Gratitude Lately

These days I’m grateful for…

IMG_0967A cozy casita with a gingerbread roof

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Desert appropriate lawn decorIMG_0937 (1)Hot tea & lessons with Ken Burns
IMG_0958Juniper branches in the snowIMG_0923Sunny winter days & a shared bike (with an adjustable seat)IMG_0996Crazy oil underpaintingsIMG_0970 Evening lightIMG_0971A five-minute walk to spectacular viewsIMG_0995Sweet treats, just because

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Picture Tour: Santa Fe Hike & Visit to Taos, New Mexico

This Thanksgiving we stayed in town, took a long and scenic hike through the Dale Ball Trails of Santa Fe, & made an afternoon visit to charming Taos, New Mexico. Here’s a snippet of what we saw…DSC07371

Sun & Snow

Sun & Snow

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A 5’8″ cactus

Beyond beautiful northern drive to Taos

Beautiful northern drive to Taos

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View from the Rio Grande River Gorge Bridge

View from the Rio Grande River Gorge Bridge

565 feet above the Rio Grande

565 feet above the Rio Grande (gulp!)

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Window shopping

Window shopping

DSC07431We’ll be back again soon, Taos!

Gratitude Lately

These days I’m grateful for…

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Refreshing cold-pressed juice, perks of my job

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A trustworthy public bus system that gives me time to wait with a book

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Afternoon hikes with my best friendIMG_0805

Local piñon coffee & mugs from near and far

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Morning strolls along the Santa Fe River Trail

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Big birds black as coalIMG_0765Homemade bread & fuzzy slippers

Lessons in Self-Care

It’s those days when I feel my feet muscles clenched upon waking, my head pounding from LED screen over-fixation, and my mind wandering aimlessly from lengthy must-do lists to feelings of afternoon hermit guilt. It’s those days when my body says, “Enough! Care for me NOW!” that I realize, wow, I haven’t been listening. Maybe it’s that I’m taking my youth for granted or using my “good health” as an excuse for negligence. The point is I haven’t been truly listening, tending to, or valuing my body for how important it is my entire 29 years of existence. It wasn’t until recently I understood the gravity behind regular self-care practices. Taking time for myself is not only beneficial to my being, but also to those I surround myself with.

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painted mirror votive I made in my History of Art Therapy class

When was the last time you soaked your precious skin in a hot tub of epsom salts and essential oils? Or treated yourself to a blood-flowing massage? When was the last time you stretched your whoooole body, toe digits up to the crown of your head in yoga class? For me, it had been too long. These days I’m attuning myself to what feels right. After a long day of standing on my feet at work or a loaded day of school with the same professor, a good stretch on my mat followed by a wholesome soak in the tub is surprisingly restorative. It’s like my own mini spa date.

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“The spiritual journey is individual, highly personal. It can’t be organized or regulated. It isn’t true that everyone should follow one path.

Listen to your own truth.” ― Ram Dass

My lack-of-regular-self-care-practices has led me to an extended artist block. Although I love to create things that are beautiful to me and fancy having paint stains under my nails, the busyness I insert myself in has been fogging my vision. My spiritual compass has been pointing to ART-PAINT-CLAY-COLLAGE-PASTELS (just to name a few) for some time. It is now that I’m waking up — I’m now giving myself the space to notice.

During my first quarter of graduate school I was asked to create art and I couldn’t be more grateful for the challenge. For me, creating art gives me release, it gives me deep-down-to-the-core joy. One project I completed was an Inside/Outside Box. The idea behind this art therapy directive is for a client to find a vessel (it could be a box or anything else that can be closed) in which they cover the outside of the box with images that represent what is shown on their external being and/or what is important in their life that is shared with others. The inside of the box represents what is kept closed off or hidden from others. Images can depict insecurities, secrets, shame, or personal comforts, for example. Here are a few pictures of my project.DSC07325

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Bundled up on the couch on my day off from work, I am thanking my body for carrying me for so many years to so many places and with such strength. I plan to nourish my body, to care for it delicately, and to make time to listen to what it needs. Isn’t that the least I can do?

The Divine Old Dog Takes A Morning Walk

By Jon Katz

The Divine Old Dog’s Life Changes,

Day by day,

each morning,

she takes a walk along the road,

until her legs begin to drag,

and tremble,

she can no longer jump into the car,

or hop up onto the back seat,

or walk up a steep hill,

or make her way through the path

in the woods,

where she lived in the hope of a chipmunk,

to chase.

We do not tell the Divine Old Dog what she must do

for us,

any longer.

We listen to her,

and she

will tell us,

what we need to know.

Gratitude Lately

It’s hard not to find things I am thankful for in this pretty little town. My time so far in Santa Fe has been full of magical timing and many blessings. This post is tribute to some of the little things.

These days I’m grateful for…DSC07290

Archways that make me pause and wonder

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Aspen vistas that warm me up from head to toe

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Library finds that make my heart sing

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Welcoming doors into my school

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Psychedelic sunsets that drop me to my knees

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Bright colored leaves & snow-capped mountains

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Knucklehead sparrows who gorge themselves from our feeder

IMG_0758Afternoon light that beams into my cozy home

Art Therapy in a Nutshell

“Art therapy is for artists”, I once thought. “It’s about making art and analyzing it. It’s not for everyone”.

Boy, was I wrong. It’s not a black and white field like I assumed. Art Therapy is inclusive. It is widely used with individuals, groups and families of all ages, abilities, and colors of the rainbow.

Art therapy is, in a way, a paradox. It is both extremely old and very young. Humans have been creating art for healing purposes as far back as 40,000 year old cave paintings, yet the recognized profession is still a youngster in the books (about 50ish years old). While there has been increasing awareness of the healing power of art over the years, the specifics have bred confusion. What is the difference between an art therapist and someone providing non-therapeutic art activities (i.e. art teachers, artists-in-residence, and volunteers)? Do you have to be licensed to practice art therapy? Is art therapy just painting and drawing? Despite the fact that art therapy is better known today, it is poorly defined and generally misunderstood as a whole.

Through searching the web and combing text books I have found countless answers to the question, “What is art therapy?” The American Art Therapy Association suggests, “Art therapy is a mental health profession in which clients, facilitated by the art therapist, use art media, the creative process, and the resulting artwork to explore their feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, manage behavior and addictions, develop social skills, improve reality orientation, reduce anxiety, and increase self-esteem.” Other experts in the field argue that art therapy has transcended beyond the borders of a “mental health profession” to sharing space with allied health and integrative (mind-body) medicine realms. There are emerging studies about art and the brain, information that supports the application of specific art-based approaches in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and reduction in pain and fatigue perception, for example.

Fascinating to think about. Now, the question is “who can benefit from working with an art therapist?” Many people believe (including myself before ever being a client) that the therapy is only for people who have a life-changing disability, when in reality it is beneficial to everyone in their own unique way. Art therapy helps people resolve personal conflicts, reduce negative stress, as well as address many somatically-based conditions (i.e. posttraumatic stress, depression, trauma reactions). It also helps individuals achieve personal insight and improve overall quality of life through creative expression.

Art matters. For me, it’s a wellness practice, a form of self-expression often times just for me. It is how I process my emotions and connect my mind & body. Can you remember the last time you created something; that feeling of self-accomplishment, of designing something visually pleasing to your eye? People are compelled to make art because art has the potential to make life special. It can help facilitate conversation and integration into the community. In many cultures art is used during sacred rituals as a way to make meaning of life. Art (whether it’s painting, drawing, dancing, playing music, etc.) engages the senses. In many cases it can communicate more than words.

5063748740_f438dc86a6_bSo, what does it take to be an art therapist? A Master’s degree is required from an accredited higher education institution to begin entry-level work. The American Art Therapy Association lists the approved schools in the US and abroad on their website (in case you feel like taking a gander). In the US, graduates who meet the requirements set forth by the Art Therapy Credentials Board (ATCB) can apply to become an Art Therapist Registered (ATR) and Board Certified Art Therapist (ATR-BC). When I was researching graduate schools I came across a lotta lotta helpful information, most notably the suggestion to earn a dual Art Therapy/ Counseling degree to increase job prospects. There are plenty of schools out there that advertise degrees solely in Art Therapy, Expressive Arts Therapies and the like, but with a dual degree I can potentially qualify for both art therapy and/or counseling related positions. I’ll have more options.

My love of art and working with children has led me to where I am today. Although I have just begun my journey through Southwestern College’s MA in Art Therapy/ Counseling program I could not be happier with my decision. When my everyday experience at SWC consists of mindfulness practices, deep group discussions, art making activities, and consciousness awareness building it’s hard to imagine studying anywhere else. I have an idea of the population I want to work with one day, in what setting and location, and with which variety of techniques, but they are all subject to change. This year in the program is about looking inward and recognizing, accepting, and re-empowering the different parts of me before I can begin to help others. I look forward to sharing my lessons with you.

Until next time…

(A fun video I found online. Never mind the goofy lab coats)

Settling In

It’s raining today. A rhythmic splatter on cobblestone surrounds my window as the pueblo roof canales drain water from above. Ash white skies and heavy clouds in Santa Fe, you ask? A rarity in a town that hails 300 days of sunshine per year. Most afternoons require a pair of dark shades and a wide-rimmed sombrero. Looks like today is one of those outliers. Dreary & drizzly.

As a child I remember getting lost in the open blue skies and feeling revived by the rich colors of Santa Fe: sun-baked adobe, dried red chilies, and contrasting cornflower blue accents. I remember promenading through the Palace of the Governors’ Native American Market noticing not the carefully carved turquoise stones set in silver or the hand-painted ceramic bowls, but the layers of textiles, braids, wrinkles, and beads adorning the vendors’ frames. My heart felt an attraction, a spiritual pull towards the old world charm of the “holy faith” city although my visit was brief. Since then, each time I’ve viewed a Georgia O’Keeffe landscape, smelled roasting hatch chiles or seen a cactus blossom I’ve dreamt of New Mexico. Will I ever have the chance to return, to immerse myself in the flourishing art scene, the abundant sacred and creative-expressive traditions? I wondered. Will I ever get to rock a wide-brimmed black chapeau and survey the desert terrain like Georgia?

Call it a serendipitous occasion, a kismet. “The Land of Enchantment” has called me back again, this time to stay.

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Georgia O’Keeffe, Black Mesa Landscape, 1930, Oil on canvas ©Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

Here I wear my student cap. I am attending the wonderful Southwestern College, a consciousness-centered graduate school for Art Therapy & Counseling. Although it’s only been a few weeks, I can already sense an internal shift staging…a trusting of my creative process, as well as a community of students and faculty coming together to hold space for one another through experiential learning.

This blog is a landing place for me, an outlet to share lessons, readings, musings, poems, photographs and questions as I transform my own consciousness. In doing so I hope to reconnect with my physical body, explore sustainable living practices, reawaken my inner artist(child), and adventure magnificent New Mexico and beyond. Hoops & Homonyms taught me how to share. Here’s to new beginnings…

Settling In
by Jenny Factor

How I loved
each bare floor, each
naked wall, the shadows on

newly empty halls.
By day, my head humming
to itself of dreams, I cleaned and

scrubbed
to make life
new; dislodging from the corner,

the old
moths and cicadas
pinned to the screen, the carcasses

of grasshoppers
dangling from beams,
and each windowsill’s clutter of

dried beetles
and dead bees. But,
through each opening, each closing door,

the old life
returns on six legs, or
spins a musty web as it roosts over

a poison pot, or
descends from above
to drink blood in. This is how it

happens: the
settling in—the press
of wilderness returns to carved-out space, to skin.