Standing on Solid Ground

On Solid Ground by Susan Korsnick

On Solid Ground. Mixed media piece by Susan Korsnick

Standing on Solid Ground in Shaky Times

This past week, I realized that many of the women I came in contact with were voicing the same concerns that I was voicing to myself.  “How do I keep getting up in the morning when all I hear is news about hatred, greed, ignorance, deception, and abuse of power?”  “How do I keep vigilant and actively involved when I’m so exhausted?”  “I’m only one person.  How can I possibly do this?”

One of the most important things I can do is continually remind myself that there are millions of people around the world doing great things– speaking out in support of diversity, doing what they can to safeguard immigrants, actively engaging in ways to help Mother Earth and protect all beings, defending women’s rights to have autonomy over our own bodies, voting, marching, RESISTING.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness;

only light can do that.

Hate cannot drive out hate;

only love can do that.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Our current “situation” is calling us to take a stand like most of us have never had to do before.  I’m a baby boomer, born in the 1960s.  I was still crawling when Civil Rights supporters were marching.  I was wearing rompers when women were burning their bras.  For most of my life, I took for granted that someone else had done my fighting for me and the fight was over.  But now, we are all being called to resist darkness in all it’s forms and the emotions that often accompany challenging times- fear, despair, anxiety, and depression.  At times, I want to say “I don’t have it in me to fight.”  But I do.  I know I do.  We all do if we do it together and maintain our footing on solid ground.  Stay grounded in what matters most.

What does LifeBook have to do with it?

I’m quite an admirer of Tamara LaPorte’s LifeBook online art class.  The yearlong online art class approaches art as a pathway to self-awareness, healing, and creative expression.  Each week, Tam or one of her many guest instructors share a lesson that participants can follow closely or use as inspiration for whatever their intuitive knowing calls them to create.  There is a Facebook group where we can share our art and personal journey with others.  Having a support system is vital to creative expression and resiliency in difficult times.

Lindsay Weirich recently offered a lesson called Solid Ground, which profoundly moved and inspired me to create the piece you see above.  There is deep shadow and contrasting light on the woman and subtle hearts around her.  She is me.  She might be you.  The words say “Self Love is not self indulgence.  Self Love is self preservation.”  It is my reminder to stay grounded in love.

Self Love is a Key to Wellness

Staying grounded, for me, is a multi-faceted approach to wellness and at the core is Self Love.  We have to take care of ourselves in every way.  Physically, we need to stay rooted in the present moment.  This keeps fear of the future and imaginary “what-ifs” at bay.  Mentally, stay focused on what we can do and how we can do it.  Then, recognize when it is time to stop and honor our need for rest.  Emotionally, stay heart-centered and express gratitude for all that is good in life.  Spiritually, stay grounding in what we believe and our connection to Source, Universal Love, Spirit, God, or Goddess (however you identify the divine).

A few years ago I hosted a Red Tent Event where self-love was our focus.  I reflected on this in my blog post Refilling the Well.   When we are under stress or fearful, we forget that we have the answers available to us if we listen to our inner wisdom, to our higher selves.  The Red Tent participants explored ways to ground themselves and shared their experiences in a sacred Wisdom Circle.  Each woman had unique ways that nourish her.  I can’t remember what I shared that day but I can share what keeps me on solid ground today.

Ways I Stay on Solid Ground

  1. ART–  Creative expression is a powerful outlet for feelings and a way to nourish myself at the same time.  When I play music (current favorites are Shamanic drumming, Reiki CDs, healing mantras, and songs of divine feminine beings like Kuan Yin and Tara) while I create, the very act of creation becomes a contemplative practice.  My art is sacred.  This holy act of creation connects me to the Divine and my highest self.
  2. NATURE– From my earliest walks in the woods of central Pennsylvania with my beloved grandfather to a vision quest in the mountains of Vermont, I have always felt a deep connection to Mother Earth and all beings.  I feel at one with the wildlife, every winged, four-legged, slithering, swimming, being in all of creation.  I feel a kinship with the rocks, trees, sky, earth, and water.  All is one.  Mother Earth is what I value above all else for I know that without Her, there is nothing else.  This is what nourishes me and what I am fighting for.  I live my life to protect and honor nature as best I can.
  3. BODY WORK– Massages and related services keep me grounded in my body and relax me so I can maintain my energy level and health.
  4. GRATITUDE– I balance the messages in the media with a daily gratitude practice.  I give thanks for all that I appreciate having in my life.  Focusing on the positives provides the balance I need.  I often call these gratitudes my “Little Joys”.
  5. RELATIONSHIPS– Here, I’m talking about all of my relationships- family, friends, colleagues, as well as other like-minded people who value what I do and stand up for their beliefs.  Being in community with like-minded individuals dispels the illusion that we are alone in this.  We are not!  There are grassroots groups in just about every town and city in this country.  There are online groups as well.  Find your tribe.
  6. SLEEP– I am getting better at listening to my body and honoring my need for rest.
  7. EAT WELL-  As much as possible, I eat a rainbow.  That is a wonderful visual for reminding me to eat fruits and vegetables that are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet.  I don’t want to leave out brown so I eat plenty of chocolate and drink good coffee, too!  (These are little luxuries that make life worth living.)
  8. ENERGY WORK– Reiki sessions align my chakras, keep the universal life-force energy flowing, and allow me to relax.
  9. INSPIRING PEOPLE– Focus on the inspirational people, past and present, who are way-showers for me.  I particularly find comfort and inspiration in the stories of everyday men and women who stood up for what they believed in despite their fear or anxiety.  What can one person do?  One person can change the world!  There has only been one Mother Teresa, one Gandhi, one Rosa Parks,… just one of each.  There is only one you and only one me.  We matter.
  10. HAVE FUN–  I can walk the dogs, watch Grace and Frankie, go out with friends, or just play with my art supplies enjoying the process with no thought of product.

May you identify what keeps you on solid ground.

May you find peace and balance.

May you find your tribe and your strength.

May you always know that you matter.

Namaste

 

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Spiral Mandala

Spiral Mandala

Spiral Mandala- watercolor and graphite on paper by Susan Korsnick 2017

SPIRAL MANDALA

Cosmic Creative Force

Co-creator of Life

Empowered by Love–

Empowered by Light–

Empowered by the Connection

to all that is.

Spiral Mandala Closeup

detail of Spiral Mandala by Susan Korsnick

“What Did You Fall In Love With?”

Every once in a while, I nourish my Self by taking what  Julia Cameron calls “Art Dates” in her book, The Artist’s Way.  Typically, these are special dates with one’s self to seek inspiration and nurture the artist within.

I explored this in my post Art Date with Myself.  Funny, I broke the rules in that post, too!

I take plenty of Art Dates by myself but this time, I chose to spend it with my boyfriend.  It was a lovely February day so we decided to explore the newly renovated National Gallery of Art East Wing  in Washington DC.

At the end of our artsy adventure, he asks me a provocative question that I love for its directness and the ease with which I can answer it.  “What did you fall in love with today?”  While I deeply adore viewing all of the pieces in general, there are three works that I am, indeed, in love with.

Henri Matisse – Decorative Composition with Masks (1953)

Large Decorative Cutout with Masks

Henri Matisse, Large Composition with Masks (1953)

I’ve been in love with this piece for decades and every time I see it, these feelings grow stronger.  Every single time without exception, my heart swells and tears fill my eyes the moment I come around the corner and view this enormous cutout in all its colorful, simplistic glory.  It is, by far, my favorite work of all time.  Those of you who have fallen in love with art know what I mean and how impossible it is to explain why a piece captures your heart, soul, and imagination.

Pierre Bonnard – Nude in an Interior (1935)

pierrebonnardnudeinaninterior

I’m also in love with Pierre Bonnard’s Nude in an Interior (1935).  His use of bold blocks of color and pattern, patches of sunlight, his color palette, and contrast of the straight lines of the interior against the feminine curves of the nude captivate me.

Lately, my color palette has been rather dark and often subdued.  The joyful, sunny colors of this painting inspire me to play with similar colors.

Francesca Woodman – Caryatid, New York (1980)

francescawoodman-caryatid-new-york

Francesca Woodman – Caryatid, New York (1980)

This mysterious, otherworldly image by Francesca Woodman captivates me and leaves me with many unanswered questions.  Who is this?  Where is she?  What is she thinking?  The tragic and divinely talented Woodhouse died at age 22, leaving behind a great many self-portraits and other beautiful and unsettling images.  I love how this piques my curiousity.  I want to know more about her art and the creative yet tortured woman who created it.

What art are you in love with?

Please share.

The Web of Life

“Humankind has not woven the web of life.  We are but one thread within it.  Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.  All things are bound together.  All things connect.”  

Chief Seattle (1780-1866)

Treasure in the Gulf

Treasure in the Gulf:  My homage to the lives lost to the horrific BP Oil Disaster of 2010.

With all of the darkness right now from the embarrassing US presidential scene to Orlando shootings, I am choosing to stand on the side of love and light.  I will do what I can from a place of joy, love, honor, and respect.  For me, that is creating art that lifts up what I value most — nature, the Divine in everything, and the beauty in the everyday.

On April 20, 2010, the horrific BP oil disaster killed and injured countless animals and damaged miles of sea and land.  My empathetic nature brought me to a place of being nearly overwhelmed by the magnitude of what humans have done and continue to do to the earth and sentient beings.  Thankfully, I was inspired to use my art as my voice.  I created a mixed media piece called Treasure In the Gulf to honor the lives of those that suffered and died, specifically the sea turtles.  Art matters.  The Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island, Georgia, got wind of this piece and asked to sell prints.  I agreed, donating a portion of the proceeds to the center for the rescue and rehabilitation of sea turtles victimized by the tragedy.  In some small way, my art made a difference.  We each have to do what we can when faced with darkness in all its forms.  Sometimes, we cannot fathom how our actions will impact others.  It’s just important to act from the heart.

I’m feeling called again.  We (and this is the universal “we” of the larger culture) invade their (the animals who were here long before us) territory to build homes and businesses then wonder why they are encroaching on “our” space.  We destroy their habitats and put those that remain into captivity then wonder why they act the way they act.  We call ourselves thrill-seekers, putting our lives in harm’s way for the rush we get for being in danger, then wonder why we are attacked.  We wonder why there aren’t as many of a species (or why they vanished) when we hunt them for “sport” and pose for “cutsey” pictures of ourselves with rifles and a beautiful dead beast lying in a pool of its own blood on the ground in front of us.

Look at us.  There are some who have taken the position that we are here to hold dominion over the earth and its other inhabitants (the animals, the trees, the ocean, and all others).  Dominion… domination.  Look where that has gotten us.

My belief holds that we are stewards of the land and that we are here only for a little while to take care of, honor, protect, and love.  Yes, we need places to live and yes, we need food.  We can have those things and be stewards of the earth at the same time.   “In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.”  Iroquios saying circa 1700-1800.

It is a tragedy when an animal does something that harms or kills a human being.  I do not diminish that with this blog post by any means.  I want to broaden our perspective and take compassion on all the beings involved in these stories.  It is also a tragedy that the animals are blamed and killed when their action is a direct result of our own actions.  They are acting out of their own nature.  It is how they are and how they have lived for thousands of years before we came along and put them in these unnatural positions.

I’m going to let my art speak for my pained heart.  I am only one person but I’m not helpless.  The best emerges when we each stand and do what we can.  For starters, I am inspired to create art that honors Alligator, Silverback Gorilla, Lion, and Shark.  I am sad for people who have suffered or died and I am equally sad for the other victims in these situations– the animals.

“When all the trees have been cut down, when all the animals have been hunted, when all the waters are polluted, when all the air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money.”  (Cree saying)

 

 

Do It Anyway

Here’s my little secret for conquering the Inner Critic… Do It Anyway!

When fear threatens to stop you in your tracks, DO IT ANYWAY.

When fear threatens to stop you in your tracks, DO IT ANYWAY.

Each of us contains two small voices– the loud panicky Inner Critic who feeds our fears and insecurities through negative self talk as well as a much quieter, gentler, loving Intuitive voice who is our muse, our biggest supporter, our source of creativity who only speaks through positive self talk.  The Inner Critic is the critical father who never encouraged you, the dismissive teacher who didn’t nurture your talent, the coach who said you couldn’t play sports, and the significant other whose negativity proved he/she wasn’t that significant after all.  The Intuitive voice is your authentic self, your true nature revealed when you pull the debris of the past off of you and let your inner light shine.  Your Intuition is you.

I know this.  I’ve known this for many years as you probably do, too.  Yet, occasionally, that Inner Critic speaks up at times that surprise me.

A little while ago, I ordered a roll of Strathmore Mixed Media paper… 8 yards of it!  It’s beautiful… durable, pure white, and full of possibilities.  I couldn’t wait to unroll it across a long table and play with my watercolors.  What happened next came out of nowhere.  I heard the Inner Critic say, “Are you crazy?  You better not use this paper; it was expensive and you’ll only mess it up.”

Are you kidding me?!  I’ve been an artist my whole life and had a very successful solo exhibit last summer, thank you very much.  Where’s this coming from?  In the past, that negativity might have stifled my creativity.  I might have rolled up that lovely paper and pulled out a sketchpad, working on a smaller space and coming from a smaller place within myself.

I didn’t do that.  I chose to say, “Enough!”  I have jumped out of a plane at over 10,000 feet.  I have moved to an unfamiliar place full of strangers.  I have had the guts to walk away from relationships and jobs that do not support my highest self.  I’m going to let negativity stop me from playing with art supplies?! I don’t think so!

Clarissa Pinkola Estes, in her ground-breaking book Women Who Run with the Wolves, states, ” Negative complexes that arise along the way are banished or transformed- your dreams will guide you the last part of the way- by putting your foot down, once and for all, and by saying, ‘I love my creative life more than I love cooperating with my own oppression.'”

So when fear, doubt, and anxiety try to talk you out of being your adventurous, wild, creative, loving, lovable self, take a deep breath and go from being a Survivor to a Thriver by “Doing It Anyway.”

Human “Being” not Human “Doing”

Dear Self,

Just a friendly reminder… you don’t have to do it all.  Yes, I know it’s the holidays and the possibilities to “do” are endless.  You can make homemade gifts, homemade cards, and dozens of homemade cookies.  You can decorate your house inside and out.  You can say “Yes” to every invitation, even two or three in a single evening!  You can continue to go to work, run errands, do chores, spend time with loved ones, and add all the holiday expectations on top of that while continuing to have the same 24 hours in a day that you had before the holidays came along.  Yes, Dear Susan, you can hustle and bustle the holiday season away… or you can be gentle with yourself and let go.  BE.

 

You imposed the high expectations on yourself and you are the only one who can give permission to lower them.  Be realistic, be present in the moment with loved ones, and most importantly, BE.

 

As Lyn Cox reminded me today, we are human BEINGS not human “doings”.   Allow the stillness and tranquility of winter to permeate you.  Rest, relax, and rejuvenate for while the daylight is returning, this is the time to go within.  Trees lose their leaves and the sap slows.  Animals tuck in for long winter naps.  You need that, too.  BE.

With all my love,

Susan

What’s Your Tipping Point?

“What is your tipping point?”

Years ago, a friend posed this question to me when I was going through a particularly challenging time.  In other words, he was asking me, “How much are you willing to put up with before you make a change?

I’ve always seen life as a hero’s journey, an adventure filled with great challenges and great joys.  It’s not the challenges that defines us, but how we act when facing them.  Do we run?  Tackle them head on?  Or wait to be rescued?  In the end, we all want to live happily ever after, with meaning, joy, health, and security.  Right?  I know I do!

When the negative outweighs the positive in our relationships, careers, or other aspects of life, it’s time to ask “What is my tipping point?  How much will I tolerate before I say ‘enough’?”

The particularly challenging time I faced all those years ago was an unhealthy relationship.  I had spent months trying to “fix it” alone.  He wasn’t going to be what I needed and I couldn’t make him.  The tipping point was the realization that the only thing I could change was me.  Was I willing to put up with his behavior or was I going to walk?  With clarity I saw that failure wasn’t in leaving the bad relationship; failure would be staying where I was crying more than I was smiling.   Ending it took immense courage and strength but proved I loved myself enough to rescue my Self, be the heroine in my own story.

Fast forward several years and the next big obstacle on my life’s journey was a career that was in conflict with everything I value and hold sacred.  It started out small, as many problems do, easy to dismiss as just a bad day or an isolated incident.  Then, the problem grew.  It was harder to ignore but the positive still outweighed the negative so I stayed.  It started to impact my life mentally and emotionally through worry, stress, and dread.  It affected me spiritually, compromising my principals and integrity but still I held on, thinking “It could be worse.”  And finally, because I ignored all of the warning signs, the Universe said, “Ok, Susan, I’ll get your attention with this!!” and I suffered physically- chest pains, insomnia, nausea, lowered immune system…  That was my tipping point.  I felt something powerful awaken in my Soul and I knew I had enough.  My health and well-being had to be the priority.

I resigned from public education in June of this year for reasons that could fill a book, not a blog post.  Suffice it to say that it took everything I have inside of me to make this leap of faith.  I was terrified to leave but more terrified of what would happen if I stayed.   Every aspect of my life has improved since making this decision- physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.

Calling it a “leap of faith” is an oversimplification.  It was a leap of faith based on intuition, intellect, and imagination.  And if I can do it, you can, too!!

So why am I sharing something so deeply personal on such a public platform?

For years, I’ve been leading women’s spirit circles, workshops, and Red Tents with the intention to celebrate, honor, empower, support, and awaken the authentic Self in each woman and girl who attends my events.  How can I continue this purposeful work if I’m not willing to celebrate, honor, empower, support, and awaken my own authentic Self?  In other words, I need to walk my talk and come from a place of knowing.  Otherwise, I’m a fraud and a hypocrite, and that’s not an option for me.

Reaching the tipping point and choosing to change is empowering and scary at the same time.  I know.  But I also know this… people don’t regret leaving bad situations.  They regret staying.  So when intuition says “You’ve reached your tipping point”, honor that still, small voice inside and take the leap of faith… faith in your Self.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s It Like in the Red Tent?

I found last Saturday’s Red Tent event rich in conversation & deeply moving.  I chose the topic “Mothering and Being Mothered” for Mother’s Day weekend… it seemed appropriate.  I’ll never divulge the details for “what happens in the Tent stays in the Tent” but consider how you’d answer these three questions and imagine what the conversation was like among women ranging in age from their 20s to their 70s.

1)  How does your relationship with your mother impact your ability to mother others?

2)  Who (what) do you mother and what forms does your mothering take?

3)  As you give generously in so many ways, how do you nurture your Self?

These amazing women brought their authentic selves to the tent, speaking their truth courageously because somehow each sensed that the tent is a safe, sacred, private place where women can speak without judgement, shame, criticism, or guilt.

For this Red Tent event, I established an altar in the center of the carpet to honor “mother” images from various religious traditions, our own mothers & grandmothers, as well as the ways we mother in our own unique ways.  Each woman brought an object or photo that symbolized motherhood for her and we shared their importance.  This initial introduction of ourselves- women who gave birth, adopted, chose not to have children, & were contemplating having a child for the first time- cast a magical circle of protection around us in some ways, allowing each of us to share deeply and honestly.  I call this circle the Sacred Wisdom Circle because each & every one of us brought the wisdom of our experience to the group for all to possibly learn from.  Each of us was student & teacher in turn.

When I create a Red Tent event, it’s not merely a “gimmick” to create a space that resembles a Middle Eastern tent with red curtains, rugs, and exotic accessories.  I deliberately design it with the intention that I’m creating a space set apart from our everyday concerns so women can rest, rejuvenate, connect with other women, and reconnect with their highest selves.  I want it to look different, feel different, and be different.  I want the women to feel different and be different from how they feel they have to be for husbands, parents, employers, and children.

The Red Tent is a womb– a protective place that nurtures and nourishes.  All who identify themselves as women are welcome here regardless of age, race, or spiritual beliefs.  Every tent is charged with the energy of the participants, be they contemplative, humorous, emotional, lively, or a blend of one or more of these qualities.

Our time together ended far too soon, after meaningful discussion and a reflective labyrinth walk nestled between the memorial wall and the majestic weeping beech at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of York’s campus.  I trust all the women felt refreshed in some way be it physically, spiritually, mentally, or emotionally.  I know I did.

So what’s next?  My next Red Tent event will be an all-day retreat that focuses on Beauty- Inside and Out.  And this time, it will be open to women AND GIRLS ages 8 and up.  Mothers can share this experience with their daughters or come alone for the topic is relevant to all of us.  We’ll explore what it means to grow up in a society that still places too much emphasis on being skinny & young.  Most importantly, we’ll explore ways to be strong, empowered, & full of the knowledge that we are each beautiful in our own way.  It’s time to tell our girls that they are valued just the way they are.

Stay tuned….

 

Does the dream align with joy & meaning?

I’ve been intrigued by what I’m reading in Brene Brown’s book The Gift of Imperfection:  Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed To Be and Embrace Who You Are.  “Gosh Susan, why are you reading that?”  Because I’m a recovering Type A, overachieving, perfectionistic, list-maker… emphasis on the word “RECOVERING”.  Years ago, when I was first told that I had type B negative blood, I seriously thought, “Why couldn’t it be an A?”  I’m not joking.  That was honestly my initial thought!

That’s how much my perfectionist tendencies were ingrained in me.  I can laugh at that now but it’s taken a while to see that this perfectionism, while it helped me get where I am today, didn’t just prevent me from enjoying success.  It kept me from enjoying the present.

So I’ve chosen a path of greater self-acceptance & gentleness.  I’m by no stretch of the imagination a “reformed perfectionist” but I’m well on the road to recovery.

If there was a 12-step program for overachievers, it would include:  

1.  Gentleness

2.  Patience

3.  Gratitude

4.  Love

5.  Acceptance

6.  Trust

7.  Surrender

8.  Bravery

9.  Joy

10.  Openness

11.  Passion

12.  Nurturing

Brene Brown asks us to consider whether or not the dream we have for our future aligns with what brings joy and meaning to our lives.  Or, is the dream list merely a list of accomplishments and acquisitions, such as “get a promotion”. “add a new addition to the house”, or “buy a boat”.  Am I driven to follow a path of joy & meaning or is the perfectionism driving me to pursue things that keep me chained to a life of constant reaching, striving, gaining, & reaching for more?  Am I trying to please myself or impress someone else?

Intriguing… and an opportunity for me to make TWO lists!  (I said I was recovering.)  I eagerly grabbed a sheet of loose-leaf paper (the best for list-making) & divided the page into two columns.  The left side was “Joy & Meaning” and the right side was “My Dream for My Future”.

Let’s see how well these two align…  Under Joy & Meaning, the list included my boyfriend, dogs, creative expression, nature, good food, friends, serenity, and my spirituality.  Easy.  Let’s see what’s under the dream category…. more time with Jim, dogs, my art, nature, friends, and spiritual exploration.  (Quite a few that relate to my professional life but I’ll keep those to myself.)  There were no material possessions on that list and no accomplishments outside of the burning desire (need) to have a more meaningful, joyful professional life.  For me, what I dream of having in greater quantities are those things that already bring joy and meaning to my life.  (And having the wisdom, courage, & support to shed what doesn’t.)

“Is the dream you are pursuing aligned with what brings the most joy and meaning to your life?”