On Art: “Canoe” Oil Painting

Late last year, in meditation, an unfamiliar word came to me. It sounded something like wakatewa. I had no idea what the word meant, at the time.

Intrigued, a quick Google search later revealed that the word is Maori and means ” war canoe“, spelled waka taua but spoken exactly as I’d heard it. It is an important word for the Maori who consider the waka taua to be sacred.

Once I knew what it meant, I fell in love with the symbol and started looking for signs of it in my daily life. It still came as a surprise, though, when one appeared in my latest painting which came about after coming across a quote from the late Carrie Fisher:

Take your broken heart and turn it into art.”

I took it as a challenge and decided to reach into the depth of my own history and feelings around a broken heart and turn it into something beautiful.

This expressionist piece is what resulted. I did not set out to paint a canoe or a solitary figure even. I choose my palette based on feeling and added paint to the canvas with nothing but emotion guiding me. I was so excited when I saw what was developing.

So, here it is. A broken heart made into art. I call it…surprise…Canoe.

I investigated the dream symbol meaning of “canoe” recently and discovered the following quote:

“Canoes require a lot of strength to maneuver, so in dreams they often show us something about our ability to handle our emotions. Because canoes are man-made, dreams that involve a canoe also show our ability to handle emotions which are inflicted by other people.”

From http://www.auntyflo.com/dream-dictionary/canoes

So perhaps in turning my broken heart into a canoe, I was declaring my inner strength to be with that emotion and to sail into calmer waters. It’s a comforting thought.

Aka Dua: An Ancient Healing Energy

Today, I received my Level 1 Transmission of the Aka Dua energy of the Toltec. I’m so excited to be adding this energy to my healing repertoire!! It’s an amazing energy. It’s a completely natural fit for me having been deeply enmeshed with the Toltec since 2000, having met the more traditional requirements to receive the energy, ‘tho such requirements are no longer required by those wanting to be attuned.

Aka Dua is not well know…yet. I can’t remember how I came across it. Perhaps it came to me. When I experienced it for the first time online, from an angel on youtube in fact, I knew it was for me…or would be someday. Although in truth, I think I’ve already been supernaturally exposed to it on one particular journey I took several years ago to Teotihuacan in Mexico. There I received a download of sorts I’ve never been able to explain. Somehow, I feel the energies are related.

As a new initiate, I have a 14 day practice with the energy. I thought I would blog about my experiences since I want to journal about it anyway. So that’s what I’ll be doing…sharing my experiences and some background for you over the next 14 days. Maybe I won’t post every day, but I will make notes everyday and post them in a digest.

I’m not new to energy work. I’ve had two levels of Reiki and three levels of Reiki Tummo. For the last few years, I haven’t been able to feel much of the Reiki energy myself. I thought perhaps I needed a tune-up, which I received, but it seems I have just acclimated to it. I don’t mean to insult any Reiki practitioners out there! I’m not saying Reiki isn’t powerful or that some people perhaps aren’t able to take it further than I have, nor saying that I haven’t been accessing it on a regular basis with clients. I’ve certainly been using the symbols and tapping into it. But I’ve grown so used to it that has stopped giving me much feedback. Already, the Aka Dua is giving me a whole new experience and feedback for which I’m very grateful.


During the transmission, at first, I just felt warmth and tingling. We had a few technological challenges using Facebook chat to bridge California, where lineage holder Arlan Cage is, and France, where I am, but that didn’t affect the energy. It came through as a familiar warmth and tingling. Now it has become a prickly sensation, but it is  perfectly comfortable. I shared the energy with a friend who was able to feel it pulsing between our hands. He noted the prickling and felt the energy moving into his right leg. After sharing it with him, it seemed to strengthen in me and the prickly sensation hasn’t diminished.


Last night was interesting. I kept getting postcards in my dreams from the Aka Dua to help me integrate and understand the energies. There are 7 sub-frequencies to the Aka Dua: solar and solar jaguar, lunar, oceanic, volcanic, atmospheric, obsidian and unknown. The postcards I received were of oceanic and atmospheric images (and I think of lunar and volcanic also, but that is foggy) each encoded with information for my psyche.

This morning, my practice was done in the sunshine. As I focused my intention to cultivate the energy, I was washed over with a wave. Then the prickling grew. I also had a strange and very pinpointed sensation in my left pointer finger. It felt as if a spiral was winding or unwinding. I’m not sure which.

In meditation afterward, I was guided in how to approach a client with the energy. As I “rehearsed” what I learned in my mind’s eye, the energy once again grew for me, so I invited the angels in and asked them to receive it and send it wherever it was most needed.

If you’d like to know more about Aka Dua, join the new Aka Dua Network on Facebook!

Vak Shuddhi: Cultivating Sound That Heals

Teacher Sadhguru shares the importance of sound, language, and speaking with intent:

“Whatever sound you need to utter, utter it in such a way that it is beneficial for you. And whatever is beneficial for you will naturally be beneficial for everyone around you. If a sound is doing wonderful things to you, it will definitely do the same things to everyone around you.”

What is Vak Shuddhi? – Part 1

What is Vak Shuddhi? – Part 2

“The Sanskrit language was consciously created so that just uttering the language will purify the system. But now, most of the time we speak languages which are no longer made like that, so it is best to handle it with intention…”

Why Trump? A Devas of Creation Card Reading

Last night, I decided to ask my Devas of Creation deck for some insight that might be helpful around the recent inauguration of Donald Trump. I asked three questions, shuffled the deck, and drew three cards. Here’s what resulted:

1st Question
Why is this playing out?

Card drawn: First Light

The First Light card is emergence and the dawning of new worlds. It is a revolution in thought because it helps open our eyes to what is possible; it is the flowering of awareness. Without the opening of first light, there would be no doorway into change, no new vistas to which we can aspire. Trump is certainly a call to what is possible because he has greatly disturbed well-entrenched energies in our government. He has drained the swamp, and now everything in the swamp is swimming around in plain sight. The veils have been lifted. So much is unsettled and many are in fear. But instead of fear, we can choose to see great opportunity. Sometimes it is only with a rude awakening and a crack on the stubborn head that one rises to new challenges.

2nd Question
What will the outcome be in four years time?

Card drawn: Eros

Eros is the Divine Masculine. Do you find it ironic that this card would appear in a reading about Trump? Realize that Trump is showing us contrast here. He is showing us exactly what needs to be healed in the masculine. This card is a reminder to reconnect inside with our inner divine masculine and source of strength. We are light bearers in whatever occupies our time. If we can harness a higher will within ourselves, overcoming our smallness and the fears that hold us back, we can not only manifest and become with more ease, but we will touch more lives as well. What is most important here is to be a representative of Ultimate Truth, to transcend the level of opinion, half-truths, propaganda, etc. If we can abide by the message of Eros, a world-changing healing of the masculine can take place during this presidency. Men and women can take their places as protectors and providers–of each other, our earth, and for our children.

3rd Question
What are the lessons we need to learn in that time?

Card drawn: Seed Void

The Seed Void is an “artery into a different reality”. It is deep space and mystery, what the Toltec would call “nagual”. Think of it as a well or birth canal connecting one dimension to another. It is the unseen aspects and new forces of nature that come into play. Fasten your seat belts, because this energy helps us to question our fear as well as our certainties about right and wrong, about “the other” and about ourselves. With courage, we can dismantle our false sense of self, an evolutionary necessity, and be born into a new level of trust. Indeed, this is a time to turn inward, to take back our projections, and to deal with our own shadow aspects. Those unwilling or unprepared to do the work will have an extremely hard time of it, and their resistance will cause trouble not only for themselves but for others. But if we open up and do the work, we may just find ourselves transported into a world that bears little to no resemblance to the one these others claim to live in. The opportunity to be free of the collective dream is there for those who dare to dream something new.

Dielle’s Healing Wizbits

Here I offer short and sweet soundbites that I’ve gleaned on my path, learned from clients, or picked up from others along my journey. May they serve as inspiration on your healing path…


So you want to know how to spot fake news and/or concepts? Here’s the primer.

1) Ask yourself, do I believe or want to believe or not want to believe this because of some unexamined or deep-seated, possibly even generational fear? If the answer is yes, do not go to step two. Do your work here because you cannot see clearly. Period. Even if you answer is no, do not go to step two. Your task is to develop enough personal power to begin discerning fact from fiction. Simply put, we don’t know what we don’t know and there is grave danger in that because herein lie the blindspots. In fact, you might even be reading this thinking, “What fears? I don’t have any fears” or “I’ve dealt with all my fears, thank you very much.” This doesn’t mean you have to let others tell you what to think, though. It means you’ll need to be comfortable in the recognition that you don’t know…which applies at every step anyway. When you can admit that you don’t know, proceed to step two.

2) Are you believing or wanting to believe or not something for purely or mostly egoic reasons such as wanting validation for your beliefs, wanting to be right, wanting to feel superior, etc? If there’s any of that energy operating, don’t go to step 3. Instead develop a meditation practice of some sort or other that allows you to recognize that part of you which never changes. Once you’ve gotten in touch with the silence and have built the muscle required to drop your certainties and thoughts that you “know”, you may progress to the next step.

3) Made it here? Congratulations because it is all about to get a lot easier assuming you’ve actually done the work of step 1 and 2. Now then, observe your body. Does the news in question “ring” with truth or not? If it pings, it is true enough. If not, it isn’t true or true enough…not yet and maybe not ever. Withhold any certainty until more information or contrary information is revealed. Trust that when you do hear the truth you will know the truth because the truth is who you are.

4) Practice. Practice. Practice.

This came to me last night after being asked the question how to tell anymore the difference between real and fake news. And let’s face it…so many of the experts trying to help us sort this out ARE fake news. So, it is the crisis of our day, to be sure. It was only after receiving these three steps that I realized they mirror the Toltec masteries of Awareness, Transformation, and Intent. The spiritual warriors who mastered their intent became “seers” or clear mirrors. This world is in dire need of more seers. We all need to do our part to become one.


Humans tend to complicate things. We like juicy stories with plot twists and long…and even better, neverending, lists of things to accomplish. We like creating sophisticated systems and putting our very large, unique John Hancock on things. But what is most important is so so simple and so very unpersonalizable. Every day, I am astounded at how much more simple it is to live and love, and how all the things I thought were important to me and my sense of self seem to just melt away in that ocean of simplicity. All the complication is just a pillar of salt floating in an ocean. It isn’t going to last long anyway so might as well get used to the idea of dissolving.


The fact is, anything that has your full faith has the potential to cure you. That’s the power of belief. There’s absolutely no harm (though many would argue otherwise) in placing your faith in any story you choose. We all do it…all the time!!! Ironically, many argue that one story has more validity than another…more scientific evidence, more historical basis, more whatever. The only thing a more widely held belief has is a stronger collective faith behind it. When you reclaim the power of your faith, you can place it in the most beautiful story YOU choose and say to hell with every naysayer. Am I condoning pie-in-the-sky alternative fact drivel? Hardly. The thing is, what is true doesn’t need anyone to believe it, and I’m not advocating the reinforcing of a denial system. But I am, however, recommending the cultivation of a delight in the fantastical realm of possibility.



Dielle’s Healing Wizbit: Did you know that 98% of our brain doesn’t even use language. That’s right. Language only uses 2% of our brain matter. But almost all of our time is spent stimulating this 2%…over and over, again and again. BORING!!! No wonder we keep repeating history and making the same mistakes.Wanna break out into the other 98%? Ah, now for that, you’re going to have to take some chances, face some fears, make some mistakes, and be willing to look a little crazy to everyone else. Up for it?


Have you all seen the movie Pleasantville? My thoughts today reminded me of that movie. I was considering how my recent habit of calling things “pasty-white” is so descriptive but misunderstood. People think I am referring to race or something. But what I’m truly referring to is a narrow and fixated state of mind upheld by fear and ignorance. The “pasty-white” minds are like the black and white people in Pleasantville; they are too easily misled and defend their limitations to the death, imposing those same limits on everyone else. I much prefer “people of color”. And again, here I can be misunderstood to be referring to a person’s race. But I don’t really care one jot what color someone’s skin is. The people of color to whom I am referring are the one’s whose hearts have been opened by the fires of their Truth and inner power, who know how to create beautiful things that celebrate and help not just themselves but all creation, and who aren’t afraid to radiate with all the colors of the rainbow, even in a room full of pasty-white mentalities. They are the people who were sent here to help you radiate with all that color too. But you have to let go of your shame, guilt, fear and resistance!!! You are rainbows, my dears! Not pasty-white shadows.


We can walk a very similar path to others, so much so that we fail to remember that the exact same situation can hold two very different lessons for two different people. One person may need to learn to leave, the other stay. One may need to learn to step up, the other step down. One may need to learn to open and the other set boundaries. It doesn’t mean we are getting it wrong…or that they are!!All this to say, sometimes advice is best left upspoken. We are most helpful when we give space to the other to come to his or her own realizations and are not projecting ours. And we help ourselves when we don’t compare our path to another’s.


I recently saw a post about the late BobRoss, public television’s famous art teacher. Someone told him they couldn’t paint because of colorblindness, so Bob painted a beautiful picture in black and white. It’s no different with voice. Someone might decide he can’t sing because he’s tone deaf. But there are people who sing in black and white and others who sing in color. The point is, everyone has a voice with which to create things of beauty and healing. Know your limitations but never exaggerate them.


There will be those in your life…family, friends, complete strangers…who just like to start something. Out of boredom, fear or suffering, they will strike out at you and offer you their poison. There are different stages to dealing with such challenges. At first, of course, we are prone to be sucked in, giving them exactly what they want…our energy. First, we must learn to set boundaries, especially with those we love. Sometimes, we have to spend less time with someone. We often have to learn how NOT to respond. After some time, we must learn to witness and take responsibility for our reactions in our interactions. As we watch ourselves, we learn to deflect the poison arrows that come at us. And when one lands, we clean up within ourselves the places that resonated and allowed us to become entangled. At some point, we may even be able to accept the poison out of love in a tantric act to alleviate the fear or suffering of other. That, of course, is pretty high level stuff. Aim high.


Is is true that most of us already know enough to be free. We simply don’t apply what we’ve learned. So we reach for the next book, the next guru, the next self-improvement workshop. We feed on intellectual stimulation and fail to integrate those ideas into action. How do we start to integrate what we’ve learned? Often by letting it all go. Be willing to empty out all that knowledge and let it be replaced with knowing.


Anything we bury or swallow, the things that would otherwise arise spontaneously in us, will eventually turn toxic to the body if we refuse to deal with them. What we press (be it through repression, oppression, depression…) becomes compacted and stagnant, making it harder and harder the next time to go with the flow. It becomes a lifelong game of chicken. How long can one avoid one’s truth in order to feel safe before disease strikes? The path to healing requires us to become warriors of our truest expression. No one said it was easy. It does however have an incredible payoff called liberation.


Today, I introduced sound healing meditation to a small group of yoga students. A few were familiar with what I offered. The others were not. The ones who were more familiar were able to really let go into it and later talk about what they felt describing the subtle sensations they had experienced. The ones for whom it was a new experience had more difficulty talking about it afterwards. Energy is like that. I remember the first time I was exposed to a gong bath. I didn’t know what to expect. I left that room feeling completely altered, but I had no idea what just happened. That night, I kept hearing the gong in my head all night long. Was it good? Was it neutral? Was it detrimental? It was the weirdest experience of my life at the time. Now, I’m used to the powers of sound to shift states and energy. All this to say, when it comes to energyhealing, we don’t always (and often can’t) understand or rationalize what we are experiencing. Fortunately for us, we don’t have to. The healing happens anyway. I can’t tell you the number of times people think nothing significant happened, until a week or so later, when they realize they no longer feel a certain ache or are no longer reacting to life in habitually ingrained ways, doing things they previously were afraid to do without a second thought.


I was working with a client yesterday, and we talked about how the body, loyal servant that it is, takes on our unprocessed emotions. While the body is certainly capable of helping us process emotion, through movement such as dance for example, it is not meant to be the warehouse of them!! If dis-ease is manifesting in the body, signaled by discomfort or even pain, it is a clear signal that the body is being asked to do more than its fair share. Time for us to own whatever it is we’ve been resisting and let the body know it isn’t responsible for storing and stuffing what we haven’t wanted to feel. Healing is a path of owning up!

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The Energies of 2017

Most people are familiar or have at least heard of Tarot cards. In fact, they’ve had a resurgence in popularity recently. But did you know there has been an explosion in types of divination card decks over the last several years? Now, there are angel cards, chakra oracles, Bach flower remedy cards, Zodiac decks, you name it!

I came upon the deck I now use, the Devas of Creation, last year. It resonated with me because the art was abstract (like my own artwork) and open to interpretation, plus it focused on two aspects of nature, both the manifest and unmanifest, which ties in very well to the teachings to which I’ve been exposed on my own path. It’s a fabulously original deck that covers the elements, angels, seasons, planets, and more!

I did a reading on the energies of 2017 for a few choice arenas of life. For me, it feels right on target, and I’ve since read a few other energy predictions (Lisa Brown’s among them) that seem to align with the same ideas. I hope it gives you something to think about.

The areas of life represented appear here followed by the cards that were pulled for each:

creativity – the quantum field
dharma/purpose – eros
relationships – air
health – world tree
finances – Venus
spirituality – harvest

Here is my interpretation of the spread:

We will meet our potentials to express creatively when we observe and learn from others. When creativity allows for the multidimensional to influence expression (most easily accessed through meditation or spiritual practice), we will find new realities are possible. Creativity is meant to reaffirm and extol our unity to Source. Therefore, creativity whose purpose is so aligned will flow with the most ease in 2017.

In terms of our dharma/purpose, we are meant in 2017 to be more outgoing…light bearers in whatever occupies our time. If we can harness a higher will within ourselves, overcoming our smallness and the fears that hold us back, we can not only manifest and become with more ease, but we will touch more lives as well. What is most important here is to be a representative of Ultimate Truth, to transcend the level of opinion, half-truths, propaganda, etc.

2017 is about liberation in relationships, meaning freeing ourselves of outdated and stagnant ideas about relating. Air can help clear up our thoughts and communications, making it easier to revive what still has life and release what no longer serves. Laughing and loving is the right motivation. Bring in freshness and ease.

In terms of healing, 2017 holds powerful energies from the plant world. Turn to natural and shamanic approaches to healing. It is crucial that we improve our support structures, our internal root system, in order to receive the fuel that will be required to overcome the challenges that approach. It’s all there, available in nature, but it requires our attention, respect, and reverence.

Our abundance in 2017 is governed by Venus, goddess of beauty, the arts, sensuality and relationship. She is asking us to reach out to love, to fully embody self-love and be willing to be love in the world. The antidote to financial challenges is to love more and have the courage to share that love with others.

The spiritual harvest will be evident on both an individual and collective human experience level. Those who have been practicing what we preach, walking our walk, will find a rich harvest of spiritual strength and tools at our disposal. To help correct and alleviate human suffering, we must increase our ecological awareness and make amends. Mindfulness is key as is appreciating the small daily joys that life has to offer: the sunlight, sharing a smile, a fresh breeze, all the colors of the world. These things and our ability to see and appreciate them IS part of the harvest. If we have lapsed or been hypocritical, we will be disposed to reap a very different reality.

In summary:

Here is my interpretation:2017 is about the possible differences between personal and collective reality. What will make our reality more pleasant is a wholehearted return to those things that never fail the human: nature, love, and divine connection. So, if you have a practice, cling to it. If you need a practice, find it. Spend more time with nature and let her inform you. Learn to listen to her (and yes, you are part of nature!), and whatever is keeping you from the full expression of love, it is time to forgive, accept, let go, and open.

The Artist Statement & Bio: Q&A

MonaLisaWhat’s the difference between a resume, a bio, and an artist statement?

Basically, your resume is a skeletal look at your training, background, education, accomplishments, etc. Reading a resume is like reading a phone book–boring! It serves a purpose, though–a very specific purpose…to get you that position or job. You want to include everything pertinent.

The bio, on the other hand, is a concise and well-constructed summary of things like education, influences, background, techniques, and overall message or artistic viewpoint, but it should be captivating and infused with your personality. This can also include where you are from, credentials, significant recognition… It’s the most basic facts about you as an artist. Include what you most want people to know.

It should be written in a flowing paragraph and be infused with your personality. A bio isn’t meant to explain your entire background and all the details. It’s impossible to do that in so few words and most bios run about 200 words or so. Instead, it should paint a picture. You get to choose how you say everything and/or whether to leave something out entirely.

The statement is a one page overview of your message as an artist, why you create what you do, your methods, your techniques, your influences, your inspiration. That sort of thing. It’s your story and your message. You have to read what you wrote and feel “Yes! That’s who I want to be!” with your statement. The clearer you can be with that message, the more likely people will want to engage because they sense and resonate with its integrity. The statement is your chance to really share your message with the world and explain who you are as an artist and what it is you want your art to say.

I don’t even know where to begin. Where do I start?

A great place to start is with some questions to help prime the pump of your creativity. What is your message? What makes you different? What are your achievements? I also highly recommend visiting other artist sites and having a read through their bios and statements. It will help you know what is possible, what you want to emulate, and more importantly, what you don’t! It might also be helpful to start a conversation with a friend and simply talk about who you are as an artist. Record the conversation or have him/her take notes you can refer to later when writing.

I tend to ramble when I write. How am I supposed to write something that’s only 250 words?!

If a person has a tendency to go on and on, the best place to start might be doing just that. Purge everything onto paper. Then go back in and find the highlights…circle the most important points and start narrowing and zeroing in. Learn the art of combining your sentences so you can say as much as possible with as few words as possible.

I’m concerned about coming across as big-headed or fake. It’s just so hard to toot my own horn!

Everyone I know who has ever had to write a bio had to overcome the feelings you’re talking about. It’s a rite of passage! We have to get over the idea that we are shameless promoters when we share our gifts. That construct has got to go! Unless you can afford to hire a crackerjack publicist who’ll talk you up, you’ve got to learn to do it yourself. Don’t be afraid to own your amazing and unique talents and proudly share them. No one ever got anywhere from hiding their light. Writing your bio in 3rd person would be a good way for you to break through this block. In fact, as a writing exercise, you might even try going purposefully overboard with the self-aggrandizement just to get that fear out of your system (or the opposite…write a pitiful paragraph about how much you suck compared to others and then consider if even you would want to buy your own art!). The fact is, we have to self-promote. We have to believe in ourselves.

What’s 3rd person?

Writing in 3rd person is writing your bio as if someone else was writing it. You don’t refer to yourself as “I”. You use your name…Joe Smith was born with a paintbrush in his mouth…  I recommend artists have a 3rd person bio and a 1st person bio (in which you do refer to yourself…I was born with a paintbrush in my mouth…) because you’ll find different uses for each. I have a 1st person, a 3rd person, a 50, 100 and 200 length bio at the ready at all times, and even these I have to adjust to fit every occasion.

What are some bio don’ts?

Don’t get complicated and wordy. Too much information is just going to overwhelm your reader. Here’s a great article by Phil Johnson on some don’ts.

My background is all over the place, and I’ve only been painting for a little while. How do I write a bio?

Don’t sweat your former jobs as a waitress or gas station attendant. And don’t worry if you haven’t had a dozen exhibitions or awards. These things are not essential ingredients. Don’t see a diverse background as a liability; they can actually inform your art and inspire your artistic eye. You can really use your unique life experience to pull your audience in.

What makes a good bio or good artist statement?

Keep things to the point, combine your sentences to say more with fewer words, get constructive feedback, check for grammar and spelling, keep track of where you’ve posted or shared your statements in case you need to update them, and have several versions and lengths at your disposal for different purposes. Remember, the bio is factual but personable. The statement can be more flowery and poetic (but not too much).

What makes an effective artist statement is that it fits its purpose. The statement on your website might be different than the statement you use at an exhibition which might be different than one you use when entering a competition. They’ll all have common root elements, of course: your message, who you are as an artist.

Keep your statement to one page. Any more than that and you risk pontificating and losing some if not all of your audience in this day and age of soundbites and short attention spans. The thing is, make that one page SING. I abhor confusing language and things that try too hard to sound important or intellectual. It’s far better to write from the heart and clarify/distill your message as an artist.

Overall, with both the bio and statement, the message is what matters. Words are our power to influence and open minds. They are our means to say what is truly important. If you focus on that and let the rules and contradictory suggestions go, you’re going to have something special.

Any final tips?

Before you post, print or send your bio or statement anywhere, have someone (or several someones) read it, fellow artists if possible. Friends can be helpful but sometimes, they are overly positive and love everything. Find people who can lend a constructively critical eye.

Remember, you may have written something interesting, but if it is full of misspelled words or run-on sentences, it’s not going to make the impression you were hoping for. So always proof your work.

Forget the Resolutions! Let Your Values Be Your Guide

I recently had an acquaintance on Facebook ask whether her followers made New Year’s #resolutions and why. Not surprisingly, most people answered with a resounding no saying that it was a waste of time. I responded that I don’t make New Year’s resolutions but spend time near the end of every year to set myself some guiding principles instead. What’t the difference?happy-new-year-2011-800px

The thing with New Year’s resolutions is that they generally arise out of something about ourselves we cannot accept. We’re trying to “fix” ourselves. We think we’re fat, so we resolve to lose weight. We think we’re lazy, so we resolve to exercise at the gym. We know smoking is killing us, so we resolve to quit. We all know how the story ends. Give it a few good weeks or even a couple of months, and our initial motivation dies out. We meant well, but  instead of reaching a goal, we end up judging ourselves for our perceived failure. No wonder people have given up on making resolutions!

This year, why not try something completely different? The difference with creating New Year Guiding Principles is that is arises out of your values. There’s no end goal, so the energy guides you all year long. And instead of you having to control anything, you just have to let life takes its course, offering you the lessons and opportunities that align with those guiding principles. The wonderful thing about this practice is that at the end of the year, a quick review will reveal to you all the ways you actually did manifest the things you said were important to you. In my 10+ years with this practice, it never fails.

Here’s a quick guide to writing your own guiding principles. Of course, there are no rules here, so do what works for you. Be creative. The one thing I do strongly suggest, though, is that you take this seriously. Make it a ritual. Give it your undivided attention, get quiet and centered beforehand, play some nice music, light a candle. You get the idea.


Consider what you value. Begin by taking an inventory of things that matter most to you. I don’t mean material things; I mean standards of behavior. Do you value creativity? Truth? Family? Service? If you need some inspiration, Steve Pavlina has a great list to refer to here. Pick one or two things. One is enough. Any more than three and your focus will be too divided throughout the year. Now open up a journal or Word document and add your two words at the top of the page. I like to be very decorative with these.


Describe these values with a few words and how you intend for them to become fruitful in your life.

I usually write a brief paragraph explaining my choices:

This year, I am choosing “Clarity” and “Forgiveness” as my guiding principles. May all that keeps me from being clear, from being in my knowing, become apparent. May the choices and decisions I make come from a place free of confusion, blindspots, and self-doubt. May I come to forgive anyone or thing in my life that I continue to resent. May I free myself from the bitter poison of holding on to past hurts and misunderstandings. Most especially, may I be quick to forgive others in the year ahead and learn to forgive myself for past actions.


Add some specific things you’d like to do or accomplish that are inline with these values and will help you cultivate them.

For example, if you value clarity, you might decide that you’d like to focus more on meditation because that will help you gain the clarity you desire. If you value justice, maybe you’ll spend some time with the concept, deciding what it actually means to you and by paying attention for examples in your daily life of what noise_maker_colorit is and isn’t. If you value creativity, perhaps you’ll pick up some new mode of expression be it writing or painting or learning an instrument. It isn’t about anything too specific, like learning the piano. It’s about exercising your creative expression when opportunity arises so it’s free to take many forms. If you value health, maybe you’ll cut back on sugar or try new superfoods.

The important thing in step three is to keep things as “resolution free” as possible. This isn’t about reaching an end goal. You may or may not, for example, cut out sugar, but I guarantee you, will, by the end of year, be astounded at how whatever you value has come into your life in unexpected ways. You’ll be more forgiving. You’ll be more creative. You’ll be more adaptable or wise or joyous.

If you find yourself writing a list of things that sound more like resolutions, try this. Make a list of things you’ll spend less time doing and more time doing:

I will spend less time griping about what I can’t control and more time letting things roll of my back.
I will spend less time zoning out on social media and more time actually socializing.

STEP FOUR: Put it away.

That’s right. Unlike a resolution that you think about constantly and use to feel rotten, don’t think about your list. Yes, the words will be in your awareness, but you don’t have to take any action. Trust life to fulfil your order and take notice when it does!

Oh, and feel free to edit at intervals throughout the year. After all, things change. Go with the flow!

STEP FIVE: End of Year Review

Come November or December, it is time to revisit what you wrote. Reflect month by month all the ways your values were expressed (or not) throughout the year. There’s no failure here. Everything is a gift, a lesson. If you just couldn’t forgive someone, you’ll now have a better understanding of how aligned you are with your values and the work that still needs to be done, if any. But more likely, you’ll be astonished at all the ways you allowed forgiveness, or whatever you value, into your life.

Most importantly, instead of berating yourself for failing to “improve” yourself by reaching some unattainable goal that you never really wanted to reach in the first place, you can feel good about living a year living in the direction of what you value. #HappyNewYear!

Navigating Transformation Part IV: What’s Happening to Me?

Throughout history, everything that lives has undergone evolutionary change over time and what have appeared to be significant growth spurts on occasion. With the human, these periods have been post-marked with the ushering in of stages such as The Great Enlightenment or The Industrial Age. We now find ourselves in The Information Age, but despite being inundated with knowledge, believe it or not, there are still plenty of things we don’t know…about ourselves, the natural world, and the Universe at large. The worst part about all this information is that it gives us the illusion we know it all. So when we find ourselves experiencing the inexplicable or inconceivable, we try to fit it into our existing framework and fail miserably. Or worse, we deny what is taking place, shutting our eyes to opportunity and growth.

Photo by Stuart Davies
Photo by Stuart Davies

Right now, I have a string of clients all complaining of some of the same things, which I’ll get to in a moment. I’ve no doubt that many of you reading will discover that you are experiencing some of the same symptoms for which my clients sought me out. They thought that something was desperately wrong with them. They feared they are losing their minds. What I am about to explain I hope will put you at ease and give you a new frame of reference through which to view what you too may be experiencing. I will attempt to keep it as simple, clear, and free from unnecessary jargon as possible.

You see, we are on the cusp of one of some pretty big evolutionary growth spurts!

This article will be merely an introduction to the symptoms affecting a greater and greater portion of humanity. The special thing about these symptoms is that your doctor will find no conceivable explanation for you having them. He’ll either tell you they are psychosomatic or want to push some pill on you to make you quiet and happy. You can decide for yourself what to believe about this list and how it might apply to you, but make no mistake: if you (or someone you know) are experiencing these, you are not alone.

But first, let me explain that we are vibratory beings. By that, I mean that if we could see at the atomic level, we’d discover we are primarily space and that the atoms that “form us” are in constant, jostling motion. We are also highly sensitive to other vibrations or energy…music can alter our moods, foods can cause allergies, winter can darken our mood. Many other subtler energies also affect us constantly.

In fact, jus as we are outwardly affected by changes in weather, enjoying a sunny day or dealing with the catastrophic results of a hurricane, we can also be inwardly affected by another type of weather we can refer to as Human Weather. You’ve probably heard about the idea that “we’re all one,” whether or not you believe it to be true. It doesn’t matter, really, if it fits your current belief system or not. It is perhaps more accurate to say that we are all connected. In other words, when mass amounts of people are being slaughtered in the name of religion, we all feel it on some level. When mass amounts of people are afraid or hungry or destitute, we feel that too. And when our brothers and sisters turn against one another in racial hatred, that hatred affects us all with a deep and irreconcilable sickness of spirit. Have I gone too far? I hope not. Stay with me.

There is another type of weather, a Universal weather signified by planetary changes including those of the sun. These too have an affect on the sensitive instruments we are. Make no mistake. There are many changes going on, from climate to pole shifts to solar flares. These all have an impact on the human form from our physical bodies to our emotional and mental bodies, even our spiritual selves.

So, if you are suddenly experiencing any of the following symptoms for the first time in your life or for the first time in a long time or perhaps on a more regular basis (in other words, it is out of the ordinary for YOU) , take heart. You are not necessarily “sick” in the traditional sense and you are definitely not losing your mind. Your body and mind is either reacting to the various weather patterns out there or you are experiencing very deep level changes that will resolve with time, not with pills or addictive substances!



You may be experiencing rather unexpected dietary changes, from being sensitive to certain foods all of the sudden to having strong cravings for others. You might be eating far more or far less. You might be experiencing weeks of nausea or you might be eating all day long while still feeling hungry. You may not want to eat at meal times, but rather at very unusual times. Many report changes in the body’s ability to digest either certain foods or even everything one eats. Life long vegetarians, for example, may have to eat some meat. Life-long meat eaters suddenly can’t look at meat anymore. Some report (myself included) that food no longer tastes the same. You may have sudden weight gain or loss that cannot be attributed to diet. Again, what’s important here is how it is presenting itself for you…that it is out of your ordinary.

Sleep Patterns & Energy Levels

Many people are experiencing waking between the hours of 2 and 4 AM. Others are having all out insomnia while others need more and more sleep or naps during the day. You may have spent your life happy with 8 hours of sleep, and then, suddenly, 10 hours is never enough. Or exhaustion comes on so suddenly, you have no choice but to drop wherever you are. You might find yourself on a three night streak of creativity that can’t be ignored, keeping you up. Or you might feel the need to do nothing but sit around all day long watching total fluff. Motivation will seem to have disappeared overnight even on a project that you were excited about just a day ago. If you roll with it, these periods will pass on their own, but if you stress over the changes, you’ll find them a source of anxiety and worry.


Emotions can run hot and high. Things that ordinarily you could control are inciting you (or your loved ones) to react in uncharacteristic ways. You may find yourself crying right there at work in the middle of the day or laughing out loud for absolutely no good reason. You might be quick to impatience, irritation or anger…or even bouts of spontaneous joy, wondering “where that ” just came from.

Thought Patterns

You may find that your thoughts seem excessive. You may be hearing yourself think more and more. These thoughts can be odd, as if the thoughts of someone else entirely, or they can be disturbingly dark. The mind can race and put a negative spin on everything provoking other symptoms such as anxiety or depression. Or, if you’re one of the lucky ones, maybe you are finding things very quiet in there for the first time. This may or may not be disconcerting depending on your interpretation of it.


Perhaps how you relate to others is changing. Maybe you suddenly don’t really relate anymore to a lifelong best bud. Or maybe you find yourself looking at a stranger when sitting across from your beloved. You might even see a stranger looking back at you in the mirror. Let friends fall away. New ones will come. Let toxic patterns fade. They will be replaced with more functional patterns. You may find yourself not wanting to hang out with people at all, even if that feels lonely. Or, you might be a life-long introvert who suddenly can’t stand being alone. You might feel sadly disconnected from everyone and everything, and this too can be disconcerting. With this often comes a longing to connect to your true tribe.

Life Changes

Lives are changing in more and more dramatic ways and within quicker timelines. Circumstances outside our control step in in order to shuffle us around. Jobs are lost, evictions take place, relationships crumble, money troubles challenge. Yes, of course this is always happening to everyone anyway. So I’m talking here about extraordinary changes…multiple changes in multiple areas. I’m talking about challenges to one’s sense of safety, identity, and place in the world. These changes often provoke deep questions such as “Why am I here?” or “What do I really want?” You may be in a period of having no answers and this can cause great inner turmoil. Stay with it. These changes are meant to open new doors and new possibilities more fitting to your truth and path.

Memory Loss, Confusion and Spacey-ness

Not being able to remember simple things like a deeply ingrained password can cause concern, especially if it happens out of the blue. Some days, it may be hard to think straight at all. The head is in the clouds, and sorting through even a run-of-the-mill problem is just too much to take even if normally you’re king or queen of detail. It might be harder to make decisions or know which path to take. This generally passes in a few days or even after a couple of weeks…sometimes leading to intense periods of productivity and creativity.

Changing Dreamscapes

You might be having some very troubling dreams as of late, perhaps a streak of nightmares. Maybe your dreams are more colorful or full of images and characters you barely recognize, as if you are dreaming someone else’s dreams. You may be more lucid or have intensely beautiful dreams, too. Or you might be experiencing some unusual activity before falling asleep…hearing voices or seeing images that are more than dreamlike and more akin to messages from somewhere.

Suicidal Rumination

The most important thing about this symptom is that the person having them generally knows they wouldn’t actually act on them. They just happen. This is perhaps one of the most disconcerting symptoms for many people. All I can say is, you’re not alone and you’re not losing it. Something is definitely affecting the weather! Try not to take it too personally when you find yourself fantasizing or planning a quick exit. Detach from the thoughts, as best you can. Shake them off in each moment you have them. If they return, don’t pick them up. If you fear you’ll act or these thoughts are very convincing, then you need to seek the appropriate help. We don’t want to lose you!

Other Oddities: Out of Time/Space, Out of Sorts

You might find that on certain days you wake up, turn around, and find it’s time for bed already. You might have the weird sensation of timelines merging or alternate realities tugging at your sense of the real…as if you’re dreaming all day long. You might just find yourself in a grand funk…unable to put your finger on why you just can’t seem to function at all in any way, shape, or form. Strange synchronicities may occur also, things you just can’t ignore.


These are perhaps the most obvious and therefore the most common symptoms being reported. Is one out of every three people really depressed? And if those statistics are true, then maybe depression is a normal part of life and not some kind of mental illness! Regardless, if you are feeling depressed for the first time in your life or having panic attacks and anxious feelings for no apparent reason, it doesn’t mean there’s something you need to be medicated for. You may just need to learn to be with these feelings as they pass through you. They may be asking you to look deeper. Seek help if you need it. Take medication if you think it will help, but realize that you can’t get away from the root causes of these feelings until you actually face them and deal with them.

And now for some of the more physical Symptoms:


Frequent, intense, and constant headaches might occur, as may visual phenomena like seeing colored lights or flashes. Pressure or soreness around the bones of the skull can also occur. Again, this can signify something more tangible, so follow your instinct and get checked out by a doctor if you want. But when he tells you he can’t find any possible reason for it, that you’re 100% healthy, and that it is all in your head (no pun intended), don’t let that shake you. You’re going to be okay. What’s happening runs deeper than anything any doctor could ever diagnose. It’s all part of a bigger change taking place.

Flu-like Symptoms Including Muscle Aches & Joint Sensations

Many people report what they lovingly call “ascension flu”. They don’t really have the flu, but they are experiencing all the symptoms of the flu from feeling terribly run down with no appetite to even having a bit of a fever. The muscle aches and joint pain associated with flu are also present, and of course, these can appear on their own as well. The thing that lets you know something unusual is taking place is how unusual the symptoms tend to be and with no apparent cause. It’s just an all-over malaise, though it can also be as specific as a bizarre sensation in the left elbow or right tip of the little toe where something is stored in the body and being worked out.

Chills & Sweats

Temperature sensitivities are common as many report either waves of chills or sweats, either all over or centered in one specific part of the body.

Heart Palpitations

Is your heart racing madly for no apparent reason? This is also a commonly reported symptom. I’ve been sure I was having a heart-attack numerous times, but I never was. Was is stress? Chalk it up to whatever you want, there are days when something might play with your heart rhythm leaving you feeling panicked or thinking you need a heart specialist. Don’t be surprised when the heart specialist tells you everything checks out hunky-dory. While that brings a sigh of relief in the moment, when the symptoms returns, that relief quickly fades. It helps to know others are experiencing inexplicable changes in the heart center as well.


Finding it hard to walk a straight line? Join the club! There may be days when you are suddenly having to catch yourself from toppling. Some people even have to spend the day in bed until this feeling subsides. What is it? Who knows? Changes in gravitational pull?

Sensory Perception Sensitivity

Many are reporting tinnitus-like symptoms of high frequency buzzing in the ears. I used to get a flapping wing sensation in both ears. Increased sensitivity to noise is also common. Even what is usually pleasing music can be too much as a deep need for silence takes over. Are your eyes wigging out? Going blurry? Seeing things like flashes of light in dark corners? Sensitivity to light can also occur. In fact, any of the senses can experience shifts…from taste as discussed in diet, to touch with people reporting strange strokes or pricks upon the skin, to smell and the sudden perception of inexplicable odors.


This is by no means a complete inventory of the bizarre symptoms affecting a wide range of people. What makes these symptoms unusual is that they cannot be linked to any physical manifestations of illness. They are inexplicable, at least according to traditional paradigms. They often pass or shift on their own fairly quickly. But if one isn’t aware that this is happening on a global scale, if one starts to think something is wrong, the problems can intensify with the resistance and fear. Then when a doctor says, “It’s all in your head,” (or worse, shrugs and writes an unnecessary prescription) you think you’re going nuts. I assure you, you’re not. You’re in good company. We are changing. Our bodies are purging lifetimes of antiquated traumas, beliefs structures, and stagnation.

Finding ways to deal with these symptoms is beyond the scope of this article, but there are plenty of healthy ways to do so, from taking on a regular exercise program, to getting plenty of rest, to drinking more water, and taking up a meditation practice, to name a few. But if you are experiencing them, you are urged to take any necessary steps to support yourself. There will be those who resist and they will have the worse time of it. Embrace and lean into what is happening. Trust it. Trust yourself. Turn to those who have an understanding of what is happening and who can offer you tools to cope. The times, they are a changing, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. The only other option is to be left behind.


This is the fourth part on a series of articles about Navigating Transformation which can be find on Obooks Blog:
Part I
Part II
Part III

Peace, Joy, Love

For a long time, the question, “What do you want?” would fill me with angst. I never knew what to answer. I always had a sense that if I did, I would be forever limiting myself and excluding something important. In a way, that was true because my perspective itself was limited to things I wanted to be, achieve, do or have.

Photo by Stuart Davies Used with Permission

Now I realize it never was meant to be a trick question. I just needed a broader perspective.

I’ve been asking myself the “what do you want” question a lot lately. What do I really want? And the answer is so simple, it’s astonishing. I want three things. With these three things, I’m assured a happy life. What are they?


I want to be peaceful. What does that mean? What does peace look like? Firstly, it requires acceptance of what is. I can’t be fighting against reality and wanting things to be other than how they are. I have to learn to be with what is, no matter what. It doesn’t mean I can’t take action to change something, but I have to let go of expectations and outcomes. Secondly, it means I have to cultivate peacefulness inside myself. I cannot afford to harbor ill-will toward another. If I do, I will lose the thing I most want out of life. I have to be willing to choose peace over being right or justified. I have to choose peace over thoughts that would instead bring me disharmony.


I want joy in my life. To be joyful, I have to appreciate life. Luckily, there’s so much to appreciate: color, fresh air, sunlight, flowers, trees, clouds, rain, animals, art… I also have to allow myself to create and be spontaneous. There’s no room for inhibition in joy. Joy is a natural spring that must be allowed to bubble up and express itself. There’s no room for holding back in fear. Joy is exhuberance. It’s playfulness. It’s willingness. Joy opens itself up to life and says, “Yes!” Joy if full of gratitude and generosity. Joy tries new things and isn’t afraid of being a little silly.


I want to live a loving life. I want to be more loving toward not only others but myself. What does that mean? It means I have to be willing to feel all of my feelings. It means I have to respect others for who they are. It means I have to exercise forgiveness on a daily basis. To be move loving, I have to remove all the barriers I’ve built up to love. It means I have to reexamine my beliefs about love. It means I have to be vulnerable and gentle when I want to protect and defend. Love is compassionate and open. There is room for everyone and everything. Love even has room for fear, but love has the wisdom to know that fear has no real power.

This is all I want out of life. With these three things, I have everything. So, it doesn’t matter how they arrive or what they look like. Whatever manifests, and regardless of what doesn’t, I’d have it all.

Transformational Voicework: What the Heck Is It?

I’ve been on a quest since the beginning to aptly name my work. I’m still searching for the right words to describe what Transformational Voicework is…and isn’t. It’s one of those “you have to experience it” experiences. Finding the right words to explain what must be experienced to be known is and will probably always be impossible. But I keep trying! I even wrote two books about it.

It has always been challenging describing and defining my work. Use the word “voice” and people think of standing in front of a room shaking or standing in the back of a choir shrinking, and worse yet, screaming…as if that’s all the voice had to offer us. They think of words and lyrics, yells and squeals.

At first, I called my work Shamanic Voicework because the practices developed out of my experiences with Toltec shamanism and the exercise known as recapitulation. Forget the fact that it also combined elements of Creative Drama. After all, I couldn’t very well call it Shamanic Creative Drama Voicework! But the word “shamanic” was a trigger for a lot of people while others just felt is was too woo-woo, so I changed the descriptor to “transformational” since when people engaged in this work, that’s what was happening. They were transforming. They were losing inhibitions and tapping into buried creativity and expression. But while this describes the result, it doesn’t really explain the purpose or process.


The voice is a powerful tool for healing, but few people think about the potential of the voice beyond speaking and singing. They take the voice for granted instead of realizing the incredible magic if offers. But I couldn’t very well call it “healing voice” or use more technical types of words because there were already too many associations with speech therapy, another common mistaken association. And I couldn’t call it “voice yoga” because my friend Kara nabbed that one! 😉 But actually, even that didn’t quite reach the heart of the method I’d created. For years, I’ve been making due with Transformational Voicework.

But now that I’ve left a city where every other person is a yoga teacher or massage therapist to live in a country where few people even know what Reiki is, let alone something called Transformational Voicework, I’ve had to rethink things again. I’ve had quite the brainstorming session, and words like “metamorphosis”, “catharsis”, “unwinding”, and “opening” came up.  So did “evolution”, “revolution”, “rapture”, “genesis”, “deconditioning”, “purification”, and “reprogramming”. But some of these are already in use in a different way. For example, there are musical artists that call themselves “Vocal Revolution”. Besides, some of these words are no less “woo-woo” that “shamanic”.

Other words came to mind, like “primal”, “divine”, “sovereign”, “instinctual”, and “reflexive” …along with plenty of silly phrases like “Voice Hurling” and “Vocal Roto Rooter”…along with nutty mash-ups like Evocalvox. There were also words like “authentic”, “pure”, “satisfying”, “archetypal”, and “heartfelt”. “Imaginative”, “creative”, “uninhibited”, “liberating”, “adventurous”, “natural”; each of these words plays such an important role in the type of voice work I share with clients. But how do I get that across in three words or less? So many words, each of them saying something important about the techniques I offer, but no one able to encapsulate the energy-moving, life-altering processes.

While I thought I was onto something with the word”release”, a major aspect of the work that has to come first to get to the juicier parts, it too presented problems. Short and sweet, but associated with screaming,  it was perhaps too easily misinterpreted. Alas, “Vocal Release” is already in use to describe a singing method anyway.

Another word I really like is “intuitive”. The head has to be removed or the sounding isn’t natural and indigenous to the body; it is still far too conditioned. The voice (or the mind that controls it) requires deconditioning. But while I would be referring to mental deconditioning, voice therapists already use the term to describe degenerative states of the vocal mechanism, and I certainly don’t want that connotation! I love the word “intuition” which reflects that the sounding isn’t about following a sheet of music or trying to sound a certain way. But using “intuitive voice” alone connotes channelers and psychics.

I recently came up with “Intuitive Vocal Release” and tested it with a small audience. The usual connotations arose: singing, screaming, shouting. Some people thought it was downright wordy and empty. Granted, they have nothing experiential with which to relate it…nothing but singing, screaming, or speaking. The usual. But that’s not what I teach. Transformational Voicework is a series of processes that take a great deal of coordination with attention on very subtle changes, utilizing breath, movement and the full palette of the voice to move emotion, energy, stagnation and pain. Tranformational Voicework is a way in and a doorway out.


Transformational Voicework will have to stand for now. Regrettably, I am aware that misunderstandings of my work continue. Most clients who show up for the first time at workshops tell me, “I have no idea what this is. I just know I have to try it.” Such brave souls and always ready for the experience. With others, for example random people who ask me what I do, there are always assumptions more so because there are no concepts other than singing or speaking with which people can relate. Sometime, I just give in exasperated, “I’m a vocal coach.” At least they can wrap their heads around it. Someone suggested the word “experimental” and while it requires a sense of exploration for the person going through it, I don’t like the connotation that there is no method to the madness. I know where it all leads…to the “exalted voice”…something I’ve seen and been blown away by time and again in my clients who are fortunate enough to allow themselves to go that far.

I’ve been trying to label all of this, to develop a phrase that narrows in on the most essential elements of this amazing work, but maybe it is the heart alone and not a name that needs to call people to this path. I’m okay with that.

Some Thoughts on Growing Up

I had a dream not that long ago. I was with a group of children rolling around and playing. We were laughing and having such a silly time of it. When it was time for me to go, I felt I had to say something. I told them all how much I appreciated playing like that again and watching them too and that I had no doubt of the importance of allowing ourselves to play. I encouraged them to keep playing, keep laughing, keep having unbridled fun for as long as they could in life, for these things could save the world.

This dream sort of came true for me recently when I taught a group of expat kids a creative drama workshop. It was a joyous day for me because the kids were so uninhibited and alive. Their eyes still shone with the light of their hearts. They weren’t afraid to act silly, take a chance, or imagine something that wasn’t real. They gave me hope…and fits of laughter.funky-kids

I’ve never thought myself all that unusual, but the more I engage with random folk and not just friends, the more I see myself as an oddity. So many “grown ups” seem so happy to argue for their limitations believing they can’t do this or that, that they are too old, too tired, too inflexible, and too late. They are terrified of making a fool of themselves, to try something new. What an excruciating way to live! If there’s something you love and you want to do it, go after it. You might not be the next Picasso or Barbara Streisand, but so what? You might never sell your book and perhaps no one will ever hear your song, but if it is inside of you, for heaven’s sake, let it out! Who cares who’s watching? Who cares who’s judging?

I think we have “growing up” all wrong. For so many people, the act of growing up stole their essence. They exchanged wonder for skepticism and their favorite toy for their favorite addiction, numbing themselves to the pain of a joyless life. Growing up isn’t meant to be growing away from ourselves. Growing up is growing away from and beyond all the bullshit we’ve been taught to believe. Growing up is remembering how to be childlike without being childish. Growing up is a remembering, not a leaving things behind. Only then are we truly alive and wonder-full, a creative force to be reckoned with. Go play!

Meditation: Beyond the Trend

medI recently came across a fascinating article about how different types of meditation affect the brain differently written by

The article distinguishes two main types of meditation: directive and nondirective. For the sake of clarity here, directive meditation requires a focusing of the mind on something whether it be one’s breath, an object, or a thought. Nondirective meditation, on the other hand, allows the mind to rest or wander freely. In other words, there is very little effort mental exerted.

The research discovered that those in the study practicing nondirective meditation actually had more neural activity than the directive group.

Nondirective meditation led to higher activity than during rest in the part of the brain dedicated to processing self-related thoughts and feelings. When test subjects performed concentrative meditation, the activity in this part of the brain was almost the same as when they were just resting.

These results suggest that nondirective meditation is more helpful when it comes to processing our thoughts and feelings. If the whole point of one’s meditating is to “know thyself”, then it is clear which form of meditation would be more beneficial.

Last night, my meditation group worked with a Gyatri Mantra meditation, listening to a drone and powerful chanting created by one of my favorite online resources for chants, Dr. Nipun Aggarwal. Afterwords, one of my fellow meditators wanted to know whether what we had just done was the first type, directive, or second type, nondirective type of meditation.

I realized that it wasn’t so much the technique as it was the meditator that would determine which “type” of meditation was experienced. This woman expressed that she was mentally focused on counting the lines of the mantra and so felt as though it was a directive meditation. I, though, had had a nondirective experience allowing the sounds of the mantra to simply wash over me. Thoughts came and went. I do remember at one point turning my attention toward the practice of circulating energies of the Microcosmic Orbit, so there was for several minutes, a more directive experience for me as well.

This all has me asking more questions. Is is possible that these two forms of meditation, or what are classed and treated as two distinct forms of meditation, are really only one form of meditation experienced at different levels of ability? Is the goal, in other words, always nondirective meditation? Assuming the person meditating is doing it to “wake up” to the self, then wouldn’t nondirective meditation be a higher form of meditation than anything directive? In fact, what are the benefits of a more directive form of meditation if such a form doesn’t help us process our thoughts and feelings? It is merely reduced then to a form of relaxation or exercise for the mind?

I recently shared a post on Facebook how meditation is a growing trend. I commented that I was happy to see more and more people learning to meditate but not at all happy it was “trendy”. One of my friends asked me why: More people are exposed to it with greater benefit; what’s bad about that?

At the time, I didn’t much feel like trying to explain how when things go trendy, especially spiritual things, they also get watered-down and greatly misunderstood. It happened with yoga, and now, while there are of course those who do understand, many turn to yoga as a mere physical challenge, completely and ironically ignoring the body in the process. It is likely to happen with meditation as well. If people do not understand the differences between directive and nondirective meditation, there is a grave danger in masses of people thinking they are meditating when all they are actually doing is concentrating and bending the mind to will. Worse yet, there will be those who take The Mystery out of meditation completely sterilizing it in the process. I’m not saying just because it is trendy that people won’t benefit from meditation. That didn’t even cross my mind (until someone I know explained that’s how they read this). I just want everyone to have a chance to experience the best that any meditation has to offer.

Setting aside the “trend” debate, everything has its place. We all have to start somewhere, and often, directive forms of meditation are the easiest. It’s where I started. I suspect it’s where most of us start. I’m not claiming to know that nondirective meditation is somehow superior to directive forms, either. I’m merely asking the questions and sensing what has been true for me. I love many different forms of meditation, including directive. But I must say, for me, the most transformative of experiences have been resting in the wide (and wise)  open space of the self, being still but observant, free from efforting, concentrating, and controlling anything. It took a nondirective practice for me to experience that.


Woman Finds Peace in a Cracker

peace“You won’t believe what happened to me this morning. My life is forever changed. I was eating crackers waiting impatiently for the completion of a download on a 56K modem. I broke a cracker with my thumb for more manageable eating, and the cracker broke into the peace sign. Sure, I know what you’re thinking…so what? I didn’t think much of it either until I broke a second cracker into the exact same configuration. Then I had no doubt. It was a miracle…a sign to pay attention. And now I can find peace in anything!”

We all tell ourselves stories. Things happen, people say things, we have experiences, and we interpret and place meaning and value on all of it. We decide whether it is good or bad, important or meaningless, providence or coincidence. We choose. The trouble is, we are so invested in our interpretations we forget that anyone else having the same experiences might tell an entirely different story. And without being attached to our own version, we might find theirs just as valid. We forget that we too can tell a different story, see things in a completely different way.

Instead, we limit ourselves and others with our stories. We cast ourselves as victims or heroes or villains or victors, and we forget that we are just telling ourselves stories. We identify so deeply with the stories we tell ourselves we tend to believe in them whether they serve us or not. Sure, we all have great stories about how we finally got what we worked so hard for or finally spoke up for ourselves. Those stories feel good. But so often, we write like the soap opera writers, with such drama and tragedy! Or in writing a story of great self-importance, we end up defeated, afraid, and confused when things don’t turn out like we expected. And then we tell another story to explain why. So at times like these, it is best to remember, we are just making things up as we go along!

We interpret the signs, the words, the expressions, the events that happen to us. And those interpretations in turn influence the stories that come later. So it’s important to be aware of the stories we tell and to remember it’s all in our heads, no matter how we choose to see things. And we have so many choices! One person may see the shape of a broken cracker as a sign from God and be so inspired that he starts a program to feed the hungry in his neighborhood. Another person could see that same cracker and think of the irony of such a symbol in a time of war, getting lost in the despair of death and destruction. Still another person might have been so distracted that she didn’t even notice the pattern…but had she been paying attention, what story would she have made up for herself?

My cracker incident got me thinking about what kind of storyteller I am. Do my stories serve me or limit me? What kinds of stories do I want to tell? I clearly have a choice. I can shrink myself and my world with my stories or I can inspire and encourage myself and others. I’ve decided I want to tell beautiful and empowering stories. If I can find peace in a cracker, with mindful storytelling, I can find peace in anything.

Incidently, when I ate my third cracker, it didn’t break into the peace sign. I guess it only had to happen twice for me to write this story.

How Insignificant Beliefs Create Very Significant Habits

Many years ago, about this same time of year, I spent a weekend at a women’s workshop at the Garden of the Goddess, a retreat ranch outside of Santa Fe. What I learned about myself came as a bit of a surprise because it seemed like an “insignificant belief” but it actually had very far-reaching effects. I believed that if anyone ever gave me support or helped me in any way, I felt beholding to them disproportionately. This is a simple belief and one easily rationalized away by my intellect. But wait ‘til you see what it had been doing to my decision-making.

First, to explain the belief. I will use a real-life example that incidentally happened the week before the workshop. At work, I asked the technical director to cut some thin lumber to cover the shelves of an organizing unit since the slotted construction of the shelves made them fairly useless. She did so. And afterwards, taking the sheets of wood under my arm, I asked, “What can I bake you?” For some reason, I felt like I owed her a personal favor in return for the favor she did me in cutting the wood. The ironic thing is that she didn’t really do me a favor at all. She did a favor for the office…and then, is that even a favor? She is employed same as I to keep the company functional. But the problem for me does not really lie in the “was it a favor or not” question. I was grateful to her regardless. The problem lies in the fact that my feeling gratitude wasn’t enough. I had to do more, even taking personal time and going to expense to prove it.

It ultimately comes down to self worth. Had I had a sense of worth that said, “yes, I accept this person’s effort” or “I deserve this help that I am receiving”… Instead, my hidden belief was that I did not deserve what others were willing to do for me, and if I wasn’t careful in covering that up with lots of gifts and overzealous thanks, they would see that I was not worth it. Or even worse, everyone else would realize I’m worthless and therefore expect me to pay back big time if they did me a favor.

A joke was made at the workshop to help me bring this shadow into the light of absurdity: “Thanks for the foot massage; what kind of car can I buy you? Thanks for the Kleenex; would you like a new wardrobe?” My perceptions were not only that screwy but were accompanied by a bizarre sense of guilt that I could not respond.

Once I started to spend more thought on this one issue in my life, I became aware of so much more. For one thing, this belief ties in to both my parents. My father was always showing love by buying, feeding, forcing. Yet, he never really gave himself, his presence. I had inherited that trait. I didn’t see my presence, my love, as enough. I don’t blame my father in any way because after all, it has to be an ancient belief. We each simply inherited it like a gene. Had he known differently, he might have done differently. He might have realized his true worth, his self, was enough. On the flip side was my father’s belief that he was not appreciated, a belief frequently made apparent, hence, my warped perception of gratitude not being enough.

My mother on the other hand contributed to my perceptions because she was so sacrificial. She would give us kids anything…and not always with a smile but often with a martyred sigh. While other children may have interpreted this experience differently, I interpreted it as meaning that mothers have to give ‘til they are dry and always put others first’. I also perceived a huge void in my mother that I felt responsible to fill as her beloved daughter…an impossible task since no one outside of the self can ever fill a hole for us, hence the guilt for not being able to fulfill another’s needs.

Complicating my beliefs about payback and gratitude was another belief I discovered about asking for what I need. It was revealed to me in a dream I had a few nights before the weekend. It didn’t make sense until I had the rest of the pieces of the puzzle. I dreamed that my father had cut off his thumb. My sister was on the phone to my mother telling her, “You have to take him to the doctor now!” and my mother saying, “Oh, it’s not that bad.” I realize now that the dream was about my own inability to take my needs seriously. I have held a belief that I have to be more than uncomfortable, more than in pain, more than sick to seek assistance. It has often resulted in exercises of endurance.

Can you see how my fear of payback also influenced my ability (or inability) to ask for what I really need? And if I just waited until it was an emergency, then I wouldn’t have to worry about not being deserving enough.

With this awareness, I could then continue to see how these ingrained beliefs played out in my life behind my field of vision. I had more opportunities to take a different point of view about my worth and my responses to others, and started taking responsibility to meet my own needs whether that meant asking for help when I was afraid to do so or helping myself when I’d rather look outside of myself. A single thread unraveled a whole blanket of misperception.

The act of discovery, while often painful to approach, has the awesome ability to greatly lessen the power our beliefs have had over decisions and choices and greatly empowers us with a new awareness to make new choices. It’s magic…when we’re willing to do the work.

Perception: Why Not Rose Colored Glasses?

sy00590_If everything is a matter of perception, through what lens do I see the world? It is a question I have been asking myself lately and frequently, having read Emotional Alchemy by Tara Bennett-Goleman, a book which I very highly recommend. In it, she discusses the cognitive habits and beliefs we have that skew our perceptions of reality in all manner of self-fulfilling prophecies.

Work gave me the perfect opportunity to observe exactly the dangers such habits can wreck on an otherwise happy life. One day, I received a phone call from a woman asking to speak to our accountant. I asked her who was calling for him, as I always do in order to announce the call, as is considered standard procedure. She became very irate without ever simply answering me and hung up. Several minutes later, we received a fax that said, “Tony, I can’t seem to get passed the person who answers the phone. Here’s the information you wanted.” It made me laugh because all she had to do was tell me who she was. But, she must have had some belief in place somewhere in her subconscious that morning that made it true for her that I was giving her a hard time, singling her out, making her unimportant. None of that could be further from the truth for me.

The incident made me wonder, how often do I react “as if” something is true making my life harder than it has to be? It saddens me to think of all the times I’ve taken something personally and then suffered emotionally over what was nothing at all. No wonder one of the four agreements is to not take anything personally. It reminds me of a song that Ella Fitzgerald sung, “we made up and then, quarreled again, all over nothing at all.”

That same day at work, I got a call from a woman who wanted to be added to our audition mailing list. She was upset that she hadn’t been getting mailings as she used to “get them all the time and someone must have removed” her from the list. I then asked for her birth year, again standard procedure. She answered and then asked why I needed to know. I explained that we use birth years to save costs on mailings that only apply to certain age groups. For instance, it would be a waste to mail audition notices to people over 30 if the show calls for children and young adult actors. She became furious admonishing me not to judge her without seeing her. There was no comforting her, and the call thankfully ended. When I ran her name in the computer, her name was still on the list. It turned out that she had moved; she just never updated her address.

It became so clear to me that she was seeing everything through the lens of deprivation. Her belief that she would be mistreated, forgotten, and unwanted is exactly what she set herself up to experience. She reacted to me as if that we already so. Ironically, I got another call a few minutes later from a woman asking to be added to the same list. When I hesitatingly asked her for her birth year, she too wanted to know why. I explained, and she responded, “Oh, that’s a really good idea!”

We all do it. We all look perceive through the lenses of our previous wounds and experiences. We set ourselves up to experience exactly what we most fear. Seeing things as they really are and taking responsibility for what we’ve created is a stepping stone to freedom. Now that I am becoming more aware of my ability to choose which lenses I use, why not rose-colored glasses?

What Makes Art “Bad”?

cropped-lotus-nebula-sml1.jpgI recently read a great article, actually a compilation of quotes from various experts, on what makes art good. There were some very eloquent statements. One of my favorites was a quote from art critic #DeWittCheng:

Good visual art looks stunningly right and, in retrospect, obvious, or inevitable– yet it’s also continually surprising. It is a powerful paradox. How can someone have possibly made this? How in the world could it not have been made?

And it all got me thinking. What makes art bad? The old saying goes, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. What one person finds dull or even ugly, another may find interesting or wonderful. So, what, exactly, are the parameters available to us for classifying art as “bad”? And is any art really “bad”?

For me, it depends upon two things: 1) why the art was created (in other words, the motivation and intention behind it) and 2) is it an authentic expression?

Let’s say someone who experienced a massive trauma, a refugee for example, started to express herself through painting. Maybe she was never trained and her technique is lacking. Yet, her reason for creating…to heal herself…that makes the work of art beautiful to me. That’s not to say I would want to buy it and hang it on my wall. But there is beauty in authentic expression. She had to paint it or a piece of herself would wither. Would a critic love her art? Maybe. Maybe not. But the ingredients are there for good art. Her reason for painting and the expression of that painting are genuine.

Do the rules change when we move into the professional art world? What if someone wakes up one day and decides, “I’m going to make money selling art.” He splashes some paint on a canvas until it appeals “interesting” to the masses and then slaps a price tag of $300 on it. Is the art beautiful? Or maybe there is a highly trained artist who follows all the formulas for a masterpiece. Is it a masterpiece? It may look like one. It may be priced like one. But is it? In the case of the former, the reason for painting lacks integrity and in the latter, the passion has given way to rules and techniques.

Or another example…a young artist tries very hard to copy the work of a master. It’s a learning exercise. It’s a little lop-sided or it might even be a brilliant copy, but is it art? How can it be? It’s a copy! The authenticity of expression is lacking. On the other hand, a child could draw a picture from his heart, and it could be the most beautiful thing in the world, simple in its innocence and devoid of technique, but a perfect expression.

So, maybe we can better determine whether art is good or bad by asking ourselves what the artist is trying to transmit. Are they just making a pretty picture? Or is there some meaning behind it? And do we resonate with that message?

From my perspective, bad art lacks heart. Good art is made from heart!

The thing is, everyone is artistic. It’s a god-given birthright to create whether it’s through painting, sculpture, writing, dancing, singing, knitting, cooking…whatever. So, who gets to be the professional, the acclaimed? Which of us are the talented master and stars of the game? Honestly, I don’t have an answer. I’ve known some amazing artists who never do a thing with it. And I’ve known some real “crap generators” who are making a living! It is an eternal mystery who is seen and unseen, who is chosen or looked over. A lot of it comes down to who has the balls to put himself out there!

For me, bad art is boring, ho hum, and lacks imagination. It’s what I’ve seen a million times before (and sometimes what I wished I’d never seen). Good art, then, is intriguing, inspiring, and something I’ve never seen before or, if I have, it’s done in such a way that it makes me pause and become curious. As I’ve said before elsewhere, good art makes me want to breathe more deeply. It stops time, if only for a moment, and says, “See how beautiful life is.” Ah, but now I’m back to talking about good art. We’ve come full circle.


Artist as Entrepreneur

I just read another “end of the art world” article about the ramifications of artist as entrepreneur on the world of art. It seems something or someone is always trying to kill off the art world. Lots to think about!

brushes smallThe article takes the position that the artist as master artisan is devolving as the wavy line that separates true artists from creatives gives way to the economic need, and that while once upon a time, artists were true craftsmen of rare and studied talent, today, everybody and his grannie can paint a picture or write a book and put it up for sale on Facebook. What was once genius, held sacred and protected, first devolved into a profession, as technique overtook inspiration. And now, that profession of art is morphing once again into the self-employed artist or creator, a jack of every trade necessary from accounting, to marketing, promotion, and sales, leaving precious little time for the great masterpiece. It’s a great article and a sad but realistic commentary on where we are headed. If Van Gogh has been alive today, he would have been just another interesting artist.

I am perhaps an example of the type of person to whom this article refers, as a writer, musician, and artist. But I didn’t “become” multitalented to fit into new markets. I do see more and more, though, that everyone is embracing their self-expression. Anyone can write a book, make a video, be an artist, write a song… Why not? I don’t know that everyone calling him or herself a writer, artist, musician, photographer, designer whatever is the end of art. On the contrary, I think humans were meant to express and create. We were meant to dream a more perfect world. No, that is not the problem.

The problem perhaps is that while we are embracing our creative natures, we aren’t changing the paradigms that rule society in terms of economy. We need an evolutionary leap. I’m not sure what that looks like. I’m not sure any of us do…yet. But I hope the possibilities make themselves apparent soon.

The Critic’s Critic: Ego in the Art World

ego-man-mdIs ego killing the art world? I found a rather provocative article the other day written in 2014 by art critic #JJCharlesworth that spoke about ego in the art world destroying art. I’m afraid it didn’t convince me. If art isn’t about the self and our personal experience of the world, how can it be anything other than just a bunch of pretense and intellectualism? But then, I’ve probably just offended the pretentious Mr. Charlesworth. But that’s okay. I don’t invite him to my parties anyway.

As a friend and fellow artist said upon also reading this article, “I ask you this question: What is the difference between the #MileyCyrus work featured in this piece and one of the plethora of self portraits painted by #FridaKahlo or___(pick one)____?”

And that is exactly the point. If this kind of egocentricity has been killing the art world, it’s been doing so since 1433 when Jan Van Eyke painted his own portrait.

No, it is clear that Charlesworth, in writing about the ego-as-artist, was actually experiencing the ego-as-critic! His problem with individual self-expression doesn’t seem to include himself. Oh, the irony! Methinks his main objection to the rise of obsessive self-expression is that there are now more voices competing with his. Or maybe, maybe that he lacks the level of consciousness necessary to comprehend works like that of visionary artist, #MarinaAbramović. Could it be he sees it as superficial and self-obsessed because he himself is superficial and self-obsessed? It’s not a question he will want to explore, despite the fact that he believes art should make one think.

My paintings come from me and are symbols of the way I dream…I cannot separate them from myself. Nor do I want to paint or write about things of which I have no personal experience. I just don’t understand this critic’s argument in so many ways! And at the same time, I get it. I mean, who gives a crap about anybody else anymore, right? “Self-centered” can be a very bad thing or a very good thing; it rather depends upon the one defining it. As for me, I’d rather be centered in self than centered in someone else. That would just be weird…and painful.