Saturday, March 19, 2016

Holistic Health: Massage Therapy

A beautiful Louisiana sunset
I went to massage school at Health Choices Holistic Healing School in Hillsboro, NJ from 2002-2003.  It was a precious gem of a school which taught an integrated massage style focused on learning how to blend a variety of techniques into an elegant session tailored to each client.  At the time when I started I was in the end of my last semester of my undergraduate college, Rutgers University, where I was about to graduate with a BA in Art History with a minor in American Studies.  Learning about the history of humanity through its symbolic expressions was deeply enlightening to the budding artist within me.

But a love of looking at and contemplating art did not translate into a desire to work in the art world.  As graduation loomed large before me as I was beginning my senior year I decided to invest in some practical training and enrolled in massage school during my last semester.

Cat massage (photo from twitter: @lifeonearth)
Bodywork was work I loved to do.  I had spent the previous year working in a Fend Shui store as an assistant for a woman who became my first spiritual teacher, SuZen RavenHeart.  Trained as a social worker and interior designer she had also become a shamanic teacher and energy healer who did Feng Shui consultations and organized psychic fairs.  She trained me as a Reiki master-teacher and took me to countless ceremonies and healing circles throughout New Jersey.  I learned to think about having an energetic and holistic view of health, healing and living in the world.  Suzen was the one who pointed me towards massage school when I was looking for a way to bring my passion for healing and creativity into the world.

A journey grows

Massage school was so fun.  We sat in circles on the ground, learned through touch and sharing our experiences and the ways we process the world.  It was so refreshing to have this immersion into holistic perspective after years of living through the linear methodology of the academic system.  We studied a variety of massage styles always with a focus on learning to blend them into our own massage dance.  The main modalities were Swedish, Neuromuscular, Shiatsu and Polarity therapy and we also got doses of reflexology, sports massage, trager and more.  I learned how to create a healing space and navigate interactions with clients, start a business and manage my income.

Most of all I learned so much about how my body works and learned to really listen and experience who she is.  Our bodies are brilliant things built to be in blissful relationship with the natural world.

Lotus Love

I love being in that luscious healing energy which emanates from bodywork.  Learning to develop my own healing practice has been an invaluable tool for maintaining my own health and sanity and I'm grateful to be able to share in that journey the people who have been my massage clients.  Every session is different and I'm always learning new layers of depth in my healing practice.

My professional bodywork practice has waxed and wained over time.  Sometimes it's my full time work, other times it's more of a hobby.   At the moment I have a part time position working for a company which staffs the chair massage station at the Whole Foods in the New Orleans area.

See with your heart (on the road)

I didn't think I would like chair massage as much as I do.  It's a nice compliment to my art business as this situation does not require any more preparation than showing up and being ready to work.  People bring some real healing needs to my chair either for restoration, maintenance or recovery work.  Unlike making art, which has a long span of time between my actual art making and any pay off of attention or money, massage give me a quick feeling of accomplishment and service.

My bodywork training has deeply influenced my art making practices.  I make my color choices in my painting with half an mind on its aesthetic quality and the other half on how it may influence the quality of my bodies energy system.  Im drawn to make work that inspires and supports people in their personal healing practices.  My voice as an artist is constantly working to articulate the wisdom I have gained from my holistic health teachers.

A doorway to fairy magic

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Art Inspiration: Changes in my process

I'm making some changes in my arts practice.  I've decided to put down my acrylic paint and singular devotion to sacred bones with sweet hearts and see what else needs to flow through my paint brush.

This January I made a series of mind maps as part of my morning routine.  I would get up, chant, meditate, write and then make what I call a mind map of whatever notions were still floating around and then share it on social media.  It's a great practice to check in on what themes and desires are currently bubbling up for me.  I found myself drawing meditations on prayerfulness, loving and celebrating life.

mmmmm....homemade king cake
We danced into carnival season fast and fierce this year as Mardi Gras arrived early on February 9th in 2016.  Some years I feel like hiding away from the din until the big day itself but this year I was ready to spin, spiral and sparkle in the streets.

This is my 9th year of the New Orleans Mardi Gras and this was my first time making it to the Joan of Arc parade.  This parade happens on Midsummer Eve which is the official start of the carnival season and celebrates the life, trials and sainthood of Joan of Arc and a few other medieval women saints.  It was like a marching Renaissance faire and was so charming.  It totally got all my parade gears turned on.

At the Joan of Arc parade

Then David Bowie died.  Amidst the collective sadness the Preservation Hall Band and Arcade Fire teamed up to lead a second line through the French Quarter to dance his spirit off.  I totally needed that moment of release, communion and celebration of the beauty of manifesting the creative spirit in life.  It doubled my readiness to play and prance with a willing crowd.

The beginning of the David Bowie second line
And I did.  I had a lot of fun this Mardi Gras :-) It is a great time for contemplating change.   The festival season pulls me out of my routines and fills me with so much revelry that it challenges me to realize where that celebratory energy is lacking in my mundane life.

I hit a point at the end of January where I realized I needed a break from the Internet and I decided to stop posting for the month of February.

At the Krewe de Vieux parade

It was a blessing.  Since I started working as a street painter I've posted everything I've finished right to the Internet (when I remembered).  I took those few weeks of Internet silence to check in with my practice and I realized I was yearning for a change.

The Sunday before Mardi Gras I attended a parade that met at the Mississippi River at dawn.  We began the day with music and prayer to the spirit of the river which led into a sunrise march across town.

The Eris Witches parading at dawn

We walked all the way to the end of the world
What crystallized for me at that prayerful parade was a decision to renew my Portraits of Rivers series and begin by painting some small portraits of the Nola bend of the river.

I also accepted that I didn't want to work in acrylics as much and am moving over to gouache paints. It's kinda like an opaque watercolor paint that allows for layers of colors.  It's fun and bright and let's me work a lot faster and more freely than I could with acrylics.

Don't Beautiful Bodies aren't going away forever...already I can see then dancing over dreamy gouache painted backgrounds...but they won't be as central to my work flow as they have been this far.

And that's where I'm at.

My Mardi Gras day Oracle costume

I'm still working on my Goddesses.  I'm gonna finish up the acrylic ones I have going and then also switch this project to gouache.

And I'll see where I end up after a few months of rivers, goddesses and the occasional dancing skeleton.

I've also made changes in the way I use the Internet.

Along with my written content I'm going to start posting my finished art to my blog instead of directly to social media.  I feel like I have more control over my content and this frees me up to actually enjoy being on social media and sharing more about my work/life process (along with links to those blog posts).

Finally, I'm committed to maintaining a monthly newsletter.  I like offering a centralized spot to share my love of making and sharing the work I do.

So please, join my mailing list.  If you have read this far I know you will enjoy it.