workshops

Groups of Summer

It turns out the summer is slow in the private practice therapy world. Clients take vacations and (maybe more importantly) that which was a crisis in the dark days of winter somehow melts into "manageable" as the days get longer and the air gets thicker. There is just somehow less need. So, my schedule has opened up and so has my worry. 

I am only a few months into this new venture and I still get pretty nervous when a week goes by with no new clients calling me. So, I do what any budding professional would do...I call them. Kind of. I have started to solicit group work from local agencies. These groups are contract work where I a hired to come in as an art therapist and lead several sessions of Expressive Arts interventions. 

Even though all this started just to drum up more work, I have to say it brings me such joy. I love therapy groups. I think they are rich with deep learning if you let them be.

Each group is like its own little life form made up of individuals gathering for a common cause. The group has a life cycle, a purpose, and a product. The way a group forms, grows and establishes norms seems magical, but it is actually delicate science.

Like all life forms, its main goal is survival. A group's members are always unconsciously doing a delicate dance to maintain health and ease within the group. They are balancing power dynamics, tasks, and established patterns. If a member doesn't have enough "buy in" if they threaten the group as a whole, the group will find a way to either enlist or expel them just as our bodies do with bacteria. All parts of the whole are working for the good of the whole and they are working because being a part of the group is nourishing to the individual.

What an amazing reminder of the systems that we are, that we are a part of, and that we rebel against. The universe is just gatherings joining together to make organisms, joining together to make bodies, joining together to make groups, joining together to make organizations, joining together to make collectives, joining together to make planets, joining together to make systems. It is an infinite web of connection, of individual and other.

And the most amazing part is; when you pull on any one part of it everything moves. 

That is why therapy groups can be so powerful and can acelerate the healing process so much. They offer an opportunity to witness and play a part in the growth of others and every time one person shifts, they all do. 

 

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

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

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.