Tag Archives: Flora Bowley

An open love letter to Andrea Scher

Photo by Mara

I’ll admit, kind and gentle reader, I am afraid to write this post. I have avoided it for months, while at the same time silently writing and rewriting it in my heart, longing to say it out loud, to tell her. But what do you say to someone who has given you so much, altered your experience so completely? How can you ever possibly thank them? See…I’m right to be afraid, because every time I think about it, about how much I adore her and how grateful I am, I start to cry (now, for example).

Andrea Scher has been the sun at the center of a universe of amazement and goodness, the shiny middle that all the other bright and precious things orbit around.

self-portrait by andrea scher

Here is just a short list of what she’s given me, what she’s introduced me to: Boho Girl, Susannah Conway, Kelly Rae Roberts, Brene’ Brown (!!!), Jen Lemen, Flora Bowley and the wonder of painting, Laurie Wagner, Rachel Cole, Mondo Beyondo thinking, and the joy of photography.

I’ve taken two of Andrea’s classes, Mondo Beyondo (which she taught with Jen Lemen) and Superhero Photo, and on Monday, June 18th, I’ll be starting Mondo Beyondo Dream Lab.

Horse or Dog?

horse or dog? picture I took of sam during superhero photo

Superhero Photo altered how I saw the world. I got down on the ground, climbed on chairs and tables, went out in all colors and weights of light, looked close and far away, and went on treasure hunts. I took some of the most magical pictures I ever had, and I haven’t stopped taking them.

Mondo Beyondo fundamentally shifted the way I approached my life, the way I saw myself. In this post, (which Andrea wrote when she first introduced the course in 2009), she describes the concept of a Mondo Beyondo list, what that approach looks like and means. She says,

I had been making these kinds of lists for years but had never had a name for it, or ever formalized my mental list by writing it down. My Mondo Beyondo. I liked the sound of it. I also loved the idea of stretching yourself into this world of the outrageous. If your imagination could reach a bit farther with this exercise, then you were giving yourself a powerful gift: expanding your idea of what is possible.

image by jen gray

Here’s the list of what I’ve done because of Andrea Scher, things I can cross off my Mondo Beyondo List:

  1. Started writing this blog
  2. Bought a ticket to World Domination Summit (WDS, just a few weeks away!)
  3. Took a few classes with Susannah Conway, got a signed copy of her book (sent by her!), am taking a writing workshop with her at WDS, and attending an event on her book tour at Kelly Rae Robert’s studio (!)
  4. Met Brene’ Brown (holy crap, I even talked to her!), took a two-day workshop with her
  5. Signed up to take a yoga class with Marianne Elliott at WDS
  6. Went to a Fearless Creativity writing and meditation retreat at Shambhala Mountain Center with Susan Piver (oh how I adore that woman!)
  7. Hosted a Well-Fed Woman Mini Retreatshop led by Rachel Cole
  8. Started writing a book

Maybe for some people, this list wouldn’t seem that astonishing, but we are talking about me here: INFJ, introvert, highly sensitive person who suffered from depression, anxiety, and writer’s block for 25+ years, (maybe longer?). This list is huge, ginormous, crazy wild amazing.

andrea scher, taken by laurie wagner

I found Andrea Scher’s blog, Superhero Journal, at a time when I was so brokenhearted, such a mess, so stuck, so tired. I didn’t know how to keep going, where to even start. I was searching, my view clouded by grief, knew that I had abandoned myself and my dreams, but didn’t know how to find my way back.

The person I am today: writer, artist, warrior, brave, open-hearted, funny, strong, joyful, sane, is possible in part because of Andrea Scher. She invited me to expand my idea of what was possible. She encouraged me, was kind and honest. She was constantly admitting the things that are hard and messy, while still pointing out what’s beautiful and precious. She reminds me of this quote from Muriel Rukeyser, “What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.” Split open, and through the cracks, the light would get in (or maybe get out?).

Thank you, Andrea. I adore you and am so grateful for your work, your truth and your light, which have been of such great benefit to me as I stumble along.

Gratitude Friday

This post is a mashup of The Little Bliss List and Joy Jam, and as such is meant to celebrate: the little things that brought me hope and happiness this week, the sweet stuff of life, those small gifts that brought me joy this week. By sharing them, I not only make public my gratitude, but maybe also help you notice your own good stuff and send some positive energy out into the world.

1. This tshirt. I just bought it and a few others from Cafe Press, (on sale, plus an additional 35% off, I am my mother’s daughter and love a good deal). I love this shirt because it makes me smile and because it’s true.

2. Resting and Play. Sleeping in, napping, sitting in the backyard reading a book, long walks, yoga class, meditation, writing, thinking, making art, having conversations, staring at the trees, closing my eyes and breathing, even cleaning: all these things restore, renew, rejuvenate, give me energy and stillness, a sense of space. Instead of constantly counting the days, marking time, being acutely aware of the ticking of the clock, I can simply be present in my life, with myself, in a state of wholeness and enough.

3. Buds and Blooms. I am enjoying so much the explosion of green and blossom that Spring brings. I’ve even been enjoying the rain that’s feeding it, (*gasp* I know, right? Me, enjoy rain? Weird…). My yoga teacher gave me three new plants from her garden–salvia, feverfew, and phlox, (last year she gave me lilies and white irises)–so I was weeding my front flowerbed the other day, making room for them, in the rain, planting them in the mud, getting so dirty and wet, but loving it. I truly do have farming in my DNA. While I was working, I was amazed at all the life happening in that tiny patch of dirt, a short and thin strip of dirt between our driveway and the neighbor’s lawn, bugs and insects and even a fat little toad.

People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things with us. ~ Iris Murdoch

4. Amazing Women. I am lucky enough to have many of these directly in my life, in my community. But there are also so many others who I can look to for inspiration and support, online and in text. I am so lucky to live in a time when print and the internet are easily accessible to me. The richness, the brilliance and preciousness of books, blogs, websites, flickr and instagram, tweets, tv shows and films, ecourses and workshops. Artists, mentors, and healers who model what it means to live a wholehearted life.

5. Lazy, Unscheduled Time with Eric. During the academic year, we are both so busy, so it’s nice to have this time together, to be able to barbeque for lunch, go for long walks, take naps, hang out in the backyard for hours, talking and reading and making each other laugh. He really is my favorite.

6. HeART Exchange Art Swap Project. I did this the first round with the openhearted and talented Lindsay, and it felt like I didn’t just get a wonderful piece of art, but I gained a new friend. I wasn’t sure I’d do it again, but at the last minute, I decided to dive in. Before I got my art swap partner info, I had been planning to try to do a painting, following the techniques from Flora Bowley’s new book, Brave Intuitive Painting: let go. be bold. unfold. Well, I got my partner’s info…and she’s a painter who has taken an in person workshop with Flora! *gulp* I will not be painting for her. But, out of that surprise came an even better idea (I think), one that could be the start of a series of projects. I’ll share as soon as the swap has happened.

P.S. I just found the note I wrote to myself about this: “Uh-oh, she’s a painter. Would she really want my very first attempt at a Flora style painting, when she’s taken a workshop directly from her? Blergh…what to do now? Cross stitch?” So funny…

Bonus Joy: I can hardly believe it, but this is my 300th blog post! I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating–after so many years of writer’s block, this blog has been such a gift. Thank you, kind and gentle reader, for coming here to visit, to witness, to listen, to support me. You could never know how much I appreciate it. Big gratitude!

Gratitude Friday

This post is a mashup of The Little Bliss List and Joy Jam, and as such is meant to celebrate: the little things that brought me hope and happiness this week, the sweet stuff of life, those small gifts that brought me joy this week. By sharing them, I not only make public my gratitude, but maybe also help you notice your own good stuff and send some positive energy out into the world.

1. The smell of lilacs on the breeze, still sweet even as they begin to fade away.

2. Spring morning birdsong. I’m not tired of this yet. It makes me so happy to hear them out there, chirping and singing and fluttering, even when it’s still dark, before the sun rises.

3. Avocado and figs. There are some foods that I actively hated as a kid (brussel sprouts being one) that I am loving now, and these are two of them. So rich and creamy and satisfying.

4. Sick days. Getting to read a new, whole book that I’d been looking forward to, being able to finish it in just two days; watching an entire disk of Downton Abbey episodes, one after the other while in my pjs and purple bathrobe on the couch; taking long naps; cuddling with my dogs who were so sweet and calm; having Dexter (who hasn’t slept in the big bed with us for months and months, maybe more than a year) bring his Little D in and cuddle next to me for almost the entire night; and Eric making me breakfast for dinner, including pancakes. When you can’t do anything else, you are forced to be gentle and take care of yourself, and even as wrong as sick during a beautiful spring can seem, it can also be a gift of sorts.

5. Brave Intuitive Painting: Let go. Be bold. Unfold. This book is gorgeous, precious. If you are a creative type or an artist of any kind or just a lover of all things beautiful, I recommend you get a copy. What’s so wonderful about the book is that it’s an invitation to anyone who wants to create. You do not have to be a painter. Just bring your open heart, desire to make something, and willingness to get messy. I suspect that especially if you are feeling blocked, stuck, stale, bored, or cramped, this book is just the magic you need to start moving again, to let go, be bold, unfold. Just looking, doing nothing more than gazing at the pages, not even reading or painting, makes me soften, feel giddy with grace and warm with joy. The riot of color and play that fills these pages is inspiring.


Bonus joy: I was gifted so many kind words, so much generous feedback this week about my writing. My husband in the kitchen, a friend in the locker room at the gym, two emails on facebook, comments on various posts, feedback on my pieces for the Telling True Stories class I’m taking, and an email from a dear friend. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for all the love, the validation. I know I shouldn’t need it, but it’s so nice to hear that what you are doing touches others, helps them in some way.

A few of my favorite things

our wedding day, October 9, 1993–we were so young, and in love, now we are older, but still in love

Eric and I often say to each other “you’re my favorite.” He and my two dogs are constant in my life, my companions, my family, and whether I was making a list of “things I’d save first if there was a fire” or “things I’d want with me if I were stranded on a desert island” or “things I’m grateful for” or “my favorite things,” the three of them would be at the top of every list.

Yesterday and today, I have been home with the crud, being kind to myself, practicing gentleness, taking it easy, and getting some rest. As I’ve been doing so, I’ve been thankful for paid sick days, for the kindness of other beings, for the time and space to rest.

As I’ve spent so much time inside these past two days (with short breaks wrapped in a blanket in a chair in the backyard to get some fresh air), I’ve also been noticing the preciousness of my environment, and wanted to share with you some of my favorite things.

Mala Bracelets and Ibex Shak Merino Wool Jacket

A mala bracelet is made from Buddhist prayer beads, used when chanting mantras similarly to a Catholic Rosary, and is intended to be a more portable version of a full mala, which is 108 beads. The teak mala bracelet I have is inscribed, each bead with the same wish, something that translates roughly to “may all your dreams come true,” or “may your intentions manifest.” I’ve had it for more than ten years, and the wood smells of the patchouli oil that both Eric and I wear. I had two of them to begin with, but gave one to a dear friend. When I saw her again last year, after a few years of not, she was still wearing it.

The crystal and amethyst mala is newer. I just bough it at the Shambhala Mountain Book and Gift Shop when I was there for the Fearless Creativity Writing and Meditation Retreat with Susan Piver. I’d been wanting another one, have been loving how Susannah Conway layers her bracelets, and have often admired the crystal one Susan Piver wears sometimes. In my practice tradition, and in other forms of Buddhist practice, crystal is a symbol of awakened mind, of enlightenment. When I was picking which one I wanted, I was drawn to this one because of the amethyst. My favorite color is deep purple, but I also found out later that the amethyst crystal is meant to help with addiction, to instill a sober mind, to ease insomnia, to guard against guilty and fearful feelings, worn as a protection against self-deception, symbolizes spiritual wisdom and openness, can be used to attract love and happiness, to aid in meditation, is often worn by healers, and has a calming, cleansing, and protective energy. These are all good things.

And my wool jacket. I have worn the Ibex Shak Fullzip Classic for many years now, as has Eric. They are simply one of the most versatile, well-made items of clothing I have ever encountered. They are thin and work well in warmer temperatures, but are also warm enough to wear alone when it’s cooler, and work great as a layer when it gets really cold. I can wear one with a nicer outfit or to walk the dogs. They really are beautiful, and worth the higher price. This one came to me instigated by a loss. I had a black one, fairly new, to replace the one I’d worn out, and while in Boulder, I dropped it while walking the two blocks from a restaurant to the Shambhala Center. Even though I realized it right away and went back, it was gone. When I got online to replace it, it was too late in the season, and there were no more black, so I got this purple one. I normally would have never bought another, brighter color, would have stuck with black, but I love this one, so that story has a happy ending.

Quilt, Khata, and Lotus “Thangka”

It is traditional to have a Thangka over your meditation shrine. Usually, they are painted or embroidered, and are a representation of Buddha, or some other Buddhist deity, scene, or mandala. “Thangkas are intended to serve as a record of, and guide for contemplative experience,” (Buddhanet). As I mentioned in my post about my tattoos, a lotus flower is that representation for me. Eric bought me this one a few years ago (notice the deep purple color). I love how the bloom that is still a bud reaches towards the sky.

The quilt behind it is what served as my Thangka before I had the other. It was made by my aunt, my godmother, who is a fabric artist and quilter. Some day I will write a post, give you a tour through the amazing collection of her work that covers the walls of my house, and both Eric and I’s offices. Her work is truly amazing, and she has gifted me with a lot of it over the years, because she knows how much I love and appreciate it. I have also bought my own pieces from her shows, and my mom has also given me many over the years.

And finally, the Khata that is draped over my Thangka, is a special object, so precious to me. A Khata is a traditional Tibetan scarf, used as an offering of gratitude and good luck, a show of appreciation and love on the part of the giver. It’s often used as a way of decorating an object of practice or great value (such as draping it over the picture of a spiritual teacher), or offered by a student when they receive a teaching or practice, or given to someone who is about to depart on a journey. At the retreat with Susan Piver, on our last day, I gave her this scarf along with letters of love and gratitude, along with my adoration and appreciation. As might happen, the teacher can offer it back to the student, and Susan did just that. This act was so precious to me, I am crying about it again as I tell you. I can’t think about that moment without my heart going soft and tears starting. I know that ultimately I have saved myself, but there are some people whose support was critical, whose wisdom and kindness made all the difference, who I will never be able to properly thank, and Susan Piver is one of those people.

My writing desk

This is where you will find me almost every morning around 4:45 am, after I’ve fed the dogs and made a half cup of coffee. Even if it has to be later than that, I still make it to this spot, every day, and I write at least 3-5 pages in my journal. This is one of my favorite spots, and because of that, there is a collection of my favorite, most important things nearby:

  • a heart-shaped candy box that I covered with shells and rocks I found on the beach
  • Obi‘s last collar with his tags
  • Two different urns with some of Obi’s ashes, the original one they were packaged in, and the other that is blue porcelain and also contains some of his fur and a tag with his Oregon address
  • My HappyLight
  • a Lilac
  • a coaster I use for my coffee that has a purple lotus on it, given to me by a good friend
  • Thousand Shades of Gray mascots, tiny owls from DouDou Birds, Bot and Millie
  • My collection of Full Moon Dreamboards
  • “Dreamer” owl bag from one of my favorite companies, Papyrus
  • a small white porcelain Guanyin that I found at a flea market in Waldport, Oregon for $1
  • a pawprint of Obi’s foot
  • a picture I framed (I worked as a picture framer many years ago) for my Grandma, that I got back when she passed, that says “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
  • Various rocks and love notes from Eric
  • And of course, my current journal and my favorite pen, the Clarius by Pentel

Words

I’ve written before, many times, about my love for books, for reading and writing. Since I’ve been sick, I don’t have the energy for much (in fact, this post has been written in fits and starts over the course of two full days, with many nap breaks in between), but Eric had brought home Cheryl Strayed’s new book Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail from the library. He got it for himself to read, but I’ve kidnapped it. I love that the copy I am reading has the “here & now” sticker on it. At our library, that means it’s a special new book and you can only keep it for seven days, but for me, it means something else–that all there is for me to do right now is to sink into this story, this book that is not, as some mistakenly think, a narrative about a journey through a physical place you could find on a map, but is rather about an internal trip, a woman travelling through her own memory and in to the very center of her heart.

And then last night, my copy of Brave Intuitive Painting: let go. be bold. unfold. by Flora Bowley came in the mail. I first saw her work on Andrea Scher’s Superhero Journal, because Andrea was lucky enough recently to do a painting retreat with Flora in Mexico. This book and Flora’s work and the world of open-hearted, brave color what she invites the reader into is so fantastic. I cannot wait to feel better, get out some paint and get messy!