Friday, September 25, 2009

The Joy Diet - Nothing

I'm still waiting for a copy of Martha Beck's book The Joy Diet. What I gathered from reading other people's posts and listening to Jamie Ridler's delightful vidio that introduced this book club adventure was that the first chapter was on moving to nothing - and the three suggestions for the week's practice were to 1) spend about 15 minutes a day doing nothing, 2) pay attention to the moments when you experience joy throughout the week, 3) make some kind of collage or visual card that represents your experience of nothing. Not having more guidelines than that, I decided to experiment.

I played with my 15 minutes doing nothing in different settings: lying on my bed with my feet up on the wall, sitting in the parking lot waiting for my little grandson to emerge from preschool, sitting on my front steps - and sitting in my studio where I had caused total chaos by pulling the contents out of a closet. I chose not to call my time meditation - because that felt too structured to me. Instead, I watched my breathing ( I know, you do this in meditation, too), heard things around me, felt breeze or not, noticed people going by or not, put aside things that tried to make me make plans, and let myself sink toward nothing.

It takes a while. No matter where I practiced, initially I tensed. My breathing speeded up. My head became a clutter, a whirlwind. As I stuck with it, thoughts drifted away - some returned or captured me, but gradually they gently subsided. And every once in a while I was floating - so briefly, not even a breath's length before I noticed and lost it. But when I was at that still point, I felt fully supported. When I started this week and wondered what I'd paint at the end, I anticipated gray. But that's not what it felt like to me - it was a very soft surrounding, more vibrant than gray but not intrusive. I couldn't quite paint in one static image - because getting to nothing took time. So I layered this little journey. The top layer is full of chaotic thoughts and images. When I remove that the next layer has things floating in and out, but there is a pattern of settling occurring. And the last layer is that short experience of nothingness.

I'm so eager to see and read what others found in their week. And if you're not already doing this book club, but find it intriguing, it's open to all at any time. You can find Jamie's blog link on my first post.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Joy Diet Begins

The kick in the pants, the cosmic nudge - whatever it takes to move you from "I should do this" to " I finally did this" sometimes comes from an unexpected place. So it was when I saw Jamie Ridler's invitation on twitter to join her book club, using Martha Beck's book The Joy Diet. I first checked it out thinking it might be a book written by another woman named Joy who recommends a raw food diet and has interesting things to say.

But this wasn't a recipe book for meal preparation. I still don't know what exactly it is - decided to get it from the library first and am still waiting for my copy to come in. Our library is undergoing renovations, the library my copy was found in is only open on limited days, and so I'm still waiting eagerly to see what it's all about.

When I read Jamie's description of how this would work, I was intrigued - both by the book and the process. Sharing perspectives with others is appealing as we move along on our journeys.

So I started my blog, I'm waiting patiently for my book ( if I don't get it in the next couple of days I'll go ahead and buy it - because I'd probably end up buying it anyway) and I look forward to sharing this experience with you.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Wrong Turns

It's been four years since I enrolled in my first iconography class. I'd been painting small stones that I called "pocket icons" and a nun who attended one of my "stone painting as meditation" classes told me that she'd studied with a local woman who taught traditional iconography. I thought it would be interesting to try that but was intimidated because it seemed to call for skills I didn't possess. I vascillated back and forth and then one day walked into a gallery to see a new show. The paintings on the walls were like nothing else I'd seen - they were so stunning in both subject and technique. As I was reading through the artist's bio, I realized that this was THE iconographer and before I could lose my nerve, I went home and called for an appointment.

I thought that I'd only go for one session - enough to complete an icon. I thought that the structure, the discipline might be too much for me on a long term basis. I thought wrong. Here it is, four years later, and I have no intention of quitting. I still do lots of other painting - which offers challenges and joys in other ways. I feel like everything I do is a learning adventure. There are times when I combine some of my own techniques of working on stones with methods and procedures that I've learned while writing icons. What I thought was a brief lookout point on my path actually became a different road, taking me somewhere interesting, though I couldn't tell you the destination.

I'll spend a few blogs soon on the process of iconography.

When have you been delightfully surprised by finding your preconceived assumptions wrong?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I Want to Go to School!

My daughter called me last night. "What are you doing tomorrow?" I had a couple of appointments to deliver work so was a little busy. She said my four year old grandson was coughing and went to bed early so she was worried that he might not be able to go to school today. She's had to take a lot of time off lately and didn't want to miss more work. So we made tentative plans.

But this morning she called and said he was insisting on going to school. He didn't have a fever, so she was going to let him go.

I can't tell you how thrilled I am that he loves to go to school. I know it's only the second week, but so often the kids become resistant to school early on. Especially when they have older siblings, they learn that going to school is not cool.

I just finished reading Three Cups of Tea. When Greg Mortenson talked about seeing 50 children gathering on a windswept plateau, even without a teacher some days, quietly scratching their lessons in the dirt, I was so struck by that image. It has been haunting my days. I think about how the privilege of schools, teachers, supplies, transportation, never mind arts, music, games, all the extras are taken for granted.

And I wonder - how do we instill the joy of learning? the joy of self discipline? the satisfaction of doing your best?

I am so grateful today that Marcus loves to go to school. I know that a big part of why he wants to go is to see his friends. But I'm really grateful to his teachers who make it an inviting and exciting place to be. He's off to a good start. And I'm wondering how we support their efforts - maintain this attitude. I think it involves examining our lifestyles.

Monday, September 14, 2009


This morning I'm thinking about how much I get out of Twitter. It surprises me how many people are resistant to it, sometimes adamantly so, without having looked at it.

Clearly, I'm not very tech saavy. But that's why Twitter has been so unintimidating for me. There is more to it than I take advantage of, but it's easy enough to jump in and get started.

It didn't take long to discover that some of the people I followed were not right for me. I'm not interested in folks who constantly try to sell something, who repeatedly say "I'm bored", "I'm washing my hair", who only post quotes a hundred times a day, whatever. So you "unfollow" them - simple.

But gradually you come across people who do offer something that adds to your life. You really do make connections - with people all over the world. They reveal bits of their lives and you become interested in them. They show you pictures of things they're working on or places they're visiting- and you might find inspiration. They point you to videos, blogs, websites - and you marvel at how much is out there that you're unaware of - all the time. It's mind boggling, humbling, and exhilarating.

Yesterday alone I came across these two great finds: the first was posted by Alyson Stanfield at : a list of 100 articles on all kinds of art topics

The second was a mention of the poet Sharon Olds. I'd never heard of her before so looked her up on Google. And I have to go get one of her books. Her imagery is so powerful that I can't get her words out of my head or heart. Take a look for yourself and maybe you will want to find her books, too. They are the kind to be taken in small doses, over and over. Soul medicine. Tonics and stimulants.

Where do you find new ideas and connections? What keeps you growing?

Friday, September 11, 2009

first pebble

I've been planning to start a blog for two years. "I'll get to it". And there are many reasons not to do it. Does the world need another blog? Do I need another task? I haven't had time to figure it ALL out. Oh, you know, this list goes on.

Then today I came across a book club that I would like to join - but you have to have a blog to participate. And Jamie says it's easy to set this up. I worry - I don't know how to add pictures. I don't know how to list URL's. I don't know....

But she says if you have questions, you can email her. So maybe this is the kick I need. And a hand to hold.

So I'm taking the plunge. Do you want to come along? Her blog describing the book club is here: They're going to discuss The Joy Diet by Martha Beck.

Ready, set, jump!