Paula Swenson

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Creative Sparks

In Art and Creativity, Uncategorized on May 1, 2010 at 4:13 pm

“Art is the very human act of creating the uncreated.” ~Seth Godin

We’re born to create, as children we create all the time, invent stories, dream up imaginary friends, draw fantastic scenes never before glimpsed . . . we don’t care a whit about ‘getting it right’ we just create.

Gradually, we learn by example to criticize our creations, we start to reject our ideas as well as our execution of the ideas, until we end up living inside a very small box.

If you are ready to crawl out of your box, it’s time to start searching for creative sparks. Rekindle your imagination, book yourself on a flight of fancy! Find mythical creatures in the gnarled roots of trees. Spend the afternoon lying in the grass watching cloud shapes mutate. Pick wildflowers and weave yourself a crown. Drop pebbles in a pond and watch the ripples intersect. Open the yellow pages or the dictionary and look at the paired header words and make up a story about the resulting phrase.

Creativity is highly flammable, the smallest spark can set it ablaze if you let it. Start a fire under your creativity, then grab a brush or a pencil and capture a glimpse of the magic.  Once your imagination takes flight, who knows where it might take you?

The Gift of Being Present

In Art and Creativity, Time and Change, Travel, Uncategorized on February 24, 2010 at 4:29 pm

As a semi-nomadic traveler, I’m often setting off for new destinations. Recently, however, I’ve embarked on a different sort of journey – a quest for knowledge and new tools. I’m enrolled in a ten-week course to learn about new ways to use creativity to help people make the most of their lives. It is interesting to be back in the learning environment as a student rather than a teacher.

Always a believer in lifelong learning, I frequently study up on this or that on my own, but I had forgotten how invigorating it can be to learn in a group setting. This may sound odd coming from a teacher – but observing interaction is altogether different from participating in it.

I’m fortunate indeed to be studying with a group which has a fabulous dynamic. Hailing from 4 countries and spanning 4 decades, these 22 creative souls bring a wealth of experiences, skills, and perspectives to our learning journey.

The interaction is so energizing and the work so full of play, that I find myself absorbed in it for hours on end without realizing how much time has passed. Such a lovely way to be reminded of the joy of being truly, totally present.

The View from Here

In Abundance, Art and Creativity, Time and Change, Travel, Uncategorized on February 8, 2010 at 10:56 am

It’s February, and although we are still wrapped in a blanket of white, the days are getting noticeably longer and the worst of the cold is arguably behind us. Winter in this climate is an invitation to hibernate and contemplate, and I’ve been doing a bit of both.

When I was a child of about 11, a rallying cry went out amongst the young “never trust anyone over 30!” I was very confused about this as I transited my teen years, because although I had the same tussles with authority figures most teens experience, some of my best, most trusted confidants were much, much older—not only over 30, but over 60! Maybe it was that personal first-hand experience that has made me wary of sweeping statements about groups of people, ANY groups of people.

Two recent conversations, one with someone a generation younger than me and the other with someone a generation older put me in mind of this again. Of all the things that disturb me in our present reality, the one that disturbs me the most is seeing intelligent people abandoning their prerogative to question assumptions and to experience life first-hand; choosing instead to accept a second-hand version of reality from the media, the government, the church, their teachers, friends or family.

Therefore, I do not expect you to just accept what I say here as true for you — but I do urge you to consider if your fears and worries are based on first-hand, personal experience or on the experience of someone else, who may be living a different life with a different agenda.

The following are things I have personally experienced in the past 3 years:

· ~ I lived in Turkey for 10 months, surrounded by Muslim people. None of them tried to kill me. To the best of my knowledge, none of them wanted to. None of them tried to convert me. NO two were exactly alike. People were variously kind, helpful, generous, curious, dishonest, gruff, fearful, argumentative or hostile. Pretty much like being in San Diego or Tacoma, Hamburg, Munich, New York, Athens…but on the whole my experiences fell on the positive side of the equation.

· ~ For the past 18+ months I have been living in and wandering around Europe. Europeans are often outspoken and curious. They often criticize many things about America and American political and social policies, American fast-food and pop culture, but I have not yet met anyone who hates Americans. I don’t doubt such people exist, but I have not met them.

· ~I have friends and family who are quite liberal, some are ultra-liberal. They do not want to kill old people and unborn babies. They do not want everyone to denounce religion and become an atheist.

· ~ I have friends and family who are quite conservative, some are ultra-conservative. They do not want to shoot all liberals and burn all books except the bible. They do not want to lock up my gay friends, nor are they interested in forcing everyone to drive an SUV to church.

· ~ I have European friends who want to live in America, while I have chosen to live in Europe.

· ~I know young people who are writing books, volunteering to help the homeless, the poor and the sick and I know young people who have no interests outside of football and beer.

· ~ I know old people who have locked themselves away in gated communities awaiting the apocalypse and others who are planting organic gardens, teaching life skills to the young, donating time to help the illiterate learn to read or hitchhiking across their countries.

· ~I have learned how easy it is to be misjudged and how equally simple it is to give someone the benefit of the doubt.

· ~ I have learned that kindness is usually more effective than anger; and that, although very few things are actually worth getting stressed about, many things are worth caring about.

· ~ I have learned that individuals really can change the world.

Yes, there are individual people in the world whose ideas are completely opposite from yours or mine (some of my ideas are probably completely opposite for some of yours!) and some of those people with opposite ideas are so fearful, so lacking hope, that they will kill others and perhaps themselves to try to be heard, to “prove” something – BUT THEY ARE A MINORITY.

So far I have traveled in 16 countries, and lived in 6. What I have found is that people are mostly good, mostly kind, and doing the best they can to get by, to feed their families, to work, to enjoy their children, friends and life in general.

I am not asking you to accept my experience as your own, but I am asking you each to think about your own experiences, and to avoid being swept up in gross generalizations about those things, places and people that are different and outside of your experience. Be wary of sentences that begin “Everyone in . . . . thinks/wants/has . . .” and “All .. . . are .. . .” remember to listen with your hearts as well as with your ears.

Be kinder than necessary, for we are all facing some kind of challenge on our journey.

Be happy, be well, find joy where you can.

Giving and Receiving

In Abundance, The Natural World, Time and Change, Uncategorized on January 10, 2010 at 10:05 pm

From the time we are small we are told “It is better (or more blessed) to give than to receive”. I’m pretty sure those doing the telling mean well; they are trying to teach us to be generous, to share. But where, in fact, is the balance in this equation? If there are no receivers how can we give and to whom?

This question interests me as I listen to people who are struggling with the ideas of scarcity and abundance. We all have so much to share, be it skills or extra apples on our trees, and yet we are afraid both to offer and to accept help.

Often we are afraid to offer for fear of the offer being rejected, but why are we so afraid to accept what it is offered? Are we afraid of being pegged as inferior (because it is” better” to be a giver)? Do we, as a result of subliminal conditioning, feel somehow superior to those we give to? Does this make us fearful of accepting the goodwill of others? And does our own fear of accepting color our perceptions about giving as well? Can we break this cycle and start sharing again?

I don’t have any answers today, just questions. Think about it, and let me know what your heart tells you.

Palindromes and Other Patterns

In The Natural World, Uncategorized on January 2, 2010 at 10:21 am

01/02/2010 — Today is a palindrome — the date is the same written forward or backward– at least it is if you live in North America. (If you live in Europe keep an eye out for the first of February!)

There is something about palindromes that fascinates us. Perhaps it is the rare symmetry, or maybe the unexpected discovery? Whatever the reason, the human brain seems to love patterns. We seek them out in the tangled masses of information we receive every day. We are inexplicably pleased when we discover hidden patterns in nature, feeling an inescapable urge to share our observations with others.

Many animals count on patterns and pattern recognition for everything from finding food to finding family. Zebras and okapi are a good example, each individual has a unique stripe pattern, with the differences especially pronounced on the hindquarters. Biologists call this a ‘follow-me pattern’ because it allows baby animals to find their mothers even in a big fast-moving herd.

Humans are often less practical in their pattern recognition (does it really matter that today’s date reads the same forward and back?) but the skill is an innate one, and I can’t help wondering if we shouldn’t pay more attention to the patterns all around us.

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© Paula Swenson 2010

Charter for Compassion

In Uncategorized on November 15, 2009 at 8:59 pm

Charter for Compassion. Read it, affirm it, live it.