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How do you heal?

Our family is in the throes of an unexpected and heart-rending loss. 

I have been thrown into the very material I study and work with in my spiritual care practice. While I knew this multidimensional experience was happening, Rachel Naomi Remen’s book, Kitchen Table Wisdom: The Stories That Heal pointed it out to me very clearly. She writes, “… each of us heals in our own way” (p.18), which seems so obvious yet is so critical to understand. I feel myself having two different experiences—I am in the grief itself and observing the grieving processes of my husband, daughter, and myself. 

None of us is yet at the point of healing. We are caught in the liminal space of grief, and I feel fortunate that I have tools to use and to share for working with the range of thoughts and feelings. We experience the sadness, tears, desire to go back in time, the memories, and the longing. And we also step away in an effort to create a respite or maybe some “normalcy.” Just as Remen writes, I have noticed that we are processing—being rattled by and expressing our grief—using our skills and working with it (with varying degrees of success). I feel especially lucky to have studied grief (of course, there is more work to do), to have been a companion to others experiencing grief, and to have my work inform my experience now. I can understand my thoughts and feelings more easily and have resources and methods for supporting myself and my family.

We all experience loss. Often, it is passed over, unacknowledged, downplayed, or unrecognized. We don’t know how to let grief enter our lives (though sometimes we have no choice as we are overcome by it). There are many reasons—it hurts, we are not well-practiced in the language of expressing our feelings, and it feels like we may not find a way out of the jungle of our feelings if we open ourselves up to it. While it’s understandable to turn away from pain, suffering, tears, loneliness, and more, we must find ways to do so. Fortunately, there are so many resources and opportunities for support. We need courage to find and use them. We must remember to be gentle with ourselves. Grief is not something we “get over.” Over time, we often find a new path forward.

Here are some of the books I’ve discovered. Of course, there are many excellent podcasts, too. (I prefer to linger over passages and so generally prefer reading.)

  • Altars, Day Shildkret
  • Bearing the Unbearable, Joanne Cacciatore
  • Bittersweet, Susan Cain*
  • Finding the Words, Colin Campbell
  • I’m Not a Mourning Person, Kris Carr
  • Grief is Love, Marisa Renee Lew 
  • Sacred Sendoffs, Sarah A. Bowen
  • The Grieving Brain, Mary Frances O’Connor
  • The Wild Edge of Sorrow, Francis Weller

*As you can see, I am a (frequent) visitor to the local library.

Writing/journaling, finding poetry, looking for prayers/blessings/chants, making certain types of impermanent earth art and talismans, and creating rituals (as simple as lighting a candle every day and making space to remember) support my grieving process. I believe that the depth of my grief is a reflection of my love. That is a reminder to me to endeavor to embrace it.

I feel so fortunate to have a close circle of friends with whom I can share. I am also grateful that I have developed the capacity to decide clearly with whom and how I will share my grief. 

This unexpected event clearly points out that I must remember—people carry so much we never see or know about because it is not the time or place, or we are not the people with whom to share their pain, sorrow, or suffering. It reminds me to offer grace, kindness, and compassion as much as possible. 

Deep Dive into Challenging Content and Processes… It’s Awesome!

Last week, I devoted five days to a retreat at the Omega Institute to explore mortality (in general and mine in particular), create remembrance gifts for family and friends, and craft a legacy project. I returned home, having had the time and space for deep reflection and creation.

(Photos from Long Pond Lake, the labyrinth, and the Sanctuary.)

This week, I continue my journey into project design and development, leveraging my experiences at Omega, my readings, research, and previous programming to create a new offering. The summer is off to a fabulous start!

What about you? What’s on your calendar?
What are you doing that is exciting, fun, different, necessary, and/or …?
What’s your plan for these summer months, and how’s it working?

Next month, I’m off to another retreat as I am stepping into the Portland Institute’s Art-Assisted Grief Therapy program. With my chapter about the integration of visual practitioner work into my chaplaincy internship completed, my article for the AI (Appreciative Inquiry) Practitioner about AI in “the wild”/real life well underway, and my second article on integrating Appreciative Inquiry, leadership, and visualization mapped out—I am excited! The end of July will bring, Urban Visual Storytelling, and the opportunity to sharpen my skills in graffiti with Ramiro Davaro-Comas along with fellow visual practitioners, Sketchnoters, and folks who are game to try something new*. Plus, the IFVP Summit will give me the opportunity to see colleagues from around the world and to share one of the bikablo methods of storytelling. The end of summer/early fall holds a trip to Auckland, NZ, to deliver Discover the Joy of Zentangle + Intro to Design for Trauma-Informed Teaching at the International Teaching Artist Collaborative conference. 

I’d love to celebrate your ongoing learning and development—both personal and professional. What are you up to this summer? Or maybe summer is your time to recharge, and fall will be your time to dive back into PD. What’s your thinking? I’d love to know!

 

 

 

 

* Find out more here!

What’s your kryptonite?

Mine is writing my bio…

Do you ever find it challenging to describe how you came to be where you are at this moment in your career and what you do now concisely and clearly? (I wonder if my years as a consultant and desire to learn and apply my learning work against me.) Of course, every time I write a brief biography, I tailor it to the audience, so the iterations are legion. (Okay, that was a bit of hyperbole.)

At this moment 

I’ve just completed a chapter about my choice as a chaplain to create hand-drawn illustrations to enrich my work in a hospital setting. The visuals developed were used in several ways— to support patients’ understanding of their medical options and for my own processing of and learning from my daily experiences. This almost 2,800-word piece will be part of a book on Graphic Medicine, which is about healthcare professionals and professionals using comics in their work. As you can imagine, I must write a bio of 100 words. I find myself stymied.

As I review my bios from the past few years—created for conference proposals, websites, presentations, and applications— I appreciate their specificity and feel they are insufficient in this instance. I want people to understand the fullness of who I am, and while labels or titles help, they don’t always seem to create a coherent picture because of my range of work.  Either I feel I am only revealing a slice of myself (which might be most appropriate for the task) or believe that I’m offering a cornucopia that might just cause confusion.

Which challenges do you face in writing a brief biography for various projects, work, and opportunities? What advice do you have to offer?

The half-dozen bios at my fingertips don’t quite fit the bill! Honestly, all I want to do is draw a picture of myself surrounded by titles and descriptions of aspects of my work. Or maybe share one of my visual bios that includes my education, varied work history, and ongoing professional development. And yet, that was not what was asked of me. And while I need to draw an avatar, it doesn’t feel multifaceted enough. 

Generally, I follow this plan: These are my titles/positions, here’s my foundation/academic background, this is what I’ve done with it/my experience, and this is the impact of my work. 

Here are two of the four I have drafted for this particular situation based on research into author bios… the first of which is too long yet tells more about me.

DRAFT 1

Jill Greenbaum is a contemplative chaplain and advocate of conscious living and dying. She companions people as they creatively explore their mortality, values, legacy, wishes, and plans for their end-of-life care.

Jill helped open a domestic violence shelter, directed two anti-sexual violence programs, volunteered on a medical service trip in the Himalayas, and recently designed a trauma-informed program for teaching artists. She’s a lifelong New Yorker, world traveler, and artist. 

She holds a doctoral degree in education and was a teacher, principal, and administrator in special education settings in New York City. Her consultancy work focuses on training design and development, graphic facilitation, Appreciative Inquiry coaching, and visual thinking skills. Jill completed her chaplaincy training at the Upaya Zen Center. (124 words)

DRAFT 2

Jill Greenbaum is a contemplative chaplain and advocate of conscious living and dying. She helps people creatively explore their mortality, values, legacy, wishes, and plans for their end-of-life care. Her approach centers on nurturing people’s inner strengths, resilience, and ability to become the artists of their own lives. Jill completed her chaplaincy training at the Upaya Zen Center.

She holds a doctoral degree in education from Teachers College, Columbia University. Her consultancy work focuses on graphic facilitation, training design and development, Appreciative Inquiry coaching, and teaching visual thinking skills. She is a lifelong New Yorker and world traveler. (100 words)

I need to send off my bio by Thursday not only to meet a deadline but also to stop “rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic”/tinkering at the edges of it. I’d love to hear your thoughts about them (even if you write to me after tomorrow). And if you have suggestions (especially around clarity and conciseness), I’m all ears. I am happy to return the favor should you want an extra pair of eyes on your bio. Thank you!

Creating Collaborations—My Intention for the Year!

At the beginning of the year, one of my intentions was to create more collaborative work— with existing colleagues and venture into unexplored territory.

I see connection and opportunity almost everywhere (a blessing and a curse, I believe). Two weeks ago, I took a fabulous course with Ramiro Davaro-Comas, a professional muralist and instructor at the Art Students League in NYC. (Ramiro has been painting murals for 15 years, painted over 200 murals, and facilitated more than 150 additional murals. You can find his work here, www.ramirostudios.com and www.super-stories.org) I have a (not so) secret desire to create more murals—BIG artwork. I want to add more of this type of work and play to my repertoire. 

During the session, I also found that I was constantly thinking about the mechanics—the micro-adjustments necessary to create the desired effect with the spray paint—which nozzle I was using, how close my hand was to the wall, and what angle I needed to get a tight straight line as opposed to a wide swath of paint. Sustained, hyper-focused attention to the details of my drawing is not so common for me—I most often work in well-known ways that are almost second nature. It was a great lesson in microlearning. 

After the course, having had so much fun and learning new skills, I approached Ramiro about partnering to create a session I could offer to my community—visual practitioners. The idea has come together so easily and quickly! The session is on the calendar, announced just yesterday to my bikablo alumni and now for everyone who would like to dive into this learning experience/adventure. While it might seem like the session—an afternoon in Bushwick (Brooklyn) is all fun and games, visual practitioners, trainers, facilitators, and coaches are always creating posters, charts, and collateral that includes headlines/hand lettering, close attention to layout, and color.

Have I whetted your appetite? Are you curious to learn more? I’d love to talk with you about my experience and to answer your questions!

Come to New York, if you’re nearby, and run into the city for the day. I added a brief trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to start the day for those who love to be up early to begin their day in Manhattan. All the details of the schedule are on my calendar. Or perhaps make it a long weekend in the middle of the summer, or maybe you’re attending the IFVP (International Forum of Visual Practitioners) Summit that begins the day after this session, and you will add this adventure to your calendar.

As you can imagine, space is limited because we will be plorking (playing and working) in the backyard of world-renowned LowBrow Artique, a Brooklyn gallery, and a spray paint store. Find more details on my calendar here.

Perhaps most importantly, beyond the joys and challenges of hand-lettering, what do you think about your experiences with collaborations and partnerships? And of greatest import, what are your intentions for this year? How are you living into them? I’d love to know!

PS: And, if you’re curious about more visualization events and resources, email me to join my ezine list. Yesterday’s edition was chock full of info and goodies!

I LOVE feedback! What about you?

When you finish a project, what do you do? Do you celebrate, reflect, plan for the next time/future, and…?

 In the past two weeks, I’ve had opportunities to engage in giving (myself and others) feedback. I’ve also considered how I want to receive it from others. These have been enlightening experiences. 

In what circumstances do you offer feedback, appreciations, observations, reflections, critique, constructive criticism or the like? 

What do you think, feel, and communicate before engaging in the activity? And how is it different when the sharing is one-way, a conversation with one or more people, or setting up an opportunity for people to share feedback?

In my practice
I have developed a daily art practice. One project took me into rather unknown territory—working with a combination of acrylic paints and pens, gouache, collage, gel matte as a fixative, and mixed media paper. While I’ve worked with almost all of these materials before, this particular sequence and the combinations were new and held challenges (the weight of paper was not quite right for all the media, using gel matte with gouache is tricky {there’s a story there!}, and more. I’m also the gal who follows the “recipe”/directions the first time I do something, and then I change it up. I tried to follow the plan this time but then abandoned part of it. (I gave it a good try twice and didn’t like the results, so I found my way.)

 

Working/Being with others
I am always observing people’s habits/how they give feedback to themselves and each other. As the facilitator of a recent experience, I sought to guide the reflections in a generative way—with a focus on appreciating aspects of participants’ work about the criteria of success and pointing to opportunities to try new and different techniques rather than viewing aspects of their work as mistakes or flawed. While I believe in recognizing mis-strokes in drawing and processes that didn’t achieve the intended purpose and impact, I always choose to “fail forward”/focus on future possibilities. It’s delicate work being a facilitator seeking to create a warm, open, honest, learning-oriented environment.

I was also part of a gathering of about 30 people interested in addressing climate change through art and activism. The organizers asked for feedback, and I shared my reflections using my simple framework of: 

  • asking about their intentions and goals—thinking about the complete experience for participants (before, during, and after the event)
  • what I appreciated/the processes that had worked well for me and as an observer (I never stop thinking of group dynamics)
  • what might be done differently next time and why I thought so.

The facilitators were receptive.

These experiences were instructive to me—personally (in my artwork), as the facilitator of learning experiences, and as a participant with a stake in the event. 

What do you enjoy, find challenging, or wonder about harvesting people’s thoughts and feelings about experiences?
I LOVE hearing reflections and always ask for them, even when time is short. Here are a few photos of quick feedback from students after several 45-minute sessions at a conference. They put the sticky notes on the chart paper on their way to the room. I asked them to share about their experiences: 

  • What did you like?
  • What did you learn?
  • How will you use your new knowledge and skills?

Their responses gave me a pulse check about their engagement, enthusiasm, and learning.

Here’s one last example of a feedback sheet I use during some of my Appreciative Inquiry sessions.

 

How do you elicit reflections on your work? What influence does what you learn have on future sessions? I’d love to know!