expression. You’ll have an opportunity to meet some really amazing people, share what you’re most passionate about, and have some fun & laughter.
Registration is required. Please to register call 604-436-5400 or register online.
My daily regiment must always include a dose of Stephen Fry. It balances me.
I used many times to touch my own chest and feel, under its asthmatic quiver, the engine of the heart and lungs and blood and feel amazed at what I sensed was the enormity of the power I possessed. Not magical power, not all that Carrie teenage telekinetic wank, but real power. The power simply to go on, the power to endure, that is power enough, but I felt I had also the power to create, to add, to delight, to amaze and to transform. Yet I was unwanted, rejected and unthought of. My mother, yes, she believed in me, but everybody’s mother believes in them. No one else believed in me.
Principally of course—oh how one sees that now—myself. Principally, I did not believe in me. I believed in ghosts more than I believed in me, and take my word for it, I never believed in ghosts, I’m far too spiritual and emotional and passionate to believe in the supernatural.
I have a strong need for “cave time”, for cocooning, for processing. And now that I’m 50, I plan to work on allowing more of that time WITHOUT GUILT. For truly, the time spent alone with gentle input and voracious creative output is time VERY WELL SPENT.
Today’s dream statement: I will spend more time on my private island.
I just spent a cozy hour on my bed, surrounded by research, writing in my journal, drinking my coffee and just being. Trust me, it helps soothe those racing thoughts that always threaten to vice your heart when you first wake up. I know we are all in different chapters of our lives, with a variety of people and things that need our attention and time the minute we open our eyes.
But now that I’m 50, I savour this moment- having worked inordinately hard for so many years to simply get to spend this particular hour deliciously alone- RIGHT NOW, on a Sunday morning.
I have never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude. We are for the most part more lonely when we go abroad among men than when we stay in our chambers. A man thinking or working is always alone, let him be where he will. – Thoreau