Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Artful Life – A Holistic Approach

Creative Intensity or Madness
By Lisa A. Riley, LMFT

“If a man comes to the door of poetry untouched by the madness of the Muses, believing that technique alone will make him a good poet, he and his sane compositions never reach perfection, but are utterly eclipsed by the performances of the inspired madman.” – Socrates

Many creative individuals have experienced sudden surges, flooded with creative intensity as if an arrow laced with their muse struck them. The cycle accelerates productivity with their art lasting for days, even weeks at a time. Engrossed in the moment saturated with ideas, some will work viciously, with little sleep or food. It’s as if creative energy is what fuels them during this interlude producing a temporary state of immortality. Commonly following such a ride is a retreat back into their cave, often in seclusion, as if to recover and hibernate. However, during this down time the creative process is not completely dormant. Instead the artist is regrouping, reorganizing and ideas are incubating for the next eruption.

Artists have been notoriously criticized for their shifting bouts of creativity, often misinterpreted as erratic moods swings. Throughout history many artists, unable to manage the power of their own muse were sucked under by the undertow, hence why the words “madness” and “artist” went hand in hand.

In the mental health spectrum such cycles are diagnosis as Bipolar Disorder. Although, many creative individuals do suffer from Manic-Depression and require medication to manage the disorder, how about those who don’t fit the criteria? Those who are able to keep one foot anchored during the ebb and flow of their own creative intensity with little disruption to their lives.

Not all artists lose sense of reality, but are very aware of their own artistic temperament. They are able to prepare and brace themselves for the storm ahead. They ride it out while utilizing its energy to fuel their art. Artists look forward to such cycles, which gave birth to some of their most innovative ideas and embrace the journey.

When the artist is able to know him or her self well enough to accept these cycles without judgment and learn the skills to create a healthy environment that will tame what is tempestuous, it becomes an ally in the creative process. The artist transforms what was once perceived as madness and into a powerful force that can help them reach levels in their creativity they never predicted.

“Men have called me mad but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence–whether much that is glorious–whether all that is profound–does not spring from disease of thought–from moods of mind exalted at the expense of the general intellect.”— Edgar Allan Poe

Lisa is a psychotherapist, painter and writer. She has spent the last 25 years integrating various forms of self-expression as a way of life and an avenue towards healing. Because of her background in the arts she understands the unique challenges of the artistic personality and has spent the last 8 years working with artists, writers, actors and musicians in helping them gain self-awareness and a deeper understanding of themselves as artists.
Lisa has her own private practice in Southern California. For more information visit

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

To Do or Not To Do - A Question

By Susan Gallacher-Turner

Do you make a 'to do' list? I do. But I've been wondering lately whether my 'to do' lists really help my work get done. Or whether it's just another thing 'to do'.

Thanks to Sister Mary Catherine, I've been making lists since the first grade. After many nights of bedtime panic because I'd forgotten to do my homework, Sister gave me a small notebook and told me to make a list of all my assignments. I took that book everywhere and wrote down every assignment from that day on. I didn't go to bed in a panic anymore as long as I had my notebook by my bed.

I am a very organized person. Lists have proved to be a very helpful tool. I'm not blaming Sister Mary Catherine, she was trying to help a struggling, fearful little girl. I've even taught my own children to use 'to do' lists.

But now, after many decades of using this tool, is this tool using me?

It started out as a way to be less fearful. But did it really make me less fearful? When I have project, a weekend off or vacation, I worry that I'm going to forget something so I make another list. Post a notes are everywhere in my house. Making a list has been the first thing I did every week and checking it off gave me a feeling of accomplishment.

Now, there's a part of me that wants to be free 'to do' whatever comes to mind. To create without an agenda, a schedule, a list of projects with sublists. After a few years filled with fear, loss and change, I want to be open to enjoying my life as it's happening with more ease and flow and grace.

So what did I do to help myself move into this new space?

Yup. I made a list. I didn't realize it at first. I just saw the post-its as colorful little flags, a way to make my intentions more concrete. But now I see that in an effort to get out from under my old fear-based behavior of making lists, I just made another series of lists.

Do you make lists? Does it help you get everything in your life done? Or is it a ball and chain that slows down your life and saps your creative energy? If you don't make lists, how do you remember to get everything done?

So the question...To Do or Not To Do? Can I live my life and get my work done without a list? What do you suggest? Let me know and I'll keep you all posted.
Send your comments to my other blog, Sculpting A Life. And if you'd like to see some of my sculpture stop by my website Susan Gallacher-Turner Sculpture.

By the way, you're on my list. :) Read more!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Lazy Gardening Leads to Success

Sometimes. With Papyrus. I keep my Papyrus in a plastic pot that I can bring indoors and snug into a copper cachepot to carry it over the winter (see and By the end of last year's unusually rainy summer, the roots extended six inches beyond the rim of the pot, so I had to cut them back a second time, in order to be able to bring the plant back into the house. Papyrus was not a happy camper and sulked all winter. The one remaining stalk died off in early January.

New growth usually starts in February, when the sun shines hot and fierce through the long narrow window where the Papyrus stands. This year, nothing. March. Nothing. April. Nothing. I knew my dead plant needed to go out on the compost heap, but fortunately for us both, the spring rush had overtaken me ( and I just didn't get around to it.

One morning in early May, I was astonished to see a new, two-foot tall sprout. Since then, two more have appeared. With nighttime temperatures predicted to remain above 50ºF, I finally put it outdoors. It's not a horticultural practice I normally recommend, but sometimes neglect can be a good thing.

Lois de Vries' thoughts on gardening and environmental issues run the gamut from gardening in her own back yard to promoting land management practices that reconnect people to the Earth. To discover how to express more of your personality and creativity through your garden, or how body/mind/spirit can play itself out in your gardening activities, visit: or contact me at
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Saturday, May 08, 2010

Garden Views: Gardening With Beginner's Mind

Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki popularized the term "Beginner's Mind" in America. He tells us: "In the beginner's mind, there are many possibilities, but in the expert's mind there are few." This is also true in gardening, as I learned just the other day. Dan had joined me in my evening garden rounds, during which I point out what has bloomed since last time (usually yesterday), and what difficult weed (this week it's curly dock) is beyond my capability to pull out and requires his attention.

This year, the Tiarella (Foam flower, left) are particularly robust and covered with magnificent blooms. As Dan admired these, he pointed toward Heuchera Venus (Coral Bells, right) and wondered why its flowers were so much taller and so much farther behind "those other ones."

I'm sure I must have rolled my eyes as I explained that they were two entirely different plants. "Look, the Tiarella leaves are all sharp and pointy – the Heuchera leaves are way more rounded," I said, wondering how he could overlook such dramatic differences in leaf shape and inflorescence. "Looks the same to me," he said. "They don't look anything alike," I thought.

Next day, this discussion was still smoldering in the back of my mind. All day. I was thinking about how I would make him look at the Saxifrage in the hanging basket above my desk so that I could permanently imprint on his mind what "rounded, lobed leaves" look like. Then all of a sudden the light went on – in my head. While these are all different plants at the Genus level of plant classification, they also all belong to the same Family, Saxifragaceae. So we were both right, but I got a lesson in humility.

Learn to garden with beginner's mind. You never know what new things you may discover.

Lois de Vries' thoughts on gardening and environmental issues run the gamut from gardening in her own back yard to promoting land management practices that reconnect people to the Earth. To discover how to express more of your personality and creativity through your garden, or how body/mind/spirit can play itself out in your gardening activities, visit: or contact me at
Read more!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Wake Up Caw

By Susan Gallacher-Turner

I walk along today on autopilot. With Jilly at my side, we pass the trash cans on the sidewalks, the piles of pink petals fallen from the cherry trees in the street and the remains of tulips in the neighbors flower beds.

As we enter the park, I notice the creek as I always do, and let Jilly off heel to sniff her way along the grass. My feet may be on the path, but my mind is elsewhere. It's on its own path, the one that twists and turns and circles endlessly. There are the thoughts that come from behind me, from the past of many years ago to yesterday. All those 'shoulda's' sneak up behind me and bonk me on the head and sadden my heart. Then there are those thoughts that spiral ahead of me, into the future years from now and tomorrow. All those 'could be' problems rise up for me to solve and make me shiver in spite of the sun's warmth.

I keep walking and soon find myself leaning up against the big fir tree as I do everyday. I try to focus on the energy there, but my mind races on, until suddenly a loud 'caw' of a crow sounds from somewhere above me. In that moment, my mind shuts up. I sigh with relief. Then, before I know it, I'm lost in my mind maze again, when I hear the loud caw, caw again. I look up trying to spy the crow but don't see it anywhere.

As Jilly and I walk to the cedar grove where I stand with my hand on the 'mother' tree, my mind is back to its twisting and turning. Once again, the loud 'caw, caw, caw' comes and this time I hear the message...right now, be here, right now. Every time the crow caws, the words repeat in my mind. I sigh again, this time deeply and gratefully.

I have received a potent wake up call(caw) and I'm thankful for this beautiful, feathered spiritual teacher.

To see some of my sculpture inspired by nature, visit my website at Susan Gallacher-Turner Sculpture and visit my other blog, Sculpting A Life. Read more!