Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Search for Happiness: Epicurus Then and Now

Epicurus was a Greek philosopher who thought and spoke a great deal about happiness, contentment, and living well. Among the numerous nuggets of wisdom he offered were:

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”

“It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and well and justly. And it is impossible to live wisely and well and justly without living a pleasant life.”

“Not what we have But what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance.”

“Nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little.”

Today, with so much talk about hard times, corporate greed, and the search for the good life, much of his message seems relevant to me today.

Following is a very well produced video entitled, "Epicurus on Happiness. It offers some valuable food for thought. Parts two and three of the three part series are available at

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Creativity and Honoring our Own Gifts

Julia Cameron describes the process of engaging in art as tapping into our 'vein of gold' – the origin of our creative impulses as well as our connection to the divine. Each of us, according to Cameron, possesses this precious conduit which can be found at the very heart of our lives. However, if our hearts have been wounded, then they must be healed in order for our vein of gold to flow freely. In her book, “The Vein of Gold” Cameron describes this process of healing as a pilgrimage home to ourselves where, “we will be taking the dross of our lives -- the disappointments, wounds, and burdens -- and we will make them into gold through the power of creativity. All of our lives are already golden -- in potential -- if we are willing to do the necessary work of transformation.”

I was speaking with a group of women recently about the importance of creativity and tapping into our unique veins of gold when one woman shared, “I wish I were, but I’m just not creative.” I immediately responded, “when I came into this room today, all I saw at first were strangers. I only knew one person here. Now, in spite of the fact that I’ve learned to hide it well, I’m very shy and so it was uncomfortable for me at first. And then I looked over at you, another unfamiliar face and you immediately gave me such a welcoming and beautiful smile that I relaxed right away. Right at the moment you smiled at me you created a safe place for me.”

I didn’t just say those words to her to make her feel better. I meant them from the bottom of my heart. She has a very special gift that not everyone possesses, and she created something wonderful today, and not just for me. I watched her repeatedly project this warm and healing energy into our group. There are so many ways to be creative and I am tremendously grateful for gifts such as hers. I honor her gift and encourage her to claim it. I encourage you to honor and claim your own creative gifts as well.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Art, Healing, and Elizabeth Layton

In "Creativity and Madness: Psychological Studies of Art and Artists," counselor and art therapist, Vivian Rogers wrote the following about artist, Elizabeth Layton:

“The artist, Elizabeth Layton, defied traditional rites of passage in old age. Her point of departure was a 30- year crisis of manic depression and the cruelest blow of all – the death of a child. Yet ahead was an astonishing journey of creativity and personality growth…

…The death of a son precipitated a psychological crisis when she was 67 and was the turning point in Layton’s late life development…

…It had been a rocky road, with a lingering sadness that began in childhood, a failed first marriage, the need to support five young children, and life in a small Midwestern town where, as county newspaper editor, her liberated views often put her at odds with her readers. Thirteen electroshock treatments, lithium and psychotherapy failed to bring any lasting relief. A successful second marriage and the support of loving friends and family also proved inadequate to buffer the pain.”

While grieving for her son, Layton followed her sister’s advice and enrolled in a drawing class at Ottawa University. While taking the course Layton was introduced to blind contour drawing, a technique designed to assist the artist in tapping into the right side of the brain so that he or she experiences what is drawn rather than simply drawing what is seen. “From the inward search, carried on through drawings so stark she could hardly look at them, Layton’s depression lifted, and healing came within the year and her bi-polar symptoms never returned.”

From the time Layton took her first class in her sixties, she completed over a 1,000 drawings, many of which have been displayed in prestigious galleries and museums. Rogers wrote, “At first convinced that it was the contour drawing technique alone that cured her, Layton was later to conclude that it was both the act of blind contour drawing and the finding of meaning in her drawings that made her well. She thought that those who do contour drawing experience some sort of catharsis, some relief from the pain of their emotions as, after the images mysteriously take shape on the page, the artist reflect on the meanings of what they have drawn. …Layton’s written commentary, which often accompanied her drawings, was another way she explored and shared meaning. …Layton said the commentary also provided closure.”

In "The Art Therapy Source Book", Cathy Malchiodi observes, “Art therapy is a powerful means of making painful and frightening events concrete and dissociating them from ourselves. …one of the most impressive aspects of the arts process is its potential to achieve or restore psychological equilibrium. Art therapy emerged from the idea that art can be used not only to alleviate or contain feelings of trauma, fear, or anxiety but also to repair, restore, and heal.” Therapist and author, Natalie Rogers writes, “Part of the psychotherapeutic process is to awaken the creative life-force energy. Thus creativity and therapy overlap.”

It’s not my intention to suggest for a moment that art is a magical cure for mental illnesses and despair. I wish it were that simple. However, I certainly find Layton’s story to be inspirational and one that supports my belief in the tremendous potential contained within art and other creative acts to foster meaning and facilitate healing.

A free online lesson in Blind Contour Drawing

Drawing Against Depression

Grandma Layton: Art Heals

Progress: Special Edition on the Treatment of Trauma and Creative Arts Therapy

How Creativity Heals

Friday, October 9, 2009

Life, Creativity, and Everything is Holy Now

Everything is Holy Now...

"There is no greater joy than the feeling of oneself creator. The triumph of life is expressed by creation.”
Henri Bergson

Theologian and author Matthew Fox describes lifestyle as an art form and urges us to create life styles of “spiritual substance.” Fox also observes in his book Creativity that:

“Creativity, when all is said and done, may be the best thing our species has going for it. It is also the most dangerous… When we consider creativity, we are considering the most elemental and innermost and deeply spiritual aspects of our beings. The great thirteenth century mystic Meister Eckhart asks: ‘what is it that remains?’ And his answer is, ‘That which is inborn in me remains. That which we give birth to from our depths is that which lives on after us. That which is inborn in us constitutes our most intimate moments – intimate with self, intimate with God the Creative Spirit, and intimate with others. To speak of creativity is to speak of profound intimacy. It is also to speak of our connecting to the Divine in us and of our bringing the Divine back to the community.”

When I reflect upon the life styles that I’ve unconsciously adopted in my past, I’m struck by the opportunities for joy, growth, peace, beauty and so many other sacred gifts that I have squandered. Michael Brownfield defined life as, “that which creates.” Thus, according to Brownfield, if you’re alive, then you’re most definitely a creator. From my perspective, it makes enormous sense that we each take responsibility for that which we’re creating.

And so, I’ve decided to see myself as an artist now, one who’s in charge of creating as much beauty and meaning as possible on the canvass that’s before me. I want to be sure to add learning, beauty, compassion, love, sunshine, fresh air, and other gifts to the holy canvass of each and every day. We were created, and now, we are creators. What will you choose to compose from the vast array of materials before you? How will you manifest the Divine that dwells within you?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Cycle of Renewal

Cycle of Renewal

"as a tree releases
leaves to the earth
to decay and enrich the soil

may I release
what no longer serves
to decay and enrich my self"

-rebecca at The Difference a Year Makes

I found the above at a wonderful blog and resource for both deepening our spirituality and creativity entitled, Abby of the Arts.

As October unfolds, what is it that you are in the process of releasing?

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Julia Cameron, “The Artists Way” Creativity & Spirituality

As a therapist who frequently works with writers and other artists, I’m perpetually it seems engaged in the study of creativity. Over the years, I have become absolutely convinced that engaging in creative acts awakens our intuition, cultivates self- awareness, deepens our spiritual lives, and facilitates healing. (I’ll be writing much more about this in future blog posts.)

Best selling author, Julia Cameron has written a great deal about the connection between creativity and spirituality. In fact, she asserts that the two are interchangeable. In The Artists way Cameron writes, “The heart of creativity is an experience of the mystical union; the heart of the mystical union is an experience of creativity. Those who speak in spiritual terms routinely refer to God as the creator but seldom see creator as the literal term for artist. I am suggesting you take the term creator quite literally. You are seeking to forge a creative alliance, artist-to-artist with the Great Creator. Accepting this concept can greatly enhance your creative possibilities.”

Cameron also offers in “The Artists Way” the following ten spiritual principles as the foundation for which both creative discovery and recovery can be achieved. She suggests that the following principles are read through once a day.

“1. Creativity is the natural order of life. Life is energy: pure creative energy.

2. There is an underlying, in-dwelling creative force infusing all of life -- including ourselves.

3. When we open ourselves to our creativity, we open ourselves to the creator's creativity within us and our lives.

4. We are, ourselves, creations. And we, in turn, are meant to continue creativity by being creative ourselves.

5. Creativity is God's gift to us. Using our creativity is our gift back to God.

6. The refusal to be creative is self-will and is counter to our true nature.

7. When we open ourselves to exploring our creativity, we open ourselves to God: good orderly direction.

8. As we open our creative channel to the creator, many gentle but powerful changes are to be expected.

9. It is safe to open ourselves up to greater and greater creativity.

10. Our creative dreams and yearnings come from a divine source. As we move toward our dreams, we move toward our divinity.”