~ The Art Of Change ~ with Carol Omer ~

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

Archive for the ‘Creativity’ Category

The Warrior Woman template as a life coaching & community development tool

Posted by carolom on January 7, 2017

As a life coach and  empowerment artist working in the areas of domestic violence and cultural diversity I recognise that creativity, art, story, song, dance and music are the tools and activities that affirm women’s strengths and interconnectedness regardless of our cultural background.

Engaging with art in a communal setting creates a place where we can celebrate our connections and share the richness of the stories and experiences that define our cultural and individual uniqueness.

I am very appreciative to the women who attended a  Women’s ART of Change  Empowerment & Life Coaching Camp and allowed us to photograph some of the sessions. By doing so we can share the powerful message that sharing and creating together is the answer to crossing the cultural and language barriers that can prevent women from coming together.

When women from CALD (culturally and linguistically diverse) settings engage with this form of  life coaching tools they are able to express their unique culture as expressed through the templates that are the equivalent of the hand outs and power point presentations in most  training environments.

Art and creative expression is a unifying medium across all cultures and a powerful medium for sharing our stories and expressing our vision for the future.

We had a Warrior Woman’s Empowerment Workshop on camp. From black and white templates, the Warrior Woman is created…

The Warrior Woman…
Her head~dress represents developing the power of the mind to overcome obstacles and adversity. Cultivating thought patterns and mental focus for creating the life we envisage for our selves and our children.

Her large heart symbolises the importance of remaining compassionate and connected to others whilst not being overwhelmed by the d.v cycle of promises and repetitive abuse. This is especially significant when recovering from domestic violence as safe personal boundaries are core to keeping the family safe.

Her wings remind us that our mental well being and health requires  balance in our emotions, mind, physical and social health.

Introducing the Warrior Women theme for the day:

Phoenix Woman was created as a way to express changes that came about through trials and difficulties.

Stories of the past and stories of the children’s future are shared as we create the warrior woman.

Two communities came together on the 2nd day of the camp.

Patty created her Warrior Woman’s Headress using spirals of wool…

Sisters…We are all the same within regardless of the skin we are in..

Posted in Aboriginal, Art, Australia, CALD Women, Change, Community, Creativity, Imagination, Life Coaching, Lifes Stories, Love, Peace, Social Artistry, The Art of Change, Transformation, Warrior Women, Wisdom | Leave a Comment »

Moving beyond Building Bridges

Posted by carolom on October 18, 2016

The Mandorla

Unity in commUnity CarolOmer

During  almost three decades of working in human services, I have seen the term  building bridges gain  popularity.

Its a powerful metaphor. Bridges exist in all countries and transcend cultural barriers. The image of a bridge requires no  explanation.  The image speaks the intent.

We are crossing over, transcending the distance between us.

l am leaving my side of the bank and arriving at yours and We are no longer limited by the circumstances  that separate us.

It isn’t  surprising that both the visual image and the language of bridge building has  become an effective analogy, a visual metaphor  for getting along with our neighbor, resolving issues and conflict and  walking into new territory together, our differences transcended,  bridged by understanding and change.

A few years ago I came across a symbol that captivated my attention and spoke to my ‘inner bridge-builder’ with a clear message that bridge building, no matter how well intended, has its origins in the dual paradigms  of separation and difference.

The symbol that stetched my perception is called a Mandorla.

The word is Italian for Almond and that is the shape that is created when two circles over lap.


When we are developing a process that involves building a bridge, we begin from a point of separation and strategise  how to transcend the distance between myself and the other, us and them by seeking to unite two distinctly separated sides.

With the Mandorla we can see that  two whole and complete circles retain their unique identity and between them create a new, unified  space where those two circles meet.

The place  where we are already connected.

This is the place where  we all share commonalities and experience our pre-existing connection.

We breathe the same air, we have the same needs for food, shelter and warmth. As human beings we share a mutal need for safety, love, belonging, purpose and a need for meaningful stories and sense of place in the world.

These are core human needs that form the foundation of families and communities across the planet, regardless of the different cultural, economic or political circumstances of where we live in the  place we call home.

If I am facilitating a workshop for  young offenders in juvenile detention or visiting a rural Aboriginal Community for a womens camp, the Mandorla affirms our connection.

I am not entering  their community or communal space  wondering how I can build a bridge between us, instead I show them my Mandorla poster (see below) and ask if we can spend a bit of time looking at where we are connected.

Once we get past the obvious we are all humans, a whole range of possible  shared experiences and commonalities come forth. You are left handed like I am   / My football team is  /  I share your same views on racism / how can we make a difference together?

As we explore our commonalities we also look at the space outside of the Mandorla, that large expanse of the two separate components of the intersected circles.

This is the place where we learn from one another, a place where our differences are recognised within the experience and recognition  of our connection and not as somewhere we need to get to by crossing the bridge of our differences.

I created a poster for the ART of Change program  to  show my interpretation of the Mandorla.

I always show the poster with the wildly enthusiastic expectation  that when  people learn about the possibilities of Mandorla for the first time they too will have an ah-ha! moment and realise that the time we spend thinking about, talking about & building bridges  is time taken away from sitting  in the Mandorla of our connection & sharing in the joy of learning & growing together through one another’s Stories.

I came up with another way of expressing the Mandorla and it goes like this:

Mandorla.jpg

Posted in Building Bridges, Change, Community, Creativity, Human Rights, Jean Houston, Journeys, Mandorla, Peace, Social Artistry, Stories, Transformation, Unity, Wisdom | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

The Magical Child in Exile. Why does the Creative Well-being run dry?

Posted by carolom on June 22, 2016

Every child is born an artist, the problem is how to remain one. Pablo Picasso

 

Creativity is Oxygen

The Magical Child in Exile is a dramatised story written for people who have yet to reclaim their creative Magical Child in order to experience the mental, emotional and spiritual well being of the naturally free flowing creative state.

While the story makes sweeping statements about  academically, competitively structured education systems for the purpose of dramatising the impact of losing our connection to our innately creative state, I would  like  to acknowledge the wise, creative, fun loving  teachers who recognise that creativity should not be left behind in the eclectic  gallery of  kindergarten and  value it as highly as the science and 3-R subjects. They are the gate keepers for the Artists Soul.

Where does the unlimited imagination, the energy creativity and passion of childhood go? We start out at the kindergarten level oblivious to skin colour, cultural differences and economic status, yet have created a society that has so many divisions and ‘isms’.

As a maturing society we are face racism, sexism, agism and the complex needs of  people who are isolated, mentally unwell and disconnected from their fellow human beings. In the journey from kindergarten to adolescence and adulthood many people have learnt to believe in the differences that set us apart rather than celebrate and engage with the broad range of differences from within the sameness of our shared humanity.

DSC_0004

Why does gossip and drama preoccupy so many people  these day and why do tabloids and celebrity gossip have such a strong hold that feeds social media and popular culture?

I think it began in a land far and near in  times as long ago as yesterday and  today…

The Magical Child in Exile

Once upon a time there was a Magical Child who loved to draw and dance and sing and paint and laugh and play. Some days the Magical Child just twirled and swirled in circles for the sheer pleasure of it all.

The Magical Child even had an invisible friend and all the grown ups thought that was very cute, just as cute as when the Magical Child played ‘make believe’ and “I can do and be any thing”.When the Magical Child was sad, tears flowed. When the Magical Child was happy, laughter cascaded.

When the Magical Child was angry there were big yells and sometimes a full-body splat onto the ground as the tsunami of outrage and disappointment is just too much for a  little person to contain. However as soon as the moment was processed the discordant energy left their body leaving the cells free to breathe and grow and remain in their healthy natural state.

But by and bye-bye something happened one day!

The Magical Child was in the midst of telling one of the grown up’s about a funny little make believe story when the grown up said, stop being silly! You can’t keep pretending like that! You are a big girl now! 

They had said the same thing to her brother not so long ago. You are a big boy now. Stop crying. You’re not a baby! STOP IT.”

The Magical Child was shocked and her shock was accompanied by an unpleasant feeling inside of her tummy that took a long time to go away. It was a shaming,  conforming moment. A matter of fact moment that began to alter the course of the Magical Childs life forever.

A shaming moment that would seep into the recesses of the subconscious mind and like a noxious weed, eventually choke the fertile magic-making  soil as surely as if a nuclear land scape  had been dropped in the new’clear landscape of the Childs mind.

And so it began. The artist, the story teller, the dancer , the scribe, the prophet , the mystic all living and breathing through the imagination  – the I~magi~nation-  of the Magical Child was told to stop!   Be quiet!  Don’t dance on there you’ll fall!   Sit down.   Don’t be silly.   Stop fidgeting.  Stop asking so many questions!   STOP!

On and on the commands continued. All the way through school where the Magical Child was now only permitted to create only between 10 am and 11 am (art lesson), to tell stories between 2 and 3 on Tuesdays. (English lesson). Creating whilst remaining as motionless as humanly impossible.  Stop fidgeting! Stop day dreaming! Pay attention! A’tension indeed!

Facing the front board, often bored inside of a square box   they called a room, a box  where whirling, twirling, playfulness no longer came through the door,  banned from ever mentioning invisible friends lest you invite the horrors of medication and mislabeling before you have even learnt how to tie your shoes up properly, the Magical Children sought to become what was expected of them and learn about things beyond their Magical, creative realm.

The Magical Child quickly learnt not to show sadness, anger or confusion and to repress inappropriate eruptions of joy, fear or insecurity in the class room.

Of course eventually the Magical Child stopped completely. Making sure instead to h~o~l~d~It~In!! Sit Still! Eyes to the front…STOP whispering, laughing, talking. Stop. Stop. Stop.

A kind of who-I-Am-amnesia set in.

Forgetting about the art, the magic, the songs, the dances and the stories and instead replaced those Magical currents with learning the things that the teacher insisted was important to their current learning, competing with the other lost Magical Children in the sports yard, in the academic arena and eventually in the work place. If they were able to still function that is.
Magical Children are resilient and they are able to forget if it means freedom from the shaming, the naming, the labeling and the ire of the grown ups but some succumbed to their true self in spite of the challenges and sometimes became known as disruptive, troubled learner, withdrawn , different and uncooperative and  other such names that reveal an inability to conform to the lost-Magic around them.

So was born the latest generation of leaders, lost Magical Children, who will perpetuate the lost-magic and creativity of the system. A system saturated with lost Magical Children, living unreal lives, not even realising – real’eyesing – that who they have become is not who they were meant to be.

Not. who. they. were. meant. to. be.

Many of the Magical Children, now groan-ups themselves are still h-o-l-d-i-n-g—i-t—-i-n. It is not surprising many of the once-magical-minds of the grown up’s  became choked with the weeds of mental illness, alcoholism, drug dependency, neurosis, psychosis, anger, depression, boredom and frustration, competition and back biting and preoccupation with celebrity lives and drama!

Magical Children are full of pure, free flowing creative energy and energy can not be destroyed, it simply transforms, turning toxic, creating tragic from the magic.

Millions of grown up’s are lost Magical Children in varying degrees of exile though a few do escape and return to their natural state I hear. Perhaps this is  why a nation can be preoccupied reality television and obsessed with the lives of the stars! The gods and goddesses of magic and creativity who not only stayed connected to make believe and pretend but are richly rewarded for doing so. They delight audiences who sit still in their chairs, immersed in intrigue and adoration, seeing the world of possibility in the magic-mirror of television.

No longer creating and producing their own stories and art and dance, the need for fantasy and magic nevertheless remains ever strong. Indeed when Magical Children in exile see others leading a “magical life” something within their own self may yearn to return to that place of Magic, creativity and infinite potential for love and connection.

How many people are sighing their day away, feeling that something is missing not realising that ‘Something’ is their free flowing creative Self. It even has been names the mid life crisis  and the seven year itch and finding meaning and purpose in life. Like the kind of meaning and purpose we knew as creative children I guess

Sadly though the lost story teller may now be churning out reams of tragic rather than experiencing that once familiar creative magic. Workplace gossip, chaos and unhappy relationships, forever telling wounded story teller tales to friends and family, occasionally plummeting into the deepest chasms of depression and despair, overwhelmed by the tragedy of an uninspired life.

Depression is on the rise in the western world and there must be a reason why.

I know a lost artist who now  obsessively cleans a clean house and a former magical child inventor who  weeds a weed less garden seeking to create something of note in their world, processing those ever-flowing creative energies towards their small boxed in life.

If it is true that ‘in order to experience heaven one must become like a little child then it might well be that the Magical Children no-longer-in-exile, those who have recovered from the amnesia and remembered who I Am will be the ones to remind us all how to begin the wonderful journey back to our authentic, creative  self and to reclaim what was always within. After all the word reclaim is simply the word miracle in anagram disguise!

ommy.jpg

http://www.CarolOmer.com

Posted in Art, Childhood, Creativity, Lifes Stories, Magic, Oneness, Peace, Spirituality, The Art of Change, The Big Girls Little Colouring Book, The Magical Child in Exile | 28 Comments »

How Colouring is making a difference in Domestic Violence Shelters

Posted by carolom on June 21, 2016

I was recently invited to contribute to the newspaper article How Colouring-in heals the psychological scars of trauma ( <– see link) and as a result of the interview process I have a couple of pages of added information.

I thought it would be a good idea to blog some of  the questions and answers  that formed the basis of the article.

How did Coloring come into your domestic violence service?

Throughout the late 90’s and early 2000’s I was publishing an in house newsletter for the staff and women at our shelter. I called it C.H.A.N.G.E. – an acronym for Creating Happiness And New Growth Everyday

The newsletter created an opportunity for residents of the  shelter and outreach programs to share poetry and stories and for staff to promote programs and provide information relevant to the groups they facilitated.

We had already undergone a cultural change in the shelter regarding the physical environment evolving from one of issue based posters and imagery, to a much more positive and uplifting setting.

*See this blog entry for further detail:

Domestic Violence Shelters as a place of possibility not pain

C.H.A.N.G.E. updated

I was aware that the written word as a form of personal expression and communication relies on being able to read and write English.

…and that it isn’t everyone’s preferred form of expression. Delivering information in written form was not always culturally relevant for Aboriginal women or for women from CALD (Culturally and Linguistically Diverse) backgrounds.

As the daughter of a very creative mother, I recognised that many of the programs and systems in place in shelters are developed within an academic, not a creative framework so with the support of our management team and my colleagues I began to create tools that tapped into women’s creativity and gave the hands something to do that was engaging and fun. “Fun” is not usually associated with domestic violence shelters.

In the late 90’s I read Carl Jung’s memoir, “Memories Dreams and Reflections” and was fascinated by the concept of the Mandala. I had seen how the young women at our shelter would get very involved in some of the playgroup activities that were designed for their children, including colouring in.

I drew a very rudimentary Mandala and put the words “Believe in Yourself” at the centre and from that very first colouring sheet the women let me know that sitting at the table and colouring while the personal development information was being delivered had changed the group from a class room setting where they were often bored to a much more dynamic and engaging setting.

Our group attendance and retention rate increased dramatically as a result of offering creativity and colouring groups to the women.

I Believe n Myself Poster
Over the next few years I developed creative tools to accompany most of our in house information. For skills training in the area of budgeting, I designed a colouring sheet with circles representing their different financial obligations, such as rent, groceries, electricity etc and we coloured the sheet as we explored topics like budgets, direct debits etc.
The completed poster became a visual tool for budgeting rather than a hand written form that is often left in drawers or left behind in the group room after the session.

A very common topic in dv shelters is how do I change negative patterns?

…especially if it is the 2nd or 3rd domestic violence relationship that a woman is experiencing or she has grown up with domestic violence and does not recognise the intergenerational cycle.

For those sessions I designed Mandalas that had affirmations such as “I release the patterns that no longer serve me” and “I love and accept myself”.

Within a couple of years I had created a master copy folder of colouring pages that were designed specifically for issues affecting women in domestic violence settings but also other pages that related to relaxation and goal setting.
Our staff team enjoyed the colouring process also so I occasionally designed Vision statement colouring sheets for our team building days.

Patterns

How does colouring-in help people touched by domestic violence?

Colouring in is a form of open eyed meditation.  The rhythmic movement of the pencil slows the mind, acting like a kind of mantra because of its repetitive nature. Colouring brings the consciousness into the present moment. Rather than worrying about past events and speculating about the uncertain future around court cases and hospital visits, the creative process is relaxing and soothing. It is a form of mindfulness that is very effective for women dealing with trauma, who are in recovery from domestic violence.

Colouring is not competitive and it engages the hands which are often excluded from learning and relaxation processes.

Breathing relaxes, the mind slows down and for many women the internal stress is transformed into creativity and focus while they are colouring in.

Breathe Deeply b:w
When a woman arrives at a domestic violence shelter she is often in a highly traumatised and distressed state. She may have physical pain, post-traumatic stress  issues and is finding  it difficult to concentrate and focus.
Along with dealing with court cases, hospital visits, financial issues and worry for pets who have been left behind, a woman will often be managing distressed children and in some cases extended family conflict relating to her decision to leave.

I created a Colouring Pack for the women who arrived at our shelter.

We added pencils and blank paper to the pack. Many of the residents said that although they hadn’t coloured in since they were young, they felt relaxed and peaceful as they coloured.

I reminded them that we all had colouring pencils for the first few years of our life, at kindergarten and in junior primary but as time went on our creativity was often left behind in preference to the academic processes and outcomes driven education system that places the “arts” on the bottom of academic prestige and sciences on the top. As a result it is often seen to be childish or unprofessional to engage colouring-in as a training tool.
At the shelter new arrivals were often shy or distressed and uncomfortable sitting in a group setting but once they sat at the colouring table and there was no pressure to speak or hold eye contact, they would often relax and begin to share their stories in a much more organic and relaxed manner than if they were sitting with hands on laps and expected to participate in the group dynamics.

Colouring-in creates something beautiful from a black and white page. It is a personal, unique interpretation of the image and that in itself can be very reassuring and nourishing during times of distress and uncertainty.

Labyrinth

Tell me a little about some of the people who have found solace (if that is a fitting word) through your work?

Colouring Mandalas and black and white pictures is a process that is relevant for women of all ages and cultural backgrounds.

When *P was colouring her Mandala she looked up after half an hour of colouring and said I think this Mandala just spoke to me I asked her what it ‘said’ to her and this was her reply:
“When I was young if I ever felt proud about something I had done at school, my step father (who was abusive) used to always say self praise is no recommendation.
I never felt good enough around him and he was always cristicising me, he still does, but this Mandala made me realise I am good enough and I don’t need to listen to what he said all the time.
The next week she arrived at the group glowing, with a piece of paper in her hand. She had created her own Mandala with the words Self praise. The best recommendation.

We made many copies of her Mandala over the ensuing years and long after she left our service and went to University, her colouring page was there in our group room for other women to colour and medARTate on the words she had written and the important message she left us all with.
Colouring has taken her to a deeper, more reflective place within herself and in that place where she had rarely visited, insights and a new level of resolve awaited her.

There was a young woman in the shelter from a refugee background. *L had lived in a camp in one of the African countries for most of her childhood.

She was married at a young age and had courageously left domestic violence with her young baby. *L did not speak English and the staff members did not speak her language. She was shy in the group settings but her colouring style was so bright and skilful that she drew many compliments from the rest of the shelter residents.

Although the colouring circles were not competitive as such and everyone’s unique style was celebrated it was obvious that *L was a gifted artist and the recognition of her art connected her to the women around her. She was proud of her work and generous in showing the other women her unique shading techniques.

In this scenario colouring raised her confidence and self esteem and enabled her to be the “expert” in the room rather than experience isolation because she did not speak the language and we did not have interpreters on site.

Big Girls Picnic copy

 Would you like to see Coloring used across the country to help victims and survivors?

As a life coach and an advocate for equitable learning and embracing diversity I would like to see colouring circles in women’s prisons, homeless and domestic violence shelters and Community health and healing environments.
I would also like to see social workers trained in the process of engaging with creativity as a tool for case management as many of the students who come to our shelters are often very uncomfortable with their own creativity or using it as a tool for developing trusting relationships.
In settings where there are Aboriginal clients the colouring process draws on the cultural practices of art and creativity as central to community and learning through story and sharing creative practices.

Victims of domestic violence are entitled to heal and recover in their own time and colouring is a gentle, easy meditation and in that moment of colouring they can have respite from dealing with the vast array of pressing matters that fill every waking moment.

I would like to see front line staff and management and board members trained in the simple process of establishing colouring and conversation circles, this includes access to the colouring process as part of an organizations work-life balance policies.

As a community education and relationship building tool, colouring and the self reflection and creativity that it unleashes is  a fabulous, inexpensive way to build relationships and encourage creativity amongst women who are looking for new answers to old problems

Colouring circles are creative way for women who have escaped domestic violence  to offer her knowledge and experience, to “give back” as one woman put it in the Talking Circle aspect of the colouring circle.

Healing Power of Nature b-w

Carol Omer is a Certified Life Coach and Artist, specialising in Women’s Personal Development and Empowerment programs.
The Big Girls Little Colouring Book is available on her website: CarolOmer.com

The Big Girls Little Coloring Book is also available on Amazon

Posted in ART of Change, Carol Omer, Community, Creativity, Domestic Violence, feminism, Healing, Patterns | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Mandalas as tools for Staff Training and Development.

Posted by carolom on June 21, 2016

*Updated:

The Mandala ( the Circular form) which I have shared in other sections of my blog,  is a great tool for inspiring right brain thinking and reflection during our  creativity based staff training sessions.

As people engage with the rhythmic movement of adding colour and meaning to the individual black and white templates, the process is akin to a mind-massage that facilitates  access to parts of the brain we may have lost touch with in education settings and workplaces that don’t engage the hands equally as the eyes and ears for training purposes.

This is especially so in the western system whereas other cultures, i.e. Aboriginal culture, engage hands and creativity as part of the process of telling stories, generating ideas  and transmitting knowledge. This multi-sensory engagement is core to every day life.

In some cultures creative expression and development is not reduced  after early childhood as happens in some aspects of the western school system where the arts are often not considered as important as the sciences and therefore colour movement, dance, story telling, art and the application of the imagination are diminished over time. Creativity does not conform to a pre-existing template and systems that are outcome oriented are often not able accommodate creative expression and exploration.

 The system we are brought up in has enormous influence on how we think and create.

Sadly many people are living their life with the belief (belief )  I am not Creative, in spite of shared experience we all had as creative, imaginative, ‘magical’ children who were not bound by pre-existing templates during times of play and invention.
You can read a little story about what happens to the ‘magical child in exile’ by clicking here..

Feedback after the creativity based training  includes statements like this:

  • I was amazed at how much more information I absorbed even though I was not always looking up
  • thank you for giving us permission to go in to our own creative space and contribute without having to sit still all day in the one position, i am always the biro flicker in workshops because my hands get bored sitting still all day
  • Wow! That was fabulous! I am going to share these tools with my daughter and grandchildren

The following are samples of some of the work that was created during a series of Cultural Inclusivity Action Plan workshops.

The four themes that were central to the day were

  • Team
  • Community
  • Our Place
  • Workplace Balance

You can see the theme is written on the Mandala and the individual creative input is an unique and diverse as the participants and the Community they serve.

We honour the traditional owners of this great land when we implement processes that Aborginalise the western mindset by engaging with traditional cultural practices of art, creativity, story sharing, talking circles and FUN! (Thankyou Dana Shen for introducing me to  the term Aboriginalising ways of learning and information sharing).

This kind of training setting is a along way vastly different from sitting in a row of chairs or around tables and watching but not actively engaging with information. Slide shows, pie graphs and classroom style information sharing  lacks the creative engagement that occurs when hands are given access to creative processes and the information is presented in a way that evokes the imagination and new ideas.

Creativity based learning is a very different setting than the more common workshop environment where people sit still, watch and listen rather than create and interact with the material.

Our Place

Team

Balance in the Workplace

Each Mandala has a developmental theme and is used as both a creative and discussion tool as

  • an individual process,
  • in the small group talking /action plan group and
  • as a larger group we have poster size replicas which, by the end of the day become the centre of an action-plan installation art.

You can see how wonderful it is to create the ART of Vision / Action over the tired old butchers paper sheets that tend to be rolled away and disappeared forever once the workshop is over….

Posted in Aboriginal, ART of Change, Community, Creativity, Imagination, Patterns, Power of Focus, Reconciliation, Social Artistry, Staff Training, Stories, The Art of Change, Transformation, Uncategorized, Wisdom | Leave a Comment »

There is a Coloring Revolution Happening & Very Good Reasons Why…

Posted by carolom on June 13, 2015

Peace

Have you noticed how many articles and news segments, facebook posts and blogs have appeared in the last few months about the phenomenal rise in  coloring books for adults?

I have and I’m thrilled that the best kept secret in women’s personal development is now reaching audiences far and wide! I have been creating Mandalas and coloring sheets  for women for over 20 years and have seen the tremendously positive impact of coloring first hand!

To celebrate the launch of  The Big Girls Little Coloring Book I thought I would share a few of the things that I have learnt about the why  part of Coloring for Women and some of the reasons we are seeing such a meteoric rise in coloring books for adults.

Big Girls Picnic copy
1.Coloring is therapeutic. In the words of one of the women in our prison group “I’ve met a lot of psychiatrists and therapists and counsellors who want me to talk about the things that happened in the past but for me, sitting with the coloring book is one of the most peaceful places I go to”.

Coloring a pattern or template is similar to walking a labyrinth. The lines that are followed create a meditative state and within the conformity of those lines, like the labyrinth, the mind and body enter into a soothing meditation that is not confined to or bound by the pattern that is being followed.

2. As children we were very connected to our coloring pencils and often received a coloring book as a gift. In kindergarten we were coloring all the time and then, sometime around junior primary, our colored pencils began to take  a back seat to learning processes that were not so much concerned with creativity   as  academic performance. Many women never found their colored pencils again…until now!

Women are now reclaiming their colored pencils and returning to the fun, relaxing enjoyment of coloring.

3. Many women are tired and exhausted from participating in  you can have it all and are now holding down full time jobs as well as running a family full time, pursuing studies and in amongst it “all” are tired, restless and feeling disconnected from their creativity.

Coloring creates a peaceful, personal space that is a form of open eyed meditation. Breathing slows down and  the rhythmic movement of the pencils is akin to a mantra that slows the mind and stops its restless chatter.

4. Women experience a great sense of connection and community when they come together to color in circles. This is especially relevant for women who say they are tired of socialising in public  spaces and are looking for a return to the Village and the sense of community and belonging  that is at the heart of conversation about when the world was a much more simple place.

Gathering in small circles creates a trusting, innovative space where young women and older women can gather. Where we can meet up with friends, make new ones and share food, stories, creativity and laughter together.

ArNt8vZCIAElE72.jpg-large

These are just a few of the reasons why Women’s  Coloring books and Coloring Circles are on the rise.

The Big Girls Little Coloring Book has 21 Mandalas, each accompanied by an Affirmation poster with a thought provoking message.

It has been a pleasure and a great honour to create a coloring book for women that covers topics such as the power of the mind, the nature of patterns in our life and how to tap into that deep well of creativity that we knew so freely and easily as children and, for many women, are re-discovering again through the pages of coloring books for grown ups!

I am deeply grateful for the women in domestic violence shelters, prisons, community health and healing groups who have shared their stories, told me what works and what doesn’t work for them and allowed me to create coloring pages that are like a small labyrinth, a place where the rhythm of the lines and the focused movements of the hands,  slows down the busy mind and breathe deeply as the pattern unfolds.

Peace

Posted in Community, Creativity | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Domestic Violence Shelter Walls as a Gallery of Possibility not pain.

Posted by carolom on October 9, 2014

Domestic Violence Shelter Walls as a Gallery of Possibility not Pain.

Carol Omer ~ Certified Life Coach / Author

I have worked in Domestic Violence shelters in direct service delivery and on management boards for almost 30 years. One evening in the early days a resident and I were sitting in the group room of the shelter.

The walls were full of the kind of posters often found in d.v and homeless settings. Say no to domestic violence posters and statements that challenge abuse and injustice were the words on the posters lining the walls. The word violence  was written everywhere, even on the refrigerator in the kitchen.
There were also  hepatitis pamphlets, images that represented ill health, struggle and poverty and they were there because they were considered to be educational and necessary for the women, many who are considered to be “at risk”
Staff believed residents and outreach clients should be able to see the information in front of them at all times.

Pamphlets and fact sheets that had the words  trauma and stress, abuse and violence written on them in bright letters were on the wall by the door where women and children came and went throughout the day.

The woman I was sitting with looked around the room and said:

My life feels completely messed up and I look around and see these images and words  and it just makes it all feel so much worse.

It’s like the violence is everywhere. I’ve never been to a place like this before. Seeing that word violence over and over and over  freaks me out,

I saw the setting from her view point for the first time and took her observation to our staff meeting.

After several  discussions over several staff meetings we came to realise that it is not only the women who live at the shelter but the women who work there who are exposed to pain and trauma based imagery and  the words violent  and violence and deficit oriented messages on a daily basis.

Was our shelter warm and welcoming, colourful and bright or was it sterile, institutional and covered in words and messages that highlighted trauma, pain and the struggle?

Had we considered creating positive  visual images (that did not rely on English literacy) to  let women of all cultural backgrounds know that this was her place to unwind, relax and reflect or did our setting look like a government department with warning posters and issue-oriented material on the walls? No we hadn’t and yes it did.

Sistars2

As a staff would we want to live in this environment at the worst period of our own lives? No we wouldn’t.

Would we feel comfortable and at home there considering we would be living amongst and sharing space with strangers?

We decided that no, we wouldn’t be warm and comfortable in our group room or the kitchen area as they were covered in issue related words and imagery and none of us had the word violence or abuse in the communal spaces where we met with friends and family in our homes to share food and stories together.

We noticed we had a sexual abuse hot line magnet on the fridge which we later found out was traumatic for some women to read every time they opened the door to get milk. A “Say no to violence”  magnet was along side of it.
The words “violence” seemed to be everywhere, on pamphlets, on hand outs, on the white boards.

Where were the word’s for Peace? They weren’t there!

Over the next few weeks we took down every poster that had the word violence on it and all of the words and images that presented how life should not to be and replaced them with inspirational images and uplifting posters.

I created a World Peace Begins at Home poster which had exactly the same message as say no to violence but with a very different emotional and visual impact.

We were, for the first time considering what messages the walls and the furniture and notice boards were sending to the women who came to our shelter.

The front entrance area no longer had a list of house rules, they went into the information pack in the drawer. We redeveloped the space with the words A Peaceful Welcome inside of a glass painted Mandala  on the front window.
Our counseling areas were transformed into peaceful, inviting spaces. We consciously created an evocative, tranquil setting in what was once an issue oriented, high profile violence focused shelter.

We also had to acknowledge we had created a very Euro-centric space that had very little cultural diversity or language representation so w e renamed each of the units “Peace” in seven different languages to demonstrate a commitment to muli-culturalism rather than offer token gestures that made space available for diversity but only within a European context. We had the words  placed on plaques that were visual and educational, with the country of origin along with the word for Peace.

We approached an Elder from the Aboriginal Community and received permission to name our meeting space Inbandi  the word meaning to gather.

The Mandala portal at  the entrance point to the Shelter was now a warm and welcoming one rather than a rules and issue based message space. It was an image that spoke to all women from all cultural backgrounds and didn’t require English literacy to transmit the intention.

What we learnt from that pivotal situation is that placing violence related images and literature and issue based words in front of people who are assessed as in need of education and support is  often just adding to the existing problem of a negatively saturated experience rather than acting as a vehicle for change. It was a turning point moment for our team and was the catalyst for a huge cultural shift.

Staff who work in domestic violence settings do not need to be seeing the deficit based words every day of their working lives either. Neuroscience research shows that we are all impacted by the sights we see and the words and sounds we hear daily.

Confronting images and statistics and abuse phone lines often don’t have the impact as intended, they can unintentionally add to an existing landscape that affirms the negative and disregards the positive /aspirational content when it comes to many public awareness campaigns.

We relocated issue based information into brightly coloured folders so that it was accessible but not visually repeating the negative, stressful wording every time someone walked past the notice board. The notice board became a place where women’s art and affirmations and culturally specific images were displayed.

The subliminal impact of the environment was one we had not previously considered but we were now becoming very attuned to the setting and culture we were consciously creating.

Over the next few years our once issue-saturated shelter transformed into a place that was inspirational, evocative, creative and highly educational. Our new in-house culture was grounded in the assumption that people who want to make changes don’t need to see the language of violence and trauma before her eyes and as staff we also chose not to repeatedly see words that evoke a sense of trauma and misfortune, instead we focused on aspirations and possibility.

As time went by I saw tired and over worked government workers melt down into the colourful, warm couches in our group room, look at the walls and the plants and say: It feels really peaceful in here. That’s so unusual for a shelter.

Women who were highly agitated and still fully immersed in the crisis that lead them to the shelter would relax and slow down within the group room which was enriched by having the opportunity to colour some of the art work for themselves and take the positive images and messages back to their unit to create their own affirmation and inspirational gallery. We had meditative music and culturally diverse play lists to add to the ambience of the room.

Our group room became a community space. It was no longer a setting that was driven and created by staff intentions but by what the women wanted to create and share.

This single step revolutionised the sense of community and connection at the shelter because we encouraged the women to create the space and atmosphere by contributing to the environment rather than simply sitting in the one we had created for them.

If the women who work in domestic violence shelters and the management are not open to creativity and creating a new culture of positive imagery and a welcoming meeting space, residents will not feel comfortable to explore their own creativity and sense of place in the shelter either. The service will feel like an institution rather than a Women’s place of healing and possibility.

Creativity and visual imagery was at the core of these sweeping changes and the staff and management had to be open to creating a new culture that can be messy and uncertain during the transition phase. It was a challenge for some of the team to change some of our core practices and values but eventually we also allowed ourselves to engage with creativity in the workplace during staff meetings and staff training events at a much higher level than ever before and this had a profound impact on our work – life balance practices.

I encourage all of us who work in women’s shelters, prisons and community health and settings to take a look at the walls and notice boards ask the questions:

*Are the words I am reading and the images I am seeing day after day   creating an inspirational  uplifting environment or are the walls saturated in pain, issues and trauma based messages that affirm the negative to try and create the positive?

*Could I place the information about pain and struggle and injustice and trauma based counseling into colourful, engaging folders and make space for an inspirational, uplifting invitation to change and empower community and connection instead?

*Look around at your shelter / community house  /office and ask yourself “Is this a place that is both professional and inviting or have we fallen into the government department trap of creating impersonal spaces that do not reflect the creativity, courage and unique cultural experiences of the women who come to live here for awhile?

I offer the World Peace Begins at Home b/w template  freely for workers in shelters and community settings and prisons who are interested in beginning the process of creating uplifting art and imagery in communal areas and would like to offer the women in residence the chance to create with their hands and tell stories and share information using creativity.

It was the first of the inspirational templates I created after the resident of our shelter highlighted the uninviting, clinical space that we had inadvertently created for her.

World Peace b:w

Peace

Posted in Creativity, Domestic Violence, Peace, Personal Development, Shelter, Sisterhood, Staff Training, Transformation, Women | 2 Comments »

Creativity! It is Oxygen for the Soul.

Posted by carolom on July 24, 2014

Without a Creative outlet our thoughts can go round and round, our stories grow old and dusty and the landscape  we live in becomes much smaller…Creativity is Oxygen

Posted in Creativity, Fun, MedARTation, Spirituality | Leave a Comment »

An Ode to Creativity…

Posted by carolom on May 11, 2012

*Dedicated to Dr Jean Houston in Celebration of her 75th Birthday. Teacher my Teacher we danced in your Mystery School Class Room and New Possibilities were born.
Thankyou from the bottom of my ‘art.

An Ode to Creativity:

I have been tantalised by Creativity

Titillated, tickled, tricked and traumatised

by Creativity

Creative impulses have exalted, uplifted, transported, supported, delighted

and  then simply disappeared!

I have been courted and caught

and taught by that Invisible Force

In fact Creativity often visited me in the night whilst I was sleeping

It breathed magic into the mundane and tragic into some old pain

as I tossed and turned in my bed

of nails

And then it left, just before I awoke

like a one night stand who crept away before I could discover his last name,

leaving my room sparkling with the cryptic presence of that which was both

delightful and desperate at the same time

~0~

On Full Moon time, Creativity was a brilliant orb, sending tides of possibility

crashing upon each and every neuron

or not

After all Creativity is a close cousin of

exasperation exaggeration and expectation

and not a predictable relative at that.

Alas pre-Moonstrual tension has been known to send the ungrounded Soul

into a spin of restlessness culminating by a kind of lunacy

ah what might that old Luna see?

~0~

On a warm summers day Creativity is a fuzzy peach on a purple beach

and nothing makes sense to senses on fire that are crackling with words like

incense and desire

timeless love that will expire

Room for rent in a Mind for hire

~0~

There was a time, during the on again off again stage of our relationship

when neither of us were truly committed

and  Creativity and I parted ways

I had a fling with Apathy, that promiscuous partner who seems to demand far more

than what is given

It was a dark day of the summer of discontent and Apathy kept me very  busy crying and sighing

oh how I yearned for Creativity’s tenuous embrace

But then I awoke one day – Yes THE Awakening

and I found that Creativity had glued itself to my lungs and & every breath was like a brand new  Thought.

I breathed a sigh of relief…

From those tumultuous days of high tides and low rides in an ocean of Creative  uncertainty

We have found a new place

We set up home together

We are – dare I say and tempt fate – Happily Married

Monogomous.

Tempted by no other  although Apathy has tried to come knocking once or twice.

Snug and perhaps some what smug in one another arms we have long passed the

I love you- I hate you- I can’t live with you- Can’t live without you phase that had us fazed

The illusions have passed and we have birthed

illuminations

ruminations and

consumations

brought to life so effortlessly

no longer relying on cheap red wine, that elixir of creative angst and discontent

a familiar friend when drama and chaos seemed like the necessities of a Creative mind and altered state

As a committed couple who have worked out our differences, we truly understand one another now.

Resilient companions we know each has our own season and cycle, brilliant fruits, breath taking foliage, prickled thorns and tenacious weeds.

A garden we are co-creating together no longer baring pitch forks ready to spar!

~0~

Contrary to The Secret that whispered & shouted to millions “I AM the Creator” in my life

I have been joyously, painfully, recklessly, relentlessly shown -at long last-

that life here on Earth is  a co-creative journey!

Sigh. I don’t have to do it all alone and make it all happen anymore.

I never did of course but thats what The Secret said.

And no longer do I  lobby invisible Angels

or thank them for not answering my prayers during desperate heart and troubled mind times

because I know that Creativity is the life force and it is in every cell of existence

as we inhale and exhale one another through the eons of Time

Indeed we are Creations born of Creator

here to Create

so I no longer wrestle with trying to create that which is not yet ready to be born

or trying to Create with all what I think I know

I simply immerse myself, bask, swim & luxuriate in the

Creative Flow.

~0~

Yes I awoke one day and Creativity had glued itself to my lungs

slid down through the tendons of my arms,

moved into the muscles of my imagination and

proposed to me.

Of course I said “I Do”….

Posted in Creativity, Jean Houston, Ode to Creativity | Leave a Comment »

Celebrating the Women that we have Known & the Love that They Have Sown…

Posted by carolom on January 22, 2011

 

Another much loved Elder passed away recently. This Mandala poster (below) was created in memory of the senior  Women who have passed away and the empty seats they have left in our Women’s Group.

We farewelled Aunty L in the Church she loved in the Community that is her Heart and Soul.

 

 

 

 

 

“We celebrate the Women we have Known and the Love that They have Sown” is a black and white      coloring in  poster that gives a creative place for the loss and the grief to be expressed as well as the happy times and  beautiful memories of the Mothers, Sisters, Aunties and Grandmothers who are no longer with us.

We miss you very much  sisters Aunty I and Aunty L ….

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrating the Women we Known & the Love that They Have Sown...

The Centre Flower surrounded by Hearts represents the Love that is seeded by our Mothers.
The circle of seeds surrounding the Hearts symbolises how the love continues down the generations and is seeded each time we remember her and tell stories.
The Spiral Flowers remind us that the circle of life continues and the circle within the circle shows us that as Women, we are who we are because of the Women who have travelled before us…..
The three lined border is the River of life…ever flowing, sometimes fast, other times trickling…and the tears we cry when we are missing her, come from the waters where we are all One…..

Colouring the Mandala:

Red for the power of the Emotions
Blue for tranquility and peace of Mind
Green for nourishment and growth…
Orange and Yellow for the Sun and the Flowers.
Pink for the peaceful Heart
Purple for the colour of the sun as it sets on the horizon…

Posted in Change, Community, Creativity, Elders, Family, Friendships, Grandmothers, Gratitude, Journeys, Letting go, Lifes Stories, Oneness, ProsperArty, Pt Pearce, Sisterhood, Spirituality, The Art of Change, Transformation, Unity, Women | 1 Comment »