Thursday, December 4, 2008

A Day of Sharing Song

LK Ludwig has come up with another wonderful idea - sharing songs. As the quote on LK's blog says:
"Words make you think a thought.
Music makes you feel a feeling.
A song makes you feel a thought."
E.Y. Harburg

Today I took one of my favorite CDs to yoga class and the response from my fellow classmates reminded me that I wanted to share this music. It is a CD called "All is Forgiven" by Ashana. I love all the music on it, particularly "Loving Kindness".

You can hear extracts of songs from this CD and others at Ashana's website or go to amazon if you can't access them on Ashana's website.

Visit LK's blog for links to other bloggers and their favorite music.

I must also share a recent CD I bought called "Singing for the Soul" by Jan Phillips and the Gnostic Gospel Choir. Jan and a group of women in San Diego meet once a month to sing together and this CD is to encourage us to sing together too. Jan introduced me to the music of Ashana and has a wonderful CD of her music as well which I absolutely love called "All the Way to Heaven."

Jan starts the Singing for the Soul CD with this wonderful prayer:
O Maker of the Universe, Maker of this Earth, Maker of Souls and Maker of Songs,
We thank you for the Spirit that flows among us, through us, around us and in us.
We thank you for this circle that connects us across the distance wherever we are.
We sing out in joy and adoration trusting in the power of these songs to bring light to the darkness and healing to the wounded
Acknowledging our oneness, Grateful for our blessings, Fervent in our purpose
We offer our voices in prayer for the World.

Thank you Jan for bringing more beauty into the world.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

My Labyrinth

It has taken me almost a year to complete this project and I am most grateful to my husband Paul for helping me with it as I know I couldn't have done it on my own. I can't tell you why I felt this urge to have my own labyrinth. I hope to use it as a daily meditation for those days when I can't sit still long enough to go within. It will also be part of my classes as I believe in the power of the labyrinth.

When I visited Paris a number of years ago, I made a point of taking a day trip to Chatres to see the labyrinth there. I was disappointed as it was covered with chairs and there was not much information available about the labyrinth.

According to Lauren Artress, the author of The Sacred Path Companion: A Guide to Walking the Labyrinth to Heal and Transform: " A labyrinth nurtures the capacity to reflect ... To reflect upon your experiences is the only way you learn the art of being human ... Walking the labyrinth literally opens a new realm."

I'm looking forward to the new insights my labyrinth brings me.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Day of Sharing Words

One of my favorite teachers and artists, LK Ludwig, suggested "A Day of Sharing Words" where we post of poem that "moves inside you, touches you, reaches you". What a wonderful idea. LK is always full of wonderful ideas as you will see in the latest issue of "Somerset Studio" which has an article on LK and her photo journals.

Go to LK's blog to find more poems shared:

So here is my poem by Mark Nepo called "Breaking Surface":

Let no one keep you from your journey,
no rabbi or priest, no mother
who wants you to dig for treasures
she misplaced, no father
who won't let one life be enough,
no lover who measures their worth
by what you might give up,
no voice that tells you in the night
it can't be done.

Let nothing dissuade you
from seeing what you see
or feeling the winds that make you
want to dance alone
or go where no one
has yet to go.

You are the only explorer.
Your heart, the unreadable compass.
Your soul, the shore of a promise
too great to be ignored.

Mark's website is and you can find more of his wonderful poetry there.
LK also suggested we post an image and this photo I took in Brevard NC a couple of summers ago surfaced in my mind as I was typing out the poem:

Sunday, October 26, 2008


It has been a while since I have posted, but last night I picked up the book "Silence, Song and Shadows" by Tom Bender and the page I read was so meaningful to me that I thought it would be good to include in my blog, for no other reason other that it will be a way for me to remember what I read. With the current economics it seemed like a good time for this reminder:

"All economics, and all cultures and communities derive from distinctive assertions of value. If the values chosen reflect consumption, greed, and violence, they create a far different world than if those values derive from the sacred. E.F. Schumacher, in his path-breaking "Buddhist Economics" remarked on the characteristic kind of economics which arise from the values of Buddhism - on the role and importance of enriching work, of obtaining the maximum well-being from minimum consumption, and of the importance of non-attachment to wealth. He has shown also its effectiveness in creating successful life, culture, and tools.

Reestablishing a value base to our communities involves discovery of the real meaning of a whole range of sustainable values tied to the sacred. Austerity, for example, is important. It does not, as we might think, exclude richness or enjoyment. What it does do is help us be aware of things which distract us from our real goals in life.

When we understand austerity, we see that affluence has a great hidden cost. Its endless possibilities demand impossible commitments of time and energy. It fails to discriminate between what is wise and useful and what is merely possible. We end up foregoing things necessary for a truly satisfying life to make time and space for trivia. As we relearn the value of austerity, along with stewardship, permanence, responsibility, enoughness, work, and interdependence, we create a new and enduring kind of community."

The shades of green and play of light on this leaf are so beautiful, but often there is too much going on for me to notice things like this when I am in the garden. I am grateful to have a camera that allows me to isolate these spots of beauty and to reflect on them. I think this is the austerity that is referred to by Tom Bender - austerity that focuses us on the wonder and beauty in the simple.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Sensual Journal project

I'm part of a sensual journal project organized by Deb Denton. Deb gave us the challenge that four of the five senses needed to be represented in the journal pages we did - even more difficult than it sounds. This month I worked in Sheila Scott's journal. Her great theme was "Get out there - it's a great big world". This is the cover of Sheila's box that houses our contributions.

Of course my journal entries are all about Africa - a place close to my heart. Here are some of my pages.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Celebrate What's Right with the World

This link was shared with me by my photographer buddy, Bill Elder, who has been so generous with his knowledge of photography with me over the years.

Dewitt Jones is a National Geographic photographer, and his enthusiasm for the beauty around us and the call to look deeper for the meaning in the world was just what I needed as I put together a presentation on my trip to visit organizations dealing with the Aids pandemic in South Africa.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Back from South Africa

I'm back from my three week trip to South Africa. It was an intense trip and I'm still trying to process everything I saw and experienced. Sometimes I find I need to withdraw from an experience for a while afterwards before I can see it in the right perspective. So I'll share more about my experiences at a later date.
I did stay at the Buddhist Retreat Center in Ixopo while I was spending time with Woza Moya, and it was the perfect place to be as it allowed me to regroup every day in a peaceful and meditative space.
This was the early morning view from my bedroom ... the mist rising from the valley ....

The last week of my trip was spent in an area I was unfamiliar with and it was an intense experience. My surroundings were quite different, and this is where I slept!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Interview with Eric Maisel

Eric Maisel will be visiting my blog on Saturday. Eric's website is Eric trains creativity coaches, leads workshops and has written more than twenty-five books. His book Fearless Creating is one of my favorites. His books are full of inspiration to get you creating on a regular basis. His book, The Van Gogh Blues, has recently come out in paperback and Eric kindly answered some questions on his book. If you have questions to ask Eric please post your questions and he will be happy to answer them.

Eric, can you tell us what The Van Gogh Blues is about?
For more than 25 years I’ve been looking at the realities of the creative life and the make-up of the creative person in books like Fearless Creating, Creativity for Life, Coaching the Artist Within, and lots of others. A certain theme or idea began to emerge: that creative people are people who stand in relation to life in a certain way—they see themselves as active meaning-makers rather than as passive folks with no stake in the world and no inner potential to realize. This orientation makes meaning a certain kind of problem for them—if, in their own estimation, they aren’t making sufficient meaning, they get down. I began to see that this “simple” dynamic helped explain why so many creative people—I would say all of us at one time or another time—get the blues.

To say this more crisply, it seemed to me that the depression that we see in creative people was best conceptualized as existential depression, rather than as biological, psychological, or social depression. This meant that the treatment had to be existential in nature. You could medicate a depressed artist but you probably weren’t really getting at what was bothering him, namely that the meaning had leaked out of his life and that, as a result, he was just going through the motions, paralyzed by his meaning crisis.

Are you saying that whenever a creative person is depressed, we are looking at existential depression? Or might that person be depressed in “some other way”?

When you’re depressed, especially if you are severely depressed, if the depression won’t go away, or if it comes back regularly, you owe it to yourself to get a medical work-up, because the cause might be biological and antidepressants might prove valuable. You also owe it to yourself to do some psychological work (hopefully with a sensible, talented, and effective therapist), as there may be psychological issues at play. But you ALSO owe it to yourself to explore whether the depression might be existential in nature and to see if your “treatment plan” should revolve around some key existential actions like reaffirming that your efforts matter and reinvesting meaning in your art and your life.

So you’re saying that a person who decides, for whatever reason, that she is going to be a “meaning maker,” is more likely to get depressed by virtue of that very decision. In addition to telling herself that she matters and that her creative work matters, what else should she do to “keep meaning afloat” in her life? What else helps?

I think it is a great help just to have a “vocabulary of meaning” and to have language to use so that you know what is going on in your life. If you can’t accurately name a thing, it is very hard to think about that thing. That’s why I present a whole vocabulary of meaning in The Van Gogh Blues and introduce ideas and phrases like “meaning effort,” “meaning drain,” “meaning container,” and many others. When we get a rejection letter, we want to be able to say, “Oh, this is a meaning threat to my life as a novelist” and instantly reinvest meaning in our decision to write novels, because if we don’t think that way and speak that way, it is terribly easy to let that rejection letter precipitate a meaning crisis and get us seriously blue. By reminding ourselves that is our job not only to make meaning but also to maintain meaning when it is threatened, we get in the habit of remembering that we and we alone are in charge of keeping meaning afloat—no one else will do that for us. Having a vocabulary of meaning available to talk about these matters is a crucial part of the process.

This is the paperback version of The Van Gogh Blues, How was the hardback version received?

The reviewer for the Midwest Book Review called The Van Gogh Blues “a mind-blowingly wonderful book.” The reviewer for Library Journal wrote, "Maisel persuasively argues that creative individuals measure their happiness and success by how much meaning they create in their work.” I’ve received countless emails from artists all over the world thanking me for identifying their “brand” of depression and for providing them with a clear and complete program for dealing with that depression. I hope that the paperback version will reach even more creative folks—and the people who care about them.

How does The Van Gogh Blues tie in with other books that you’ve written?

I’m interested in everything that makes a creative person creative and I’m also interested in every challenge that we creative people face. I believe that we have special anxiety issues and I spelled those out in Fearless Creating. I believe that we have a special relationship to addiction (and addictive tendencies) and with Dr. Susan Raeburn, an addiction professional, I’ve just finished a book called Creative Recovery, which spells out the first complete recovery program for creative people. That’ll appear from Shambhala late in 2008. I’m fascinated by our special relationship to obsessions and compulsions and am currently working on a book about that. Everything that we are and do interests me—that’s my “meaning agenda”!

What might a person interested in these issues do to keep abreast of your work?

They might subscribe to my two podcast shows, The Joy of Living Creatively and Your Purpose-Centered Life, both on the Personal Life Media Network. You can find a show list for The Joy of Living Creatively here and one for Your Purpose-Centered Life here. They might also follow this tour, since each host on the tour will be asking his or her own special questions. Here is the complete tour schedule. If they are writers, they might be interested in my new book, A Writer’s Space, which appears this spring and in which I look at many existential issues in the lives of writers. They might also want to subscribe to my free newsletter, in which I preview a lot of the material that ends up in my books (and also keep folks abreast of my workshops and trainings). But of the course the most important thing is that they get their hands on The Van Gogh Blues!—since it is really likely to help them.
Eric, thank you so much for taking time to drop in and answer these questions.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Elements

I have finished binding the final book in the Elements series and now my box of Water, Earth, Fire and Air is complete.

According to the book "Earth, Water, Fire & Air: Essential Ways of Connecting to Spirit" by Cait Johnson, "The root of human spirituality is grounded in four elements - earth, water, fire and air .... When we explore and savor and interact with these elements, we are both remembering a primal connection and forging it anew." This book has been like that for me. I am grateful to all the photographers who have contributed their images to make these books and for the carefully chosen quotes which add wisdom to the beautiful images.

Visiting Oberlin College in Ohio

Amy and I spent this last weekend visiting Oberlin College in Ohio. Amy had a piano audition at the Oberlin Conservatory on Saturday morning and spent the rest of the weekend exploring the campus and staying overnight at one of the "co-ops". The ground was covered in snow when we arrived which thrilled us (being from the south where snow is something that makes everything close down for the day). Amy and I particularly loved the amazing library which had these space age pod chairs! Very 70s feel in the library.

"Love is an adventure of the Soul"

The quote "Love is an adventure of the Soul" is from a book called "The Age of Miracles: Embracing the New Midlife" by Marianne Williamson which I have just finished reading.

The book inspired me, especially as I turned 48 as I was reading it!

These are some quotes that really connected with me:

"If in fact the highest, most creative work is the work of consciousness, then in slowing down we're not doing less; we're doing more. Having slowed down physically, we're in a better space to rev up psychically. We are becoming contemplative. We are shifting from the outer to the inner .... We're going slower in order to go deeper, in order to go faster in the direction of urgently needed change in the world."

"Aging humbles us, it's true - but it also awakens us to how precious life is, and how very fragile. It's time for us to become elders and caretakers of this precious planet, not just in name but in passionate practice."

The next book our photo art journals group is doing is called "Have a Heart" and is a collection of photographs of hearts we have found in nature or elsewhere. I plan to use the photo I took of the heart in the book pages for the cover of the heart book.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Eric Maisel's upcoming virtual book tour

I trained as a Creativity Coach with Eric Maisel. I love his books - "Fearless Creating", "Coaching the Artist Within", "The Creativity Book" - so when he asked for blog stops on his upcoming virtual book tour for his book "The Van Gogh Blues" I was more than happy to say "yes, please!" He will visit my blog and answer questions on the creative process and depression on the 23rd February, so this is just to let you know in advance. If you have any questions you would like me to put to Eric please feel free to let me know.

If you are interested in hearing more about his take on the creative process visit the Joy of Living Creatively and listen to his podcasts.

Magical Messenger

This beautiful Barred Owl lived in our chimney for about a week. I thought I heard noises in the chimney but wasn't sure if I was imagining things. My husband was away so I wasn't brave enough to stick my head up the chimney. On his return I asked him to check and he saw these two big eyes looking back at him. We called the Carolina Raptor Center and they came and rescued him. He was in great condition considering how long he had been there.

I've been wondering what message he was bringing me?

A New Year, a New Magazine!

My new year has started in an exciting way with the publication of Stampington's new magazine "Life Images". I am really thrilled to have five of my images published in this magazine as well as a number of photographs from the Photo Art Journals yahoo group's book "Shades of Black".

The magazine will be coming out four times a year, so I need to get my camera out an take more photographs! I will have a wonderful opportunity to do this in March and April as I will be traveling to South Africa to visit three organizations that care for Aids orphans.