Watercolor Painting – Be Your Own Star

Watercolor Painting – Be Your Own Star  

 

I recently completed a 4-day watercolor painting class taught by Ellen Jean Diedrerich from Fargo, ND.  She is a well-known and  talented artist.   This was a “beginner” class but I surmised that I may have been the only novice.  Being a practiced “mindful person” I saw this beginning status as an asset.  

Did I have a book called Beginning to Paint loaned from a well-seasoned, paint enlightened friend?  Yes. Did I open and read it prior to class?  No.  My brain wouldn’t allow it.  Can I blame my brain?  Sometimes I do that.  First, I’m an experiential learner which means “learning through refection on doing”.    I grew up in the conventional culture of conformity, sitting still, memorizing and comparing.   The older I got the trickier it became and by the time I reached college, I began to realize that I would need to learn some study skills.  I attended my first year at then Mary College in Bismarck, ND.    I perceived myself as being a decent student, but it was difficult to learn and memorize all the material that was required.  I thought in concepts and for me, it needed to come together in some understandable format to really digest it.  I finished the year with a C average across the board and I told myself that was ok…. yet I remember that feeling of discontent of why I couldn’t magically get all the information that was pumped out.  I knew there was more within – I just couldn’t reach in and get it.  I remember getting cordially nudged out of certain fields of study and the subtle messages I perceived as not being a star in anything.   I used to draw pictures of beauty queens with stars surrounding them, big smiles on their faces, always thin and always beautiful.  I wanted to be a star, but society’s road was narrow.

Social Work became my focus in large part because I had a mentor, one that I experienced as a good and caring person.  She also saw something inside of me …. This dovetailed with one of my childhood visions of being like Albert Schweitzer and find ways to help in the world…another big star for humanity.  I often hear from others that they don’t have a vision of where they belong, what they should do etc.  Often, this vision eluded to  in others and myself is the desire to feel good, content, happy or fulfilled depending on your school of thought and that is subjective to each one of us.  Wondrously, creativity relates with these  inner stars of happiness and fulfillment.  The more avenues we find to connect these inner stars, the better.  When they shine, our energy centers can flow with ease, our bodies can move with more flexibility and our strength grows.  The inner core of the body is more important to strengthen than the outer limbs and core muscles.  That inner core can include how you think, how you manage emotions, your beliefs, and your past experiences.  One of the exercises I use to get a perspective on inner  core health – Stand in front of a large mirror nude and observe your reaction.  Spend a minute really looking.    Where are those stars  when you need it?  Where is that beautiful self-talk and the encouraging voice to help you along your life path?  This research will give you clues to those things that may need changing.

Day 1  My first day of painting class went  like this.  I compared, felt overwhelmed and wondered why I was even there.  I learned about basic brush strokes, the color wheel and the importance of design and shapes.  I didn’t do well in geometry or math and avoided these kinds of things but here these shapes were set up in front of me; cones, boxes, pyramids, garlic containers, and whatever else.  I didn’t know about drawing from the right side of the brain which I am exploring now.  Then, I just knew frustration.  I called my artist friend that evening and basically vented – sharing the “it’s too hard” mantra of my childhood.  But now, I have learned just to be aware of the thoughts, then find creative or positive strategies to cope.  At my age, sometimes its’ easier just to coast and avoid the challenges.  Is this healthy for the brain?  Avoiding stress can sometimes be a prescription for health but avoiding the creative parts of self is damaging in the long run.  So, I chose the path of stress with the hopes of a good outcome.

Day 2  It was better – we got to “color” from the color wheel, draw circles and combine colors.  I learned how designers choose the best compliments and layouts for environments and how artists can create paintings from just a few colors.  I was still hesitant to mix the colors and learned why not to use black or white except on rare occasions.  I listened to my inner critic for good parts of the day as I drew and painted the first picture of a hydrangea.  I put the picture on Facebook and got a few positive comments from my husband, my mom, and my childhood babysitter.  Now that is love.   

Day 3  This was my emotional day.  I was late, had clients prior to the class and said goodbye to my son leaving home to move across the country.  Our project was to find a picture we wanted to paint, draw and paint a grid and begin the work.  A grid is this underlying drawing of boxes that you paint with a few colors.  This serves as a base for the painting.  The picture I brought in was a complex group of flowers that I grabbed off the wall.  It wasn’t a thoughtful process and one I learned from.  The lesson – to think with intention before you create.    Tension developed from the start and involved a change of pictures; a rough day of trial and error.  I needed lots of direction from Ellen and even her repairs couldn’t fix the issues.  I started a new painting for fun which I liked a little better, but it looked like it was one of those 3rd grade tree pictures.     As a child, I painted like I thought I should, compared a lot and got by in the average lane.  I’m realizing how the potential didn’t have the chance to grow – I was too busy surviving.  This class has connected more of these dots from childhood.

Day 4  Ellen is eager to share the wisdoms of the watercolor art.  She gave us her book called Progressive Painting.  She shared the inspirations of the why she wrote this book.  I was amazed at her process as an artist and a business builder.  Being in my own private practice, I understand the need to blend the art and the money.  We all need to survive while we “strive to thrive” as I like to say.  I was drawn to the class by the colors since I work with the rhythms of the emotional body.  I’m keen now to the energetics and colors of the body, the frequencies of words, products we use, thoughts we think about and behaviors we engage in.  It all matters.  Emotions are the powerful drivers for us humans – that’s how we end up in the messes that can teach us the way of finding peace within ourselves.  At the end of this day there is a critique session where each person presents their art.  Since I’d needed to leave early for a work obligation I discussed mine early.  Secretly, I was relieved to avoid the group reaction to what I had accomplished.  Now, I wish I would devoted my entire day to the class and stayed to present this oddly shaped disaster of mine.  The more I think of it the more pleased I am to think of all the learning this little piece inspired.  Do I now have an appreciation of why I have avoided this art until now?  Yes. In the midst of this  “trudgery” I have discovered tiny glimpses of my own truth – my own voice of creative expression which can be empowering and ripple into other aspects of life.                      

Creativity is a given for some people – they are born with an innate perception for the arts, yet they may have challenges in other areas.  I’m realizing we are all filled with creativity – it just varies in  its form.  My emotional artistry can be quite amazing when used to understand the emotions of others.  When I work with couples, the intensity of these emotions can be sensed like waves hitting the shores.  When we find the right path to transform the painful ones to higher frequency feelings such as compassion, love or caring the result is better relationship.    It’s our job to find it the things we need to do/learn to be who we were born to be.  I refer to listening to the heart in many of therapy sessions.  Just a simple hand on your heart helps remind the brain what really matters.  The more I explore my creative side, the more that life opens, and this openness creates flow and health in the body.  There is an essential oil blend called I love that when used on the body or inhaled can help inspire the heart energy.  The essential oils of Rose, Clary Sage, Patchouli, Ylang Ylang Complete, Rosewood, Palmarosa, Spikenard, Neroli, Jasmine, Sandalwood, Lavender, fine; Dragon’s Blood, Cedarwood Atlas, Elemi, Grapefruit, pink; Marjoram, sweet; Petitgrain, and Cypress.  What a power blend!  In hindsight, I should have used this every day.

A star is born?  Usually I would say of course not, I don’t have talent.  Now that those words are out of the way I can expand that to say a few  stars were found in the process.  I think we are the product of many little stars – scientifically speaking of course.  Do the research.  In the meantime, pursue creativity even though…. Stress/illness/grief/depression/anxieties/ADD/obligations are just a few blockers to our inner stars.  Reach out, seek support and be perseverant.  I will continue to seek my painting passions – adding it to my therapy toolbag, more appreciation for art, or continuing practice sketches and simple watercolor pieces.  Thank you, Ellen, for  sharing your gifts and talents.  It makes a difference!

 

 

Emotional First Aid Kit for Mind/Body

2015  has just begun.  New beginnings are in the air, media, social networks and the history of our lives.  I notice cravings for what is new and am aware of that familiar yearning for what is old and familiar.  Advertisers may be all too familiar with these psychological “truisms”,  perhaps more than any of us want them to yet they are the engine of our lifestyle machine here in the US.

  • New – the emotion of excitement
  • Comfort – the feeling of security and times gone by
  • Hope – the anticipation of getting what you want

This year I decided to create my own first aid kit for emotional management and healing.  Based in part on the emotions listed above – the New-Comfort-Hope concept. My advertising logo might be the eagle/dove image.  Over the years in my private therapy practice I have explored many healing modalities for psychological healing. I believe in the explore, experiment and educate philosophy…the emotional scientist so to speak.   The following is a list  of my own tips for managing the truisms of our ourselves, how our beliefs about ourselves derive from our emotions, those we came into the world with at birth or the ones that were created throughout our lives.  The encouraging news is that we can heal from both psychological and physical conditions and ailments.  The reality is that it takes an investment of commitment and time.  Let’s begin:

  • Today is the first day of the rest of your life.  Every moment of every day is a new opportunity to start again.  Take on the beginners mind when you want to change anything.  Discouragement and doubt are powerful emotions.  I have seen many couples in my therapy practice make comments on the how hard it is to carve new paths together.  It is only possible if both have some interest and if the interest isn’t there then the “fun” can begin.  Get out the emotional excavation tools.  As Socrates once said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”  I believe every life is worth living to each person’s capacity.  Finding that capacity is sometimes tricky.
  • Take an emotional inventory meaning “Who do you love?”  and “Who loves you?”  The belief that we all deserve to love and be loved is also powerful.  Stress and emotional disorders such as mood and anxiety can impact the brain and cause negative thinking and depressive symptoms.  If the answer to the love question is no one and not me then that is the time to call in resources and realize the brain in stress can create problems.
  • Intentional Movement – we hear it all the time that we need to exercise, get fit and toned.  Emotional heath does better with movement in harmony with body and mind.  That would include any type of mindful exercises such as Tai Chi, Yoga, Balance and dance or moving meditations.  Many activities can be adapted to be intentional by slowing them down.  Fast paced, competitive sports all have their place but for the purpose of  emotional health these are better. Essential Somatics by Martha Peterson is one such program that combines these elements to manage/eliminate pain.  I have been experimenting with this one.  The author is a former dancer who experienced pain related to injuries and inflammation.  By “tuning in” to your body regularly, you create a relationship with your own body that can work with you over time.
  • Nutrition and Intuition for the brain.  I have written several blogs regarding the importance of brain health and  the role of nutrition.  Listening to your body and what it does and doesn’t need  is the goal.  In this culture we are not taught to look within for answers, not taught to listen.  Our consumer driven society teaches us to look outside of ourselves; how to fix what is wrong with us with every product under the sun.  Developing a way to access your inner guidance system or intuition will empower and help navigate the current landscape of food choices and beliefs we carry.   Loving Yourself to Great Health by Louise Hay,Ahlea Khadro and Heather Dane is one book to explore this subject.  Question what the beliefs are that you carry around.  Be like Michelangelo and question your life.  Every day create some questions for yourself.
  • Explore emotional healing strategies such as  The Healing Code and The Emotion Code.  The Healing Code, by Alex Lloyd  states that there is a physical mechanism in the body that would heal physical and emotional issues (wrong beliefs) and counteract the source of all these issues which is hidden stress and bring them to light by a practice he has developed using the hands.   The Emotion Code by Bradley Nelson  focuses on the role that emotions play in ones life.  ” Where would you be without emotions?  If the sum total of all your experiences makes up the tapestry of your life, it the emotions that give that tapestry its color.”  He states that unresolved emotions that are stored in the body are the source of many types of pain and suffering.  The treatment is about finding these old emotions and releasing them forever.  This relatively simple tool involves finding a way to access your body/mind using muscle testing or as I have seen, learning how to use the pendulum as a way into yourself. ”  I have been trained in the trauma treatment EMDR which uses eye movement and stimulation to calm the brain as it introduced to new and positive beliefs about oneself and relationship to past stress and trauma.  This is a treatment that needs some guidance, yet once it is experienced, there are many strategies to help yourself when negative symptoms arise.
  • Be Open to Resources.  We all have unique pasts, experiences and personalities.  Whenever you find yourself thinking  “I am right and You are wrong” or “I don’t know what to do” seek out a resource.  This can come in the form of mentor, education(ie.books, computer research, a class) therapist,medical professional, spiritual guide, trusted friend or in a practice such as meditation, centering prayer, art, writing or just being in nature.  Health is all about balance Too much stress can create instability and consequently physical or emotional pain.  I once read the quote “Pain is inevitable, suffering is not.”   I often suggest specific essential oils as resources to help access the parts of us that need attention and healing.  Lavender Vera, Frankincense, Sweet Orange and Peppermint  are a few that come to mind now.  There are oil blends that are created for each energy center of the body (chakra system) and are often used to energize and move what needs to move.
  • Language matters – speak words that have forward motion.  Avoid words such as “No” or “can’t”.  Re-phrase what you want to say with words that are more positive in tone. Yes, you will be amazed at this practice. Research has shown energy patterns to words said both verbally and to yourself.  Positive language carries a higher frequency while negative words are measured at a lower frequency level.  For me, making changes in my own internal dialogue has been most challenging.  I am constantly being shown all the old, habitual forms of negativity that have made their home in my brain.  Genetics, lifestyle, culture and spiritual history all have influence here.  Change has been harder than I first thought.  The good news is Perseverance does pay off.  Keep after it… like training a puppy.
  • Love and Affirm yourself daily  –   This may seem foreign to some.  This  mirror exercise is amazing.    With your hand circling your heart say out loud:  “I love and accept myself completely; with all my faults and limitations and all my wonderful gifts and talents, I love and accept myself completely.  Try it for a week and notice.
  • Last but not least – BREATHE and BREATHE some more.  Explore learning breath strategies.   The audio called  “Breathe to Beat the Blues” by Amy Weintraub is an excellent resource to download.  There are many apps for that as they say.  The 4-4-4 is a basic yet effective breath.  Inhale for the count of 4, hold for 4 and exhale through pursed lips (like blowing air out a straw) for 4.

My intention on this mid-winter day  is to create some excitement for exploration and strategies to use when experiencing the pains of life.  Just like a medicine cabinet holds medicine for your body, the emotions need their own first aid kit…and that can be exciting and comfortable at the same time.