~ The Art Of Change ~ with Carol Omer ~

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

Archive for the ‘Stories’ Category

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 »

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 »

A Day at the Home Office

Posted by carolom on February 18, 2016

You are home alone. Comfortably so.

From the other room you hear what sounds like the printer starting up…all on its own.

You walk a little cautiously towards the printer and indeed notice it has begun to click into the print mode – that familiar sound that is never spooky in the least…

You look over towards the sleeping cat who is now wide eyed staring at what seems to be a spot slightly above your head.

Eyes trained on staring cat you edge towards the printer as it begins to churn out paper after paper….

Cat remains transfixed on spot above your head…printer is printing what seems to be a list of sorts with instructions on it.

I am home alone. Now not quite so comfortably so..

Junipurr suddenly breaks his stare and leaps off the couch and rrrrrruns past me…towards his food bowl.

I realise his stare is his psychic transmission for me to get his lunch and my lack of response required a physical manoeuvre on his part to get the message across…

As the printer finishes its unexpected production I call my husband…

“yeah, I ‘m still at the library…did the printing job come through?
Remember I told you how we can send a print job to it through email”.

Yes it did.

No I don’t.

I’ve got to go…Junipurr is hungry….

A day at the home office…

IMG_0380.jpg

Posted in Animals, Cats, Stories, The Art of Change, Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Your licence is about to expire…

Posted by carolom on November 4, 2015

Your licence is about to expire…

Nestled in between two busy main roads
that were once dirt tracks winding between churches
and blue stone cottages
Rickety roads where horses kicked up dust
and the creaking milk cart was a welcome sound

Sits the Old Road Cemetery

IMG_1985A large impeccably kept burial ground
with rows and rows of gravestones
that depict a life narrative in one line
Many of the stories begin and end with
a death over a hundred years ago

Google –which is a word that had not emerged from the ether
when those original shovels tossed dirt
upon the first of many hundreds of coffins
will tell you that Daisy Bates
who set up camp with Aboriginal people

and wrote about her version of them is
in the Old Road Cemetery

Edmund Wright that renowned architect
and former Lord Mayor of Adelaide
and Edward Charles Stirling,
the first person in Australasia
to introduce a bill for women’s suffrage
are resting in eternal peace under the guardianship
of angels that fly motionlessly
whilst peak hour traffic speeds slowly by

IMG_1990Thousands of people are laid to rest
at this tranquil cemetery where the expired flowers
of the old Jacaranda trees
transform into purple snow in December
and cover bleached white headstones and red rusted railings

Young Eliza May who passed away in 1907
was only fifteen years old
her sister Lilly who barely saw life past one year
had died before her in 1895
Such a sad family story written in black letters on
pristine stone that has carried their tragedy for 120 years
Some of the letters bleed black dye
as if the headstone weeps in their honour

Bereaved mothers and inconsolable lovers
Families bound by sorrow
Friends who farewelled the young man who
died by his own hand
have all walked upon this ground

Many of them are now also buried and interned
inside of ornate coffins that cocoon them
into the tranquillity of Mother Earth

Others have become ashes tossed to the earth,
the waters
the wind
and the fires

I often walk through this cemetery with wonder
This story book of happenstance and tragedy,
with tablet headstones
bursting with lines of anguished poetry
and philosophical levity

It was at the start of my short-cut walk
through the Old Road Cemetery that something very
unusual caught my eye
At the entrance, attached to the notice board where
funeral notices and Old Souls day events
are announced
was an eye-catching, attention seeking poster
of headstones covered in thick black plastic.

They headstones looked like besieged hostages
hapless victims of torture and oppression
This puzzling somewhat disturbing site
required stopping,
getting out the reading glasses
and peering at the small writing to fully grasp
exactly what was going on

Warning sign

A heavy handed caution
reminiscent of the grim reaper ads
that prophesised impending doom back
when the Aids virus was new and we were ignorant
was written under the plastic covered headstone
Don’t let this happen to you!

It seems that in some cemeteries but not this one…yet
graves that have not had their licence renewed were being shut down!

This was confirmed as I walked through the old section and saw
rows and rows of aging graves with yellow notices stuck to the stone
Daisy May and Lilly’s graves that appeared undisturbed since 1905
now had a yellow parking ticket that said:

“The licence to this plot has expired
Please contact the Old Road Cemetery Office for renewal options
(email and telephone number provided)

IMG_1975Needless to say
I felt a wave of dismay
I have never seen flowers of remembrance
upon Daisy May and Lilly’s grave

I strolled past the resting place of George and Jack
side by side in their father and son burial plot
their sad story embossed ornately in stone in 1897
On the bottom of the headstone a simply written
statement of unwavering faith
Reunited with Grandmother in Heaven

 

 

Further down the row James and Emily Jones’s husband and wife plot

eerily reminiscent of a perfectly made cement double bed

Long forgotten and undisturbed
had also been tagged by the uncompromising slip of yellow paper
that cautioned non existent relatives
and summoned families who no longer walk upon this earth

Salutations and blessings penned by grieving family and friends
overshadowed by slips of yellow paper
announcing the grave site is now in the first stages of
negotiation and relocation

IMG_1992Old Road Cemetery has been targeted
by visual and confronting imagery
plucked from the information highway
I wonder what will become of Eliza May and Lilly
all those old, unattended graves
and the army of flightless angels who guard them?

Posted in Adelaide, Adelaide architecture, Stories | 1 Comment »

Why doesn’t she just leave? Why did you stay?

Posted by carolom on September 14, 2014

Sistars2

We hear it said often, especially when there is a high profile domestic violence case in the media.

When  high profile cases of violence against women are in the media, the  air waves fill with outrage, calls to action, compassion, political responses  and inevitably someone somewhere will say: “Why didn’t she leave?” and “Why did she go back?“.

Those of us who work in  women’s domestic  and family violence shelters hear her stories and witness her tears and sometimes are asked to be her voice at a time when just taking the next breath takes a huge amount of energy.

This poem is dedicated to  those women  who are living in domestic violence or have come through it and have had those words asked of them :

Why didn’t you just leave?

I’m sorry I can’t hear you…

what did you say?

My ears are blocked and heavy

From  vicious words that have been  hurled my way

There used to be sweet words and promises

and whispered romance in my ears

I now I find myself wondering

“Can ears become blocked with all those tears?”

Couldn’t you see what he was doing to you?

I once had a clear and beautiful Vision of the life

we  would live together

He held my hand when our babies were born

He was my lighthouse in stormy weather

I know that sounds corny but its true.

Each time he erupted into rage

it always finished with the deepest regret

I understood he didnt mean it because

He said you haven’t seen the best of me yet

And I believed him

But surely after those first few times you should have known he wouldn’t change?

By the time what I know now as The Cycle

had taken a hold and become our way of life

I couldn’t see the front door or tomorrow

I was so immersed in trying to be the right wife

My kids loved their daddy deeply

they still do even though he is  jailed

And what struck me when my sisters said “leave him”

Were three words- 

You have failed 

You have failed 

You have failed

Do you realise he could have killed you?

He once told me if I left him

there would be no more reason for him to live

He said he would kill us all and then himself

if I had no more love that I could give

It would be my fault. So I made sure to try harder.

He told me tales called “Theres Nowhere to Hide”

and no other man will ever have me

He put a pretty convincing case forward

he yelled it

as he turned around

and grabbed me.

I made sure to keep still and just nod. 

That sometimes worked.

But there are shelters and places where you could have got  help…

I had two friends come to my house one day

he wasn’t home

and I was glad

They came because they were scared for me

but I couldn’t hear them

and my vision that day was particularly bad

It was like they were in another place

even though they were sitting

right there in my kitchen

We all jumped and shuffled nervously

when he came home

You girls sitting around bitchen?

He said with his dangerous smile.  

And they left.

And he took my mobile phone off me.

I know it must have been hard but weren’t you worried for your kids?

My little boy was wetting the bed and

the school had called me in with

concerns for my girls…yet again…

but I just knew if I was patient

my husband would overcome his anger

and his pain

You see I knew that he had a lot of pain from his childhood.

Well good on you for finally leaving him. Were you happy with the sentence he got?

There is no place for the word happy in

any of what has gone down

My kids ask after him all the time

and I remember how he made me laugh

when he’d play the clown

Anyway, I’m finding it hard to hear you again

my heart is starting to race

Theres a thing I call The Fog in My Head

it clouds over my personal space

and it will quickly cover you

and the floor

and the door

Sorry, don’t think I’m being rude

Its just I can’t really talk about it any more ….

 

 

 

Posted in Domestic Violence, SiStars, Stories, Transformation, Trauma, Why did you stay, Women | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Reflecting on Oprah’s visit to Australia and When Women Dream and Create Together…

Posted by carolom on September 17, 2010

Over the years I played  a selection of Oprahs programs in-house as they were a rich, rare source of discussion and reflection and glimpses into new possibilities and self reflection during the years I ran a personal development group at a shelter for homeless young mothers.  Oprah’s personal story is one of over coming enormous obstacles and  the impact of abuse, liberation from racism and the power of aligning with the Divinity of life,  putting practical action to make the Dream come true. Many homeless Women I met over the years recognised their own potential through the Stories that Oprah brought onto the world stage…

For young Aboriginal Women at the shelter who grew up seeing only white faces on Australian television (sadly not much has changed), Oprah’s presence on national television was hugely significant.

Oprah Winfrey is surrounded by a co-creative team and it has taken many years of creativity and co-operation for her to have reached the stand alone level of influence and impact she has achieved.  I saw how impactful and life changing her motivational shows were for homeless Women throughout the 90’s – especially the Remembering Your Spirit series .  I admire her achievements enormously,  though I am not so much interested in her  programs around celebrity and make overs as I am about what people can do to create change and activate their fullest potential.

Women’s Well~Being has been the focus of my work from many years & most of the  ProsperArty Mandalas and the personal development art that I create for workshops express the Goddess aspect of being a Woman. We would sit and colour the Mandalas whilst watching the Oprah Show ~ a very relaxed way to sit and absorb information.

For me, one of the most powerful off all internal keys to creating change is Creativity…returning to the free flowing, creative state we came into this world with & have  often lost along the way….

In the Spirit of recognising a Woman of great influence, who manifests the very best of the Goddesses, Athena the Warrior who invokes change, Hestia who presides over home and heart’h, Persephone who transcended the subjugation of the underworld and Artemis who cares for young girls and sacred animals, I acknowledge Oprah Winfrey’s role that she has played in showing women that you can create and grow and bring about change in this world, irrespective of which of the skins you are in, where you have come from or what others will say can or can’t be done….

The Mandala below – which I have called “When Women Dream and Create Together” is created in the form of a Mandorla, the name of the shape created where two circles meet.  See my “About me ” page for further explanation of the Mandorla.

I was inspired to create “When Women Dream and Create Together” when it was announced that Oprah Winfrey would be coming to Australia, in a jumbo jet with John Travolta in the pilot seat and dozens of over joyed audience members! How fitting that Oprah completes her 25 years of public television with a trip to the Dreamtime Country.

Australia is Aboriginal country with a history of profound culture and wisdom that goes back thousands of years prior to European’s arriving here just a very short time ago. It is a living culture with so much to teach the world about how to live in harmony with Nature and within our Self. It is still the very early days of recovery from the devastating impact of white-settlement and I sincerely hope this important  Australian story to the world during her visit.

I chose the words at the centre of the Mandorla to reflect three things that are core to creating together : Love, Passion & Service.

Service is rent paid for room on Earth”….

In my workshops we add colour to the black and white template to create our own ProsperArty posters for relaxation and reflection.  For those who have not experienced working with the Mandala (circular) art form, I encourage you to give it a try!  Place your Vision, / thoughts / feelings into the Circle and see what Magic will unfold….

***

When Women Dream and Create Together

***

***

Together the Women are united in their Vision.

They hold up the Pyramid, symbolising the  Feminine Trinity:

~ Mother, Daughter, Divine  Spirit  ~

The Women  rise from the Heart together.

Love is the powerful, unifying force that generates their Creations.

***

Posted in ART of Change, Australia, Beauty, Change, Creativity, Dreaming, Energy, Fun, Gratitude, Imagination, Journeys, Joy, Lifes Stories, Love, Magic, Mandalas, Oneness, Oprah Australia, Oprah Winfrey, ProsperArty, Relationships, SiStars, Spirituality, Stories, The Art of Change, Transformation, Unity, Warrior Women, Wisdom, Women | 3 Comments »

I LOVE books…so this was such a great sight!

Posted by carolom on August 5, 2008

I was born into a book loving family…which is very fortunate as my parents were born into the low-to-no-opportunities of a northern English factory town where education often stopped very early in life and menial work began.
Neither of my parents had the opportunity for higher education but that did not stop them from reading, learning, reading, learning…and passing on the passion for books to us..crossword puzzles, scrabble, big books, small books……libraries are a big part of our families external life!..:)

On the weekend Sal and I went to the markets at the Port Adelaide docks and as we strolled around the second level of these big old converted wharf sheds…this is what we saw.

A higgldy-piggldy mass of books, books, books…with such chaotic order, that I am sure some of those books on the bootom are never viewed, because their sole purpose is to hold up the pile!

Posted in Books, Chaos, Fun, Stories | 2 Comments »

The heART of the Apology …

Posted by carolom on July 5, 2008

We are having the launch of the heART of the Apology exhibition on Wednesday.

There were 11 posters created during the Apology at Elder Park here in Adelaide in the ‘heART’ Space that we established as a way to give ordinary Australians, of all colour, culture and creed a place to express their thoughts and feelings in a way that was divorced from the political footballing and rhetoric that was flooding the media in the months….and years … leading up to the Apology.

 

There was sadness and there were years and there was joy…

My buddy Katrina has worked for justice for many years and like so many other Aboriginal Women. her courage and resilience in the face of systemic racism have been out standing.

Posted in Aboriginal, Adelaide, Australia, Dreaming, Forgiveness, Friendships, Healing, Justice, Kaurna, Lifes Stories, Reconciliation, Relationships, Sorry Day Feb 2008, Stolen Generation, Stories, Transformation, Trauma, Unity | Leave a Comment »

The Winter of content…

Posted by carolom on June 22, 2008

It was raining yesterday afternoon and after the months of drought and over 10 days where the temperature reached 100oF a few months ago, the winter rains and green-sheen everywhere are very welcome in this desert state.

I was sitting under the back verandah with the two semi-homeless garden cats, Gabrielle- [Gabi] and her daughter Shima. You can see how gorgeous they are:

The garden was humming with rain drops and birds and leaves blowing down from the Cedar Trees
late autumn fall:

…and I remembered back to when I first moved in here and all I could see was a barren, dry patch of soil…

…..and how this piece of Mother Earths blank canvas taught me more about process, time, holding a vision, weeding and seeding, than I could ever have imagined when I first moved here during a trials-and-tribulations winter of discontent….

In our ‘outcomes’ driven, western society I learnt that the answers we are seeking about sustainable change and growth are to be found in Mother Nature’s process of Time, cycles and seasons….

……and how wonderful it is to create a room with out walls and a fireplace whose only chimney is the sky….

Adelaide in South Australia is traditionally named ‘Tandanya’ , home of the Red Kangaroo.

Living and growing and learning and sharing on traditional Aboriginal Land, Kaurna Country has its own special strand of environmental magic and possibility….As my good buddy Nungala reminds me:

“It can happen so much better and so much faster if you acknowledge the Ancestors and remember the Dreaming”…..

Posted in Animals, Anthropomorphism, Cats, Change, Creativity, Dreaming, Garden, Gratitude, Humor, Imagination, Journeys, Kaurna, Lifes Stories, Love, Magic, Nature, Oneness, Peace, Power of Focus, Prosperity, Relationships, Social Artistry, Spirituality, Stories, Wealth, Wisdom | 1 Comment »

Northern Exposure…

Posted by carolom on May 11, 2008

I somehow missed watching Northern Exposure in the 90’s and have had the delight of discovering it many years after the final episode.
Sal was a fan of the show and his daughters remember watching the show with dad when they were young.

So I was pleased to find that the Adelaide library has the full six series, 110 epsiodes…and for the last few weeks have watched from episode one through to the final, moving scene on the last show (see video clip “Our Town” below.)

The creators of the show were members of the Esalen Institute. Click here for wikipedia info on Northern Exposure and Eslan
Northern Exposure’s flavor came from a combination of various influences. The show’s creators, Joshua Brand and John Falsey, were members of the Esalen Institute in California where an eclectically “spiritual” worldview was presented, best exemplified in the writings of Swiss psychologist Carl Jung and American anthropologist/mythologist Joseph Campbell (whose works are frequently referenced in the series). There are also fantasy elements inherited from the works of Carlos Castaneda and the magical realism novels and stories of Latin American author Gabriel Garc’a M’rquez. Both creators were also conversant with classical Russian Literature. This characteristic is evident in the satirical elements from the show that are hallmarks of the Russian literary grotesque style of such authors as Gogol and Dostoevsky.”

The influence of Joseph Campbell, Carl Jung and the interplay between the seen and unseen realms along with Native American mythology and magic are unsurpassed by any other television series in my humble opinion..

Posted in Community, Creativity, Energy, Journeys, Northern Exposure, Shamanic, Stories | 2 Comments »