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Just a few ideas about finding and maintaining equanimity…

May is Mental Health Awareness Month in the US…

How are you taking good care of your mental well-being?

While it’s always been important, the past few years have highlighted the need for giving consistent attention to our own self-care. The direction to, “Put on your oxygen mask first” is critical for us and all those around us. (I don’t even need to draw that visual right?) If we do not take care of ourselves we cannot work with the challenges in our own lives, much less care for and help others. 

In the early summer of 2013, I discovered Zentangle during my search for resources for high school students engaged in the college admissions process. My coaching clients wanted and needed tools to support them in moving through their feelings of anxiousness, confusion, and overwhelm. I wanted to provide methods that would help them feel agency in their lives— something they could do on their own, developing their confidence, giving them pleasure, and engaging their creativity.

The Zentangle Method is a way to find calm and focus using simple steps and basic strokes to create beautiful designs. 

In November of 2013, I became a Certified Zentangle Teacher. Since then I have taught over a thousand students around the world — in Australia, Canada, India, Nepal, Singapore, South America, and the United States, in person and online (even before the pandemic). It is a practice that brings me, and my students joy, and nurtures relaxation.

What do you do that nurtures your well-being?

Okay, maybe walking and resting…

There are so many possibilities! I love the idea of a vacation—really getting away from the daily routine. And yet what supports me consistently is the small actions I take on a daily basis.  Enjoying a cup of coffee and reading for 20 minutes or so before walking Gus in the early morning, making art of some kind—tangling, watercolor, painting with acrylics. Getting out and walking a mile every day, in all kinds of weather, or working with crafts—knitting, quilting or slow stitching. And, there are those weekly “musts” of connecting with friends around the world over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine.

I’d love to hear what you’re doing to find equanimity. I hope you will share your methods and resources with me.

 Just in case you want to try your hand at tangling…

On June 16th, you can discover the joy of Zentangle (or take your tangling skills to the next level) in my free session. Bring a friend to support you in continuing to tangle after our class together!

Learn to tangle!

Begin the journey by exploring the roots of this art and the steps to follow to draw your own beautiful patterns. In the very first class, working with creamy white tiles, a black Micron pen, pencil, and a tortillon/smudger*, you will learn how to create your own beautiful Zentangle tiles and leave with a hunger to learn even more!

6.14 at 8 pm EST/7 pm CST/6 pm MST/5 pm PST

Register here.

*When you register you will receive information about the Zentangle materials to have on hand. I also provide a list of alternate materials that everyone has around the house. 

I hope you will join me!

Reflecting on the Shape of Our Lives

Two weeks ago, I posed these questions…

🌀 What experiences have nurtured and shaped you throughout your life?

🌀 Who has inspired and supported you over the years? Who might do so in the future?

🌀 As you view and reflect on all these answers, how have these “nutrients” formed your essence? (Another metaphor may be, “What is the foundation you are standing on?“)

🌀 What more do you want to bring into your life? And, conversely, what will you let go of or re-shape to better serve who you are now and want to be in the future?

I am wondering if you made the time to answer them. I hope so! Here’s the overview of my thoughts:

As promised, I devoted time to reflecting on the people in my life—past and present—who have helped me grow intellectually, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. While my drawing identifies few folks by name, I took a walk through my memories, from childhood through to the present. The revisiting of my life experiences—from relationships to schooling, travel, work, and more has led me to appreciate the successes and challenges that have, in part, formed who I am at this moment in time.

Happily, I have an ever-widening circle of friends and colleagues who continue to inspire me. Interestingly, I am letting go of just a few of my projects (though I love them) to make more time for what I am deciding matters most to me.

I hope that you have savored your journey from the past to the present too.

Opportunities for learning and growing—oh my!

Gosh, it’s been an amazing couple of weeks! I’m stretching in new and unexpected ways!

What’s your spring been like?

  • In March, I began a course of study that requires me to use new processes and formats. Part of the work is writing/drafting, submitting, revising, submitting, revising, and sending off finished papers about all of our courses. It’s a rigorous (and lengthy) process! 
  • I’ve started working with a mentor. Deciding on the shape of that experience with a person completely new to me is both exciting and challenging. I am at the beginning of a two-year journey and there is much to consider… my background, interests and goals, her expertise, our styles of interaction, the nature of such a relationship—it’s complex!

  • Just last week, I offered a joint coaching session to the two participants who had most successfully followed the guidelines I created for assessing graphic recording work, (from my session for the Visual Jam). It was such a delight working with these women who came in with high-quality visuals and helping them to make their pieces even better. Another set of eyes, a different perspective, it’s a gift.
  • I’m developing a visual storytelling piece to present at a conference in July. While the concept is really clear in my mind, how it comes together on paper/my iPad is still a work in progress. I decided that I needed support and so reached out for an accountability buddy—to get the work and play of it done—and to offer me feedback. It’s been awesome! My colleague, who is an accomplished author, shares ideas that would never have occurred to me. Happily, I do the same for her current project.
  • One of my clients is seeking to dramatically change her approach to digital recording. Each coaching session we review recent pieces together, identifying what’s working and why, then we discuss alternatives to the options chosen re: layout, use of color, lettering hierarchy, iconography, and the harmony of text and drawings. (This is the type of work I do for myself too. At the end of almost every project, I look at what I have created and think of at least one other way to do it completely differently! It is both a blessing and a curse to have those insights.)

What projects are on your plate?

How are you gaining perspective about your work? 

Who are your mentors, guides, or coaches as you continue to learn and grow? 

How is the “feedforward” you’re receiving supporting your goals?

As you can tell, I always believe that it’s possible to do things just a bit better! Old dog, new tricks!

Reach out to me if you want to explore your next best steps.

 

Postscript: In honor of  May as Mental Health Awareness Month, I am going to post again tomorrow with my visual from two weeks ago and one of my favorite resources for taking good care of myself. 

Musings on gratitude…

Here’s a peek into another facet of my life… I am in training to be a (Buddhist) chaplain. In my fieldwork for this role, I was asked by my supervisor if I wanted to step into the opportunity to prepare and deliver a service to the hospital community. While I was unsure of how to create such a piece of work, my interest was piqued by the challenge. As you can imagine, I said, “Yes!”

Here is my writing about gratitude that I shared in the chapel at the hospital yesterday, and that was broadcast on the hospital system (for those who turned to the designated channel). To my delight, (because there’s no way to know if anyone is watching on television) one of the patients I have met with several times mentioned that she was watching and enjoyed my service… who doesn’t love David Whyte, right? 

I hope that you will read my first attempt at this type of writing (not a sermon, not a dharma talk), and let me know what you think!

 

Wishing you, your family, and friends peace,

Jill

Friends, 

Good morning! Thank you for joining us this morning.

I feel both the delight and the weight of sharing thoughts and prayers with you before Thanksgiving.

Traditionally, the most wonderful aspects of this holiday are making time to acknowledge that for which we are thankful in our lives, and the gathering of our families—however, we define that—from near and far. We know, that in these current circumstances, we must navigate this Thanksgiving differently. Families may not come together as in years past — because we have lost loved ones, we want to keep ourselves or others safe, or the burden is too much to manage this year with changes in our life circumstances. 

I personally feel sadness and longing as I will not see half my family and many friends in person this year because we will remain distant with the hope that we may gather safely next year.

Though, as we come together this morning, we make time to pause and reflect on all we have experienced this year, there is much to consider. We can recognize the challenges and those experiences we were, and are, able to savor.

I’d like to share with you a few thoughts from one of my favorite poets. David Whyte, who explores gratitude as a quality of being, as a way of understanding ourselves in relationship to all that exists.

Perhaps we can think of Thanksgiving and beyond, to create more of a practice of gratefulness every day. I am inspired by Br. David Steindl-Rast when he shares, in A Grateful Day,

Do you think this is just another day in your life? It’s not just another day. It’s the one day that is given to you. Today. It’s a gift. It’s the only gift that you have right now. And the only appropriate response is gratefulness. If you learn to respond as if it were the first day in your life and the very last day, then you will have spent this day very well… Look at the sky. We so rarely look at the sky. We so rarely note how different it is from moment to moment, with clouds coming and going. Open your eyes, look at that. Look at the faces of people you meet. Each one has an incredible story behind that face not only their own story but the story of their ancestors… Open your heart to the incredible gifts that civilization gives to us. You flip a switch and there is electric light, turn a faucet and there is warm water and cold water, and drinkable water. A gift that millions and millions in the world will never experience.

And so I wish you that you will open your heart to all these blessings and let them flow through you. That everyone whom you will meet on this day will be blessed by you, just by your presence. 

Let the gratefulness overflow into blessing all around you. Then it will really be a good day.

And, so my question is, from my recent reading of Judy Lief’s work, 

  • What are we grateful for this year—both for what has and hasn’t happened?
  • What has gone well and what difficulties have you escaped?

Let me pause so that you may reflect and answer for yourself.…

Perhaps the gentle reminder of a prayer (from Thilini Ariyachandra ) will connect us with our beliefs so that we carry the thoughts and feelings within us through Thanksgiving day and beyond.

Let us pray in the name of all that is good.

May we all be well, happy and peaceful,

May no harm come to us,

May we all also have patience, courage, understanding, and determination to meet and overcome inevitable difficulties, problems, and failures in life.

May our parents, our teachers and mentors, our friends and may all living beings across the world…be well, happy and peaceful. May no harm come to them,

May they also have patience, courage, understanding, and determination to meet and overcome inevitable difficulties, problems, and failures in life.

Let us take a silent moment to add to this prayer with our own, personal prayer.

If you are a patient or staff member, we are praying for you.

In my role as a chaplain, I seek to embody these ideas from Tenzin Gyatso. 

May I become at all times, both now and forever
A protector for those without protection
A guide for those who have lost their way
A ship for those with oceans to cross
A bridge for those with rivers to cross
A sanctuary for those in danger
A lamp for those without light
A place of refuge for those who lack shelter
And a servant to all in need.

When you need or want support and care, reach out to those—chaplain, clergy, family member, or friend, who can offer you their presence, to be with you, to help lift your clouds of sorrow, and bring calming breezes that will strengthen your heart and soul.

And, so I ask the question that Mary Oliver posed years ago, “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? My answer is, in part, that I will take up my gratitude practice again, noting each day three good events in my life and my explanations for them. And, I will start by saying thank you to all of you for being here with me and sharing your time with me this morning. It is a privilege and a joy to be here. 

Wishing you a Thanksgiving day full of warmth, connection, and gratitude, and for the days that follow.

And now, for something totally different…

Just last month I began a creativity coaching program. I’m exploring my creativity in a totally new medium—paint— and learning to bring new ideas, skills, and practices to my coaching work with existing clients. Maybe I’ll even offer creativity coaching as an elaboration of the Zentangle play and work that I adore.

What have you started, or explored more deeply, recently? What’s exciting in your life right now?

One of the exercises in this coaching program is to create a face collage. Surrounded with images torn from magazines, gel matte, paintbrushes, and more kinds of scissors than necessary, I set to plorking (playing and working) with jazz playing in the background.

Once complete, perhaps an hour later, as there is symbolism in everything element chosen for the final piece (and that takes time… all the sifting and sorting through images), I was delighted. I had created a rather startling image!

My big, beautiful face is surrounded by photos that called to me. All of these images stir my imagination… I follow a pathway through a forest, see gorgeous, weathered planks of wood,  imagine being a bird floating in the sky, and experience warmth and a sense of peace in the viewing setting sun.

The image of a beautiful bird reflected in the water invited me to invert the photo for this piece. The reflection is placed at the top of my head because that’s where I do my thinking, feeling, and musing. My very large eyes see both beginnings and endings—sunrise and sunset. They go beyond the contours of my face. My nose smells the flowers and all there is to take in, my cheeks are bright, sparkly red buttons of color showing life and vitality. My mouth is big, juicy, and open just a bit as there’s always something to be shared and talked about. My ears represent both the big picture, listening for big themes and the sparkle in the fine details of what people are saying. I sport a jaunty crown of an undersea delight. The monarch Butterfly is an anchor for me just reminding me of my tattoo/my connection to my father. The beautiful Spring owl soars, as I always seek to do myself.

If you were to make a face collage, what would you create? 

What ideas, beliefs, desires, questions, and more would be integrated into your creation? 

I hope you will experiment too. If you do, please share it with me.

If you’re interested in accessing, expanding, and evolving your creativity, I hope you will be in touch with me.