Monday, April 20, 2015

Five little letters: g-r-i-e-f

These five little letters supposedly cover a big human experience: g-r-i-e-f.

As mortal humans, it is inevitable that we will encounter grief. Whether death or non-death related, grief is part of the human experience. Supposedly these five little letters cover the experience. They are to convey what we each experience. They supposedly encompass the full range of the life that unfolds in the face of loss. These little letters are to signify a whole story. Individually. Culturally. Really?

While we are all individuals having grief experiences, we are also always within "kinship systems" (Ulanov, Madness & Creativity). So while our grief experiences unfold for us individually, we are simultaneously navigating grief's path amid community, in social relationship, in social contracts we have with each other, and in, ultimately, a culture of grief.

How can we use creativity to break out beyond these five little letters? How do we enter our stories creatively to help shape and re-shape the culture of grief so that we, as a human family, can hold the diversity of experiences that humans have?

In this presentation, from March 2015 Crossroads Conference, I had the opportunity to share my ideas with approximately 500 people in this large session, and then to more intimately explore afterward in a salon workshop that hosted 50 people. The 7 minute video here is from the large session, and in it, I'm sharing my own story of our son's birth / death and offering creative prompts for beginning to get and stay creative with your own story, whatever your circumstances.

For more about Kara see

For more about Creative Grief Education see

For more about WGF and the Crossroads Conference see

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

In honor of all that is beyond the end of one's own nose!

This is a world of 7+ billion people.

We are primarily narcissistic, but have the capacity to be so much more. Most of us, on all sides of any issue, are feeling our needs are unmet. Yet we are capable of (though maybe not willing to) hold the "*AND* space" where all needs are met and peace is possible.

Dollars, governments, and competition are held up as values, yet we are capable of so much more humanity, so much more gentleness, so much more social connection and thereby social justice.

It's a practice, not a perfect. And people die, thousands every single day, as the latest practice fails, and we have to pick up and try again. It sucks. Perfection would be so much better. But humans are not perfect. Never will be.

So we wake up another day and continue practicing.

Today, when you notice your needs are not being met and you knee-jerk into anger, righteousness, or digging your heels in, *just notice* there is another option. You can practice moving off your narcissistic center and looking to see how the other person's needs are not being met either. And then try out a different reaction to see if the needs of you *both* can be met.

Just an idea.
Offered in honor of all that Mr. Scipione Alcibiade taught me about expressing ideas, being kind, and seeing the world beyond the end of my own nose.

Miracles to you,

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Dream Beauty Into Being...join me for one of these 2015 events and we can conjure together!

In the midst of our grief experiences, it can be hard to remember that we can dream beauty into being or weave the beauty of a mosaic out of the broken pieces. This year in 2015, I'm inviting you to join me at one or more of these creative events so we can discover beauty and heART together. Looking forward to connecting with each of you!!

Creative Grief Studio Certification Course

Cath and I are offering the above Certification Course twice again this year. Please note that for the September session, tuition rates will increase for the first time since we launched the Studio. So if you want certification at the current rate, apply here today to join us for the March session!

Crossroads Conference

March 10th, I'll be in Pittsburgh, PA at the Crossroads Conference being offered by The Women & Girls Foundation. This is a most interesting format for a conference! There will be a series of speakers presenting "Ted" style talks, and then the topics presented will be discussed in breakout groups. This is a series of stories and connection to make community. Narrative inquiry at its finest! I'll be presenting on coming to the Crossroads of grief experience and using creativity to find your way. Click here to register for the conference today.

Spectrum 2015 

Excited to be teaching in this awesomely creative circle this year! Spectrum 2015 is a 6 month holistic experience that runs May to December, but it opens for early bird registration today. I'll be offering a session called, "Alternatives To Slaying The Dragon" where we'll explore all the creative ways you can encounter the dark experiences like grief using your whole heart. Click here to get your early bird rate today!


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Holding the Light... Je suis Charlie

My gawd. Loves. I don't know what to say about what went down in Paris. Don't let anyone scare you out of your creativity. Just holding the Light.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Holiday How-To: Remembering with light and love...making memory with mason jars!

To get your high resolution PDF kit version of this activity from 
The Creative Grief Studio, click here!

Gather all your materials!

Tools + Materials
Clear jars
Black acrylic paint
Applicator and/or brush
White ink gel pen
Stencils of holiday shapes
Floating candles

Fine point brush
Alphabet stickers
Holiday ribbon

I like taping my stencils to the jars before painting so that I can be hands free to hold the jar in place and paint. Otherwise the stencil moves around so much, it just makes a mess. Even with taping the edges like I did here, I could have used some double sided tape around the back of the stencil around the edges of the shape. Because I didn't do that, there was a gap between the edge and the surface of the jar, so the paint didn't come out with crisp edge. I ended up using a fine paint brush to hand correct the edges of each shape.

My idea of these was to write the names of our loved ones who have died. Either to ultimate use these for candlelight ceremony or to create center piece for a holiday table. For a table, this seemed a gentle way to invoke our dead loved ones and create an invitation for all who are celebrating with us in person to remember and share stories during the holiday.

The white ink gelly pens do wonderfully writing over acrylic paint. You could also use a chalkboard paint to make these and then chalk the names on and erase off when done. In that way, you could reuse the jars for various remembrances.

Ultimately, when I did the first jar below with the white ink, it worked well enough, but it seemed a little thin and didn't seem to pop enough for me.

So I decided to play with ways to apply the names. I happened to have several sets of alphabet stickers on hand. These below are mini scrabble tiles. But you could use any that you might have like paper colorful ones or metal embossed stickies. Play with what you have and see what you like.

As you can see in the photo below, they turned out great, but they still didn't look festive enough for me, so I started digging through all the various ribbons I have on hand, too!

And as you can see below, I think the ribbons really added sparkly love to them. You could use the same ribbon for all the jars or mix it up like I ended up doing.


Hope you have enjoyed this Holiday How-To! If you have questions about this or any of my tutorials, please feel free to be in touch. And if you want the high res, printable kit version of this that we created for The Creative Grief Studio, you can get that by clicking here. If you'd like more information about our Creative Grief Support Certification Program, click here.

And know that I'm sending Reiki and love out for you and yours this holiday season. Go gently, lovies.


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Drop of Beauty...the role of transparency

While listening to a talk from the Dalai Lama, I was struck by something he said on how having the "vulnerability of transparency" in our lives and relationships can make all the difference to the ways we experience happiness. (Total paraphrase there, but that was my take-away from it.)

It was like a brick dropping on my head.

It was like sitting at my kitchen table, thinking I was seeing nothing, doing nothing, and then noticing this little drop of quenching water that contained the reflection of my entire world, sky and all.


Think about it.

  • Some job you loved, felt valued as you did it, thought this was *it*! And then one day some little nagging started. There was something about the way the boys were promoted faster than the girls, but no one acknowledged it. If you asked for transparency, you became a problem. The ethics on the outside are no longer matching the ethics you carry on the inside.

  • You are living in a space and all is well, but then something happens. The garbage disposal doesn't work right one day. It gets fixed. Something else with plumbing happens. You keep telling the owner that something isn't right. They keep saying nothing's wrong or get accusatory like you are doing something. (Much later you find out there is a HUGE plumbing incompatibility with all the tree roots around the house, but the owner was a slum lord who wouldn't invest in fixing even though they knew the problem.) No transparency in the business of landlord/renter relationship.

  • Your child has died and for Christmas you decide to hang a stocking with the deceased child's name on it, same as all the other stockings hung for all the other living children who are coming to the big family holiday. But some family member picks a fight, takes the stocking down, says it is selfish of you to want that there, it is time now to "get over it" and be present for the living children only. And on and on. What is not transparent here is that the bothered family member does not want to face her own mortality; she fears death, dying, grieving; is unable or unwilling to talk with her own kids about grief, so doesn't want any mention of it anywhere. There is no transparency about what is really going on for each person, and so no one's needs are being met.

Hard to be transparent when one party can't admit or see the larger picture at play -- in any of the above situations!

When we lose the vulnerability of transparency, we are not being real with each other. Happiness is difficult to foster when transparency isn't possible. That doesn't mean that transparency makes everything happy la-la by any means!  The roots of the trees around the house are still breaking all the plumbing pipes. The fix would be messy, human, flawed, costly. The landlord would have to admit they made mis-steps in the past. The business ethics of the landlord/renter relationship would need some work. But in the end, it could be so much better for all involved.

I don't know. Maybe that's all bullshit, and things just go awry when they go awry. Or maybe they go awry because of my own inability to be transparent, too. But something in the Dalai Lama's talk about the role of transparency in happiness just really hit me to the core. There is some fundamental element there.

What about you? What are your thoughts on transparency? Have you had an experience of happiness or needs being met when engaging in transparency? Have you lost touch with happiness or had needs go unmet in spaces where you withheld transparency?

Go gently, loves!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Man made amid nature

Talking with Hawk tonight about constructs. Everything is a construct. Even when you think about breaking out of the construct, you are in another construct outside the first construct. It can hurt your brain a little, but there's also a gasp of a glimpse of ... infinity ??  ... in there, too. :)

Anyway, our chat reminded me that I had these images from my hiatus last summer where I was really looking at the man made things amid nature. Little spots of co-opt'ing or cooperating with nature. Little spots of beauty that mix nature grown and invention grown things.

It got me thinking about how we, our very human selves, are making things amid nature. The nature of love, the nature of grief, the nature of being alive. *Life* -- you know, the big experience LIFE -- is a nature thing...growing, evolving, unfolding...the breath breathes us without us even paying attention half the time. And amid that process of nature, we are constantly creating things. Some like to create drama! :O Some like to create heART. :) Some like to create ... whatever they can, anything, push the limits.

And, so finally, that got me curious about what we create in the midst of grief. Meaning? Art? Tears? Ways to connect? Ways to re-member shattered pieces? A different kind of life? A deeper, softer space of BEing? A mess? It's so unique to each of us...and happening within the unique context we each have of family, friends, community, support, work, geography, everything.

The creative prompt for it goes something like this:

  • What are we creating in the grief experience?
  • Are we digging what we create? Hating what we create?
  • What is being created around us in the grief experience?
  • How do we relate to what is being created?
  • What if we want to have a different relationship to grief? Do we create differently?
  • Are the creations beauty? 
  • Do the creations serve a purpose?
  • If the creations speak, what are they saying?
  • Are the creations made during grief experience radically different than what is created other times?
  • If so, what is so different?
  • When the grief experience creations talk to, say, love experience creations, what do they say?
  • Does what we create say something about grief? about love?

I don't know...but you get the idea sort of?? Curiosity about what is man made amid nature? And if nothing else, just a notice. Noticing. Stopping long enough to notice that constructs are everywhere. There is space in any construct to stop, consider, notice, BE. At least I found that to be the case this past summer. And here are a few more of those glimpses:

Art on, Loves! Keep noticing, keep questioning, keep creating. Remember:
The Saturated Self by Kenneth J. Gergen

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Sometimes gravity is too much, and I need the water and the sky.

Some of my favorite kinds of photos to collect are of the sky and the water. When I can be out under the sky and around water in real time, that's even better. But living in the Pacific NW means there is a certain dark season where light is limited, rain is constant, and my bod really dislikes being out in the elements. And without access to warm salt water, well, the photos serve. Gravity of being human can sometimes just feel like it is too much. And either the actually sky or large bodies of water or the photos of them give me a lovely dose -- a huge hit -- of shedding gravity long enough to keep me sane. :)
There is something about looking out over a body of water that is so much larger than self. I often imagine Puget Sound as a huge BEing. As much as I am at her edge looking at her, she is also a BEing, looking at this little spec of a woman standing at her edge, too. Can you feel the weightlessness of that?

Other times, I find that peeking over the edges of Puget Sound let me get a glimpse of a world that isn't in the same elements I'm in out here in the air. I see these little fishes going by and vision where they came from, where they are heading, what it feels like to let the Sound hold the weight of you.

Other times, I look out over the Sound and there is that magical misty quality. Veils hanging between worlds almost. There is some world beyond that mist that is even more wide open and endlessly to the horizon filled with ceaseless waters. Really, when I get into a scene like this, I can feel my Being float off into the watery air.
There are times when my body doesn't cooperate with going out to the wide open sky and land to take in what you've seen in the photos so far. But that was no problemo this past summer! See the photo below? :)  That was my Hawk bringing the cool, floating, no-gravity of water to me and my tootsies right outside the door of our house, in the sunny/shade, chair covered in soft beach towels so my nerve endings couldn't feel the wood of the chair pressing into them. Dreamy. Part of my summer hiatus happened precisely because I just never wanted to take my tootsie out of here! :)

So what about you? What is your go-to metaphor (or real live spot) for when gravity becomes too much? How do you tend when your whole body calls for floating?
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