Easing Anxiety & Fear With Art Therapy

At the end of 2011, when my watchwords (creativity, honesty & soulful purpose) for 2012 appeared, I had no idea just how much they’d become companions for my journey through Cancerville.

Even though Fall has officially begun, I want to talk about how I spent my summer, and how creativity has shown up as part of my journey to wellness.

Most of the other people I’ve met in Cancerville have a challenging time with the notion of giving grace in the face of this difficult diagnosis; referring to cancer as a beast which conjures up ideas of noble fights and merciless warriors focused on destruction of the enemy. Destruction, enemies, fighting… do not feel or sound like Love to me, but fear.

Fear is a companion we meet on any journey in life and it isn’t going anywhere. I’ve learned, fearlessness isn’t about a state or condition where no fear exists. That’s called grace. Part of healing, for me, has been about understanding and accepting with grace, my diagnosis and the fear about it. A state of grace allows me to accept and see the gifts that come with this journey.

The wisest of warriors understand fearlessness is really about how we show up in the face of our adversity. How present we remain when fear gets up in our face. Remaining present is a condition we cultivate from within, and is not based on certain external conditions being met or the absence of them.

This summer, I completed six rounds of chemotherapy. Every two weeks for 12 weeks, I went in, got hooked up and sat and watched as Adriamycin & Cytoxin (AC for short in Cancerville) was pushed into my veins. One of the reasons I believe I was able to handle chemotherapy with mild to very little side affects was because of what I told myself about what was happening to me. I told my story about it, and refused to listen to or chime in with others who wanted to compare long lists of complaints. I couldn’t focus on those things if I expected to heal with the help of chemotherapy.

What I did do though, when fear arrived (because it did and continues to visit regularly whispering to me stories about poison, toxicity and long-term side affects) was a lot of art.

What do you think about when you create art? Do you remember art class in school? It was one of my favorite times because I knew I could relax. Turn my brain off; at least a portion of it. And since fear is so good at serving up endless scenarios as possibilities for my future, encouraging me to size up exactly what I’m up against, art has been the perfect therapy to bring me back to the present moment and help me focus and stay there.

One of my favorite art projects this summer has been transferring Instagram photos to wood (specifics about how to do it yourself can be found in this post). Transferring Instagram photos to wood requires time, which is what I got a lot of these days. Rolling wet paper—that’s been glued down onto one inch thick 6 x 6 inch pieces of wood—into little balls takes a lot of patience. And when I’m working with it, I can’t really think about anything else. Not cancer, not chemo, not my upcoming bi-lateral mastectomy. Just whether or not I’m being gentle enough with the soaked paper so I don’t remove the ink that’s been transferred to the wood.

I also purchased a coloring book made specifically for women that encourages creative expression and giving you a voice to all the parts of the healing journey. Called She Dances Between the Worlds, this 90-page journal provides illustrations by artist Shiloh Sophia McCloud as well as blank pages that will support pencils, watercolor, markers or acrylic paint. The artist also includes her own inspirational thoughts about being a creative woman like “Yes, it is her we are after here — yes, the outrageous one within you!!!” and quotes from other brave, creative feminine voices.

Yes, it is her we are after here — yes, the outrageous one within you!!! ~ Shiloh Sophia McCloud

At a recent breast cancer support group meeting where Art Therapy was the evening’s topic, we were encouraged to write a word down and use any kind of medium provided in the class to expand and express ourselves. I started to write the word “whole,” then chickened out for a second and with only the “w” drawn thought about changing it to “well.” Since surgery was on my mind, I decided to honor myself and my fear about the transformation my physical body will undergo next month. I recognize that I’m in the process of discovering greater wholeness. Even though surgery looms, for the first time in my life I’m really listening to my inner teacher, trusting her voice and what she wants me to acknowledge and understand.

And very soon, I plan on doing something with the plaster bust I created during Keep-A-Breast’s Treasured Chest event.

All summer long, I’ve focused on creativity, as a way to help myself heal and to keep my mind focused on affirming life & it’s pleasures; slowing down my endless mind chatter that is filled with anxiousness, worry & fear.

Art therapy is teaching me how to remain present with uncertainty. I’m practicing trusting myself and this journey through Cancerville, believing there are no mistakes & I can’t do any part of this wrong. Which is the same advice every good art teacher gives to her students.

When was the last time you picked up coloring pencils or magic markers? Or sat and colored with your children? It’s a wonderful way to come back to the moment and practice being gentle with your self when the tides of fear rise up and feel overwhelming.

Facing breast cancer or other chronic illness and looking for some relief from the anxiety it brings? If you’re interested in shifting some of your own personal stories about health & wellness, this optimystical way I see things—is my gift, my superpower—that I’d love to share with you. If you feel you’d benefit by it, visit my coaching page for more info.
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Trusting The Call of Your Expansion

Redesign.

Go ahead, BE A FOOL! Expansion is worth it :)

It can be a scary word or an exciting word, when you’re a web presencer like me.

I’ve had clients joke around about it immediately after launch. I’ve had clients seriously reconsider everything right at or just before launch (fear rears it’s ugly head in the form of self-doubt). And, in many more situations, I’ve had clients who feel in desperate need of a redesign because their existing web space feels terribly incongruent for who’ve they become today.

That is why this word, redesign, is both scary and exciting. Scary at the thought of “starting over again” and exciting because renewal has energy. An energy that can help propel us to the next place we want to go.

Which ties in directly to one of my main intentions for helping coaches and artists presence themselves online… which is, to create a place they can fall in love with and pour more of themselves in to it.

My whole she-bang is about expansion. Expanding yourself. Expanding your world. Your outreach. Internet and technology are primary resources for doing it in today’s new and interesting economy.

My big news.

I came to Thesis in the summer of 2009. I’ve steadily grown into my theme. Expanding it here and there. Adding (and removing) elements to my design as my business grew and evolved. It is a process… and it’s never finished. Really.

And not unless you’ve already been out here for a few years doing it, will you have one of those sites. When you begin, it’s sparse at first. And little by little it becomes more as you invest time and energy into growing your business.

Because redesigns rarely happen simply because you don’t like the look and feel anymore. And if they do, then you’ve got time & money to burn. For me and my clients, that is not where we are (and I’m not sure any serious, successful online entrepreneur is either or they wouldn’t be successful.)

My big news is I’m redesigning my website. I want to share this with you because my hunch is, you’ll want to know because every online biz owner will face a moment similar to mine… and it’s always so comforting to know we’re not alone, right?

Maybe you’ve been thinking about it yourself. You’ve got questions. And throughout the entire process of a redesign, many more questions arise and will need direction and input from the steering committee which is you.

Most redesigns happen behind-the-scenes and then are “revealed” like a magician’s re-appearing assistant in the spinning wardrobe. Ta-da!

It’s all cool and nice. But when I look around, I don’t recall seeing anyone who’s ever shared the process. Not that that’s bad. It is about relevancy too.

If your niche is not technology or web presencing, sharing your redesign would seem completely irrelevant to your audience… or, only relevant to them in terms of “what’s in it for me?” Will it be easier to navigate? Will I be able to find the content I’m looking for more easily? Stuff like that.

Maybe you’ve been thinking about doing it yourself. Maybe it would nice to understand my reasons for doing it and my decision-making process. And, get a sense of the kinds of  decisions that you might make along the way. That any online biz owner might have to decide for their own redesign.

Starting now, I’m sharing whatever I want to (those are the rules when it’s your web presence) with regard to my redesign. From the why’s to the how’s.

I’ve got some surprises too. I’m leaping off the precipice, like the Fool in the tarot deck. Away from my comfort zone of Thesis (gasp!) and following the call of my own expansion.

Because the call for expansion in life and business always requires taking some risks. Besides, I’ve got my “A” story and I’m willing to drink my own kool-aid here and fearlessly face the threats of making a mistake or even failing completely because the ride of expansion is always worth it.

Everyone loves a sexy reveal, but I’m opting for the strip-tease instead…

I hope you’ll come along for the ride. I’d love to hear your questions about redesigns. What’s scary about it, what’s exciting about it. How to know when it’s time for you to do it.

Subscribe if you haven’t and you want to follow along.

Closer To My Dreams

This Friday, I’m in touch with deep feelings of gratitude and thanks. Seriously. I’m not just saying that ‘cuz I’m a coach and optimystical.

Gratitude for a 7 week old kitten. That just mysteriously “landed” in my universe Monday, October 11th. Mewing from under a car, where I crawled and maneuvered so I could catch him and pull him out of a wheel-well. So so scared. Heart beating fast. I remember hearing his cries for mom beginning around 4 am that morning and wondering “who’s kitty has been left outside?”

The power of love is so amazing. It’s impossible not to love on him and cuddle with him. Even when he’s scared out of his mind. And what’s been remarkable is watching him change, in these last 11 days. Right now, he’s playing with a toy mouse behind me. He’s still going slowly (which reminds me to do so also, which I like).

Gratitude for an amazing compliment I received. I’m still all glowy inside. It reminds me about how easy it is to tune-out compliments. If they don’t come on a “big” enough topic (according to me), it’s easy to dismiss them. This one, this compliment, kinda knocked me over. Which is a really nice and good thing. And it still makes me think about the skill of letting compliments in, and learning to give myself that kind of compliment. The blow-yourself-over kind. Deep self love here.

Gratitude for music. Because it’s Friday. And time for Music That Saved Me.

Big giant steps this week toward completion on a big project in my own biz. Feels really super satisfying. I’m looking forward to what is next. Which is an awesome place to be and be feeling about life, in general.

“Oooh, yay, what’s next?”

Knowing there is a next. Not being too attached to the thing I’m about to launch. Just really happy to be hopefully, expanding my biz life to a new level while serving you. My perfect You’s. For whom I’m also extremely grateful.

This song captured my attention when I heard “Some times you just have to let it go (Let it go, let it go)… Leaving all my fears to burn down.” Letting go has been a theme for the last few weeks (it’s seasonal, it’s also The Shed Project…) bringing focus to a topic that I think I can always become better at. Because ‘letting go’ does not usually come easy or natural. At least, not for me.

This song put me in touch with the idea of relaxing into letting go… trusting the freedom it brings, a freedom that elevates and expands me toward what’s next… Enjoy.

Closer by Goapele

[This is the video part of the post, so you might need to click through if you’re reading this via email or RSS.]

Closer to my dreams
It’s coming over me

I’m gettin’ higher
Closer to my dreams
I’m getting higher and higher
Feel it in my sleep

Some times it feels like I’ll never go pass here
Some times it feels like I’m stuck forever and ever

But, I’m going higher
Closer to my dreams
I’m goin’ higher and higher
I can almost reach

Some times you just have to let it go (Let it go, let it go)
Leaving all my fears to burn down
Push them all away so I can move on
Closer to my dreams
Feel it all over my being
Close your eyes and see what you believe

I’m happy as long as we’re apart
Then I’m moving on to my dreams

I’ll be moving higher (Moving higher)
Closer to my dreams
And higher and higher, higher
Feel it in my being (I can feel it flow around me)
I know that I could not go alone (No, no)

I’m moving higher (Higher), oh…
I’m going higher and higher and higher (Higher and
Higher)
Closer to my dreams (Higher and higher, oh…oh…)
I’m moving upward and onward and beyond all I can see
(Stretching out my arms so I can reach)

Feels so close it’s like i can just reach
I can feel my dreams (Closer to my dreams)
I’m moving closer to my dreams
I’m moving (Higher and higher) higher and higher
(Higher and higher)
Moving higher, oh…

Some times it feels like you never gon’change (Never gon’change)
But you never choose to walk away

Leveraging Joy

I got some feedback from clients, when I shared out loud about the fear and anxiety I have around managing my business growth and expansion. Specifically, having more clients than I think I have the time and energy to support.

Being too full or too busy to serve each of you well. Being concerned for my own well being. Wanting to get clear on what makes me really happy with what I’m doing, so I can focus on doing more of that. And asking for/getting support with the other pieces.

I said my fear and then a few of you said your own.

A long time client asked me if I could see myself continuing to support her ongoing web walk. And expressed her own fear and disappointment at having to “begin again” with someone new (say if I decided to outsource the VA part of my biz).

My inner being (aka, the Jedi) responded with “life is full of begin-again’s,” it’s the one thing for sure we can count on.

And it’s better that we learn to embrace them and welcome them. My resistance or resistant thinking about begin-again’s is what’s painful for me. I’m suffering now, for something that isn’t even happening.

Another client bravely admitted, saying out loud during a design session, that she was hiding behind the pictures. Or broader, hiding her web presence message behind concerns and specifics of her look and feel. That somehow, focusing on which photo or using many photos, was a cover up! That the true essence of who she is would not be in a picture. It would be in the risk of showing up everyday. Writing a post. Creating something new for her business. Working with her clients.

I held my hand up in solidarity with her.

It’s been a few weeks since I arrived at “my practice feels full.” A good problem to have.

And since I’ve been receiving your generous (and sometimes brave) feedback, I wanted to share with you what’s unfolded; my new reality. Since the here-and-now is so fleeting anyway. A jumping-off point. Toward another begin-again.

And I really believe in sharing our processes, together. The expansive parts of it as well as the challenging. I find greater self-acceptance and self-approval when I read about how others are challenged and what they did to rise above, or sit still as it may be, when arrows are being flung.

In my experience of thinking I may not have enough time and energy, before it’s even happened, I choose to suffer for a future event now. I’ve figured out that the only way through a hard time is with gentleness as my companion. Finding a path of least resistance means following easy. When I do, I find access to self-compassion and lovingly return to the present moment.

Returning to the present moment is choosing alignment.

And from the present moment, where there is enough time, and so much to be grateful for… a six-week-old stray kitten that is re-orienting itself to a human home, beautiful sunrises through my office window each morning as I sit down to do my thang… MY thang. Not someone else’s. Joy.

And with joy, an incredible leverage in everything I choose to do.

A mysterious time warp where there is an expansion or lengthening of time and an increased energy within myself to participate. Where I do more with less. I cover much more territory. It’s working smarter, not harder.

More remarkable, is that by choosing alignment first, more things on my plate cooperate with my joy. My clients show up easy, relaxed, and open to the process. I find time, yes, time is expanded and created for me so I can work on the launch of my next creative project (the video library) or write my heart out in a blog post.

Out of alignment is worried for what’s next. Alignment is everything is right on track and unfolding perfectly.

It’s making peace with what-is, so I can shift into anticipation for what’s to come. A shift out of fear and into freedom.

Jedi Moves: Working With Sore Spots Using C.O.R.E.

[This post contains a video, so you might need to click through if you’re reading this via email or RSS.]

Last week, I shared about changes I’m personally making in me. Enormous internal ones and how those internal shifts create experiences in my external world.

I shared specifically, about how I have a sore spot, my belief in my own inferiority, and how it was activated during a mobile notary tale. I talked about how my new awareness of the inferiority is showing up, my desire to practice changing it and how that manifested for me.

What I did in the moment, to practice taking care of me. And how I avoided stepping down the slippery slope of allowing my own fear-based reaction meet up with someone else’s on the path. A constant seduction.

Today’s post is more about it. Specifically, what transpired right after it happened.

More life creating it self, for my opportunity and benefit. If you are optimystically-oriented, that is. (I talk about discovering your own personal orientation to life in this post.)

An opportunity to remind myself (and any other coaches reading this) how grateful I am to work with other people, on their own stuff. My clients. For whom I am continually amazed and feel humbled to share parts of their journey with. My journey too.

She had asked for a good place to start with a resource referral I had given her. Another one of my teachers. Those who have taught me how to take better care of me. So I can be more me with all I am. Moment by moment.

And I watched this video and recommended it to my client, realizing it was just as much for me and my situation as it was for hers. Although the details of each of our story lines are very different. As different as this service man’s issue with post traumatic stress disorder will be from yours.

But you can put your issue where his is and gain something of tremendous value here.

And essentially help yourself dissolve the very energy of your sore spot simply by choosing to be with it. Giving it your devoted & undivided attention.

A choice to act with kindness towards myself, when it would be easier to stay where I was and feel aggravated and disempowered.

The residue of how we see a past incident is strong and alive in us, until we choose to bring it fully into our being. We just need to know how…

For more about Tom Stone, visit him on the web at Great Life Technologies.

Hearts, Life & Another John Mayer Song

[This is a video post, so you might need to click through if you’re reading this via email or RSS.]

On my walk yesterday, this song came on Pandora on my Droid. And I listened like it was brand new, even though the song is from 2006.

In one of the various movies that often frequent my headspace, I saw a wiser, older version of myself. She was singing to the me in this now, here with you.

The words caught me first. Especially the one’s about fear.

But when I came across this beautiful homespun video, the imagery of children at play and the “i love you’s,”  I was moved to share it with you.

A reminder. Simple & easy.  Which is exactly why I love music.

I hate to see you cry
Laying there in that position
There’s things you need to hear
So turn off your tears and listen

Pain throws your heart to the ground
Love turns the whole thing around
No, it won’t all go the way, it should
But I know the heart of life is good

You know it’s nothing new
Bad news never had good timing
But then the circle of your friends
Will defend the silver lining

Pain throws your heart to the ground
Love turns the whole thing around
No, it won’t all go the way, it should
But I know the heart of life is good

Pain throws your heart to the ground
Love turns the whole thing around
Fear is a friend who’s misunderstood
But I know the heart of life is good

I know it’s good

Free Coaching – The Learnings

Last week, three people asked me about what I had learned after doing the Free Coaching gig I offered at the end of April.

When three people ask, I know it’s time to write. Not that I’ve been looking for things to write about. That appears to me, in every nook & cranny of my life.

But a bigger, underlying false premise behind what stops me from writing is thinking it’s not valuable, relevant or meaningful enough to share.

And since three are asking, I figured even though it feels weird and funky and foreign… I’m willing to share it through my eyes. The things I learned from giving 30 days of free coaching away…

#1 – Just Do It

Before I did it, I had so much hesitancy. Boat loads of it.

I learned, again, that most of the time (at least 95%) I just need to do it. I just need to begin. To start. To jump. To do it.

There is no more right time than right now.

I went for it. Noticing the hesitancy, but not needing it not to be present in order for me to proceed.

I also faced some fear talking smack. It sounded like, “What if no one shows up? What if no one wants what I’ve got? Or gets what I’m doing?”

Ugh. Painful.

But at some point, I think after experiencing my perception of failing, enough times, I’ve made some kinda new peace with it. I still get totally freaked out about it. But once I get enough room to detach, I’m able to remind myself that making mistakes is a good thing.

And the only failure is in not beginning. Or starting again. As the case may be.

#2 – Getting to ‘Money is off the table’ is total freedom.

This one feels like a long time coming. Not that it has come all the way. But it’s coming nonetheless. Like birth again. I feel lots of things being born within me at this time.

Here’s a big one that clarified during this free coaching biz: the people I want to work with want to pay me.

This started out as me internally getting that when I pay someone, it gives me freedom to ask for everything I want from them. From the experience. A real investment in myself. To just go for it.

I want to work with those kinds of people. Where investments in themselves is something they just do. And have done. For a long, long time.

The people showing up to work with me now, since I did this, ask me to bill them and send them money. Are you kidding?!

Money is completely off the table. So offering anything for free is sorta silly… ?

Not that the people I met and had the pleasure of working/are working with are silly.

But to offer it for free… yeah, no. I’m pretty sure I’ve crossed more fully over into a new space about how I value my self and how that’s connected to me doing business.

What I’m Still Learning

I still think there is space in here for me to clarify how people translate value in the offer itself. We all want a good deal. Or a bargain. Maybe its part of creating a sense of urgency, I’m not sure.

I personally don’t always feel supported by urgency. I like to take at least 24 hours to make important decisions. False urgency is gross. And we’ve felt it when we’ve read it on certain sales pages. The lousy scare tactic. Blegh!

But something did happen when I said out loud, this is the offer. It’s free. It’s for a limited time (and named a few other red velvet rope criteria). Something is happening in there. I’m wondering if there is any value in me trying to understand that further.

I’ll let you know what else bubbles up. If it does. Or maybe go re-read Charlie’s posts on pricing perception and see what sticks this time.

I guess the only other remaining obvious question is Will I do it again?

I’m not sure. I’m not having the urge to do it again. Which doesn’t necessarily mean I shouldn’t or won’t.

Some of the facts… 2 of the 4 people I coached converted to paying clients. Not that that was my sole intention. I was curious. Yes! But I actually just missed coaching and wanted to turn up the coaching side of my life/biz because I missed it.

So I set an intention early on in the process of deciding to do the free coaching gig. I wanted to be coaching my ass off in the month of May. That was my bottom line. Joy is my focus these days. It’s the thing that keeps me going. Coaching is one of the things that brings me a lot of joy. Supporting people to work with fear in a brand new way in their lives inspires me.

Having that intention up front made it easier to remember along the way. And when the trash talk appeared, I found myself more prepared for it. And remembering, “I want to be coaching my ass off in May” had a potent effect on choosing to take another step.

My internal conversation shifted into “Just try it and see what happens.” And I became curious instead of fearing what hasn’t or isn’t happening yet.

Have you thought about offering your thing for free (longer than a free call or session?)

I’d love to hear from you in the comments. Or if you any other specific questions for me…