Thursday, January 30, 2014

"Learn By Practice"

The title for today's post is actually a quote I swiped from Martha Graham, often referred to as the "Picasso of Dance." She is remembered for many brilliant quotes regarding Life and Creativity, as well as Dance.

"Think of the magic of that foot, comparatively small, upon which your whole weight rests. It's a miracle, and the dance is a celebration of that miracle."

"We learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same. One becomes in some area an athlete of God."

This seemed like a perfect segue to this video of a young man who practiced for a year to learn to dance ...

I have quoted the following many times in the past, but only today did I learn it’s origin. In 1943, Agnes de Mille and Martha Graham were in Schrafft’s having a soda … De Mille recounts that she said to Graham “I confessed that I had a burning desire to be excellent, but no faith that I could be.”

This was Graham’s reply …

"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action … and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique.

And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it.

It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.

You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. ... No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others."

Thanks for the read ... let me know what you think ...


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Creative Minds ... Creative Ideas

Brilliance from the world's greatest minds ...

click on the link below the image to view the entire slideshow.

I've "borrowed" from Idea Champions and Mitch Ditkoff a number of times before. In my humble opinion, they put out some extraordinary work. Be sure to check out their website ... especially their Blog Heart of Innovation.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

One Day At A Time

I never realized there was such debate over the origins of this phrase. It's commonly accepted as one of the slogans in the recovery programs of Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon ... but it didn't originate there. It was found in the unabridged version of The Serenity Prayer.

The Serenity Prayer is the common name for the untitled prayer written by Reinhold Niebuhr, (1892 - 1971) a well-know theologian who served as dean and professor at the Union Theological Seminary in New York City. 

Published in the New York Tribune newspaper in 1941, it was discovered by Ruth Hock, AA's first secretary (and a non-alcoholic.) The rest as they say is history.

"One Day At A Time" has become part of the English vernacular ... being used as lyrics in a number of songs, as well as the title of a popular TV show from 1975 - 1984. 

But to my knowledge it's never been used to describe 

The Story of Toothpick Engineer Stan Munro.

It's a fascinating, inspiring story and an incredible example of the extent to which the Creative Spirit can reach. When asked how he could possibly have the patience to create such elaborate sculptures, Munro says "it’s by taking one day at a time ..." 

What do you think? All comments are welcome!!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Forces of Nature

I've said this before but I think it warrants saying again ... I have been writing for a long, long time. For most of that long, long time my work remained in notebooks, on shelves and later on my hard drive.

I was looking through a portfolio of papers earlier today and came upon an article that I had written back in 2011 ... it was handwritten and had been ripped out of a notebook. I was somewhat annoyed by the fact that I would have to type it into the computer and I've never been a very good typist. 

Well, lo and behold, I found the article in one of my computer folders and decided it was definitely something I wanted to share with you !!

The actual date I wrote the article was 11/17/11.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Melody Beattie has got to be one of the most brilliant people I have ever come across. Her insight and wisdom never cease to astound me.

Case in Point: 

"Dark Days" by Susan Schanerman
The last 2 weeks or so have been incredibly heavy for me. I know that in tough times, one of the first things we need to do is to be gentle with ourselves. Nurture .. Support … Comfort …

There are times when I have to hurt through a situation and when this happened, the choice is not whether to hurt or not to hurt but what I do while I am hurting.” Courage to Change Daily reader from Al-Anon

If it’s too much to do for ourselves and by ourselves ... then we need to ask for help. Sometimes that may feel risky but the results are usually worth it.

But I digress ... back to Melody Beattie. It was 11 weeks ago (I’ll explain how I know in a minute) ... I woke up and was compelled to go to one of my bookcases and my eyes were guided to one of Melody Beattie’s books entitled 52 Weeks of Conscious Contact – Meditations for Connecting with God, Self and Others. Curiously, I had never read the book and who knows how long it had been on the shelf.

As the title describes, the book is broken down into 52 weeks and each week addresses a different life issue/value. The book’s intent is to have us examine these simple life values so that we can get to that place where we feel and know that all is right with the world. Some call it Nirvana or the Kingdom of Heaven … others just call it having Conscious Contact.

I’m now at Week 11 ... that’s how I knew exactly when I started. Today I needed more and I diverted from the sequence and looked through the chapter titles. When I spied Weathering the Storms, I knew that was what I needed today.

No one would ever stop and question the storms that occur in nature … they come ... and they go ... that’s just the way it is … things are the way they are…

But when it comes to the personal storms in life, it’s quite a different matter. Or is it?

"New Day Dawning" by Susan Schanerman
I'm talking here about those situations where our lives are severely impacted … Job loss … Financial crises … Car breakdown ... Discord in our relationships ... Loss of a loved one ...

In many cases, the circumstances are not a consequence of anything we did or didn’t do. Of course, if we didn’t pay the electric bill and the power is turned off ... well, that’s a different story.

If we ascribe to the belief that everything happens for a reason ... then the storms have nothing at all to do with us ... but there is usually something for us to learn.

In the midst of our personal storms, however, we don’t necessarily need to understand the lesson. We do need to don our weatherproof gear or just get inside.

This remark I found particularly interesting … “Guilt is a part of grief. Often when a storm comes up, it involves a loss …"

Little storms of despair, hopelessness or self-hatred may squall up out of nowhere in our lives. We can hunker down and protect ourselves even when the storm is inside us." - - Melody Beattie

Bottom line ... the forces of nature just are what they are. They come and they go. Sometimes they leave wreckage in their wake.

But, eventually, the sun will shine again. Spring will always follow winter. Warmth will replace the cold ... Whether it is the natural world or our personal world

We certainly have no control over the weather or the natural world. All we can do is protect ourselves and wait for the storms to move on or wear themselves out.

Not much different in our personal worlds. The first and foremost thing is to protect ourselves from the storm and its effects … Remember to be grateful when the storm is over and the sun shines again.

Like everything else in life ... these, too, will always pass …

All artwork available at heARTmattersAndMore on Etsy

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Eat More Colors ... Fewer Cookies


Published on Jan 22, 2014

"Elmo says fruits and vegetables are among his favorite foods, and he wants preschoolers to think so too. Sesame Street has partnered with a New York heart doctor to teach young kids the importance of eating right and exercising." (Jan. 23)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Thought For Today

"When you come to the edge of all the light you have known, and are about to step out into darkness, faith is knowing one of two things will happen; there will be something to stand on, or you will be taught to fly."  - - Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull
"Realm of Possibilities" Collage by Susan Schanerman

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Speaking Without Words

I'm going to be completely honest here and admit that I'm beginning to find it a challenge to come up with new, fresh themes/ideas for my blog posts. 

First, let me qualify that statement ... I began a 90-day Blog Post Challenge ... 90 posts in 90 days in August ... And I've been posting "almost" daily since I completed the 90 ... that totals another 50 posts. So, the real truth is I've done close to 150 blog posts in five months!! 

Having said that ... there's still a part of me that feels guilty, that at this stage in my creative career I should still get stumped for ideas. I'm also embarrassed to not only be revealing this part of myself publically, but the mere fact that I'm actually in this kind of position.
"The Gift of Creativity" Collage by Susan Schanerman
But the absolute truth is this ... Life is just like that. Peaks and valleys. Creative abundance and dry spells. Night and day. Yin and yang. And maybe the most important thing that I can share with you is that not only is it natural and part of the process of living any kind of life (much less a creative one) but it's also perfectly OK. And that can often be the most difficult part to accept ... that the "less than ideal" parts are OK, too. 

It's human indeed, to relish and enjoy and accept and celebrate the parts of life that we deem good. It's also equally as human, to want to reject or deny or resist or change that which we do not think is good ... or acceptable ... just not the way we want things to be.
More than 25 years ago, I learned a very simple phrase which I can never completely ignore (although I may choose to forget it.) 

"That which we resist, persists." The real irony here is that only by accepting what is ... exactly the way it is ... right here, right now ... can we actually move on.
Case in point:

So I've been struggling for awhile now to come up with new ideas for the blog. As I was writing in my journal yesterday morning, the following came to mind: 

"Maybe I need to just sit in front of the blank screen of the computer and wait? Or maybe I need to turn away from words and just Play (I was going to use the word Work, but I changed my mind) with my scrapbook."
Like an article in Alternative Medicine Magazine said,

"Art can get to or access places that words cannot ... and nonverbal expression can more easily bypass the internal critic," especially if the "art" is just pure expression with no thought attached.  

So it dawned on me that perhaps I needed to simply set the stage ... Lay out all of my supplies, light a candle and some incense, put on some special music, close my eyes, take some deep breaths and then just begin.
"A New Look on Life" Collage by Susan Schanerman
Basically, that is what I did yesterday. I worked for hours cutting, pasting, gluing, creating. And the only reason I stopped when I did, was that I ran out of glue! 

So here I am today, having accomplished that which I had struggled with for too long and bottom-line ... the simple truth ... was that all I really needed to do was Acknowledge ... Accept ... Let Go and Take Action. 

It really does not need to be as difficult as we make it.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The disABILITY Myth - Conclusion

The disABILITY Myth - Continued

I have just reread one of the simplest yet most fascinating and compelling books I have read in a long time. The title is Prepare for the Wolf: Success Secrets from the Three Little Pigs and was written by Robert Roots, who I am pleased to call a friend.

I guess the most important point I got from this small but powerful primer is that circumstances or conditions do not to dictate what we are ... or what we can become. Everything begins in the mind ... even our disABILITIES begin in the mind. Everything else is just conditions and circumstances ... obstacles and challenges ... to be faced and overcome. And that is that !!!

Along the same lines, one of my favorite teachers in the recovery community, Melody Beattie, wrote a piece some years ago entitled "What's Your Handicap?

Her point was that no matter what the specific circumstances ... every one of us has had some type of challenge, "a handicap," if you will, to have to overcome in this life ... and that we could allow IT to overshadow our lives ... to get the better of us and go through life hindered or handicapped by it. Or we could choose to live with it ... accepting it ... embracing it ... weaving it into the very fabric of our lives and in so doing adding to the uniqueness and richness of who we really are ...
"No Limits" Collage by Susan Schanerman

To be brutally honest, I have allowed my mind, emotions, negative attitudes, fears, and limiting beliefs to dis-ABLE me to an equal or maybe even greater extent than any of the physical challenges I have had to endure.

I've long heard it said that when you are sick and tired of being sick and tired you will do something differently ... make different choices ... take different action ... create a different life.

Well, at this “Red-hot Second” I am much more than sick and tired of being sick and tired. I am totally and completely fed up!! But nothing will change, if I don't change. My life cannot be different, until my mind is different.

I must thank Mr. Roots for so brilliantly pointing out the simple steps needed to be taken to create powerful and significant changes in life.

It's like the analogy of a pilot or an astronaut ... the slightest alteration in direction creates a momentous difference in the ultimate trajectory. 

I don't need to make huge leaps, I only need to take small steps ... Baby steps ... Consistent steps ... In the direction of my dreams.

No more wavering ... No more doubts ... No more self-recrimination ... No more abuse.

Just Faith ... Determination ... Vigilance ... Commitment ... Consistency and Courage ...

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The disABILITY Myth

I wrote this article a number of years ago ... before Blogging ... so, it's never been published much less shared. I hope you enjoy it ...

Several weeks ago, I had a serious car accident. My car was totaled and I suffered 3 broken ribs, a punctured lung, glass in my left hand and a couple of small fractures in the right.

This period of recuperation and loss of the mobility and freedom that having a car at one’s disposal provides, has none the less given me the time and opportunity to do some serious reflection and soul searching.

In particular, old, old memories and feelings of a loss of mobility and freedom that I had experienced in my early childhood surfaced. At the age of 7, I suffered a serious case of polio which initially left me paralyzed and then severely physically-
limited throughout my entire childhood.

I can clearly remember the sense of power and autonomy I finally felt when I got my driver’s license at age 17. All this somehow got me to thinking … and my creative juices started flowing … here’s what followed …

I wonder how many people know the origin of the word disabled. My friend Mr. Webster says that the prefix Dis- comes from Roman mythology and that Dis- is the god of the lower world; identified with the Greek God Pluto. It also refers to his realm; the lower world; Hades.

Dis-, as the prefix to literally hundreds of words, denotes separation, negation, or reversal. Further, it refers to cause to be the opposite of; deprive of; fail; cease; disallow; not; lack of; apart.

The word disable itself is defined as:

  • to make unable or unfit; cripple; incapacitate.
  • to make legally incapable; disqualify legally.

None of these definitions paint a very empowering picture, if you ask me.

I think I have always had a problem with the word dis-ABLE … despite the fact that in recent years, it seems to have become the “politically correct” word of choice used to refer to the more than 50 million Americans who experience and live with some type of physical or emotional challenge.

In the olden days, when I was a kid crippled was more commonly used … especially with regard to children. Without knowing why, hearing that word would make my skin crawl. I hated it !! Handicapped wasn’t much better. That one sent me into a tizzy, as well.

Again referring to my friend Mr. Webster, I wonder how many people know that the origin of the word handicapped comes from the phrase "hand in cap," which was a kind of lottery game in which the winners were penalized.

It then came to mean, a race or other competition in which difficulties are imposed on the superior contestants, or advantages given to the inferior, to make their chances of winning equal ... like in horse-racing or golf.

From there, it goes on to define the word as:

  • such a difficulty or advantage, hence
  • something that hampers a person; disadvantage; hindrance.

Don’t you think it’s curious, that while the word started off with the idea of trying to keep the chances of winning equal … somehow over time, it has evolved to mean only the disadvantage part?  

Years ago, when I was in college, I remember studying the power of words … the power of labels. Studies have been done repeatedly over the years indicating the power of a label to determine perception and action...on the part of others, as well as on the part of ourselves.

One study in particular had to do with teachers being told that their students with blue eyes had higher IQ's than their students with brown eyes. The results of the study indicated that not only did the teachers treat the blue-eyed students in a preferential way, but in the end analysis, the blue-eyed students obtained better grades than those labeled as less intelligent. Looks like a pretty powerful self-fulfilling prophecy to me!!

So from my personal vantage point, a label such as crippled, handicapped, or even the more politically correct dis-ABLED carries an incredible power of influence …

Consciously or even unconsciously, it's as if the individual absorbs the feelings of … less than … inability … lack of competency … lack of empowerment. As a result, not only does the individual have the challenge in the first place but to top it all off … they’ve got a black cloud over their heads to boot !!!

So what I'm trying to say is, that there's an incredible power to words … whether we believe it or not ... whether we pay attention to it or not. And I think it's critically important to realize how important it is to pay attention to the power of the words we use … and that others use.

What follows from all of this is that as long as someone considers themselves less than able … then that, indeed, is what they are.