Monday, December 31, 2012

New Project

It's the last day of 2012, but I'm in the studio working on a new project for 2013. This is a glimpse into my journal as I generate ideas.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

New Directions

Although busy with travel and school, I have been working in my journal and working on art, and now that I have some time because of my winter break, I have time to post a few peeks into what might be a new direction for me. Well, not completely new, it's a motif that I have been playing around with for the last three years. The above image is a peek at an ink doodle in my journal on top of a map of Montreal and watercolor pencil.

This image is a peek at an experiment of layering of cut paper. I'm anxious to see what this experiment will lead to. I've been experimenting with other forms of cut paper for a while now.

This final image is a peek at a small graphite drawing using the same motif. All just experiments. Maybe there's a new direction. Maybe not, but I have been playing around with this idea for a while.

I am a firm believer in paying attention to the things that keep coming back. There's something there worthy of exploring.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Recent Travels

This has been one eventful fall - lots of travel, lots of presentations, lots of workshops, lots of great people, and lots of fun.

Dave working on his journal during our impromptu stay in Toronto during Hurricane Sandy after a great time in Edmonton at the end of October.

 Dropping an art bomb in Montreal over Thanksgiving.

The kit participants received at a workshop at the Memphis College of Art.

Studio time at home.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Art of the Carolinas 2012

Here's another opportunity to take a workshop with the JFJ.

Dave and I are excited to be heading back to Raleigh, NC for Jerry Artarama's annual Art of the Carolinas art retreat November 10 and 11, 2012. We are excited to be teaching two three-hour visual journaling workshops.

Saturday afternoon, we will be teaching Visual Journals: Symbols, Icons, and Archetypes from 5-8 PM.

Sunday morning, we will be teaching Visual Journals: Transitional Spaces from 9 AM to Noon.

To register for either workshop or find out more information, click on the links above. To check out other awesome workshops being taught, go to their website.

We hope that some of you can join us in Raleigh.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Kids and Adult Visual Journal Workshop: October 20

I will be teaching two visual journal workshops on Saturday, October 20th - kids in the morning and adults in the afternoon - at the Round Hill Arts Center.

Sign up today on their website. It's only 50 bucks for a three hour workshop.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Journal Fodder Junkies: The Retreat

Have you been wanting to take a workshop with the Journal Fodder Junkies?

Now is your chance.

We are excited to announce that we are holding a three-day retreat next summer in Northern Virginia at the Embassy Suites Dulles - North/Loudoun in Ashburn, VA. It will run from Thursday, June 20 through Sunday, June 23, 2013.

The cost is $450.00 for the whole workshop. Participants are responsible for lodging and meals.

We hope that you can join us.

Click The Retreat button at the top for more information and to register, or go here. We expect the retreat to fill quickly, so register soon.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Book Launch Party

It's a party and you're invited.

David and I are very excited that our new book was released a little more than a month ago, and to celebrate, we are throwing a party. And you're invited!

When: Saturday, September 29th, 2012, 6-9 PM
Where: Leesburg Veterinary Hospital
What: Launch Party and Book Signing

We'll have artwork, artist prints, and of course copies of our books for sale. We hope that you can can join us.

Check out the invitation above for more information.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Free Webinar

We are offering a free, live webinar through our publisher F+W Media and their Create Mixed Media website next Wednesday, August 29 at 4PM Eastern Time. We will share a step-by-step tutorial showing the evolution of a two-page spread using ideas, techniques, and concepts from our new book Journal Fodder 365. Although we will focus on the prompts from the first chapter, Personal Mysteries and Histories, we pull techniques from lots of chapters to give you a lot to consider.

So, if you want to join in as we share this free glimpse into our working method, go register on the Create Mixed Media website.

And did I mention that it is FREE, and if you can't be around at 4PM, don't fret. You can still to join in. Simply register and you will have access to the recorded webinar at your convenience.

We hope that you join in.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Busy Summer. Busy Fall.

Some how the summer has slipped by, and no wonder with all the teaching that I have been doing. Many people have the misconception that teachers have their summers off, free to frolic and play and lounge. Most teachers I know have busy and active summers often catching up on home and personal projects they just don’t have time to get to during the school year. And many, like myself, opt to teach during the summer as a way to supplement their meager incomes.

And so, I have been busy with teaching almost the entire summer, and another school year is upon me - my seventeenth. I have been back for several days with meetings and getting my classroom ready. Students return in a little more than a week, and with moving from high school to elementary school, I don’t know if I’ll be ready. I’ve been busy with getting everything ready, and I still have so much to do.

On top of my teaching duties, there are still other things going on, and the end of summer and the beginning of fall have quickly filled up with workshops, events, and presentations.

Here’s what’s going on. We hope to see you there.

Create Mixed Media Free Webinar

August 29, 4PM - Dave and I will be hosting a free webinar through our publisher’s Create Mixed Media website. Info isn’t posted yet, but it will be soon. We invite you to join in, as we promote our new book Journal Fodder 365 with a step-by-step journey that focuses on the concepts from Chapter 1, but pulls media and techniques from throughout the book. It will be a good look into our process, and those of you who enjoyed the free Change pdf should enjoy it as well. But truthfully, everyone should enjoy it, so check back frequently, and we’ll have registration info as soon as available. The above image is a sneak peek.

Book Launch Party, Leesburg, VA
September 29, 6-9PM - Dave and I will be celebrating the release of Journal Fodder 365 this evening with an open event at Leesburg Veterinary Hospital, so please join us if you are in the Northern Virginia area. It may sound weird to hold the event at a veterinary clinic, but my wife works at the clinic. They also have a beautiful new building with a big reception area that is perfect for hosting the event.

Maryland Art Education Association, Silver Spring, MD
October 19 - We will be presenting at the MAEA Fall Conference at James H. Blake High School. We'll share more info when it becomes available.

CSEA /Fine Arts Council Conference, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
October 27 - We will be keynote speakers at this conference for art, music, and drama teachers cosponsored by the Fine Arts Council of the Alberta Teachers’ Association and the Canadian Society of Education through Art.

Virginia Art Education Association, Norfolk, VA
November 1-3 - Once again Dave and I will be presenting at the annual VAEA Fall Conference. We will be making a 50 minute presentation and leading a hands-on workshop. We also plan to participate in the Artisan Gallery.

Art of the Carolinas, Raleigh, NC
November 10-11 - Dave and I will be presenting two three-hour, hands-on workshops at this annual event sponsored by Jerry’s Artarama. Strathmore Artists Papers will once again sponsor our workshops and supply participants with journals.

Spotlight on the Arts, Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
November 23
- We will travel to Canada once again, but this time to Montreal, to be keynote speakers for this day-long symposium for art, music, and drama teachers as part of the QPAT Annual Convention.

So much going on.

If you don’t see anything available in your area, we are always looking to expand our travels and workshop schedule. So, contact us, and we might be able to bring the JFJ experience to you.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Challenge #48: Sharing the Journey

What have you learned from this journey to share with others?

Dan Eldon, our visual journaling inspiration, often said and wrote, “Safari is a way of life,” and “The journey is the destination.” These mantras speak to the process of our art making and the adventures we encounter along the way. At times we get so caught up in the destination that we forget the journey. At other times we seem to be traveling all alone, and forget to notice who is tagging along. Take the time to share your journey and your wisdom with loved ones, friends, and complete strangers. Share your personal insights and outlooks while allowing yourself the opportunity to investigate the insights and wisdom of others.

What are the artifacts that document your journey? Who have you invited onboard for your artistic ride?

Monday, July 23, 2012

It's Official!

Journal Fodder 365 has officially been released. I received ten copies of it today from the publisher, and I was able to order copies of it for Art Unraveled in Phoenix next week. It is currently in stock and on sale in the North Light Shop, and I've been informed that Amazon will be shipping for an expected delivery date of August 1.

I am so excited. I can't wait to hear people's reaction to it. In some ways it's a much better book than the first.

I hope that you enjoy it.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Challenge #47: Inheritences and Legacies

What have you inherited from your past? What are you handing down to the future?

Everything we do is built upon the accomplishments, and sometimes failures, of those who have come before us. Think about all that you have been given that has helped you get where you are and keeps you striving to achieve. Consider the artifacts you make and concepts you develop on a daily basis and how these ideas become the foundation for someone else. We all have much to gain from the past and much to give to the future, and if we make the most of everyday we honor that which we have inherited and provide the best of what we leave as a legacy.

What objects, artifacts and stories have been handed down to you? What do have to leave behind for those who follow?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Challenge #46: Feeding the Spirit

How do you feed your spirit?

Without proper nourishment, our body grows weak, and we must feed ourselves to maintain our physical health. Our spirit needs nourishment as well, but dealing with the world can run us down, exhaust us, and put our spiritual health and mental well-being in jeopardy. We all have a different way of feeding our spirit. For some, it is a certain place that rejuvenates and refreshes us. Maybe it’s hiking in the woods, paddling out into a set of double overhead waves, or spending time at an art retreat. But it doesn’t have to be a place at all. Perhaps it’s the people who surround us, the daily phone call or e-mail, or the sharing of the ride to work that provides these spirit-feeding moments. It may be our routines and daily rituals that feed our spirit in small, meaningful ways. Possibly it’s the morning cup of coffee, the daily crossword, or the comfy sweatshirt that gives us the lift we desire. Whatever the source, experience and recognize the connections you need in order to fill up your tanks and keep yourself going.

What people, places or things have the power to recharge your batteries? What daily rituals and routines energize you, fill you with purpose and allow you to tackle another day?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Challenge #45: Accomplices

Who are your artistic accomplices and creative collaborators?

When we work alone, it is easy to become stagnant and lose motivation. We all need a nudge in the right direction or a pat on the back to keep us moving forward and working through the road blocks. Think about the people in your life that get your creative juices flowing, and reflect on how your interactions with these people help you and your art making. Examine the energy giving forces in your world and document their contribution to your practice. Just as others motivate and inspire you, find ways that you nudge and spark others’ creative endeavors. Reflect on how you return the favor.

Who do you turn to when you need some guidance or a bit of motivation? Who are the people who inspire and push your creativity? How do you in turn inspire and motivate others? How do you fulfill your end of the bargain?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Art Unraveled 2012

Art Unraveled is a little more than a month away, and we're excited to be teaching at this annual Phoenix, Arizona event for the second straight year. It's not too late to sign up, and it runs from July 30 - August 7, at the Embassy Suites Phoenix-Scottsdale. There are a lot of amazing classes to choose from, and we will be teaching two day-long classes as well as participating in several of the events. We hope to see you there.

Monday, July 30
Meet the Artists - 7-9pm
Come say, "Hi" at this kick-off for the week.

Wednesday, August 1
We have all have our stories. As we deal with our present, we are consistently rewriting our pasts, whether romanticizing or demonizing ourselves. Like it or not, we are defined by the events that have transpired during our lives. This is a process we all engage in to face our uncertain futures. We continually edit the scripts and dialogues running through our heads to reinforce the myths and the stories we construct to define and articulate our lives.
What is your story? What is your history? What are the mysteries of your life? What are the stories that you have told yourself over and over to the point that you believe them and accept them?
This mixed-media workshop focuses on the personal and private use of the visual journal as a powerful tool for self-reflection and self-discovery. Learn to mix a variety of art techniques and media with personal ephemera and reflective writing to explore the stories that you tell about yourself and investigate the mysteries of your life. Bring images, memorabilia, and other ephemera that will help tell the story of YOU. Rose tinted glasses optional.

Thursday, August 2
Transitional Spaces - 9am - 4:30pm

Are you looking to transform your artwork or your visual journal from a static surface to a dynamic, interactive space? Are you looking for ways to create richly layered spaces within and between your pieces? This mixed-media workshop delves into creating this layered and nuanced interaction within and between works whether they are pages in a journal or stand alone pieces.

Discover ways to give your artistic endeavors an extra kick as you explore how to incorporate transitional spaces that bring surprise, interactivity, connection, and hybridity to your art. Learn about windows, doorways, pockets, secret passages, and more as you consider and reconsider how spaces and pages interact and create a dialogue. Make artwork that opens up, flips out, and unfolds into other realms.

Saturday, August 4
Shopping Extravaganza - 10am - 4pm

 We will be participating in the Shopping Extravaganza and will be selling artwork, prints, and copies of our books. We're hopping our new book will be out by that time.

"Top Artists Showdown" - 7-10pm

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Random News

With wrapping up the school year and participating in the Western Loudoun Artists Studio Tour, it has been a busy couple of weeks, and it appears that my summer is going to stay just as busy. So, I wanted to share a random smattering of things today. I apologize for the mishmash of news and thoughts.

First, this summer is a big time of CHANGE for the Journal Fodder Junkies in at least one big way, and for those that have been following my change initiative, you may find this all a bit synchronous. Both Dave and I are changing jobs. Dave recently accepted a job at Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. So, after three years in Boone, NC at Appalachian State University where we were a six and a half hour drive from each other, Dave will be moving to my wife’s home town, where he will be a mere 45 minutes away. Closer proximity means better collaboration, and hopefully more ideas, projects, and events that we can put out there.

As for me, after ten years of teaching high school art, I’ll be returning to the elementary level as I move to Tolbert Elementary School in Leesburg, VA. I taught elementary art for four years prior to teaching high school art. I am very excited for the change after feeling rather burnt out and stagnant teaching at the high school level. Actually, the move has been part of my recent busyness. Although my official last day was early last week, I spent the rest of the week packing up the classroom that I have been in for the last ten years, and moving the 40 or so boxes, bins, and pieces of art. I’ve also started organizing the new artroom, and I still have quite a lot to do. I’ll be spending most mornings next week trying to finish up.

 Sixteen years of teaching packed up in 40 boxes and bins.

 The last look at the classroom that was my "home" for 10 years.

Second, the Studio Tour was another success this year, and I had about 150 people come through my studio last weekend. I did a little better this year than last, and sold quite a few pieces and quite a few books. Events like the tour reinforce my commitment to my art and have me jazzed to make new pieces. I appreciate all those who stopped by to take a look, to buy some art or a book, and to talk about art. I am really in my element with these types of things, and again and again I had people tell me that they came to my studio because my art was very different than others on the tour. After seven years, the tour is definitely a big event for the artists of western Loudoun County, and I big heartfelt “Thank You” goes out to the folks who organize and promote the event.

My studio during the tour.

Third, I got a couple of wonderful surprises over the last couple of weeks. First was a beautiful handbound, mini journal from my wonderful friend Erin, aka Bean. I’ll share more about that in a later post. The second surprise came from Strathmore Artists Papers. I came home yesterday to find a box of new hardbound journals from the company. I didn’t even know they were launching a new line of art journals. Similar to their Visual Journals, the hardbound art journals come in a choice of fine art papers and include a 80 lbs. recycled drawing paper, 80 lbs. toned sketch paper (gray or tan), 140 lbs. watercolor paper, and 90 lbs. mixed media paper. They also come in three different sizes; 5.5” x 8.5”, 8.5” x 11”, and 11”x 14”. Because of the heavier paper, the journals contain fewer pages than traditional blank, hardbound sketchbooks, and they are a bit more expensive. I am looking forward to trying them out once I finish my current journal. The timing is interesting because, I was recently thinking about ordering a few new blank journals to have as I wrap up my current journal, but I held off buying any only to receive these wonderful journals. I haven’t seen them available yet at online retailers, but I’m certain that they’ll be coming soon.

Well that's about it for today. There's still more to catch up on and to post, but it will have to wait.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Teen Visual Journal Class

I am teaching a visual journal class June 18-22, 1pm-4pm, for teens (ages 12-18) at the Round Hill Arts Center in Round Hill, VA. It's not too late to sign up, and I am trying to pack the class. If it goes well, I'll offer more in the future, both for teens and adults - maybe even for the younger crowd as well.

And don't forget the Western Loudoun Artists Studio Tour this weekend from 10am-5pm both days. My studio is almost ready to receive visitors, and I am in a frenzy to complete some last minute artwork and wrap up all the odds and ends.

I'll continue postings for my Change Initiative and the JFJ Challenge after the tour.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Studio Tour

Come out this weekend for the Western Loudoun Artist Studio Tour. I'm on Stop #18 in Purcellville. I'll have mixed media paintings, art prints, and copies of The Journal Junkies Workshop for sale. Last year was a blast, and I am looking forward to this year. Still have a lot of odds and ends to finish up, but I'll be ready at 10 AM Saturday morning.

Hope to see you there.

Friday, June 1, 2012

A Present for My Readers

One month ago, I declared my resolve to change my life, to become more centered, to reconnect with myself, to be happy. I called this The Change Initiative, and I must say that it's going rather splendidly. I am finding my center. I am finding my calm, and I am finding my balance. Life is such a joy now, and I smile so much more. A lightness has entered me, and I am trying so hard to shine that light onto the world.

As part of that attempt, I have a present for you, dear reader. I'll get to that in a minute. Let me explain what has lead up to this point and to the above journal spread. Back in January, I was feeling an overwhelming need to change my life and to expand my reach. So, I envisioned creating an online workshop centered around the idea of change. A quick search of other online workshops showed me that there had to be a lot of content including pdfs, videos, live chats, and ongoing support. I began to piece together ideas and started to create some content. Well, life began to swing wildly out of control, and the online workshop never materialized (maybe in the future), but I still had a nice document that I had begun. So, I have finished up a 22 page document that walks the reader through the steps that I went through to create the above spread. I photographed a total of 15 steps and wrote up ideas and considerations for each step.

I want to make this short workshop in pdf form available to anyone who would like to have it - my present for all of the support.

Although I document the steps that I took in creating my change spread, I don't want readers to use it as a recipe to make my spread. As with all of my workshops and even with The Journal Junkies Workshop and Journal Fodder 365, I want people to bring their own ideas, techniques, and concepts to the work. I just supply a framework and a peek into how I work.

If you would like a free pdf of this Change workshop, please email me, and I will gladly send you the pdf. As an added bonus I will include a free download of my Change journal spread to the first 30 people who take advantage of this offer.

Please remember that these are for personal use only, and all copyrights apply. No part of this work may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means without explicit, written permission. Under NO circumstances can any part be used for commercial purposes or redistributed in any fashion.

Here's to making positive CHANGE!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Mind: Projecting the Shadow

I have been enthralled with the Shadow as of late, and I devoured The Shadow Effect: Illuminating the Hidden Power of Your True Self by Deepak Chopra, Debbie Ford, and Marianne Williamson. The shadow is an idea that keeps resonating with me, and I am continuing the exploration of my shadow and beginning to understand when I am projecting.

I often sleep walk through life, unconscious of the many motives that drive me, and in this state the shadow thrives. I have stuffed down all those undesirable things and have denied their existence. I have covered over my anger, my fear, and my desires, and I have gone on with life as normal. Though buried in the unconscious, the shadow manifests in many ways in my everyday life, and it finds way to sabotage my peace of mind. I just need to pay attention to these moments so that I can begin to embrace and disarm the shadow. Only then can I find peace and bring a sense of wholeness to my life.

How do I know when I am projecting?

Projection is actually quite easy to spot, and I am amazed at how readily the shadow shows itself when you know what to look for. However, when I am not mindful, the shadow easily stays disguised, but I am learning to recognize its disguises.

I am projecting anytime my temper flairs for the littlest reason and I lash out. I am projecting when I get defensive and I make others wrong so that I can feel right. I am projecting when I blame someone else and feel that it’s “us vs. them”. I am projecting when I am repulsed and disgusted by others or when I feel good at another’s suffering.

It’s all too easy for me to see these reactions as justifiable - as merely reactions to bad situations or bad people. But this is how the shadow stays hidden. It cloaks itself in reasonableness. But these outbursts and gut reactions are indicators of my shadow lashing out and projecting my fears and my anxieties onto others. When I get angry and lash out at others, I am really angry at myself for certain failings and certain feelings. When I get defensive and see the world as “us vs. them” I am justifying behavior that is probably hypocritical. I seem to say, “It’s not me. I’m not that way. It’s them. It’s their fault.” But it IS really me. I AM really that way. When I am repulsed or disgusted by others, I am only projecting my own revulsion and disgust at myself. In all of these cases, I see something of myself in others - something about myself that I do not like, something that I am ashamed of, something that I fear about myself. These are the dark and negative aspects of my shadow.

The shadow’s projection, however, is not always negative. As Robert Johnson says in Owning Your Shadow, we bury a lot of gold in our shadow. We bury a lot of our strengths and a lot of our potential in our shadow afraid to be seen as bragging. We have learned it’s better to be humble, it’s better to dim our brightness then to shine. “Who does he think he is?” and “Don’t get too big for your britches!” are the sentiments of society that often echo in my head. So, I bury these strengths in my shadow afraid to shine, and whenever I am enthralled, inspired, and overwhelmingly drawn to another, I am projecting. Like the negative projection, these are times when I see something of myself in others, but it’s a much more positive. In The Shadow Effect, Debbie Ford says, “Whatever inspires you is an aspect of yourself.” If I am inspired by someone’s amazing creativity, then I see a glimmer of that creativity in myself even though I may vehemently deny and downplay my creativity. If I am drawn to someone who is spiritual and compassionate, those are qualities that I, too, possess even though I may feel myself to be cold and apathetic. If I am inspired by someone’s charm and charisma, I have these same aspects buried inside of me even though I may believe myself to be socially awkward. All of these qualities that attract me and inspire me are aspects of myself that I see in others. I may need to coax them out of my shadow. I may need to develop them to their fullest potential, but they are there. I possess them, and I can shine brightly if I can only fully embrace them.

The key to embracing the shadow is to catch myself at those moments when I am projecting. Then I can shine a light into my shadow and begin to recognize what’s triggering the projection - the darkness and the light. Only then can I become whole.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Body: Revelations About Food

I love food. I always have, and no matter how poor we were growing up, we always had food on the table, even if it was only bologna sandwiches. My mom is a wonderful cook and baker, and her food was always such a comfort.

Because of my love of food, I’ve struggled with my weight, and growing up, I was a bit chubby. Then as I hit adolescence and then adulthood, my weight fluctuated up and down like a yo-yo as I lost and gained weight. Needless to say, I have a few self-esteem issues related to my body and my weight, and a lot of my emotional baggage is tied up in body image and food.

So, I’ve come to understand that many people, myself included, use food not as fuel for the body, but as an emotional release or as a way to fill a void. We use food for so many reasons other than to fuel our bodies. We use it to celebrate. We use it to mourn. We use it to offer our condolences. We use it as a welcome to the neighborhood. We use it as an antidepressant. We use for comfort and satisfaction. And we self medicate with food as we try to fill our emotional emptiness.

For me, food has always equated to comfort, and as I have struggled with my emotional baggage, it has been a constant source of comfort in my life. But it’s a nasty cycle. I would eat to feel comforted, to feel satisfied, and then be disgusted with all that I ate cursing my body and the excess weight. I would wallow in the self pity that I didn’t have the will power - that I couldn’t maintain the lost weight. And I would eat more, gain more weight. Feel worse. At some point, I would lose some of the weight, feel better about myself, but then fall back into bad eating habits as life got unbalanced and more stressful. And the weight would come back, and I’d feel bad about myself again. My life has been a lot of self-sabotage.

As I struggle now to bring positive and sustainable change to my life. I need to free myself of the emotional hold food has on me and use food for fuel not comfort.

As I kid, I loved sugary cereal for breakfast, and as an adult, I lived off bagels. Both of which are mighty tasty, but not very nutritional - high in carbs, low in fat, but also low in protein. Not the best way to fuel up at the beginning of the day.

Since I’ve switched to a more whole-food, plant-based diet, I start my day in a much better way. I still eat cereal, but it’s of my own making, and it’s packed with a lot of nutrition including protein. Using old fashioned rolled oats as a base, I add some nuts, seeds, and fresh fruit that I top with a little agave nectar, cinnamon, and vanilla soy milk for a chewy, sweet yet yummy and hearty cold cereal. I mix a big batch of the oats, nuts and seeds in a resealable container and cut up the fresh fruits each morning - blueberries and strawberries are my favorite.

Here’s my basic cereal recipe:

8-10 cups of old fashioned rolled oats
approx. 2 cups of sliced almonds
approx. 2 cups of chopped walnuts
approx. 1 cup of raw sunflower seeds
approx. 1/4 cup of golden flax seeds
occasionally I’ll add some sesame seeds as well

Monday, May 28, 2012

Challenge #44: Owning Your Shadow

How can you fully embrace both the light and the dark?

When we find peace with the ups and downs we have experienced, we fully assimilate our light as well as our shadow and lead a thoughtful life. There is always conflict, and we always have to make decisions and often choose sides. But if we strive to be fully aware and make the best of our choices, we discover we have the power to be more accepting and tolerant.

Recognize the darkness you have inside, the fear, the secrets, and even the gold, and reflect on how you can embrace all aspects of yourself. In what ways do you deny your darker parts? What are you hiding in your shadow, and who are you hiding it from? What gold do you have buried inside of you? How can you own your shadow and define yourself?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Western Loudoun Artists Studio Tour, June 9 & 10

The 7th annual Western Loudoun Artists Studio Tour is happening in a little more than two weeks, and I'm participating once again this year. Last was my first on the tour, and it was a great experience. I am really looking forward to it this year, and the studio is almost ready - just a little more cleaning, organizing, sorting, and making.

I'll be selling original mixed-media work, drawings, and paintings, as well as prints of selected artworks and journal pages and copies of my book, The Journal Junkies Workshop. And if anyone wants to make me an offer on some old artwork, I'll be happy to get it out of the studio. I'll also have most of my journals available for viewing, and I'll be sharing my artistic process.

If you are in the Northern Virginia area, please come out and visit the studios of talented local artists. I'm stop #18 in Purcellville. Hope to see you there.

Visit the tour website for more information, tour maps, and a list of artists.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Art: Inspiration

A few of my current works in progress

“Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work” - Chuck Close

I’m always asked about how I come up with my ideas and where I get my inspiration. I keep coming back to this quote by painter Chuck Close. I think inspiration is one of the biggest myths about being artist - one of those mysterious notions that artists like to perpetuate. It makes the artistic process more enigmatic.

In part, I blame the Greeks and their idea of the Muses - divine goddesses responsible for inspiring the arts. This idea of inspiration as a divine and external intervention has been perpetuated up until this day. And it keeps a lot of people, even artists, from realizing that they have something unique and valuable to say. Many of us think of the tortured and tormented artist struggling with his or her demons to bring into being the great poem, the grand novel, or the earth shaking painting. Art becomes a cosmic struggle.

But that’s too simple, too overwhelming, and too paralyzing. Waiting for inspiration to strike is like waiting for lightning to strike - the odds are stacked against it occurring. Not that it won’t happen. People get struck by lightning everyday, especially when they’re holding onto a tall metal pole on top of a hill during a lightning storm. The odds go up. Artistic inspiration is like that. If I wait for it to strike, I sit around for a very long time staring at a blank page, canvas, or paper waiting for this divine idea to strike me from the ether. And nothing happens. But just as I recognize the conditions that increase the likelihood of lightning striking so that I can avoid it, I need to recognize the conditions that will increase the odds of “inspiration” striking. I need to set up those conditions.

But still, I don’t like the word. It’s too loaded. And it’s too easy to slough off the complete lack of making as due to the lack of inspiration. Days, weeks, months can pass, and I am still waiting for the Muse to show. It becomes a convenient excuse to pull out in my dry, unproductive times. It is easier to bemoan the fact that I have no inspiration, that my ideas aren’t good enough, and that my ideas are dumb, stupid, redundant, and unoriginal than to actual shut up and get to work.

But what many of us forget at times is that there is no inspiration. There is only the work. If I show up to the studio, to the journal, to the blank page and get to work, the work leads to ideas. The work leads to more work. Most of the time I have no idea what is going to happen. I may have an inkling about color, theme, or shapes - but no fully formed idea where I know exactly what it will be. If that were the case, why make the work. There’s nothing to discover. Nothing to learn. Nothing to excite me. Nothing to motivate me.

But I start with a mark unsure of where it will lead. I start with a color unsure of what the finished piece will be. But that’s the point - not to get caught up in the product. It’s about the process of discovery. If a piece doesn’t feel like it’s going in a direction I like, I may start again or I may embrace this piece as a challenge to overcome. Often, I start several pieces at the same time as I play with variations on a theme. Not all of my beginnings end in finished pieces. Only a fraction do, but the work leads to work. As I work, the momentum builds, and before long, I have, perhaps, a single piece that is working while the others stall. The individual pieces may stall, but the work doesn’t because I’m always working on multiple pieces. I can jump around and do a little something to one piece and a little something else to another. I can come back weeks or months later to those stalled pieces and find a way of resolving them, or I can leave them unresolved if their not working out. It’s all part of my process, and I still have learned and discovered something.

I do have my slow and unproductive periods, and I have my bouts with self doubt and stagnation. But working through those times in the journal keeps me engaged in the making and not sitting around for inspiration to knock on my door. I just have to remember that there is a natural ebb and flow to the art, but it all works out as long as I stay engaged.

Not only must I show up. I have to get to work.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Challenge #43: Standing in Your Shadow

Who is standing in your shadow?

There are people we overshadow and outshine as if life were a competition. It might be a sibling, a colleague, or even a spouse, and these people quickly get lost even though they are important parts of our lives. In order to understand both the dark and light sides of our lives, we must make ourselves fully aware of who is hidden in the darkness. Examine the events of your life to see how you have stepped on others or stolen the spotlight that wasn’t rightfully yours. By recognizing these moments and seeing clearly who was in your shadow, you are able to see both sides of the issues and see how you shine at the expense of others.

What are you most proud of in your life? Did you outshine and overshadow others at the time? Who do you need to lift out of the darkness? What can you do to pull them into the limelight and show them how important they are?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Spirit: Resonance

In its simplest terms, resonance is the amplification of vibrations, and the smallest vibrations can build and build upon each other and have the greatest effects. Just check out the mere act of wind on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge causing its ultimate collapse in 1940. A similar thing can happen to an individual when he or she is doing the thing they most love to do - small things come together and amplify the satisfaction, the rewards, and the results. There is a resonance of the spirit in those moments. Deepak Chopra calls this “align[ing] with the force of dharma,” and though I most often associate dharma with the teachings of Buddha, in its most general sense dharma is “virtue or right living.” Ken Robinson calls it being in your element, and when you are in your element, you feel that you are doing what you were meant to do. For me, these are the moments when I come most alive - when I feel the resonance of the moment and I feel the most connected to the universe.

What resonates with my spirit? What causes that amplification of vibrations within me? What am I meant to do?

As I have mentioned before, art is my core and I am most in my element when I am connecting to my art. I feel completely present, completely at home, and completely at peace when I am making art and it just seems to flow from me. However another aspect of being an artist is sharing my love, my passion, my methods, my madness. In essence it is about teaching. I see my role as a teacher as an extension of my art. It comes from the same creative space.

But not all teaching elicits that deep satisfaction or resonates profoundly with my spirit. I earn most of my living from teaching art at a public high school in Northern Virginia, and unfortunately, in many ways it dims my spirit and doesn’t resonate with me. It is because teaching school is not solely about teaching. There are so many things that dilute the purity of the teaching experience. My educator friends probably know what I mean. Now don’t get me wrong, there are times when I come alive, when I see a spark in the eyes of a student, when a young artist “gets it.” But these moments are few and far between.

My spirit really lights up, when I am in a pure teaching experience. At conventions, conferences, workshops, retreats, and seminars where I can share my art, my experiences, and myself, I come alive. It is quite evident when I move people, when there is a dawning in their minds, when something that I share sparks something within them. The feedback is quite instant. Dave and I always have excited people coming up to us after a workshop or presentation and sharing their reactions, and fortunately, they have been overwhelmingly positive. We have also received countless emails about the impact that we have had. This makes it so apparent that what I do is having an impact.

But its not about the accolades, it’s not about selling more books or getting more opportunities (though all of that is good and I’m not discouraging it). It’s all about that sense of being in the moment doing what I feel I was meant to do. It’s about that feeling of being in my element and having an impact on the world. Quite frankly, I am out to change the world, and slowly, I am making a difference. I think of the thousands of teachers, artists, and students that I have impacted, and I think of all the people they have influenced. That is real resonance, and all because I do what I feel that I was meant to do.

What I do is simple, but it resonates with me and it resonates with others. These small ripples spread out amplified by what others do - what others bring to it. As the impact and the effects spread, the world changes, and I know that I am a part of that change.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mind: Owning the Shadow

I’m an angry person.

That might be a shock to those of you who know me. I have been described as boisterous, loud, and exuberant, as well as quiet, to myself, and shy. I’ve even been described as cerebral and outright goofy, but angry is not something that readily comes to mind when others describe me, and that is simply because I hide it, except occasionally when I lose my temper with my students. I hold in the anger, and unfortunately it gets vented when I am by myself as my temper flairs at the traffic around me, idiotic things that I read on the Internet, and even at my animals at times (though I never kick them). But while I’m around people and until that anger can be released, I boil and seethe. Here lately that anger has been a growing part of my imbalance.

Anger and frustration are part of my shadow - the dark side of my persona where I hide the socially unacceptable parts of myself. Carl Jung first came up with the idea of the shadow when he developed his archetypes. The shadow is where we hide the violent tendencies, the sexual desires, the impulses, and the thoughts that society deems inappropriate and taboo. We all have a shadow, but many of us deny and repress it. We push down this darkness and wear a mask that we present to others. This mask is what Jung called the Persona. It is a flat projection, and it is not who we really are. It is how we want others to see us.

My mask is one of joviality, humor, and good heartedness, but in my shadow is a lot of anger, frustration, fear, and resentment. I hide it there. Bury it there. But as long as I deny it, I can never be whole. I will only be the mask while all these negativities bubble under the surface threatening to crack open the mask.

A few years ago, I read Robert A. Johnson’s Owning Your Own Shadow, and it resonated with me. But in my unbalanced state as of late, it is clear that I do not own my shadow as the anger and frustration have been boiling to the surface more and more. It is a negativity that is wearing on me, and it is clear that with such negativity and hostility, I am not happy. I don’t want to be an angry person whose temper boils over, and I need a change.

I have just begun reading The Shadow Effect: Illuminating the Hidden Power of Your True Self by Deepak Chopra, Debbie Ford, and Marianne Williamson, and like Johnson’s book, it is really resonating with me. Though I have just begun, one idea has caught my attention. It is the idea of PROJECTION. In the first part of the book, Chopra talks about the shadow and how we live in a “fog of illusion”. He states that the only way to become whole is to acknowledge and accept the shadow. He describes how the emergence of negative emotions such as anger and anxiety are signs that we are projecting our fears and our anxieties onto others. So, when my temper flairs, usually at the selfishness, shortsightedness, and lack of consideration of others, I am projecting the anger that I feel towards myself for those same things.

And to be honest, I can be very selfish, shortsighted, and inconsiderate of others. I am a very solitary person, and it is hard for me to rely on others. I keep to myself, bottle up so much, and cringe when I am imposed upon. Not the best attributes for someone who, at the same time, longs for connection and human contact. And here is where I seek balance and wholeness. This is what this entire Change Initiative is about - a way to become whole.

In my quest for this balance, I must be honest with myself. I must confront these darker aspects of myself. I must learn to see the signs when my shadow lashes out. It is OK to feel anger, frustration, fear, and anxiety, but if I allow them to dominate my thoughts, I cling to feelings of righteousness and superiority - feelings of “us vs. them”. I give into the shadow and perpetuate my suffering. The shadow takes over, and I forget the joy, the happiness, and only resentment and the feeling that “they're out to get me" remain.

I don’t want to be the angry person. I don’t want to feel the negativity, the contempt, the paranoia. I want to be vibrant and vital. I want to exude joy. I want to be content and at peace. I want wholeness and balance I am tired of the shadow running my life. I want to beam with light - not grow dim with the darkness.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Challenge #42: Dark and Light

What do you expose to the light, and what do you hide in your shadow?

We have stories that we tell ourselves and different stories we tell others. Some stories are perpetuated when we tell them over and over again, and others are buried when we tell only certain people. Some of these stories paint us in a positive light and others in a negative light. We all have shameful tales of loss, mistake, and embarrassment, as well as, triumphs that fill us with a sense of accomplishment and pride. Give adequate time to explore both the dark and light aspects of your experiences.

What are your glorious victories? What are your agonizing defeats? Do you give these events equal attention? What stories do you perpetuate? What stories do you bury?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Body: Inhabit the Body

I often move through this world without much thought or notice. My mind is preoccupied with so many thoughts that I often enter a room without remembering the reason for going in it. I often and spontaneously change my direction as I walk as I remember something that I have forgotten or get distracted by something along the way. I am constantly running into corners and doorways as I try to cut them short, and I often can’t remember doing many of the small, routine things that I do everyday. All of these things are because I rarely inhabit my body, and the motion of my body through space is an unconscious act. My mind twists and turns with so many thoughts that I’m not conscious of my body and give it very little to no thought.

I need to be more conscious of my body and it’s movement through the world. I need to be cognizant of it’s positions, postures, and motion. I need to be much more aware.

How do I inhabit my body? How do I become more present with how my body occupies space?

A thought from some Buddhist reading has stuck with me over the last few years. I remember reading some instructions on how to meditate, and it said something along the lines that everything has its proper posture, not just meditation. This makes me think of my horrific posture, the way I slouch, lean, slump, and hunch. No wonder my back and shoulders constantly ache. So, I’ve been thinking about what the proper posture would be for sitting, standing, walking, relaxing, making art, driving, and all those other daily activities and motions. That poor posture is a sure way to keep my body out of balance and invite in those ache and pains. Proper posture brings balance and centeredness, and invited in a feeling of being grounded.

Over the last few days, I have been trying to be more conscious of my body and catch myself slouching, hunching, and slumping. I’ve been stopping several times during the day to see that my spine is more straight, my shoulders are level and slightly rolled back, and my feet are firmly planted on the ground. And, it’s difficult. I’m combatting 30+ years of bad posture. Along with the occasional body check, I need to start some core-strengthening exercises and stretches.

My goals are to become present in my body, to be more deliberate and aware in my actions and motions, and to become more physically grounded.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Art: Show Up

A diptych titled "Hide" and "Seek" that I am currently working on.
“Make a space and show up every day. Get in the studio. Sit down at the dining room table. Clear off the coffee table. Pull out the journal or a small piece of drawing paper when you have five minutes, when you’re watching TV, and when there’s nothing else to do. Show up at the page, the canvas, the hunk of clay, or the pile of fabric. You must be present to win, so show up.”

This is advice that I wrote a year and a half ago in “Eric’s Rules”, and I am amazed at how often I do not show up and keep myself from the studio, the work, the journal. But then I am amazed at how much art I DO make over the course of several months. I guess that I have built in a variety of ways to show up and make art, but I feel like I could do more, especially given my propensity to veg out in front of the TV or distract myself with a variety of electronic devices.

So what are those little habits that I have in place now that allow me to make art? How do I cultivate those habits into a sustainable practice that is balanced with other parts of my life?

The journal is probably the biggest way that I show up and make art. It keeps me engaged in the process and habit of making, and often I find that I work on other pieces of art as I allow wet pages to dry. Regrettably, I don’t always work in my journal, and it often stays tucked in my bag for weeks, especially during hectic times. I need to pull it out more so that I can constantly stay engaged.

Finding five or ten minutes here and there is another way that I cultivate the artmaking habit whether it’s working in the journal or on wall art. Those brief moments add up over time. I don’t need hours of uninterrupted time in the studio, though that’s always nice. I can work at school when I have a few minutes, I can work during the commercials of a TV show, and I can add a few lines or shapes to pieces and pages instead of reaching for those electronic gadgets.

Working small is a third habit. Making small and portable art means that I can work on it anywhere, and I can quickly tuck it into the journal or small folder as a means of taking it with me. I can also relegate the messier media to the studio or the art classroom, and use the cleaner, drier media in the house or at the coffee shop. Having a small stash of easily portable materials makes the studio portable. Small work also is less daunting than large work. It’s too easy to say, “I don’t have time to do that huge painting I want to do.” I work a lot on pieces that art 11”x14” or smaller.

Multitasking is yet another way to make art a part of my life. Now I’m not a great multitasker, and if I am watching a movie or TV show that I haven’t seen before, I need to devote my energy to it because I miss so much. But with shows and movies that I have seen before, I can easily work on my art as the TV blares in the background. My wife and I watch some DVD’s again and again, so this is a very viable strategy. I need to find other times where multitasking can work.

My final strategy (which I need to be better at) is to schedule time, to make an appointment. I find that when I sign up for a class that meets each week, it gives me a structured time each week to make art. I get so much accomplished. So, I need to schedule time for making art even when I don’t have a class. I need to find two or three times a week where I can go into the studio for a set amount of time. I really need to say to myself that from this time to that time on a certain day of the week is studio time, and I really need to stick to it. I show up for work everyday. When I was part of the gallery, I showed up for my scheduled shifts. I need to do it with my studio work as well, schedule an appointment with my work.

My goal isn’t to make art 24/7, but to strike a balance with the rest of my life where I’m not overindulging in any one thing. I feel like I’m getting there.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

New Book

Our new book, Journal Fodder 365, is featured front and center on Create Mixed Media which is a website run by our publisher full of great mixed media info. The book is available for pre-order from the North Light Shop with an expected shipping date of July 26. That's about two and a half months away. How awesome is that? Can't wait for it to come out!

Have you pre-ordered your copy?

Mind: Enter the Stillness

I need a time out, a moment to myself, a quiet and undisturbed moment.

I am surrounded by so much noise from chatting people to the beeping, buzzing, and chiming of cell phones, from background music to the flickering images from the TV. So much commotion envelopes me no matter where I go. I need to get away - not a long vacation on a secluded beach (though that would be great). I need a vacation of the mind, a moment here and there to really listen to myself. I need stillness.

I firmly believe that the audible clutter keeps me from connecting to myself, from really hearing that inner voice that keeps me on track and balanced. The noise is a distraction. It’s easier to pay attention to something blaring in my environment than to hear that quiet, inner voice. It gets lost in all the commotion. I also believe that I often distract myself from the stillness purposely when I turn on the TV, crank up the music in the studio, or tune into the conversations of others. And sometimes, I need that distraction. I need a break from my inner dialogue. But at other times, I need the quiet.

Moments of stillness connect me to my inner voice, and allow me to remember the important things and to put things in perspective. These moments allow me to come back to center, and I can be more proactive as I figure out what needs immediate attention, and what can wait a while. When surrounded by the hectic day-to-day, it’s much more about reacting to the loudest thing demanding attention although it might not be a priority. Quiet times also allow me to figure things out and to reflect on all that is going on in my life.

I do take some time for myself, and I have built in some small habits that bring me to a quiet space. But it’s not nearly enough. I need more stillness. In our workshops, Dave and I always use the words of artist Jeanne Minnix, “Get still, get quiet, and go inside.” This simple saying is a mantra for finding the stillness to connect with the inner voice.

So how do I get still, get quiet, and go inside?

I have built in two very simple and purposeful habits into my daily life that are a good start. First, I have a time of about ten to fifteen minutes in the morning where I sit in silence and simply reflect. After I eat my breakfast, check my email, and check through some of the day’s headlines, I close my eyes, sip my coffee, and dwell in the stillness. I do have to be careful not to fall asleep though. This quiet time is not any type of formal meditation, but it allows me to fully wake, prepares me for the day, and sets my intentions. Second, I have the habit of driving to and from work in silence. I don’t carpool, so it’s just me in the car, and I leave the radio off - no talk, no music, no news, just silence. This allows me to sort through my thoughts as I drive to work making a plan for the day, and it allows me to decompress as I drive home at the end of the day. Unfortunately, the quiet is often disturbed by my own erupting temper at other drivers (that is something to tackle in due time).

But beyond these moments, I have very little time in stillness. I need be very deliberate about building in those moments to enter stillness, to sit with no noise, no electronic devices, no TV, no pens, no pencils, no paintbrushes, and to dwell in the stillness. I need to be comfortable with the quiet and with myself and simply listen to my quiet inner voice. I need to reconnect with myself.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Challenge #41: Hidden Spaces

Where are the spaces that you tuck away the secrets of your life?

We all hide various aspects of ourselves, and we squirrel away our secrets. Some of our hiding places are psychological like “in the back of our mind” or “deep in our hearts.” Some are physical, like a dresser drawer or an old shoebox. As difficult as it can be to enter these spaces and face the secrets, we must find the energy and will power to dig through the darkness that dwells there.

Find the gold buried that you have buried in these places, and leave what needs to be left behind. Identify your hiding places and hidden spaces so that you can examine the contents of your shadow. Are these safe spaces or dangerous spaces? Is there pride or shame hidden in these places? What are you hiding in your secret spaces?

Friday, May 4, 2012

Spirit: Proclaim Yourself

Just as with my body, my spirit has been battered, neglected, and abused lately. I feel that some of my life force has been drained. To put it succinctly, I feel lost.

Some how in the rush that has become life, I have lost myself. Life is chaotic and the demands on my time and my energies seem to have become greater with each passing day, and unfortunately so many things are being neglected and forgotten. Much to my chagrin, these are the things that are most essential to me, and I feel that a part of me has slipped away. I am caught up in habits that diminish who I am, and roles and expectations have been placed on me that eat away at my spirit. If I do not proclaim who I am, others will lay claim to identifying and labeling me. They will continue to place the roles and expectations on me. I must shake off these attempts by others to define me. I must find myself.

But how do I find myself? How do I proclaim who I am?

I have to stand up for myself, say no to the things that diminish me, and perhaps step on a few toes. It’s easy to ruffle feathers when you step out of those identities others have placed on you, but I have allowed others to define who I am for too long. I need to shout out, ring out, and sing out so that I can be heard. I must find the courage to reclaim those missing pieces and make the time and the room to cultivate who I am deep down.


There it’s out there. I’ve proclaimed it.

Everyday I need to do this and not forget who I am. I need to proudly say that I am an artist when someone asks me what I do. Too often I go for the easy and comfortable, “I’m a teacher.” I often even leave out the fact that it’s art that I teach like some how art and teaching art aren’t valid. But teaching is only a part of what I do and who I am. Even if I did not teach in a public school, I would still teach. I would still share my art, my thoughts, and my methods. Teaching is just a small part of being an artist.

Being an artist means more than simply making art. Yes, I make art. I draw, I paint, I collage. But these activities do not truly define me. I am an artist deep within. It is my core. I have always been an artist, and I was an artist before I was defined by any roles like teacher, husband, friend. It is the artist that drives me. I am inquisitive. I am curious. I am creative. I experiment. I explore. I think and reflect. I am brimming with ideas and stories that need to be expressed. I see the world as an artist, and everything that I experience goes into my reserves and becomes fodder for making art and expressing myself. And every experience, every relationship, and every moment is experienced as an artist. I can’t go to the theater without marveling at the stage, the scenery, the visual spectacle. I can't go for a walk with out noticing the colors and the shapes and the textures of the world around me.

I make art because I must. When I am not making art, I am sharing my art, teaching about art, and writing about art. But too often when I am not making art, I deny myself, cut a part of myself off, and deny my spirit. Too often I sit in front of the TV or waste time and energy with Facebook, email, and other technological distractions. Art feeds me, and in art I am not LOST. I find myself in every mark, every stroke, every color.

I am an artist, a maker, an expresser of personal things. Now I must carve out that identity. Live it. Breathe it. Stop denying it by distracting myself with so many things that do not matter. It is my core, I must treat it just as vital to my existence as food and shelter.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Body: A Whole-Food, Plant-Based Diet

I don’t know about you, but my body speaks to me. It tells me all sorts of things, especially when I neglect and mistreat it. My sore muscles and joints tell me when I over do the yard work and that I’m not really in the kind of shape for such physical exertion. My upset stomach and aching head tell me when I have enjoyed a night out with friends just a little too much. My aching back tells me when I have spent too long hunched over artwork, and my body tells me when I have been over indulging and eating and drinking a lot of junk because I feel full, heavy, lethargic, and just plain blah.

Food is fuel for the body, and here lately I’ve been fueling up with a lot of junk.

I am vegan, but a vegan diet is not necessarily a healthy diet. (I’ll let my chunkiness speak to that.) There are a lot of heavily refined and processed foods that are made as vegan substitutes for meat like Tofurky and Bocca, and there are a lot of foods, especially junk food, that are vegan by accident - potato chips and Oreos are just a couple. It is very easy to rely on convenience and throw a couple of Bocca burgers in the over, serve them with a side of chips, and finish it up with a dessert of Oreo cookies. And though it's not terribly unhealthy, it's not the healthiest, and I’ve been resorting to too much of this kind of eating lately.

As a first step in what I am dubbing The Change Initiative, I am rededicating myself to a whole-food, plant-based diet. I first got into this type of diet a year ago when I saw the wonderful documentary “Forks Over Knives”. You can visit the website here. I had been vegetarian for nearly 9 years at the time, but had constantly been struggling with my weight. Given these weight issues and the fact that I have a family history of cancer, high blood pressure, and diabetes, the movie spoke to me.

The key point of the film is summed up in its opening quote by Hippocrates, “Let food be thy medicine.” It goes on to cite the careers of Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and their research on the effects of diet and nutrition on cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. I won’t go into the details, and I strongly encourage everyone to watch the film - it’s even streaming on Netflix. Citing a lot of research, the movie draws the conclusion that a whole-food, plant-based diet is the best treatment for combating these common diseases, and often can completely reverse some of these conditions. It recommends removing animal proteins and the heavily processed foods from one’s diet and switching to a whole-food, plant-based diet.

I left the movie theater, and immediately began eating a primarily whole-food, plant-based diet cutting out all dairy, eggs, refined sugars, oils, and prepackaged or processed foods. For several months, I ate only fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and whole grain breads and pastas. I felt great, and I lost about 15 lbs. I had more energy, felt lighter, and got so much accomplished.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to maintain that diet as travel and convenience have interceded. The junk food has regained its hold on me, and I’ve gained some weight back and feel just really blah. I am ready to change back to the whole-food, plant-based diet.

Now eating in this fashion is much more work with the actual preparing and cooking of food, but I have discovered and developed some very quick, easy, and tasty recipes. The best part is eating the leftovers the next day for lunch. Over the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing some of these recipes.

Today, I’ll share one of my favorites, and it is one of the simplest (see the above picture). It takes about 15 minutes. It’s a simple pasta and vegetable dish using whole grain pasta and frozen vegetables.

Boil the pasta according to the package.
Throw a bunch of frozen veggies in a pot. I love corn, peas, carrots, and broccoli. Cover with water and bring to a boil while the pasta boils.
Drain the pasta when it’s done.
Combine the the pasta and veggies in bowl, season to taste. I usually use salt, pepper, and some italian seasoning.

Notice there’s no oil and no butter or margarine (not even vegan margarine), so the vegetables taste fresh and crisp.

I would love if more people turned to a more whole-food, plant-based diet and embraced a vegan lifestyle. I understand the realities though, and if I can get people to eat more fruits and veggies and limit their intake of meat, eggs, and dairy, I'll consider it a small victory. Also, I'm not a doctor or nutritionist, so please consult your physician before undertaking any radical lifestyle change. But I hope that some of you will consider some small changes in your diet that will lead to better health and well being.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Newton's First Law

A body in motion stays in motion. A body at rest stays at rest.

I have been out of balance lately - wildly swinging from place to place and mood to mood. I am overwhelmed feeling like I am drowning, as if my lack of balance has capsized me into a churning sea. Again and again, I have journaled about this drowning feeling and about the feeling of losing myself.

I have lost myself, and it is imperative that I stop the wildly swinging ride that is life before I swing out of control. I must find myself. I must bring myself back to center. But how do I do that?

I’ve been thinking about a structure that will allow me to focus on one small thing at a time so that I can build the sustainable habits that will transform my life. It’s a way to employ Newton’s first law in small, easily doable ways - ways to begin and sustain the motion. But what is that structure?

My first inclination was to focus on one aspect for about a month breaking down that aspect into smaller ideas, activities, and focused energy. But I don’t live like that, and besides, I'd get pretty bored of that. Life happens all at once, not in easily managed chunks. Any attempt at substantial change needs to address a variety of concerns. So, I want to focus on several important ideas each week, and find subtle ways to incorporate those ideas into my life. This would also give a nice variety to anyone who might want to journey with me.

I don’t mean to be cliche, but I haven’t thought of a better way to organize my thoughts, so I’m thinking about having four main areas for exploration: Mind, Body, Spirit, and Art. I want to try to answer the following questions as a means to find myself:

Mind: How am I pulled out of balance emotionally as I allow my thoughts and mental energies to disturb my peace of mind? How do I reconnect with myself and develop the presence that leads to greater joy?

Body: How am I pulled out of balance physically as I allow myself to be weighed down with unhealthy habits? How do I reconnect with my body and invite in health and lightness?

Spirit: How am I pulled out of balance spiritually as I allow my self-awareness to falter and forget who I am and what brings me most alive? How do I reconnect with my truest essence and share that with others?

Art: How am I pulled out of balance artistically as I allow so many distractions to interfere with the thing that is most fundamental to my core? How do I reconnect with my artmaking and express the important things?

My goal is to focus on these four areas in some manageable way each week and post about it in the hopes to inspire others. I hope that some of the things will be of value and will speak to others as they embark on their own journey. Who couldn’t benefit from more balance and reconnection to self?

Hopefully I can sustain the motion, and with the encouragement and nudging of others, I am optimistic that I can.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

I Am An Agent of Change!

My life has been wildly out of balance lately - to the point of frustration and exhaustion.

So, I made a vow today to change my life and to see if I could not only affect change in my life, but also to affect and spread change to all of those willing to go along for the ride. With it being the first of May, I feel that it is a very appropriate moment to begin this initiative. Over the upcoming weeks, I'll be sharing my journey to seek more balance, peace of mind, flexibility of spirit, and overall greater joy.

I'm not certain what form this will all take, but I want to give myself a structure to purposefully bring about positive transformation. I hope that some of you will want to share in my journey.

As always, thank you for visiting my world, and please stay tuned because things are about to CHANGE!