creativity

Expressive Arts

Expressive Arts

1. Expressive- The focus of Expressive Arts Therapy (and perhaps all therapy) is to facilitate client expression with the goal of clarity and meaning making. Sometimes having a caring conversation is all a client needs to gain insight. However, it is really just one mode of communication in a sea of possibilities. Writing, moving, singing, stretching, laughing, crying, breathing, painting, pointing...they can all be expressions of truth. As an EXA therapist I am interested in multiple perspectives and ways of being in the world. In the expressive arts the value is always placed on the expression and the process, rather than the product.

2. Arts- There are so many ways to be an artist; a gardener is an artist at work in the medium of dirt and water and possibility. There is a reason we say "arts", with and "s". In Expressive Arts therapy there is an emphasis on all creativity and creative acts as a healing tool. Sometimes this means we pull out the paint in session, sometimes it means we play in sand or tell stories or explore song lyrics. The magic of the expressive arts is in the transition between mediums; multiple art forms can meld in to a unique creative experience. It might sound intimidating, but every arts intervention offered is simply a suggestion; an invitation to step in to your own creativity and see what treasures you can uncover there.

Get Behind Me, Satan

I had a powerful spiritual experience this past month in a group I was leading. It was a watercolor class, designed to allow the participants to relax and enjoy the free flowing fun of a simple medium. But I know, as much as any other teaching artist, that any time you invite people into a creative process you are also inviting something darker...more sinister. 

The course went as planned and all participants seemed to enjoy the activity. It wasn't until afterward that I realized something strange and powerful had happened. As we were cleaning up one of the older women in the class approached me. Her gentle energy instantly grabbed my attention.

"I just want to thank you." she said. 
I listened.
"I am going to say something the only way I know how and it is going to sound crazy.", she whispered.
I nodded.
"I have had this thing lately, this devil. It has been in my way and it has been telling me things; lies."
"go
on", I said.  
"Well, today when we started our class I thought there was no way I could do this, that whatever I made would be terrible. Then I realized it was the devil speaking to me and I told him to get out."
"Then what happened?"
"Well, I loved it. I am so proud of what I made", and she held up her artwork for me to see. 
I smiled at her "beautiful".
"It is. So, thank you for helping me get Satan behind me."
"Oh, I think you did that all on your own. I hope you start to banish him more often"
She smiled.
"He has no power here". 
She chuckled and gave my arm a squeeze.

"He sure doesn't"

Who knew that the strength and might of the very devil could be swayed by simply picking up a brush and dipping it in water!

 

Although I don't often think in terms of demons, I did know exactly what she was talking about. It is what I call the "inner critic", but has had many names throughout the ages. It is simply the part of ourselves (or our egos) that tries to stop us from being who we fully are. 

The devil's intentions are sometimes honorable. This part of us is just longing for survival, it wants to save us (or our egos) from annihilation. Sweet...kind of...because, most of the time we can keep it in check. Sometimes, however, our inner critic gets out of control. It starts working over time, day and night, stopping us in our tracks by letting us know how weak, undesirable, incapable, and unloved we are; lies!

It is in these instances that we must figure out a way to get the devil behind us. We must say "you have no power here" and let him slip out for a coffee break. Once he is no longer blocking our view, we can return to the light and see our own beauty.

Similar watercolors

Similar watercolors

Symbol in Ceremony

My favorite thing in this world might just be a good symbol. Defined by Webster, a symbol is "a thing that represents or stands for something else, especially a material object representing something abstract." 

The abstract is inherently hard to grasp, and so we humans have developed a complex language of symbols and metaphors to help us make sense of the biggest parts of our lives. I often tell the people I work with to look for the symbols, because having a symbol follow you through your experience can really enrich the meaning making. A couple that I recently had the honor of working with embodied this philosophy perfectly. 
 

Let me first say, I adore these two and working with them was an absolute pleasure. I know Sarah and Rafael through the local storytelling show Testify and so I have known for some time Sarah has found a lot of joy in and a deep connection to birds. As she and Rafael grew in love, he also grew to share her deep respect for birds of all types. Which is one of the reasons that they chose to hold their intimate wedding ceremony at a local bird sanctuary. Chaetura Canyon is located just a 25-minute drive from downtown Austin, and while the facility is only open for special events and Travis Audubon programs, I recommend that you attend one of their programs if you love natural beauty.

 

Once Sarah and Rafael made the decision to include birds in their ceremony by holding it at a bird sanctuary, my work was set. How could we build a unique ceremony that incorporated their love of birds without beating the subject over the head? The beauty of a good symbol is that it has many interpretations; many points of potential connection. By subscribing specific meaning to a symbol, you can very quickly remove all its power.

When using a symbol in your ceremony, the goal should be to offer it to the event as openly and loosely as possible so that the symbol can expand and grow right along side you.  

The task for me as their counselor/artisian/celebrant was to find out what the bird means to them and where they find personal connection to the symbol, and then to build slowly and carefully from there. We started by collecting images, songs, and words that spoke to how they felt for one another.
 

Photo credit Lowell Bartholomee

Photo credit Lowell Bartholomee

As I listened to them, I began to get some clarity. Rafael seemed to me to be a deeply visual person -- he connected with the natural beauty of the bird, with its softness and its motion. Sarah is a writer (check out her funny and insightful blog), so she seemed to really meet the bird in its story, in its character. 

After sorting through all the media we had shared, we all landed on a short story that featured a bird and that felt right. Sarah wrote up a beautiful retelling of it and we included it as a reading in the ceremony. That was the only direct mention of birds in the whole ceremony and it (along with the beautiful setting) was just enough to honor the symbol out without pushing it in everyone's face. 
 

Much like a bird, the symbol sat quietly and peacefully in the milieu of the event. The result was a wedding ceremony beautifully tailored to fit a creative and insightful couple. It was a joy to be a part of, and I wish these two "lovebirds" tons of goodness as they build their life together.

New Directions

I have decided to persue my LMFT license and to open a private therapy practice. This will be a long and expensive process, but I think it will ultimatly bring me more of the work I love.

It is a big transition for me and I am still in the planning stage. But it makes me wonder, what draws us to these transitions. I think we move towards a new phase of life when the old stuff is just not working for us any more.

I am reminded of that quote "And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.".- Anis Nin (who is also just the best writer ever)

Is it always pain that pushes us out to newness? If so, what funny creatures we are...stubborn and yet so hopeful.

I will keep the website updated with test results, suppervission decissions, and new office details. In the meantime, let me know...what motivates you to grow? to take risks? to blossom?

Rituals for Pregnancy Loss

Rituals for Pregnancy Loss

There are experiences in life that change us.  A rite of passage takes a life changing experience out of the body, out of the secret, so that it can be seen clearly and moved through.

Life as Craft

I have recently been spending about eighty percent of my life caring for a seven month old. He is wonderful, squirmy and full of laughter. However, it does not leave me much time for myself and I have been longing for craft, art, and ritual in my day. 

Recently, I have dedicated to focusing on my creative spirit one day a week (Thursdays) during nap time. It gives me about a two hour window, but there is no telling when the baby will wake up and I will have to stop my process. As a result, I have about a dozen half finished craft projects all around the house. The knitting is out on the rocking chair, the painting is "drying" in the TV room, and the laptop is open to my blog. 

These projects for my soul call to me as I change diapers, wipe down countertops and sing nursery songs. I am lustful for them. They remind me of my old life, the one where I could engage in a creative process on a whim. It was such a privileged existence and it feels so distant now that I have the new joys and privileges of parenthood. 

Basically, this isn't working. I can not engage in my creative projects with abandon the way I used to. I don't think I am alone in this experience, either. So many of us just don't have time to sit down and do art. Our lives are too full to dedicate the time and energy to the creative process. 

So, I wonder how I can bring the creative process to me rather than going to it. I must make mindfulness and creativity a part of every moment. When I make my coffee in the morning, I must make it with the same focus and passion I would give to a painting. The mundane must become extraordinary and I must live my life as a craft project; by experimentation, playfulness, love, and curiosity. 

I must see the beauty in everyday life and work to amplify it!

Not only will I benefit from this shift, my little boy will witness a mom who truly strives to live life fully. Because life is not mundane, diapers and all. It is a magical and mysterious craft, an art project of the grandest proportion. 

My Number One Enemy...You

Dear Client,

As someone who leads adults in the healing arts I have one enemy that I constantly battle. Guess what?... it is you.

Well, not exactly you, rather the lies you have been told your whole life. Lies like; "you can't dance", "leave the art to artists", "you're tone deaf", and "only babies scribble". These lies that you have collected over the years might seem insignificant but they have built up into great big walls of "I can't" and "I'm not creative". 

Recently I led a group of adults in a workshop that culminated in painting. The process went well and everyone was open and receptive until we were faced with those blank canvases. Then the comments started. Everyone began making excuses, to no one in particular, about how untalented they were. It was as though they couldn't stop the flood of self doubt and criticism that was pouring into their mind from spilling out in to the room. By the end, everyone had done their work and was pleased to finally be able to praise the other participants.  It seemed hard for most members to say something positive about their own work, but they clearly wanted the other group members feel good about what they had done. 

This happens almost every time I ask a client to embark on a creative task, and it amazes me. Why do people get in their own way? It never happens with kids (well not before middle school), but at some point "grown ups" stop allowing them selves to play. Have you done this? Have you told your self that you aren't creative? 

Well frankly, it is total BS. Not only are you creative, your creativity is a fundamental part of how you function in this world. You probably don't even notice how brilliant you are; how you arrange furniture, put together outfits to convey specific messages, solve complicated problems in your work place, or compose rhetorical sonnets in emails. You are creative every single day...I promise. 

So why is it, that when we get in to a workshop or coaching session that you freeze up and feel the need to spew out lines like; "mine looks terrible", "I give up", "I messed up"? 

It is those walls isn't it? You have been lied to. Some one (probably a teacher) at some point told you that art is measurable, something you can either do or you can't. Someone told you that "talent" was real. 

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Do want to know what "talent" is? It is bravery. It is taking the risk and making a choice and moving forward. I can't determine if your art is "good", you are the only one who can asses the value of your own work and when you do so PLEASE don't compare yourself to "great artists" compare yourself to YOURSELF. Did you take a risk? Were you honest and authentic? Did you investigate something? Did you open yourself to a creative process? Did you learn anything? Did you feel anything? If the answer is "yes" to any of these questions then you created a thing of beauty.

A member of that same group came to me later in the week. She brought me her canvas that she had continued to work on. The image was of a bird, perched on a branch ready to fly and that is what she had titled it, "#1, Thinking of Flying". She told me that participating in the workshop had opened something for her. This was painting #1 and she now envisioned a whole series; this bird in a life cycle and eventually taking wing. She did it. She over came her wall and now she can start to fly. 

Creativity is a practice...you are neither good nor bad at it, you just do it or you don't. So please go easier on your self. Let your inner art critic take a break. Stop getting in the way of your own work. Stop being the enemy of your own unfoldment. Just this once, join me and let's see what is possible. 

with love,

Genevieve

Fall Traditions

How will you mark the changing seasons?

FOOD and DRINK

I know that for me, warm apple cider on the first or second cool day of the year is a big tradition. There are so many seasonal foods that I crave all year long. In the Spring and Winter I long for Watermelon, but these days I find myself excited about squash, turkey, and pie. This natural craving for seasonal foods is rooted deep in our biology from a time when you really couldn't get strawberries in January. I invite you to celebrate the changes in your life by eating seasonally. You might be shocked by the memories that accumulate around the meals in your life when you bring just a touch of continuousness to your palate.

Arts and Crafts

I also get excited about pumpkins. I know it is silly, but I just love a good pumpkin carving where your up to your elbows in innards and joy. Every year I long for the disgustingly rewarding feeling of scraping out the seeds with a spoon. It just doesn't feel like Autumn until there is a jack-o-lantern on my doorstep. The Fall is also a great time for other types of crafting. Those of you who love a good hot glue gun, get it out and start on that wreath of autumn leaves, a new quit, or your Halloween costume. I'll be over here, with my pumpkin guts.

Time in Nature

There is no better time to get out doors and just go exploring. If you are lucky enough to live in a place where foliage shifts, I implore you to just step out side some time and be grateful for what you have. In Texas, we have mosquitos...but the cooler weather will eventually lull them to sleep, at which point I will get outside to walk...or do some much needed gardening.

Seasonal Gatherings

It isn't quite time for that Winter fire, but the Fall is a beautiful time to gather friends for a board game night or a simple meal and movie. Ancestrally we all know to move inwards as the weather cools, towards our close communities and families. Take the excuse to huddle up and laugh with a group of people who make you feel cozy and at home.

Wardrobe Shifts

Even something as seemingly simple as pulling all your sweaters and hats out of summer storage can be done thoughtfully. When I was in high school in Houston I remember so distinctly those precious "sweater days" when everyone could wear their warm clothing. For me it marked a change in the feeling of the world. Life was cooler and so was I. As you pull out your favorite scarf this year, notice how you have changed since the last time you wore it. 

Holidays

Most of you have figured out by now that I love holidays. I love the history of them and I love the way people use them year after year to tap in to the season. All cultures have some sort of harvest of Fall celebration. Take a moment to research the traditions of your own background, or find a way completely your own to celebrate the harvest. For me, as an anglo American, it is Halloween. This simple strange holiday has it's roots in a combination of Catholicism, Celtic rituals, and 1950s nostalgia. I love spooky stories full of mystery and suspense almost as much as I love dressing up. That said, I use the season not just to evaluate my own fears but also to bring those who have gone before me in to my awareness. The memories of my grandparents, deceased friends, and lost opportunities fill my mind in Autumn. 

Because with the Fall comes not just relief from summer heat but also grief that it is over. As we ease in to Winter, let us savor these joyful Fall rituals and mourn the echo of long summer days.  

What new memories will you create in this season of remembrance?



Springtime Ritual Ideas

Around the US this has been one heck of a winter and slowly but surely we are being released into Spring. This season is so often associated with rebirth in the Northern hemisphere as flowers, insects, and animals bloom and grow before our eyes. It is a perfect time to get out side and notice nature awakening.

If you feel a change in your own life at this time of year, you are not alone. Many of us have mood shifts that closely follow the seasons. It isn't just about how much sunshine you get (although that is a huge factor) it also has to do with our life patterns and emotional states reflecting the changes in the natural world. 

I invite you to use Spring as a season of rebirth to clean out what you no longer need and refresh your inner resources. It has come time to shake off that snow and start opening your heart up to the newness and possibility that awaits. 

EGGS 4 SPRINGTIME!!

Here are a few simple rituals you can do on your own or with your family to welcome in the Spring spirit.

1. Start a mini-Garden

It doesn't have to be fancy but planting a few seeds and watching them grow might be a great comfort and joy in the Spring season. Try saying your favorite poem or prayer as you plant the seeds and repeat it every time you water or adjust your little garden. The seeds will grow right along side your prayer.

2. Go for a Daily Walk

Take a spin around your neighborhood or office building once a day. If you practice going on the same path at the same time everyday you will begin to notice the changes in the world. Pick one of your favorite Spring themed pieces of music to join you on the walk. It is a time just for you to breathe clean air, be outdoors, and reflect on the new opportunities in your life.

3. Have a Spring Fling

The Spring Equinox is Thursday, March 20th. If you manage to catch that date make it a very special day. Try to do something just outside of your comfort zone; something kind of a little crazy. Please stay safe and responsible, but maybe you need to jump in Barton Springs that morning or have a bonfire at the beach. Take a risk! Maybe you will look silly or feel weird but you can call it your "Spring fling" and chalk it up to the season. Perhaps you will discover something new?

4. Clean and Sort 

Okay, this one often gets a bad rap but there is no feeling quite as wonderful as eliminating clutter. Take a day to clean out your closet and donate items you no longer need or want; or get around to sorting through that pile of papers. Eliminate some un needed stuff that has just been in your way. Then when you are done reward yourself somehow. Take a deep breath. Notice that by clearing the old you have made room for the rewarding new. 

5. Photograph the Changes

Set an intention to take at least one photograph a day of something "new". Do it for at least 15 days and see how many changes you have collected. After the 15 days are up, print the photo graphs and use them in an art project. Write a short story using each photo as a sentence, or use a big canvas and collage them into one painting, or make a photo album of Spring 2014; whatever works for you! See if you notice how these small changes add up into some bigger changes.

6. Paint or Play with Eggs

No need to celebrate Easter if that isn't your thing, but eggs are a perfect symbol of Springtime and the potential for rebirth. However you want to doit, work with eggs. Go to a farm and collect them, paint them. or turn them into cascarons and have a confetti fight! Enjoy yourself! The world is all shinny and new.

7. Make a Springtime Playlist

Making a playlist is one of my favorite Expressive Arts activities. It is a musical collage of your thoughts, hopes, feelings, and struggles that you can turn on when ever needed. Use Spottify or itunes to craft a mix of your favorite songs that you want to play for yourself this Spring. Listen to them as the mood calls you. This is your time to defrost. 

Those are just a few ideas to play with ritual at Springtime. Use them and adapt them to work for you. If you have ideas or want to share how you used these ideas comments are much obliged. Or just pass this list on to someone who you think might need a bit of meaning making in their life. Remember this Spring that "to everything there is a season, and a tme to every purpose under heaven". Live it up.

love, 

Genevieve

The Art of The Heart

Love is often not an easy topic of discussion. Valentine's day gets done up each year with flowers and boyfriends and candy. Romance,while important, is only a small portion of loving. I have wanted for a long time to do something that could bring people towards a larger understanding and appreciation of all the love in their life.

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So, this weekend I facilitated my second holiday workshop with local crafts woman, Amber Lackey. It was designed to creatively delve deeper into the themes of Valentine's Day. Hopefully allowing the participants to experience the holiday on a personal and meaning filled level. We started by discussing the heart as a sacred symbol, specially it's value in ancient cultures as the seat of wisdom and intuition. Then we held a guided movement meditation where participants had an opportunity to expand their abilities to listen to the intuition of their hearts. The meditation led to a creative experience in which we sewed together a heart for our selves. Each participant crafted a completely unique little token and packed it with symbols of love in their lives. The workshop culminated in a beautiful ending ritual, in which we passed our finished hearts to one another as a circle of support.

While the whole event was an utter joy to facilitate, the closing ritual truly moved me. I felt such responsibility as I received each heart and inspected it's tiny details. By observing the nuances and textures of the artwork I felt myself loving the artist. I learned something unexpected. This is how I love in the world. When I am actively loving I am I appreciating and giving thanks and noticing beauty.

Amber and I had worked long and hard to plan this event, but no where in my plans did I expect to learn something so valuable about myself. It was such a surprise that even as I facilitated the ritual I had tears in my eyes. I did not let myself get caught up in my own emotions, but I noticed them and allowed them to pass over me so that I could continue to do my job.

On numerous occasions when conducting certain rituals or ceremonies, I have felt tears or joy wash over me. There are moments when, as an officiant, the wedding or baby blessing, or vow renewal that you are guiding becomes personal. In those moments you step into the ceremony with the participants and you engage directly in the transformation. If handled correctly, the officiant's brief entanglement in the moment can deepen the ceremony and bring all participants closer in.

For me, it is a bonus; like receiving a tip or a great referral. I add it to my paycheck as an asset, a perk of the job. Because while facilitating and witnessing the transformation of others is quite enough, there is nothing quite like experiencing transformation yourself. I am so grateful to be able to be touched by the work I do; to be learning from teaching and growing from facilitating growth. It would be fair to say that I love my job, I love my clients, and I love being witness to the unfoldment of life's bounty.

(sorry for the cheesy fancy worded post...but hey, it is Valentine's)

Conjure Woman

I have recently realized that I love to CONJURE. every job I have ever liked has involved some sort of conjuring. My involvement in the theatre had everything to do with this love of mine. I am a teacher, conjuring students passion for creative exploration. As a therapist (therapy student...for the board), I am constantly working with clients to conjure up healing and expression. And here I am as an officiant, conjuring sacred moments...inviting the spiritual to touch this world and drawing forth presence and meaning in times of transtion.

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As a wedding officiant, I have a deep love for facilitating important moments in life and consider it an honor to hold the space for the love my client's share. One such moment that I will never forget came from a tender and loving groom. As he began his vows, he started to cry. What began as a little sniffle turned into deep sobs before he could finish what he was saying, which was something about how he felt he could always rely on his partner. His bride, with a calm smile, pulled a tissue from her bouquet and handed it to him. As he looked up and took the tissue he exclaimed "See, that is exactly what I'm talking about, babe". Everyone present turned on a dime from tears to laughter. 

It was a perfect moment and an illustration of the kinds of honest and sincere weddings I love to be a part of. The groom felt safe enough, and had done enough prep work, to allow himself to be swept into the moment. The bride followed suit and so did everyone in attendance. That wedding was alive. I can't put my finger on what exactly to call it but there are moments of pure life that can be called forth in a ceremony, if the participants are willing. That is why I do weddings. To facilitate and amplify those moments when the world stops and everything becomes beautiful.

Resolution

When I was in 7th grade my parents told me that we were going to the beach for New Years Eve and I could take one friend. If you have never been to Galveston, Tx you won't know why I was a little disapointed with this plan. It is a beautiful part of the world the ocean is tame and still on the Gulf. It is a place where I can reliably find peace. However, my 13 year old self wanted anything but peace. Those myths about New Years had already set in. New Years Eve was supposed to me raucus, wild and anything but peacful. The word that came to mind was BORING.

Anyway, I grabed my old friend Nicole and we tradged along to the calmest little peice of our worlds. When we arrived Nicole and I went to Walmart. It was the only place arround that was open with bright lights. I was despratly looking for a way to make this evening special. At Walmart Nicole and I talked about our 7th grade lives. She had a lot on her plate, I knew that. Her parents were in teh midst of a divorce and she was about to be uprooted. We had lived across the street from eachother our whole lives and both of us knew that was about to come to an end along with so much else; childhood, inocence, imaginary powers on magical abandoned islands. Soon, if not already, Nicole and I would be playing very different games.

Of course I couldn't articulate that at the time. In the midst of transition we only felt a need for something big this New Years, something memorable. I had an idea, we bought candles and returned to the house where we were staying. I don't remeber the ritual we came up with but I know it inovlved lighting a candles for what you wanted in the next year. We decided that saying what we wanted was much better than coming up with traditional resolutions, wich ussualy require judgement and sacrifice. In the midst of a vast ocean of unknowing, what we needed was a place to swim to not a thing to leave behind. We did not want to make resolutions rather we needed a resolution.

As midnight came we retreated to the loft and began our little ceremony. I still remember the way that the light looked on Nicole's face as she lit her candles and talked ernestly of what she wanted. If we went back and listened to ourselves we might even laugh at what those girls said. It wasn't brilliant or particularly well put, but it was the truth and we heard eachother say it. How powerful it can be to speak your truth and be heard, to have it rembered maybe not in content but at least in context.

This afternoon I am running the first workshop that PassageWay arts has hosted. I am runing it with another good old friend and we will be lighting candles for our intentions. I hope that those who have wondered there will find what I found that night in Galveston almost 15 years ago; a new years resolution.

The Sacred Arts

What are the Sacred Arts?

There is a lot to unpack here, so let us start with definitions. What do I mean when I say "the arts"? What does that term mean to you?

My background as an artist grew from my love and studies of theatre arts. The theatre is a unique place in the art community because a theatrical work it is made up from multiple art forms. There is the wordsmith, the poet, the playwright who gives the piece its voice. The musician or DJ composes and compiles a score. The director and choreographer are visual storytellers, pulling out the narrative and enhancing the rhetoric. The scene, costume, and light designers are the visual artists contributing color, texture, composition. Finally, the performers use their bodies and voices to enact the art, bringing to life the creative choices of the entire group. Within the theatre show you have all "the arts" enfolded together; music, literature, movement, visual, and performance.

It is the theatre that made me reconsider myself as an artist able to work in multiple modes of expression. I have written, painted, sculpted, danced, crafted, cooked, gardened, decorated, performed, and sung my creativity. Each of these modes of expression serves a different purpose in my life. From authentic expression in each modality a new perspective can be gained.  In her book, Walking on Water, Madeline L'Engle wrote it very simply "art is communication".

 

Through my graduate studies in Expressive Arts I have learned how to use the arts and the connection between creative processes to heal myself and others. Sometimes words can not hold an emotion and it must be danced or enacted. Poems can be used to contain and conceptualize thoughts. Watercolor allows tears in paint to flow onto the page and oil pastels can bring the color of our dreams to life. Songs are sung to build community. The arts are a tool. They are an alternate way of listening to a problem, of letting a process unfold, and of communicating the truth of the matter.

In my next post I will go into the connection I see between creative process and spiritual process.

Was there a time in your life when you used a creative process to heal or serve? How are you accessing your creative energy right now in your life?