Coloring contest for a book cover: I won!!


I’m super-proud to tell you that one my very favorite coloring-book artists, Joseph Shivery, has selected my coloring work to feature as the cover of his next coloring book: The Broken Mind of Joe’s Ink II.

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I am honored to even have my coloring show up among all this talented work (see the video below), so congratulations to everybody who entered the contest.

AND I’m excitedly looking forward to getting my copy of the book! Can’t wait — it looks like it’s going to be chock full of fun and wonderfully weird drawings of the characters who have become my favorite creatures to color.

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Meditative Art, Dreamtime Didjeridu, and becoming a senior!


Fantastic experience to tell you about. I just turned 65, and 6 days later my husband, Ian, turned 70. We picked a very special holiday to celebrate these milestones.

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After a week’s circle trip exploring a small part of British Columbia’s of coastal delights by car and staying at some beautiful wilderness locations, we spent the final week at Hollyhock on Cortes Island, BC, Canada. Ian and I had stayed at Hollyhock 20 years ago on a tenting holiday and we’ve been wanting to return ever since.

Wow! Hollyhock, “Canada’s Lifelong Learning Centre” on Cortes Island is at the southern end of what British Columbian’s call Desolation Sound. Cortes Island is uniquely positioned in some of the warmest west coast waters surrounded by superb ocean views and the surrounding scenic islands. Getting to Cortes is a delightful island-hopping journey via two ferries, first from Campbell River, BC (on Vancouver Island), then a drive across Quadra Island to the next ferry, and on to Cortes.

The Hollyhock resort covers a few acres at the south-east corner of Cortes, facing south over what is probably the most beautiful beach and view on the island.
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Hollyhock has an interesting history, worth digging into if you plan to visit. Personally, what I love most about spending time at Hollyhock is the overall spirit of the place –spiritual, environmentally green/caring, vegetarian, respectful, restful, quiet. There are no electronics anywhere to be seen; they are restricted to just one area on site.

When you book your stay there, whether you are doing a workshop or just having a holiday getaway, your package includes all the meals (wonderfully tasty vegetarian food, prepared using fresh-picked delights from their much-nurtured garden); use of all the grounds, the ocean-view hot tubs and the beach (both of which are clothing optional), the big friendly lodge with ever-brewing coffee and teas, 24-hour fruit bowl, bread and toaster; a weekly beach oyster-bake, optional excursions, workshop presentations, and much more.
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What a getaway into another reality! Ian and I booked a private room in one of the beach houses, with an amazing view out over the water.
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There’s where we spent our quiet times, either in the lounge chairs on the deck, or chatting on the window-seat in our room, or lounging on the bed reading and/or daydreaming/meditating/etc.
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Ian was participating in a week-long workshop called Dreamtime Didjeridu with Shine and Zach Sukuweh. I can’t presume to describe his experience, but he had a great time with the people there, honed his skills at playing the didjeridu, especially to create healing sounds for other people, and also learned how to do some much-needed repair work on his didj.
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My workshop was Meditative Art & Yoga with Mochita Har-Lev of the Meditative Art School (her own company).
My experience for the week is what the rest of this post is about.Mochita Har-Lev, Meditative Art School

About the yoga … Although the yoga sessions were refreshing and energizing, a great lead-in to the meditative art segments of the day, it took me personally a couple of days to appreciate that. Let me just say this: even though I keep generally fit and very healthy, and I attend a weekly yoga class for seniors, my body wasn’t ready for daily yoga, even though it was at what was probably a “normal” level. It took quite a bit of adjustment on my part to ensure that I didn’t cause my body more pain than good. I talked with Mochita after day 2’s session and she was open to adapting what she was leading the group to do so that some of us “elders” could be more comfortable and still enjoy the benefits of yoga.

It was also hard for me to get up early enough for the first of our several daily meditations. At home, 7 a.m. is still sleeping time for me! Nevertheless, by day 3 I was arising eagerly at 6:15 without even needing the alarm clock.

Practicing Meditative Art, the main feature of my workshop, was fantastic. Mochita’s overall theme was using all-natural materials, “earth, stone, wood, natural paints, felt, shells, beads, flowers and so much more” to “empower yourself and your creativity.” During each session, our practice was to “combine art, ancient wisdom, and quiet inner work [to] learn and experience meditative painting, sculpturing, creative movement and writing,” and to “discover art from a meditative place, along with daily practice of yoga, walking/sitting meditation and guided relaxation.”
[quoting Mochita’s website about our workshop]

Creativity has always been a solitary practice for me. I tend to disappear into some other place when I’m doing my arts and crafts, my mind a blank canvas without thought, goals, or any consciousness of time. Despite my preference for that alone-time, it was a unique, special treat to participate within a group of like-minded women working side-by-side in pleasurable meditative silence, each of us lost in our own personal creative place.

All the materials we used during the week were from nature, either from beach-combing, raiding the kitchen, or using the treasures Mochita had brought for us from India and Greece.

So… here’s how each day went….

7 a.m., a forest-surrounded climb up the hill to our group’s private location, Bluff House, for a half-hour meditation, followed by 3/4 of an hour of yoga.
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8:30, to the main lodge for a delicious breakfast, where Ian and I shared our morning cuppa, excited to get going on the rest of the day.

9:30, back to Bluff House for two and a half hours of guided meditative art.
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Above, we were learning to use a special kind of water-based paint made from nature-based colors (Stockmar; click here for more info)… so natural that you have to keep them in the fridge after opening them! We created our own containers using egg shells nested in grasses and leaves gathered from the garden around us.

My personal meditative paint-play:
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In the next photo, we are using materials from the kitchen to make mandalas. Rice, beans, peas, seeds, dried herbs like lavender, cloves, and more, along with a water/flour paste to secure the pieces to an all-natural board.
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My own resulting mandala:IMG_8638_1024px

12:30, to the lodge for a lunch of the chef’s garden delights and perhaps some garden-grown herbal teas. The energy of the Lodge dining room was always high with everybody sharing their excitement about their workshops.

Then 3 hours of personal time, during which I usually went back to our workspace and continued with my day’s art project. Creative work is better than a break for me, plus that’s what I went there for, right?

Here I’m using my beach-gathered materials, beginning to create my dreamcatcher.
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Here’s how it turned out:
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At 4 p.m., our group gathered again. We began with another meditation session followed by 2 more hours of meditative art, along with sometimes a slide show of historical and/or famous examples of the kind of creative works we were working on that day, perhaps some sharing time about our own art and other topics, etc.

Here we are working with raw wool to needle-felt our personal creatures — fairies, goddesses, birds, whatever came to the imagination during our meditative time.

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To construct the base for our felting surface, we had gone for a walk to the garden and filled pillowcases with cedar chips!

Here’s a “family portrait” of the finished work from all participants:
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My own completed goddess figure:
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6:30, dinner in the lodge, always superb food prepared with great care and creativity. Evenings were spent quietly: walks on the beach, sitting around chatting and sharing the day’s experiences, enjoying the outdoor hot tubs (with an amazing view), exploring the beautiful trails all over the grounds, receiving bodywork (for an extra fee), relaxing with some reading, etc. The evenings were a special time for Ian and I to connect and talk about our day’s creative activities and the growth and changes they were leading us through.

It was an amazing week, one we will treasure as part of our memories about our special age-transition milestones.
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retirement? feel no guilt!


I suppose every retired person has their own answer to the questions, What’s retirement like? What does a person do?

Recently I was asked by a soon-to-be-retired person who’s feeling a little insecure about what he might do with all that freedom. I guess the prospect is scary for some people. It never was for me because I’ve always dreamed of having full-time freedom to be creative or expand my non-working-life skills and enjoyment. Anyway, here’s a version of my reply email.

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Hubby has just gone skiing for the afternoon, so I’m catching up on some email, then I’ll go out to catch up on some chore-running-around.

The idea of retiring can bring up those kinds of questions. What do we do all the time? The short answer is, “Anything we want!!!” That’s the best part of retirement. No expectations, no boss or work demands, nothing we HAVE TO do except upkeep of ourselves and home.

I get to do my crafts (or not), read books (or not), sit at my computer for FUN instead of work, get chores and shopping done when the rest of the world is at work instead of having to cope with doing it during the busiest weekend/evening times. I like learning new things, so I try out new crafts from time to time. Currently working on teaching myself “needle felting”. I occasionally have lunch dates with friends, see afternoon matinees at the movies (what a luxury!), enjoy cooking (or not), etc. In the summer, enjoy my small deckgarden and snoozing in the big hammock. I enjoy my walks in the local park. In the colder indoor months, from time to time I still do some document editing because I miss it –but I don’t miss having to do it, having people expect me to get it to them in a timely manner, etc. I did some work researching and writing for the Dalai Lama Center for about 6 months during my first year of retirement. Last year I worked with an Edmonton friend editing his doctorate thesis. I’ve helped our kids and other family, copyediting their papers when they were in post-secondary school. Ongoingly, I’m helping a friend with commenting and/or copyediting her writings, which she sometimes submits to magazines and contests. Oh, and I enjoy occasionally writing articles in my own blog. 🙂

I also signed up with a couple of microvolunteering websites. Microvolunteering is doing volunteer work from home. This weekend I found another volunteering site I’ll work with — Help From Home — doing some proofreading for a group who are working on the Gutenberg Project. They scan in books that are no longer copyrighted, then volunteers work on the books, page by page, to ensure that the scanned pages match the original — quite often, scanned text isn’t entirely accurate, as the scanner sees everything as images rather than words and sometimes gets words wrong. (Example: the word “and”, if it’s on an older or worn page in an old book, might be seen by the scanner as “ahd”.) So the volunteers go through it word by word and correct scanning errors. I did a couple dozen pages this weekend and really enjoyed it.

Anyway, you get the idea…. I keep busy (or not), only on things I enjoy, and when I stop enjoying, I move on to the next more enjoyable thing.

Hubby truly enjoys having an unscheduled life, enjoys having nobody, especially bosses, expecting him to be someplace at a certain time every day, or be responsible for students or lesson planning or the performance of teaching. He loves reading books and catching up on his news — business, science, technology, etc. — via computer. He enjoys his computer games. He’s a master at the art of doing nothing — which sounds weird but he can sit for hours and just think — I suppose it’s like meditating, which is very healthy for us, as you know. His saying is, Everything I need to know about retirement I’ve learned from my cat.”

My saying is, “Human being, not human doing!” (A Rumi quote)

In short, we’re both happy and highly recommend the retired life to all and sundry.

Some tips for you: Think (often) about what you’d rather be doing while you’re doing your current work stuff, and to start making a list of what comes to mind at that thought. Then when you retire you can start working on that list. And of course there are your hobbies — I just know there are some enjoyable activities you’ve been doing all your life, and now you can do them anytime instead of only when you can squeeze in some time. Check online — there are so many free courses, and learning something new is good for our retired brains. If you have a phone or tablet, try out some new educational apps. Learn a new language with Duolingo (just one example).  Get creative, try new things, brush your teeth with the other hand… do one random act of kindness a day…

Most importantly, you don’t have to plan. You can just start out on a life of doing whatever you want, whenever you want, for as long as you want. It’s FREEDOM! to be who we really are instead of the working life of meeting every external expectation others have of us. During our first few months of retirement we went through that phase of feeling guilty about doing nothing! But sooner or later, we all have to remember that we earned this freedom, that we enjoyed life enormously in the days before we HAD TO work to support ourselves, and that this is definitely the time of life to begin reaping the rewards of all we’ve accomplished at work. Everybody who works enjoys their few days/weeks of holiday time — they know they earned it and deserve it and it’s a relief to be away from work. A retiree just needs to start thinking of retirement as a well-earned holiday… one that goes on and on and become anything we want it to be from day to day, and can change to anything else we want if it starts to feel boring.

Well, I sure didn’t mean to have this be so long… first time I’ve actually written anything about what retirement is like. Maybe I’ll write a blog post about it!

And I did. And there you have it. Now I’m moving on to the next thing I want to do today!

lunar meditation


The moon is a character in my life. I watch its seasons and paths drift past my corner-bedroom windows; they are a framework for all its phases, colors, and beauty. I feel its force on my body, emotions, and mind. Yes, I do. When our sky is cloudy, I’m happier when I can see the glow of lunar presence above the veil. I watch the planets dance closer and further from the moon as the year passes. I miss seeing it when it’s New Moon, and I’m thrilled when the sky is clear enough that we can see the dark side dimly lit. I patiently wait during the times of year when the moon rises later than my bedtime, and/or behind the building where I live. When I’m overnighting away from home, I seek the moon in the sky, and think of my position relative to the moon’s current position and relate it the orientation of my bedroom.

This video is beautiful. I can’t say it better, so I’ll quote my friend Don, who posted this on his Facebook page:

“I love this reminder that we’re all standing on the same rock, apparently hurtling through space yet drifting along with the moon circling gently around us.”

forming a healthy habit starts from within


Activekate2

The outer conditions of a person’s life will always be found to reflect their inner beliefs. ~James Allen

I recently participated in a 21-day online fitness support group. I needed some external motivation to help re-establish a daily habit of fitness activity. My lazy butt was so reluctant to start this! Nevertheless, by the last day of the challenge, I was enthusiastically back into the habit.

We all know it takes three weeks of daily repetition to form a habit, so my success may not surprise you. What surprised me was why I ultimately met my goal.

It turned out that nothing about my success was about the physical aspects of daily exercise!

When I retired a few years ago, somehow that translated into retiring from regular fitness activity. Retirement meant I could rejoice in not having to do anything. No expectations. No shoulds. Just do what I want to do, every minute of every day.

We’re constantly told we “should” exercise—30 minutes daily, or 3x/week, or 10,000 steps a day, or blahblahblah.

Yes, but I also have a lifetime resolution to eliminate “shoulds” (and “yes-but” sentences J). My attitude toward exercise had become resistance-based because of all the “should” advice. I’d given myself permission to avoid it. Hey, I’m in charge of my own body, right?

But now, a few years later, my body has begun to show the deterioration symptoms of being ruled by my retired, lazy butt. I needed to put a stop to that. I decided I “should” exercise.

Gradually, this 21-day fitness commitment reminded me that my lazy butt is a mental state, not a state of butt!

First, I realized how easily I’ve been letting anything—whatever—thwart my exercise plans. Any excuse was a good one. Grocery shopping to do? Well then, I certainly can’t fit in that aqua-fit class! Rain? Yay, I don’t have to go for that walk!

By the end of the first week, the long-forgotten physical benefits of exercising began to show up, in spite of my daily resistance. Reminding myself about these benefits had been the whole point of my making this 21-day commitment.

Then one day, with my key motivation still being the obligation to report in to my online exercise buddies, I went to an aqua-fit class eagerly. I had the best class! It was fun! I put out more energy than usual. Magically, I didn’t feel any of the usual achy aftermath. Instead, I was refreshed, energetic, and buzzed all day.

A light bulb went on! My attitude was what had been holding me back from enjoying fitness activity.

My retired self had decided that exercise was an externally-imposed “should” and therefore something to avoid. This headspace had made me feel completely grumpy every time I thought about doing a workout.

There was more I had yet to learn about myself and exercise. Something more spiritual.

Since Louise Hay published You Can Heal Your Life in 1984, I’ve used her ideas about the mind-body connection to help heal my body. Whenever there’s anything untoward going on with my body, I explore possible non-physical causes.

During this 21-day challenge, my sciatic hip pain began telling me to stop all this walking and working out. Louise wrote, “The hip carries the body in perfect balance. Major thrust in moving forward.” Ah-ha! It made sense. My hip was certainly showing its resistance to moving forward into a lifetime of daily exercise.

Rather than cutting back on my workouts, I began saying Louise’s suggested hip affirmation to myself during all exercise: “Hip hip hooray, there is joy in every day!”

I said the affirmation instead of complaining about the pain or giving in to my lazy-butt attitude. It seemed to be speeding up the healing.

The mind and the body are so very connected!

Then, in week two, I hit another wall.

It was the inevitable Lazy Butt’s Last Stand. It was the wall of “What was I thinking?! I really don’t want to do all this exercise.”

I spent all morning sitting at my computer, resisting activity. It certainly hadn’t yet become a habit. My intellectual appreciation of the positive effects of regular exercise hadn’t become any kind of emotional or physical enthusiasm.

However, I knew I had to report my day’s exercise to the group. So I pulled out one of my mind-manipulation tricks, telling myself, “Go for just a 10-minute walk today.” That gets me going, and then I always end up enjoying the walk and wanting to continue longer. Isn’t it funny how we can fool our own minds over and over again with the same trick?

On that walk, as I chanted “Hip hip hooray, there is joy in every day,” I realized that if I was going to stick with daily fitness, I would absolutely need to put more focus on the benefits to my spirit, joy, energy, mood.

Forget about the body; I needed an attitude workout!

Within a few days, this focus led to my next insight. I began to recognize that the most significant benefit I was getting from this daily workout was not physical. It was the huge improvements to my whole outlook on life!

I felt lighter, happier, more energetic. I wanted to eat better. I was increasingly more creative, inspired, and had begun planning new art-craft projects. I felt more open to making other plans and other new commitments.

I was re-discovering the fitness of Kate’s Inner Self!

Not just my body, but also my mind, mood, emotions, and spirit had switched over to acceptance rather than resistance.

I had let go of the bad energy that comes with resistance.

Suddenly, this commitment was less about daily physical activity and more about truly recognizing how much this daily activity influences and improves everything internal.

My key to success finally became apparent. I was reviving and renewing and re-integrating my Mind! Body! Soul! Joy! Enthusiasm! Energy!

My biggest obstacle? ME!

ME is the person who creates clever excuses, justifications, rationalizations, for not getting off her butt. ME is the person who resents the fact that she has to stay fit to stay healthy. ME is the person who often says, “Just give yourself a break; there’s always tomorrow!” ME is always trying to sabotage my good intentions about physical fitness.

Those 21 days helped me discover my “cure” for the obstacle-called-ME. The cure was to fall back on what I know absolutely works for me—a focus on the more internal, spiritual aspects of self-improvement. I needed to convince myself that I’m not actually doing those physical fitness “shoulds”—I’m using my body to help accomplish a mental, emotional, and spiritual workout.

I need to let my Spirit, my Higher Self, be my physical training coach!

If the mind is in it, the body will follow.

Maybe it’s just a mind game. But it works for me. Whenever I need a boost of energy or spirit, I can use my body to help me get there. And now I’m happy to have a habit of doing this daily, no matter what!

I’m looking in the mirror these days and seeing a more radiant, positive person from all this activity. I’m feeling grateful to myself. Thanks, Kate!

Keeping fit is a true gift to Self. It’s no longer an externally-imposed should.

And you? How’s your mirror looking these days? I’m not talking about size or shape or weight. I’m asking about your radiant, energetic self. Is she or he there, in your mirror?


Author’s note:
I feel complemented that this is another of my articles selected for publication at TinyBuddha.com. Thanks for reading! All comments very welcome. ~ Kate