From the heart- a 15-day journal exercise Part 5

I dedicate today’s post to my soul-sister Patti Henderson and to our deep HEART chats.

I am re-reading Stephen Levine‘s A Year to Live- how to live this year as if it were your last as a personal exercise schedule to take time to slow down and truly listen to my heart.


Part 1: Catching Up with Your Life

Part 2: Practice Dying

Part 3: Preparing to Die

Part 4: Dying from the Common Cold

Part 5: Renewing Evolution

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:







From the heart- a 15-day journal exercise Part 4

I am re-reading Stephen Levine‘s A Year to Live- how to live this year as if it were your last as a personal exercise schedule to take time to slow down and truly listen to my heart.



Part 1: Catching Up with Your Life

Part 2: Practice Dying

Part 3: Preparing to Die

Part 4: Dying from the Common Cold

1. Draw the pain:

Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is.
– German Proverb

I recall an exercise I made up in August 2012 as I journaled:

“Waking up with the cannonball weight of anxiety and fear in your chest?  Racing thoughts about all the usual?  Worried that you won’t be able to deliver all you have promised?  That you don’t have enough resources?  Financially, physically, spiritually?  Forgetting to live in the moment and over-thinking the future?  Scattered and feeling disorganized?  You know…  All that typical familiar stuff that builds a wall of fear around you. Well, that’s me this AM.  So I tried this.  I drew an outline.”

Drew in where the fear sits the strongest.

Then gently erased.

Easy.  Breathed through.  Decreased the tension.  Softened.

2. Capture chapter highlights:

Watch the shadows gather in the aching body.  Hear them mutter in complaint and self-pity.

Pity arises from meeting pain with fear.  Compassion comes when you meet it with love…

When we begin to respond to discomfort instead of reacting to it, an enormous change occurs.  We begin to experience it not as just “our” pain but as “the” pain… When it’s “my” unworthiness I feel unworthy to explore it.  But when it’s “the” unworthiness– the pain so many struggle with– compassion flows naturally towards it…

When it’s “the” pain, it has the whole universe to float in, when it’s “my” pain, I’m standing alone in it.

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3. Explore another source regarding listening to the messages from the heart:


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By learning about anxiety, spending time with it and finally holding in your hand, you can enjoy the next step: You can relax your grip, and let it fall away. It will have served its purpose. You will have loved that part of yourself and it won’t need to get your attention with such a difficult message again.

You will be connected. That’s the first gift.

The second gift is that feeling connected and with realizing that you’re enough can lead you to a cycle of inner fullness. It can give you an easy-to-remember awareness that you’re up for this, whatever the next exciting challenge or painful event may be.

The third gift of anxiety is that it gets you to recognize your own power with, instead of power over, yourself and your life.

All you had to do was listen… – Ariella Baston

4. Today’s angel card:

Robin’s egg bowl by Alison Donnelly

From the heart- a 15-day journal exercise: Part 3

I am re-reading Stephen Levine‘s A Year to Live- how to live this year as if it were your last as a personal exercise schedule to take time to slow down and truly listen to my heart.


Part 1: Catching Up with Your Life

Part 2: Practice Dying

Part 3: Preparing to Die

1. Embroider your heart

Here is a PDF of one of my drawings for you to print out: Heart

Color it.  –> Cut it out.  –> Glue it on card stock.  –> Cut it out again.  –> Embroider!




Photo by Erin Banda




Check out:

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2. Capture chapter highlights:

If you had only one year to live, what would you do?

[I think about the beautiful, heartbreaking, incredible mother-daughter year my mother and I had from her diagnosis of pancreatic cancer November 2007 to her death November 2008.]

… To have a whole year to examine one’s life consciously in the context of approaching death is almost unique in the human experience…

As we begin to see where we have been absent from life, increasing possibilities audition for our approval.  The heart suggests that we become more present, that we sharpen our focus…

Those who insist they’ve got their “shit together” are usually standing in it at the time…

Sometime it takes a journey to come home.  We may even have to leave our comfortable (though always rented, never owned) domicile to do it.  Life is like that and so is death…

Thus, in the one year experiment… focus, instead, on the heart that loves as is.  This means completing one life before we start another, taking one evolutionary leap at a time.

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3. Explore another source regarding listening to the messages from the heart:

WE ALREADY HAVE everything we need. There is no need for self-improvement. All these trips that we lay on ourselves—the heavy-duty fearing that we’re bad and hoping that we’re good, the identities that we so dearly cling to, the rage, the jealousy and the addictions of all kinds—never touch our basic wealth. They are like clouds that temporarily block the sun. But all the time our warmth and brilliance are right here. This is who we really are. We are one blink of an eye away from being fully awake.
― Pema Chödrön, Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living

4. Today’s angel card:

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From the heart- a 15-day journal exercise: Part 2

I am re-reading Stephen Levine‘s A Year to Live- how to live this year as if it were your last as a personal exercise schedule to take time to slow down and truly listen to my heart.

Recall: Part 1: Catching Up with Your Life

Part 2: Practice Dying

1. Color an anatomical heart:

Here is a PDF of one of my drawings for you to print out: Heart


2. Capture chapter highlights:

And it’s never too late to complete our birth.  As Buddha said, “It doesn’t matter how long you have forgotten, only how soon you remember.”

To practice dying.  To be fully alive.  To investigate the dread of, and resistance to life and death.  To complete my birth before it’s over.  To investigate that part of myself that refuses to take birth fully, and hops about as though it still had one foot in the womb.


it was the fear of life that needed to be investigated first…

… But when the heart at last acknowledges how much pain there is in the mind, it turns like a mother toward a frightened child.

3. Explore another source regarding listening to the messages from the heart:

“The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness. Although the two are identical twins, man, as a rule, views the prenatal abyss with more calm than the one he is heading for (at some forty-five hundred heartbeats an hour). I know, however, of a young chronophobiac who experienced something like panic when looking for the first time at homemade movies that had been taken a few weeks before his birth. He saw a world that was practically unchanged-the same house, the same people- and then realized that he did not exist there at all and that nobody mourned his absence. He caught a glimpse of his mother waving from an upstairs window, and that unfamiliar gesture disturbed him, as if it were some mysterious farewell. But what particularly frightened him was the sight of a brand-new baby carriage standing there on the porch, with the smug, encroaching air of a coffin; even that was empty, as if, in the reverse course of events, his very bones had disintegrated.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, Speak, Memory


4. Today’s angel card:

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From the Heart- a 15-day journal exercise: Part 1

I am re-reading Stephen Levine‘s A Year to Live- how to live this year as if it were your last as a personal exercise schedule to take time to slow down and truly listen to my heart.

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I will share my exploration here and I encourage you to join me.  The book has 15 chapters, so I will explore in 15 parts in 15 days.  I will focus on the heart image in each part, share some highlights from the chapter, look at other resources that resonate and pull an angel card.

Part 1: Catching Up with Your Life

  1. Draw an anatomical heart:

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Or here is a PDF of one of my drawings for you to print out: Heart

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2. Capture chapter highlights:

This book is a book of renewal.  It is not simply about dying but about the restoration of the heart.

Part of us seek relief from our fears, while another aspect causes our focus on life to intensify, to push us to look deeper into just who or what took birth and who, indeed, it is that will someday die.

Whatever our situation, the progression– sudden or gradual– if the same: to remember, to let go, and to trust the process. 


Today I took steps to self-advocate, explore new options, releasing attachment to the outcome- valuing myself without apology.  And though it was hard, I took the steps.

The trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, you risk even more. – Erica Jong

Let go.  Trust the process.

3. Explore another source regarding listening to the messages from the heart:

The Power Path May 2017 Forecast

The way we look at priorities is changing. We need to learn to prioritize from our hearts instead of from our minds. The way the mind prioritizes is by rationalizing why we should be doing something instead of simply intuiting that it should be done. The challenge during times of instability is that we have too many choices, too many options, too much on our plate, and too many considerations to sort through. We don’t know what to do first, what to end, what to start, what we can ignore, what is done, what is ours and what is not. So, we revert back to what is known and where we feel safe and confident. But this is never a good permanent solution.

The only way to bring focus and stability into our lives now is to learn to prioritize from the heart. This requires trust and intuition, listening to yourself instead of others and connecting in with your own desires. Making choices from the heart may disappoint others and even bring instability into someone else’s life, but that is the challenge this month and the price you pay for resetting your priorities and it will serve you in the long run. When there are too many options, choices and possibilities to process through the mind, the only way to gain clarity is to turn to the heart and allow it to lead.

4. Today’s angel card:

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The heart of communication is to observe, wait and listen…

A major part of my role in any workshop that I facilitate is CREATIVE ENGAGEMENT.  I am currently sitting at gate B25 at the airport in Toronto prepping to head home after an incredible experience co-delivering workshops that address challenges and provide staff team training in a particular residential living community. 

To engage the participants in whole brain thinking and to fully bring them into the room, I like to start by taking them through a fundamentals of drawing exercise. 

A current team training workshop (that I have co-developed and now deliver with community engagement strategist Beverley Pomeroy) centres around COMMUNICATION.  We include the strategy of OBSERVE WAIT AND LISTEN, i.e. O.W.L.  Naturally, the drawing exercise in this workshop centres around the OWL image. 

The resulting 60(!) owls from this week are absolutely amazing! Though each participant was given exactly the same instructions, guidance and tools- the results are all so magically different- yet the goal was the same.  What a great metaphor for understanding what we each bring into our workplace. 

We also explored our core values to better understand our differences and similarities. The participants added their core values to a drawing of an anatomical heart, which they then decorated and brought into circle for an in depth dialogue.  The owl drawings will be incorporated into a Living  Wall Street Art piece in the staff room and the hearts will be collages into a framed art piece!

The owl theme continued in the talking pieces I created for the circle. 

So somehow I’ve been able to bring my skills, my lived experience and my passion into a new environment- enhancing the profound delivery by Bev, the key facilitator, while facilitating participants in drawing and street art and sock crafts! Amazing! 

… everything that remains unsolved in your heart.

I was at the grocery store the other day purchasing food for a youth grad event, about an hour before I needed to be there and I STOPPED.  I couldn’t go forward; I couldn’t go back.  I had no idea what to buy.  I was dizzy.  I couldn’t see or think clearly.


I knew in my heart, I didn’t want to be there in that moment.  I simply had had enough.  It’s not the work itself per se, nor the amount of work- it was the deep-rooted anger I felt DEEP in my heart directed DIRECTLY at myself.

For right before that moment, standing there in that grocery store, I had been emailing to get paid for other work… I was scrambling, still fucking scrambling, for scraps where I could get them– at the age of 52.  Fifty-two. That anger stopped me.

I am too smart for this, too talented, too valuable, too underused, too old for this, too dumb to figure it out.  Too tired of still struggling.

I was done.  Trapped.  In that moment.  With the past weighing on me.  The old familiar.  So weary of it.

His vision, from the constantly passing bars,
has grown so weary that it cannot hold
anything else. It seems to him there are
a thousand bars; and behind the bars, no world.

As he paces in cramped circles, over and over,
the movement of his powerful soft strides
is like a ritual dance around a center
in which a mighty will stands paralyzed.

Only at times, the curtain of the pupils
lifts, quietly–. An image enters in,
rushes down through the tensed, arrested muscles,
plunges into the heart and is gone.

― Rainer Maria Rilke, The Panther


But the food was eventually bought.  The grad was amazing.  The youth were elated and celebrated.  Seeing their smiling faces I knew what the point of all the work is.  I always know that.  I am drawn, always drawn, to facilitating successful experiences for youth in my community.

But I also know, that frozen moment in time was a wake up call.

I need to take stock of how far I’ve come, take stock of the unbelievable leaps forward.  Knowing, I can no longer accept a scarcity frame of mind.

THAT IS THE CHANGE I MUST NOW MAKE.  To change my neural pathways so they don’t keep charging with the familiar fear of mind- scarcity.

The connections I have been making in the community are coming to fruition.  I am reaching out.  And it’s working.  I am collaborating, and it’s working.  I am asking for help and it’s working.

I celebrate the amount of work it has taken me to get me to this point of STARTING FRESH.

So despite the frozen moment, asking myself, no… yelling at myself- WHY ARE YOU STILL IN THIS SPOT?, I breathed into it, laughed it out, and realized-

I AM NOT IN THE SAME SPOT, motherfucker.  I am about to fly.  I have not been dumb.  I have been BUILDING.



I got some incredible and timely gifts from my friend, Laura, yesterday.  And could the quotes be any more perfect for this moment, right here, RIGHT NOW?


My friend, Patti, reminds me to allow the unknown.  To rest in the don’t know mind.  And that tool is working.

I know it’s never perfect.  It never will be.  It’s deliciously imperfect.  And unresolved.  And confusing.  And it is life.

The delicious BLOOD AND GUTS of LIFE.


“Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart.
…live in the question.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet


I am working on a new journal series to connect with my book 

Drawn Together- Maintaining Connections and Navigating Life’s Challenges With Art.


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I am a great believer in sharing my creative process!  That is how Drawn Together was created in the first place- through journals and blogposts.

As I build the journal series, I will be sharing my notes and process here and welcome your feedback and your photos!

Your contribution is invaluable and may find its way to my book! Contact me at Email.

 JOURNAL SERIES in progress







We are all faced with challenges, every day.  Some may seem insurmountable.  Some keep coming back.  Sometimes we find ourselves in the most difficult challenge of our lives (as in my Dad’s stroke), and sometimes just getting out of bed is a challenge,

Focus on 3-4 things that are blocking you, that hinder you, frustrate you, nag at you, keep you from living your life peacefully.

E.g. Anxiety, Fear, Money, Low Self-esteem, Trust, Doubt

Write for 10 minutes in your journal about these blocks.

On a drawing/photocopy of an anatomical heart, write your main words repeatedly throughout the nooks and crannies.

Color the heart, cut it out and glue it on a card stock.

Write sentences about your blocks coming out from the vessels.


I came up with this exercise last tear and I have found it very powerful and I repeat it as often as I need to.  It does release tension.  Many of my students have found it powerful as well.



Mikki’s beautiful piece. She accidentally drew a sentence going INTO the heart, so she drew a cork! Genius!

Last Thursday I spent a few hours with my friend, Sheryl, taking the exercise a step further:







My daughter combined the esteem heart exercise with the roots exercise creating a magnificent piece:IMG_2567