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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. 

What brings you joy?

Almost every week since the beginning of the year I have experienced delight by enabling others to step into their Zentangle practice and to feel joy too. This meditative art form is a place of beauty, peace, and calm.  

What brings you joy?

As I reflected upon my Zentangle practice and teaching, I realized that it truly brings me joy. I feel totally alive and engaged with my pen in hand.

Zentangle for me is…

a simple (though not always easy) way to bring beauty into my life every day with ease

a lens for viewing life, a reminder to see my life with fresh eyes and new perspective(s), understand that I will make mistakes—it’s part of living—because I try new things and I get them both right and wrong. I am sometimes tired, my best efforts are not always my best work, and working through my missteps—by fixing them or making peace, learning, and moving on, is what enables me to grow. 

art & a science… I bring my own special flair to the guidelines for working with the method.

a reminder to step back and gain a new perspective… there’s always at least one more way to view a situation. I’m always thinking to myself and saying to participants, “Hold your tile at arm’s length and rotate it—90, 180, 270, and then 360 degrees. What do you find as you do so? Which view is most interesting or appealing to you?”

a way to recognize any struggles I’m having and choose a different path.

Poke Leaf is the lovely, organic pattern at the top of this piece.

How often do I say to folks, ”If you’re having a challenge with a particular stroke, try rotating the tile for greater ease.” 

about both comforting and challenging myself. I LOVE and work with about two dozen patterns regularly—they feel easy and comforting. The liveliness of Jetties, the wildness of Squid, the energy of Cadent, and the boldness of Knightsbridge delight me. And, I’m always on the lookout for changing up the way I do one of my “go-to” tangles and for new patterns and media, to keep me sharp and humble… aware of my growing edge.

“What if, instead of just shading the leafy part of Poke Leaf, I use my pen to color in the stem, shade the top of the stem and use the tortillon/smudger to move the pencil lead into the body of the leaf?”

These tangles (patterns) span four 12 inch square canvases.

 

 

“How might I create in a larger space/literally a canvas—how do I need to adapt to the new dimension? What tools will I use?”

a reminder, that there’s a time to put down the pen and walk away from my work… because I have done enough, and doing more may overwork the tile. 

I  caution myself at times, “There’s a time to pause and reflect. I can choose to pick up the pen or pencil again to continue or leave it for now.”

an opportunity to sink into the process, experience flow, and remain unattached to the result. 

There are times that I enjoy the drawing, learn a lot about the patterns and how they fit together yet don’t love the final look of the work. I counsel myself to walk away and return to the piece the next morning, knowing that I may feel differently about the tile then… or I will have learned from it and take that knowledge forward. 

just like so much of how I live my life.

What is your answer to my question, “What brings you joy?” I’d love to know!

If exploring Zentangle piques your interest, please look on my Calendar page to learn about the free class I offer each month and series that is a deep dive into this beautiful art form.

 

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet…

My current dilemma is to describe my newest area of work…

How do you talk about what you do for work? 

Or, perhaps a better question is, how do you describe what you do for your clients in your work? Because it’s really all about them, right?

These are very practical questions for me as one who has had many different types of work.  When I was a teacher of children with special needs, a principal in schools, and then an administrator in schools, people assumed they knew what I did. To be honest, I’m not sure they had any idea of what it took to be a teacher of children and young adults with special needs back in the late ’70s and ’80s (but that’s another conversation). I was a constant in the lives of my students, an authority figure who nurtured their social-emotional growth and created an environment in which they could engage meaningful learning. 

Becoming a curriculum developer (or instructional designer in the language of business) was a title that my colleagues in the education field understood. In my experiences in the business world however, the understanding ran the gamut from in-depth knowledge of the requirements of designing and developing curricula/training programs to think that ID’s create slide decks (and training is about reading slides).

I heard these questions, as a

  • coach (“Are you a life coach?”)
  • trainer (“Do you work in a gym?”)
  • facilitator (“So you make facilitate things, make them easy, what does that mean?”)
  • visual practitioner/graphic recorder, facilitator and coach (“How do pictures and words help people communicate?”)

I have faced so many questions—granted, that is a good starting point for a conversation though the frequency with which they occur is alarming. 

What’s your label? Does it really describe what you do?

My current dilemma is to describe my newest area of work. Visual practitioner, visual storyteller, sequential artist, comics artist, cartoonist, graphic novelist, graphic memoirist…when I say any of these terms, what do you think of?

What do you think?

I grew up reading comics and so my idea of “comics” —what they are—is tied up in those memories…Peanuts, Archie, Dennis the Menace, Batman, Spiderman, and more.

Here are some examples of this work from my project/book to illustrate (haha!) my experience training as a chaplain. I feel like I’m straddling different genres and I wonder how much a label matters…

When I visit the Graphic Medicine website and read the description of their work, it makes me change my thinking about the word “comics.”

“Graphic Medicine is a site that explores the interaction between the medium of comics and the discourse of healthcare. We are a community of academics, health carers, authors, artists, and fans of comics and medicine.”

They believe “the graphic is the medicine.” Think about that for a minute or two, the graphic IS the medicine—so cool right?

I think I will choose between these labels for the time being — Visual Storyteller or Comic Artist — the first being more inclusive of my work (graphic facilitator and recorder, observer of life) and the second being more my next move/my multi-panel works about my internship experience.

I’d love to hear your thinking!