~ The Art Of Change ~ with Carol Omer ~

Art and Creativity as Mediums for Empowerment , Connection and Change…

Archive for November, 2007

It’s official!…. Gratitude and thankfulness are good therapy…

Posted by carolom on November 22, 2007

Sometimes people are so outraged by and indignant towards what is going on in the world around them, that is all they think, talk, write and IMAGINE about, flooding their body constantly with the stress chemicals of outrage, indignation and despair…aging quickly whilst saging very slowly… I subscribe to the belief that our inner world, physically and metaphysically is created by the quality and content of our Thoughts and that the most powerful feelings for the personal and collective expansion of love, healing, influence and connection are the ones that empower the mind, body and Spirit. Anger, resentment, outrage…they disempower our capacity to remain peaceful and effective in this complex and psychologically challenging world of the 21st century…

I came across the following article on the web and couldn’t agree more!

Being grateful brings emotional, physical benefits, experts find

http://www.sacbee.com/101/story/502167.html
Florence Low / flow@sacbee.com

Angie Lee-Ow, who is battling lung cancer, looks over the wedding pictures of her daughter Kristina Rios, right, at Rios’ Elk Grove home last Thursday. “It is cliche-ish, but truly, when you have cancer, you look at every day as a gift,” Lee-Ow said.

UC Davis psychologist Robert A. Emmons says that even when the odds are against you, having gratitude can bring many emotional – and physical – benefits. Gratitude, he said, is not something to be kept tucked away until the holiday season.

“What we have learned is that gratitude generates positive outcomes,” said Emmons, who has written extensively about gratitude.

Angie Lee-Ow might be angry. The advanced lung cancer she has is failing to respond to yet another type of chemotherapy.

For Lee-Ow, a 56-year-old retired pharmacist who has been undergoing cancer treatment for 2 1/2 years, every moment is steeped in gratitude, the sentiment that Cicero called, “not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.”

“It is cliche-ish, but truly, when you have cancer, you look at every day as a gift,” she said. “I try to spend as little time in the negative as possible.”

That means enjoying retirement, helping others who have lung cancer, spending as much time with her husband and daughters as possible, and looking forward to the birth of her first grandchild.

So grateful is Lee-Ow that she spearheaded an appreciation lunch last week for all the lung cancer doctors at UC Davis Medical Center who try to cure people like her.

“Viewing life as full of opportunities and gifts – and even challenges – can make us more resistant to stress,” said Emmons.

In one of his studies, he examined the role of gratitude in adults with neuromuscular diseases. He found that when people reflected on the things in life for which they are grateful, rather than on complaints, their outlook and disposition improved, as did their overall satisfaction with their lives.

Although the science of gratitude is a relatively new field, and definitive links between the practice of being grateful and health boosts such as lower blood pressure or cholesterol have not been demonstrated, believers abound.

“There is an association between gratitude and health,” said Jennifer Sadugor, owner of The Yoga Solution studio in Sacramento. “When we are grateful, we can relax, and be in a better space than when we’re resentful, angry and bitter, and I think those emotions have a negative effect on our body.”

Sadugor said she practices gratitude every night when she climbs into bed. This week, she said, she is grateful for the care her 9-year-old dog is getting for a collapsing trachea; for her 90-year-old mother who is coming for Thanksgiving; for her home, her job and for her own good health.

Emmons said grateful people may view their own bodies as a gift, and therefore work harder to keep them healthy. Practicing gratitude in general seems to promote a healthy lifestyle, he said.

In one study, Emmons found that people who kept journals detailing the things for which they were grateful actually spent 1 1/2 hours more per week exercising than those who didn’t track their gratitude.

These subjects also reported longer and better quality sleep, an indicator of overall health.

“These people tend to report higher levels of positive emotions, things like enthusiasm, feeling more vital, more alive and more alert,” he said. “These (feelings) indicate a person is positively engaged in their lives and with their environment.”

Emmons and others who study or practice gratitude recognize that many obstacles can stand in the way of the emotion, particularly in more technologically advanced societies in which competitiveness, individualism and a sense of victimization can be pervasive.

Prayer and other traditions including meditation and yoga, according to Mary Paffard, a Ukiah-based yoga instructor who runs workshops focusing on gratitude, can undermine stress and anxiety and provide emotional balance to those pervasive negative thoughts.

She’s noticed that students who use gratitude in yoga are calmer, their breath softer. She’s also noticed that practicing gratitude produces generosity.

“We use the body as a metaphor for the rest of the world,” she said. “If I can be grateful for what I have here, that automatically will extend out. When people let go of pushing the uncomfortable away, they are more likely to take on and understand other people’s suffering.”

In taking on other people’s suffering, Rose Parr, too, lives and breathes gratitude. Parr is a hospice volunteer for the UC Davis Medical Center, who spends several hours each week with patients who are terminally ill and their families.

Parr, 57 and in good health, gets nourished each day with the gratitude of the people, often steeped in grief over the imminent loss of a loved one. Last week, she called 77 people receiving hospice services, asking if they could use a pre-cooked Thanksgiving dinner delivered to their home.

So far, 53 have answered yes. “You can hear it in their voices, these are people who really need the help,” she said. “They are so grateful. … They are overwhelmed.”

One woman said she didn’t know what she was going to do about the holiday this year, telling Parr, “I was so depressed, and you call, and make it all better.”

That, Parr said, “is what this is all about.”

*********

I am very grateful for our ‘room without walls’ and the evenings spent under the stars….

I am very grateful for our ‘room without walls’ and the evenings spent under the stars….

Posted in Gratitude, Journeys, Lifes Stories, Love, Wisdom | Leave a Comment »

Oxfam ‘Fancy Stitch’ exhibition- African Women affected by HIV / Aids…

Posted by carolom on November 17, 2007

I went to an exhibition of the Fancy Stitch project yesterday, an Oxfam funded initiative “inspiring women in rural South Africa to learn new skills and generate an income with a needle and thread.”

The exhibition show cased textiles embroidered by women living with and affected by HIV and AIDs.You can view the project website here:
Fancy Stitch Info

The following photographs are a sample of the beautiful work that the women are creating and some of their stories.
Their work featured many images of hospitals and depicts the huge impact of HIV /AIDs death and loss in their every day life.
There was a scene of “Bride by Force”, the tapestry capturing the distress of forced marriage.
I was very moved by the exhibition and the work of the Women whose lives are so much harder than for many of us living in the western world…yet the art, beauty and color and creative expression, solidarity and community far surpasses many of the ways of the Western world.
Impoverished economically and denied access to health, education and welfare, the work of these courageous Women demonstrated the richness of Spirit and tenacity that transcends many of the burdens cast upon them…

Buselaphi Shongwe:

The words on her picture read:

The talented life of Buselaphi had been cut short by the AIDS pandemic that ravaged our area.
Buselaphi came from Ndumu, a place an hours drive by bus from Ingwavuma.She started the Ndumu group of embroidery artists just before her untimely death.
Her work depicts the rural lifestyle of fetching water, firewood and it’s a woman’s world keeping all things in place around the homestead. 
Her death came unexpectedly and it is a sad loss to the Fancy Stitch group. Buselaphi had six children who had all died.
She is remembered by her friends as somebody who was not easily angered and always smiling and laughing.
Buselaphi was 27 years old when she died in May 2005. 

 

Philile Mathenjwa
I am 35 years old. I ended my education in standard 8. I fell in love with a man. It was very good for 13 years. In 1997 he lost his job. We started to feel misery and a shortage of food.
It was a big family.My sister and brother-in-law started to be a bad influence to my husband and whenever he got a temporary job he did not support me any more.He sometimes never came back home.Whenever I confronted him with a problem he told me to go back to my family.
His family decided to chase me away.I have five children. I did not want to go back home with my children so I built myself my own house.Fortunately I managed to build one room and we stayed with my children.
I got a temporary job at the hospital and things started to be better. It was a pity when I lost it.

Sewing and Fancy Stitch helps me a lot in times of loneliness. It brings a smile on my face. I am now helping to make the building clean and enjoy it because people treat me well and I am still sewing my beautiful quilts.

Even when people don’t want me I don’t worry because I get all the love I need from Fancy Stitch.

Posted in Africa, Angels, Art, Community, Creativity, Lifes Stories, Love, Magic, Oxfam, Poverty, Sisterhood, Social Artistry, Spirituality, Stories, Warrior Women, Wisdom | 2 Comments »

The aftermath of War – no one “wins”…

Posted by carolom on November 15, 2007

We know that war extracts a huge toll…loss of life, devastation of environment…and the ruination of all that is Sacred…

I came across this article from the New York times in relation to the mental health and well being of the men and women who return from Iraq:

Link to the Article
A Flood of Troubled Soldiers Is in the Offing, Experts Predict

The nation’s hard-pressed health care system for veterans is facing a potential deluge of tens of thousands of soldiers returning from Iraq with serious mental health problems brought on by the stress and carnage of war, veterans’ advocates and military doctors say.

An Army study shows that about one in six soldiers in Iraq report symptoms of major depression, serious anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder, a proportion that some experts believe could eventually climb to one in three, the rate ultimately found in Vietnam veterans. Because about one million American troops have served so far in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Pentagon figures, some experts predict that the number eventually requiring mental health treatment could exceed 100,000.

“There’s a train coming that’s packed with people who are going to need help for the next 35 years,” said Stephen L. Robinson, a 20-year Army veteran who is now the executive director of the National Gulf War Resource Center, an advocacy group. Mr. Robinson wrote a report in September on the psychological toll of the war for the Center for American Progress, a Washington research group.

“I have a very strong sense that the mental health consequences are going to be the medical story of this war,” said Dr. Stephen C. Joseph, who served as the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs from 1994 to 1997.

What was planned as a short and decisive intervention in Iraq has become a grueling counterinsurgency that has put American troops into sustained close-quarters combat on a scale not seen since the Vietnam War.
Psychiatrists say the kind of fighting seen in the recent retaking of Falluja – spooky urban settings with unlimited hiding places; the impossibility of telling Iraqi friend from Iraqi foe; the knowledge that every stretch of road may conceal an explosive device – is tailored to produce the adrenaline-gone-haywire reactions that leave lasting emotional scars.

And in no recent conflict have so many soldiers faced such uncertainty about how long they will be deployed. Veterans say the repeated extensions of duty in Iraq are emotionally battering, even for the most stoical of warriors.

Military and Department of Veterans Affairs officials say most military personnel will survive the war without serious mental issues and note that the one million troops include many who have not participated in ground combat, including sailors on ships. By comparison with troops in Vietnam, the officials said, soldiers in Iraq get far more mental health support and are likely to return to a more understanding public.

But the duration and intensity of the war have doctors at veterans hospitals across the country worried about the coming caseload.

“We’re seeing an increasing number of guys with classic post-traumatic stress symptoms,” said Dr. Evan Kanter, a psychiatrist at the Puget Sound veterans hospital in Seattle. “We’re all anxiously waiting for a flood that we expect is coming. And I feel stretched right now.”

A September report by the Government Accountability Office found that officials at six of seven Veterans Affairs medical facilities surveyed said they “may not be able to meet” increased demand for treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. Officers who served in Iraq say the unrelenting tension of the counterinsurgency will produce that demand.

“In the urban terrain, the enemy is everywhere, across the street, in that window, up that alley,” said Paul Rieckhoff, who served as a platoon leader with the Florida Army National Guard for 10 months, going on hundreds of combat patrols around Baghdad. “It’s a fishbowl. You never feel safe. You never relax.”

In his platoon of 38 people, 8 were divorced while in Iraq or since they returned in February, Mr. Rieckhoff said. One man in his 120-person company killed himself after coming home.

“Too many guys are drinking,” said Mr. Rieckhoff, who started the group Operation Truth to support the troops. “A lot have a hard time finding a job. I think the system is vastly under-prepared for the flood of mental health problems.”

Capt. Tim Wilson, an Army chaplain serving outside Mosul, said he counseled 8 to 10 soldiers a week for combat stress. Captain Wilson said he was impressed with the resilience of his 700-strong battalion but added that fierce battles have produced turbulent emotions.

“There are usually two things they are dealing with,” said Captain Wilson, a Southern Baptist from South Carolina. “Either being shot at and not wanting to get shot at again, or after shooting someone, asking, ‘Did I commit murder?’ or ‘Is God going to forgive me?’ or ‘How am I going to be when I get home?’ ”

Posted in Depression, mental illness, Stress, Trauma, War | 1 Comment »

Purrl creates new feline fashion…

Posted by carolom on November 8, 2007

I came home today and Purrl~the~wonder~Girl cat was peering at me in what looked to be a body suit for burns victims.

Seems she had spent the morning enlarging a small hole in the shade cloth to Purrly size and spent the rest of the day asleep with her head through the hole…

Love the part where the hole is a bit too small for her head so she has a half Siamese look…..;-)

Posted in Animals, Beloved Pets, Cats, Humor | Leave a Comment »

‘Always Remembered’. Honouring the Women and Children and Pets who have died…

Posted by carolom on November 4, 2007

Earlier this year I was invited to facilitate The ART Of Change  program “Always Remembered”.

A group of Women who had each experienced trauma and violence wanted to create art work that honors the lives of the Women and Children and pets who have lost their life in domestic violence and to inspire other Women to claim their power to leave an abusive relationship.

We created black and white Mandala posters for coloring in as a meditation and relaxation tool for Women living in shelters and emergency accommodation and book marks and badges from the posters.

Last Friday was the annual Reclaim the Night march and our project was launched after the march.

The Women who participated in this amazing project experienced a significant culmination of their own Journey and will now be taking the message of “Always Remembered” and the power of art for healing and empowerment, back to some of the shelters where their journey began.

My life long friend Janet was killed by her husband in 2001, he then killed himself and Janet’s story and the memorial art I created in the week after her death inspired me to share in the message of the importance of breaking away from destructive, toxic relationships and reclaiming our right to be safe, loved and respected at all times…

Here are some of the images from the project.

You can see in the end photo the array of Empowerment Badges that the group created….because of the public format of posting these images, I have respected the anonymity of the group members but if you use your imagination you can see the beaming smiles and energy of solodarity and purpose amongst our “Always Remembered” empowerment artists….

Sacred Art.

Posted in Art, Community, Creativity, Domestic Violence, Imagination, Journeys, Justice, Lifes Stories, Oneness, Relationships, Sisterhood, Social Artistry, The Art of Change, Warrior Women, Wealth, Wisdom | Tagged: | 1 Comment »