Tuesday, January 28, 2014

ECSTATIC FOLLOWING: Learning what it means to be part of an InterPlay performance group!

IN THE BEGINNING--ATLANTA INTERPLAY PERFORMANCE GROUP. Sheila K. Collins, speaking, introduces us to the history and a few essential ideas to think about when creating and launching an InterPlay performance group. (photo by Ruth Schowalter, aka Hallelujah Truth)
Hallelujah for creative movement and deep listening! Hallelujah for InterPlay and its forms that allow us to be present to ourselves and to others! I'm so grateful!

I'm so grateful for Jennifer Denning being an anchor for InterPlay here in Atlanta and bringing Sheila K. Collins to our beautiful southern city to help us develop an InterPlay performance group. Sheila has already facilitated the development of 5 InterPlay performance groups form (4 in Texas and 1 in Pittsburgh). And Friday January 24, 2014, was monumental for those of us in the Atlanta InterPlay community (visit our Facebook page)!
TRYING ON THE INTERPLAY FORMS. Here you can see Jennifer Denning taking the "spot" and telling a three-sentence story before creating a movement for us to repeat. This activity is one of the many simple forms that make up the mystery and power of InterPlay. (photo by Ruth Schowalter, aka Hallelujah Truth)
We got our beginning performance workshop in the series of four that we will receive over the next 8 months.  First, Sheila gave us a brief history of InterPlay performance groups. The first one was “Wing It,” which InterPlay co-founders Phil Porter and Cynthia Winton-Henry started in San Francisco more than 2 decades ago and continues to be vibrantly alive today. Then after the brief history…drum roll…

…Sheila introduced the concept of "ecstatic following."  What a curious phrase--ECSTATIC  FOLLOWING!!!

In Cynthia and Phil's book, What the Body Wants, there is a section about being a FOLLOWER when you are doing InterPlay activities.  Yes, you can be a leader as well, but an important way of being is FOLLOWING! This is a “charged” word to a citizen of the United States! We are taught to be independent and to shed other people’s new ideas like yesterday’s old skin.
PRACTICING FOLLOWING. The Atlanta InterPlay performance group workshops are meeting in the Mask Center in the Little Five Points Community Center in Atlanta, Georgia. (photo by Ruth Schowalter, aka Hallelujah Truth)
In InterPlay performance and activities, however,  FOLLOWING is essential. I leaned in to listen to Sheila because I had read about this concept of being a FOLLOWER several months ago in Cynthia’s and Phil’s book. Now, to hear about "following" again in the context of our newly forming performance group, my understanding of this concept heightened, deepened, and became evermore curious!

Did Cynthia refer to FOLLOWING as an "ecstatic" activity, I asked myself. Maybe…I will have to check that out later.  But for now, I am leaning into the concept of "ecstatic following." What does it mean for us—the Atlanta InterPlay Performance Group? For me?

Well, to perform improvisation using the tools of InterPlay, one needs to follow his/her fellow InterPlayers--that's what creates the awesomeness for the audience. The actions look rehearsed.   That is...if players are fully committed to following movements of other players. That means surrendering your own ideas, being vulnerable and present to others, and taking risks.

WHY would we want to surrender our own ideas, be vulnerable and present to others and to take risks when performing?  

Because we want to build a community not only amongst our InterPlay performance group but also in our wider Atlanta community. InterPlay performance groups are a form of activism.

YES! Artful play is Activism—making positive change in our communities!  So, right now, we Atlanta InterPlayers are needing to ask ourselves this important question:

What are the needs of our community?  

For now, that is all the time I have to talk about the first workshop of Atlanta InterPlay performance group. Stay tuned if you are curious about us. Maybe you will want to join us!   

SHEILA LEADS. WE FOLLOW. (photo by Ruth Schowalter, aka Hallelujah Truth)

 That's Coffee With Hallelujah. SOUL BLOG with me. Have you ever been an ecstatic follower?   Hallelujah Truth! Speak Your Soul...
WOW! I'M ECSTATIC! Hurray, we have started the Atlanta InterPlay Performance Group thanks to Jennifer Denning and Sheila K. Collins! (photo by Jennifer Denning)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

EXPRESSING GRATITUDE: Saying, dancing, and drawing being thankful and happy now!

HALLELUJAH! Expressing gratitude. (art by Hallelujah Truth)
Hallelujah for EXPRESSING GRATITUDE! Hallelujah for being a visual artist who can make an image that says THANK YOU! Hallelujah for being able to dance my GRATITUDE too!

For more than a week now, I have been dancing a GRATITUDE DANCE first thing in the morning. This GRATITUDE DANCE is new for me. And thanks to Christine Gautreaux, who introduced me to Karen Drucker's song, "Thank You For This Day"! 

Here is one choir's rendition of Karen Drucker's "Thank You For This Day" song:  
Combined with drawing and dancing GRATITUDE for all that I am so thankful for in my life, I watched a TedTalk last night with my Chiboogamoo that affirmed the power of being GRATEFUL for all that is in our lives. Shawn  Achor, an educator and scholar about positive psychology, spoke about the way we can change our lives by changing our thinking--one of the pathways in different thinking is contemplating what you are GRATEFUL for every day and making a list of those things. Here is a link to the video, "The Happy Secret to Better Work," if you have 12 minutes.

HALLELUJAH LOGO?! I am an artist, educator, and coach in search of a logo for my business. I'm playing around with this particular image because it combines expressing gratitude with a sense of prayer at the altar place. What do you think?(art by Hallelujah Truth)
Experiencing GRATITUDE by expressing it verbally, visually, and physically is altering/altaring my life. I'm so thankful to all of you who are sharing this journey with me! Hallelujah! Thank you!

That's Coffee with Hallelujah! SOUL BLOG with me and share your Hallelujahs and Gratitude! Tell me what you are thankful for!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

GOOD-BYE MESHARI: Remembering a former Saudi student who died too soon

MEMORIES OF MESHARI AND THE MARSHMELLOW CHALLENGE. Meshari (right) took my blogging class at the Georgia Tech Language Institute three times! His blogging allowed me to get to know him in a special way. Read this blog for more photos and to read about why we did the Marshmellow Challenge in one of three blogging classes I taught Meshari!.(photo by Ruth Schowalter, aka Hallelujah Truth)
This Rumi poem is for you Meshari with affection:

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I'll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.

Ideas, language, even the phrase "each other" doesn't make any sense.

"I'll meet you there" Meshari 
 (photo from Facebook)
I still don't know the details of Meshari's death. I saw the first notice of it surface on Facebook two days ago when a former blogging student, Clara, from Spain mentioned mourning him. Surely, there are more Meshari's than the one Clara and I shared, I told myself. Then another former Language Institute student, one from Gabon, posted a status update honoring the loss of Meshari and posted a photo with "my"
Meshari in it.  Meshari is dead? Really?

And as I am composing this blog to memorialize Meshari and process my feelings of loss, Clara wrote back to me in a private message on Facebook and informed me that Meshari died in a car crash on Sunday, January 19 in Saudi Arabia, his home country. Meshari is gone suddenly. Just like that. 

I met Meshari for the first time either in the fall of 2010 or in January of 2011. He had enrolled in my blogging class at the GT Language Institute. He was a highly spirited person who had clearly taken my "non-academic" writing class to "cruise" while maintaining his visa status and awaiting acceptance into a university graduate program.

Meshari knew how to navigate the boundaries between displaying respectable student behavior and having irreverent good fun. Since I was teaching the blogging class from a creative writing perspective, I asked students to write some poetry and gave them some guided exercises on metaphor to help them use visual language in English. For starters, I asked students to bring in examples of metaphors from their culture and language. Here is the metaphor Meshari brought me:

"I never thought the burka would seduce me."

And yes, this metaphor that Meshari had taken from a contemporary Arabic song challenged all of us! He had meant for his response to the metaphor assignment to provoke discussion--and indeed it did!

We began by answering non-Muslim student questions about what a "burka" is and how is it different from a "hijab" before moving onto the meaning of "seduce." (See this blog for a more in-depth discussion about this class period.)

Within days, Meshari had translated the lyrics to the song. I am reposting those lyrics here because I treasure it as the handiwork of Meshari:

I never thought the burkas would ever seduce me
Until I saw Al Nofood Mountains wearing them.
All mighty God when these eyes looked at me
Charming, sleepy, magical....
In their magic, Saad how they put me to my knees!
My time was wasted in loving those eyes.
If they hurt me and also heal me
I'm sure I'll die soon.
Saad tell those charming mountains
If they want me to live longer,
If they see me,
I am just thinking about their magic
Even when I am asleep
I am still thinking about the burkas…

It was so typical of Meshari to follow what was fun for him at the same time as meeting the requirements of the assignment! I am laughing now, as I remember my surprise and anxiety the second time and third time that Meshari showed up to take my blogging class! He spent three sessions working on a blog he had named after one of his favorite hobbies, "Smoking Hookah+." 

Now if you go to his blog, Smoking Hookah+ on blogspot, all of his posts and profile have been deleted. This practice of students deleting their blogs after completing my course is all too common, but I understand that as students advance in their professional careers and educations often choose to remove their experiments in English writing from the internet.

It is heartbreaking to me that as I search for pieces of Meshari as I knew him on his blog and on Facebook, that they have vaporized. His Facebook profile and cover photos have been replaced with blackness. Some of his status updates remain, but images of Meshari are gone.

Here is a class photo of the second or third time Meshari took my blogging class.
BLOGGING CLASS 2011. Meshari is standing in the back row, second from the right.(photo by unknown)

 What will I remember about Meshari? His laughter! One time in class, I used laughter yoga exercises as a warm up lesson to enliven students and let them see how differently they would write afterwards. Well, Meshari laughed so hard and then excused himself from class. He didn't return. Later, he explained that it was such a cultural challenge for him to "fake" laughter. He said his culture in Saudi Arabia is much more joyful and filled with laughter than our U.S. culture. 

Then there was the time I couldn't find Meshari in blogging class until I wandered to the last rows of computers in the computer lab and found him laying on the floor with his headphones on listening to an important soccer game. Months later, Meshari started instant messaging me on Facebook, and we were remembering the "good times" in my class. When I reminded him of his soccer listening behavior, he enthusiastically reported that while currently working in a bank with his clients, he still kept the soccer game on and followed it!

I will remember Meshari's smile, laughter, and readiness to have fun. My life was made better by my having met this spirited young man. I will miss him. I mourn his too-early death and grieve for his friends and family as they cope with their loss of Meshari.

This is for you Meshari:

Monday, January 20, 2014

GOING TO THE ALTAR OF SELF: Massaging my anxiety about meaningful work and money

ALTAR OF SELF. My anxious words about creating meaningful work and making money flow from my mouth. Then I take them like flowers and place them at the ALTAR OF MYSELF. There I can acknowledge my concerns. I can bless these worries and pray for them. Hallelujah! (Art by Hallelujah Truth)
Hallelujah for CHANGE! Hallelujah for riding the crest of the wave that is CHANGE! Hallelujah for ALTARS OF SELF on which we can place our concerns and fears relating to this CHANGE!

As I design MONUMENTAL TASKS for myself--creating a new livelihood (English Language Coach, Creativity Consultant, and Artist) and all of its accoutrements (website, business cards, licenses, clients), I am taking incremental steps and celebrating them (see this blog). At the same time that I am taking careful calculated steps, one at a time, I am experiencing anxiety about all of this CHANGE.
COMPANIONSHIP AT THE ALTAR OF SELF. Integrated in my sense of self are feline characteristics both real and imagined. Since I inhabit a relatively small living space with my cats Tao and Sapelo, they have become to represent ME-NESS. They approach my desk with tentative inquiries. They rub against me lovingly, yet at surprising moments, they flex their claws and take a swipe at me! I am curious about how I might increase the LOVE while decreasing the surprise attacks. (Art by Hallelujah Truth)
As I create the stage for the next dramatic interlude in my life, I desire to serve my HIGHER SELF. This HIGHER SELF is ALTARED and expressed in prayer, contemplation, dance, writing, art, and cats!

Through these acts of self-devotion, I massage my anxiety about establishing meaningful work and making money. I ride the crest of the wave of CHANGE, leaving behind the past, being in the moment, unthinking about the future.
MASSAGING MY ANXIETY BY ALTARING IT. My drawing and painting is my meditation. Art making is my prayer. Art is my altar place of self and salvation! (Art by Hallelujah Truth)
That's Coffee with Hallelujah! SOUL BLOG with me and share your ideas about CHANGE and the ways that you honor yourself in this moment!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

BEING INITIATED STEP BY STEP: Stopping to acknowledge the success of incrementatlity in my life!

Hallelujah for being initiated into new ways of being! Hallelujah for monumental challenging tasks that give us pause to think about incrementality! Hallelujah for acknowledging the success of those incremental steps as we go about completing those huge projects!
A MONUMENTAL TASK APPEARS DAUNTING. Here I am pictured (left) with my Chiboogamoo (middle), and our friend, Chris Bean, at Whitespace, a gallery in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. We are standing in front of one of Amy Pleasant's large images exhibited in a new body of her work entitled "re/form." I'm using this particular image of Amy's to represent the BIG DAUNTING TASK in my life right now. When looking at a formidable project that we want to complete, we can be intimidated in ways that stall us. Then we are in need of a "do-able" approach--incrementality. (photo by Mark Bean)
Dear PILGRIMS! It is mid-January of 2014, and I find myself looking at the daunting task of re-inventing myself via self-employment and the monumental job of setting up a website to support my business as an English Language Coach, Creativity Consultant, and Artist and many other related pieces to the big pie of financial flourishing.

Time to embody my LOOMING GOAL in incremental steps! Didn't the Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu say "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step"?
A SINGLE STEP.  Another one of Amy Pleasant's images represents my idea of a single incremental step. I was surprised and pleased to see this small image on the wall surrounded by vast amounts of space. This piece represented a small incremental step to me, especially when compared to the large image of Amy's shown above. (photo by Mark Bean)
So I began embodying the idea of an incremental step visually at Amy Pleasant's exhibit through her images. Then at home, I practiced an "incremental" dance while listening to music. Placing one foot carefully in front of the other, I moved across the living room. Then to another space in the room. I experienced traveling one step at a time, crisscrossing the room again and again! One step at a time, my body took in the information of how to move into and through monumental projects (Thank you InterPlay)! 

With regards to applying this idea of incrementality to the development of my business, I succeeded in dropping the domain name, RuthTruthArt.com for my website to RuthSchowalter.com.  I ordered business cards for Ruth Schowalter as English Language Coach! 

The great thing about accomplishing work through incremental steps? You get to stop and celebrate your success! Hurray! I accomplished two incremental steps! Time to cheer myself on! Applause! Dance! Sigh! Big breath in and big breath out!

Then, there are other steps to take. One after another. I adore how Amy's work echoes my mental image of incrementality!
ONE STEP AT A TIME.  Still another one of Amy Pleasant's images develops and expresses this idea of incrementality for me. What's interesting is that Pleasant explains a piece like this as "enabling the exploration of hundreds of individual stories in a single piece." Just think about how each of our individual steps can have its own personality with specific characteristics and that we, in our own way, are creating an image like Amy's as we complete our projects! (screenshot taken from website Whitespace gallery)
That's Coffee with Hallelujah! SOUL BLOG with me and tell me what incremental steps you are taking towards completing your monumental projects!
THE CITY OF ATLANTA! This photo I took from the High Museum in Atlanta, reminds me of building blocks. A city is built one building at a time. My new way of earning a living will also be constructed similarly. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

THE RIGHT TO OPACITY: Celebrating our layered, textured, beautiful selves

THE RIGHT TO OPACITY! (Art by Hallelujah Truth)
Hallelujah for complexity! Hallelujah for being deeply layered, textured beings!

Dear Pilgrims, we as individuals have THE RIGHT TO OPACITY!  Let's celebrate our privilege of remaining unknown and perhaps a challenge to understand!

I was introduced to this thought of the opacity of self for the first time on Tuesday night, January 14, 2014, at an Emory University lecture relating to an art exhibit of Romare Bearden's work by Robert O'Meally, an amazing speaker and the curator of the traveling Bearden exhibit, "A Black Odyssey." 
WE ARE LAYERS! (Art by Hallelujah Truth)

Yes...we already know that we are not one-, or two-, or three-dimensional beings. That is a given! However, have you ever thought about accepting and embracing how multifaceted each and everyone of us is! And that we don't need to be less than that! Or to expect others to be easily understandable. Hallelujah!
Dr. O'Meally explained this concept of the RIGHT TO OPACITY in his lecture about Romare Bearden's collage, Louis Armstrong's jazz, and Toni Morrison's writing. Each one of these artists expressed their odysseys in their creative work. You and I--all of us--are on the greatest and most wonderful odyssey of all: OUR LIVES.
EMBRACING THE COMPLEXITY! (Art by Hallelujah Truth)
From our inception and the beginning of our journey to its end, we are changed. We are transformed. We are altogether something different than what we were. And what we have become is MORE. This MORE is complex, and, at its best, might invite us to investigate with curiosity all that is there in ourselves and in others. 
WE HAVE BECOME MORE COMPLEX! (Art by Hallelujah Truth)
What inhabits this person's soul? This question is one we might inquire while respecting that person's RIGHT TO OPACITY and that we may never learn the answer. It is this place of unknowing that the most profound mysteries are experienced.

That's Coffee with Hallelujah! SOUL BLOG with me and tell me about your layers and textures! What makes you curious about yourself? How about others? But remember...you have THE RIGHT TO OPACITY!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

ENVISIONING MY CREATIVITY FOR 2014: I will be the dancing visual artist filled with flourishing grace

PEACE TO ALL OF YOU IN YOUR 2014 CREATIVE PLAY. As you envision your creative practice in 2014, be tender, loving, be sure to experience peace and joy.  (Art by Hallelujah)
HAPPY NEW YEAR dear fellow spiritual art pilgrims! Hallelujah for new beginnings! Hallelujah for baptizing 2014 with joy, gratefulness, and gleeful anticipatory play! 

Here is my 2014 ENVISIONING QUESTION for you:
What is your VISION of the way you are going to LIVE the daily creative practice in 2014? As you consider your answer to this considerable question, be gentle and loving, even tender. Carefully and playfully decide how you want to lean into your creativity in the upcoming days and weeks. What creative experiences do you want to have? How do you plan to go about feeling them and being inside of them, dancing them, and playing them out?

Here is my answer to this 2014 ENVISIONING QUESTION (For today! It will certainly change and evolve! Hurray for flexibility)
In 2014, I will seek, experience and be FLOURISHING GRACE. I will savor FLOURISHING GRACE by creating joyously as the dancing visual artist inhabiting the HAPPY HALLELUJAH HOUSEHOLD. I see myself dancing to completion projects near dear to my heart: 

The Mother in Me (book project)
The Life Cycle of the American Oystercatcher (collaboration with Jenifer Hilburn)
There’s a Dinosaur on My Head (book project)

...And then I see myself dancing down new avenues into projects such as my autobiography (a story told with images) and a Georgia coast trace book for children (in collaboration with Chiboogamoo)...

...Very significantly, I see myself succeeding financially as an entrepreneur, one with her own creativity coaching and consultation business. I envision myself working with communities in support of individual and group creativity...

...And inside of this community work, I will also happily and lovingly continue supporting science outreach and environmental conservation using my artistry and blogging skills. 

All in all, in 2014 my spiritual art pilgrimage is going deeper into the unknown, blazing the trail with my considerable experience, passion, joy, and loving nurturing community of YOU. Thank you. PEACE to ALL OF YOU IN YOUR CREATIVE ENDEAVORS that is our LIFE--the dancing visual artist filled with flourishing grace!
 That’s Coffee with Hallelujah! SOUL BLOG with me and tell me how you ENVISION your creative pilgrimage in 2014! May it filled with PEACE!