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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 are your criteria for assessing your work?

As I review my notes in anticipation of hosting my follow-up coaching session with Visual Binge attendees tomorrow, I am struck by the two quotes I found this morning as I was reading.

Bashõ (Japanese poet, 17th century)

“Do not seek after the sages of the past. Seek what they sought.”

Neal Allen (Vipassana practitioner)

“I admire the capacity of any human being to come into wisdom on their own by questioning the assumptions that are around them.”

The preparatory work for our session is to bring and share any sketchnoting or graphic recording completed since the UnConference last month. My second, and perhaps more important request was that participants bring a short list of criteria for assessing their own work and the work of others.

I am all about leaving one’s inner critic ”at the door” AND I see the value in appreciating what is working in a piece and what can be made even better next time. 

What would be your criteria?

What matters to you?

What is important to your audience? (Perhaps there are varying answers based on the different audiences…)

My top 10 criteria are straightforward though not separate—they exist in combination. This task of assessing one’s (or others’) work is both art and science. I believe that the visual I have quickly created is a better representation of these criteria, as the list below seems more mechanical, like a checklist. This (assessing our work) is not that (a checklist to determine quality—from spectacular to inept, or some other continuum). To me, these elements work in concert, and perhaps not enough of something (maybe white space?) is compensated for by something else (the vitality of the colors used or movement through the piece).

What do you think?

1. Layout

    Conceptual fit with the content 

   Title—what percentage of the visual?

   Placement of title on the page

2. Use of white space

3. Use of color

   Literal, strategic, figurative/metaphorical

   Color palette chosen

 Number of colors used and for what purpose (i.e., all the colors of the rainbow are important if there is a rainbow… if not, then I would suggest, two or three colors beyond the foundational black and the color chosen for shading {which might grey, periwinkle blue, yellow, orange… the list goes on!})

4. Logic flow

Can I understand how information moves across or around the chart or “page”?

5. Lettering

Is a hierarchy use and used well/in an easily comprehensible way?

How legible is the handwriting?

6. Interplay/balance of words and drawings

Some subjects require a lot of text—precise terminology, quoting people, etc., in other instances, icons, figures, and containers can be supported more minimally with text

7. Containers

Which ones are used and how?

8. Iconography and graphic elements

Are they a fit for the subject matter?

9. Execution

Neatness,  recognizable/well-drawn icons (Is it a lightbulb or an ice cream cone?)

10. Clear communication through style used (perhaps a more personal taste criteria)

What do you notice when you look at your sketchnotes orographic recordings (yours or other people’s)?

I hope that you will consider these criteria and be in touch with me with your thoughts. I am always (okay, almost always/often…) ready to expand my thinking.

What habits bring your work to the next level?

What makes for good practice?

Just last week, Jill Langer and I completed the bikablo Basic Day 1 Virtual training. Folks are jazzed by the end of this experience. Both they, and we, want them to continue deepening and broadening their skills. We discuss during the training how to maintain and grow the habit of practice. As you can imagine I suggest the following during and after working on a piece:

Be

  • conscious—of every stroke you make
  • consistent—in practicing—find ways every day to use your new skills
  • accuratein your appraisal of your work, using criteria/success factors we have discussed
  • kind to yourselfappreciate what you’re doing well
  • diligent—in applying what you have decided about areas to improve

As I think about, Seven Questions That guide the Work of Inspired Teachers, an article from ASCD (the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development), that I just read about being excellent teachers,  I am most struck by this paragraph:

How can I make clear the criteria for quality work we will use in class and help students understand why those benchmarks are significant? How can I help them learn to assess their own work using those standards? How can I support each of my students in reaching for excellence?

These questions are at the heart of my thinking. Sharing my ideas during the training creates the conversation about ongoing professional development.  It’s an aspect of being a graphic recorder or a Sketchnoter that I addressed in my session for the Visual Binge last month. In that engagement, I asked the participants to look at graphic recordings from four different sources and begin to create their criteria for successful work. We’re about to do a follow-up coaching session and my plan is to have us all share our respective criteria for excellence. Here’s what I’m thinking…

  1. Consistent, strong/clear lines/strokes
  2. Containers, graphic elements, and figures with closed edges
  3. Appropriate perspective-—what is in front and behind other objects or figures
  4. Following guidelines for use of color (the bikablo method)
  5. Consistent shading/source of light and with regard to various types of objects (the bikablo method)
  6. Effective layout chosen for content of work—open to interpretation though I believe there are criteria (I would use waves or eddies to indicate content in a sea-themed drawing —or treasure chests, fish, etc., rather than put a square or a circle in the water.
  7. Logical flow of content
  8. Spacing between objects/use of white space to enable easy understanding of all content and relationships between content areas
  9. Use of frame or container for finished work
  10. Signature of visual practitioner on work (unless not permitted due to contract)

What are your criteria for your work, and presumably others’ work, as you learn and grow from seeing what’s out in the world?

As you bring your work to the next level, what does that look like to you? How will you facilitate your learning?

You know me, I’d suggest continuing your education in a formal/structured way… making a plan and working your plan

  • find a buddy to draw with consistently or an accountability partner
  • work with a coach individually or in a group
  • take the next level of training

What’s your next step?

PS: I hope you will share your thoughts about my ideas. I’m always looking to expand my thinking!