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Frame the way you want to see it! 

As the year comes to a close, we may focus our attention on the grief, pain, and trauma of the last 12 months. And, without question, we need to spend time, be/sit with, acknowledge, and work with those emotions. And, that’s not a one-time experience. Grieving over disappointments and difficulties, sickness, and death is a process, really inner work, that happens over time, and on no particular timetable. Being gentle with ourselves, living in the present, and opening up to finding a place in our hearts and minds for our losses is crucial.

I invite you to reflect on this past year—all of it—and then shift your attention to what you want to remember and carry forward with you. I have created a guided visualization to support you in remembering the bright spots—the people, projects, events, and connections—of this year. I’m happy to share the link* with you if you would like to listen and use it as a prompt for collecting your memories.

And, I’m wondering if you would like to join me for a session memorializing your memory. Here’s what I have in mind:

Tangling with Our Favorite Memory of the Year!

  • Find a photo or draw a picture of one of your favorite memories of 2021. While it can be any size, I’d suggest 5 x 7 inches (or smaller).  
  • Use a piece of card stock—white, cream, or black, 8.5 x 11 inches if your using a 5 x 7 photo/drawing/image… larger paper if you’re using a larger image because we will tangle the “frame” of our work.
  • Gather a Micron pen (01), a no. 2 pencil, tortillon/smudger/have your pink in hand (hahaha!), and if you’re working on black paper, gather a white gel pen, chalk pencil and if you’re feeling like it, silver or gold sparkly gel pen too.
  • Have scissors and ruler or paper cutter.
  • Lastly, glue stick, glue, tape, or zots.

We’ll tangle a frame around the photo of our choosing… be ready to work and play with new Zentangle patterns!

See you on Thursday, December 30th at 7 pm on Zoom. Sign up here for the session and guided visualization* (Zoom details will be sent following sign-up.)

 

Hoping to tangle with you on Thursday!

Moving toward an end and a beginning

Moving towards the end of the year always prompts me to become introspective.

What about you? Does it feel exciting, interesting, heavy, challenging, some combination of these feelings or…?

There are so many ways to gather memories from the past year. I love to…

  • review my Instagram feed… it’s full of wonderful reminders of adventures, on my own, and with family and friends
  • read my blog posts… such a cornucopia of diverse and, often divergent, ideas and practices discovered throughout the year
  • run my fingers through my bullet journal to see tasks and play from the year… as I sought to experiment with new formats for planning and capturing my days, I sometimes lost track of the details of the days
  • simply making time for a cup of coffee and a sit, to take in all that I have experienced… which happened several times over the past year in my quest to create a program about memory collecting and sharing. 

Each one of these journeys is an invitation to recall, and explore more deeply, the different facets of my life. There are reminders, celebrations, and at times cautionary tales of the different aspects of my recent past. They form another layer of my foundation for me to acknowledge and contemplate before stepping onto the new ground of the new year. 

Just a few of the mementos and photos that will become part of my visual legacy.

This process of collecting memories and making a collage of experiences is the seed for the sessions about creating visual obituaries (or, more gently/euphemistically stated, “sharing our memories”) that I have been hosting the past few weeks for clients and colleagues across the US.

I have loved designing these offerings, creating the containers for making the time and space in our lives to remember the wonderful, transformational, (perhaps painful) life-changing experiences, and the people (and pets) that are meaningful to us.

 

 

As Rachel Naomi Remen says in the foreword to The Five Invitations* by Frank Ostaseski,

“My grandfather taught me that a teacher is not a wise man, 

but a pointing finger directing our attention to the reality that surrounds us.”

This captures the essence of why I am drawn to memory collecting, this legacy work.

  • What about you? How are you engaging with reflecting on the opportunities and challenges of this year? 
  • Would access to prompts and a process for collecting, sifting, and sorting through memories be a resource you would use—maybe not just for remembering this year but also for a life review and legacy work? 
  • Might having a companion in this process facilitate the experience? 

I hope you will make the time to sit with these questions. And, if a guide or companion on this journey feels like a collaboration that would facilitate your journey, I hope that you will reach out to me. 

Life is here now… Live every day.

 

* I totally recommend this book!

286 hours…A Time of Transition 

I am about to complete, a long, intense, and deeply satisfying internship. Now is the time of transition for me. The change—from being in the hospital seeing patients and in-class wrestling with thoughts, feelings, and questions—will end next week though I have been on the emotional roller-coaster of the ending for a week or so—that’s transition.*

I sat with my preceptor on Wednesday and said, “I am still here and I already miss being here.”

Do you ever have those feelings? You’re still in the experience and yet mourning its end?

And then in class last night, I also welcomed the change of pace that will occur as soon as I am done, as it’s been just about 35 hours a week of placement, classes, readings, and papers—in addition to my everyday work that I also love, and making time for family, friends, and self-care.

The true dichotomy of wanting to continue the experience and also the sense of peace (and relief) that settles in when a “chapter” is complete… 

Have you had experiences and feelings that are similar?

What is it about certain experiences that makes them qualitatively different?

Happily, in my class, I was assigned the last slot of the semester for the delivery of my presentation/“Didactic & Dialogue.” I took the opportunity to tell the story of my lived experience over the months in pictures and words…what I learned about myself, people as individuals and in relationships, life, death, pain, suffering, happiness, connection, power, self-care, silence, the systems within which I was working (hospital, department, university, and class/group), and more. It felt big. It was big.

While I do a lot of reflecting on my learning and life through drawing my thoughts, wonderings, opinions, and plans, I don’t often do so religiously. Over the course of 16 weeks, I filled a notebook and then culled over 100 ideas that I want to explore more deeply. I’ve started creating diary comics to further process and then share my musings…  I think I will discover even more through this process and perhaps it will become a graphic memoir. 

This finite timeframe certainly made it easier for me to capture the dynamic and multi-faceted nature of this great adventure though I am taking with me a newfound love of creating containers around experiences and finding simple ways to memorialize them.

I’d love to hear the ways in which you choose to capture aspects of your life and how you carve out time and space to reflect upon your journaling, drawing, artwork, or… I hope to hear from you!

 

*My favorite resource on this topic is Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes by William Bridges.

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.