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Posts Tagged ‘conscious living’

Backgrounds

The Beginnings

A couple of days ago I finished a painting that had been hanging around for months. While experimenting with the concept of creating backgrounds, I dripped some pink and yellow paint on wet paper. The values and shapes were interesting, but I didn’t know what to do with them. I became overly involved with the background; I seemed to want it to be the focus of my painting.

This morning, when I stopped at an interesting place (aka “finished the painting”), I began to compare and contrast creative processes: art versus life. I do that a lot. Painting has taught me so much about my own evolution—as an artist, but mostly as a person.

Maybe some people (myself included) can get stuck becoming overly concerned with “making something” of their childhoods, of their backgrounds and origins.

Could it be less grueling to just create something interesting ON TOP OF IT? To make some bold, blue marks and see what happens? What could our lives become if we allowed talents, interests, and inner wisdom to guide the way?

Years later, we gain enough perspective to see the Big Picture; we notice the origins and the backgrounds, but they are not the focus. The focus is now the finished product—the “Work of Art” this life has become.

As we look closely, we can see the pieces, remember the details, even focus on one or two tiny pieces at a time—a success here, a failure there—but the most grace-filled miracle is how, when we step back and see it as a whole, it all fits together perfectly to create a unique life. The One and Only You.

The One and Only You

The Finished Product

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English Country House

English Country Home (I took this photo in 1989 when we took our Britain to Great Britain)

I began a 12-week Artist’s Way workshop at the beginning of January. Already my “Inner Artist” is enjoying the attention. I’m painting more and writing more. Below, I have written a bit about my process of awakening to a new level of creativity.

I have been daydreaming a lot lately. It feels like traveling to a country home–one of those thatched-roof beauties in the English countryside that has been closed up for a long, long time. Dusty and dark. Shutters on the windows. Sheets on the furniture.

Slowly, I open the front door. The air smells stagnant and woody, like long unread books and lonely dining room chairs. But then, curtains thrust aside, sunlight awakens the interior. Bright, lively colors emerge from slumber. Each room is a surprise as long forgotten joys emerge: Oh, that rocking chair! My hand mirror! I remember where I found those shells!

Discovered treasures warm my heart and kindle a fire of possibility. The Spirit of Adventure prods me to open more doors, pull up blinds, and allow breezes to pour through the windows. I race to see more, to love more, to dance in delight at the wonder of it all.

Why was it that I closed off this bit of myself? What caused me to think I no longer needed these parts of me? I have been living in three rooms, dependably going through the motions of life, all the while feeling closed in, uninspired, stuck, and bored. There have always been so many rooms. A mansion of rooms. Some forgotten; others, never explored.

I’ve been so afraid of the mistakes, the things that broke my heart and seemed to crush my soul. I thought if only I could curl up here in the corner, I could stay safe. Sorrow would roll over me and onto someone else.

But it has been sorrow’s companion, fear, that took up residence in my heart. Whispering warnings. Shouting horrifying scenarios. Until my energy was gone. It took so much not to listen.

NO MORE! The sun. The fresh air. The ideas. The dreams. They are all so full of energy.

I am remembering so many things I wanted to do “BEFORE.” Before the fear and sorrow began closing the windows, pulling the blinds, locking the doors. Run! Hide! Protect! Armor Up! Close Your Heart!

Too many days of rain and clouds. Winter cold. Dark, dark nights and foggy days. Weeks. Months. Years.

But Spring is here! Seeds planted long ago emerge, to grow, blossom, and flourish. This is my final chapter, my closing act. I have ample time for one more spectacular performance.

And they will say: “She saved her best for last.”

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Barefoot

Barefoot Coaching … Literally!

I’m one of those people who loves to explore, to try new things, and to experiment with new behaviors. Once, when a friend asked, “Where is your favorite place to go on vacation?” I replied without hesitation, “Someplace I’ve never been.” So, the fact that I’ve been showing up barefoot in more and more places is not as odd as some people may think.

What started as a method for easing the pain of a left knee meniscus tear last May has grown into a spiritual practice of sorts. Every day I experience a keen awareness of my place in time and space, an unprecedented sense of the “Power of Now.” Never have I been so alert to my surroundings; to the feel of the earth, carpet, grass, or cement beneath my feet; nor to just how softly I can place one foot in front of the other.

Last week I was barefoot in Washington, DC, attending Converge17, a professional development event with 1,700 ICF Coaches from 62 countries. I used my naked feet to remind me to remain Authentic, Vulnerable, and Present, which can be difficult for a sometimes insecure introvert in the presence of hundreds of accomplished peers.

Adopting a new behavior or practicing a new way of being in the world can open our hearts to myriad insights about ourselves and those around us. Nudging ourselves outside the Comfort Zone is an invitation to switch off autopilot and wake up to creativity, inspiration, and what it means to be alive.

Three months ago I set a fun goal to complete the 5K Charleston Distance Walk barefoot. Little by little, I have built my barefoot endurance, strengthening my arches, toning my legs, and improving my balance. Tomorrow is the day!

I know this walk will be interestingly different from the 25 previous years’ walks because I will be there like never before. As the remnants of Tropical Storm Harvey relentlessly soak us all, I know my shoes will stay dry because they’ll be at home in the closet, alongside my old, boring, risk-averse approach to daily living.

 

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Cat carrier with child

During a trip to the vet, Britain (at 20 months old) decided to change places with the cat in the cat carrier. Such incidents were routine in “Britain’s World.”

Our 30-year-old son, his cat, and his dog just left after a 20-hour, 43-minute visit. The house echoes in silence as the whirlwind of energy he brought with him dissipates into stillness. My senses register profound emptiness. I take a deep breath, settle before my keyboard, and realize I’ve never given myself enough credit for parenting this amazing creature, who is my antithesis in many ways.

  • I am an introvert; he is an extrovert
  • I cherish my alone time; he invites friends everywhere (even into the bathroom with him when he was a child)
  • I examine the instructions; he intuits where things go and how they work
  • I love reading books; he loves playing Ultimate
  • I am always cold; he is always hot (except when I was pregnant with him; I was always hot)
  • I stroll; he bounces
  • I follow a plan; he flies by the seat of his pants
  • I’m early; he’s late (except he was born 6 weeks early because he couldn’t wait to get out of such a cramped space)
  • I play it safe; he is the poster boy for Balzout
  • I save; he spends
  • I claim to want more adventure; he claims to want more order

Parenting such a soul from birth to 30 has been the quintessential adventure (be careful what you claim to want). For years, I felt like a failure because nothing I did with him seemed to work out as planned. I couldn’t get him to read a book, sit still, be quiet, do his homework, or remember Mother’s Day.

I thought it was my job to teach him my way of doing things, to pass down my perspectives and values, to mold him into an acceptable human being. I realize now that it was his job to drag me, kicking and screaming, out of my certainty into the Land of Endless Possibilities. He took me from a world of two-dimensional black and white into high def, 3D, full-spectrum color. The experience of being his mother has shaken me to the core and challenged every last thing I thought I knew about myself, life, and the Universe.

When he moved away and left us with an empty nest, a sense of order and calm returned. Life became more predictable, the pace less frantic. There has been more time to reflect on what I learned from him.

So, when he visits and brings with him the ADHD Vortex, every cell of my body begins to vibrate at a higher frequency, and my world turns upside down within the first 30 seconds. Instantaneously my mind and body return to the altered state of Britain’s World.

This morning, as he drove away in a cloud of swirling, joyful energy, eager to meet up with his wife for a week in Cleveland, a tear escaped as I breathed a long sigh. I am so grateful for you, Son, and I love you so very much just the way you are. I also hope we never have to live under the same roof again.

Live long and prosper, Beloved Teacher! And never stop coming to visit.

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Injured deer

A single gunshot and I’m weeping. What is this immense sorrow? The fawn had two broken legs and no chance for survival in the wild. Putting its suffering to an end was the compassionate thing to do. So why all the tears? Why the sick feeling in my stomach? Why the pounding in my head?

The story is a short one. I found a baby deer on the path to the cottage this morning. I could tell she was hurt, but in the dark, I couldn’t see how badly. When I went back to the house, she was still there. As she fearfully used her front legs to pull herself away from me, she went tumbling over the hillside to the brush below. That’s when my tears started. My good intentions had sent her over the cliff!

I found her down below hiding behind our garbage cans. Again, she scrambled to get away from me, wedging herself between my son’s truck and the hillside. As she moved, I could see that both of her back legs were broken, bones sticking out. It was a brutal sight. I couldn’t even imagine how much pain she must be feeling, and it amazed me that she made no noise. Her mama was pacing on the hill above. I put my hand on the baby’s neck and felt her racing pulse. I spoke to her in hushed tones, and she calmed down. I covered her legs with a sheet to keep the flies away and then left her alone as I searched for help.

I posted on FaceBook and then started making calls. After several unsuccessful attempts, my friend Linda found someone at DNR who was willing to come out. It didn’t take long for him to assess the situation, and he asked my permission to shoot the deer. I said yes and thanked him for doing the hard things that most of us would find impossible.

The sorrow and tears persist. They seem to be springing from my conscious choice to allow myself to acknowledge just how vulnerable this whole thing makes me feel. As I open my heart in compassion, I open my eyes to the truth: Everything,  everyONE dies, eventually. Pain is real. Suffering is real. The deer did nothing to “deserve it.” Sometimes, stuff just happens: to deer, to strangers, to those we love. I know it is impossible to selectively numb feelings. We cannot numb sorrow without also numbing joy.

And so I will sit here, grateful for the depth of today’s sorrow, knowing I have the capacity for equal measures of joy. I will hold myself gently and compassionately as I recommit to living life fully, with my heart wide open. Tears and laughter, sorrow and joy, death and life. This time around, I’m playing full out: Show Up – Be Seen – Live Brave!

Vulnerability is the Birthplace

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watercolor painting

A Time To Heal (watercolor and ink by Barbie Dallmann)

When I was a senior in high school, I broke my left knee playing flamingo football–boys against the girls. After six weeks on crutches, my leg wrapped in plaster from thigh-top to toe-tips, the day came for cast removal. I vividly recall my first glimpse of the leg. I say, “the leg” because it really didn’t resemble MY leg. The leg was shriveled, dirty, and hairy! But even worse than how it looked, was how poorly it functioned. The knee didn’t bend, and it couldn’t hold any weight whatsoever. It was a useless, pitiful little thing, just hanging there with no cast to protect it.

After weeks of physical therapy and excruciatingly painful exercises, I was able to take my first tentative steps without crutches. It was over a year before I could attempt running and even longer before I could operate the clutch pedal of our extended bed International Harvester pick-up truck.

Now, over 40 years later, there are still times my knee “acts up.” It’s not particularly fond of steep, downhill descents on rocky trails. For the most part, though, I go through life, walking three or four miles a day without giving it much thought. I climb stairs, ride bicycles, and easily deploy a clutch pedal. Once healed, it’s hard to remember the process of recovery: limitations, pain, frustration, and wanting to give up.

I think the same is true for healing emotional wounds. For a little while, it’s okay to wrap ourselves in protective armor while the worst of the injury heals. But the longer we wait, the more we atrophy and the harder it is to return to normal. And it’s no more realistic to expect instant emotional recovery than it is to remove a cast one day and plan to run a marathon the next.

Sometimes the recovery period feels worse than the initial injury, and certainly some wounds are worse than others. The more traumatic the injury, the longer the recovery period.

Ultimately, I believe in the wisdom of the body and heart when it comes to healing. If we take our bruised egos out of the picture, surrender to the reality of the situation, release whatever needs to be forgiven, and listen to the small, still voice within, we will heal. Healing–both physical and emotional–calls for patience, kindness, self-compassion, and self-love. Lots and lots and LOTS of self-love. And maybe a trusted friend or two to lean on while you’re learning to walk again.

 

 

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20150418_082154-2(Originally Posted May 11, 2010)

In March 1993 two bad things happened: (1) My kindergarten age son’s favorite riverside play area, “Magic Island,” was flooded, and when the waters receded, the area was covered in garbage. (2) Someone shot the windows out of my car, which was parked right in front of my house.

I was so angry about my car. I didn’t even bother with feeling worried or scared. Natural fighter that I am, I went directly into rage. Adrenaline was pumping through my body, and my heart was beating through my chest. I was shaking all over, ready to find the culprit and pound the crap out of him! That was my first reaction.

Through the inner roar that demanded revenge, I managed to hear a small, quiet voice: “You have a choice. You don’t have to respond with violence. You can choose peace instead of this.” I listened, but I didn’t know what to do with all that “violent energy” surging through my body. I NEEDED to hit somebody!

Then I remembered the playground, and it occurred to me that I could use my surplus energy to pick up garbage. I thought, “I’ll just pick up as much as it takes to get rid of this emotional super charge.” And so I grabbed a box of garbage bags and loaded my son and his friend into our truck, and we headed for Magic Island.

All I can say is that it took a long, LONG time to dissipate the energy. In fact, I filled over 20 giant garbage bags as full as I could get them. Add to that the work the boys did, and we pretty much cleaned up the flood’s footprint from Magic Island. When it was over, I was so tired and so happy. I had turned my violent rage into something useful and helpful and hopeful.

But that wasn’t the end of the story. The next morning while driving to work, the Mayor noticed the change on Magic Island and called the Parks Director to thank him. Of course, the Parks Director knew nothing about it. Enter the local press with the front-page newspaper headline: “Mayor wants do-gooders to come clean.” My best friend in Illinois turned us in. I had shared the story with her, and she’s the one who ended up calling the Mayor’s office to tell the tale. A couple of weeks later, the my son, his friend, and I received a Mayor’s Award for Community Spirit.

The best part, though, was the follow-up newspaper article in which I told my story about turning something negative into something positive in order to stop the cycle of violence. For many weeks thereafter, local pastors used the story in Sunday sermons, and something amazing happened as people began spontaneously getting together to pick up garbage all over the city. I’m still amazed by it all!

And so, next time you hear a quiet voice from inside telling you that you have a choice, believe it. We always have choices. We can choose to react out of fear, revenge, or self-righteous anger . . . or we can make choices and take actions that will lift us into a higher place, into a new, more peaceful way of being.

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