Sunday, December 10, 2017

CREATING THE GOOD & HOPE

FINDING SUSTENANCE IN THE WHOLE SENSE OF SELF 
Greetings Dear Sojourners! 

It has been more than a year (November 10, 2017) since I blogged last. I have completed my year's grieving over the election of Donald Trump as our 45th president of the United States. I am acknowledging  my responsibility to have a voice in my community and to speak out in my own way.

Many of us--sensitive spirits and even not-so-sensitive spirits--have suffered from the negativity and harm we see being done to the people inhabiting our country, to our lands, and our world neighbors. Other than making phone calls, signing petitions, and marching, we experience a helplessness of being unable to effect any positive change. I have struggled with my own ineffectiveness.

In the Facebook Group, "The Daily Creative Practice," that I founded and administer, I have led "gratitude" practices, asking participants to create and express "the good." During the entire month of November 2017, we posted and commented on multiple aspects of our lives in which we found  and named the positive.
ROOTED IN THE HEART (all art by Hallelujah Truth)
In times of stress like now, I know that we need to keep looking for the GOOD, asking ourselves, "What good can come from this turmoil, this injustice, and ignorance?" I know that we can reach into this darkness and find the jewels in one another, this nurturing abundant planet, and in ourselves.

Let's dance, digging our feet into the rich soil of the Earth and our Souls. This image (posted above) that I created represents my desire for us to soothe our hearts at the root level, bathing our nervous system with love, patience, hope, insight, and yes--imagination. 

Through self care a healthy perspective becomes possible. This morning my brilliant husband Tony and I will attend "Dance Church" in our little town of Decatur. At the ballet studio, we will move our bodies in whatever ways they need to be moved with other Decaturites to random music that someone has prepared for us. It is a lovely connective community experience. At the end of 90 minutes of dance, we sit down on the floor together and name "what we are present to." 

I firmly believe that this kind of activity of "Dance Church" helps me administer to the seeds of hope in my heart and allows me to generate more hope. Like a seasoned gardener, I can grow hope. 

I have found that the act of "listening" to other people's despair and acknowledging their need to be heard is also a positive act. By listening and not judging allows me to connect in a deep way with people. I have a young friend from Iran, who I met with the day after the Supreme Court approved the travel ban, preventing people from eight countries (six of them Muslim) from traveling to the United States. She has not seen her parents for three years. Now, she cannot leave the U.S. to visit them, and they are prevented from entering our country to visit their daughter. I am so sorry. While listening to my friend's story, we both found strength and connection. Hope.
BEING PRESENT TO ASSISTANCE FROM THE DIVINE
And I ask myself, "What about asking assistance from the Divine? I don't know what your spiritual beliefs are, but I house mine under one big spiritual tent. I envision (using my imagination) a relationship with the Great Mystery. Through this relationship, I experience inspiration that fuels my hope. Mostly in the morning, I move (dance?) in what I have learned to call "dancing prayer." Like wings, I lift my arms up and push my heart out into my imagined universe. It is in this act and this environment of hope that I express my prayers.
FINDING LIFE IN DEATH
Each day, we experience disappointment, and a little bit of us dies. We are surrounded by the living and the dead. I know that is the perpetual cycle of life. I keep making decisions on how to grow life from what has fallen fallow. Perfect at this time of year. The days are short. The nights are long. And the Earth in Decatur, Georgia, is resting for the winter. 

I make the choice to see the good, to name the good, and to create HOPE for more good. That's Coffee with Hallelujah. Soul Blog with me and tell me what actions you are taking to create and express the Good/Hope.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

GRATITUDE Day #4: Hold the bone, envision the dolphin


HOLD THE BONE, ENVISION THE DOLPHIN. I am grateful to be connected to all of creation, including you! This dolphin vertebrae expands my experience of being here on this Earth, to times I felt more secure and content. This joyful sense of abundance is always present waiting to be summoned by us all through our own symbols.
Hallelujah for celebrating our lives through the lens of  GRATITUDE! Hallelujah for all of you on the Daily Creative Practice and those of you visiting this blog BEING PRESENT to the good. Hallelujah for our beautiful Mother Earth and all of her CREATIONS.

Today, I am grounding myself in Mother Earth. As I rose from bed this morning, I planted my feet on the ground and kneaded them heel-to-toe several times, experiencing the sinews of my calf muscles stretching and connecting me to bone. It felt good to feel the weight of my body and the heft of gravity pulling me downward. Then off I journeyed to the YMCA with my husband Chiboogamoo to exercise this wonderful miracle of my body, which let me know that I needed to release its tension from the dismaying results of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Elections.

Outside it was dark, but I could see the silhouettes of trees swaying in the breeze often accompanied by the rising sun. The leaves from the oak tree cascaded down around us as we climbed into the car. The workout at the gym filled my body, mind, heart, and spirit with ease and inspiration!

I felt a strong urge to open the pages of Mark Nepo’s “The Book of Awakening,” upon my return home. The sky was pink with an emergent sun; children bracing their jackets around them and carrying book bags were ambling up the hillside of my townhome apartment complex, their parents towering over them as leaves continued to fly and sail around them.

Opening the pages of this book randomly, I came across the passage titled, “The Power of Symbols.” Mark Nepo wrote:

If you truly hold a stone,

You can feel the mountain it came from.

And he explains that “Symbols are living mirrors of the deepest understandings that have no words.”  These symbols at their best expand beyond ideas but “call” us into an expansive world of being filled with others, experiences, and memories.

In times of stress like now, we might ask ourselves, what GOOD can come from this. I suggest finding those symbols in your life that encompass a broader way of BEING and summon you to a depth of experience that contains the GOOD. The GOOD is not only all around us—it is also IN us!

As I asked myself what symbol might be the “right” one for me now, the answer came immediately! The dolphin vertebrae! I found this marine mammal artifact on the barrier island Wassaw on the coast of my beloved state of Georgia! Several years ago, when I arrived on the Wassaw beach with an Emory class conducted by Chiboogamoo, the dolphin vertebrae was waiting for me sticking upright in the sand. Before I knew what it was, its shape struck me as an ancient symbol holding important information for me.

This morning, as I yearn for a way to CREATE gratitude, I laugh at how easy it is to find! Our Earth is rich with abundance. We only need to be embodied, present to ourselves and the world.

Hold the bone, envision the dolphin!

I am reminded of my multiple communities that I have the good fortune to be a part of in Decatur, at Emory University, Georgia Tech, Little Five Points, Agnes Scott, Georgia State, and ever expanding circles around me, radiating out to the coast where the dolphins swim in the Atlantic. And the Atlantic connects to Europe, Africa, India and beyond….well you get the picture!

We are all connected! What a joyous thought!

The dolphin wisdom I found from the book, “Animal Speak,” by Ted Andrews offers a way to BE today. He suggests that learning to breathe like the dolphin can be beneficial and help us align ourselves with the present and perhaps other times. And like the dolphin, we can play around with sound and breath to engage ourselves more fully in our lives.

That’s Coffee with Hallelujah! SOUL BLOG with me. What symbol might you hold today that will fill you with GRATITUDE?
HALLELUJAH TRUTH on the GEORGIA COAST. Headed out to Wassaw Island, we suspected we would see dolphins and we did! Such joy in observing these intelligent playful curious beings. (photo by Chiboogamo, aka Tony Martin)

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

GRATITUDE DAY #3: The Practice of Finding the Good

HEART ROOT. This image expresses my practice of being grounded in the GOOD. I believe the Earth is GOOD. I believe in the GOOD that is present in us all. I believe in the power of perpetual regeneration of the GOOD. (Art by Hallelujah Truth, aka Ruth Schowalter)
Hallelujah for the Daily Creative Practice! Hallelujah for the season of practicing GRATITUDE! Hallelujah for you all here with me looking for the good.


This morning, I am especially grateful for you dear Reader and a community of online Creatives supporting each other in our lives as we move forward after the results of the presidential election here in the United States.

How do I "move" or "dance" around such a devastating choice made by the majority of U.S. citizens? I am saddened that we are not celebrating the first woman as American president.

How to manage this cataclysmic loss?

First of all, I am thankful to Phil Porter and Cynthia Winton-Henry, co-founders of InterPlay, for teaching me the practice of "noticing the good." How can I make a shift from this negative state of loss--to celebration?  I know that affirmation will have a strong positive impact on my physical being. 

SNAKES ARE SYMBOLS OF HEALING
I am celebrating YOU. I celebrating the faith that I have in all people to do the right and just thing. 

Meanwhile, as I search for other things this morning to celebrate, I will practice the "shaking medicine" that Bradford Keeney writes in his book by that name and that was introduced to me by Cynthia Winton-Henry. Would you like to join me? 

Let's do a simple shaking activity together:

Shake one hand, shake the other hand. Shake your foot. Shake your other foot. Shake what you have been sitting on. Shake your whole body. Shake your voice.

Now, you are ready, if you'd like, to put on some music and do as much shaking as your body needs to release any of the "information" that you are carrying around and no longer need.
That's Coffee with Hallelujah. SOUL BLOG with me. I will continue looking for the good to celebrate and shaking "it" all out as I need to. What are you affirming today? What are you thankful for?

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

GRATITUDE DAY #2: I'm thankful for the order of the United States and that today is Presidential Election Day!

I LOVE MY COUNTRY. For all the wonders and good things that my country, the United States gets right, I am thankful. Today's Daily Creative Practice image resulted from my sincere thanks for the garbage collection that occurs today and every Tuesday in my city of Decatur. Thank you. Is my image symbolic? Perhaps that the "trashing" of our political system that has been prevalent in 2016 will be taken out with the election of the 45th President. Let's focus on solving our problems systematically with love. (art by Hallelujah Truth, aka Ruth Schowalter)
Hallelujah for TIME for it cures most wounds. Hallelujah for the orderliness that we have in this country of the United States. We are fortunate. 

As we select our 45th American President today, I am thankful for simple things that are vast in their simplicity.

I am thankful for...

our democracy and the freedom that we have as United States citizens...

our opportunity to elect our country's leaders...

the actions we can take to make the changes we think our country needs... 

and there is so much more....

However, as Americans go to vote today, I am satisfied that we have our organized municipalities, states, and nation. We are so fortunate!

Since today is garbage collection day in my quaint city of Decatur, Georgia, I want to embrace those individuals in big trucks that come and remove the trash from our individual households. All the systems that work in our country at every level. We have electricity, water, and gas. Our streets are maintained. There is law and order. 

I know there are many things to improve, so let's move forward to solve those problems together. Let's use our TIME productively and in harmony.

That's Coffee with Hallelujah. What are you thinking about today on this historic election day? SOUL BLOG with me. Share your views.
GRATITUDE PRACTICE. Join me in creating and expressing gratitude from now until Thanksgiving 2016. You are invited to post your CREATIONS on the Daily Creative Practice on Facebook. We are a warm online community that applauds your creative work. Thanks to Tony Martin, my companion in the Daily Creative Practice and who took this photo of me. I am the Hallelujah of this blog, Coffee with Hallelujah. If you have time for a cup of coffee, you have time to create. Will you take that time today?


Monday, November 7, 2016

GRATITUDE DAY #1: Creating and expressing gratitude through the mind-body connection

THANK YOU FOR THIS DAY! (art by Hallelujah Truth, aka Ruth Schowalter)
Hallelujah for this day! Today signals Day #1 of my conscious effort to create and express gratitude. Hallelujah for Karen Drucker's song, "Thank You for This Day" (Acknowledgement to Christine Gautreaux for introducing me to KD), which will be the theme song for me through Thanksgiving.

What does it mean to "create" gratitude? 

In simple incremental steps, I have been exploring the way the "body" can "change" the "mind." 

The first and most easily accessible way is through MOVEMENT (Thank InterPlay). For example, this morning before sitting down, I put on the music "Thank You for This Day" and stretched my arms, swirled my hips and stepped around the perimeter of my two bedroom condo. The lyrics of "thankfulness" flowing around me. Step #1 towards creating gratefulness completed.
Then playing the song for a second and third time accompanied by the "act" of being at the computer to write this blog post is another "embodied" action holding and creating a way of being in GRATITUDE. Step #2 towards creating gratefulness completed.

Finally, a preliminary act....In the Ichno-Art Cat Palace that I share with Tony Martin (science author and artist extraordinaire), we have the good practice of preparing the night before for our "Daily Creative Practice." Therefore, last night, I rummaged through a precious collection of 100 images made across a three-month plus time frame in 2014 and processed it through the app, Paintbrush. (My resourcefulness is being called upon since I am fortunate enough to have numerous teaching engagements right now which limits my time making originals). This incremental act, prepares both mind and body to "create" in the morning because I have a plan which I only have to enact! Step #3 towards creating gratefulness completed.

Did I succeed in "creating" gratitude through my actions? Absolutely! I am awakened. And I am anticipating sharing this created gratitude with my Facebook Group, The Daily Creative Practice. I think it might be fun to create gratitude up through Thanksgiving! What do you think?
THE GRATITUDE STAR!

That's Coffee with Hallelujah! SOUL BLOG with me. What are you grateful for today? What do you think about creating gratitude through movement? Give Karen Drucker a listen! 
ABOUT THIS IMAGE: Ta Dah! This is part of many images made for my "Cosmos of Hallelujah." Here, I have surrendered to the energy in the middle of my body, that today I have named the "gratitude star." On one side is my Mother Snake, the primal creator and on the other side is my feline companion. Often I draw the sun and moon to bring in the sense of timelessness and eternity. (Hallelujah Truth)

Sunday, November 6, 2016

YOU ARE INVITED TO EXPRESS GRATITUDE: Join the Daily Creative Practice November 7 to Thanksgiving

EXPRESSING GRATITUDE, THANKSGIVING 2016. I'm curious. How might gratitude impact your Daily Creative Practice? What if from now until Thanksgiving, each day, you make a creative act via the premise of gratitude. What would that creative act look like?  (Art "Wonder" by Hallelujah Truth, aka Ruth Schowalter)
Hallelujah for CREATIVITY! Hallelujah for practicing that CREATIVITY each day. Hallelujah for communities in which we support each others CREATIVE ACTS!

I'm so thankful for social media, for this blog, "Coffee with Hallelujah" in which I share more in-depth ideas with you and for my Facebook group, "The Daily Creative Practice," in which I post my drawings and photos regularly in community with other creatives. Because of these online forums, I have expanded who I am and how I interact with people practicing their creativity.
What does this word evoke in you?
In 2014, expressing gratitude around the time of Thanksgiving became more formalized in my FB group, "The Daily Creative Practice." Members moved the idea forward of sharing what this gratitude might look like. So, I decided this year to establish GRATITUDE as an event, complete with invitations and a schedule. Here it is:


/ˈɡradəˌt(y)o͞od/
NOVEMBER 7th to NOVEMBER 24th

GRATITUDE is a noun meaning gratefulness, thankfulness, indebtedness, appreciation, etc…

Join me in the Daily Creative Practice of expressing the essence of “gratitude” from Monday, November 7th to Thanksgiving. In this season giving thanks, let’s flex our creative muscles and discover what emerges from us “solo” and as a “group body.”

You are invited to participate in this daily CREATIVE GRATITUDE PRACTICE in any way that your body, heart, mind, and spirit desires to express thankfulness:

Do you have your own photo or that of someone else? Share.

Do you want to draw/paint new images or offer us ones you generated in the past? Yes to either or both!

Do you generate fabric art? Show us.

Are you writing poetry or have poems you treasure from someone else? Please post.

Are you dancing, singing, telling a story, or playing an instrument? Video yourself.

As an educator, what are you thinking? Explain and post.

A chef? We need to see your creations and recipes.

Any mode of expressing gratitude is welcome.

Please post your gratitude offerings in the FB Group, The Daily Creative Practice, and not on this event page. That ensures the greatest number of views in our community.

Stay tuned for the Winter Solstice Creativity Challenge, Wednesday, December 21 to Sunday, 31st.

 –Ruth Schowalter, creator and administrator of The Daily Creative Practice
 

That's Coffee with Hallelujah! Soul Blog with me here or join me on the Daily Creative Practice on Facebook. I want to know what you are grateful for and how gratitude might inform your daily creative practice.

Monday, October 24, 2016

BECOMING THE ANIMAL: How InterPlay Enhances Science Communication and the Communicator

TRANSFORMATION OF A CLASSROOM--HOW? These first year college students are fully engaged in body and mind communication information they collected in a homework assignment about animals indigenous to the Emory University's campus. (photo by Ruth Schowalter, aka Hallelujah Truth)
InterPlay + Science Communication='s FUN--I'm repeating this mantra regularly, especially when I have the opportunity to teach college students in a science class how to express their data!

This October 2016 signals the third time that I have conducted a two-part storytelling workshop for my husband's first year seminar, "How to Interpret Behavior You Did Not See," using activities from the improvisational system of InterPlay. Each time, I have had the opportunity to refine my facilitation to provide clearer incremental steps to support the students' easeful stepping into the role of an embodied storyteller.

I envision every student finding storytelling "tools" in this workshop that they can adapt to their own personal communication style. My job is to offer ways for them to play around with expanding vocal and physical range as they express scientific information to an audience of one or many. 

In this blog post, I am offering my InterPlay facilitation experience in the form of photos and photo captions. At the end of this post are links to other blog posts I have written about this freshman seminar, as well as other science communication workshops. Enjoy! I appreciate any feedback in the form of comments here or on Facebook.
WHAT IS IMPROVISATION? WHAT IS INTERPLAY? Desks have already been rearranged from rows to a circle around the perimeter of the classroom when students arrive. After being introduced as a certified InterPlay leader, I invite students to define improvisation and how it could relate to science communication. InterPlay, I explain, is an improvisational system that fosters and supports authenticity. I invite the students to always make choices to participate in the InterPlay improvisational activities in a way that feels good to them. Soon they will be asked to use the available space to "create" or "improvise" ideas related to their seminar, "How to Interpret Behavior You Did Not Know." (photo by Tony Martin)
OUT OF THEIR DESKS AND INTO THEIR BODIES. What does the "whole" communicator  look like when fully engaged--physically, mentally, and emotionally? A simple invitation to stand up, warm up their bodies and then partner with another classmate for leading and following at first brings nervous laughter and then.... (photo by Ruth Schowalter, aka Hallelujah Truth)
THE CLASSROOM TRANSFORMED. Within moments the classroom is electrified as students step into the invitation to "play" with one another. Creative move after creative move appears as leadership alternates back-and-forth between the paired students. (photo by Ruth Schowalter, aka Hallelujah Truth)
THE ROLE OF THE PROFESSOR SHIFTS. When the professor participates in these InterPlay activities as Tony Martin (far right) does here, the classroom dynamic shifts with the students.  Students have an opportunity to interact creatively one-to-one with their professor in a give-and-take relationship. (photo by Ruth Schowalter, aka Hallelujah Truth)
EXPANDING THEIR METHOD OF EXPLANATION. After warming up physically and vocally "playing" around with telling short nonlinear descriptions, students return to their desks to take turns describing the nature observations they have recorded in their "sit spot journals," a class requirement. During the semester, they must make a minimum of thirty entries from the same "sit spot" on the Emory campus that they have chosen to observe. (photo by Ruth Schowalter, aka Hallelujah Truth)
BECOMING THE TREE. Following the activity of describing their "sit spot," students change partners and are asked to stand up in front of their listening partner (or witness). Choosing an animate or inanimate object from their "sit spot," they then "become" it and speak from its perspective. (photo by Ruth Schowalter, aka Hallelujah Truth)
DAY 2 OF THE STORYTELLING WORKSHOP--DEVELOPING RAPPORT. What is rapport and how is it created with the listener? We know that our audience is like a mirror reflecting back to us what we ourselves as speakers are creating. This group exercise of leading and following is an excellent way to "embody" that connect between what we "enact" and its impact on others. (photo by Ruth Schowalter, aka Hallelujah Truth)
EXPERIENCING NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION. Team "Red Sloth" prepares to move together for this nonverbal exercise. Teammates are asked to assume leadership as the group moves and shifts about the space like a flock of starlings in a murmuration. (photo by Tony Martin)
BODY TO BODY COMMUNICATION. Students experience first hand that communicating effectively without words is possible as each one creates unique movements and other group members follow. The leadership shifts effortlessly as long as a teammate is willing to accept his/her turn when the opportunity accuates. (photo by Tony Martin)
OBSERVATION IS PART OF LEARNING. Team "Red Sloth" observes team "Blue Whale." The process of "embodying" concepts occurs over time and through different practices. Observing others perform activities helps students to integrate their own experiences with the "new" ideas presented. (photo by Tony Martin)

PRESENTING RESEARCH? YES! Does this look like students are having fun? Is any learning going on here? Are both presenter and audience engaged? Is the transference of information occurring? Do you think students are having the opportunity to teach something they know with enthusiasm? The answer to all of these questions is a resounding YES! (photo by Tony Martin)
WHAT ANIMAL AM I? At the conclusion of our two-part storytelling InterPlay workshops, we gathered in a circle for a guessing game. Each student had researched a different animal indigenous to the Emory campus and had kept their animal "top secret." In this activity, students took turns presenting a behavior and one informational sentence (or hint) about their animal. Everyone repeated the animal behavior and tried to guess the animal. Often several other hints had to be provided before the animal could be identified. The students' enthusiasm, lack of self consciousness, and engaged presence was very rewarding to the professor (Tony Martin) and me, the facilitator.  (photo by Tony Martin)
THE EMORY CAMPUS. Here is the Math and Science Building, the site of our storytelling InterPlay workshops on this sunny fall week in October 2016 on the lovely Emory campus. (photo by Ruth Schowalter, aka Hallelujah Truth)
TELLING A STORY FROM A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE! I'm so grateful to these trusting students who allowed themselves to be engaged in improvisational exercises. Here we are embodying a squirrel. Students chose a living animal or inanimate object from their "sit spot" on the Emory University campus to embody in this freshman seminar, "How to Interpret Behavior You Did Not See." In the first workshop, I introduced InterPlay babbling and big body stories. I loved seeing the students' confidence grow as they had fun moving from partner to partner. At the end of the class, each student shared what he/she had chosen to embody from his/her sit spot and create a movement for us to repeat. Lots of deer appeared, a fish, two dead trees, a blade of grass, a clam, etc. The movements were inventive and fun to follow!(photo by Tony Martin)
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: Thanks to InterPlay co-founders, Cynthia Winton-Henry and Phil Porter for this sneaky deep improvisational system that fosters and supports authentic communication. Deep gratitude to my life partner, Tony Martin, who is an excellent science communicator. He has helped me grow in my communication skills and capacity as an instructor. Thank you for making education and science outreach fun! You inspire me!



Other blogposts about my work with InterPlay and “How to Interpret Behavior You Did Not See”


April 11, 2016

November 6, 2014

Other blogposts on how I use InterPlay for Science Communication and Outreach:

October 2016

March 2016