Wednesday: Image Post Day

I started doing “Mindfulness Drawings” at the beginning of this month, February. I got the idea from a patient who showed me their journal and how they were trying to write down the time and do something to get them more in the moment doodling things.

It’s a great idea and has brought me back to drawing in an observational way. It’s also a great way to draw everyday things without judging your drawing harshly.

It started like this one below in my journal, done on Feb. 4. I wrote down words that were either in my head or observations of the environment or conversation if I was with other people.

I was thinking about mindfulness principles in this one here, like “Observe and Describe” from DBT Mindfulness. In DBT there is also noticing when you’re in “rational mind”, “emotional mind” and “wise mind”.

Some of these drawings are layers of time, where I did some one evening and added more the next day.

The drawing below shows the heart hole puncher I drew as I was using it to make Valentine’s. I drew most of it during a phone session. My communications expert friend had told me recently, “Communication creates reality.” and I shared it on the phone. It was resonating for me and my patient.

This image below is the other side of the page posted as the first image, with the words “Observe and describe.”  I was looking at my watch and a clock so I drew the hands of my watch as well, and the song quoted was going on in my head about time…

The image below from Feb. 9 is in my journal. I started drawing scissors a lot because they were there. I hadn’t yet gotten inspired to make the objects talk.
  This one above is the other side of the journal drawing from the same day/time.

This one below is from yesterday afternoon during another phone session, and the tea pot is talking…

The one below was done last Friday, when I discovered that the heads or objects on the page were talking to me and about me. It started with the objects saying whether I drew them right or not and kept going. I had been drawing these heads from the coffee mug I made out of my images. The heads are from a collage piece; I noticed I was thinking about posting this picture of this drawing on Facebook which I do a lot, so the heads made a bet about when I would post it!  

This one above is from earlier yesterday. I had been drawing pens a lot and hadn’t drawn a bunch of pens in a cup as it seemed too hard. I was thinking of Morandi’s still lives and looking at post cards of them. I think I’m also thinking of Morandi as he mostly did still lives of everyday objects, and this series is starting to be about objects which are used, mostly basic office materials or art supplies, cups, etc.

This one above is on a piece of drawing paper and done last night as the date shows.

These drawings have become a way to be reminded to be mindful, in a different way than the bracelet. Drawing things you see often does get you into a different level of discovery, of looking closely at things you see every day.

This morning I drew the keys on my keychain; I’ve been challenging myself to just draw things, which get rid of judgment, another aspect of mindfulness, which is to be neutral about what is going on right here right now.

The added discovery of the objects talking to each other or saying things is partly thanks to my reading more this year, and thus reading more graphic novels, which inspire me to make my own talking pictures…


Day 3 Task

Ok. Start with the funny thing that no matter how much I think I am paying attention, I still manage to be oblivious! I wrote this whole post on the Blogging Class Site’s Draft writing page and even posted it before realizing when it was published that I posted it on the wrong blog! Luckily I figured out how to erase it. So I’m late with this post. It’s Day 8 of the class. I’m going to say yay that I did Day 3,  a lot of Day 4 and some Day 6. I just haven’t posted about them.

Day 3’s task was not as difficult or complicated as any of the others thus far!

Assignment: Get Read All Over: make sure your site is mobile-friendly, and familiarize yourself with the features of responsive design.

I looked at the different formats for my blog. I discovered that, luckily, when I just recently changed my theme, it is a theme that works well for tablets and phones, so no work needed to be done. So I did learn about the idea of “responsive design” which is a term I didn’t know that kind of says that when you design a website or internet site of any kind, it’s important to see how the look of it “responds” to all formats, including the computer larger screen, the tablet and the smallest, the smart phone. I also noticed myself noticing more what other people’s blogs look like on my phone!

About the class: My interest in improving my own “DBT Skills”, especially Mindfulness which is part of all the skills, goes well with this class. For me most important involves “paying attention” to  and noticing and caring about aspects of this blogging process I mostly ignored since starting in 2011.

I ignored it because I was focused on content and getting readers and following other people, which is still the most important aspect of blogging. However, as with foods I avoided trying as a kid, I now have a lot of new exciting things to try out and learn about which have been there all along!

(Here is where I did not notice I was on the wrong site’s draft page!

So, for example, when I’m on a WordPress page like this posting page, I notice the word count,  then on the left sidebar I see there are things for Sharing, Location, Excerpt and Advanced Settings. There’s a “Slug” box I should find out about. Never noticed that before. There is the post format, which is set to “Standard”. What are other options? Visibility says “Public”. It’s one thing I do already know about. So the Format turns out to be a choice among things like, Quote, Link, Video, Image. There is one option I don’t know: “Aside”. I guess I will start a new post to see what that involves. Also at the top of this posting box there are a few options I haven’t explored, symbols I am not familiar with:

I just found out that the icon on the far right is a “Toolbar Toggle” that when pushed shows even more Toolbar options. There’s an icon next to it to go to full screen for your draft. And you can get it proofread by clicking on the icon third from right, something I never did before as I would look it over by myself. I can change the text color now that I opened up that option with the Toolbar toggle, so I will make the text a different color right now!

I’m also going to do something new and “Preview” my post to see what it looks like!

New 12 Week Wednesday Workshop: “Be With Yourself”

I am starting a new Wednesday Workshop Series, entitled: Wednesday Workshop: “Be With Yourself”, an art therapy and mindfulness focused 12 Week Series. Mindfulness type groups have been proven to help people with healing and with feeling more awakened and in touch with themselves and the world, and more connected to their body.

The workshop will take place weekly at my studio and last about 1.5 hours on , probably from 10:30-12 pm or 11-12:30 pm, depending on members’ availability.

This mindfulness and art therapy “lab” will be structured and focused on being with yourself in the here and now. We will do mindfulness exercises, including body scan meditations and other experiences with silence using art supplies. There will be a longer time for the main art making component, and we will end with members sharing their art and their experiences during the process.

This is not a “group therapy”. It is meant for people interested in being with others while experiencing being with themselves and working on experiencing sensations and feelings during moment to moment awareness. The discussions in the group will focus around sharing what “happened” inside of your body, what it was like to make the art, and being in the here and now.

This workshop would be good for any of your patients who are in recovery from eating disorders and other issues such as depression or anxiety, OCD, etc. as it does not focus on talking about symptoms and conflicts with others, but on being in your body and becoming more awakened and aware of who you really are in a supportive atmosphere. Thus, it will be psycho educational, structured and strengths based, with focus on learning to use mindfulness in every day life. This workshop can benefit anyone 18 or older, with a curiosity and interest in these topics, whether they are recovering from something and in therapy or not.

The workshop will be a 12 week cycle, with option of continuing another cycle when the first one is over. Candidates who contact me will have a free 20 minute interview at my studio to meet me and discuss their interest in it to see if it is appropriate for them.

Please have any referrals call or email me directly.
Natasha Shapiro, ATR-BC, LCAT
917 374-7082

Writing 201 post: reflection: Word images

Dreaming, I was only dreaming, I wake and I find you asleep in the deep of my heart here… -Billy Holiday, Gloomy Sunday

But wait a bit, the oysters cried, before we have our chat, for some of us are out of breath and all of us are fat. “No hurry”, said the carpenter. they thanked him much for that.” -Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

Although we can’t impose quiet on our mind, through meditation we can find the quiet that already exists in the space between our thoughts. Sometimes referred to as “the gap,” this space between thoughts is pure consciousness, pure silence, and pure peace. -Deepak Chopra

These images are from the “mind map” I learned about as part of the reflection piece assignment in WordPress’ class, “Writing 201” about blogging long form. As I’m a visual person this was the obvious jumping off point for me of the suggestions given…

Exploration: Words as Images and Words in Images. When words are in images like drawings, they become images. They are part of what your are looking at.

When I started making images, I felt finally liberated from the tyranny of words. It was spring semester 1989 at Harvard. All my life I had been imprisoned by words, mainly at school but also at home. Saying the right thing, winning the argument, memorizing words and remembering them correctly for reciting poems, for plays, for speech debates in the drama category, for all kinds of things that involved success at school, that was a huge part of my life up until that first day of Drawing Class. Writing words was the biggest part of the prison sentence: learning to write, writing tests, quizzes, exams, and most of all, especially in college, writing papers. The five page, ten page and longer papers. I was up to my next in words. Even the grades, A was the best word, A- a good word, Bs not great and I didn’t venture into the Cs.

When I randomly took my first drawing class at Harvard, Alfred DeCredico, visiting professor from Rhode Island School of Design, liberated me from words. It was a big class, and he noticed me and my drawings but probably forgot about me; however, his attention to my explorations in drawing, which he said in a strong accent of some kind was nothing more than “marks on paper” (mawks on paper) changed my world, turned me upside down and shook me up out of a sophomore year depression. If not for him and that class, I would not be making images and writing this blog post today, 25 years later.

Wow. I can make images of just marks, unrecognizable ones, and feel like a five year old watching her mom put my picture on the fridge in the form of the “class “critique, during which the teacher basically focused on “breaking” the real drawing experts in the class by talking about how tight, rigid and uninteresting their drawings were, and encouraged slobs like me by admiring my enthusiastic messes on paper. His Buddhist approach to drawing was evident in the first assignment, though at the time I new pretty much nothing about Buddhism. We were instructed to find about 12 twigs and put them together and make something and bring it to the next class. I don’t remember doing much with my twigs but enjoying the silliness of my homework being finding twigs and sticking them together while everyone else at Harvard was doing “serious” stuff. Everyone brought in their twig sculptures all excited to show them off, and he tore apart show and tell very simply: big pieces of paper and pots of black ink awaited us, and we were instructed to make marks using our twig sculptures. Impermanence, Destruction as necesary to Creation, and non-attachment – all in a big Drawing 101 class. it wasn’t even reminiscent of kindergarten, as I don’t think kindergarten was as fun!

It was that class that caused some deep buried part of me to wake up and ask,” Is this what real Artists do, and if so, am I actually allowed to do it for the rest of my life and tell people I’m an artist when they ask me what I’m going to do with my life?” My usual answer was something akin to, no just because I am majoring in Russian Lit doesn’t mean I am thinking about how to make money by doing something practical like “working for the United Nations or teaching or omething”. At age 18-23 nobody had gotten through to me about having to figure out how to make money, even though I had my first job in the summer of 84 working in Law Firm mailroom. Jobs were fun and strange things to do and tell people about, and nice to make money at, but I didn’t think they were the main part of life at all, and though I was naive and earnest, I think I was probably right in some way that I only now have come to.

The main point of this longwinded reminiscence besides explaining how I escaped words and permanently committed to pictures as my main activity of life, is to connect it to my arriving relatively recently at the idea of using words again but in pictures.

Well, blogging is a lot of words, but you can put images in your blog. You can put only images in your blog. What am I doing even writing a blog? My first blog involved comic strips, which still had words in them.

There is still an enthusiastic writer in me who writes this blog. Blogging is perfect for her, as she doesn’t have to make too much sense or organize thoughts coherently and wrap them in a nice bow; there are no grades or critiques,  only enthusiastic very nice readers who sometimes make constructive comments. She can trail off at the end without a conclusion paragraph and nobody cares.

My main question my last year at Harvard, taking a creative writing class and a basic painting class was: “Do I want to keep writing fictional stories, OR, do I want to keep making images? Though my writing teacher encouraged my and even gave me a cool beaded hat that I still have, Painting and Drawing, Image Making won out because they were just easier. Even Creative writing seemed to involve way too much thinking, editing and especially reasoning and “figuring out” the right words. I guess I discovered the Artist in me and she was the victor; she wanted to leave words behind and Make Images. She blazed ahead with an interest mostly in texture and materials and no words.

My first discovery of words as images was through collage, probably over ten years into my “career” as an Artist. I started out making lots of oil paintings and awkward drawings, and didn’t’ try collage until at least six years into my working as an artist. My deepest exploration was in the last ten years or so, using magazine words and words torn out of books, before I even knew what an altered book was. I also discovered tearing up music books and gluing music notes into my work, which was perhaps connected to my complete “forgetting” of how to read music and how to play the piano even though I played it from age 7 until end of high school.

Forgetting is discovery. It leads you down a rabbit hole into some kind of great archeological exploration. I have never had a good memory, and it finally is serving me in some way, in terms of discovery and exploration. Forgetting involves re experiencing things as though for the first time, and that is one of the key aspects of being an artist, what the Buddhists refer to as “Beginner’s Mind”…

Altering books has been a meandering intuitive process and has landed me back into the land of destruction and rewriting, in the form of turning books filled with words and sometimes pictures into art objects, usually using words as images here and there.

What I am now focused on is these journal drawings in which I write a word in the middle of the page and then turn the page into a drawing. This mind map suggested by Writing 101 as a way to gather ideas and connect thoughts for the reflection piece I am now writing seems to have  turned into a diagram/drawing of sorts.

The words in pink circled are the words I have already used in my journal drawings, some of which I have posted on this blog. The words in squares circled in orange are words I might use in drawings in the future and the words in blue are the ‘ideas” to write about in this piece. My “Blavatar” is from a drawing with the words “I AM”.

Writing words and coloring them in is something children do. They love asking us so called adults to make them “bubble letters”, so making the words in these drawings is of course lots of fun. The words usually come to me and if I like the word I do it and make the drawing. Some of the first ones were not in time order, Calm, Breathe, I Am, Whole, Play/Mess, Act, Nothing, Love, Awake, Stay…

A word in a drawing, I discovered, can connect me to meditation and mindfulness, or at least thoughts about the process. Quiet and Silence are there when I write the word, and my association to the word involves contemplation and no speech, no sound. Probably I have come to this partly for the reason that my childhood was not a quiet one, though an adventurous one as I travelled to many places, with a very talkative, loud, argumentative family headed by two people who met in law school (obviously not training to be quiet and forget words). However, one parent had parents who were musicians and got silence and contemplation through listening to classical music. This person, though a lawyer, did not like conflict or heated arguments and liked to retreat to the quiet of beautiful classical music.  This was the parent who expressed themselves through song and poetry, remembered from childhood, out loud, often in the middle of conversations. This was how I was led down the first rabbit hole, the one from Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, still my favorite books of all time: But wait a bit, the oysters cried, before we have our chat, for some of us are out of breath and all of us are fat.” “No hurry”, said the carpenter. They thanked him much for that.

Wait a bit, silence and quiet, the sound of the ocean, a pleasant walk upon the briny beach… Growing up in NYC there was somehow in the land of imagination a place to go filled with talking animals, a girl changing sizes and reciting nonsense, a mad tea party and all sorts of delights not connected to the bore of daily reality for a child. “Dreaming, I was only dreaming, I wake and I find you asleep in the deep of my heart here…” (Billy Holiday, Gloomy Sunday)

Create, Imagine, Imitate, Explore, Make, and Make Something New, Something that Never Existed. Be quiet in stillness. Find your breath. Find your heart, Find your body. Be in the Moment and Awaken from your slumber, your daytime slumber as you let the seconds, minutes, hours slip by. Are you Alive and Aware and Awake, or are you one of the walking dead? Can you feel the space between all the words? That space is the golden, magic enchanted land of imagination and of what reality is. It turns out when you go back to your own land, the one you invented at some point in childhood, the one that is “Unstruck”: ANAHATA, the seventh chakra of super consciousness, in that space of silence and purity, the gap between all words, you will find yourself and lose your Self, and there is the place open to all, the place of calm and peace, the place of awakening to yourself and your connection to all living creatures, to stones and rocks, to the rhythm of the ocean, to your own heartbeat.












Brief Post: Mindfulness and Everyday Discoveries

Mindfulness, a definition:

Mindfulness is a pretty simple concept. Being mindful in your everyday life is kind of the opposite of having a full mind in the sense of a mind full of thoughts. On the other hand, when one is in a very mindful state of mind, one’s mind is full, just not spilling over, and full in a different sense than full of thoughts. Moment to moment awareness is a way of filling your mind, in the sense that your “Mind” is completely focused on the moment.

To be focused on the moment as I understand, is to have a balance of awareness between inside and outside of your mind body state. So you are equally aware of what is going on in your own physical/mental/emotional/spiritual body and the environment around your own body. Practicing mindfulness is a way of practicing ACCEPTANCE.

Fully accepting whatever there is is a way of being close to Truth. Reality is pared down to what is Real. Everything you are experiencing in your own MindBody is accepted, whether it is pleasant or unpleasant. You may feel splintered, you may feel chaotic, you may feel conflicting feelings, however you are able to accept everything at once. Being mindful while alone feels different from being mindful around other beings. It is good practice to practice this mindfulness when alone, as there is less likely to be confusion and overstimulation. If you create your own environment and are in it by yourself, you can practice noticing how you feel inside yourself and what you observe outside yourself.

Another way of practicing mindfulness around people so as to work on practicing it in relationships with others is to practice in environments when you are by yourself but going somewhere or sitting somewhere in company of others who are “strangers”. Noticing your reactions to your environment in the moment can be quite interesting, as you may have many thoughts and opinions crowding your mind or perhaps not much. Everyone has a loud mind sometimes, but listening to your own mind without judgment can be a way to practice listening to others without judgment.

Practicing mindfulness around people you already “know” can reveal that you do not really know them in certain ways. I have found this practice yields very interesting results. When I practice this I try to approach a person I know with the curiosity of not knowing anything. In fact, I do not know what s/he will do or say in the next moment. In practicing this kind of mindfulness, it is easier to be aware of one’s assumptions and preconceptions and how they cloud the mind. In addition, approaching someone you have a lot of emotional investment in with an open mind can yield much more creative and interesting situations. Someone starts to tell you something and instead of having any idea of what they are saying or meaning, I can approach it with the neutrality of a journalist or scientist. I find this to be the best way to learn about anything. When able to achieve this state of mind, I look upon others as being experts about themselves, so I ask questions that will help me discover more about what they are communicating with me. Suddenly all the problems I experience around communications with others seem to melt away with this simplicity. Knowing nothing is a lot less stressful than thinking I know a lot.

Imaginative play with children is another way to get into a more mindful state. It is similar to how actors who do “Improvisation” approach their craft. You enter the stage as another enters and then whoever makes a “proposal” starts. The other person accepts the proposal. Not accepting is a form of “blocking” which closes down play. With a child it is the same. If a kid says lets pretend this table is a boat, then you can say oh cool, what kind of boat are we in? or where are we going in this boat? Even adding something without subtracting can keep the play open and active, ie. Guess what, this boat is so cool it can be a boat on the water or turn into a submarine or fly in the air if we want it to! With art making this principle is similar. Recently I was making roses out of Sculpey. I started with a color like pink, red or yellow and then attached a green stem. After making a few small roses like this, it occurred to me to ask myself, why not make a blue rose with a pink stem or a multicolored rose with a purple stem. I was with children at the time, so my mind was already more open anyway. If you treat reality this way, anything can be “sculpey” or your “canvas” and you can “make” a collaborative thing with others by adding to what they contribute. ..

  1. the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
  2. a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.