When Life Doesn’t Turn Out As Planned Then What?

“I once was lost but now I’m found. Was blind but now I see.”
~ Amazing Grace

The first week in February I lost the sight in my left eye.  It started as a squiggly line across the lower visual field that mushroomed into a dark curtain hanging over my entire line of sight.  What I thought could be a detached retina morphed into a three-month odyssey that continues to unwind today.

Working with an ophthalmologist, my primary care physician and a ophtha-neurologist, I have had a full battery of blood tests, an MRI, IV steroids, a lumbar puncture procedure to collect my spinal fluid, a temporal artery biopsy and an ultra sound on my carotid arteries.  There are no definitive answers as to why this occurred or what caused this event that was never a part of the plan I had for myself.  The good news is I don’t have MS, lupus, Giant Cell Arteritis, Lyme disease and various other infectious and immune diseases.  The official diagnosis is optic neuritis from an optic stroke.

An unexpected experience can shatter our known existence to become a series of wanderings into the unknown.  All of life revolves around the epicenter of such an event and rocks our very foundation. I am wrestling with the seemingly craziness of this situation while simultaneously considering the value of this experience.  I have found that there is intelligence in this, an awakening that brings a new perspective and richness to life.

During this time, I have consulted my SoulCollage® cards almost daily asking for guidance, support and insights to move through this process.  I also have made several new cards to reflect the obstacles I am facing and the openings that are  coming my way.  Because each card is a reflection of some part of me, I have touched into my own inner advice and wisdom, which has helped me to make decisions in my best interest.

We all have times in our lives when an unexpected trajectory appears.  Questions arise such as Why me? Now what? What’s next?  Perhaps these times are not as dramatic as the one I just experienced, but they are mini-shatterings that call for us to ride out the course in unknown territory until something shifts that brings forth a new creative aspect of life.  SoulCollage® cards are a way to honor the experience and bring us to new understandings.

Left Visual Field 

I am one who has fallen over your left visual field,
sitting in the background, a moving,
breathing jumble of geometric shapes and designs
all with a life of my own.

I am one who reminds you of your vulnerability and the preciousness of your sight.

I am one who is awakening you to a different way of seeing life,
a new normal.

 

Honoring Seena Frost, SoulCollage® Founder

4607315102_259e1bb955_mSeena B. Frost, founder and “birth mother” of SoulCollage®, died at home on January 13, 2016 with her loving family in attendance. She was 83.

Seena wrote to the SoulCollage® Community on January 9:

“I am now starting on my final chapter of life.  The doctors don’t know for sure how much time I have, but we have contacted Hospice and leave it to God and the Great Spirit to call me home.”

The first time I met Seena I had been creating SoulCollage® cards for about a year. I was struck by my feelings of familiarity as I spoke candidly with this unassuming creator of a process that was deeply touching my heart and soul. I explained that I didn’t fully understand what was happening inside of me, but I knew it was good. She smiled  knowingly  and told me to “just keep making cards.” Simple advice that has given me roots to discover who I authentically am, living a life true to my being.

The last time I saw her, I could sense her process of moving more inward due to ill health. As we talked, I thanked her for the vision she created mentioning that it feels like she is present at each workshop I present. Her kind smile seemed to affirm my statement that she is always present in any SoulCollage® event.

I honor Seena’s influence and the visionary process of SoulCollage® that is expanding at an exponentially rapid rate. Personally integrating our minds, our hearts, our bodies and our spirits into wholeness by creating personal collages has the power to change attitudes, change lives and move this planet toward a more integrated whole. It gives those of us who have often wondered how we can affect change in our lives a medium, a voice, and a modality to be authentically who we are, which affects everyone with whom we come into contact.

She says it best in her book SoulCollage® Evolving:

“How each of us nurtures, heals and explores Soul will have impact on the vast cultural changes beginning to manifest. If we become more Soul-Conscious we will become more powerful and effective as Lightbearers, as Warriors, as Wise Women and Men of the 21st century. I like to think that SoulCollage® has become one of the “imaginal cells” working within this still cocooned “old caterpillar” of a society to help it transform into the new “butterfly” of a society that many are envisioning. We are joining together with other communities of awakened human beings, and adding our special gifts of images, intuition and imagination. We are working toward the balance of left and right brained hemispheres, and the balance of masculine and feminine energies. We are working to integrate the dualisms that separate people into good and evil camps by teaching that all beings are unique and a the same time holy, each being blessed with a spark of Source.”

Thank you, Seena, for not only changing my life, but also for your contributions as a change agent for the world.

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Celebrating My Body Through SoulCollage® and Journal to the Self®

Each morning when I greet the image in my mirror, do I smile and say, “Welcome to the day, Beautiful,” or does my furrowed brow express criticism for not looking good enough? I doubt I am alone in thinking the latter given the obsession in our culture where body expectations are often beyond actualization. When did this negative programming begin? How do I refocus my thinking to appreciate my body, recognize its uniqueness and value this form that is carrying me through life?

 

Upon further reflection, I consider the journey of my body through this lifetime, sensations arise.  I feel an ache in my left arm, broken while trying to fly at eight years old. I quicken at the thought of lovers and expand as I feel the ripeness of pregnancy. A stiff neck reminds me of a bad fall while skiing. My whole being lightens as  my lips turn upward into a smile. Concentrating on my breath I can sense my whole being expanding into the Unknown. What a miracle my body is! It holds memory, it can shift its focus over decades with a minor thought, and it reminds me that my life is  well lived, even amid the aches and pains stored there.

 

This internal dialogue and  insecurity about my own body image shifted after I enrolled in a class at Creative Life Center taught by Carolyn Jennings called “Learning To Love Our Bodies.” Over the course of 10 weeks, I explored my relationship to my body, and as a result, developed a healthier awareness of my whole being. I learned to contrast being in the body with body image, which when I consider this concept, is truly the difference between reality and fantasy. Coming into relationship with my body I am able to appreciate the value it holds for me. Instead of judging my body for what it isn’t, my mantras include: “My body is a blessing,” and “My spirit shines through my body.” During the class, we used Journal to the Self® writing techniques and SoulCollage® cards  to illustrate new relationships with our bodies.

 

LLOB Ladies If the images on this card could speak, they would say, “We are ones who came together to celebrate our bodies. We are ones who share our stories, our inhibitions, our tears, our values, our desires and our love for our bodies. We are ones who feel the joy of soaring above body image difficulties.”

 

A shortened version of this class combining  SoulCollage® and Journal to the Self® strategies to celebrate your body  is being offered at Laura Lyon Studio. For details click: http://www.lauralyonstudio.com/events/.

Soul Connections: “The Growing Soul” and SoulCollage®

“We have come into this exquisite world to experience ever and ever more deeply our divine courage, freedom and light!” ~Hafiz (Sufi poet)

ad for book This quotation opens the memoir The Growing Soul ~My Transformational Journey From Adversity to the Divine Within by Maria Russo. As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has worked extensively with people addicted to drugs and alcohol, she is dedicated to inspiring others to wake up to their growth possibilities and to discover the pure goodness, beauty and light that lies within each of us. She writes, “My life’s work is about the soul and I believe it is paramount to align with our soul’s essence to fully experience our life on Earth.”

In a recent interview, Maria explains how SoulCollage® has supported her soul.

Always open to new ways to make soul-connections, I was delighted a few years ago to meet Laura Lyon. I had just completed a chapter entitled “The Awakening of a Soul” for the newly published book Extraordinary YOU ~ The Art of Living a Lusciously Spirited, Vibrant Life and was working on my full-length memoir called The Growing Soul ~My Transformational Journey From Adversity to the Divine Within. When Laura said, “I teach SoulCollage®,” the phrase captured my curiosity and I knew I would love it.

I soon learned that SoulCollage® is a process created by Seena Frost for accessing our intuition through imagination and an endless number of images cut from magazines.  It’s a practice that encourages self-discovery and a connection to our inner voice.

At the first workshop I attended, Laura instructed us to go to the “image garden,” where hundreds of images were set out.  “Pick a couple that jump out at you,” she said, adding “drop expectations; the images will call to you.”  When I saw the image with the nuns, I knew what she meant, as nuns have played significant roles in my life.  Not knowing what kind of collage would emerge, I paired my nuns with a young girl meditating in the lotus position.

Contrast of Religion-Spituality

I chose a background and a beautiful butterfly and pasted the images on a card that was soon speaking right from my soul: “I am one who has transformed from Religion to Spirituality.”

My first series of cards were about honoring my own survival, the adverse situations I had suffered and the role spirituality played in my healing.  All of these facets of my life I was writing about in my memoir.

Arising From Tesrs The card to the right speaks by saying, “I am one who emerges from a sea of tears into the Light.”

Four weeks after beginning SoulCollage® at Laura Lyon Studio, I was diagnosed with lung cancer.

My journey through radiation and chemo was exhausting and I had no energy to engage in my life. I continued to make the effort to attend SoulCollage® workshops in the studio because they were nourishing my soul. Most of the cards centered around my healing including many Community cards that supported me to surround myself with the most loving people in my life. SoulCollage® gave me a visual perspective of my experiences and feelings about many aspects of my life. The cards supported me to see my life has been filled with challenges that are also blessings that continue to open pathways and that I really never doubted that I was going to heal.

Healing Cancer card

 “I am one who was confused with not knowing, but was nurtured back to health. I am one who feels grateful for the way cancer came and left me. “

To read more about Maria’s journey, her book is available  by contacting her through her website http://thegrowingsoul.com where she offers signed copies and free shipping. The Growing Soul is also available through Barnes and Noble, Amazon.com, and your favorite book store. Current book signings, which are scheduled throughout the year, will be posted on the website as well as information about Maria’s contribution to: Extraordinary YOU (2011) and Speaking Your Truth Vol III. (2012). Also, watch for the next book, a compilation from many authors entitled 365 Ways to Connect With Your Soul to be released in November, 2015. Maria’s contribution to this book is an article about SoulCollage®.

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The Synergy of SoulCollage® and Journal to the Self®

jttsSoulCollage® is a whole, inclusive and evolving process. By intuitively creating and using this personal deck of cards to tap into varied aspects of myself, they deepen and broaden my understanding of my life. Coupling Journal to the Self® writing techniques with my cards I have been able to heal many of life’s wounds. The writing expands and illuminates my cards in significant ways. Like SoulCollage®, Journal to the Self® writing techniques tap into the right side of the brain which creates an opening into inner wisdom.

I met Carolyn Jennings, a Journal to the Self® facilitator in 2011. Having used varied journal techniques for self-understanding, I was delighted when she suggested we “experiment” with connecting the two process with one of her ongoing writing groups.

img007_2The card I used for that session is a Committee card shown to the left. Following a sequence of Journal to the Self® writing techniques I instantly felt the power of combing the two processes. If you look at the image, in the upper left  hand corner you will see a picture of my wedding. It is one I stumbled upon while looking for images for my Community Suit in photo albums. As I examined it, I realized that every person in that photo, including the young boy in the foreground, have all died except for me. My husband, my mother and father-in-law, and my aunt in the background are all deceased. I made the card quickly and very intuitively and I knew it had something to do with letting go.

 

img073I began writing about this card using a cluster or mind map using the phrase “I am one who” to quickly allow the card to speak. This phrase is the foundation of the SoulCollage® process and is a way to slip into the image, using intuition and imagination to become the image – to make it live, have a history perhaps and give it voice.

 

This cluster was followed by a dialogue with this card, my father-in-law being the one to speak to me. I was curious to know why he came forward to speak. He told me what I needed to hear would be best understood coming from the person I was least emotionally attached to and that what he had to tell me would be more clearly understood without the attachment. His wise guidance gave me permission to release the family ties that were keeping me from moving forward in other areas of my life. As a result of the writing session, I clarified the title. Letting Go became more specifically Releasing Family Ties. Because I was able to tap into that intuitive space during the dialogue, I connected on a deeper soul level to the wisdom of something larger than just myself. The card provided a powerful shift for me.

As a permanent part of my deck, this card has evolved. It is a reminder to me that releasing ties in other situations can be beneficial and life producing. Although it has a personal story behind it, the value of the card now crosses over into more aspects of my life.

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Carolyn Jennings and I continue to offer transformational workshops together. We will be teaching SoulCollage® and our Three Part Writing Process in our next class on August 29 at Joyful Journey Hot Springs located at foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains near Crestone, CO. For information see events www.lauralyonstudio.com/events/

We will also be presenting at the Expressive Therapies Summit in NYC in November and at Laura Lyon Studio. An introductory taste of our work can be found at http://www.kaleidosoul.com/teleclasses A full six hour Journal to the Self® and SoulCollage® Class is available at http://www.soulcollage.com/online-classes/

SoulCollage® and Journaling: An Inspiration for Painting

Kate Sladen credits SoulCollage® for the role it played in reigniting an inner spark to return to her painting studio after a hiatus while raising her children. “After struggling with occasional resistance against working in my painting studio, I am now back creating SoulCollage® cards and painting!” In a recent interview this is what Kate had to say about her SoulCollage® journey.

Last fall I signed up for a five week introductory SoulCollage® class at Laura Lyon Studio. I came with the intention to allow SoulCollage® to help me discover new inspiration for my work with painting and writing poetry. Having painted many themes such as barns, dancers and animals over the years, I was looking for something different, something more psychological and all encompassing. SoulCollage® was a perfect fit for my purpose. In addition, Laura’s guidance was an ideal match for my process as she reminded me to let my creativity flow without having to follow any rules. Her supportive and sensitive feedback to the visual aspects of my cards encouraged my breakthrough.

 

My cards are composed ideas that stimulate my creative process with ease and without pressure. It is fun and easy to grab images that speak to me, to compose them on a card, and then all of a sudden I’ve created something exciting to paint. In fact, I have an entire library of ideas waiting for my paintbrush to bring them to life. The subject matter of my SoulCollage® cards are composed intuitively and with a freedom of many choices. They often surprise me and can be mysterious. At the same time they are real and have personal meaning that reveals my personal story through images. In my excitement, I’m more motivated, productive and free. I can honor people in my life, show my love of Italian Renaissance art and wrestle with some of life’s issues, struggles, feelings and frustrations. Both the card making and painting are therapeutic for me and I am learning to allow the images of my paintings to speak to me more just as I do with my cards.

Flying with the Butterflies

In the past, animal themes have been an important part of my painting. Learning about the SoulCollage® Companion Suit was a turning point in my process. After discovering a butterfly in my second chakra creativity center I was inspired to pick up a paintbrush again. I could feel the flow and excitement of the butterfly fluttering in my soul with a sense of support.

 

 

Flying With The Butterflies

I am one who is joyously happy playing among butterflies.

I fly, I soar, I dive into exquisite flowers.

I delve into beautiful color, bursting out from that confined cocoon to go wherever I want.

I seize the day, excited to be free.

 

When I am at the easel, I feel like a butterfly, making quick exciting marks, not lingering to over correct them, light and free of critical voices. SoulCollage® fits me perfectly and I never imagined that this would help me expand my creativity as much as it has.

IMG_20150405_120334“Elizabeth” (Copyright © 2015) by Kate Sladen, oil on canvas 24” X 30” from a Community Suit SoulCollage® card of the same name. “My cousin, Elizabeth is a violinist and pianist and like Botticelli’s three graces in ‘Primavera’ or ‘Allegory of Spring’, she represents charm, beauty and creativity. I was inspired by Botticelli’s huge tempera painting while visiting the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy.”

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For more information contact Kate at katesladen@gmail.com or visit www.Linkedin.com/pub/Kate-Sladen/a7/bb3/a43

 

 

See Kate’s poem “Creative Metamorphosis” at www.lauralyonstudio.com/testimonials

 

Animals: Touchstones To Body Energy

“The future of humankind depends upon return to a right relationship to nature. The need is both inner and outer.  In this endeavor the animal soul is our most dependable guide.  Since we no longer hunt in lonely communion with animals and since few of us feel called to go on formal vision quests, we have to seek ways of recreating meaningful connection with the animal realm.”  Ladson Hinton, A Return to the Animal Soul

“Our body is precious.  It is our vehicle for awakening.  Treat it with care.”  Buddha

A few days ago I was sitting in heavy traffic at a stoplight when I glanced to my right noticing a man in a Dodge van two lanes over smiling and waving at the car in the next lane.  I wondered if I knew him, but smiled inside as I realized he was expressing this grand affection for the black backed, tan snouted Australian Shepherd mix sitting in the back seat of a SLE V6 Solara Toyota convertible.  Both passengers in the front seat were looking forward so I knew his affection was directed at the dog, who was looking back at him with as much intensity.  I was struck by the man’s delightful expression as he communicated his affection for the dog.

What draws us to animals?  Why do we allow these beings into our homes to commune with us as we go about our daily lives?  What brings us to our knees when our sick animals revive? What wild animals stir fear in our bodies?  What animals make us say “Ahh,” so cute?  What animals are we spirited to protect from extinction?  So many questions we could ask about our relationship with animals.

One expansive question might be: Why do we feel compelled to have meaningful connection with the animal realm?  I would venture to say our very survival depends upon it.  Our relationship with animals helps us to come into contact with the sensory system of our body and form of which we are made.  Animals make us feel more fully human, more alive, more aware of our fleshy embodiment.

In our modern world, we spend so much time in our heads that we have forgotten what it means to be and to live in our bodies.  In fact, the western world belief system erroneously tells us that the mind has more to offer us than our bodies when in reality we need both.  Having a connection to the animal world, both domesticated and wild, helps us to expand our relationship to our bodies and to the natural world of form.  Animals help us reveal within ourselves primal instincts of just being, not doing, just being.  The more in tune we are with our bodies the more we are in tune with reality.  When we can feel into the sensations of our bodies we can sense more than just what the mind can tell us.

From a SoulCollage® perspective, the Companion Suit helps to bring us into a healthy right relationship with our body energy and to the earth.   The animal companions that we feel in each of our seven chakras are mirrors for the energies in our physical body, their flow and their blockages. These indications can help or hinder our movement within the constant change of our world.

Making SoulCollage® cards that reflect our animal companions helps us to be more
alive and in relationship to both our bodies and the natural world.

IMG_0889My favorite animal companion, Carmelo, helps remind me to laugh and to relax my body.

What animals assist you in coming into relationship with your embodiment?

Honoring Our Community Network

 

“We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” Martin Luther King

"Bookies" Book Club
“Bookies” Book Club SoulCollage® Community Suit Card

I love my book club. We are the Bookies and have a roster of 14. Four to eight of us usually attend once a month for dinner at a local restaurant to discuss a book one member has chosen. Our choices vary from fiction to non-fiction to poetry including classics and current best sellers.

I love my book club.

I love to read, which can be a rather solitary activity unless someone else is reading the book and is willing to discuss it. Talking about a book expands my thinking and helps me to clarify my relationship with the story or the information.

I love the women in my book club. They love to read as well and enjoy the connections books bring to us.  As current or retired educators we know the value of literacy, critical     thinking and healthy discourse.

I love our time together because all of us know the magic books can bring to inform and transform.  These women are a part of my wholeness.

The last book we read was Living With A Wild God by Barbara Ehrenriech, a well written, well researched memoir about her journey to connect with the Unknown. Raised and schooled in the scientific paradigm, she wrestled with the mystical, intuitive aspects of life. The lively discussion included opposing views, questions about the author’s credibility and agreement about the author’s intelligence. The discussion connected us in an alive and real way.

Creating cards for the SoulCollageâ Community Suit honors all the sentient beings in my life, the ones who have had influenced me with their particular energy and impacted my personal story. The benefit of being in relationship with others can often bring fullness to my emptiness, peace to my inner disharmony, aliveness to my apathy. It can also bring confusion and conflict when I crave order, but I also know connections to others bring me into the reality of being human. From a holographic perspective everything is intertwined in such a way that all relationships reflect the whole, so I celebrate the relationships I have with others by creating cards for them.

 

 

 

SoulCollage And Personal Expansion

“A seed hidden in the heart of an apple is an orchard invisible.” ~Welsh Proverb



The true heart of SoulCollage® is about expansion. Tapping into intuition and imagination leads to openings and opportunities that may not be visible before creating a card from an intuitive perspective. Like the seed in an apple, intuitive SoulCollage® cards often hold powerful meaning that include aspects of consciousness that may not even be known yet. Over time these seeds grow and create more possibility, and as in the Welsh proverb, life expands into something much larger.

In October 2013, I attended the SoulCollage® Facilitators Conference in the Pacific Northwest. Seena Frost, the creator of SoulCollage® and author of SoulCollage® Evolving, had a special gift for each of the over 200 participants. She had cut out and randomly placed one image in envelopes, which were placed on a table for each participant to intuitively choose. As I opened my envelope I felt an anticipatory excitement, butterflies of expectation. The image was one I never would have chosen had it been available for me to harvest from a table of images, one of a matronly nurse attending to a row of children in individual beds. Were they sick? Were they orphans? What was the woman doing leaning over their beds? And most importantly, what did this image have to do with me? My curiosity was quickened, but I put the image away until I returned home from the conference. Several weeks later as I spoke for the nurse figure using the “I am one who” phrase, the idea of healing emerged, and as I collected potential images for the background and additional images for the card, the energy began to come alive.

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Healing Presence

I am one whose touch and words create a healing presence in this world.

I am one who tenderly and with love gently settles souls around me bringing healing.

 

 

In truth, I never considered myself a “healer.” Teacher yes, healer I’m not sure. And yet, this card unlocked a place in me that supports my ability to be a healing presence in the world. As I hold the images of this card in my mind, I use it as a reminder or a guide for my action in the world. As I continue my schooling in a healing modality, my healing presence will expand and new opportunities will arise. Metaphorically, the center image in the card is a seed that is helping me to continue to grow my orchard.

SoulCollage® is an amazing process and practice that can help those parts of us yet enfolded or enclosed within us to come forward and reveal themselves. As the New Year approaches in what ways might you expand your life?  How might an intuitive image help you to see possibilities?

Humbling the Holiday Hubbub

Sometimes both the inner and outer pull and noise of anticipating the holiday season       exhausts me. I’m disheartened by the commercial aspects and at the same time enlivened by the joy that the entire holiday season can bring. I know I do have a choice in how I want to experience the season. I’m not unrealistic enough to think that everything will be perfect every moment of everyday between now and New Year’s Day, but what I do know is when I take time to be silent, to really feel the silence inside me, even if just for a moment, my perspective changes.

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“Silence is a source of great strength.” Lao Tzu

Just taking a brief moment to be silent and hold in my imagination the SoulCollage® card I call “Silence,” I can feel wrapped in a cocoon of no sound, not separate from the humanness of the celebrations, but far enough away to regain my center.  Is there an image that can help you restore wholeness during the holidays?