Friday, March 21, 2014

"Keep Away from the People who try to belittle your ambitions. Small People always do that, but the Really Great make you feel that you, too, can become great." -Mark Twain

The quote at the top of this post was sent to me by a friend who threw me a life line.  I am sharing with you below the e-mail she wrote to me because it is so useful:

I’m reading 2 books now that are changing how I’m thinking about pretty much everything.  The books are “The Gift of Play” by Barbara Brenner and “Play” by Stuart Brown.  Although both authors agree that it is almost impossible to create a definition of “play” since it is so different for everyone, the key elements are:

- apparently purposeless (not done for practical value, money, etc.)
- voluntary (no one is making you do it)
- inherently attractive (fun and makes you feel good)
- freedom from time (lose sense of time when doing it)
- diminished consciousness of self (stop worrying and thinking about ourselves)
- improvisational potential (potential for serendipity and chance)
- continuation desire (desire to keep doing it)

Both authors talk about the vital importance of keeping play in our lives, which includes everything from physical health, having a healthy brain in later life (like a 63% better chance of having a healthy brain), creativity, emotional balance, etc. and that the elimination of play is the root cause of many problems in children as well as adults, like ADD, ADHD, depression, violence, anti-social behavior, problem solving abilities.  There are studies that supposedly show that the one common attribute among the most violent criminals is that they didn’t have a chance to play as children.  In Stuart’s book, he described some recent problems they were having at NASA’s JPL (where most of the engineering for the space program is done) with the new, younger people they were hiring.  Many of their older employees recently retired, so JPL started recruiting the best of the best college graduates from all over the country, but found that these new employees were not good at problem solving or finding creative solutions for things.  They did an extensive study and found that many of the older employees who had retired had grown up “playing” by taking things apart to see how they worked and then figuring out how to put them back together.  The newer employees at JPL did not do this growing up, but instead focused on book reading and academics and never learned how to “play" this way to solve problems.  So now JPL has questions during their interview process to see how much the interviewee has “played” with the types of things they do at JPL.  Both books keep pointing out how purposeless playing that is done just because you find it interesting and love to do it, leads to health and well-being.  .
I was having an hard time figuring out how I like to play until I read the following “play personalities” In Stuart’s book.  He came up with these through his observations of people, although he says these are just basic categories and were created so he could address the “engineering” types at corporations who needed to have things more defined:

The Joker
The most basic and extreme player throughout history is the joker.  A joker’s play always revolves around some kind of nonsense.  Indeed nonsense is the first type of human play we engage in: all baby talk begins with nonsense.  Parents make infants laugh by making silly sounds, blowing raspberries, and generally being foolish.  Later the class clown finds social acceptance by making other people laugh.  Adult jokers carry on that social strategy.

The Kinesthete
Kinesthetes are people who like to move, who - in the words of Sir Ken Robinson - “need to move in order to think.”  This category includes athletes, as well as those who find themselves happiest when moving as part of dance, swimming or walking.  Kinesthetes naturally want to push their bodies and feel the results.   They may be those who do football, yoga, dance or jump rope.  While kinesthetes play games, competition is not the main focus - it is only a forum for engaging in their favorite activity.

The Explorer
Each of us started out our lives by exploring the world around us.  Some people never lose their enthusiasm for it.  Exploration becomes their preferred avenue into the alternative universe of play - their way of remaining creative and provoking the imagination.  Exploring can by physical - literally going to new places.  Alternatively, it can be emotional - searching for a new feeling or deepening of the familiar through music, movement, flirtation.  It can be mental:  researching a new subject or discovering new experiences and points of view while remaining in your armchair.

The Competitor
The competitor is a person who breaks through into euphoria and creativity of play by enjoying a competitive game with specific rules and enjoys playing to win.  The competitor loves fighting to be number 1.  If games and keeping score are your thing, this may be your primary play personality.  The games can be solitary, or social - either a solitary video game or a team game like baseball - and they may be actively participated in or observed as a fan.  Competitors make themselves know in social groups, were the fun comes from being the top person in the group, or in business, in which money or perks serve to keep score.

The Director
Directors enjoy planning and executing scenes and events.  Though many are unconscious of their motives and style of operating, they love the power, even when they’re playing in the B-movie league.  They are born organizers.  At their best, they are party givers, the instigators of great excursions to the beach, the dynamic center of the social world.  At worst, they are manipulators.  All the world’s a stage, and the rest of us are only players in the director’s game.

The Collector
What good is a world of random objects?  The thrill of play for the collector is to have and to hold the most, the best, the most interesting collection of objects and experiences.  Coins, toy trains, antiques, plastic purses, wine shoes, ties, video clips of race car crashes, or pieces of the crashed car themselves, anything and everything is fair game.

The Artist/Creator
For the artist/creator, joy is found in making things.  Painting, print making, wood-working, pottery, and sculpture are well-known activities of artist/creators, but furniture making, knitting, sewing, gardening and decorating a room or a house are also in their purview.  Artist/creators may end of showing their creations to the world and even selling them for millions, or may never show anyone what they make.  The point is to make something - to make something beautiful, something functionally, something goofy.  Or just to make something work - like fixing a pump.

The Storyteller
For the storyteller, the imagination is the key to the kingdom of play.  Storytellers are, of course, novelists, playwrights, cartoonists, and screenwriters, but they are also those whose greatest joy is reading those novels and watching those movies, people who make themselves part of the story, who experience the thoughts and emotions of characters in the story.  Performers of all sorts are storytellers, creating an imaginative world through dance, acting, magic tricks or lectures.  Because the realm of the storyteller is in the imagination, they can bring, play to almost any activity.
“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”




Sunday, March 16, 2014

What Is a Normal Goal for a Young Person Becomes a Neurotic Hinderance in Old Age - Jung

I was finding that when I did the activities that had previously helped induce a state of 'wonderment' I was temporarily relieved of the increasing despair I was feeling.  I was part of a book club and at one of the meetings a new person showed up.  I think we are impacted more often by a persons energy than their words and she transmitted a life energy that I was drawn to.  At the end of our book meeting she invited us to an 'intuitive painting' workshop and I decided to go.
Years before I had heard of a teacher, Michelle Cassou who had developed what she called process or intuitive painting.  I was in the midst of learning painting and drawing skills and eagerly looked at her book:  Life, Paint, and Passion.  I rejected her perspective immediately due to her emphasizes on painting for the process or experience of painting and enjoying it’s meditative qualities.  She clearly stated that it’s not about the end product. It is not about what you “should do.” It’s about becoming conscious and present.
Well, I was ready to give this intuitive painting process a try now.
At the intuitive painting workshop I loved the colors, the feel of the brush on the paper, and putting whatever I was moved to on the paper.  However, I did not want anyone to see my finished painting!  While we were driving home from the workshop I was considering how I could hide this 'painting' from my partner.  He knew I was going to a painting workshop and I was concerned about his judgment of what I was bringing home.
Even though I had heard and resonated strongly with the instructors prompts such as:  " With painting it's what has happened inside of you that is important. Not the product."  Or “Creativity works the same in every medium. It’s not the painting, it’s the process of creativity.”
I could not get past my fear of judgment and what I perceived to be the consequences of a 'negative' judgment.
As it turned out I was unable to sneak my painting inside, my partner was right inside the front door as I came in.  Nothing in me wanted to show him what I had painted.  The pain of this did not escape me either.  Here I was 56 years old and I was stressfully concerned about preserving some kind of 'idealized' self image.  Was this self image worth protecting? This 'upset' was out of proportion and I knew there was something for me to understand and at this stage of life, grow beyond.  Couldn't the art form of a human life transcend egoity?
I remembered reading about Gustav Klimt and how when he began his inspired painting with gold all of his friends, most of whom were painters, told him that he could not paint with gold, it was somehow against the rules of fine art.  He did give up painting with gold.  What if he had been able to endure their criticisms because he was moved by something greater?  Where would this creative process have taken him?
My own expression of art had once come from a depth of felt 'brightness'.  Over time, rather than stay true to that guiding brightness I had been impacted by criticism, something we all deal with and yet the limiting rules I took on as a result of how I dealt with criticism had caused the expression of brightness to dim.
One must have great strength to stay on the path lead by the mysterious creative process.  This pathway does not care about egoic destiny, it is about burning up self image as one transcends self to become one with Light.     

"Who Am I Standing In the Midst of this Thought Traffic?" -Rumi

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Had the Experience But Missed the Meaning - T.S. Elliot

In time I was able to use the pointer finger on each hand.  So I was able to type with two fingers for short periods.
I began to type out what kinds of experiences for me frequently induced a sense of wonderment when I participated in them.  I needed this list to help address the despair that was constantly gnawing.  I wrote a list out over a week and noticed that all the activities fell into five broad groups:

One morning I woke up remembering an experience I had had when I was young, elementary school age.  I was outside in nature, alone sitting by a running river.  I had in my hands a small garter snake and in an instant my small personal viewpoint disappeared.  I don't know how long this experience went on for but when the sense of 'me' came back everything was shimmering in light and I knew that everything was One and that that Oneness was Love.
I was so happy about this I jumped up to go and tell my parents.  As I made my way to the house I could feel energy moving through everything, and heart felt:  How wonderful!  There is a beautiful, bright energy underlying everything!
As I put my hand on the screen door to open it and saw my parents inside the thought hit me, "I can't tell them this, they will think I am crazy."  I continued inside and said nothing.
I think all of us, when we are young have some experience, by Grace, that informs us of Oneness.  People call this experience by many names: God, Spirit, Light, Love, and many other words.
Einstein, before discovering his unified field theory maintained an underlying presumption that, "whatever reality is, it would show itself to be simple and beautiful."
Within a couple days of having this experience I doubted and then forgot it though the memory of it would surface at different times throughout my life, often when what I called 'Oneness' would again break through my personal point of view and fill me with wonder and mystery.
Though I had experienced knowing that we are all truly One, the profound meaning of these experiences had yet to truly penetrate my sense of reality.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Where You Stumble and Fall, There You Find Pure Gold - C.G. Jung

Fabric Weaving as taught by Jude Hill
I was facing something I did not want to see or acknowledge.  While I was saying " I do art for the love of art" I was clearly not doing this.  I intuited the truth and beauty of doing art or truly any activity as an expression of love and yet once again was faced with a realization that below these words I was ego-driven and not heart lead.
I had experienced this realization before and yet here I was, painfully visiting it again.
I have learned over time that life does not progress in any kind of straight line forward and yet wondered: do lessons ever get learned in some final way?
I also cannot deny that human and non-human suffering goes on everyday.  Suffering is a very evident part of life.  Any person who I have gotten to know below their 'surface' has dealt with suffering.  No one escapes it.  And having done animal rescue and rehabilitation work for years the suffering of the non humans goes without saying.  So I could not feel sorry for myself or blame anyone for the use of my hands being taken away.
I felt, deeply that I would use any activity egoically, insisting on uniqueness of self rather than trusting and following the Mysterious Creative Process.
I clearly felt how in general I was moved by anxiety and fear and not trust in something greater than my ego. 
Yet I also whole bodily knew, that there was something so much greater than the egoic self.  I knew that both stillness and movement could be done in love not egoity and that when anything was done from this place beyond the ego that true Beauty occurred.  
I felt both emotionally and physically frozen.
I had stumbled and fallen.

Monday, March 10, 2014

A Journey of Mystery

Experimenting with fabric weaving as taught by Jude Hill

I could not have understood at my core what I had come to believe about 'art' and specifically drawing if I had not lost my ability to draw.  And, like any belief, these beliefs directed how I interacted with myself and others.  Of even more importance I was able to understand how these deeply held beliefs once known, actually were preventing me from growing in artistic expression as I had seen a number of my friends grow and flower.
I realized that 'art' for me had become linked with my understanding of and expression of "me".
I had developed strong convictions that the ability to draw was equivalent to being an artist and I had spent years working to develop this skill. 
After understandably grieving this loss it became obvious to me that I was looking to my ability to produce 'art' as a way to be loved rather than as a way to express love.
How had I so unconsciously taken a form of expression that had once been a source of joy and turned it into something that had to provide my life with meaning?
Carl Jung has written:  " The greatest and most important problems of life are fundamentally unsolvable.  They can never be solved but only out grown."

Saturday, March 8, 2014

A New Hello!

Often to get to a different perspective something has to change.  Getting arthritis in my hands was a big change that included a number of endings.  In order for me to move past the self pity and entropy I was swimming in I had to question and make shifts in strongly held beliefs.
I found out very quickly how strongly my sense of meaning was tied to what I was able to DO: drawing, painting, cleaning, cooking, gardening (all activities that I needed my hands for) and was not very connected to who I am.
I will be writing more in the coming weeks about this Grace Filled process of discovery and sharing how in the midst of changes it became very clear to me that mysterious creative process is always present and available.
I have been doing different types of art:

And have been rediscovering creating out of love rather than to get love.

My arthritis is healing and that too involved a significant change in diet.  If anyone is interested in the diet that has been helping me it is called the GAPS diet.

If you are brave
enough to say
goodbye, life will
reward you with
a new hello
-Paulo Coehlo