From Mindfulness to Heartfulness

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—Mandala, gel pens on paper, (c) Cat Charissage, 2017

Hello dear friends,

Early last week I was able to take 2 full days away at a local retreat center for a silent, private retreat.  I read and slept and centered and just sat.  Listening.  It was great; I only wish it could have been a week or two longer!

I was very glad to return to my guys, though, too.  (That is, spouse and young adult son)  As I write you it’s still February, a new moon, and I feel very much in the energy of not knowing what’s coming next, but feeling something . . . .  How about you at this time of year?  I’m still crafting a life I would love to live, finding the balance between activity and contemplation, between what I’d like to do  and what’s even possible, between not getting any sleep and sleeping in, figuring out what’s in my control and what isn’t.

I spent the first half of my life finding out, it seems, that so much more was possible and in my control than I had ever imagined; now it seems that I’m well acquainted with fate, chance, destiny, and a fair amount of chaos — somehow it’s a perfect analog to how I knew so much more 30 years ago than I do at this age!  Building, letting go.  Building again, visited by the unexpected.

I’ve included the poem I wrote at the end of the retreat.  I hope that you, too,  are able to settle in to heartfulness.

With much love,

Cat

FROM MINDFULNESS TO HEARTFULNESS       —Cat Charissage, February 2017

Today I return home from a silent retreat.

Silence.  In an 8′ x 10′ room with comfy chair

and not so comfy bed;

meals prepared by the sisters of St. Martha,

otherwise I’m lovingly, prayerfully, ignored.

 

Maybe this can all be reduced to a shift in brainwaves

from beta to somewhere between alpha and theta.

Maybe; and, it feels exquisite.

A quality of quiet different from most days,

most akin to a middle of the night quiet

when all is well in the world.

 

All, of course, is not well in our world

Yet at the same time there is a place where

     all is well

     and all shall be well

     and all manner of thing shall be well

as Julian of Norwich told us from plague-ridden England.

 

I want to live there, here, in this state:

     quiet, alert, alive

     open, receptive, listening

I am not lonely, but part of;

Happy in my heart and ready to respond.

 

My scalp muscles have unclenched.

I hadn’t noticed that they’d been tight.

My inner organs relax, rest.

Blood flows easily, freely, throughout.

 

Words come, go.

 

I could live like this. . .

I want to live like this,

     ease, grace, flow . . .

 

Here I am.

Here I belong

happily in the mystery of all,

that Mystery whose center is everywhere,

     circumference, nowhere.

 

Another node of consciousness in the All,

I am grateful.         

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—watercolor and crayon on sketch paper, (c) Cat Charissage, 2017

                      

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February in the belly

20170206_144417February in the belly  Cat Charissage

What’s coming?

A corner has been turned.

What unexpected is around this particular corner?

Stats will tell us that half the time what is unexpected will be good,

but many of us are at an age where the news isn’t.

We’re not too surprised when a friend is diagnosed with cancer,

or heart disease,

when we hear that the job fell through

or the marriage fell apart.

Yet, (a good word to remember:  “yet. . . “)

Those aren’t the whole story, ever.

Whatever the groundhog’s shadow portends,

spring will come.

Right now,

seeds in the belly of the earth

are feeling the extra hours of sunlight.

Right now,

there is new life growing in the belly of many a critter,

trusting that when it’s time to be born,

come forth,

arise,

there will be light enough

and warmth enough

and nourishment enough

to go on.

Many of us at an age

where bad news is not very unusual,

where we’ve seen many a winter,

we also know that despite the snow on the ground

and ice ready to trip us up,

yet — yet — yet again

we know that spring will come.

And yet again new life will grow.

It’s growing, now,

in the belly.

Promise!

Happy Full Moon tomorrow, my friends!  Much love to you, Cat

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All images in this post are working sketches for the art activity for tomorrow’s planned Red Thread Circle, which will be on the turning of the season Feb. 1/2:   Imbolc, also Candlemas, the Feast Day of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, the Blessing of the Candles, and even Groundhog Day!

I am one acquainted with the night

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(c) Cat Charissage, 2016

Dear Friend,

I’m not sure where to start with this post.  My commitment in this blog is to tell the truth, AND to be encouraging; to choose to look at life from the glass half full.  How do we talk about the hard times, acknowledging just how all encompassing and life defining they really are?

There are many wonderful things about my life.  Many privileges, enough resources, an abundance of friends and options.  But, I also live with chronic pain.

There is not a day that goes by in which I am not aware of just how present this physical pain is in my life, and how exhausting it is to be carrying it in my body, hour after hour, day after day, year after year.  There isn’t a night (for at least the last 15 years) in which I haven’t been awoken 5, 6, 7 times from pain, needing to rub in some Ben Gay (my “signature scent”!), move around or stretch, take some medication, do a little meditation.  The past few nights have been frustrating, as I’m dealing with rotator cuff pain (shoulder and arm pain) on top of everything else.  I’m exhausted at night, so go to bed around 10:30.  Then I’m awakened every 45 minutes or so:  can’t stay sleeping on my left side because of the shoulder pain; can’t stay sleeping on my right side because of my hip pain; can’t stay sleeping on my back because of my lower back pain.  I get up to walk around a bit, then go sleep in the lazyboy chair.  Or try to.  The nights have been cold, so it takes awhile to warm up the room temperature covers and help my muscles relax.  Often I  warm up the “magic bag” in the microwave and cuddle that until the blankets are toast.  I’m just ready to drift into sleep, and the Ben Gay wears off.  I know there’s no way to sleep now, so I drag myself into full awakeness to smear on the liniment — maybe add a little hot sauce, too (the capsaicin cream).   Andrew and I often joke that it’s not everyone who gets to sleep with such a hot woman as I!  Okay, fully smeared on all surfaces that usually ache or pinch, covers warmed through, I start to drift off again.  And a new sensation arises:  the arch of my left foot is going into spasm!  Oh geez — hadn’t ever noticed that that had been one place that didn’t used to hurt!  It’s pretty challenging to twist around under the covers trying to apply Ben Gay to my cramped foot — and not also onto blankets or chairs or, heaven forbid, rather sensitive, ah, private parts of my dear body!  (Been there, done that!  Not fun needing to take a shower in the middle of the night to soap off the camphor, menthol, and hot pepper that’s burning places it should never touch!)

So goes the night.  Awaken, take note of any dream, smear some more hot sauce on dear body, walk around a bit, try not to awaken dear spouse, get warmed up again, hopefully drift off.  Often, somewhere around 5 in the morning, I finally drift into a deeper sleep.  While I’m thankful for the rest, it usually means I sleep in until almost 10 a.m.  Feels now like half the day’s gone.  Another night where it takes 11 1/2 hours to get about 6 hours of sleep.

And then there’s the next day to get through.

Believe it or not,  I’m not whining in telling it like it is.  As I’ve said, there’s so much good in my life, including excellent conventional and non-traditional health care.  There are still many things in this 21st century that can’t be fixed, and this is simply my life right now.  It’s also similar to the  lives of many others who are acquainted with the night, surviving pain, holding vigil, coping with anxiety.  Let’s not forget just how hard life can be for so many people.  How can we be anything but kind?

With much love,

Cat

p.s.  I’ve just posted my Winter/Spring 2017 offerings, including workshops on Sacred Circles, Spirals, and Mandalas, and Dreaming Your Life Awake.  See: Current Offerings

Your Tree of Life 2017

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(c) Cat Charissage, 2017

Hello dear friend,

Happy first Full Moon of this new year!  Has the beginning of 2017 prompted you to ask yourself how life is going and how you want to be living in the next while?  (Otherwise known as making resolutions!)

Consider these areas of life:  

*Interactions with others, or my work in the world;

*My relationships and my family;

*My physical and material needs;

*My relationship with Sacred Wisdom and my inner self.

Consider these questions:

  • What brings well-being, contentment, happiness for me?
  • What’s going right in these areas?  What am I grateful for, appreciative of?
  • Truly, what do I already have?  And truly, who am I already?
  • When, and how, do I feel most at home in my body, my spirit, my self?
  • What allows me to be most compassionate?  What improves my mood?
  • Am I overgiving? Overdoing?  Do I need to do LESS in order to live more fully and  more deeply?
  • Are there any new habits I want to develop in these areas?
  • How do I  choose to direct my life force in these areas of life?

These are the questions (some of them my own, some I’ve written in response to inspiration from others) that I offered at the Dec. 30 session:  Your Tree of Life 2017.  Along with a guided visualization and Red Thread Circle, the 7 of us painted our trees with our answers to these questions imaged in some way:

ROOTS:  What things or ideas  (accomplishments/attitudes) from last year  do I want to fertilize my coming year?   

TRUNK:  What is my theme word, prayer, or mantra that I want to keep front and center  this year?

LEAVES:  What do I hope to bring forth?  Something new?  More of the same?

For me, it’s not nearly so much about what I want to accomplish as HOW I want to be living, with a sense of spaciousness, listening, and be-ing — with time for art-ing, too! Open to mystery, unfolding.

And you?

Much love,

Cat

P.S.  If you wish you’d been there, you can book a private session to do this workshop (or many others) in person or through video call with me. Work with me individually.

COMING STUDIO EVENTS  (RSVP at catcharissage@gmail.com)

Join me for a RED THREAD CIRCLE on the second Friday afternoons of the month at 1:30 p.m. starting February 10.   Also  Friday, March 10;   and  Friday, April 14.  We will have a discussion and simple arting on one question/prompt I will offer, in the context of a Red Thread Circle.  By donation.

The LAST SATURDAY of each month is OPEN STUDIO.  Join me in my studio from 1:30 to 4:30 for simple arting and great companionship.  Bring something you’re working on, or learn a new technique.  Next Open Studio:  January 28.   By donation.

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Finding the Light, Being the Light

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Unfolding Mystery (c) Cat Charissage, 2014

Dear Friend,

In this season of the celebrating the new light, many of us have our challenges and wait in vain for Santa to make everything ecstatically wonderful.  Perhaps the ubiquitous story is needed precisely because so many of us won’t be living it in its entirety — keeping hope alive.

There’s no need to remind ourselves of the lack of world peace,  lack of family peace, lack of homes, lack of health, lack of happiness that so many across the world are experiencing now — I just poured a bunch of concerns into my journal that don’t need to be dwelt upon.  I asked myself again what it is that enables humans to endure, to survive, and even to share love and light in the midst of a “far less than perfect” living situation, because even as I witness and experience the “lack of’s”, I truly see the kindnesses, the coalitions, the reaching out of hands to help.  As we stumble through another holiday in this needful world in the midst of our needful lives, let’s remember to note how we do get back up and keep on going, and how much we have in the midst of wanting and sometimes desperately needing more.

Today I’m thankful for a warm comfortable home, a messy but wonderfully comfortable study/studio, healthy and happy enough family members, a recipe for amazing vegan gravy, the trayful of cheerful votive candles burning on the table, wi-fi, herbal tea in humongous insulated cups, plenty of paper and art supplies, a fridge full of provisions, family members who welcomed us in Calgary two days ago, other family members who will welcome us tomorrow, feeling a bit better after a painfully cold and aching morning, newspapers with the year’s “Best of’s”, enough snow for a white Christmas but not too much to make travel dangerous, plenty of great books, gifts of honey and love, Christmas ornaments hanging from bookshelves and other unusual places, the space heater churning out warmth, cookies glazed with chocolate, new (to me) cushions for the hard chairs in my study, new (to us) car that is so much more comfortable than the old one, a small pile of presents wrapped in old newspapers and cheerful red ribbon, not having to go anywhere today, my wonderful women friends in my Story Circles, my teacher and mentor Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes and tribe of the Sacred Heart, my faithful and encouraging readers, stories and images of beauty and hope.

Now, your turn!  Even if you don’t write them out, here or in your journal, take 30 seconds to look around and see what you do have, here at the end of a challenging 2016.  Note the struggles you’ve survived, note your victories, note the work still to be done by you that is meaningful and needed in this next year.

May your presence in this world, now, bring light to us all.

Much love and warmth,

Cat

Mandalas and Silence

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— all mandalas (c) Cat Charissage, 2016

Hello dear Friend,

I’ve been finding that I need silence more than ever these days.  I feel anxious and frazzled, and in mourning for the sufferings in the world.  I’m dismayed at the new level of permission granted in our culture for persons to be insulting and hateful, especially in the media, but also apparent on the streets and in stores.  While I’m mostly shielded from it due to privilege of my birth, race, and location as well as by my primarily home-based life, my heart just aches at the incivility of our civilisation.

Besides becoming and living the change I wish to see in the world, I’m always discerning what it is that I can do, or not do, to mend the world within my reach.  And right now, it’s to not do.  I sit, settle, meditate, and find the calm center out of which I wish to live.

Drawing and coloring mandalas facilitates finding that calm center.  I almost always start at the center and move outwards — the way I want to live my life.

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I find that it almost doesn’t matter how I arrange the different motifs or symbols; as long as it remains balanced it ends up being beautiful in its own way.  Just like my days.

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While black and white ones jotted in my “to-do and maybe-do” notebook are simpler and quicker to create than the larger colored ones, they too are worth doing.  Just like the simple actions of being calm in my interactions, or smiling at the clerks and secretaries in my rounds of errands —- worth doing.

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Sometimes the day, and the mandala, calls for planning and careful attention to exactness and detail.

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Other days, and mandalas, are filled with whatever life gifts — or challenges — me with.

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Have you ever played with mandalas?  Do you color in the new coloring books for grown-ups?  How do you find centeredness in your life in this world, now?

May this darkest time of the year (in my northern hemisphere) remind us that darkness can be either frightening or mysterious, dangerous or fertile.  May we discern well, and may we respond to it all with centeredness and compassion.  And always, to bring what beauty we can into the world.  Happy Solstice to you all, dear ones.

With much love,

Cat

Announcements for December and January

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Hello dear friends,
On Friday, December 30, I will be facilitating an end of the year, looking towards the New Year Reflection  workshop called “Your Tree of Life, 2017 Edition”.  It will be here at my home studio from 2  to 4:30  p.m.  We will be making a tree of life, filling the roots with the nourishment from 2016, the trunk with the words and values with which we want to live 2017, and the leaves with goals, hopes, and resolutions for our future blossoming.  No art experience is needed, and all supplies will be provided.  This is suitable for women and men aged 15 on up.   This workshop is my contribution for all of us to live a clearer and more intentional life, and is run on a donation basis (Suggested donation $30, but it’s totally pay what you can.)  I have room for 7 participants, so please contact me soon to hold your seat.
As many of you know, my Story Circles have been inspiring for all participants and very rewarding for me to facilitate.  In the new year, I will be adding a new Story Circle called “Red Thread and Tea”,  on the second Friday afternoons of the month, starting from Friday, January 13, 2017, from 2 to 4:30 p.m here in my home studio.   All women and girls are welcome to come, and, distinct from my other Story Circles, I’m not asking for a commitment to attend all the sessions —- this Story Circle is open to new members, guests, and is come when you can.  I intend to offer this monthly on the second Fridays of the month until June, and then to start again in September.  We will have a Red Thread Circle where we all respond to a verbal enquiry, speaking whatever we wish to share with regard to the prompt, and will share tea and conversation based on whatever theme the enquiry entails.  It will be informal, but also slightly structured to facilitate meaningful conversation, discussion, reflection, and commonalities in the service of greater consciousness and living life intentionally and creatively.  There is no formal charge, but I do have present a donation box to share in the costs of my offering this.  Please RSVP if you’re coming!
The art workshop “A Gift Like No Other”  will be held on Saturday, Dec. 10 from 1:30 to 4:30. You will have the opportunity to create three different kinds of personalized TRIBUTE GIFTS, hand­made gifts of paper, cardboard, word, and image created specifically with a loved one in mind, to honor and encourage them:  an Intention Box, Appreciation Booklets, and/or Soul Cards.
All supplies provided. $60 or pay what you can, space permitting.
There is no Open Studio in December.  Open Studio is on the last Saturdays of the month from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m., but in December the last Saturday is New Year’s Eve.  Open Studio will begin again in January, on  the 28th.  This is a time for playing with art materials, and I have a project or technique each time to demonstrate.  Please RSVP if you’re coming!
Please contact me with any questions or for more details.  Remember, too, that I am available, in person or online, for individual sessions in Intentional Creativity in order to learn more about different aspects of Soulwork, or to address particular questions or issues (for more information:  https://catcharissage.com/work-with-me-individually/).    Email me at catcharissage@gmail.com .
May your Holiday Season be joyous and rejuvenating.
With much love,
Cat

The More Things Change. . .

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— (c) Cat Charissage, 2016 “She is a Tree of Life”

Dear Friend,

Much ink has been spilled in the attempt to come to terms with the results of the election in the U.S.A.  Here, on this full moon, I want to direct your attention to two pieces of wonderful writing, today’s post from Dr. Estes, and this article by Toni Morrison written back in 2004 after the election of George W.

Do not doubt that we ARE made for these times.  We know how to stand like the weeping willow tree, fully grounded, in the midst of the storm.  Our branches may sway and whip, but because we’re both flexible and grounded, we stay strong.  And survive.  And we will witness to beauty day after day after day.  We are there for others to lean on, and we consciously and strategically choose what next to do with our oh so limited time, energy, and resources.

I think of the lines from Albert Einstein, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them” and “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”  They help remind me, in a time when creativity, art, and writing seem almost frivolous, that NOW is the time to be focused, conscious, and to open ourselves to the newness that comes when creativity is united with critical thinking.

Carry on, my friend, in holding to justice and kindness.  Use your creativity and critical thinking to be the change we want and need.  Do not get distracted from the possibilities to create not just art, but the life we long to live —  with liberty and justice for all.

Standing with you with much love,

Cat

The Life I Long to Live, and Two Announcements

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— work in progress, (c) Cat Charissage, 2016

Dear Friend,

This work in progress is a first step in my using Intentional Creativity to work through a significant life challenge of mine:  How do I create a sustainable and joyful way to live, a way that will allow me to have the best health possible, to have deep and meaningful connections with my beloveds, will allow me to explore the depth dimensions as much as I want, and create a rhythm so that I’m creating more of what I feel called to create in writing and painting?

The painting connects the visions of my heart with the necessary (but as yet unknown) strategies of the mind that will help me choose out of the possibilities available to me that which will support me in a contemplative and whole life, while contributing by sharing compassion, skills, and whatever wisdom comes through me. There’s also something important in there about opening my voice in a greater way.  We’ll see how it progresses.

Uh, you too?  Oh, I’m not presuming you have the exact challenges or the same goals.  But there’s this seeming never ending discernment of how to best use our time and attention to live the life we long to live, isn’t there?  There’s always so many more interesting and often very important matters than there is time in the day to give proper attention to.  So many needs and cries for justice in our world to lend our voices and time to!

Well, towards that end, I have two ANNOUNCEMENTS:

  1.  I’ve a new offering:  ONLINE INDIVIDUAL SESSIONS in Intentional Creativity and Soulwork. This is really exciting for me, and I’ve thought carefully about what I can offer online with my full integrity.  Please consider referring my services to your friends if you think I can be of help.  For all the details, go to my page Work with me Individually.
  2.  My online presence on Facebook and FB groups will be curtailed, just to keep what little discretionary time I do have available to invest in my highest priorities.  There are so many  people in my life that I deeply treasure, and remember regularly with love and all good intention.  At the same time, most of you know that I rarely read my FB Timeline, and am not caught up with many of the groups I’m a member of.  And I’m feeling the need to cut back even more.   (So remember, if something significant in your life occurs and it’s posted on FB and you don’t hear from me — it’s not that I don’t care about you, but it’s because I simply will have missed it!) However, I do respond as soon as possible to any private messages on FB or to personal emails.

With much love at this New Moon and entrance into the “thin spaces” of the year here in the Northern Hemisphere,

Cat

Bodhisattva Between the Worlds

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(c) Cat Charissage, 2016, acrylic on canvas

Bodhisattva Between the Worlds

Here I am.

I arose from this.

I belong here.

Here, now, within and between the worlds

of ordinary and non-ordinary reality,

I am prism

allowing Light to come in, flow through,

become just what is needed in this needful world.

I live . . . . differently, now,

building on what came before, organically,

revisiting pattern, expanding with an aerial view.

No more pushing rivers that flow anyway.

I am flow.  I am vibration.

I live in the spaciousness of All of reality.

With the gift of Light and color

I know radiance, and bring it into darkness.

To see All the Mystery, to share flow,

and roses,

here I am.

HERE I am.

 

Hello dear friend,

As we move more steadily into fall (where I live), and on this Full Moon energy, I want to invite you to dream and ponder a bit today if you can.

This painting resulted from a lot of dreaming and pondering, especially about the kind of life I want to and need to live, so as to live as expansively and creatively as possible within the realities of this life, here, now.  I was accompanied in this pondering by the most recent class I took with my painting teacher, Shiloh Sophia and her husband Jonathan Lewis, called Prism Leadership Lab.  It sought to apply principles of quantum physics to leadership, by means of painting.

I loved experimenting in a different style than my usual, and hope to do more like this.  Here are some of the “in process photos”.  There were many stages and much writing in each stage.  I had no idea what the finished painting would look like; I just kept painting the next stroke, adding the next idea.

 

With much love,

Cat

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