~ The Art Of Change ~ with Carol Omer ~

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

Archive for the ‘Peace’ Category

From Poverty to Prosperity in Bangladesh using Vision, Commitment and Action!

Posted by carolom on March 20, 2017

The journey from poverty to prosperity is both an individual and collective one, the opportunities and challenges often determined by the circumstances of our immediate surroundings, our  place of birth, gender, economic status,  family patterns etc

Politics, both locally and globally affect the lives of each and every individual on earth and unfortunately millions of people are living with subjugation and poverty as a direct result of the politics of a minority with a vested, greed oriented interest in land and social order.

One of the most powerful pieces of writing that I have ever read on the controversial subject of poverty in aid-reliant  countries is by Lynne Twist in her book The Soul of Money

Lynne is the former director of the The World Hunger Project and was involved in facilitating creative, new responses to poverty Bangladesh at a time when it was often referred to as the world’s ” begging bowl” for aid and relief.

The following story is about the changes and transformation  that can happen when people are shown how to Dream and create a new vision together.

It is a powerful reminder that poverty is a human-made state generated by minds often dominated by greed and thus can be eradicated by activating the power and capacities of the mind and vision and capacity to create that resides in each and every one of us, regardless of whether we are living in poverty or fortunate to be living a comfortable life, the formula for creating change is in each and every one of us.

I found an the excerpt of the Hunger Project story that I was looking for in the on line edition of Ode magazine:

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“Decades of development work has made Bangladesh the world’s begging bowl; a land of desperation and dependence with no future. But even in the face of such misery one person can make a difference; without help from the outside.

A new dream and a new vision are bringing new life to the North of Bangladesh.

Bangladesh is an Asian country of more than 130 million people on a landmass the size of Iowa. It once was a land abundant with tropical rain forests, a diversity of plants and animal species, and a bounty of natural resources. In the 1900s the land was denuded of its forests by foreign interest that came and went, and the land was ravaged by war and the results of poor land tenure polices. Absent the trees and vegetation that once had thrived, seasonal floods took an even greater toll on the land and the people.
Listed by the United Nations as the second poorest country in the world in the late 1970s, Bangladesh became the recipient of another kind of flood, a flood of aid, and within a short time had become almost completely dependent on aid from outside sources. Bangladesh began to have a global reputation as needy and helpless, a giant begging bowl of a nation, and within Bangladesh itself, the people came to see themselves that way, too. Bangladeshis had become convinced they were a hopeless, helpless people dependent on others for even minimal survival.

In what had become a common cycle of disintegration of villages and communities, the people in villages near the district of Sylhet were giving up, making plans to leave the region and look for subsistence work elsewhere, or send the men off to larger towns an cities to find work and send money home to support their indigent families.
Sylhet is in the northern hill region of Bangladesh, just high enough to escape the floods that submerge the surrounding lowlands periodically each year. The dry hills had surrendered long ago to an invasive jungle of prickly scrubby brush, a plant whose only fruit is poison berries. The plants all tangled together look like a massive briar patch-inaccessible, dangerous, and thick. An overgrown area had been deemed government land and was off-limits for development by local farmers. But the scrubby, poisonous plant that grew there kept spreading and invading the small plots of land that the villagers would farm, taking over the crops and poisoning the land.
For generations the villagers had scraped a meagre existence from the small plots of land the government had given them, but even that was becoming an impossible task. Young people had turned to begging on the roads and stealing. Crime was at an all-time high. So it came to be that the villagers had given up on their difficult, unproductive land and were ready tot take drastic action. Many were prepared to abandon the village and move their families elsewhere, or abandon hope for an intact family, and instead send the men elsewhere to find jobs.
The conversation among villagers was urgent and pragmatic. Where could they move or send the men that would allow them to grow enough or earn enough to provide for their families? There was also talk of asking for US financial aid to enable them to buy food and other goods without work at all.
They had given up.
They were tired and they were resigned.
They felt the answer must be somewhere else and with someone else.
They felt they just couldn’t make it on their own.

About this time, we launched The Hunger Project in Bangladesh. There were plenty of independent relief agencies in Bangladesh already doing heroic and inspiring work, but what seemed to be making sustainable improvements were the initiatives that came from the Bangladeshis themselves.
The now-famous Grameen Bank, created by Dr. Muhammed Yunus, is a micro-credit program providing small-business loans to hardworking, cash-poor women, and BRAC, a village development initiative created by Bangladeshi leader Faisal Abed, had created significant success where outsiders unfamiliar with the people had failed.
These successes and experiences in other regions had affirmed our conviction that the Bangladeshi people were the key to their own development and that outside aid was systematically and psychologically turning them into beggars instead of the authors of their own future.
As the first step in the process of forging an effective partnership, together we looked deeply into the Bangladeshi culture, their attitudes and beliefs about themselves, their resignation and hopelessness.
It became clear that after so long subsisting on aid, the people had lost touch with any sense of their own competence or any vision of their country as capable of success.
In our meetings together, the Bangladeshi leaders determined that the thing that was missing, which, if provided, would enable these people to become self-reliant and self-sufficient, was a vision of their own strengths and capabilities.

The Hunger Project committed, as a partner, to develop a program designed to enable the Bangladeshis to reconnect with a vision for themselves and their country, with an awareness of their available assets, and strategies to put their ideas into action. Out of that commitment and partnership came the Vision, Commitment and Action Workshop.
It called upon participants to engage in a series of group-discussion and visualisation exercises enabling them to imagine and envision a self-reliant, self-sufficient Bangladesh: the healthy, thriving Bangladesh they had fought for years ago in their struggle for independence.

In Bangladesh, because there are so many people, when you call any kind of a meeting, hundreds, even a thousand people can show up. People often gather in the village parks and squares. In Dhaka, the capital, there is a public park that holds easily a thousand people or more, and that is where we launched some of the early Vision, Commitment and Action Workshops. We publicised the meeting, and at the appointed time the park was packed with people. If you can picture it, this is no beautiful pastoral retreat, but a park with barely a blade of grass, packed with hundreds of these small, brown, beautiful people seated on the ground very close together, lots of babies and small children, people of all ages sitting attentively, tentatively, listening for whatever we could offer them that might be helpful.

The program opened with music, a few introductions and inspired words by community leaders, and some initial interactive exercises to bring the crowd’s energy and focus to the task at hand. Then we began the program, asking everybody to close their eyes and envision what a self-reliant, self-sufficient Bangladesh would look like:
What would it look like if Bangladesh were a country that was exporting its finest-quality goods?
What would it be like if Bangladesh were known for its art and music and poetry?
What if Bangladesh were a contributing member of the global community, instead of the big recipient, the big begging bowl receiving aid? What it would be like if Bangladeshi leadership, including Bangladeshi women, Bangladeshi men, and Bangladeshi young people, were a contribution to society?
What would that look like?

At first, people sat there very still, eyes closed, expressionless, shoulder to shoulder in the park.
A hush settled over the crowd, and the sea of faces remained still, eyes closed, in thought.
After a few minutes I noticed tears streaming down one man’s face and then another and another. People were still sitting with their eyes closed, but they were silently weeping. And then it was not just three or four, or ten or twenty faces with tears streaming down. In this crowd of more than a thousand, it was hundreds of weeping faces.

It was as if they had never in their lifetime even thought they could be self-reliant or self-sufficient or an contributing nation, that they had never imagined they could be a nation that made a difference for other nations, that they could be a nation that stood out, that had qualities that people admired, a unique role to play in the world community. It was a brave new thought.

When we completed this visioning meditation, and people shared with one another the visions they had seen for their village, their family, their school, their home, their business, their children, and their grandchildren, the vision became rich and real, palpable and exhilarating. A new future was born.
In the next section of the workshop the participants were invited to commit to their vision. They were asked not merely to envision, but to commit to being the people who would make that vision real. You could see them drop their anxiety and fear, letting go of their sense of lack and inadequacy, and step up to their own creation and commit to it. In that exercise you could see peoples posture and countenance change. People seemed to visibly strengthen. Their sense of resolve and determination was contagious, and the impossible seemed possible.
They finally broke into small groups to collaborate and design the actions they would take to fulfil their commitment to make their vision real. The actions were practical, local, doable, but in alignment with their new commitments and in service of their vision. People seemed to re-see themselves, their family, their village, and their country as able, resourceful, and potent -self-reliant and self-sufficient.

Soon these workshops were being repeated in gatherings all over, some in cities, others in villages, some just within families, and every Sunday for thousands in the square at Dhaka.
Now it happened that on a trip to Dhaka, one of the leaders of a village in Sylhet attended a Vision, Commitment and Action Workshop nearly by mistake. His name was Zilu. He was visiting his cousin in the city, and this cousin invited him to come along to the park to see what this workshop was all about. Zilu didn’t want to go. He wanted to talk to his cousin about moving his family from Sylhet in with his cousin, to share their home, so the family could leave their desolate village, hoping that Zilu could get work in the city and give them a chance for a new life. His cousin prevailed, however, and they attended the workshop together.

Zilu was completely captivated by the workshop experience, and his awakening to his own commitment to his village and the surrounding community. He stayed in Dhaka another three days and participated in a training to be a workshop leader himself. He then took the training and the vision back to Sylhet.
Back home, he called his six closest male friends together and delivered the workshop to them. With a shared vision now and unlimited commitment to develop the human and natural resources of their own region, the seven men came up with an idea and created an plan for a new agribusiness venture designed to bring the whole region out of poverty into self-reliance an ultimately into prosperity. They called it the Chowtee Project: A Bold Step for Self-Reliance.

I arrived in Sylhet just four months later, in April of 1994, with 17 travellers who were major donors to The Hunger Project. Zilu had invited us there to show us the progress he and his friends had made in the area to thank us for the contribution we were making to his country and his people.
He and his friends, whom we came to call the Magnificent Seven, told us the story of their region’s transformation and showed us the results. Zilu shared how he had returned from the workshop at Dhaka that December day inspired to look with new eyes at the resources he and his people had before them, and determined to develop a vision, a commitment and a plan of action. Once his six friends joined him in this commitment, their next step was to look at the resources they already had but had previously overlooked.
There, at the edge of town, was the fallow, hardscrabble government land covered with poison berry brambles.
The seven men met with government officials and got permission to clear seventeen acres of the tangled vegetation that had taken over their land. Then they went to the community for the money needed to buy equipment and supplies.
People drew from their meagre savings to support the initiative, and the men were able to collect the needed thousands of taka – then about US$750. Finally, they delivered their own version of the Vision, Commitment and Action Workshop to 600 people in the village of 18,000. Those 600 people got to work, building a road along the edge of the land and starting the clearing effort.

Impressed with their vision, clarity, and commitment, the government gave them a hundred acres more to develop. They trained the young people who had turned to begging and crime to cultivate and farm instead. They trained destitute women, many of them widows, to farm. In clearing the land, they were surprised to discover a previously unknown lake and small stream abundant with fish. The entire area was now under cultivation, providing food, fish, training, and employment for hundreds of people. All 18,000 people in the immediate area had benefited from this activity, and an area that had been wracked with poverty was now becoming self-sufficient and beginning to flourish. The crime rate had dropped by an astounding 70%.

We walked the fields with Zilu and the rest of the Magnificient Seven, and visited the fisheries and the training fields. We were overwhelmed by the people’s vitality, joy, and success.
I realised as I walked with them that they had accomplished this feat with almost no help from the outside. They had had what they needed all along-the land, the water, the intelligence, the muscle, and the capacity to put it all together-but had lost touch with those resources and capabilities in the climate of ‘Third World’ aid and the hopelessness and presumed incompetence that had come with it. Once they were inspired to see themselves differently, to see themselves as strong, creative, and capable, their commitment knew no limits. Success was inevitable.

Looking at the fields, once impenetrable jungle and brush, I thought about our own lives, and that which covers over the soil of our dreams, that which temporarily blocks our inner vision or capacity to see. In their world, it was the jungle and the confusing message of aid telling them that they were incomplete and needy and not able to make it on their own. They had bought into that, and as long as they did, they couldn’t see the resources in front of them. Once they had focused their attention on their own unlimited inner resources, the outer resources materialised, suddenly accessible. They could begin to see that what they needed had been there all along.

I never forgot the Magnificent Seven. When you are crushed by the victim mentality, as they were, your ability to dream and envision is crushed, too. It goes dead. When I find myself groping for what’s beyond my grasp, I hear their words in my head and know that if I can re-look from the inside out and access and appreciate what’s already there, what’s already available, then its power, utility, and grace will grow and prosper in the nourishment of my attention.

Lynne Twist author of The Soul of Money

Posted in Community, Creativity, Dreaming, Energy, Imagination, law of attraction, Lifes Stories, Love, Lyn Twist, Magic, Mind Power, Peace, Poverty, Prosperity, Relationships, Stories, Teachers, Transformation, Wisdom | 4 Comments »

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.

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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!

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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 »

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 »

~ World Peace Day – September 21st ~

Posted by carolom on September 21, 2010

World Peace Begins at Home!

Peace, harmony, balance, generating feelings of relaxation and well being.

Being centered and relaxed  with the Mind at rest. These are the Gifts of Mandala, a Sanskrit word meaning Circle.

I created the following Mandala poster for Women living in the domestic violence shelters where I was working, after a newly arrived resident pointed out that the shelter walls were covered in anti-violence posters but all she saw was the word violence all around her and negative imagery and  it didn’t feel like a safe place to be on account of that. Shelters often have posters that are considered ‘educational’ but her observations brought into question their true value and worth.

It was a very important message she gave to the staff and I thank her for her invaluable feedback. We invited feedback from other residents and they too  made comments such as “that one that says ‘domestic violence hurts kids’ made my little boy  frightened especially   that one of the woman cowering with her kids in the background”.

We listened to what we were being told through the eyes of women  who had come to live at the shelter at a point of chaos and danger in their life and systematically removed all of the words and images that were not aligned with Peace and positivity.

We refocused on Peace to create Peace no longer using the word violence  in order to reach its opposite and the other posters and pamphlets that dealt with issues of violence and poverty were in the filing cabinet and only brought our if necessary during group conversations.

The World Peace Begins at Home poster continues to be one of the most popular of what became my  ART of Change tools and now lives in many houses on fridges and bathroom doors, each one coloured differently from the next.

It is not only Women living in domestic violence who are leading busy, chaotic lives though It is important for all of us to take some time to breathe, relax, play and create! That’s why Mandalas for colouring in are received so well by women who are living in shelters and women who are looking for some balance in their busy busy lives.

If you would like a copy of the black and white World Peace Begins at Home template, leave me a message with your email address and I will happily and freely share it with you.

*Please see note below for the Dedication of this poster.

This Mandala is freely shared in dedication  to the special memory of my friend Janet who lost her life in domestic violence in 2001.

We used to sing “Give Peace a Chance” when we were young and loving life back in the 70’s and neither of us could have known where Janets path would take her.

Travel in Peace my beloved friend….

Posted in ART of Change, Australia, Change, Community, Creativity, Healing, Imagination, Oneness, Peace, Personal Development, Relationships, Transformation, World Peace Day | 4 Comments »

Beautiful Moments & Lifes Simple blessings…

Posted by carolom on June 11, 2010

On recent trips to the Riverland and to our EarthSong site I was reminded how blessed we are if we have family, friends, food and clear air….

The beautiful Ngarindjerri Goddess with style Deanna…

Digital Story telling..ensuring that the Stories live on…

Embracing new technology to transmit the ancient history of this magnificent Country.

Mrs Kent and Mrs George…

Mr George…

You can hear Uncle Murray George speaking on the EarthSong YouTube channel:

Click here if you would like to learn more about the Pitjantjatjara and the the Ngarrindjeri who are the traditional owners of areas of this vast continent, along with many other individual tribal nations in Australia.

Here is the Aboriginal map of how Australia prior to the European invasion of 1788…

Posted in Community, EarthSong Aboriginal Healing Pathways Foundation, Fire, Friendships, Journeys, Nature, Peace, Pitjantjatjara, Uncategorized, Wisdom | 1 Comment »

Spirit Festival on Kaurna country (Adelaide) 2008

Posted by carolom on December 14, 2008

The photos say it all…Proud young Black Australians dancing in the Spirit of New Dreams, celebrating the Old Ways…as the healing and restoration unfolds…..

Family, song , dance, connection, Culture and open spaces without walls….

 
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Posted in Aboriginal, Adelaide, Community, Dreaming, Kaurna, Peace, Spirit Festival 2008, Spirituality, Unity | 3 Comments »

Another “Bead Happy” process completed…

Posted by carolom on November 20, 2008

They say that you are living  your passion if you answer  “Yes!”  to the question…“Would you still do the work that you do if you were rich enough not to have to work at all?”….My answer is “Yes indeedy-do!!”…I’d just drive a different car to the venue!

To spend time creating Personal Development art with Women who are walking through journeys of change, healing and Creating New Dreams…is such a privilege……and a whole lotta fun!

Here are a few images from our 5-week “Don’t Worry- Bead Happy ART of Change program 2…

We begin with a formless lump of air-drying clay, thinking about what we would like to create in our life…how things would look and feel in the ‘ideal’ world. We roll and twist and shape and from beads and add a pendant that defines the shape of things to come…

By week 5 have created our own Vision jewellery with our own unique fingerprints pressed into the clay…completing the process by spraying the beads with gloss sealer and hanging them in the afternoon sun to dry.

Rolling the beads is a form of meditation, very relaxing and as the process gets under way, the brain waves relax into the alpha rhythms as the rhythmic, repetitive actions slow down the busy mind chatter and return one to a more centered, present moment focus. It is a very enjoyable, highly effective way for people with mental health issues, stress, anxiety and depression to creatively activate a different ‘state’ and access positive creativity over the negative forms of creating thoughts that are anxiety, stress related images.

We think about color and form once the beads are made…. with  relaxing music in the background and conversations around change, personal development and creating the life we want by over coming past patterns and limitations our learning and sharing is focused on  the “How” of change not just the reasons ‘why’…and all what has happened in the troubled past…

 

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Posted in Art, Community, Creativity, Lifes Stories, Oneness, Peace, The Art of Change, Wisdom | 3 Comments »

The OM Song…finally…

Posted by carolom on July 6, 2008

I have searched for this song for so long! I was delighted to find it on youtube…

This 70’s classic by Ray Stevens speaks of the Oneness of all things…

“A lot of people think we are all connected together, at a level of consciousness where all our Souls merge…to become the Universal mind”…

Posted in Oneness, Peace, Spirituality, Wisdom | 3 Comments »