Evidence



“I want to write something
so simply
about love
or about pain
that even
as you are reading
you feel it
and as you read
you keep feeling it
and though it be my story
it will be common,
though it be singular
it will be known to you
so that by the end
you will think—
no, you will realize—
that it was all the while
yourself arranging the words,
that it was all the time
words that you yourself,
out of your heart

had been saying.”

Evidence – Mary Oliver

Creativity is a Release

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Do you enjoy taking tests that tell you a little something about why you do the things you do?

I do!

I ran across a cool site completely by accident called psychologies.co.uk and took a test called ‘What’s Your Creative Style’. It was short and sweet and quickly got to the good stuff.

For me, I soon discovered (but wasn’t too surprised to learn), creativity is a ‘release’. Not that it isn’t a release for most people,,,but it goes into a bit more detail than that.

It explained how important it is for me to, not only get a grasp of my emotions but the importance of releasing these emotions as well and that I need to be able to touch them or look at them in concrete form to make sense of them in order to be able to sort them out.

I said something to this effect on my ‘about me’ page when I first created this blog. I think I mentioned something about how my art helped me to sort out thoughts and ideas…I wasn’t exactly sure ‘why’ though.

Now I know!

You might find out something interesting about yourself too…

The above image is something completely different from what I’ve been doing lately. I like the hands-on approach and the spontaneity, power and movement I feel when I’m creating these ‘selfies’.

Which, btw, is because ‘I’m usually attracted to art that demands physicality, that allows me to express what’s inside’. –According to the test results!

Stuckness

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I was at the bookstore on Sunday and purely by chance caught sight of a book with a cover image of a turtle flipped on its back. I was curious enough to pick it up and flip through it. The name of the book was ‘Stuck’. I was intrigued by what little I read and put it on my ‘to read’ list for another time.

Today I received a newsletter (one of my email subscriptions) that had a brief article on the opening page. It was titled, “Your Story”. That sounded intriguing to me as well. I think we’re all somewhat curious, if not interested in learning more about our own personal stories. It’s just another opportunity to get a better understanding of who we are and why we do the things we do; which is always a good idea in my opinion.

Here’s the article: (by Dr. David Krueger, at Coach Training Alliance).

“People perceive and remember what fits into their personal plot—an internal script of oneself and one’s world. Beliefs and assumptions (inspired by experiences) dictate what you look for and attribute meaning. You always find or create that which validates those beliefs, and ignore, mistrust, disbelieve—or more likely don’t notice—anything that doesn’t fit into that pattern.

People repeat behavior, even that which doesn’t work, because it offers security and familiarity. Doing the same thing results in a known outcome; predictability masquerades as effectiveness. When you move beyond a familiar pattern, you may experience anxiety.

Repetition reinstates the security of the familiar, even if the repetition is limiting or frustrating. By opting for repetition, people sabotage invention and imprison creativity. Stuck behavior has stuck consequences. Staying in a rut long enough begins to seem like fate. That outlook can lead to despair. The ultimate question about fixed beliefs or “stuckness” is: Does it work?

Change may be difficult, but it begins with the easy recognition that you are the author of your own life story. Insight, understanding, and theory do not create change. New theories alone will not drive old lived experiences into extinction. Lasting change requires new lived experiences to replace old experiences – you invested a lot of years in the old system, and you will have to practice the new stuff as hard as you practiced the old stuff.”

A coincidence? Maybe.
Maybe not.

But the words carry a lot of meaning…Stuck behavior has stuck consequences. Clear and simple.

Staying in a rut long enough will begin to seem like fate… is this not true?

Predictability masquerades as effectiveness…Yep.

And …insight, understanding and theory do not create change.
We can talk about changing all day long but at the end of the day nothing has changed.

But most important of all —

Lasting change requires new lived experiences to replace the old.

And that’s something to really think about if you’re looking to make a change.

Above image was created with iColorama and Procreate.

a real vacation

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Hit the Reset Button in Your Brain
By DANIEL J. LEVITIN AUG. 9, 2014

THIS month, many Americans will take time off from work to go on vacation, catch up on household projects and simply be with family and friends. And many of us will feel guilty for doing so. We will worry about all of the emails piling up at work, and in many cases continue to compulsively check email during our precious time off.

But beware the false break. Make sure you have a real one. The summer vacation is more than a quaint tradition. Along with family time, mealtime and weekends, it is an important way that we can make the most of our beautiful brains.

Every day we’re assaulted with facts, pseudo facts, news feeds and jibber-jabber, coming from all directions. According to a 2011 study, on a typical day, we take in the equivalent of about 174 newspapers’ worth of information, five times as much as we did in 1986. As the world’s 21,274 television stations produce some 85,000 hours of original programming every day (by 2003 figures), we watch an average of five hours of television per day. For every hour of YouTube video you watch, there are 5,999 hours of new video just posted!

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, there’s a reason: The processing capacity of the conscious mind is limited. This is a result of how the brain’s attentional system evolved. Our brains have two dominant modes of attention: the task-positive network and the task-negative network (they’re called networks because they comprise distributed networks of neurons, like electrical circuits within the brain). The task-positive network is active when you’re actively engaged in a task, focused on it, and undistracted; neuroscientists have taken to calling it the central executive. The task-negative network is active when your mind is wandering; this is the daydreaming mode. These two attentional networks operate like a seesaw in the brain: when one is active the other is not.

This two-part attentional system is one of the crowning achievements of the human brain, and the focus it enables allowed us to harness fire, build the pyramids, discover penicillin and decode the entire human genome. Those projects required some plain old-fashioned stick-to-itiveness.

But the insight that led to them probably came from the daydreaming mode. This brain state, marked by the flow of connections among disparate ideas and thoughts, is responsible for our moments of greatest creativity and insight, when we’re able to solve problems that previously seemed unsolvable. You might be going for a walk or grocery shopping or doing something that doesn’t require sustained attention and suddenly — boom — the answer to a problem that had been vexing you suddenly appears. This is the mind-wandering mode, making connections among things that we didn’t previously see as connected.

A third component of the attentional system, the attentional filter, helps to orient our attention, to tell us what to pay attention to and what we can safely ignore. This undoubtedly evolved to alert us to predators and other dangerous situations. The constant flow of information from Twitter, Facebook, Vine, Instagram, text messages and the like engages that system, and we find ourselves not sustaining attention on any one thing for very long — the curse of the information age.

My collaborator Vinod Menon, a professor of neuroscience at Stanford, and I showed that the switch between daydreaming and attention is controlled in a part of the brain called the insula, an important structure about an inch or so beneath the surface of the top of your skull. Switching between two external objects involves the temporal-parietal junction. If the relationship between the central executive system and the mind-wandering system is like a seesaw, then the insula — the attentional switch — is like an adult holding one side down so that the other stays up in the air. The efficacy of this switch varies from person to person, in some functioning smoothly, in others rather rusty. But switch it does, and if it is called upon to switch too often, we feel tired and a bit dizzy, as though we were seesawing too rapidly.

Every status update you read on Facebook, every tweet or text message you get from a friend, is competing for resources in your brain with important things like whether to put your savings in stocks or bonds, where you left your passport or how best to reconcile with a close friend you just had an argument with.

If you want to be more productive and creative, and to have more energy, the science dictates that you should partition your day into project periods. Your social networking should be done during a designated time, not as constant interruptions to your day.

Email, too, should be done at designated times. An email that you know is sitting there, unread, may sap attentional resources as your brain keeps thinking about it, distracting you from what you’re doing. What might be in it? Who’s it from? Is it good news or bad news? It’s better to leave your email program off than to hear that constant ping and know that you’re ignoring messages.

Increasing creativity will happen naturally as we tame the multitasking and immerse ourselves in a single task for sustained periods of, say, 30 to 50 minutes. Several studies have shown that a walk in nature or listening to music can trigger the mind-wandering mode. This acts as a neural reset button, and provides much needed perspective on what you’re doing.

Daydreaming leads to creativity, and creative activities teach us agency, the ability to change the world, to mold it to our liking, to have a positive effect on our environment. Music, for example, turns out to be an effective method for improving attention, building up self-confidence, social skills and a sense of engagement.

This radical idea — that problem solving might take some time and doesn’t always have to be accomplished immediately — could have profound effects on decision making and even on our economy. Consider this: By some estimates, preventable medical error is the third leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for hundreds of thousands of deaths each year. You want your diagnostician to give the right answer, not always the quickest one. Zoning out is not always bad. You don’t want your airline pilot or air traffic controller to do it while they’re on the job, but you do want them to have opportunities to reset — this is why air traffic control and other high-attention jobs typically require frequent breaks. Several studies have shown that people who work overtime reach a point of diminishing returns.

Taking breaks is biologically restorative. Naps are even better. In several studies, a nap of even 10 minutes improved cognitive function and vigor, and decreased sleepiness and fatigue. If we can train ourselves to take regular vacations — true vacations without work — and to set aside time for naps and contemplation, we will be in a more powerful position to start solving some of the world’s big problems. And to be happier and well rested while we’re doing it.

Daniel J. Levitin is the director of the Laboratory for Music, Cognition and Expertise at McGill University and the author of “The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload.”

I subscribe to AustinKleon.com (Austin Kleon is the author of ‘Show Your Work’ and ‘Steal Like an Artist’) – this article was included in his newsletter this week.

And how perfect to arrive home from a real vacation to find an article singing the praises of the importance of taking a ‘real vacation’; no work emails, no computer, no cell service at all, just a chance to enjoy the away-from-it-ness of it all.

Vacations like this used to be the norm but now are considered luxuries – and this needs to change.

If you haven’t had the chance to experience this type of vacation in awhile – do yourself a favor and plan one soon.

The attached is an iPhone image I feel describes that vacation state of mind perfectly – rural Vermont.

Just beautiful!

No Regrets

imageWhy We Have Regret
By Leo Babauta
We’ve all heard the phrase, “No regrets!” usually uttered when about to do something a little unwise perhaps.
And yet, as alluring as the “Living Without Regrets” philosophy sounds, it’s not always so easy.
We regret missed opportunities.
We regret things that made us feel dumb.
We regret not telling someone we loved them more before they died.
We regret not spending our time more wisely, accomplishing more.
We regret procrastinating, not forming better habits, eating too many sweets, not writing the novel we always wanted to write, not reading all the books we planned to read, not mastering Russian or chess or the ninja arts.
We regret getting into bad relationships, or making mistakes in a past relationship.
Yes, we regret things, and sometimes it can be consuming.
Why We Have Regret
Simply put, we regret choices we make, because we worry that we should have made other choices.
We think we should have done something better, but didn’t. We should have chosen a better mate, but didn’t. We should have taken that more exciting but risky job, but didn’t. We should have been more disciplined, but weren’t.
We regret these choices, which are in the past and can’t be changed, because we compare them to an ideal path that we think we should have taken. We have an idea in our heads of what could have been, if only a different choice had been made.
The problem is that we cannot change those choices. So we keep comparing the unchangeable choice we actually made, to this ideal. This fantasy can’t be changed, and it will never be as good as the ideal. The unchangeable choice we made will always be worse. It spins around and around in our heads.
Why can’t we let it go? What’s so important that we need to keep thinking about it?
Why We Keep Thinking About Regret
I’ve noticed that I have a hard time not thinking about a bad choice because of how it conflicts with my self-identity.
We all have this idea of who we are: we’re good people. Perhaps we’re smart, or competent, or good-hearted. We make the best choices we can, of course, because we’re good people. Even if you have self-doubt and a bad self-image, you probably think you’re basically a good person.
And so when someone else attacks that identity — insults your competence, calls you a liar, says that you’re a cheater — it hurts! We get angry and defensive. We can’t stop thinking about this offense.
And when we believe we made a mistake, this also is an attack on that identity. We made a bad choice … why couldn’t we have been a better person and made a better choice? This bad choice conflicts with our idea that we’re a good person.
So the problem spins around and around, without resolution. There’s no way to solve this problem, because the bad choice can’t be changed and we can’t resolve the conflict with our self-identity.
How to Let Go of Regret
In examining why we have regret, and why it’s so hard to let go, we can see a couple of root causes that we can address:
1. We compare past choices to an ideal.
2. We have an ideal identity that conflicts with the idea of the bad choice.
These both revolve around ideals, which are not reality but our fantasies of how we’d like reality to go. They’re made up, and not helpful. In this case, these ideals are causing us anguish.
So the practice is to let go of the ideals, and embrace reality.
Here’s the reality of those two root causes:

1. The choice we made in the past is done, and we can’t change it. And in fact there’s some good in the choice, if we choose to see it. Being able to make the choice at all is an amazing thing, as is being alive, and learning from our experiences, and being in the presence of other really great people, etc. And we can be satisfied with our choices and see them as “good enough” instead of always hoping for the perfect choices. Some choices will be great, some won’t be perfect, and we can embrace the entire range of choices we make.
2. We are not actually always good, and in fact our identity can encompass a whole range: we are sometimes good, sometimes not, and sometimes somewhere in between. We make mistakes, we do good things, we care, we are selfish, we are honest, and we sometimes aren’t honest. We are all of it, and so making a bad choice isn’t in conflict with that more flexible (and realistic) self-identity. It’s a part of it.
That’s all easier said than done, but when we find ourselves obsessing over past choices, we can 1) recognize that we’re falling into this pattern, 2) realize that there’s some ideal we’re comparing our choices and ourselves to, and 3) let go of these perfect ideals and embrace a wider range of reality.
This is a constant practice, but it helps us not look for perfection, not constantly review past choices, but instead find satisfaction in what we’ve done and focus in what we’re doing now.
Regrets are a part of life, whether we want them or not, whether we’re aware we’re having them or not. But by looking into the cause of regrets, and embracing the wide range of reality, we can learn to be satisfied with our choices, happier with the past and happier in the present moment.
And that is a choice you won’t regret.

Another great article to make you think…and a newly finished acrylic painting.

Hot off the Press

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Encaustic art is one of the oldest forms of painting.  It originated in ancient Greece over three thousand years ago but has only recently begun to receive the acknowledgement it deserves.  But thankfully, due to the dedication of a handful of individuals, the word is slowly, but surely (finally) getting out.

And I received two new encaustic books just today!

Encaustic Art by Jennifer Margell and a book of Betsy Eby’s encaustic works entitled, Betsy Eby.

Both are beautiful, hardback books that you will enjoy having in your studio or library.

The cover art on Jennifer Margell’s book is by Lorraine Glessner, who I was fortunate enough to spend 3 days with in a workshop she taught (just this past weekend at the Encaustic Center in Richardson, Texas).  The book is filled with the beautiful art of many artists while covering lessons on technique, interviews discussing ambitions, inspirations and painting techniques and also featuring a gallery collection of other contemporary encaustic artists working today.  It is beautifully done and a must-have for your collection.

Betsy Eby’s over-sized book is 150 pages long.  Open to any page and you will be rewarded.  But this should come as no surprise if you are at all familiar with her work.  The book includes more than seventy-five full-color plates of Eby’s evocative paintings; the book is a significant survey of major work from the past decade.

Viewing all of this beautiful work is inspiring and intimidating at the same time.

But I like what Jennifer Margell says in the introduction to her book when she talks about encaustics being like no other form of painting, in that there are endless techniques and fleeting seconds before your medium solidifies.  It is a medium where you have to trust your instincts and paint in the moment.  You have to take leaps of faith.  In the beginning there are many frustrations, but over time you learn how to work with the beautiful accidents which incur.

“The best way to learn the art of painting encaustics, she says, is not to create beautiful paintings.  The best way to work with the medium is to create painting after painting, focusing on a different technique each time.  Even a technique you do not plan to use will later be another option added to your repertoire.”

This is so true and I came to that very conclusion myself this past weekend while learning even more encaustic techniques.

Encaustic art truly is a melting pot of possibilities!