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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. 

How do you learn best?

How have you discovered the answer to my question over your years in educational systems and in training programs?

I find that I am most aware of how I learn best when I am in a situation that doesn’t meet my needs.

What about you?

When is the last time you had a stellar learning experience? What made it great? I find that when the design and delivery of the materials are masterful it can be difficult to say why, because everything comes together so beautifully.

When is the last time you had a challenging, difficult, or awful learning experience? What made it so?

THE CONTEXT

So… I feel compelled to share just a wee bit about my background and how I come to the thoughts I am sharing… It is my effort to share my lens for viewing/experiencing training programs. If you know my background, skip the next paragraph and go straight to the story.

The short of it is:

  • I am a former teacher, principal, and administrator in special education settings in New York City.
  • My doctorate is in curriculum development and my passion is the creation of engaging, learner-centered learning experiences.
  • For me, teaching and training are all about knowledge AND skill acquisition—the ability to use/act upon what has been learned.

THE STORY

For just over a month I attended an online class on a subject which I had only a little knowledge about and yet a keen interest. I knew there was a lot to learn and I was excited.

The first session was almost impossible for me to understand. Even though it was an introductory course, people had varying degrees of experience. The trainer’s approach and materials were not sufficient to work with the varying levels in the group. The second session was marginally better, in that I reviewed videos and slides to gain more knowledge—though I still had only a little idea of how to put it all together to achieve the goals of the program. In my desire to learn what I had come for, I reached out to the trainer and shared, in a forward-looking conversation, information about how I could gain more from the class. Happily, she was very responsive and changed aspects of her style for the next class. I believe a sign of her realizing that folks were struggling was her offer to add one more class to the series… I appreciated that, as it took me until session three to feel like I understood most of what was being said. And, to be clear, understanding what is being said is not the same thing as being able to use the information to do the tasks we were learning.

MY CONCLUSIONS

With these thoughts in mind, and in my effort to focus on the positive—here’s a list of what I need as a learner—

I need:

  • a trainer who has explored her/his philosophy around learning and training, and then worked to develop programming that is all about delivering content in service of the learners/learning, i.e., more than a content expert
  • a course that is appropriate for my level of knowledge and experience (as advertised)
  • to know the elements/topic areas for the entire course to understand it best—I am a “global” learner needing an overview to create the framework in which I can place the details
  • a description of what I will learn/know and be able to do, i.e., the skill(s) I will have gained by the conclusion of the course
  • an agenda for each session in the course—just a few words about the content/subjects
  • use of techniques and materials that support my learning in an online environment—the skillful use of platforms to show materials, and development of print materials that are clear, consistent, well-organized, and provide accurate information
  • to practice with what I am learning—having some “scaffolding” for my learning. For example, in the course I was taking, what are good/some correct examples, what are examples with errors and can I find the errors and correct them, then when I do the work on my own, getting informative feedback about what I did correctly and where I have room to improve… useful feedback that is actionable, not just cheerleading, “You’re doing great!”
  • an opportunity to ask questions as I am learning, not waiting until the end of a session or at the beginning of the next session
  • honesty—in some instances, “there are no wrong answers” is true. In this course, it was not, yet in an effort to encourage us to participate we were told… an untruth
  • a trainer who is aware of what’s happening in the “room” and able to adjust to the dynamics
  • requests for feedback about how participants are doing in their learning and how they are feeling about it… and the time and willingness to listen to it, at the conclusion of every session.

What do you need? How do you do your best to ensure that you get what you need?

I’d love to hear your answers!

How are you growing in your practice?

With spring in the air and shoots emerging from the cold, brown earth, my mind follows suit—I am thinking about growth and change! One of the ever-present areas of interest and practice is in honing my signature style…

What’s your signature style? What has been your journey in developing and refining it?

I think about this question in all areas of my work though I encounter it the most frequently when I am teaching visualization skills. Folks come into the bikablo courses I offer with the initial desire to learn how to do what they have seen in the books and online— literally the drawings and also the methodology which supports the development of their skills. As people progress, they want to make their work a reflection of themselves which to me, is a sign of their growing sophistication. When I’m asked about how they can develop their own style, I reflect on my journey.

What’s your foundation… what supports you? What are you building on?

I began drawing, for use in my training business, with the book, Beyond Words, by Millie Sonneman. As I remember it, she said if you can draw circles, squares, and triangles, you can draw just about anything well enough for people to recognize it. I took her at her word and started drawing on flip chart paper taped to the glass door separating my kitchen from the deck. I loved it—it was fresh, fun, expansive—it opened up another channel of communication for me.

Feeling that my initial work was good yet there was more to be learned, I started poking around online, (back in the late 1990’s) and discovered  Nancy Margulies. I studied how she created her drawings—to learn how she looked at things and started to imitate her style. Her approach was completely different than Millie’s in that she used swatches of color to create her figures. Nancy mentored me briefly and the experience moved me in a different direction—it was fantastic! I searched further and found Christina Merkley, ultimately taking courses with her for over a decade.

In 2016, I attended the IFVP conference and participated in two workshops delivered by the bikablo team of Frank Wesseler and Stefan Böker. I loved the simple approach supported by the structure and methodology—it made it easy to learn and achieve good results fast. Now almost 5 years later, I have become a Bikablo trainer. I’ve also worked hard, OK I have worked and played hard, to develop and use a style that is recognizable as mine in my work outside of teaching the Bikablo method. I have discovered that my digital work/play affords me better practice in sharpening and refining my style because it is so easy to make changes… though that is a double-edged sword because I’ve become more perfectionistic about my work with my Apple Pencil in hand.

How has repetition and persistent, consistent, practice helped you to evolve? In what ways, and in what situations, are you developing your signature style?

Here are a few examples of my own style over the past year or so… as you can see I am still “on the move” incorporating new ways of drawing, using color, experimenting with layouts, and lettering. It’s such fun!

How are you saying, “Yes!” to change and growth in your visualization practice?

If your future visualizing work could be any way you wanted it to be, what would it be? Maybe you’re all set with your signature style of drawing figures, icons, and graphical elements—maybe layout, new uses of color, or lettering are what’s up for you. Or maybe, there’s some other aspect of your work that you want to explore?

How will you be the agent of your own change?

If you’re looking for personalized support along the way, a partner on this journey, let’s have a cuppa coffee (or tea) and conversation over Zoom…

And, if you’re seeking a group coaching environment, to learn from others too, e-xtraklasse starts next week— I’d love to have you join this small coaching program that focuses on deepening your skills. Learn more here, reach out to me with your questions, and register here.