...we are ALL creative beings.
...every person’s truth is unique and valid.
...we are all hungry for a deeper connection.
...the answers we seek are within each of us.
...creativity is a tool for self-discovery and personal transformation.
...there’s an ever-growing group of people on this planet who are ready to dig deeper and find their way home to themselves.
…no one needs to feel alone in the process of awakening to their truth.
Creative Nectar Studio: A safe haven for creative self-discovery
Welcome home. Creative Nectar Studio is a place where you can take off your mask and be exactly who you are. It's a place where color nourishes and community thrives. Is there something stirring in you that is wanting expression? Listen to it. Get curious. We're here to support you on your journey within using painting and other process arts. So get cozy and have a look around. Stay as long as you'd like. Be inspired. Live juicy!
Belonging has been a recurring theme in my art and in my life recently. It’s been an opportunity to pay more attention, get curious, heal and grow in ways that serve me. Earlier this month I read a quote by Henry David Thoreau, “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” Sometimes my brain is better at focusing on what I don’t want or what other people are doing or saying than being tuned into my own soul and longing. So I practiced tuning in and wrote about my dreams, what qualities would describe this life I imagine. I repeated belonging four times, “belonging, belonging, belonging, belonging— every part of me and everyone”. A few weeks later, the writing prompt at the studio was, “what does belonging mean to me?” And I got another chance to be aware of what I’m believing and to realign with what matters and what I want to feed. As I prepare for the birth of my baby in May I’m considering who is in my tribe, who I can turn to for support, where do I belong and how do I help create belonging for this little being.
What has unfolded for me is that belonging is life giving. It is about belonging to myself and allowing all the parts of me to have space to be, loving who I am without stipulating what that has to look like. Belonging means connection and being part of a community, about being held in safety and love. It is also about courage and being willing to show up and participate, authenticity and vulnerability even when its scary or uncomfortable. At the studio I created art about these life-giving qualities of belonging. I focused on my experience as an expecting mother and it felt really good to create images of women holding hands and helped me feel more belonging with a new group and identity. I visualized people who love me and the protection and fortified strength and courage I feel when I rest in this awareness, so much greater than when I’m alone.
And then I got stuck. I ran out of steam in my creative process because I wasn’t telling the whole story. Belonging also brings up feelings of separation, fear and not-fitting. The shadow side of belonging has been loneliness and believing I have to work hard to be good enough to be accepted in my own heart and in relationships. These experiences are part of my life, too and I wasn’t giving that space in my art. Expressing this tight, sharp, fearful energy and voice through art was what was authentic for me and when I allowed it to be there I felt more engaged and more ease. When I resist what is actually present I get stuck— not just in my art, but in my life. The practice of naming these feelings and thoughts and sensations through my art and words and trusting that even the parts of me that I judge as not lovable or beautiful or normal belong is the process and path of freedom and love for me.
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.
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. And if you are looking for more engagement, we’d love to have you join us in our Facebook group HERE or sign up for your own Walkabout with us HERE.
It’s true! As we uncover more pieces of our fixed stories, our lives can feel less stable. We wonder, as we pull out the next block of beliefs and stories we’ve built our lives around, which one is going to cause everything to come toppling down. Taking us with it. JENGA!!!!
It’s uncomfortable. And we can be surprisingly okay with it, too. Once we accept we are not in control. That our lives unfolding is a process. Where we trot out all of our coping mechanisms. Using them until we realize they no longer work for us.
This month I had my own experience of witnessing how I cope in a crisis. With my cat Eddie. My first of line of defense was to go dark. To the worst case scenario: Eddie dying. And, it’s a weekend and I’m home alone.
I didn’t know what to do so I googled Eddie’s symptoms. Where I read that his symptoms could be from cancer. My spinning head of worry went into full blown resistance: I’m not ready for this. Nor do I want it. Not at all.
Somehow, I was able to notice I was worrying and resisting. And notice how they distract me from what I don’t want to accept or feel. I reminded myself I didn’t really know what was going on with Eddie. Maybe he was dying. Maybe not. I did know was I wasn’t ready for him to die. I reminded myself it was Sunday night and I could call the vet first thing in the morning.
Monday morning we went to the vet. The diagnosis: oral cancer. The only option: take him home and keep him comfortable. The prognosis: he was dying and we might have a few more “good months” together.
Tuesday morning a spider ran across the bedroom floor. My first thought was maybe Eddie doesn’t have cancer; maybe he just has a spider bite. The hope I felt at that moment was sweet. I spent all day magically thinking Eddie was going to be just fine because he just has a spider bite.
Wednesday morning my magical thinking came to a crashing end. I woke up with a knowing in my bones that it wasn’t a spider bite. It was cancer. Eddie was dying. And all my worry, positive thoughts, and what if questions were only keeping me outside of my body and my ability to just simply accept what was happening.
Yes, I wanted to worry and resist with all my might. My worst case scenario was coming true. I went dark. And, in that darkness, I found some space in me to breathe into. I was able to remember I’ve been here before. That it hurts like hell and I’m still here. That my heart has been cracked open before and will be again. And I’m still here.
Giving myself permission to imagine the worst case scenario allowed me to be more present with what was happening in my body and in my life. It slowed down my what if questions, my resistance, and my plans to change the outcome of what was happening.
It wasn’t easy. My body was there but my head was in overdrive. I didn’t like what was happening. I didn’t want to accept that my attempts to save Eddie weren’t going to save him. My wanting what was happening to be different didn’t mean anything. I felt helpless. I knew the only thing that was going to help was a true and deep acceptance of what was happening.
The Stoics believe in this approach to life. That imagining the worst case scenario leads to happiness, peace, clarity. That it creates an inner space in us. To trust what we’re feeling, in our bodies, when life gives us something we didn’t ask for and don’t want.
Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Imagining the worst case scenario? That it could bring us to a spacious place of peace. Both of us experienced that last month. How imagining the worst case scenario allowed us to feel prepared for when the unthinkable, the unwantable occurs in our lives. And it does.
Being attentive and mindful to what I was feeling, I was able to just name what I was feeling: anger disappointment sadness peace. I chose not to judge what I was feeling. That gave myself permission to not understand why this was happening.
It was happening! I only had to be aware of what Eddie’s dying was stirring in me. Worry, complaining, and over-thinking are things I add on and cling to when I feel out of control. They might protect me from strong feelings. But they are not useful. They are just part of my habituated coping mechanisms. A way to avoid dropping down into the territory of acceptance. Where I can meet what is happening. Whether I like it or not.
However, what is useful to me is imagining the worst case scenario. Choosing to meet what is, is the beginning of true acceptance. A hard choice for me when I’m deeply wishing things were different. A hard truth for me is that I can’t change the reality of what is happening. No matter how hard I try.
Practicing acceptance allows me to live in the ever changing world. Where anything can happen at any time. Something that imagining the worst case scenario reminds me of.
Acceptance…blessed acceptance!…of Eddie dying was potent. There was so much sadness. Held by tenderness and love. And all I needed to do, for the rest of time Eddie was alive, was just BE with Eddie. Just be present with him. In his dying process.
His dying was my worst case scenario. But it gave me space. To breathe and feel what I didn’t want to happen. To find peace in accepting what was happening. And stand grounded there.
What a month it has been, Steph! I am grateful for your presence in my life as we meet life…all of it. From worry warts to worst case scenarios to acceptance. Thank you.