When someone tells you you're a failure, how does it make you feel? What is your response?
Do you yell back at them? Tell them to stop? Drop them as a friend immediately?
Most of us have an internal dialogue that yells at us- just like a nasty person. Yet we keep letting this person into our lives- over and over again- without ever trying to change the relationship.
Do you catch yourself saying hurtful messages to yourself? The kind that directly connect to limiting beliefs and self sabotage tactics?
"What will they think of me?"
"Who am I to do that!?"
"What if they notice!"
"Why try. It won't turn out anyway."
These are the messages of your critic.
Do you know its messages? The onslaught of harsh and hurtful inner voices that are on constant repeat?
What kind of relationship do you have with your critic?!
Do you avoid it? Stuff it into a dark corner? Pretend it's not there? Maybe you turn it off with substances or screens, cheap thrills or pretending. It happens. We are all doing it.
But if we really want to change our lives- from the inside to outside- avoidance and resistance won't do the trick. Building a good relationship with your critic is crucial.
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The critic will stop you in your tracks. It will keep you from any iota of creative activation. It will contract you, keep you playing small and feeling insignificant. The critic is the biggest hindrance to our creativity, our life force energy, and it will keep us from living the life of our dreams, feeling nourished and taking action steps. The critic will keep us away from just about anything we truly desire and long for.
My solution for working with the critic is not to negate it or try to turn it off. Strangely, the critic, while being our worst enemy, is also the artists best friend. How is that possible?
In many regards, the critic is our resistance, our old patterns- usually based in the mental body or the imaginal realm of our being. Often we've inherited these patterns from our lineage and/or we acquire them through life experiences.
The critic essentially is all the parts of our being that tells us to stop, say no, resist, refuse. Actually this is a very important protection mechanism. In many ways, the critic has our best interest in mind. Literally! In fact, the critic is connected to the part of the brain that can keep us safe and out of harms way. We need it- just not all of the time.
How can we turn off the critic?
Rather than turn it off or silence it, I prefer to invite it in to our lives intentionally. Hey, it's already here, and more resistance is likely not going to be useful- or a good use of our energy. I take a Gandhi approach to the critic- befriend the enemy. See what it has to teach you, what its message really has to share with you and why it shows up when it does. I often tell my clients to invite the critic over for a cup of tea!
Five Steps for Befriending the Critic:
Before we can attend to the critic and its messages, we first need to identify it. Most people walk through life completely unaware of their inner thought processes. The mind is on auto-pilot and it never stops! I encourage you to get into a rigorous habit of using the four levels of awareness as a means of navigating your inner terrain. Doing consistent self tracking with a four level check-in is vital. What is a four level check-in?
Can you identify the critic and its messages? What level of awareness does it usually come from?
In your sacred creative space, leave a chair open for your critic to "sit in". Or perhaps place a special reminder in your art space that symbolizes your critic. This is an open invitation to your critic. It is also your reminder that it may arrive, but you don't need to engage with its behaviors.
Get curious and ask it to share more with you. Create an image of your critic. Let it out of the closet, let it be seen and acknowledge its presence. What colors, shapes, textures and images arrive on the page? Use whatever art medium inspires you- craypas, markers, pens, scraps of paper etc. Give yourself 20+ minutes for this process.
Title your image. Give your critic a name. Clearly identify this part of your being. Who is it? Get curious. Then ask your image to share with you. If your image could speak, what would it say to you?
Ask your image to answer these questions:
Now that you've harvested some vital information from your critic, it's time to look at your findings. What does your critic want and need? How does your critic help you? How does it harm you? Most importantly, does it have a gift to share with you?
Notice the ways in which your critic serves you and acknowledge its messages. Honor this part of your being for trying to help you in some capacity. Now when it arrives, track it. Notice its arrival. Thank it and acknowledge it. You can choose to use the critic to support your creative process or destroy it. What choice do you make? How can you continue to befriend this part of yourself?
"Art is primarily about the development of consciousness, not the development of an object." ~Hudson
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This Embodiment + Creativity Self Care resource is a simple one, yet often overlooked and tossed aside. We often neglect gratitude when we are stressed, overwhelmed or stuck in a cycle of chaos. Gratitude can be a powerful antidote, however, to changing our feelings of loss and lack, into hope and nourishment.
Interestingly, the same part of the brain that produces fear also produces gratitude. Using gratitude for creating a small shift in focus, or a re-direct in therapeutic terms, can bring a sinking ship back to the surface.
In terms of attracting what we want into our lives, we have to be in touch with the feeling level that we want more of.
Despite how most people use the of Law of Attraction, it's not your thoughts that will get you the new car, the happy marriage or the big paycheck. However, if you continue to focus on the feeling of nourishment you get within your relationships, or the feeling of joy and ease that comes with more money, you can start to create more of that feeling in your life. Like attracts like.
We all want more of the good stuff in our lives don't we?
Using gratitude as a means of expanding the heart and feeling more joy is a very simple way to help us create a life that feels more nourishing, to help us thrive and expand our hearts.
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Create A Life of Thriving With These Five Steps:
Write a list of all the things you are grateful for. List the people, experiences and parts of your life that truly make you feel glad to be alive. Are you grateful for your health? Your children? Your garden? Your amazing clients? Put it on the list!
As you look at your gratitude list, pause and be still. Where do you feel the sensation of gratitude in your body? Can you feel it rising up from your belly or spreading across your chest? Try to locate the sensation and clearly identify it.
Use this physical body feeling as a tuning fork. Keep coming back to this sensation as a way to touch in with the feeling of thriving and nourishment. More of that please! This is what you want to create more of in your life!
Create an image of this feeling of gratitude and the sensation of nourishment it brings into your body. Use craypas, paints, collage, pen and ink or any other medium that inspires you. Use colors, textures and shapes to create your image. Take 20+ minutes to create your image then give it a title.
Move your image. Use your image to inspire a movement exploration. Let your body move in response to your nourishment image with an intention of "moving with your feelings of nourishment". What sensations emerge for you during your dance? What awareness? Allow 5 to 10 minutes for this movement exploration.
Harvest in your journal some of your key findings from this process. Answer these statements:
Pick a few people to share your gratitude with. The best way to amplify this feeling is to share it with others! Use post it notes for a quick thank you or get more elaborate and write out a love note to someone special. Write a sweet message of gratitude to your child or give your neighbor a friendly mailbox surprise.
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Here's what many people don't understand about art and creativity.
We need it. We need it like breath. Like water. Like sleep. It gives us life.
Art is a life saving tool that can provide us with the ability to move forward with our lives in a more conscious, life affirming way; a life that has more possibilities and more awareness.
Before you disregard these grandiose ideas about art, I invite you to meet Expressive Art Therapy, particularly the type of Art Therapy that I work with, which is a body-centered approach. These tools have been life saving for me; above and beyond my meditation and yoga and healthy eating, the arts have allowed me to move with my darkness and misery, and this work has helped me create something different for my Self. Again and again and again. Life changing and life saving, indeed.
Art therapists understand the power of art and our innate creative abilities as humans. It's also understood in the Art Therapy realms that art has the potential to heal, to re-create us, to allow ourselves to be open to re-creating ourselves. We understand innately that art helps us work with the unseen, hidden parts of ourselves, and to develop a different relationship with our personal mythologies.
Let me take these realities a few steps further.
We, as humans, are in a body. This is a tool. A tool of perception, of felt sense, of growth and awareness- if used as such. I say, let's use it! We as humans, are each unique, vast and complex, just as the cosmos are. We are each essentially a microcosmic imprint of the macroscopic universe. The planets and their movements effect us, influence our experiences, and can provide us with a map for our lives. Incredibly useful and very helpful for our journey! This is why I use Jyotish, or Vedic Astrology in conjunction with the arts; these are both fabulous tools of guidance and can provoke self-inquiry and personal growth.
This powerful trio of art, body and astrology is a unique combination I've been working with and growing with personally and using with my clients. All three growth tools together, art, the body, and Vedic Astrology (Jyotish) offer an exciting experience of body-centered Expressive Art Therapy or Jyoti Art Therapy as I am calling it. It offers a unique blend of awareness enhancing tools that provide profound results.
But here's the catch.
Art for arts sake doesn't inherently heal us. It's intention that guarantees a shift; a possible transformation. Art is a by-product of our innate creativity (as humans the creation process is literally how we came into being, why we are here, and how we continue to exist). Artists have "open channels" that allow them to tap into this flow of creativity that courses within each one of us. And the channels that are open for each artist are unique and vary. But these channels aren't just a part of an Artist's existence, we all have creative channels. Most people have closed channels, dry channels, small channels, rigid and brittle channels of creativity. Cultural, familial and personal paradigms keep the creative channels from opening, flowing and thriving. These creative channels are like rivers and provide us with the life giving nourishment that flowing water gives us. Water brings forth life, wealth, purification, abundance and joy. Art and water are very much the same. Not surprisingly, the planet Venus is linked to both these life giving tools; art and water.
We need more flow in our lives.
We need the channels of our creativity to stay open and fluid. Art (in all its forms) helps us do that, but in order to reap the vast rewards that art has to offer us, we must harvest the richness, the fruits of our labor. We must listen to the hidden messages that our art is offering us. The medium we use will have a direct effect on the benefits we receive, the parts of ourselves that are effected, and the healing properties that can be attained (for this reason an intermodal art process is recommended).
When we create a piece of art, a harvesting process can bring a sense of meaning and purpose to our work and help us go beyond the surface, excavate the deeper meanings of our work, the "why" behind it. Art is a messenger from our depths, from the most hidden parts of ourselves. It never ceases to astonish me, fill me with awe, and renew my trust in the magic of creativity.
Here's a simple "harvesting" process to use with your next art creation, using the Tamalpa Life Art Process (TLAP) Baseline Statements. These simple questions can help you uncover the hidden messages wrapped up in your artwork. Explore and unravel.
Step 1. Move your body, open the channels, get the breath involved, and pay attention to the body's subtle messages. Get embodied.
Step 2. Paint, draw, use craypas or pencil. Move and explore, open your senses through an artistic medium. Surrender to the creative process. Don't hold back.
Step 3. Answer these Baseline Statements after finishing your art piece:
Return to this process regularly. Commit to it. Let it help you create more fluidity and listening in your life. Look for themes and symbols, messages and stories that continue to arrive. These patterns are vital messengers.
Sometimes, the support and outer influence of a trained witness is necessary and can be profound for your process. When you get to that point, when you feel stuck or at a crossroads, confused or uncertain, it is time to ask for support.
I am happy to support you or give you further references for your journey.
Contact me for a session.
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Do you rush through the day without checking in with your experience of life, your experience within? Do the days lead to weeks and years of being out of touch with your own needs and feelings? Are dissatisfaction, burnout and health being sacrificed as you continue to "push through"?
Constant movement, change, focus and drive can challenge your ability to be grounded, embodied and fully present to your needs. If you are living on autopilot, this will have a dramatic impact on your health, comfort and nourishment, as well as your relationships. What really suffers is your relationship with your true Self, and most certainly your creativity and life force energy. Fortunately you can unwind the numbness and choose to step into embodiment with very little effort.
I use a simple technique to help bring presence to what is occurring within at any given moment. It's beyond listening to the breath and deep breathing (though this can certainly be valuable for the nervous system). I use a "three level check-in" process to immediately name the experiences arriving within. In this embodiment practice, you human experience is divided into four levels: mental body, emotional body and physical body. The fourth level includes the spiritual body. The spiritual body upholds the other three bodies.
The Vedic koshas correlate to these "four bodies" and Ayurveda corroborates, since it also speaks to these four "bodies" as well. We can also use this tracking process in conjunction with Jyotish. As you track your inner landscape, you are literally tracking the effects of the planets on your physiology.
There are multiple reasons why a Four Level Check-in is valuable for health and well being as well as for deepening one's ability to increase resiliency and thriving. First, let's take it for a spin and experience the mechanics of it.
1) Whatever you are doing right now, hit the pause button and bring your attention inward. It may help to close your eyes, but this isn't necessary. You may be sitting, standing or walking, but bring your attention to the now regardless of what is happening around you.
2) Notice the physical body. What is coming to you? What is the physical body sharing with you? Be present to images, colors, words, expressions and shapes that arise.
3) Notice the emotional body. What is coming to you? What is the emotional body sharing with you? Be present to images, colors, words, expressions and shapes that arise.
4) Notice the mental body. What is coming to you? What is the mental body sharing with you? Be present to images, colors, words, expressions and shapes that arise.
5) Notice the spiritual body. What is coming to you? What is the spiritual body sharing with you? Be present to images, colors, words, expressions and shapes that arise. This level of awareness is the most nuanced. Sometimes it's available, other times it is not. Create a space for listening nonetheless.
Use this check-in practice at least once a day to do an "audit" of your inner landscape. As you track your physical body, you are tracking the Sun and Saturn and often Mars- which give awareness of sensation in the body. As you track the emotional body, you are tracking the Moon and often Venus. Tracking the mental body arrives through Mercury. The spiritual body is connected to the Sun as well as Jupiter. Mars and Venus support these bodies in subtle ways, while Rahu and Ketu intensify the experiences arriving.
Your four level check-in findings can be written down and used at another time. You can take these findings into a creative process by moving your words, creating a poem from them, drawing an image, or turning them into a song etc. This keeps your bodies alive, potent and moving. It can also help you deepen the identification process- which is so vital for creating life change.
Use your inner experiences and harvest from them further; move them, transform them, change them through an intentional art making process. But if nothing else, create space for these feelings, allow them to be with you and be present to the experience of your inner landscape. This presence alone can be immensely valuable.
Far too often people gloss over feelings, physical body sensations and the potency of the inner landscape- cutting and pasting over these vital messages. Everyone wears numerous masks just to get through each day, week, year. But when you take time to stop what you are doing and notice how you are unconsciously being, you have the opportunity to arrive into the now.
The potency of life is in the moments of now. Here you can listen intently to your feelings and inner experiences. Here you gain an opportunity for more depth and awareness within your life. It is through pausing and listening that you can more clearly and courageously attend to your own needs, use healthy boundaries, and create a life that is more in harmony with joy, nourishment, thriving and satisfaction.
This is the power of the present moment and being in the now, being embodied.
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Last week we worked with our animal bodies, this week we will work with the "winds of Vayu and spreading our wings" as our theme. As per this week's horoscopes:
"This is a time of storm energy, 'cleaning house' so to speak, forced change- for better or worse. Spread your wings and surrender to the winds." See my article on Rahu and Saturn in Libra for further details.
We will use the arms and hands as our entry point and awareness builder. "Enter your body through your hand" as I've heard Anna Halprin say. Body part associations include: holding/letting go, build/destroy, give/take, push/pull. We feel with the sensitivity of hands and touch, we feed ourselves, create with them etc. The arms are an extension of the heart and lung area; they help us reach, embrace, resist etc.
With arms as your metaphoric wings, begin slowly to lengthen and extend them, reaching all the way out through the fingertips. Create a wing dance, linking breaths with arm movements. Be sure to include the full range of movement here- from fingertips and hands, into elbows and shoulders. Notice the connection to the expansion and collapse of the heart region as you flap.
Come to your drawing pad and draw an image of one of your bird feathers. Then finish these statements:
I am the type of bird that:
When I fly, I feel:
Without my wings I can't:
I imagine my bird:
My bird wants:
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