More on Yoga

“We know what we are now, but not what we may become.” -William Shakespeare

Writing equals ass in chair. Stephen King

I am reading a book called Meditations from the Mat: Daily Selections on the Path of Yoga, by Rolf Gates and Katrina Kenison. Rather, I am being read to, as it’s in the form of an audio book.

I’m able to do my yoga practice while listening to the book. This is not what you’re supposed to do if you’re working on mindfulness. The first idea is to try to do or focus on only one thing at a time. As an art therapist I work with people who often talk while they are making something. There are lots of reasons for it.

Anyway, the thing I like about listening to the book while doing my yoga practice is that it feels like I’m being reminded what is going on that can’t be seen, whether in body, mind or spirit. Also, today I was doing seated head to knee posture right when he started talking about the posture; that was cool. It’s a male voice reading the book, which doesn’t lend itself to remembering that two people wrote it, one seems to be female. They start each daily reflection with a quote, and they quote from a wide range of sources, from Shakespeare in the above quote to scriptures of all religions to poetry to Tom Petty and yoga students.

Both the quotes above kind of go together and to the practice of yoga and writing. In order to do yoga, I have to make the time and get the mat out and get going. In order to write I have to put my ass in the chair and write. Showing up to your life is a concept that we all recognize, easier said than done.

Today I’m not sure what I’m writing about. Maybe this is my reflection on today’s practice. When in my studio, I use the floor and walls. The yoga mat is usually dusty and little pieces of paper or glitter or whatever collects on the floor gets on the yoga mat. My feet and hands get dirty from touching the floor. I shake this stuff off when rolling up my mat.

Actually rolling up the yoga mat has been a constant struggle since I started doing yoga about 18 years ago. It seems so impossible to get the mat to roll up properly the way everyone else does it, so that one side isn’t bulging out. I’ve tried doing it slowly and other things, but often I give up and leave it rolled up but not even. The other day someone said, “Just hold both sides at the same time.” I’m sure I have tried that many times; this isn’t rocket science. For some reason, being reminded or told that, I was able to focus on holding both ends and got the mat rolled up quite evenly. It is still not a guarantee that the mat gets rolled up properly. I have never been a symmetrical person in any way, so I start off balance. My body isn’t balanced; neither is my mind. One of the most important things I learned in yoga is to attend to both sides equally. If you do something on the left side, then you do it on the right side. If you do a headstand, you counter it at some point with a shoulder stand. Even walking down the street with a bag on my shoulder, I hear my yoga teacher Liza telling me to hold it on the other side as well. When she came last week, I found out my left hand doesn’t stay even with my right hand in child’s pose. I felt like I was putting my left hand way in front when she corrected me even though it was now even.

Yoga evens me out is the message. Balance and equilibrium are hard won. Every action having an equal and opposite reaction. Very basic. Most of the stuff I get excited about that I learn from my yoga practice is very simple stuff I seem to never have really known or completely forgotten. Just getting back acquainted with the hands and feet is a revelation!

That is it for today.

The Therapist Profile: Reflections

Writing my profile for websites for therapists, such as psychologytoday.com, has always been a challenge for me. With each new website, I’ve discovered new clearer ways to answer the questions about my work. It’s hard to put into words my practice and approach and how I might be the kind of therapist you would work well with. I definitely look at other people’s profiles for inspiration, more to see how they word things, if they start with questions, what kinds of phrases they use that seem to be really clear  than to paraphrase. My profile is unique and I explain art therapy in the way I think of it from how I experience working as an art therapist, but I’m still not too satisfied with it. It’s an ever evolving process for me, so I’ve often changed my profile on psychologytoday.com (the Main Encyclopedia of psychotherapsits), when I am in the process of putting it on it  other websites.

I’ve recently joined the relatively new website and community of healers/doctors/providers, lighthouselgbt: Safe Space for LGBTQ + Wellness. The first part of the Lighthouse Profile defines the space and providers in this way: “We are a group of NYC based providers who have devoted our careers to caring for LGBTQ+ patients.” This is the link if you’d like to check out the website: https://www.lighthouse.lgbt

I am very excited to be part of the Lighthouse community, especially right now with the political climate we are forced to endure. It is more than ever important to find your “tribe(s)”, no matter whether virtual or “real world”. As an extreme introvert, I need meaningful soul to soul  person to person connections with other like minded open tolerant curious and out of the box people, including in my work as an art therapist. (I have yet to find a group of artists/writers/galleries/publishers/creative professionals that feeds me. Here I am in NYC and the NY Art World is not for me at all, but I’ve never quite found something. I do have plenty of friends whose careers involve creativity and the “arts”, and social media places to share my work, but it is not quite a real community of people for me. I’m hopeful I will find this eventually. I put this in parentheses because it is a whole other topic to explore that is on my mind lately.)

Identity: “Who am I and what am I about?” is a lifelong voyage of discovery. I’m a work in progress. The longer I live, the clearer I am at articulating who I am in whatever sphere of life, and then I’m able to look back and see how I’ve always been this way and are just in process of becoming more fully who I am, constantly evolving. I am passionate about evolving and becoming increasingly aware of ways that I want to present myself to the world more accurately. Whenever I have an “Ah ha” moment, I realize this was who I was even back when I was a 7 year old just being me, without as many barriers to being able to be myself. I understand when my clients report that they have bravely forayed into proclaiming their discovery of their gender or something else and gotten reactions of “you never said this before. You’re not this and that so how is it you say you are this (gender, career, creative mode of expression.) It can be as simple as “But you’re a performer, youre not a visual artist.” “You’ve always been “xyz”. Even, “You should talk to your parent. They are so nice or they are your family.” Someone has gotten to the point of taking a brave stand and boundary with an abuser and doesn’t always get this validated; in fact often people devalue whatever you’re proclaiming. I recently read someone’s essay about their identity as an asexual person and what it is about for them. The comments were downright nasty, some insinuating that you can’t say you’re asexual because you had sex in that relationship or you’re talking about having sex, so you’re not asexual. I’m happy that now there is a phrase, “the asexual spectrum”, which was invented to explain especially to such limited bullying individuals that being asexual is not that simple and only works when not a label slapped on someone.

I can say that most of the barriers I have had to being myself have been self created, but maybe I woulnd’t have created these barriers to radical full self acceptance and standing fully in the light if the world were a lot safer and more openminded and accepting.

“Be yourself. Everybody else is taken.”As I wrote that I think of Oscar Wilde’s words in a way I haven’t before. The two sentences are kind of a dialectic in the sense that being yourself involves having to define yourself in relation to other humans because we use language, verbal and non verbal, to express or hold back who we are. We can’t get out of the aspect of self acceptance that involves negating a sort of “norm” communicated to us by society and their constructs and clarifying taking space as unique and beyond the norm. There should be no “box” to be inside of or outside of in any arena of life; of course that is a fantasy. Imagine being born into a world where gender was a spectrum, where polyamory, monogamy and a romantic approaches and of were all just choices like the color of a t shirt and that your shape, size and color of your skin were seen like a box of magic markers. You wouldn’t need to focus on what you are not and what does not resonate with you as who you are. There would be freedom to be and freedom to play. My challenge: “What gender are you today?” which was the main focus of my last art show, “#Bathroom Art Only” would be like deciding on a cereal for breakfast. Some people want the same breakfast every day; others want different things or no breakfast, or have the same breakfast for years and at age 37 decide to have a completely new breakfast. It would be the ideal of “live and let live”, “whatever floats your boat” and the maxim would be “Be yourself. Be free to be yourself. Be free to evolve and change in your concept of yourself.” with no need to refer to others.

There is a therapy phrase, “ego syntonic” and another one “ego distonic”. I like these phrases because they get to the heart of self acceptanc, self worth and learning how to navigate an unsafe unpredictable world we all have to live in. Something is ego syntonic if it is in sync with who you are and your values and aspirations, like when you put on a t shirt and it fits you in size as well as what it looks like and what kind of t shirt it is. Jobs can be seen in this way. If you are working at a job that is deadening you and feels like it’s not what you want to do or the people you work with are people you would not choose to be around, the job is ego distonic. When I worked cleaning the house of a science fiction writer in the summer during college, it was ego syntonic because he was nice and weird and non critical and paid me cash and the job was temporary; a job doesn’t have to be on your career path to be ego syntonic; it just needs to match who you are and your wants and needs. Same with any relationship. Therapy for example. If you feel comfortable with your therapist for whatever reasons and that there are minimal blocks in the way of your accomplishing your therapy goals created by the therapist, or even if the therapist has done so and you are able to address it, then the therapeutic realtinoship is ego syntonic; at certain points in therapy, it can be very therapeutic for you to notice and tell your therapist that they have said or done something that was not ok with you. Then you have an opportunity for the therapist to adjust/correct and you are improving your communication in important relationships and growth occurs. Often we discover what is ego syntonic by experiencing something as ego distonic. That’s the “everybody else is taken.” part of the dialectic. It means asking “Is this for me or for the other person?” “Am I ok with this or am I now not ok with it even if I was in the past?” “Is this something I want now in my life or not?” “How does this serve my growth or impede it?” The more you can clarify what is ego distonic, you also clarify what is ego syntonic. The process is unique for each person.

As an artist and person who has a deep need to approach life creatively and express myself creatively, I have always been someone who tries many of the t shirts on, or has different breakfasts every day. I like to shape shift and morph and copy and try on things; I learn best by watching how someone does something and trying it out, but reshaping it to do it my way. I don’t learn well by being told what to do in a rigid way or being told what I did wrong. My college was ego syntonic to the way I learn and the kinds of people I needed to find for my life, so I was able to grow as a person during thpse important years. I like seeing diversity and experiencing diversity, as I am easily bored and like the new. At the same time I don’t gravitate towards situations involving meeting new people in a social context. As a therapist I enjoy meeting new clients because I am curious and interested in how unque and fascinating each person’s inner life, identity and approach to life is. As an artist, I often try out new things and then in that process, keep repeating something I’ve stumbled upon. With drawing especially, it involves looking at other people’s drawings or images; to draw musical instruments for my Warrior Series, I looked up musical instruments from other cultures, especially middle eastern and African.

Using the line from Annie Hall comparing relationships to sharks, as an artist I need to be like a shark, constantly moving. The dialect between me the artist and me the art therapist is being the shark and the snail. As a therapist I slow down and stay with whatever the client brings in to explore and process.

Everyday Inspiration Day 1: I write because…

You finally admit that this is who you are, you come out and hope that no one runs away.” – Mark Haddon

I did this assignment so fast, that I want to go back and really focus on the question and answers or clues. Maybe I was running away from the assignment; it’s the crucial question for me. That is what is going on right now and has always been there; hiding in the closet. I am fonly now admitting to myself most of all, and to a few others, that I am a writer, and have been one long ago, at least since that journal from high school.

It is easy to hide behind being a “visual artist”. People might not understand my being a writer because I’ve convinced them I am a painter. Pictures and words. I worked hard to go from words to pictures back age 20 and now I’m back to going to words.

Actually after losing that journal on the subway, the other day I found a bright red “cahier” not sure the English word, from a much younger me. There were lines in it for learning handwriting. The kind where you can fit lower case next to each other and more space above to make upper case. There were a few pieces of other peoples writing, some poems. Then the writer’s name. That was it. I was probably practicing handwriting, but I’m not sure what the thing with writing other’s writing. It seems like a clue. I liked other people’s writing. I liked writing their writing. I even today started with a quote.

I think I always was interested in the visual aspect of words and handwriting. It was a big deal for me at some adult age to consciously decide I didn’t like the way I print low case “a”s and wanted to make them look like how this font is; maybe it’s a writer’s a, the a on the typewriter. Recently I started writing t’s Ls ps and gs differently, from copying my daughter who talks about handwriting with me. She thinks my handwriting is messy. It is but I’m sort of changing it. It helps you slow down. I’ve always wanted to write the way my brother does. His capital A”s are so beautiful and impossible to copy. It came from his working at an architecture firm a lont time ago. I am fascinated with other people’s handwriting.

So in this case, the answer isn’t even I write because I like words; it’s because I like letters! Wow, maybe that is ultimately what it is. I’m not super into fonts, but I do like certain ones and think about that choice seriously.

So that might be one answer. I write because I love letters. I love all the books that start little toddlers or younger children reading. A is for apple; B is for barn, etc. My I write because is also very entwined with reading other writer’s. Looking at their writing, their sentences, their words, the letters.

I remember being excited to tell a friend that the word “urine”, is You Are I N E. It seemed so important at that moment 29 years ago. Sort of strange now. I admit it with a tinge of embarrassment, not about the word, but that it doesn’t seem to mean much. I guess it meant what it was: You are I. The “N E” is subtler but was part of it.

I have landed back to the beginning. I was thinking a lot about words, which I’ve been thinking about long time; I love looking up origins of words, especially fun to look up a name and surprise someone with the meaning. I see names as very important; of course they are. How they are chosen, who chose the name, what was the process. Ultimately I guess I wrote simply because I love letters; I love the alphabet. I love other language’s alphabet, but I am most familiar with English. When I was studying Japanese back in 4th grade, I remember the first thing we learned was how to read and write the 2 easy Japanese alphabets. First “Hiragana” and then “Katakana”. The first one is away to write Japanes words simply and read them. The second one is an alphabet just used for foreign country’s words. The real tough and important one is “Kanji”, it is impossible to learn all of it. Each character is so complicated and means a whole word. That is what I remember. It was fun doing the letters. Same thing with Russian in college. You get to do the alphabet. It’s cool in its own way, and learning a new alphabet of another language; that got me already into the concept of languages, and how other languages can be so different from English, starting with the alphabet. Alpha turns out to mean ox and beta turns out to mean house if you go back far enough.

The secret to my wrestling and struggling and process with “Why do I write?” may be simply in this ox an house

No Surprise: I said organizized!

I am not surprised to say that I just had to look up my own post to figure out the blog task for Wednesday. It was to post an image, and yesterday was Day Off, so I didn’t follow my own schedule, but at least I am disorganized in a timely manner!

I’m not sure where the word “organizized” came from. I think I made it up a long time ago, but, having a disorganized memory recall, I could be making that up.

Ok, as usual, just by thinking about one word, I find out crazy things in the middle of blogging. (Side note: I’m actually glad there was no internet when I was in high school and college. My papers would be so off topic and meandering, even more than they were, and I wouldn’t have been able to get to the point at all, and would have taken hours looking up irrelevant relevant stuff and hours trying to make the paper make sense. Kudos to the people/students in school in 2016 trying to organize anything.)

The word “organizized” has a hashtag on Twitter. Not sure if that means it’s now a word. Thank you to Eric Thornton for this tweet:

One of these days I’m going to get organizized, which is a Cherokee word meaning “mauled to death by gerbils”.

And of course I got distracted by looking into Eric Thornton on Twitter. Turns out he has a great sense of humor. For example:

Police are just people, though that’s an impression they’ve labored to their very utmost to eradicate.

Here’s something brilliant from his Tumblr explaining the writing process that totally makes sense:

Step One: This is awesome!

Step Two: This is shit!

Step Three: This is salvageable!

Step Four: I don’t know what this is, but maybe someone else will!

Repeat until you get a real job.

ooh. I just found a irrelevant/slightly relevant (semi-relevant would be an obvious choice.. Anyway I will reblog this blog as it shows DeNiro In Taxi Driver, a great film, using the word “organizized”…

As I am citing Eric Thornton, I will give the link to his Tumblr post I quoted and his Twitter. Click on the link to get there. and thank you Eric Thornton for finally given an origin to “organizized”!

Eric Thornton, Tumblr Post

Here is his Twitter: Eric Thornton Twitter

Tuesday Post: Words: One Sentence or More

As a therapist, I sometimes say some useless, some unnecessary things, some not-well-thought out things, and every once in a while I say something quite useful, as I did yesterday with a patient who wrote it down and asked me to print it. Here it is and, not to be showing off too much, I have to follow this “advice” myself often! It’s pretty simple and not anything people haven’t said before…

If you are too busy trying to hold it all together you can’t let it all hang out.