~ The Art Of Change ~ with Carol Omer ~

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

When a Throw-away line Casts a Wide Net. MagNETic!

Posted by carolom on August 17, 2016

Sometimes it’s the throw-away lines of our mental chatter that have the attractor factor.

I listened to an interview with one of my favourite authors, Norman Doidge who wrote the fabulous book The Brain that Changes Itself.
A must read for anyone interested in neuroscience and neuroplasticity and the extinction of the dinosaur belief that the brain is hard wired and can not be changed.

“Once broken can never be repaired” paradigm is sailing away across the oceans of the flat world as we speak…¬†ūüėČ

In the interview with Dr Doidge there was mention of his new book published by penguin in 2016 “The Brains way of Healing”.

I thought “Would love to read it, will check with library” but forgot to check and book it when I got home.

Three days later strolling around 2nd hand store and there is a brand new 2016 copy of “The Brains Way of Healing’ sitting on the shelf, waiting for me to notice it.

And I did.

How did this newly released $30 book arrive in perfect condition on the shelves of a second hand store for $2.99 just a few months after it’s release and three days after my intention to read it?

Throw-away lines sometimes cast the widest net perhaps….

 

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Words-Swords and the Emergence of Impersonal Language in Human Services

Posted by carolom on July 29, 2016

The following is an excerpt from my unedited draft of The ART of Change memoir. The names and details have been changed as a matter of confidentiality however the impact of language that empowers the worker  or the academic whilst disempowering the recipient of those words is a significant problem across human services and the legal system.

Words Cast Spells

Words ~Swords on the Cutting Edge.

The language and politics of homelessness and social work theories and practices changed many times over the years that I worked in homeless and domestic violence shelters.

Buzz words came and went as words like empowerment, agency, self determination and the words consumer and stakeholders replaced shelter resident and workers crept into human services through out the 90’s.

People stopped ‚Äėtalking‚Äô and entered into dialogue, we would no longer ‚Äėcatch up for a chat‚Äô, we would debrief with one another and instead of ‚Äėtalking about things‚Äô like we did in the old days¬†¬† we would be invited to unpack complex issues and investigate¬†multifaceted¬†causes that underpin marginalisation and¬†disenfranchisement.

With each new turn of phrase the culture of homelessness and service provision changed.

Discussions about the importance of using ‚Äėprofessional‚Äô language were bandied about during training sessions and statements we would have once made like ‚ÄėI think¬†¬†the family is doing it really hard right now‚Äô were spoken by the new young social workers as It seems that the high and complex needs as a result of the multiple issues facing the family as a unit will require external intervention and on going support to be put in place.

Many social workers and counsellors, health workers and researchers came in and out of the shelter on a weekly basis and the newspeak and jargon was so pervasive at times that we would chuckle as one of our residents, when asked if she had met her new social worker would say: ‚ÄúYes, she seems okay but I can‚Äôt understand what she is saying‚ÄĚ.

When offering support to a heart broken, confused teenage mother, our staff might say amongst ourselves ‚Äėshe needs a hug and to know she is loved‚Äô or it‚Äôs a shame her mother has too many of her own issues to be able to support her daughter. Those internal state altering, mood changing words were nowhere to be seen in the mountainous pile of service agreements and policy documents.

Reassuring an upset teenager with a hug may be considered inappropriate and unprofessional. Physical contact had become almost outlawed in a society traumatised and made paranoid by the horror stories of paedophiles and child molesters. There was a vast new language landscape  that accompanied the hyper vigilant (freaked out) policies.  Terms such as non-physical client engagement and maintaining professional integrity and non self disclosure was the cultural indoctrination for the new generation of social workers and counsellors.

At times the newest theories and current research findings were far more complex and controversial than the complicated lives of the people whose lives they were designed to improve!

The distance and differences between grass roots service delivery in shelters and the academic institutions that conducted research into the lives of homeless people was so vast that our role as shelter staff was to be an interpreter of the newspeak as it gushed out of the government departments, and landed in the lives of the young women who spoke a very different language, developed from within a very different reality than the world of academics and researchers.

I came face to face with an adaptation of the newspeak in the late 90‚Äôs. I was visiting a member of SAYM (Strength As Young Mothers) who was living¬†¬†in our outreach accommodation. Rosie had the great misfortune to have been born into a volatile and abusive family who had inflicted neglect and violence on her through out her childhood. She had ¬†a shattered self concept, outraged ego and hair-trigger temper that could erupt anywhere at any time, especially when she had to deal with people in authority. Her anti-authority trigger might include anyone from a¬†¬† bank teller to the social security staff and it definitely included the midwives at the hospital where she gave birth to her daughter. People she thought looked at her the wrong way in supermarkets, especially older women who she thought were judging her, would be on the receiving end of Rosie’s wrath. Both of Rosie‚Äôs parents were in and out of jail throughout her childhood and her family were well known to many government departments, including correctional services, welfare and the education department.

Under the surface of her¬†volatile and recalcitrant behaviour there was a bright, funny, thoughtful young woman who was a very quick learner. She had been identified as having learning difficulties and ‚Äėbehavioural challenges‚Äô during her school years, labels that followed her from class room to class room. Rosie had a reputation as a disruptive and difficult student and she made sure to live up to the way she was perceived!

It was very apparent that Rosie‚Äôs perceived learning difficulties were most likely a result of the relentless stress and chaos of her family home and her many trips in and out of foster care every time one of her parents went to jail. Her bright mind and astute grasp of new environments kept her afloat amidst the chaos of her family life but her reputation and the limitations of the education system to accommodate and nurture traumatised and volatile students meant that she spent her entire school years repeating the negative behaviours she learnt in her family home ‚Äď and developing some new ones of her own. She left school at 14 and I am sure more than one or two teachers would have breathed a sigh of relief to be free of her hot temper and disruptive class room dramas.

It was no surprise to her social workers and former teachers that Rosie had her first baby at 16 and her second two years later.

There is an old saying ‚Äėyou become an expert at whatever you practice‚Ķ so be careful what you practice‚Äô and like many of the young women who came to our shelter, Rosie had great expertise in enlisting social workers, youth workers and counsellors to help her to get food vouchers, taxi vouchers, Christmas hampers and other kinds of assistance that is available to people in need. Her family had lived on welfare for several generations and Rosie had inside knowledge on getting the most out of the system that she was born into.

On this particular day she was trying to convince me to give her a taxi voucher from our very limited resources so that she could travel to the northern suburbs to catch up with an old friend. She didn‚Äôt like using public transport and would often end up arguing with strangers when she was out and about. Conflict was so deeply ingrained in Rosie‚Äôs mind that it was inevitable she would find it ‚Äď or create it ‚Äďwhere ever she went and putting all analysis aside, who wouldn‚Äôt prefer to catch a free a taxi rather than enduring a hot bus trip to the other side of town?

During her time at the shelter, Rosie had learnt that, unlike with some of the less experienced social workers and younger youth workers she had been allocated over the years, she couldn‚Äôt manipulate the shelter staff. We weren‚Äôt intimidated by her outbursts or threats to report us to human services for treating her unfairly. Like many of the young women in the shelter who had learnt to use aggression instead of assertiveness and believed that life victimised them over and over, it took many months before we developed the degree of trust that is necessary for a partnership on the journey of change. We kept our rules constant and allowed her to return to the groups after an outburst or dramatic exit and for someone who was very familiar with inconsistency and rejection the firmness accompanied by friendliness eventually allowed her to settle down and think about her future for the first time. The other young mothers weren‚Äôt impressed by her disruptive behaviour in the group room and the mirror of Rosie‚Äôs peers and their influence reflected far more to her than the staff of ‚Äėgeriatric grannies‚Äô as she once called us with a dismissive slam of the door.

Rosie had been pleading her case for a taxi voucher, for almost half an hour. She lived on a direct bus route, the bus stop was half a block away and the weather was sunny and fine. I wasn’t prepared to give her a voucher, preferring to keep it for more important needs such as assisting a pregnant woman to get to the hospital or a mother with a sick toddler to go to the doctors. Rosie could see that her battle for the free taxi ride was just about lost when she drew her last resort weapon to the fight.

‚ÄúCarol I need that taxi voucher cause it‚Äôs important for me to maintain my social networks. ¬†I am marginalised cause I am a single mother. I am socially isolated in the community and my social worker told me I need to integrate more and explore new options. It‚Äôs not just a taxi voucher you know, I‚Äôm not just trying to scam a free ride, it‚Äôs a social justice issue cause I need to see my friends‚ÄĚ.

Rosie’s words took me completely by surprise. I was both delighted by her new strategy and highly suspicious of her motive. She demonstrated that by adopting the language of her oppressors, she believed she stood a much better chance of getting what she wanted and whilst it didn’t get her the taxi voucher she was lobbying for, it was a very levelling moment that show cased how astute Rosie was in spite of the myriads of case notes, files, police reports and hospital records that stated the opposite.

I kept our taxi voucher and gave Rosie a lift out to the northern suburbs delighted to reward her sharp mind and creative use of the gobbledegook that had surrounded her since the first day welfare authorities began to interpret who she was and what she was capable of, tattooing her tragic history in files and reports through out her precious growing years.

 

I Choose My Words

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Casting Shadows

Posted by carolom on June 23, 2016

I was walking along a path  that is also  bicycle track in a park on the edge of the city this morning and in spite of the school and heading to work traffic I suddenly experienced a sense of vulnerability. The trees and bushes obscured the path from the main road and my imagination created a scenario based on stories in the news.
My work in domestic violence shelters has created a heightened sense of awareness of the vulnerability of women although many of my friends  will say they are alert to danger in some public places.
These thoughts were not my preferred rumination on a pleasant, brisk winters walk but as I began to refocus them, my own shadow caught my eye as its stretched out before me.

I was reminded of Robert Johnson’s illuminating book¬†Owning your Own Shadow- Understanding the Dark side of the Psyche¬†and what a pivotal moment it was when I read it many years ago.

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I was so immersed in contemplating the shadow and observing my own thinking about how it plays out in people’s lives ¬†that I didn’t hear the footsteps behind me until a shadow unexpectedly imposed itself over¬†¬†my own, making me jump and turn around, eyes widened by a rush of adrenalin.

A woman’s voice said Oh, I ‘m sorry.I thought that might happen. Good thing you are not a karate person.¬†And there standing in front of me were the sources of the shadow that crossed my path.Harley and Shanti. Two beautiful, friendly happy little souls who were walking without¬†their lead and were so very excited to see a new friend on their walkway they had bounded up to me to say hello!

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I explained to the woman that I had been thinking about shadows and domestic violence and had just taken a photo of my elongated shadow. She said Gee, it’s really long isn’t it?

It was obvious that these thoughts were a long way from her morning walk.

We parted ways at the traffic lights, Harley and Shanti now happily on their leads, wagging their tails and leaving me to ponder about the tale I had been wagging on the beautiful, sunny ¬†crisp winters morning walk, where between our three shadows, mine was most definitely the longest…

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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 ‚Äėmake believe‚Äô and ‚ÄúI can do and be any thing‚ÄĚ.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.‚ÄĚ

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  Рthe 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‚ÄĒi-t‚ÄĒ-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 ‚Äúmagical 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 ‚Äėin 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 »

The “N” word and the A,B,C of racism here in Australia.

Posted by carolom on June 21, 2016

*Dedicating this updated post to Nova Peris today after the man who sent her messages with these words in them, pleaded guilty:

 

The Intergenerational Impact of Australia’s Racist History

I have often thought that those divisive, racist terms, Australia’s equivalent to the N word,  the ABC of racism, have not been publicly outed here in Australia.

It’s as if those derisive names and derogatory terms have gone underground yet still live and perpetuate in the collective psyche today, erupting occasionally but generally not aired or brought to the light of public discussion and transformation.

I pre-empt the following with an apology to those who are offended.  In the context of the N word discussion it is important that we acknowledge the toxic, pervasive impact of the words abo, boong & coon and the inference of the superiority of one group by the demonising of another.   Dehumanising words that  were instilled in the post European settlement consciousness  of  this country.

As a migrant child in¬†the¬†¬†60’s hearing the adults use the terms in a derisive, mocking, disdainful manner transmitted their racist origins down through the generations and their legacies are alive and breathing long after the first people who uttered them have gone.

That old adage that you can’t heal it until you claim it is as relevant when discussing collective language and divisive stereotyping as it is when discussing personal  mental, emotional and spiritual wounds.

It is the very early days of recovery from the violence of colonisation in this country and naming and accepting responsibility for the impact of the language of Australia’s history of apartheid that was linguistically coded into our schoolyards and policies in very recent times, is another step in the healing process and journey of restorative justice.

An Aboriginal Woman said to me recently: Unless you have experienced it, a person could never know what it feels like to have your culture, your tribe and community demonised to the point where just the word ‚ÄúAborigine‚ÄĚ triggers fear, distrust and loathing in people who have never even sat down with us and had a yarn.

Australia’s history of colonisation, which was an invasion into an occupied country whose inhabitants had   highly sophisticated systems of governance & environmental practices, is the story of many first nations people right across the globe. Domination, theft, rape, genocide, kidnapping of children and loss of language and identity and the slow and painful inter-generational recovery for a nation of people living in the post traumatic state.

I sometimes wonder if people outside of Australia are aware that there are uniquely Australian counterparts to that loathesome and highly political word “nigger’

They are words that imprison the innocent and are not discussed openly  in Australia or made accountable for the role that they have played in demonising one race in order to serve the agenda of another.

Deep within the psyche and at the fore front of many people‚Äôs thinking & belief systems, the ABC –¬†abo, boong and coonof Australia‚Äôs shameful & very recent past is still very much alive and breathing ¬†a fresh generation of racism despite progress being made in some areas of Reconciliation and healing.

This is what the women in our Aboriginal Women’s Healing groups have told me over and over and when an Aboriginal grandmother is standing at the bus stop with her three grandchildren and a car full of teenagers drives by and calls out¬†boongs, it is evidence that the virus of racism is still beng transmitted in Austraia today.

Click here to read “The Virus” – a story of how racism is ‘caught’ in the schoolyard…

Definition of boong¬†in the Urban Dictionary reveals the derogatory intent of the term:Urban dictionary Definition of ‘boong’

Many Warriors are still in chains.

For more on this topic, I highly recommend the following book “Blood on the Wattle” which details the history of some of the massacres across Australia. It is a hard book to read but one that should be read by every Australian.
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Posted in Abo, Aboriginal, Aborigines in Chains, Apartheid in Australia, Australia, Australia's abuse of human rights, Boong, Coon, Human Rights, Indigenous, Nigger, Racism, racism in australia, Reconciliation, Slavery in Australia, What Oprah should know, What the Australian Tourism Commission won't tell you | Tagged: | 19 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 ( <Рsee 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. Рan 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‚Äôt everyone‚Äôs 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‚Äôs creativity and gave the hands something to do that was engaging and fun. ‚ÄúFun‚ÄĚ is not usually associated with domestic violence shelters.

In the late 90‚Äôs I read Carl Jung‚Äôs memoir, ‚ÄúMemories Dreams and Reflections‚ÄĚ 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 ‚ÄúBelieve in Yourself‚ÄĚ 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 ‚ÄúI release the patterns that no longer serve me‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúI love and accept myself‚ÄĚ.

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 ‚Äúarts‚ÄĚ 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 ‚Äėsaid‚Äô 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 ‚Äúexpert‚ÄĚ 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 ‚Äúgive back‚ÄĚ 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 »

A cup of SpiritualiTea….

Posted by carolom on March 22, 2016

The BBC news of The World site is asking what is the best way to make a cup of tea.

These are my top tips…

1. Only enter the tea making space with good cheer and lightness of spirit. Annoyance and hurriedness may sour the liquid and result in spillages and splashes.

2. Ensure your tea pot has been pre-warmed and that the water you use comes from the sky or spring not the fluoride treatment plant.

3. Use tea leaves that speak to the imagination as well as the taste buds. e.g Some packaging has only the name and bar code but others will tell you some of the story of the region where the tea originated or of the family business and their commitment to their tea and its processing.

4.When you pour the boiling water over the leaves do so in a circular motion to evenly distribute the water rather than drown the leaves.

5. Whilst waiting for the tea to brew (or “mash” if you come from Hull smile emoticon ) ensure your cups are clean and, if you are using a strainer, that it does not have a build up of tannin.

6. When pouring the tea think about the lovely things in your life, the blessings you have and the loved ones who are no longer here but with whom you shared many a cuppa with in past years. This will bring the SpiritualiTea forth (however if you have only recently lost your loved one, perhaps avoid the remembering step in case you pour sorrow forth).

*The number of spoons of tea will vary according to the strength you prefer but generally the “one for each person and one for the pot” formula is a reliable one.

A touch of CreativiTea can be added by drinking out of cups and mugs that both delight and inspire you such as my brightly coloured Mandala tea cup that was given by a thoughtful friend recently. (Morgan and Finch – fabulous!).

At all times you should avoid drinking your tea out of a styrene cup as that is akin to drinking a fine wine out of a tomato soup can. Practical when camping but highly questionable from a SpiritualiTea perspective…

image

PS If you must use a tea bag rather than fresh leaves, make sure it has been certified as organic as there was most likely a chemical process used in turning the paper into a bag. At no time allow the tag to fall into the water as there is ink and print on that label.

 

 

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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

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We all have Choices…or do we?

Posted by carolom on November 24, 2015

Choices…

I hosted a Creativity and Conversation afternoon for a group of professional women recently and Vivienne, one of the newest members of the group brought along a delicious banana cake for morning tea.

The compliments flowed, some went back for seconds and several of us asked her for the recipe.

Vivienne laughed and called it the never-fail banana cake recipe. It’s a family recipe but I changed a few things.

I stopped mid bite to absorb her words. A family recipe.
I have worked in domestic violence shelters and prison settings for over 25 years and I recently participated in a number of social media conversations about families, lifestyles and choices. It was the 90’s when terms like you have choices and it‚Äôs your choice began to circulate.

It is a broad sweeping concept that basically says, you are free to choose differently at any moment and if you make a poor choice, you must deal with the consequences.

In the homeless sector we began to hear about choices at conferences and forums. Some took it on board as a tool for case management for working with at risk youth and young offenders.

“You have a choice”¬† became firmly embedded in the¬†language¬† of homelessness and housing.

Choices could also be put on the table if a woman was facing eviction from her public housing because she had not paid her rent, citing her gambling addiction as the reason: You made the choice to gamble instead of the budget you agreed to. Unfortunately this is the consequence of your choice.

To assume a person has made a conscious, considered choice leaves little room to factor in complex issues such as post traumatic stress which can manifest as making seemingly poor choices.
Replicating the ingrained habits and behaviours  that are reinforced by the social and behavioral norms of the people we spend most of our time with can also seem like a choice . However in  context of social and family conditioning they are mirroring people who have enormous influence on our world view not a conscious choice at all.

“You have choices” precludes the overwhelming emotional and psychological impact of being born into systems of oppression, racism and abuse that distort a persons sense of self and the capacity to reach ones fullest potential.

Some of the women we meet in shelters and domestic violence support settings had lived at the shelter¬†¬†with their mothers when they were children, returning a few short years later as a young mother who is trapped in the same cycle of family violence¬†and lifestyle “choices”.

Other women in shelter settings  may be struggling with the relentless alcohol addiction that also plagues other members of her family. Is it a choice or are the implications of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder so significant  yet externally invisible. In these cases  choices  are limited by neurological impairment.

You made the choice¬†or you could have chosen differently¬†assumes that because one person has the fortitude and inner strength or resilience to “choose well”, others should also be able to make the same kind of informed and considered choices when in reality many women are struggling simply to overcome the impact of past events and feeling unsafe in the world.

Unfortunately minds that are filled with fear, stress and chaos are not always  well equipped to make considered choices.

Back to Vivienne’s fabulous banana cake and the recipe that her mother had received from her grandmother that was then   tweaked and changed in Vivienne’s kitchen.

Her changes included adding crushed walnuts to the batter and brushing a light lemon syrup over the top of the cake before the icing.

Many family recipes remain unchanged, handed down through old note books and cook books without a single adjustment made to any of the ingredients or formula

Some women are able to improve upon a great recipe and others completely throw out the old one and rid themselves of the predictable serving that has been handed down through the generations.

Most of us can think of an old recipe or formula that we learnt in the family home and decided to re-work and let go of once we left the nest that imprinted us with who we are and how to move in the world.

In shelters these change makers are the women we support and cheer on!

We recognise that she is courageous and brave to make a conscious choice to explore a different lifestyle recipe for her self and her children.

We know she will have to work very hard to acquire all of the ingredients and skills she will need and there will be times when old habits and familiar formulas will distract her along the path of obstacles that she will face.

What about those who are repeating ‚Äúpoor‚ÄĚ choices that could be identified as the¬†¬†attraction to the¬†bad boy¬†¬†characters who feature in so many of our group conversations?
As one woman said “Every guy I’ve ever loved has either been to jail or he should have but didn’t get caught”.¬†Many of the women in her family¬†and social circle had similar patterns.

What about  the woman who hasn’t fully realized that the choice to allow him back into her life is a recipe for disaster?
We love her any way!

We continue to believe in her, support her and offer her different tools for navigating her lifestyle.

We recognise that what might seem to be a very poor choice on a daily basis to some people is perhaps the very thing that is keeping her afloat at this point in time.

In shelters we meet women who are very new to the concept of self agency and the power they have to choose differently.

I created the C.H.O.I.C.E.S. acronym for discussion during our¬†Art of Change¬† group and whilst it encourages strong and informed choice making, we also discuss the some of the limitations and road blocks that are in place when it comes to navigating those words¬†you can choose differently at any time…

C.H.O.I.C.E.S.
Carol Omer bio:

Carol Omer is a certified Life Coach and artist. She specialises in creativity based empowerment and healing programs for women. Carol recently launched The Big Girls Little Coloring Book, a life coaching colouring book for women.

http://www.CarolOmer.com

 

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