The Walkabout Letters – Sarah’s Letter To Steph

One of the unique aspects of our online program, The Walkabout, is the ongoing correspondence Sarah Oblinger and Stephanie Gray have with one other as they commit to being real, vulnerable and open using art, movement and words to meet their daily lives as they naturally unfold.  Until now, this has been exclusively for Walkabout participants. However, because of the profound shifts they have felt in their own lives while working this program, they’ve decided to publicly share their correspondence here monthly. These letters are for any of you on your own self discovery journey. We hope you will follow along – with a knowing, that you are not alone. It’s time to get REAL.

Oh, Steph!

Your email moved me. Deeply. I’m feeling so grateful for your friendship and your willingness to be real. I’m also feeling grateful for the work I’ve done with Denise and her help with debunking and reframing my own old whale of a tale.

I believe all of us have a particular old story about ourselves we tell ourselves. Repeatedly. I know I do. And, although it is “invisible” to us, it has a hold on us. It’s often a shameful and hard story. It never ends well and we are never the hero. A story we don’t share with the world.

For years I’ve had a place I go when my old story arrives. I call it Sarah’s Swamplandia. It’s a familiar place. Where I don’t give myself time to drop under the story. To feel and sense into what I’m feeling in my body. Instead I nurse the pain and woundedness I’m feeling with the old story.

Working with Denise has taught me the more willing I am to sit with the strong feelings, the feelings my old story masks, the more I can shine light on the cyclic ups and downs I’ve ridden for a long time. I can see how the old story takes me right down into swamp when I feel sucker punched by life. Where I can swamp wallow for days.

My woundedness is an existence wound. A very early core wound. I understand my old story, about how I don’t exist, was cultivated in the fertile ground of the core wounding. I understand why this old story has been largely invisible to me because our old stories are deeply embedded in us. In our nature. In our cells.

These invisible stories hook us quickly. Often without time to ask if it is true. Because our whole beingness leans towards the familiarity of the old story. And how it has profoundly informed our lives. Everyday. In every relationship. With ourselves and with others.

Recently I read something that makes sense to me. That the seeds of our old stories are planted when we first experience being separate in the world. Separate from the tenderness and comfort of the unconditional love we are experiencing. When this separation from unconditional love happens, it is called core wounding.

It is a shock to our nervous system. It happens to all of us. At some point in our lives. In utero. As a baby. Or a toddler. Maybe older when we go to school. The old stories, that flourish in the wounding, protect us from feeling the shock and trauma of the core wounding.

I understand now, that at the beginning of my being here, my wires got crossed. That this wire crossing caused me to be more afraid of being loved than of being invisible and not existing. So I ghosted myself from myself. I turned away from engaging with life so I could feel safe.

More and more I’m finding, like you did, that when I can go underneath the story and feel what I’m feeling, I can track my way back to myself and just feel how the old story holds me tight and closed down my world. This was my response to feeling separate and unsafe very early in my life.

However, being love and being loved surrounds me. Right now. All the time. In each moment of each day. Inviting this love into my life means giving myself a moment to not be seduced by my story. A moment lets me dive down underneath my story and just feel what I’m feeling. Like you did after reading about your adoption, while sitting at your dining room table.

Can I allow myself to sense into and feel what I’m feeling underneath the story? Can I give myself the time to feel what I’m feeling without telling my old story?

Each time I’m able to stop and drop down under the old story a bit more of it dies. Leaving more room for me. Where I find more light. More air. More being here. Just as I am.

Here’s a poem for you. It arrived in my inbox right after your email arrived. I’m sending it to you “because of the work we do.” It’s not always easy. Often uncomfortable. Sometimes deeply hilarious. And always so worth it.

I lived on the shady side of the road and watched my neighbours’ gardens across the way reveling in the sunshine. I felt I was poor, and from door to door went with my hunger.
The more they gave me from their careless abundance, the more I became aware of my beggar’s bowl.
Till one morning I awoke from my sleep at the sudden opening of my door, and you came in and asked for alms.
In despair I broke the lid of my chest open and was startled into finding my own wealth.
– Rabindranath Tagore

Big being love and being loved to you, Steph!


An image from my altered book.


The Walkabout Letters – Steph’s Letter To Sarah

One of the unique aspects of our online program, The Walkabout, is the ongoing correspondence Sarah Oblinger and Stephanie Gray have with one other as they commit to being real, vulnerable and open using art, movement and words to meet their daily lives as they naturally unfold.  Until now, this has been exclusively for Walkabout participants. However, because of the profound shifts they have felt in their own lives while working this program, they’ve decided to publicly share their correspondence here monthly. These letters are for any of you on your own self discovery journey. We hope you will follow along – with a knowing, that you are not alone. It’s time to get REAL.


Dear Sarah,

It’s been an interesting couple of days. This year will be the year I find out about my biological mom and among other things, finally obtain my original birth certificate.

A couple of days ago I received some non-identifying information about my birth mom as well as a bit about her family and my bio dad. It was a fascinating read and I was excited to have it. Many gaps were filled in – it was 8 pages long!

After I read it, I began to feel sad (like crawl into bed and return to the fetal position sad). I was NOT expecting this and felt ambushed by my emotions.

Because we do what we do, I sat at my dining room table and just felt what I was feeling. And it was extremely familiar and achingly painful. I realized ALL of the losses in my life (big and small) have been infused with this same feeling – abandonment. And that the Grandmother of all stories I tell myself may very well have originated from this one life defining moment.The epic story I have carried around with me for almost 50 years is entitled, “Everyone Who Loves Me Leaves”. Holy shit! Uncovering this whale of a tale is a big deal.

And, because we do what we do, I realized I didn’t have to continue to re-read the sad story. I could finally recognize my adoption story as it had been told to me from the beginning – my life is a beautiful gift. My biological mother gave me away because she wanted a better life for me. My adoptive parents wanted me so badly they did everything in their power to make sure I became part of their family.

AND because I identified the feeling behind the story, I now know when it returns – and it will – I can soothe my little girl inside with this new tale of love and assure her that I am going nowhere.

This work is amazing Sarah. It’s not always easy or comfortable, but it’s sooo worth it. I am changing. Thank you for doing this work with me.


P.S. – I’ve included an image of some art I did about my adoption story.


First Anniversary Reflection – Balance as a Dance

Please welcome Michelle Bunch, a process art maker from our Friday morning HeART Journaling Class . Michelle will be writing for us each month, sharing a bit of her own experience of how process art works in her, both inside and outside of the studio.

Balance as a dance. Both. Expansion and contraction. Space for all the parts. Non-linear. Courage. Inner heart knowing. Vulnerability. Softness. Resilience. Boldness. Play.

These are some of the words and themes that surface as I reflect on my one year anniversary of process painting and art making in the studio. For me, reflection is powerful and like digestion in many ways. It requires a pause and some time, some gurgling and sometimes discomfort and is necessary for truly absorbing nutrients and releasing what is not serving in order to restore and grow.

This process has helped me gain more clarity around what I have experienced and want to carry with me from this year and also brought me a lot of hope. Moments, emotions and thoughts can be so convincing like waves that swallow me so I forget the larger ocean they belong to. There have been many moments and days in the studio and in my daily life that I’m sure I will never move outside a wave of confusion or anxiety. And yet there’s growth happening, mysterious, non-linear, sometimes invisible growth. Showing up and participating from my heart in this practice, with this community has made a difference in my life.

Stephanie often asks, is there anything you are saying no to, and if so, is there a way to include or honor this in your art? This question is a tool that orients me toward a path of love and authenticity. It helps me build the skill of discerning between what is conditioned or based in fear and what is true for me and aligned with my soul. I don’t always know or feel clear about this, but I keep listening to the sensations in my body and the energy in my heart. Over time, in the sacred space of  the home studio, I’ve been able to experiment with saying yes in more honest and bold ways to my shadow side as well as to my loving, life affirming nature. Playing with expression of these parts of me and of the world can feel freeing and risky, both at the same time.

There was a lot of fatigue, heaviness in my chest, dark colors and monsters in my first HeART journal entry of the new year. Through the creative process, with support from Stephanie and the group, and in allowing myself to feel these darker feelings, movement occurred. Soft pink owls arrived with sensations of greater space and lightness in my body and I included them in my painting. They don’t cover up or make the monsters go away, but exist alongside them. Movement doesn’t always happen that quickly but there was a wave I was able to surrender to in this particular period that felt really healing to me. I love creating process art because it doesn’t have to make sense or be explained, follow rules, be perfect or pretty. It is never too late to begin, no limited chances or wrong moves. It is a path and practice of listening to and trusting my felt sense and intuition, living with more wholeness and flexibility and participating in this dance of life.


Michelle Bunch is celebrating one year of process art making and self-discovery with the Creative Nectar community! Michelle earned her master’s degree from Kansas State University in Marriage and Family Therapy and has worked with a wide range of ages from children to aging adults. She has been trained as a play therapist, completed a 200-hour yoga teacher training program and the Beginning Level of Somatic Experiencing, a body-based approach to healing trauma and restoring regulation and flow. Mindfulness is an important part of her life and she is a member of Midwest Alliance for Mindfulness and leads a community class once a month integrating movement and mindfulness. Michelle is joyfully awaiting her first child in spring 2018 and has chosen to pause her clinical work and use this time to listen and tend to this growing life and to her own soul.

A Summer Sabbatical, Fibromyalgia and Stillness

This Spring I decided to take a  Summer sabbatical from – writing, over-efforting, convincing, pushing – doing anything that zapped the precious bits of energy I had remaining in my body.

My intuition to shut down a lot of things not working for me and focus on self care was spot on. Just a few weeks later I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia.

For those of you who don’t know or maybe have been misinformed, Fibromyalgia is a complex central nervous system disorder, causing chronic pain and fatigue (among many other things) that affects an estimated 5 million Americans. While it occurs most often in women, it strikes men and children, and all ethnic backgrounds.

It has been a relief to FINALLY know what is going on with my body as I have been struggling with pain and massive fatigue for over 6 years now.

For many of those years, I pushed myself to make things happen. I facilitated workshops, traveled and did what felt like pushing a massive boulder up a hill, trying to maintain my “normal” life as much as possible. Now that I know what’s going on, I see how the pushing – so intricately ingrained in our culture – only made things worse.

I am not writing this for sympathy or attention, only to raise awareness and to share how I am choosing to work with this in the studio and in the unfolding of my own creative self-discovery.

I hope by sharing, others will do the same and by doing so, some of the shame we’ve cultivated as a society, around this and other invisible diseases, will begin to lessen.

My life has changed dramatically… but it doesn’t have to end. I am working on living much differently now, and that includes how I will be facilitating.

I will be letting go of process painting classes indefinitely. However, that doesn’t mean I have stopped creating or facilitating – things are just shifting.

I will be offering HeART Journaling from my home studio on Friday mornings with an option to join online.

I will continue to be part of The Walkabout and Rise and Shine  ( online options) as these things are HELPING me to stay grounded and connected to my center as well as giving me a sense of community, even when I can’t leave the house.

I probably won’t be writing as much because it definitely takes its toll on my body, so I may be sharing more images and less words.

I will be cultivating more stillness in my life and look forward to seeing where it takes me. And I welcome the chance to work with others wanting to creatively connect to their own stillness.

Sending Much Love and Endless Gratitude,

A Taste of The Walkabout Part II

Hi All,

Here’s my response to Steph’s last post – it’s the second email from our taste of The Walkabout correspondence.



The Vastness of Broken-Heartedness

Snapshot of my studio wall.


Hello, Steph,

The universe does have a way of holding our toes to the sacred fire by sending us pop quizzes. And it’s hard to prepare for a pop quiz.

I may think I’m prepared for any pop quiz coming my way. But on the day it’s given, all my preparation evaporates. That’s when I find myself left with two choices: Staying connected to myself. Or abandoning myself.

When I can stay with myself, listening deeply and allowing the messiness of what is, I drop down into the vast territory of my broken heart. Where there is room to notice what you noticed at the vet’s.

In that vast space, of broken-heartedness, I find I can hold all that’s there. Holes. Grief. Joy. Gratefulness. Tenderness. The present moment and all of its feelings and sensations.

I bow down to you and how you stayed with yourself. In the hard grief of letting Tilak go. Listening to the beat of his heart. Feeling the in-out movement of his breath. Smelling the graham cracker-ness aroma of his fur. Present for Tilak. All the way through. From the medicine he was given to end his suffering to holding him until he gracefully let go into your arms.

Knowing what is needed in these times is essential. How to soothe ourselves. How to offer ourselves loving-kindness.

Two things I can easily forget when life shit is hitting my fan. Because, like you said, there will always be fans. There will always be shit. And there will be derailment when the brain does it’s brain thing. Telling stories. Digging up memories. Dreaming up scenarios. Asking questions for which there are no answers.

However, remembering, when I can remember, to just feel what I’m feeling, in my body, with my breathing, I’m reminded of my unlimited nature and ability to hold all of my life. Even when it isn’t unfolding the way I had imagined, planned or dreamed. While staying connected to myself. Just as I am. Right here. Right now.

Standing, grounded in my amazing ordinary human being-ness. Living the ups and downs of my ordinary life. Where there is messiness and chaos. Where, at times, everything, including myself, feels foreign and broken and lost. Where I have the opportunity to find, in the midst of what is challenging and hard, a clear alive spacious peaceful here-ness living deep inside of me. That holds all of what ebbs and flows in me.

That’s what’s possible when my – your -our heart breaks open. And happened to you, with Tilak, as you let go of him.

I love you, Steph! For living from the vast territory of your broken-heart. For sharing the challenges and wonders of living that way with me and bringing it to
the work we do together. This quote made me think of you.

“The heart that breaks open can hold the whole universe.
Your heart is that large. Trust it. Keep breathing.”
– Joanna Macy