"Experiencing the fertile void is that time when nothing appears to be happening, but the endless possibilities are dreamed into existence." 

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Fine Art of Living

An ongoing series of informational entries

Wise words of Howard Thurman

"Don't worry about what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and do that. Because what the world needs are people who have come alive."


April 1, 2017

          "Experiencing the fertile void is that time when nothing appears to be                   happening, but the endless possibilities are dreamed into existence."

Words have power. And that is a lesson to be learned at any age. I remember years ago during my first profession as a sixth-grade teacher, I became tired of hearing the word “tried” from my students. I stopped what we were doing, changed my tone and said, “listen to me carefully.” Then after a pause, I picked up an eraser and while tossing it to a boy said, “try and catch the eraser.” Of course, he caught it! And so, this exercise continued in the same way until a girl excitedly asked me to throw it to her. I smiled and tossed the eraser repeating, “try and catch the eraser.” This time the young girl let the eraser fly through the air and drop to the floor as she proudly nodded to her classmates. After some confused looks from the rest of the group, they began to get my little demonstration while listening to the proud girl’s explanation.

          There are words that diminish or empower us, propel us forward or hold us back, because when spoken, a word represents a complete, lived experience. Remember the word abracadabra when we were children? That word was magic; it held power. Abracadabra comes from the Aramaic and was originally spelled abraq ad habra, which literally means “I will create as I speak.” As a coach, I am sensitive to the words my clients use to describe themselves or their work. And part of coaching is to help change self-talk so it is effective in bringing us up, not down.


          Make a List! What words do you use to describe yourself, 

          your creative process, and your art?

          Are they generally supportive or debilitating?


            I have noticed that when we are uninspired we often use words like blocked, lost, and stuck. Were any of these on your list? These are dead end words. They do nothing to re-energize a person. Again, it is important

to remember that what we speak, we create. As we become aware of our words, we can consciously choose positive words to replace those that inhibit our creativity. Changing our words, changes our attitude.

          In Rick Benzel’s essay, “Getting Unstuck,” he writes, “Keep in mind there are times when losing your creative momentum is not because you are stuck, but rather that you are entering a valuable phase of the creative process.” This is a time of possibility, when all that has come before is deconstructing to create something new. Benzel refers to this part of the creative process as an incubation period, others call it a “pregnant pause.” I have always referred to this time as the “fertile void.” No matter what you choose to call this period, it must conjure up something that is positive, expansive, words that represents a “becoming.” As Rollo May wrote in, The Courage to Create, creativity is, “the process of bringing something new into being.”

          Unfortunately, this period is not always a comfortable time for an artist. We expect to always be creating, and creating seems to imply doing. However, just “being” in a mindset that is open and aware creates possibilities. I ask clients to rethink of this time of being no/where, as being totally now/here. 


For more on this topic:

Inspiring Creativity: An Anthology of Powerful Insights and Practical Ideas to Guide You to Successful Creating, edited by Rick Benzel.

See Chapter 3 for essays by Suzanne Roy, Rick Benzel, and Cherryl Moote


April 1, 2017

What is a Creativity Coach?

A Creativity Coach is one that helps you get past whatever is in your way. Whether you are at the threshold of your creativity or an established artist, there is always the need for a support system that can guide you in the beginning when you are feeling overwhelmed, during the creative process, and at when your work is complete and you must find the courage to share it with others.

What are some of the things one can expect from working with a Creativity Coach?

Together you:

  • conquer self-defeating behavior when you’re suffering from a lack of confidence or focus.
  • explore options that encourage productivity and lead to success.
  • discover ways to befriend your “inner critic” that is judgmental and harmful.
  • develop a plan of action and achieve long and short-term goals.
  • improve organizational and life skills that result in positive habits and outcomes.
  • learn how to navigate the “fertile void” comfortably and understand its importance.
  • reach your potential. 

Exotic Marigold India: A Journey for Women

with Charlene and Amber Chand

October 31, 2017

April 1, 2017

         Is India on your wish list? After watching the movie "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" did you wish you could have been part of their journey? Well, come join us for tea at the top of the "Exotic Marigold Hotel" and let's make a dream come true!

Listen to a special recording of a live call with us and learn more about what we are offering to a small group of women.

Yes! There is a spot waiting for your name!

Call in: 605-475-4994

Access: 318510#

Press # at prompt. 

Obscura 2017

April 1, 2017

          I keep a special kind of journal that is also an art project. The project begins by my choosing an old edition of a foreign language novel. Any language or story will do, because I only use the text as lines on the page for my writing. And each completed book is titled, Obscura, with the year of its origin. I am presently working on Obscura 2017. This journal is written in a stream of consciousness style using a scribble that cannot be read. As I rapidly form the letters I can barely recognize the inked words between the text. Page after page I surrender my emotions and thoughts to paper knowing all is without risk and safe.

          This kind of journaling is an opportunity to write without any worry of judgment from others, or yourself during a rereading. It enables you to benefit from the healing power of cathartic writing without fearing the consequences of your words. For decades, I have researched the data on the emotional, mental, and physical healing powers of writing. At first only academia was reporting their finds to professional journals, but in the past few years articles have appeared on the internet and in magazines. Introspective cathartic writing does heal.

          During the years of research, I developed workshops and specific writing techniques that enable students to see their lives from a different perspective and move towards understanding and resolution. Now, into my second year of keeping an Obscura, I can tell you I have never benefited more from writing. This technique allows me the flexibility and freedom to express all that I think and feel so that I can enjoy a more balanced, peaceful, and empowered life.

Want to give it a try? Contact me and I will get you started!

A Quiet Passion: 

A Movie about Emily Dickinson

April 1, 2017

         This week I saw, “A Quiet Passion,” the movie about the prolific poet, Emily Dickinson. This is an intimate peek into her life and process. The audience is a witness to the challenges of artistic expression and obsession to create. We learn that no matter what the art form or the talent, there is always the fear of failure or ridicule. It is important to note that Dickinson’s poetry was not recognized until after her death in 1886. In her lifetime, she struggled with rejection and feelings of being misunderstood. 

         Thus, as one sits watching in the dark as Dickinson’s story unfolds, we realize that we are not alone in feeling insecure, unworthy, and frustrated by our creative expression—whatever it is.

One aspect of her process was made clear in several scenes. At an early age, Dickinson decided she would get up in the middle of the night when the household was asleep, and write. She kept to this schedule her entire life, and thus produced a huge body of work. This kind of discipline is something all artists must learn in order to reach his or her full potential.

Pablo Picasso said, “Inspiration does exist, but it must find you working.”

We must find that time of day when we work our best, and then show up no matter what, with an idea or just a desire to produce. When do you work best? Can you commit to just a half-hour every day at that time? 

Quote: Alberto Giacometti - "For me, art is only a means of knowing how I see the outside world."

April 1, 2017

         There are many variations of this thought. When I was teaching journal writing I would point out that writing was a way to better understand what we were thinking. I recently saw a video of Pharrell Williams listening to a singer, and he began to cry. Music is an expression of emotion.

And going a bit further, singer/composer, Nandi Rose Plunkett, describes songs as "physical spaces...each one providing shelter or the opportunity to burrow deeper, into myself or my thoughts. The lyrics help delineate what kind of a room it is"


From My Bookshelf:

The Exquisite Risk by Mark Nepo

April 1, 2017

        Right now I am savoring Mark Nepo's book, The Exquisite Risk. It is a jewel that is a reflection on living an authentic life in the face of our everyday challenges and our fast-paced times. Although I have only read half of the pages, I could not wait to share it.

Nepo, the author, poet, and teacher writes, "the exquisite risk is a doorway, then, that lets us experience the extraordinary in the ordinary. It is always near." And in each short chapter he offers a fresh perspective on the fine art of living and introduces the many ways to align spiritually and emotionally with our true selves and the meaning of our lives.

An excerpt from page 56: "So often, though, we hold back: not wanting to wake, not wanting to stand, not wanting to break open the habit of our thinking in order to better know the world. Sometimes we become so attached to one form of self or shell that we live a hunched and suffocating existence, with no room to move. This involves a courage of openness to see things anew, to continually reframe our mental picture of things, keeping our worldview close to the pulse of what is authentic. One key...is relaxing the habit of our seeing. This hinges on our willingness to voice secrets and engage our questions. For it is our secrets and questions that signal to us where our thinking is hardening and becoming confining."


Islands of Peace

April 1, 2017

The summer is in full swing, and this is a particularly busy weekend with folks getting together to celebrate in backyards, parks, and beaches across our country. It was always my brother's favorite holiday, and as I miss him each year at this time, I remember how proud he was of his extravagant fire works displays for his neighborhood.

I don't know about you, but even with extended hours of daylight, I am still needing more hours to work and play. As my calendar fills up with trips, family visits, and summer activities, I try to keep it all in balance and appreciate each person and experience. For me, that means slowing down and balancing the frenzy with quiet moments. I need to have my time to gather my journal and favorite pen and head to the Tattered Cover Bookstore behind my building, sit and read in the Secret Garden at the Denver Botanical Gardens, or just walk along Cherry Creek which runs through downtown. Those moments bring everything into focus and allow me to savor what has been, and dream about what is ahead. It allows me to listen and see what is right now and right here.

One does not have to go far to slow down and experience a deep relaxation. There may be a well-loved chair by the window that takes in the morning's golden sunlight, or a corner of your garden where you can listen to the subtle music created by the tree branches and warm summer breeze. Carl Jung called these places and experiences "Islands of Peace."

So in these busy times, I wonder, where are your "Islands of Peace?"

Importance of Non-Judgement

April 1, 2017

In her book, On Becoming an Artist, psychologist Ellen Langer argues that creativity is not a rare gift bestowed onto a select artistic class, but rather an integral part of every person’s essential makeup. Each of us, she says, can express creatively with unique ability and, in the process, enrich our lives with authentic personal expression.

Unfortunately, too many of us believe we are not blessed with the creative gene and never pursue, or give up on, our creative capacity. We judge harshly with expectations that miss the intrinsic purpose of the creative process as a reward in itself.

In her thoughtful work, Langer gently guides us to our creative edge and offers studies that illustrate individualized capacities for creative expression. She then puts her theories to test by undertaking an activity totally new to her, to paint.

Throughout the book Langer talks about her creative process and shares her paintings. Of course, her works are primitive, but her process reveals the force of the “doing”, not the “product”. Yes, she knows a horse cannot straddle a fence as she painted it and (yes) that her furniture looks as though it is floating in air. But she does not care, and presents her “untaught art” as the “pursuit of creativity with attention to the process of engagement, rather than a search for the rules that define it.”

Canadian primitive artist, Maud Lewis, is a celebrated example of Langer’s “untaught art”. Working far from the glare of public rules and unaffected by a debilitating inner critic, Maude Lewis painted simply because she loved to. With no intention of “becoming an artist”, she judged her work on her own terms and produced a surprising body of folk art that stands as proof of Langer’s theories.

A new and beautifully produced independent film about Lewis’ life, entitled Maudie and starring Ethan Hawke and Sally Hawkins in the lead roles, portrays the simple world of Everett and Maude Lewis who live on a lightly traveled road along the coast of Nova Scotia. Everett’s days seem plodding as he peddles fish door-to-door, while Maude’s days are fill with a growing joy as her desire to decorate the walls of their one room home turns to a life of painting on any surface she can repurpose to a canvas. Shingles, boards, her mailbox and her windows all served Maude’s inexhaustible need to express. Then came the postcards, sold for a dime; then the small scenes on paper that sold for $5.00 to strangers who paused as they passed the Lewis’ modest, but highly decorated outpost on the edge of civilization.

This is an inspired story of a woman who suffered from juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and who, in later life, pushed through the pain in her crippled hands to hold her brushes and record her love of nature with paint. She showed no concern for perspective, and clouds could be any color that seemed right. Proportions were about her sense of design, not correct representation.

Through the years, Everett’s crude sense of the man/woman relationship falls way to his authentic love of his expressive wife who lived each aspect of her life without judgment, the central theme of this cinematic gem. The unsurprising dramatic twist is that long after Maude’s and Everett’s respective deaths, one of her works found recently in a thrift store, auctioned off in 2017 with a starting bid of $125,000.

What is the value of a life lived creatively?  

Preparing My Travel Journal for India

April 1, 2017

A journal reflects who you are and where you have been on any given day. Each entry tells the unique story of your inner journey and outer world. How you choose to tell this story is totally up to you, and you alone. There are no rules for content or style. There are as many forms of expression as there are people.

How many journals do you have that are half-empty, or half-full? How many photographs never made it to your albums? How many times have you intended to keep a travel journal, and never got started? I do not have a problem completing my journals, but I do have incomplete travel journals? Almost 10 years ago when I went to Africa, I had the best intentions and an array of inspiring art supplies, but the book remains unfinished. And I am sure that is how it will remain.

I have learned that like everything else on my “to do” list to prepare for a trip, I must include my journal. I prepare for all kinds of weather so I have the right clothes, I gather and pack all my toiletries, and I also spend time with my journal’s blank pages to have it ready for whatever inspires me during the trip.

I have developed different page themes throughout the years, and have various techniques to get color or a tint on the stark white paper. I cannot share all these ideas here, as part of the blog entry, but I can write one of the best ways to create an interesting and completed travel journal is to prepare it ahead of time.

Right now, I am preparing a blank book for my trip to India. Before I board the plane, I will have theme entries, colored or tinted pages, included informational material creatively placed throughout the book, and have certain sections designated for photos when I return home. I did this for my trip to India several years ago, and by the time I returned home my book bulged with writings and ephemera from my travels. I only needed to add some photographs.

On my last trip to India I knew I was going to be present for a teaching by the Dalai Lama at his temple. At home in preparation, I chose a favorite photo of him from the internet, and prepared pages for the event. While in the temple before and during his teaching, I opened to the pages I had ready for this day, and began writing my impressions and notes from the lecture. In the evening, as I reflected on my experience I had a colorful and thoughtful entry to help me recall the moment.

Giving the various entries some fore-thought with the preparation of the pages helps me complete a thoughtful accounting of my experiences. And using the internet to find images that I know I will see or will help illustrate my writings adds another dimension that encourages me to revisit the book throughout the years.

(Go to the bottom of the page for illustrations!)

Morning Meditation with Mooji

April 1, 2017

“Life does not make decisions.

The universe is not planning itself. It just unfolds.

Look at [a plant]. It is without concern.

It doesn’t say, ‘I think maybe in a few days

I will put a new leaf just here to my left.’

The plant is not thinking.

Its life is spontaneously unfolding.

Like this plant, our lives can unfold

In effortless grace and joy.”       Mooji

I have been living this way since the new year began. I have been watching, waiting, second-guessing, impatient, and as a result life has been more stressful than I had hoped. I have been filled with un-ease, and yes, even dis-ease. But my busy brain is not part of the unfolding of one's life. Is it?

Today, I am in Santa Fe and remembering Mooji’s words. I am allowing this time of retreat, of contemplation, to unfold. But here, and now, I am allowing myself to surrender, let go, and “simply be.”

I am allowing my days and life to “unfold in effortless grace and joy” without an agenda, expectation, or intention.

Tell the Truth

April 1, 2017

How can we be true to our souls if we aren’t honest in every situation, all the time? And how hard is that? How often do we tell an outright lie or find ourselves bending the truth to fit a situation?

Growing up, we are taught not to hurt people’s feelings. We gather at an early age that a little white lie is often more convenient than the truth. If we play a prank and admit to it we are punished, so we learn pretty fast not to fess up unless forced into a corner. We also become skilled at tossing the blame onto someone else’s shoulders.

After years of this sort of fudging, can we be relied on to avoid lying big time? How do we disentangle ourselves from the web before we commit perjury on the witness stand of Life? This is not about hurting someone else’s feelings; it has to do with establishing our inner perfection. If we don’t speak the truth, eventually we will suffer the consequences.

Telling the truth is not always easy, but when you lie to others you’re lying to yourself. Articulate what you really want, need, and believe, not what you think others want to hear. Become accountable for yourself; let your life speak. If you lie about anything, break the habit, because that’s really what it is—a habit.

But here is the bigger question--in what ways do you lie to yourself? Let’s start there.

From Inner Outings: The Diarist’s Deck and Book of Exploration. www.charlenegeiss.com

New Year

April 1, 2017

Are you making ‘new year resolutions” on this last day of 2018? We often believe the right approach is to declare what we are going to “do” or “not do” differently. But unless we change some other things like our perceptions, attitudes, or beliefs we most likely will fail. The change must come from within us to manifest change in our day-to-day lives. So, what approach should we take this year to succeed?

Let’s try something together. Instead of listing what we will or will not do this coming year, let’s think of 1-3 words we will embody that will influence our behavior and outcome. For example: my goals will require that I embody discipline and discernment. If I focus on those two qualities throughout the year, I believe all kinds of goals can be met. What do you think? What would your word(s) be?

Year of the Pig

April 1, 2017

This year Losar (the Tibetan New Year) falls on February 5th, 2019.

As we welcome in the Year of the Female Earth Pig, we can consider the qualities of this combination: earth represents stability, the source of plant life, and the basic material of this planet – the Earth.

Although pigs are considered intelligent, they are not too fussy in their lifestyle. In Chinese mythology the pig represents good fortune, wealth, and general prosperity. So we pray that this coming year will bring more stability and well-being to this suffering planet. And, like a contented pig, we can also practice open appreciation and acceptance of whatever comes to us.

May this New Year of the Earth Pig bring good health,

happiness and peace to you all.

~Jetsunma Tenzin Palmos 

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Illustrations for the Blog Entry,

Preparing My Travel Journal for India

Some photographs that illustrate my blog entry, Preparing My Travel Journal for India. (1) A theme page, Maps and Footsteps. (2)A page that is beautiful just as it is while it awaits photographs upon my return home. (3) A page for any thoughts, ephemera, or descriptions while I am in Udaipur.

The fourth photograph is the entry I did in the presence of the Dalai Lama and his devotees. Having the page prepared in advance enriched the experience because of its welcoming and inspirational appearance.