Conscious Letting Go

Since the big move I’ve found myself, on and off, in a big mental hurry to return to the things I was doing before. I thought, I have to get back into an art space, I have to get a job, I have to find a winterguard to instruct, and I must do all of it immediately. I didn’t stop to think about how any of these things did or did not add quality to my life, until the past few days. I’ve done a lot of reflecting and mediation on the state of my job/career at this point, which I think I’ll save for another post. One of the biggest shifts, and one I did not think I would end up making, had to do with the winterguard part of my life.

I’ve made a decision, once and for all, to give up coaching.

For anyone who has known me personally at any point during the past five years, this probably comes as a surprise. I’ve raved/complained/joy wept about the winterguard and the kids involved in it. I’ve squealed for my students as they performed, I’ve gone home hurt when I felt like I didn’t reach them, and I’ve suffered some financial difficulty from making room for the activity. Why would I decided that such a passion driven activity wasn’t worth pursuing further?

I don’t think passion equates happiness. After all, crimes can happen out of passion. Google the word, and the second definition comes with some fairly negative connotations. Just because this thing was arousing such strong emotion in me, did not me that it was healthy for me or that it was serving me.

There was a three year gap between my high school graduation and my one year of performing with an independent group. I. Was. MISERABLE. I was pretty rusty compared to other members that had kept spinning right along, and they made it clear that I did not fit in with them. No matter how hard I worked, or how much my instructors praised my progress over the season, I felt so out of place that it just plain hurt. I was ecstatic when we performed for the final time, and the season was finally over. I went to the banquet out of politeness, and I was the first person to leave.

Two years later, I started instructing in my old high school program. At first it was great! I got to reconnect with my old instructor on a totally different level. We became friends. I got to translate some of the things I learned in the independent program back to my beloved high school program, which was really cool. I thought, yes! I can enjoy this activity again but in a way that rewards me, and rewards others.

Here’s the thing: after five years of instructing, I have the same frustrations and self doubts as I did during my final season performing. Not having an upcoming season to think about has been liberating. I have so much more head space to devote to other things. I don’t have to walk on eggshells consistently asking myself if I am good enough at this.

I thought for sure that I would miss it, that I would be eager to find a program to work with after the move. The thing is, I’m not. I didn’t see that coming. At all. This decision did not come without some serious back and forth, some serious ups and downs, and doubts abound! I’ve attached so much of my identity to this role, I’ve assigned such worth to the time I spent doing it. I’ve cited it as changing my view of what I wanted to do with my life, and I guess it still has. However, it has served it’s purpose, and I can walk away now.

I appreciate the memory for what it is. I appreciate the lessons that I learned, not only about teaching and co-learning, but also about myself and my goals. I wouldn’t change the experience that I had for the most part. However, I’ve become very comfortable with this chapter of my life being closed. I don’t want to go back. I’m done trying to force something to fit into my life that doesn’t seem to want to. I’m moving forward with things that enrich me, and respectfully leaving other things behind.

(I’m still leaving the patches on my yoga bag. That took a long time!)

 

 

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What the heck is manifesting?

I’m not entirely sure what the point of this post is going to be. I think it may turn out to be some rambling and probably some points that don’t make sense together. I think I mostly just need a place to put my thoughts about this down, and maybe I’ll be lucky enough for someone to see it and spark a conversation with me.

As I’ve been learning more about mindfulness practice and exploring what exactly my spirituality is/isn’t, one thing I come across from time to time is manifesting/co-creating. It’s actually been something sort of annoying to learn about. When I stumble on it in a podcast or a blog post, it doesn’t seem to be spoken about in depth. Then, when I turn to Google, I’m almost immediately turned off by an advertisement telling me to buy some sort of book or kit to help give me the life I want and deserve. More than a few times, my efforts to learn more have been stopped by the marketing. One of the reasons I started on this path was my dissatisfaction with the life I was leading, which included blind consumption. Buying a infomercial-y feeling kit definitely didn’t feel like a step in the right direction.

I had sort of given up on learning any more about it, until I stumbled on this post which states, “If we focus on what we lack, we will attract that.” That statement was pretty powerful for me to hear. Part of my journey is dealing with my tendencies to be pessimistic or cynical. Is it possible that these types of negative thinking, or thinking about things I don’t want to happen, has actually led to the manifestation of these things?

I focused for many years on money and thought a lot about not having enough of it. I also spend a lot of time in fear that I’m actually facing abandonment or rejection from those I care about. When these uglier realities have actually happened, did I really do that to myself? Why would any one will negative things to happen to them? Surely, all of this must be kind of hocus-pocusy, right?

The Law of Attraction suggests that focusing on positive or negative thoughts brings positive or negative experiences. Based on the idea that thoughts are made from energy, this suggests that like energy attracts like energy. So, the outcomes in life are directly tied to what one predominantly thinks about.

This is a concept that I’m going to begin working into my daily mindfulness routine. Perhaps it makes the most sense for it to happen at the beginning of my day. I did get three phone calls today about interviews; as part of my nightly journaling practice I’ve made it a habit to write down a short list of things that I want to make happen. Could it be that I’ve been practicing a form of co-creating/manifesting? I’ll have to focus more energy on this and see where it takes me.

I’m going to end things here with this quote.

“The law of attraction works universally on every plane of action, and we attract whatever we desire or expect. If we desire one thing and expect another, we become like houses divided against themselves, which are quickly brought to desolation. Determine resolutely to expect only what you desire, then you will attract only what you wish for.” Ralph Trine

 

Hello, icky habits.

I feel like I should start this post with a little bit of background. I was born and raised in a dead end town in upstate NY, and moved to Austin about a month ago. I’ve spent the past month unemployed, looking for a job, and spending an alarming amount of time by myself. As I embark on this path of mindfulness that I’ve decided on, I’ve been faced with a lot of room for improvement. My practice is a wee little baby one, really only just over a year. As such, I am nowhere near having any real say about what my mind, emotions, and especially my anxiety decides to do. Over the past month I’ve had multiple days where I feel confident and strong and feel as if there is forward motion in my life, and I have just as many days where I don’t put on pants and wonder how I have failed so badly at 26. Rationally, I don’t think I’ve failed my life at 26. Irrationally, I think I’ve made all the wrong choices without meaning to.

This pattern of self deprecation and defeat is something I’ve developed in my second nature. These are not habits I was born with, and I certainly did not have unsupportive parents. Somehow, through the course of my teenage years, I’ve developed this rhetoric of being less than. I’ve spent so many years nourishing this self sabotage that it is fully automatic; the slightest hint of negative emotion sends me into a tailspin. As a woman, I’m sure some of it has to do with the general encouragement to self-hate that surrounds me on a daily basis. As a recent MFA graduate, I’m sure it has something to do with getting my freaking life started already. Since my circumstances are what they are at the moment, I just have so much more fuel to feed this monster.

I remember growing up, we lived in a pretty rural neighborhood where there was always the possibility of animals getting into the trash, pool, shed… whatever was outside that they could get in. This was especially true if you didn’t take precautions. Maybe you didn’t lock the shed or put a lid on the trash can, and as a result of that neglect, there are intruders. Right now, my anxiety is a black bear fumbling through my yard, and generally just fucking all my shit up. It won’t move along if I keep giving it things to feed on. Sure, it’s going to come by sometimes and check things out, and a few times it will probably break a lock somewhere. The point is, a little bit of maintenance that isn’t repeated, let’s the nuisance of an animal do whatever he wants.

I think I’ve fallen into the trap of feeling like I’m done with this mindfulness stuff. As much lip service as I might have paid to it being about the journey, some reflection has revealed to me that… maybe I had a few “woohoo I’m so enlightened!” moments. As a result, I think I got a little bit lazy. As crippling as this anxiety and self defeat can be, I need to make this a growth opportunity. This is, for better or worse, a reminder for me that I need to be fastidious. I need to keep working at this, for my health, and not for any other goal.

Tonight, I’m going to sip some ginger tea, do some kundalini yoga, and a ten minute meditation. I’m going to start tomorrow with the same. I only get one lifetime to care for my mind and happiness, and I guess I need to stop being passive about it.


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Hello, zafu.

Transition

It’s a hard thing to navigate, when a community (you at least thought) you have been a valuable member of feels foreign. I don’t think it’s a mystery that we travel in and out, and between different circles and communities. Connections fade while others are made. As I grow older I find more acceptance of these facts, but every so often I’m reminded of one, or a new transitional period presents itself suddenly.

Years ago, I had a friend who I believed was my soul mate. Not in any type of romantic way, but a person that I felt a deep genuine connection with. I watched her get bored of various friends and cut them out of her life unceremoniously, but I was never one. I was convinced our friendship was lasting. I was reminded that it wasn’t when she found a romantic partner. A few years later I was invited to her wedding. She didn’t say a word to me the entire day, I left my gift on the table and left without announcing it, and that was that.

I learned from that and now have three strong intelligent beautiful women that I call friends. They nourish me both emotionally and intellectually, and I am forever grateful for them.

Okay, fine, that was a sweet little happy ending. In reality, I still feel much bitterness about it. I find difficulty in accepting that there is risk when you invest yourself in something or someone. Sure, the understanding of this risk leads you to appreciate investments that are successful.

But what happens when an invesment is successful, truely successful, and then all of the sudden it isn’t? How does one handle that shift? When someone goes from so purely rewarding, without suspicion that it could fail, to a steaming pile of bullshit?

I’m dealing with that with my low residency grad school. It was disney land at first. There’s really no other way to describe it. There are some great connections I made that I feel are gone now. Not because of distance, but of a sudden and severe disconnection. In the brief amount of time we spend at residency, I think the process of a relationship is sped up considerably. In a matter of really a month and a half (thats the cumulative time we’ve spent physically together) lives are touched, friendships flourish, and they die out. There are some connections that I’m questioning deeply, that I’m mourning, that I’m celebrating.

I’m dealing with the winterguard program I am involved with being in peril. I’m dealing with the potential to lose my place in the program, lose my connection with my students that I have come to love. All for someone’s savior complex.

I’m dealing with the love of my life being in Austin while I remain in upstate NY. I’m scared of the transformation that that relationship may take, although it has not taken it yet.

I’m dealing with two of my three friends having just moved to Los Angeles. I’m trying to navigate maintaining and growing our connection, instead of fearing what will happen to it.

I’m dealing with almost being done with my MFA, and that transition, finally, away from student-hood. I’m scared that I will have made all the wrong choices, or all the perfect ones. Then there’s the loans.

I’m dealing with my entire life changing or being challenged all at once. I know that it will get figured out and I will come out better in the end. Man, being patient is hard though.

Adventures in Mokulito

Lithography is a planographic printmaking process- the image is printed from a flat surface. The tern derives from the Greek grapho, “to write or draw”and lithos, “stone.” The process, invented by Alois Senefelder in 1798, traditionally involves creating a drawing on finely grained limestone. Marks are made on the stone with a greasy material, and the printing process depends on the greasy material holding ink, and the rest of the surface repelling ink. Lithography allowed for fine artists to create an image without formal knowledge of printmaking, allowing professional printmakers to run the editions.

In the past few decades, the printmaking world has been making steps to create greener, more accessible, and more economical methods of printmaking. Lithography involves the use of a separate press, specific materials, as well as a considerable amount of space. In response to the changing needs of printmakers, mokulito was born. Originally invented in Japan, the process has been altered and simplified by the Budka family in Poland. The process can be carried out with a few basic materials found in most printmaking studios, and press suitable for woodblock.

I had the privilege of seeing Ewa Budka’s demonstration at SGCI in Milwaukee, but Haven’t been able to really sink my teeth into it and experiment until recently. It’s hard to get access to a print studio where I live, and I don’t have a lot of time or money to be going to a print shop an hour+ out of town.

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Traditional lithograph that I used as a model for the mokulito experiments.

Once I was able to get into the studio again and begin working, I used the image to the right as a reference for imagery. I didn’t really want to waste time worrying about the imagery, and I also figured it made sense to have a traditional lithograph to compare things to.

I started out by securing some some birch plywood, and maple hardwood. The hardwood part is important. I didn’t get some maple plywood until later in my experiments… which will make more sense later.

The process starts out pretty much the same as doing a lithograph on limestone: grind down the surface, greasy drawing materials, treat the surface with rosin and talc. With the wood approach, at least the Budka approach, you only use the gum arabic. You can use nitric from what I understand, but I chose not to do that.

 

I started with the birch plywood, since that’s what I chose to do the image above on. Birch is supposed to give a busier, granier background. Even though I went into the experiments expecting this… I didn’t really care for it. It also fills in the more you ink up, which again, I expected. Again, I didn’t really care for it. asdfsadf

I did another experiment one the maple hardwood. The first hardware store I went to when I was getting materials had the hardwood and not the plywood, and being the overexcited airhead that I was that day I decided to go ahead and get it. I did a drawing, determined to create a great print with this new method that I had been learning…

notfair
This is the drawing I did on the hardwood. Turns out, hardwood won’t work. At least not the hardwood I tried. This image is gone forever. Such is the life of a creator.

After taking a little time to be disappointed, it dawned on me that it was most likely the hardwood vs plywood that was the issue. I don’t know exactly what it is, but I do know theres an element of processing that happens in ply that doesn’t happen in hard. Maybe it softens the fibers? I tried to do a little bit of research, but everything I found said plywood was stronger. A few retries of this same piece of wood revealed that it was not meant to work, so I gave up. Off to the store to buy some different wood.

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I didn’t think to take pictures of the block, but here is the outcome. This is maple, and I’m so beyond pleased with the results! The maple gives a cleaner background which lasts for multiple prints. Yay!!

Since these experiments I was able to create some more finished pieces, but I’m going to save those for another day so I can talk about them with more depth.

Check out this video by Ewa Budka on this process, it’s really a well done explanation.

 

Thanks for reading!

Previous this past residency, fellow MFAIA student David Neufeld and myself have been taking steps to create a space for students to collaborate visually. During our first residency we support dancers and performers in the program carving out time and space to collaborate, move, and create, but once these things were in place we felt there was something lacking for visual artists in the program. Just like a performer or dancer is most in their element when they are able to practice their craft, visual artists are in their element when they are able to create something with their hands. Just as many dancers in our G group placed importance on connecting with each other’s art through doing, we found that lacking for those who are visually oriented. David was able to gain access into the painting building located near the Elliot D Pratt Library, and while he was there discovered two printing presses that had long been out of use. After discussion between the two of us and discussing our concerns with the college, we were granted permission to move one of the presses to the design building to use. With the generous help of a few maintenance workers on campus and a few fellow students, we were able to get the printing press from the second floor of the painting building to the ground floor of the design building. Metcalf F14 P1 6 With some printing supplies I brought from home and a little bit of creative thinking (lacking a sink to soak paper in, we used a bucket) we were able to create a drypoint and run the first print on that press in about 15 years. While we were working Joshua DeMello, another student, found us working and was able to take time to share the experience with us and create a print of his own. In the future, David and I hope to expand the design building as a working space, and are currently in discussion about ways that we will be able to to supply the building and open the space responsibly during the MFAIA residency.