Sacred Art & The Power of Support

Support. We all want it. What we create is sacred to us and requires building up & even, protection, at times. Support comes in a variety of forms–encouragement, freedom, sharing time and energy, giving, etc. We want family, friends, and even strangers to support what we do, what we create, and give us their blessings.

Kitty's art--created from found/donated objects

Kitty’s art–created from found/donated objects

My biggest supporters are my family and closest friends. I receive the support of sacred creativity from my friend and our Editor at Thorncraft, Kitty Madden. In her presence, I feel free to express my truth about art & creativity & business, free to talk about my interests, but I am also free to listen to nature and her poetic speech about her garden and art.

Kitty’s singing water bowl

She is a healer, and through her belief in my abilities and actual follow-through, she helped to heal any excuses and self-doubt I had about making books.
Motivational artwork Kitty created as a chant & yoga movement for balance.

Motivational artwork Kitty created as a chant & movement for balance.

She is open to expansiveness. I’ve changed the focus of my publishing company recently to open up to a book about yoga, and she has been encouraging & supportive in that endeavor. Being in her sacred space of found art & natural patterns, I am accepted & I accept her artwork.

Kitty's photo of me in her sacred art garden.

Kitty’s photo of me in her sacred art garden.

I write often about her, as her creative inspiration propels me forward every time I’m with her. She is more than an editor, she is an artist and a true friend to me for all the encouragement she gives. Being behind the scenes as an editor isn’t always easy, so I’m always happy to shine a light upon Kitty.
This path is not glamorous or even glorious. Metaphorically, often it’s not marked adequately, and trails have to be blazed or re-cut. Sometimes, it is dark & mysterious, but we are following our truth to put new stories out into the world, stories that need to be heard. Kitty continues down this publishing path with me, pausing only to ask, “so what’s next?” I look forward to our future journeys together. I’m grateful for her inspiration and friendship.

Instagram Yoga Challenges–10 epiphanies & why you should participate even if you’re a beginner

image1. Yoga challenges are a fun release & will deepen your yoga practice on your own terms:
Last year, I began participating in yoga challenges on Instagram. I started with a short one focused on meditative asanas (or postures). This allowed me to self reflect and slowly add longer, more rigorous challenges. Yoga challenges can be a one day thing (#HumpDayHearts is a Wednesday ongoing challenge), or last for a few days, a month, or even longer. You choose the challenges that fit your lifestyle and participate when you can. Many challenges will take place every month or every other month (the challenge #InspiredYogis in its 9th round is one example). They all vary depending on the theme or hosts.

2. To participate is about your self (winning or losing doesn’t matter):
As a trail runner, I’m usually focused on improvement, endurance, and the goal. For yoga, I did not expect to “win” a challenge, as that seemed like a paradox considering that yoga was the practice. Not a sport. Not a competitive game. Yoga is a practice that isn’t a practice session or composed of practice sessions designed for a performance in which one is judged or an opponent against someone else. I learned that getting into my breath and finding comfort was the “win.” I was moving my body beyond its comfort zone. Moreover, I did receive a prize for participating in challenges…several prizes and they kept coming from protein bars to custom yoga outfits. This was simply a surprise bonus. I also realized that hosts and sponsors don’t choose recipients for prizes based on how challenging a pose seems to be. To one person, a twist is difficult, while someone else struggles with arm balances. The hosts and sponsors simply choose based on inspiration, effort, and compassion.
Other challenges do not offer gifts or prizes. The point is personal growth and learning new ways of practicing an asana.

3. Yogis will give instructions & videos to help you (true teachers are encouraging & supportive):
Yoga challenges are another way of being physical, and the Instagram community of yogis are supportive, encouraging, and complimentary. Beyond that, they teach you how to practice by offering all kinds of variations, by discussing their personal growth from the beginning of their practice and by showing their fears are rooted in the body and its abilities. Participating in a challenge is sharing, giving, letting others in, and allowing a creative physical expression.

4. Yoga makes you face your fears and/or your pent-up emotions:
I’m regularly challenged to face fears, if I want, and for me that’s standing on my hands or trying pincha. Some of my IG friends have confessed their fears of backbends, specifically dropping back to catch yourself on your hands. Someone else was terrified of hurting her back in bakasana, or crow pose. I read a yogis emotional reaction to deep twists and how emotion erupted from him and he had no idea that he was even feeling emotional. He was anticipating a stretch, a workout, a practice of breathing and body alignment, but what he experienced was so much more. He realized his own mental block.

5. Yoga reveals any body-shame issues & allows you to create art with your body & your location:
I admire the way yogis laugh at themselves and their bodies–their butts in the air in downward facing dog and so many other asanas (try #OhthePlacesYoullCrow challenge for some Dr Suess-inspired fun) I laugh at myself trying to do a chinstand, and I’m just rolling around in the grass and eating weeds more than I am balanced on my chin.
I admire the way yogis find their niche of creative expression on Instagram. They create variations in not only the asanas and the approach to them, but also the way they take and edit the photos. The lines, the twists, the shadows and light on the human body in a place of balance, attunement to the asana and breath, going beyond to consider the space where the person is practicing yoga–all of that changes with each person’s different expression of the asana. The photos show yogis blending into landscapes, interrupting them, colliding with our own constructions in expressions of being and transformation at the same time. People becoming trees. Flying in an acroyoga bird in front of the sea. Reaching those toes out over the open space of a canyon, and perching like a bird with talons anchored into a rock, a bench, a mountain’s face. #WanderlustYourCity is a challenge that allows you to highlight the places that you love in your city and share those places with other yogis all over the world.

6. Combining art forms:
Already a basic yoga challenge asks you to combine yoga with photography to create an image. Beyond that, yoga challenges like #ArtMusicYogaLove offer musical inspiration for artistic yoga creations. You choose your own asanas and how you interpret the songs given by the hosts.

7. Yoga in relationships & friendships:
While the practice is personal, yoga is a gift to be shared. Experiencing it with others is joy. The challenges have encouraged me to practice yoga in public with family and friends with whom I’ve never practiced yoga. image
The challenge #Twinnings has connected yogis who’ve never met in person but who wanted to create yoga art together and encourage one another.

8. Spiritual depth:
No matter what your religion or spiritual practice, if you want more depth and a place to discuss ideas, you can find that in the challenges as well. Many yogis discuss deepening their meditative practice or their core spiritual beliefs, and provide instructions on what has worked for them. These beliefs do not have to be Hindu, Buddhist, or Taoist. Instagram yogis have a variety of spiritual beliefs & practices. #MoreThanAsana is such a perfect challenge to experience spiritual depth, whether you share your journey on Instagram or use it in your practice privately.

9. Surprise yourself with progress:
Before you know what happened, you’ll be reaching your toes and flipping your grip, getting deeper and flying higher, if you allow yourself a daily practice with the IG Yoga Community. Yogis like to say “practice and all is coming,” and I know what they mean because I see the evidence in my life. Yoga benefits the body in so many ways. Many yogis share how an asana improves the body and the benefits of practicing a particular posture. For example, how inversions can aid in chronic headaches and mild depression, to name a few of the benefits.

10. Desire to give back to others:
I wanted so badly to participate in the challenges as a sponsor from the beginning, but I was timid about sharing my products. I’m not a yoga teacher, though I have been aware and had a practice for decades. Last year, I couldn’t imagine how yoga challenges would lead me to participate as a sponsor in the challenges and mail out my organic yoga-inspired t-shirts to yogis across the world, but that’s where my journey is now. imageI’m one of the sponsors (IG account: @shana_trailbalance) for #SummerofRenewal
The challenge is happening now on Instagram. Join some wonderful hosts and discover more about your body-mind connection. Have a good time creating art with your body and surroundings.

IG Muse: Canditcha’s Instagram Photos

An empty room and blank paper–at countless workshops & speaking engagements, writers advise having those two things in order to create a manuscript. It’s a necessary beginning for many authors, myself included, but once a story takes shape, inspiration needs to come from a source with more to offer than the expansiveness of the blank page. Visual stimulation is as important to me as what life may sound like for the characters I create. I look at photographs to find ever-changing muses.

Photo by Candice Shoulders. @canditcha on Instagram

Photo by Candice Shoulders. @canditcha on Instagram

While writing Poke Sallet Queen & the Family Medicine Wheel, I was captivated by Candice Read Shoulder’s images on Instagram. She posts as @canditcha

They show her modern day life with her husband on their middle Tennessee farm, but most of the images have a vintage filter or style. I’m mesmerized by her ability to capture the beauty of horses in motion and how sunlight moves and changes through the day and the seasons.

Candice and I worked on our high school yearbook together, and after I graduated and moved, and then she graduated and moved, both of us traveling in opposite directions, we found one another via Facebook once we each returned to middle Tennessee to reconnect with the permanent roots we already had here.

Did technology help me to write my book? Of course, it did, and bringing images directly to my phone from her phone is only one example. When I asked Candice if she had photos of poke sallet in every stage of development–flowering, berrying, ripening, and nodding in a tower back toward the ground–she walked outside and around her farm to take the photos. Each time she sent a photo or tagged me in one, I jumped back into the story with fresh images to pull me along.

Photo by Candice Read Shoulders. @canditcha on Instagram

Photo by Candice Read Shoulders. @canditcha on Instagram

I am honored that she gave me permission to create a slideshow for the book composed of her images. During my reading next Thursday, June 4, 2015, at the Customs House Museum and Cultural Center in Clarksville, TN, I’ll display the slideshow on a large projector during my reading at the art walk. I hope that you will join us.

I’ll also display a second slideshow composed of antique and vintage photos of historical places in and around Nashville, as well as rural middle TN families with their musical instruments. The Art walk begins at 5:30 pm. I will be reading from my new book and signing copies. Books will be available for purchase from Seasons, the museum gift store.

Read praise from notable authors and more about Poke Sallet Queen & the Family Medicine Wheel here.

Book available now from all major distributors. Request it from your local library.

Book available now from all major distributors. Request it from your local library.